Even in this day of everything powered by a lithium batteries or a plug coming from the wall, the allure of wearing something truly mechanical powered by the motion of one’s arm is one of the reasons why mechanical watches will never go away. Rolex watches are powered by springs and an oscillating weight that converts motion and gravity into power, – no batteries, no chargers, no scurrying to find power, and no babysitting. A Rolex just keeps going and each watch has a life of its own.
Regulating a Rolex such that it stays accurate is done by a deceivingly simple hairspring and balance wheel. The balance wheel is poised on a balance staff held between two synthetic sapphire jewels swinging back and forth almost like a heartbeat. Unlike the winding rotor that uses gravity and motion to wind the mainspring, a balance wheel defies gravity, motion, and shocks to keep the time regulated. Just like any other regulator, the mood, temperature, position, and age of the hairspring affects the overall speed of your Rolex. Before quartz and digital timekeeping when mechanical watches and clocks were the only means for easily monitoring time, the discussion on timepieces revolved around “does your watch keep good time?” Early wristwatches, especially ones with small balance wheels and hairsprings were susceptible to magnetism and shocks. Subsequently, early 20th century watches were commonly fast, slow, or both, or neither, depending upon use, temperature, shocks and movement quality.
Reliability for any mechanical watch revolves around friction, gravity, and shock. Fortunately Rolex controls these issues by utilizing their in-house non-magnetic Parachrom hairspring and free-spring (non-regulated) balance wheel. Rolex utilizes Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) certification insuring that their watches do not deviate from no more than -4 to +6 seconds/day. The deviation between -4 to +6 seconds/day varies upon activity (high activity day vs. laying in bed/sitting at a desk), how well the watch is regulated, and how long it has been since the watch was regulated and/or serviced.
Fortunately, Rolex COSC certified movements keep time variations consistent. If a Rolex is slightly fast, it stays consistently fast or consistently slow. Knowing that Rolex timing variations are consistent, you can use gravity to your advantage to keep the deviation at a
minimum. Overnight when sleeping, leave your watch in the position below:
Speed Up = Lie Flat
Slow Down= Lie Vertically
This image taken from an old Rolex guarantee booklet explains this simple regulation method; Hannes’ picture makes it real clear. Although this method may not necessarily keep your watch precisely regulated, it is an easy and effective way to make small adjustments. For slightly slow watches, set your watch slightly fast. My DeepSea runs about ½ second slow a day. I set the time on my watch two-minutes fast such that when it is time to reset the date every other month, I reset the watch again another two minutes fast so that it never reads later than actual time.
After five to seven years of steady wear, monitor your Rolex for any sudden slowdowns or changes in accuracy. Typically when Rolex accuracy changes, it’s time for the watch to get serviced and cleaned by a Rolex certificated watchmaker.
If your Rolex all of a sudden speeds up (eg. multiple minutes/day) and the watch has not been dropped, there is a slight chance that the balance spring became magnetized. Powerful magnets found in stereo speakers and some laptops have been known to magnetize balance springs causing the coils to stick together, effectively shortening the balance spring and speeding up the watch. Fortunately, newer Rolexes use Parachrom hairsprings that are impervious to magnets. Most certified watchmakers have demagnetizers and it is a relatively simple repair that does not require removing the caseback.
For any questions regarding the timekeeping of your Rolex, feel free to contact Fourtané anytime.