Why A Mechanical Watch Needs Timing!

A Timing machine is a necessary part of any watchmakers workshop.  Mechanical watches are touchy little items that need to be tweaked once in a while.

Reviewing this timegrapher is important for you as a watch collector, a watchmaker, or a watch technician to know about, how to use one, and what its purpose in life is.

Simply said, any mechanical watch is subject to many different factors through out their lives.  From dirt, wear, abuse, or failed parts, watches need to be serviced and repaired.  Part of that process is making sure that the mechanics of the watch function properly and keep accurate time.

Check out my Waltham Vanguard Timing Video.

In almost every mechanical watch, is a small system of adjustable parts that allow you to change the rate at which the watch runs, and the beat error, (like the timing in a car) that regulates the watch. 

Making small changes can effect a mechanical watch in large ways.  To do it without tools is foolish, but, possible.  Having the right tools, of course, makes your job, hobby, and life easier and better.  This is one of those tools, and this is my review of the Timegrapher 1000 timing machine.

What is the Timegrapher?

The timegrapher is a machine that has sensative equipment inside, mostly electronics, to hear the ticking of a mechanical watch.  The base that the watch sits in is called a “Pickup Microphone”.  This Microphone is a very sensitive devise that listens to each click, and can pick up the clicks up to 43200 times per hour.  

The microphone sends that info to the control head of the Timegrapher.  This part of the system, then interprets the information, and gives you an easy to understand depiction of how the watch is running.

The timegrapher itself, can run in both manual and automatic mode.  The automatic mode can interpret eight different beat rates and those are the popular rates for most modern watches.

In manual mode, there are approximately 40 rates you can enter, for specific models of mechanical watches.  It is important to know the rate of your watch if it differs from the automatic mode, because that is important to giving you accurate timing information.

Watch my Video Review here...

What Functions does the Timegrapher Report

when you are looking at the display of the timegrapher as it is running and testing the watch that sits in the Pickkup mic, it gives you enough information for you to tell whether your watch is running fast, slow, or on time.  It also reports the beat error, and while you may not understand what the beat error is, it is important to a good running watch.

Lets start with the timing.  If you see that the digital graph on the display is flat, completely or almost completely horizontal, this means that the watch you are testing is running accurately, in its current position.  The pickup mic allows you to twist it, so that you can test the watch in six different positions.  Each time you twist the mic, allow 10 to 15 seconds for the balance to adjust back to its how power, then let the timer run for about 30 seconds.

If you see that the graph is moving in the “upwards” flow, then that means the watch you are testing, in its current position is running fast.

Running fast by a second or two isn’t bad, but if you see a large increase in time, adjustments have to be made.

If you see that the graph is moving in the “downwards” flow, then the watch is running slow.

Again, a few seconds here or there is fine, but large swings will require adjustment.

Note:  Adjusting the timing on the watch itself is different for most watches, but, similar also.  You need to be VERY CAREFUL when handling these adjustable parts as it is easy to damage the watch.  If you are not sure what you are doing, start with an old watch that you don’t care about, and practice on that.  I would never suggest that you take your $15k Rolex Sub and start tinkering with it!

This is the Timegrapher 1000:  The one I’ve reviewed here.

You can get this on amazon, and yes, its an affiliate link, I make about $2.00 when you buy one, and it cost you nothing!

This is the Timegrapher 1900:  This is an upgraded version that reports a few more settings, some extra automatic reporting.  It is a bit more then the TG1000.  This is the one I’m keeping for a spare!  

What is the beat error?

The timegrapher also reports the beat error in the watch.  The beat error is the rate at which the clicking happens on the watch’s pallet.  It is the report of which one full rotation of the balance wheel makes, to and fro, back and forth…

You will never be able to hear a beat error on a watch that beats above 28800 times per hour, but you can see it on the timegrapher.  

In the watch repair business, if the error is big, lets say over 1.1 ms, than it is time to get into the watch and adjust the position of the hairspring in relation to the pallet jewel on the balance.  Again, if you never did this, don’t…  Or practice on an old watch.

The lower the time on the beat error, the better the watch is running.  In this case, the beat error reporting of the timegrapher is from 0.0 ms to 9.9 ms.  if you’re that far off, the watch needs service.

Some balance systems on some watches allow you to make adjustments to both the positioning of the balance in relation to the pallet fork, as well as speed adjustments.  Watchmakers love that, because it is easier to make all the timing adjustments without having to dismantle the watch.

What else does it tell us?

Several other reporting functions such as the balance rotation, the balance angle and rate are reported by the timegrapher.

I thing I have to be honest here, while the rotation angle and balance angle are important, if you have not studied these in depth or understand their function, just leave them alone.

The beat rate that is returned is more important.  This is going to give you the programmed or automatic rate at which the watch runs or ticks each hour.

Some watches that don’t have standard rates will have to be programmed into the timegrapher manually.  This is important because setting the correct rate is important for the timer to report its accuracy.

If you don’t know the rate of the watch you are working on, a simple internet search will almost always give you the answer.  If you are like me, you may even have dozens of books that cover all the movements and give you their beat rate.

How accurate is this?

So far, I’ve been using this timer for about a month.  I use it every day, on many different watches both newer, and antiques.  I’ve had great luck using it on a daily basis to help me.

Again, if you don’t enter the right beat rate, you are going to get inaccurate information, so just keep that in mind.  However, the watch seems to be reporting information accurately 100% of the time on newer watches. (Watches made in the last 30 years).

I’m please with this, but, I would say I don’t rely on it 100 percent.  I still like to test afterwards, and I use several other options.  I will also test a serviced watch using the atomic clock app on one of my phones.  This way I can have a better chance of discovering any issues.  

It is important to remember, that a watch will, no matter what you do, run just a bit differently in different positions, and you must accommodate for those differences.

Don’t get OCD on the watch.  Especially an older watch.  You will waste a lot of time when attempting to time a watch, so make sure you not only check accuracy on several positions, but, check the watch’s average time keeping.

However, for those of you who are starting out, or expanding our hobby, this is a must have tool that you will find invaluable to have next to your bench.

Would I buy another?

So, I get this question a lot about products I use.  While some of them such, others are good or even much better than I imagined.

This is one of those products that I am extremely impressed with.  The only thing I can’t say for sure, is if it will last as long as the last timer I had, (22 years), but, I’m hopeful.

Yes, to those who want to know the direct answer, I would buy another, and as a matter of fact, I did, just to have a spare in the closet.  Thats what I do!  I like to keep spares!

Who needs these?

So, I think that if you are a watchmaker, repair tech, or just a home hobby watch guy you should invest in this.

Even just the collector, or perhaps the dealer who wants to through a watch on this, and see if it runs well, would benefit from this.

These timers can tell you a lot about a watch in a short period of time, without having to open it, and look inside.  Especially with experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *