What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?
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  1. #1
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    What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    As I'm learning more about the vintage watch world, wanted to get everyone's opinions on what they consider good or acceptable accuracy for a vintage watch. I see some people on these forums say they regulate their vintages until they're within +/- 5 secs/day (i.e., basically chronometer standards), whereas in general it seems like a watch that's keeping time within a minute or so a day is still considered to be running fairly well. Thoughts?

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    Member german's Avatar
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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    This is a matter of luck and your experience.
    First you buy something beautiful, then you make full service and check it's performance.
    If you are incredible lucky guy - you can get 1-5 sec accurate watch.
    And you can brag it without any hesitation =)
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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    Quote Originally Posted by gouverneur View Post
    As I'm learning more about the vintage watch world, wanted to get everyone's opinions on what they consider good or acceptable accuracy for a vintage watch. I see some people on these forums say they regulate their vintages until they're within +/- 5 secs/day (i.e., basically chronometer standards), whereas in general it seems like a watch that's keeping time within a minute or so a day is still considered to be running fairly well. Thoughts?
    If somebody is getting within +/- 5 seconds a day on a balance wheel watch that old, it is VERY unusual. In 1960 Bulova came out with the Accutron 214 tuning fork movement and at the time it was the most accurate wristwatch in the world. Its advertised variance was +/- one minute a month. Until quartz movements came out, tuning fork movements were the most accurate....no balance wheel watch could match them. Tuning fork movement have no bearings to cause friction and timekeeping does not change because of gravity/movement. The same problems back then for balance wheel movements are the same today, friction, spring tension and gravity. If you want or require the kind of accuracy you are talking about from a vintage watch, you will have to act like the above poster suggested and get it serviced (re built) to get even close to that.

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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    5s/d was railroad standard for watches that were designed to be used by hard-working engineers banging around in a cramped, hot iron box. it's not that unusual to see surviving examples meet that if they've been cared for or at least not excessively abused. However, many wristwatches and lower-quality watches probably never ran that well the day they left the factory. For a manual wind watch, if it keeps time within a few minutes per day, most people would be happy with it and would just adjust the time against their house clock when they wound it ever morning.

    To the OP's question, it all depends on the watch and its history. The watch isn't going to run better now then it did when it was new unless you start swapping in NOS parts, but in most cases can be cleaned and serviced to approach its factory accuracy. But the more abuse it has suffered in its life, the more difficult (and expensive) that will be.
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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    Realistically, i think +/- 5 sec is the dream tolerance for a mechanical watch of that era. Whenever I buy a vintage watch, I consider the best-case scenario to be getting it to run at 5 seconds or less drift per day - and anything up to about 10-15 seconds pretty normal.

    There are a few vintage mechanical watch movements that can be extremely accurate, but they still require regular servicing and maintenance to stay within that 5 second tolerance. There are some movements that can get there more easily than others. I personally consider the Omega .565 movement the most accurate mechanical vintage watch movement I've ever owned personally - and that sits somewhere around the 2-3 seconds a day mark when it's on top form!

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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    Good quality vintage watches, (and antiques, also - early-1900s pocket watches), will often be able to be timed to within 10 sec per day. It largely depends on the quality and the condition. If the movements haven't been serviced competently or require repair you cannot expect any watch run to its optimum.

    The idea that old watches can only be expected to keep relatively poor time is often due to experience with lower-quality watches or watches that have not been maintained. By the 1950/60s improvements in materials technology and production methods allowed even mid-quality movements to perform relatively well.
    Last edited by Gumby992; February 3rd, 2015 at 17:27.

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    What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    In my experience over the last year - buying about 40 vintage watches all the way back to 1914 - and before that NEVER EVER buying a vintage watch - at least in this life - maybe the best way to define this is using the Opposite tolerance. Ie what's the worst you would put up with and anything better then that is 'free gravy.'

    I say use the opposite max tolerance because as someone who had movado and Quartz for a while, adjusting to bigger differences was a little hard at first - now the historical aesthetics completely overwhelm accuracy concerns.

    But with that, I do use and advocate using the iPhone app WatchTracker - it's the BEST solution for assessing accuracy and I always use it to time my vintage watches after a service.

    So the point of my argument is if a watch is consistently anywhere near chronometer standards - get down in your knees and thank the vintage watch Gods - do this in direct proportion to age.

    I have heard some of the vintage regulars say + or - 5 minutes a day is perfectly fine with them. I draw the line more like 3 minutes a day - more than that I see if a service helps - less the that I thank the vintage watch 'Gods' - cheers ! Scott


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    Last edited by Sdasurrey; February 3rd, 2015 at 20:44.
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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sdasurrey View Post
    II have heard some of the vintage regulars say + or - 5 minutes a day is perfectly fine. I draw the line more like 3 minutes a day
    My personal tolerance for watches is different depending on manual vs. automatic; I expect my automatics to keep much better time because of the fact that I'm not winding them every day (and thus am less apt to notice the time difference for several days). If the watch is out by 15 minutes by the time I notice, that can actually start to impact my day vs. a couple of minutes one way or another.
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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    I agree with Sdasurrey. Most watches I buy are unserviced. I will buy and accept them if they can do 2-3 min per day. I'm really satisfied if they do 1 minute, and many do. I recently bought a Hamilton Eric GFilled for $30. Face was pretty scarred and I planned to use it for parts. For fun I timed it....within 5 sec/ day. Face looks prettier now. I had a 1941 Hamilton Essex serviced. Keeps time within 10 seconds. So they can be all over the map but are capable of quite good time.
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    Re: What is good accuracy for a vintage watch (1950-1970)?

    I have limited knowledge comapared to some other members of this forum, but in my experience vintage (in my case 60s-70s) quality watches can be adjusted to run very well if they've been given appropriate care. Chronometer standards are one thing and everyday use something else. For example my own everyday watch (a manual wind Certina from ca 1970) may not be possible to adjust to chronometer standards because positional variance is too large. However, since I wear it every day, wind it about the same time every morning and I move around about the same amount everyday (I'm working in an office), I can adjust it so that the different degrees of deviation mainly cancel eachother out. For example, the watch may be +/- 5 seconds off on a given point during a 24 hour cycle, but the mean deviation may be around 2 or 3 seconds because it runs 10 seconds fast during the night, but 7-8 seconds slow during the day.

    I've had no problem regulating this watch (and other vintage models) so that it's less than one minute off during one month.
    Last edited by Amadeus; February 3rd, 2015 at 22:04.

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