A watch is one of the most impressive pieces of technology. It is simple yet so detailed in its design and operation. Like every other piece of technology, it isn’t uncommon for watches to develop small mechanical issues with time. Such situations require the assistance of a professional watch repair Dallas to fix the broken wristwatch.
However, even though you are not the one to fix your watch all by yourself. It is still important that you know what exactly is wrong with it. This makes it easy to explain the fault to your technician. Knowing how your watch works will also help you to maintain your work properly and avoid unsafe practices that can cause damages.
So how does a mechanical or automatic wristwatch work?
While wrist watches appear plain and generally unimpressive on the surface, a lot is going on within. The system consists of springs, gears, bearings, and wheels all working together to help you tell the accurate time always.
There are 4 basic components in every mechanical or automatic watch. This system also called the watch movement is made up of the mainspring, escapement, balance wheel, and the wheel train. Note that exotic luxury watches like Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe and so on may have several other parts in addition to these basic mechanisms but they are still built on this main framework. Below is a simple overview of each of these components and the possible faults you might encounter with it.
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1. The mainspring
The mainspring is the watch’s power source. It is a tiny coil which generates mechanical energy when you wind it (in case of a mechanical watch) or by wrist movement (In an automatic watch). The energy is then released to operate the gears for the hands of your watch.
With time, this all-important component of your watch may begin to deteriorate (or get “set” or “tired” in expert horologist vocabulary). When this happens, you may begin to notice that the watch requires more winding than usual (in case of a mechanical watch). The second’s hands might soon start stopping and with time, the watch will break down altogether.
Typically, all an expert need to do in such a situation is simply to replace the tired mainspring with a new one and your watch will be in perfect working condition again.
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2. The Wheel Train
This consists of 5 gears of different sizes that rotate with a coordinated motion to make the hands of your watch work using the energy generated from the mainspring. Three of these gears are connected directly to the hour, minute and seconds hands of your watch. Based on this operation, a watch can break down when there is no contact between each of these gears. This occurs when one of the gears fall out of place due to friction or too much flipping or movement.
The wheel train also has other components such as the dial washer which keeps the gears in alignment. An issue with the gears or other components in the wheel train may cause the hands of the watch not to align properly with the numbers. Sometimes fixing these errors only requires a realignment of the gears or replacement of the dial washer depending on the cause of the fault.
The Escapement interacts directly with the balance wheel an escape wheel of your watch (the fifth gear). It gives the motion of the gears a regular rhythm which determines the time increments in the watch. This interaction is also responsible for the familiar “tick-tock” sound that the watch makes as it operates.
Since the escapement works directly with several components in the watch, there is a long list of things that can go wrong which may affect its functionality and consequently the accuracy of the watch. Wear, due to time and friction can impair the normal functioning of these components and others associated with it.
Since the escapement regulates motion, you might notice that the hands are running too slow, too fast, or not working at all. In such a case, there is most likely an issue with the escapement and you need to have an expert look at it. Sometimes, all that is required to get it working again is some lubrication. However, it is also possible that the escapement is damaged and needs to be replaced entirely.
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4. The Balance Wheel
This is an intricate and delicate component of your watch that works directly with the escapement in a continuously repeated cycle to keep the watch in operation. The balance wheel transfers energy from the gears to the balance wheel initiating a back and forth motion with the escapement which moves the hands of the watch in a measured way for accurate timekeeping.
The balance wheel is arguably the most delicate part of your watch which means plenty of things can go wrong with it. This can be anything from wear due to time and friction or external factors such as temperature, gravity, or a direct blow to the watch which may cause a shift in the balance wheel. In case of wear due to friction, lubrication may be sufficient for fixing the mechanism. The balance wheel may also require some realignment when some component has been shifted out of place or an entire replacement of faulty parts.
Although you don’t need to know all the bells and whistles in a watch unless you want to repair it yourself, it is still great to know how things work. This will help you to better appreciate this impressive piece of the invention and learn how to maintain it to prolong its lifespan.