Running time of vintage wrist watches
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Thread: Running time of vintage wrist watches

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  1. #1
    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Running time of vintage wrist watches

    This certainly sounds as a stupid question and the answer will be: It depends. It depends on the type of watch, the condition it is in, the spring etc. So I must be a bit more specific.

    Although I am usually not in for wrist watches and pocket watches instead, this forum has infected me to some extend. I got some Gotham, Elgin, Bulova, Wittnauer, Gruen, Waltham (that sort), all made around 1940 to 1950 and the regular, mid-priced type of the time. I also like these watches, because even a dummy watchmaker can take off the back and get the movement out, in order to clean the case.

    I carefully selected what I've bought and from whom (expert dealers), and wanted them in good running condition, with some information indicating to me that the seller had a clue what he was talking about. Some of them went straight to the watchmaker, if I knew of some defects other than with the movement (glass broken etc.).

    So, in order to come to the point: Is it within the normal range, that a wrist watch of that type and year of production runs only 18 - 19 hours, thereby keeping time fairly accurately until it stops? For a pocket watch, that would be way too short. I also noted that, without having it serviced, letting the watch run through a couple of times, I gained some 30 minutes in total running time, probably after loosening dried-in oil.

    The first two of them have gotten their new wristband.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Running time of vintage wrist watches

    Quote Originally Posted by Border-Reiver View Post
    This certainly sounds as a stupid question and the answer will be: It depends. It depends on the type of watch, the condition it is in, the spring etc. So I must be a bit more specific.

    Although I am usually not in for wrist watches and pocket watches instead, this forum has infected me to some extend. I got some Gotham, Elgin, Bulova, Wittnauer, Gruen, Waltham (that sort), all made around 1940 to 1950 and the regular, mid-priced type of the time. I also like these watches, because even a dummy watchmaker can take off the back and get the movement out, in order to clean the case.

    I carefully selected what I've bought and from whom (expert dealers), and wanted them in good running condition, with some information indicating to me that the seller had a clue what he was talking about. Some of them went straight to the watchmaker, if I knew of some defects other tah with the movement (glass broken etc.)

    So, in order to come to the point: Is it within the normal range, that a wrist watch of that type and year of production runs only 18 - 19 hours, thereby keeping time fairtly accurately until it stops? For a pocket watch, that would be way too short. I also noted that, without having it serviced, letting the watch run through a couple of times, I gained some 30 minutes in total running time, probably after loosening dried-in oil.
    No. Elgins of that era should run 39 to 45 hours, depending on which particular movement. A watch that needed to be wound more than once a day would have failed in the market. You wound your watch all the way up till it stopped winding every morning and wore it all day. An automatic in good condition should still be running well the next morning after wearing it all day - in fact is should continue running all the next day - at least.

    If you could see the balance, you'd probably find it barely swinging. Certainly not with the kind of amplitude that leads to good accuracy.
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  3. #3
    Member simpletreasures's Avatar
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    Re: Running time of vintage wrist watches

    Most of my manual wind, non-auto's, seem to run well for a complete 24 hrs then start falling off.
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    Re: Running time of vintage wrist watches

    As Gene says, you should expect better power reserve out of your watches. There are many contributing factors as to why you may not be getting something closer to 30 hours or so. Obviously, there may be a mainspring problem/s, but more likely the gear train is dirty and this increased friction is diminishing your power reserve.
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  6. #5
    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Re: Running time of vintage wrist watches

    Well, just collecting and not wearing them and letting them run once or twice a year, I guess I have to be satisfied, if they some of them come close to 24 hours running time, with acceptable accuracy. If I decide to wear one or two of them on a regular basis, I just have to have them serviced. And if I decide to take them out at a dinner, there's plenty of power reserve for that.

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    Re: Running time of vintage wrist watches

    Quote Originally Posted by Border-Reiver View Post
    Well, just collecting and not wearing them and letting them run once or twice a year, I guess I have to be satisfied, if they some of them come close to 24 hours running time, with acceptable accuracy. If I decide to wear one or two of them on a regular basis, I just have to have them serviced. And if I decide to take them out at a dinner, there's plenty of power reserve for that.
    Running less than 24 hours, in a watch made after the alloy mainspring became common, most likely indicates a severely gunked-up train.

    There are some watches in my rotation that haven't been serviced since obtained, but my criterion is that they should run as well as if they had - lots of amplitude, long runout - and those are in the queue to be serviced, it's just that the poor-runners, almost-runner, and non-runners are ahead of them. And they don't see more than a couple days a year of service.

    I am of course sensitive to the cost aspect, which is half of why I learned how to service my own watches. It's not optimal, but it's not like you're buying them and wearing them day in, day out till the pivots wear away from the abrasion.
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    Re: Running time of vintage wrist watches

    The words of a sage man…

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneJockey View Post
    Running less than 24 hours, in a watch made after the alloy mainspring became common, most likely indicates a severely gunked-up train.

    There are some watches in my rotation that haven't been serviced since obtained, but my criterion is that they should run as well as if they had - lots of amplitude, long runout - and those are in the queue to be serviced, it's just that the poor-runners, almost-runner, and non-runners are ahead of them. And they don't see more than a couple days a year of service.

    I am of course sensitive to the cost aspect, which is half of why I learned how to service my own watches. It's not optimal, but it's not like you're buying them and wearing them day in, day out till the pivots wear away from the abrasion.

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