How To Set The Day & Date On An Analog Watch
Digital calendar wheels (as opposed to analog subdials) are the most popular form of displaying the day and date in watches. The following are basic instructions on how to adjust the day and date on your analog watch with either a date wheel or both a day and a date wheel.
First lets familiarize ourselves with the parts of the watch:
1. The Second Hand
2. The Minute Hand
3. The Hour Hand
4. The Date Wheel
5. The Day Wheel
The little nub sticking out of the right is the watch's crown, which in most modern watches is pulled out to a couple of positions to adjust the time. It is important to note that in some vintage calibers (especially seikos) these positions where sometimes found by pushing the crown into the watch as opposed to pulling it. In other calibers (especially Orient) extra pushers take the place of the crown position to move a wheel. The pull type positions marked in the drawing above are as follows:
I. Zero Position. This is the position at its innermost neutral spot. In non handwinding winding mechanical watches and in analog quartz watches, at this position the crown would not be operational. if it is not of the screwed down variety, it would could be turned in place and it would do nothing to the watch. In mechanical hand winding watches, this is the position in which you would be able to hand wind the watch using the crown (by rotating it in clockwise direction).
II. First Position. To get to it, pull the crown outward until hear one click. In most modern calibers, this is the position in which you would be able to adjust the date and/or day wheels (depending one whether you watch has day and date or is day only. Rotating the crown in one direction will advance on wheel and rotating it in the other direction will advance the other. no you cannot turn the wheels backward, so if you miss your point you have to cycle all the way around, so pay attention.
III. Second Position. To get to it, pull the crown (from neutral) until you hear a second click. This is the position in which you advance the time. In watches with hacking (the ability to stop the second hand), moving the crown to this position will hack the movement. Turning the crown clockwise in the second position will advance the hour and minute hand normally (clockwise). Rotating the crown counterclockwise will cause the hour and minute hand to rotate backward (counterclockwise). It is advisable that unless you have to or is required or allowed (like in quartz) by your caliber, to avoid rotating the hands counterclockwise.
Now that you know what all the parts are and how they work, lets set the time and date.
SETTING THE WATCH:
Setting the time and day/date on your watch is something that most people do together so this how to will describe the process for both. feel free to adapt these instructions to your needs.
STEP 1: Wind the movement - If you have a mechanical caliber start of by winding it. If you have a purely hand windable caliber, give it a full wind. if you have an automatic that can hand wind, 20 or 30 turns of the crown should give you a nice chunk of power reserve to get started (the movement of your arms will finish winding it later). If you have a mechanical caliber that only winds with the rotor, give it a few swirls with the dial face up, as if you were twirling a brandy snifter. You don't need to spend five minutes doing this. Depending on the watch, 30 seconds to a minute will give you more than enough reserve.
STEP 2: Setting the Day and Date - First, pull the crown to the second position (yes the one for the time). Advance the time to any place between 0300 and 0900. You are doing this since setting the day and date between the period of change over (roughly around 2200 to 0200 +/-) can cause you to damage the little gears in the mechanism. to make sure we are safe, we advance the hour to a range where we know no changeover occurs (any place in the arc between 0300 and 0900). Now that you've done that push the crown all the way in to Zero. In watches that are date only (no day wheel), pull the crown to the first position and advance the wheel to YESTERDAY'S date (this is important and you'll soon see why). Once there, proceed to STEP 3 below. On watches with a day and date, pull the crown to the first position and advance the day wheel to yesterdays day, and advance the date wheel to yesterday's date. It is important to note that watch day wheels often contain a secondary language in which the days of the week are listed. Whatever language you set the day to, that is the language it is going to continue operating in. Don't forget to take that into account. Once there, proceed to STEP 3 below.
STEP 3: Setting the Time - Now that your date or day and date are set to yesterday, pull your crown out to the second position and advance the time until you see the date begin to change. Once the date begins to change you will either be at midnight or close to it, which means that once you cycle the time past midnight you will be in the watch's AM cycle. Continue advancing the time until you set the correct time for today. the day and date will by now have advanced or be in the process of advancing to today's date. If you are setting the watch at 0100 in the morning do not be alarmed if once you've finished setting the time, your day wheel is not fully in the window. These things change gradually and you just happen to have set the watch at a time when it is in the middle of its change over. It will finish on its own. As you set the time, make sure to account for AM or PM. If you are setting the time to PM, you will need to cycle the hour hand one full turn around the dial in order to put it into PM mode.
You have now successfully set your watch. Now it is time for disclaimers:
- on watches with push time quickset mechanisms, pushing the crown in achieves the same purpose as pulling it to the first position, on a modern piece, only that you don't have to rotate the crown. Simply pushing the crown into the position will advance the wheel. Typically the first position advances the date and a deeper second position advances the day. Other than the activation difference, the same setting process described above applies.
- On watches with a pusher activated day wheel, all the same setting instructions apply, except the advancement of the day wheel, which is done using the off-set pusher.
- Some older calibers had day and/or date wheels, but no quickset mechanism. in these calibers, advancing the day and date wheels is achieved by cycling the hour hand back and forth across the full range of the turn over (+/- 2200-0200). advance until the wheels change over fully, then cycle back until they snap back to the last set date. then cycle forward until they turnover full again, and repeat until you get what you are looking for. Set to yesterday's date and then cycle through as described in the setting instructions above.
- If your time is changing over at any time other than between +/- 2200 and 0200 (eg. 0700), then your hands where placed incorrectly when the watch was assembled. This happens sometimes when watchmakers have been in the watch and have not been careful to reassemble it correctly. I have never seen this happen in a factory assembled new watch. It is more common in vintage pieces. To fix this, your hands have to be removed and physically re-mounted correctly.
- For time and date setting instructions for specific calibers, please see our instruction manuals sections for Seiko Citizen and Orient calibers sticked to the top of this forum's Watchmaking, How To's and Technical Resources section, and pull up a copy of the specific caliber's manual you are interested in.