Posts Tagged 'battery'

Do it yourself?

I don’t really have a problem with people changing their own batteries on inexpensive watches. Before I ever had an interest in watchmaking, and definitely before I knew what I was doing I did it myself. It isn’t really rocket science, but there are risks of course.

Timex Quartz MovementHere is the important stuff. Number one, be sure you know how to follow instructions. Today I had a customer come in wondering if I could fix their watch. It was a Timex, and I don’t normally perform repairs on Timex watches. He had tried to install a power cell himself, and the watch wasn’t running. It was an all digital Timex with screws on the case back, there isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong with this watch, it is all “solid state” electronics. So, I said I would take a look at it. First, I checked the power cell, it was brand new. I put the power cell back in and shorted out the circuit to reset the watch, it started displaying the time on the screen. — In order for the customer to install the new power cell he had to pull back a sticker that said “after install new cell push here (with an arrow).” I guess he didn’t do that. If you’re going to change your own power cells, read the instructions. There are probably more detailed instructions in the owners manual.

Also, there are some critical things in a quartz analog watch. Don’t ever touch the little coil of wire, one scratch and your watch won’t work. Try not to touch the power cell (or anything else in the watch) with your fingers. The salts and oils from your hand will cause things to corrode faster. Clean off the back of the watch before opening it to keep the dirt and debris from entering the movement. Be careful of little coil springs (especially on digital and alarm watches) that may fall out. They need to be there and they usually sit pretty loosely. And be prepared to accept the consequences of scratching the watch if it has a snap back. If you wouldn’t be happy with a scratch, don’t try and get the back off, it takes some practice and know how to do it without slipping.

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Monday Myths – the battery

As long as I am aware of myths which need to be dispelled I will do so on Mondays.

“If I pull out the crown on my watch will the battery last longer?” – I can’t tell you how often I hear that. Well I’m here to clear up the myth.

The short answer is yes, but is that what you really want? On most modern quartz watches there is a switch which turns off the motor when you pull out the crown to the setting position. The quartz oscillator continues to vibrate and the total drain on the battery is generally about 15% what it is when the crown is in. On some really low end watches however, the motor continues to use up just as much energy – or more. But this saving of energy comes at a cost.

Sure, the battery may last longer but is it worth the risk. First, when the crown is out the watch is much more open to water, dust & humidity. Depending on the design of the watch this may be significant, or it may not, but no matter what if you pick up that watch, forget to set it and put the crown in and go wash your hands you may be risking destroying it for good. A little water in a watch can do a lot of damage in just 24 hours. Second, The battery is designed to last a certain amount of time. The longer it sits around (being used or not) the more likely it is to leak. By prolonging the length of the battery you are increasing the risk that it leak and do significant and often irreparable damage to the watch. Third, when your watchmaker changes the battery it gives him/her a chance to examine the seals of the watch case and the condition of the movement and recommend any preventative maintenance which will help you prolong the life of your watch. Is it worth the risk? Probably not, those little power cells aren’t very expensive, even when installed by a professional.

So, how long should my battery last? That depends on a lot of things, how big is the battery, how new is the watch, how many functions does it have and how often do you use them? If your watch has only hour and minute hands the power cell should probably last 5 years of more. If it has a second hand as well, 2 to 3 years probably. If it is digital maybe 10 years or more, if it has a chronograph and you use it 1 to 2 years, if it has a light you could probably use the power cell up in a couple of weeks if you live in a cave and it is your primary source of light. Here is the important part. If your first power cell lasts you 5 years and your second one last you 4 years but your third only lasts a year, you have a problem. It could be you got a bad power cell – it happens, or (more likely) your watch needs to be serviced. As the oils dry up the motor has to work harder to turn the gears and it uses up more energy; draining the battery more quickly.

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Battery or Power Cell?

One of the less glamorous things I get to do as a watchmaker is to change batteries in quartz watches. While not very glamorous, it pays well. Quartz watches rely on an electric current both for accurate timekeeping and to pulse a motor which moves the hands. Most quartz watches have either a 1.5V silver-oxide power cell or a 3V Lithium power cell. Why do I call them power cells you ask?

There must have been a watchmaker at our store who was very insistent that power cells be properly referred to as such and not batteries, because everyone calls them by there proper name.

bat·ter·y [bat-uh-ree] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun, plural -ter·ies.
1. Electricity.
a. Also called galvanic battery, voltaic battery. a combination of two or more cells electrically connected to work together to produce electric energy.
b. cell (def. 7a).
2. any large group or series of related things: a battery of questions.
3. Military.
a. two or more pieces of artillery used for combined action.
b. a tactical unit of artillery, usually consisting of six guns together with the artillerymen, equipment, etc., required to operate them.
c. a parapet or fortification equipped with artillery.
4. a group or series of similar articles, machines, parts, etc.

battery. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved January 21, 2008, from website:

So, you see while the battery in your car has several cells, the one in your watch is actually a single cell (not a group of them.)