Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?
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  1. #1
    Member Chev James's Avatar
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    Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    I've read a lot about the second hands on even high-end quartz watches not aligning with the minute markers. To tell you the truth, I have passed on a number of high-end quartz watches because I feel that it's a precision and quality control issue well within the capabilities of the watch companies to correct. I won't buy a quartz watch if the second hand stops off the minute markers. Why won't the watch companies fix this? Who wants to pay $2,000 for a high-end quartz watch that shows such a lack of attention to detail? Quartz watches are supposed to be ultra-precise, but if they can't get the second hands to line up correctly, what kind of dedication to precision does that show? I won't order a quartz watch online . . . I have to see the second hand in operation at the "brick and mortar" store before I will buy it.

    I could see an ad campaign by a company that capitalizes on the fact that no watch leaves their factory with a misaligned second hand. I really would like to see this!

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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chev James View Post
    I've read a lot about the second hands on even high-end quartz watches not aligning with the minute markers. To tell you the truth, I have passed on a number of high-end quartz watches because I feel that it's a precision and quality control issue well within the capabilities of the watch companies to correct. I won't buy a quartz watch if the second hand stops off the minute markers. Why won't the watch companies fix this? Who wants to pay $2,000 for a high-end quartz watch that shows such a lack of attention to detail? Quartz watches are supposed to be ultra-precise, but if they can't get the second hands to line up correctly, what kind of dedication to precision does that show? I won't order a quartz watch online . . . I have to see the second hand in operation at the "brick and mortar" store before I will buy it.

    I could see an ad campaign by a company that capitalizes on the fact that no watch leaves their factory with a misaligned second hand. I really would like to see this!
    That is a major thing for me too - however please note that there are at least 3 causes for what we perceive as hand misalignment:
    - real misalignment in hands - this is actually VERY, VERY rare and is the only one that can be very easy corrected; you can assume this case only if over about 1 hour the misalignment is perfectly constant at all times in all positions;
    - 'gravitational' misalignment - that is the case when the alignment can be altered by keeping the watch "reversed" (in respect to the direction of gravity) and that changes immediately the alignment (you might need a full minute to check that); this is the result of a design in which the stepper is 'free' after a pulse plus not-very-tight gears - in older models there was even a spring that was creating friction so that it was 'tight' but that was increasing the power consumption and I don't think you will see that corrective spring in any of the latest low-power models; the models where this problem is most visible are those where the seconds-hand is totally separated from the other hands (which have their own steppers) - most often some of the medium-complicated Citizen calibers;
    - gear imperfections and backlash - that is the case when the gear IS tight yet the hands alignment is not constant over at least 1 hour (but in many models it tends to be the same from hour to hour when the minutes hand is in the same region) - that is a very common case; slightly less common is the related one in which for instance during the day/date change the alignment is slightly different; that type of problem is most often seen at calibers where a single stepper drives 'everything'.

    So far my Citizen E510 has the best seconds-hand alignment that I have seen in a quartz watch (and I believe everybody having this caliber reported the same, so probably that is a safe internet buy) - and surprisingly my second-best watch is a Seiko 7223 from 1980 which is also perfectly aligned during normal hours but gets a tiny little out of the perfect position during the day/date change hours. I have also seen reports that most but not all Chronomaster and Grand Seiko models are very well.

    I am also very curious about the newer higher-end Casio models with 5 or 6 steppers - their design apparently has an auto-alignment feature which might be closely related to what we see in E510 - however the really nice models are priced a little too high (IMHO) for a watch that is only guaranteed 15 seconds/month ...
    Last edited by Catalin; April 28th, 2009 at 12:26.
    lucduc likes this.

  3. #3
    Member Chev James's Avatar
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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    Here is my only quartz watch with a second hand that actually stops dead on the minute markers, and it hasn't missed a beat in two years:


    Model BM8180-03E
    This definitely not a "high-end" watch, and I don't want to get off-topic, but my question is this: if Citizen can produce a quartz watch for under $100 that has perfect second hand synchronization with the minute markers, why cannot the other watch makers do the same? It would seem to be just another quality control check. Perhaps some kind of adjustment mechanism could be incorporated into the watch movement.

    Thanks for the information on all of the reasons for second hand misalignment.

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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chev James View Post
    Here is my only quartz watch with a second hand that actually stops dead on the minute markers, and it hasn't missed a beat in two years:


    Model BM8180-03E
    This definitely not a "high-end" watch, and I don't want to get off-topic, but my question is this: if Citizen can produce a quartz watch for under $100 that has perfect second hand synchronization with the minute markers, why cannot the other watch makers do the same? It would seem to be just another quality control check. Perhaps some kind of adjustment mechanism could be incorporated into the watch movement.

    Thanks for the information on all of the reasons for second hand misalignment.
    I would dare say that in this case it is a matter of LUCK - the actual Amazon photo (after zoom) shows a clearly misaligned seconds hand so I can bet large amounts of money on the fact that not all samples are perfect

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    Moderator Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    I have a number of quartz that hit the mark exactly... and many that don't. I have a lot of ETA 205.911s (Autoquartz) and even with the same movement some encasements hit it exactly and some don't. So I have assumed it was error in fitting the hand to the shaft.

    The Citizen Exceed actually has sensors to tell the movement where the hands are so it can more precisely control the position. It needs this for it's sleep mode to work.
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

  6. #6
    Member shandy's Avatar
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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    Yes this is one of my pet peeves as well, especially when my $20 timex quartz perpetual calendar manges the task! I have seen Breitlings and Omegas in my Breitling AD where the second hand is actually between the markers..Totally unacceptable in my view for the price being payed, you would think it a simple enough job to have them line up perfectly!
    This can though be easily fixed if you know a competent watch repairer. Still, it should not have to be done!

    One thing I love about my citizens is that they hit the markers bang on, every citizen I have seen does! My BL5373-53E goes one better, it has a feature that if anything should go out of line it can all be reset (being a Citizen though and being ultra reliable which they all seem to be this has not been tested by me!) love it when I need to adjust the time (for daylight savings) that when I pull the crown out the second hand zooms to the 12 O'clock position thus ensuring a perfect sync

    All the best,
    Ian.

  7. #7
    RPF
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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    Those with a conventional setting clutch mechanism with a single lavet type stepper are ALL hit and miss. I've seen the same problem with $5 watches and $5000 watches. Every type of movement, chrono, minute repeater, TC, flatline, eco, kinetic. The common denominator is a setting clutch/single stepper.

    Doesn't have much to do with dial misprint/off-centered movement etc. Those are very obvious flaws and today's laser guided printing is really quite good.

    The ones with the best alignment are those multi-steppers that dispense with a setting clutch and driven direct from the stepper. I've since discovered to fit that many steppers into the same space, they employ multipole steppers, which also gives better angular resolution.

  8. #8
    Member Chev James's Avatar
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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    That's very good information. I believe that it is well within the capabilities of the quartz watch industry to solve this annoyance. To tell you the truth, I would like to have a continuous sweep second hand, like the tuning fork watches had. I suppose that would consume more battery power. In fact, I have a tuning fork Omega and my father's Accutron that I plan to have fixed. Both gave up the ghost some years back.

    I've gotten more into mechanical watches lately, and there are two reasons for this: (1) I don't have to keep replacing batteries, and (2) I don't have to put up with second hand misalignment.

    Thanks for the great feedback on this subject!

    Quote Originally Posted by RPF View Post
    Those with a conventional setting clutch mechanism with a single lavet type stepper are ALL hit and miss. I've seen the same problem with $5 watches and $5000 watches. Every type of movement, chrono, minute repeater, TC, flatline, eco, kinetic. The common denominator is a setting clutch/single stepper.

    Doesn't have much to do with dial misprint/off-centered movement etc. Those are very obvious flaws and today's laser guided printing is really quite good.

    The ones with the best alignment are those multi-steppers that dispense with a setting clutch and driven direct from the stepper. I've since discovered to fit that many steppers into the same space, they employ multipole steppers, which also gives better angular resolution.

  9. #9
    RPF
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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    You know what? I think a smooth sweep is trivial today. I can buy a small clock for $10 with smooth sweep today from the Japanese.

    But they won't, because this will hurt the lucrative mech. watch market.

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    Re: Why Can't They Get the Second Hand to Properly Align?

    Quote Originally Posted by RPF View Post
    You know what? I think a smooth sweep is trivial today. I can buy a small clock for $10 with smooth sweep today from the Japanese.

    But they won't, because this will hurt the lucrative mech. watch market.
    It is not so trivial for 3 important reasons:
    - power consumption
    - size
    - existing experience and manufacturing base.

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