Common Mistakes When Using a Timegrapher

 If you’re new to the world of watchmaking, then you need to know that a Watch Timegrapher is an absolute game-changer. The Timegrapher is a tool that can provide you, the watchmaker, with direct and real-time feedback on how well you’re cleaning, lubricating, inspecting, and assembling the movement you’re working on.

Now, if I were to ask 99% of the new watchmakers out there what a timing machine is used for, most of them would probably say that it’s just used to regulate the watch. Well, they wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but there’s a lot more to it than that!

You see, a timegrapher can give you valuable insights into the overall health of a watch. It can detect things like amplitude, beat error, and rate variation, which can all have a significant impact on a watch’s accuracy and performance. So, if you want to take your watchmaking skills to the next level, you don’t need a professional timing machine, the Weishi Timegrapher will work just fine.

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 Understanding the Regulation Process

If you’re looking to regulate a watch using a timegrapher, then it is important to understand that regulation is a two-part process. In this section, we’ll go through each step, in detail, so you can master the art of regulating a watch with a timegrapher.

Part One: Adjusting Conditions

The first step before regulating a watch using a timegrapher is adjusting. This is where you’ll need to identify and correct any faults in the watch that could affect its accuracy. These faults are usually found in the escapement or the balance wheel.

Before you can regulate a watch movement, the following conditions must all be true:

1. Ensure that the watch is clean, lubricated, and demagnetized.

2. The powertrain, escapement, and balance wheel should all be in good working order.

3. Check that the powertrain is free running, with the correct end shake and clearances.

4. Adjust the escapement with the right clearances to ensure that no parts are touching each other.

5. Ensure that the hairspring is centered on the collet and level under the balance bridge.

6. The gap between the regulator pins or the regulator key should be parallel and as close as possible without squeezing the hairspring.

7. Ensure that the watch does not knock when it’s in the horizontal positions, or for an automatic movement, when the bridle is wound to its limit.

8. Check that the amplitude is a minimum of 270 degrees at full wind and delivers consistent power. After running for 24 hours, check that the amplitude on a manual wind watch should be a minimum of 210 degrees, or 190 degrees if it’s an automatic movement.

Part Two: Regulation

Once you’ve completed the adjusting process, you can move on to the second part of the process, which is called regulation. This is where you’ll fine-tune the rates of the watch.

Regulating a Watch after Adjusting Faults
Regulating a Watch after Adjusting Faults

To regulate a movement, you need to change the effective length of the hairspring by moving the location of the regulator pins along the terminal curve, which basically makes the hairspring either longer or shorter. When you make the effective length of a hairspring longer, rates go down. When you make the effective length of the hairspring shorter, rates go up.

It’s important to note that regulation will not correct any faults or problems in the movement.

Letting the Movement Settle in on the Timegrapher

When using a timegrapher, it’s important to allow the movement to settle in for 30 seconds before you start looking at the results on the timegrapher. Let it go for another 30 seconds before you start recording the data on the screen. This will allow the changes of gravity and friction to take place in the movement to get accurate screen data and readings.

Letting the Movement Settle In on the Timegrapher
Letting the Movement Settle In on the Timegrapher

 Understanding Rate and Delta Rate in Adjusting a Watch

When adjusting a watch using a timegrapher, it’s important to look at the rate in two different ways. In this section, we’ll cover the two types of rates you need to be aware of: instantaneous rate and delta rate.

 Instantaneous Rate

The first type of rate you need to know about is called the instantaneous rate. This rate is what you see on the screen, and it’s a prediction of how well that movement will keep time in that one position if everything stays the same for a period of 24 hours. This rate is primarily used for regulation, but when you’re doing your adjusting before regulation, we use what’s called the delta rate, or just the delta.

Delta Rate

The delta rate is simply the difference between the highest rate and the lowest rate. The amount of difference or spread is the delta. For most movements, a delta rate of 10-15 seconds is pretty good. If you could get the delta within 10-5 seconds, you’re doing great, and for certain high-quality movements, you can literally get the delta down to zero.

The goal of a watchmaker who’s adjusting a watch is to get the delta rate down or as close to zero as possible before you regulate the watch. When looking at the delta rate between positions, they could be all positive numbers, all negative numbers, or a combination of both.

For example, if your two extreme numbers are negative 10 and negative 20, your delta between them is 10. If you have two numbers and one is negative 5 and the other is positive 5, your delta is still 10. If you have one number that’s zero and the other number is plus or minus 10, exactly, your delta is still 10.

The Delta Rate
The Delta Rate

Understanding Amplitude in Adjusting a Watch

In watch service, the amplitude measured at the balance wheel is key because not only does it tell you the overall health of the movement and the quality of the service work, but it controls the rate.

Now, in your mind, picture a balance wheel sitting at rest when it’s not turning. Amplitude is simply the angle that the balance wheel swings from its resting position in either direction. Although manufacturers don’t really specify what the amplitude should be, they will often specify what the maximum amplitude should not be, which is usually around 320 degrees.

Amplitude or Arch of Rotation
Amplitude or Arch of Rotation

This is to ensure that the escapement doesn’t knock. Manufacturers do specify what the minimum amplitude should be after the movement’s been running for 24 hours. Unfortunately, this kind of data is typically only available to manufacturers’ authorized service providers.

As a general guideline, manual wind movements should have a minimum amplitude of around 210 degrees, and automatic movements should have a minimum amplitude of around 190 degrees. It’s important to note that achieving these goals may not be possible right away, but as you go along and build your skills in watch repair, you’ll be able to achieve these goals on almost every watch.

Understanding Lift Angle and Beat Error in Adjusting a Watch

In this section, we’ll cover two important settings used by a timegrapher to calculate amplitude: lift angle and beat error. Understanding these settings is crucial to ensuring accurate and high-quality watch adjustments.

 Lift Angle

Lift angle is the number of degrees of rotation where the roller jewel is in contact with the pallet fork. It is used by the timegrapher to calculate the amplitude and has nothing to do with calculating the rate of the watch. Although the lift angle doesn’t need to be exact, you do want it to be as close as possible because having an accurate amplitude rating is important.

Lift Angle
Lift Angle

Having an incorrect lift angle of just one degree off can throw your amplitude rating off by five degrees or more, which is not ideal for watch adjusting. Lift angles in most watches range anywhere from the low 40s to the mid-50s, but some movements go up into the 60s. Movements that operate under a lower beat per hour typically will have lower lift angles, while movements that operate at a higher beat per hour or a higher frequency will have higher lift angles.

As a watchmaker, you don’t want to guess at the lift angle and amplitude rating. Instead, aim to keep the amplitude as high as possible by using an accurate lift angle setting.

 Beat Error

Beat error is the difference in time that it takes for the balance wheel to rotate in one direction compared to the time it takes for the balance wheel to rotate in the other direction. When a watch is in perfect beat, the pallet fork pivot, the impulse jewel, and the balance wheel pivot are all in a perfectly straight line when the balance wheel is not moving. This is what we refer to as the line of centers or Dead Point.

Beat error doesn’t mean much in terms of the rate of the watch. Most manufacturers allow for a beat error of anywhere from 0.5 milliseconds all the way up to 0.8 milliseconds, as a beat error under 1.0 milliseconds doesn’t affect the rate of the watch.

When adjusting a movement, it’s impossible for the beat error to be the same in all the positions. So, when you see little fluctuations in the beat error, there’s no need to be concerned unless the beat error is vastly different. Although the beat error is often adjusted by those with limited knowledge of watch adjusting and regulation, it is important to focus on other settings to ensure accurate and high-quality adjustments.

Understanding Dial and Vertical Positions in Watch Timing

When it comes to timing a watch, it’s important to understand the two main position groups: dial positions and vertical positions.

 Dial Positions

 Dial positions, also known as horizontal or laying positions, refer to when the watch is lying flat with the dial up or down. Before looking at the vertical positions, it’s crucial to ensure that the two dial positions have similar amplitudes and rates. Any variations in amplitude and rate in the dial positions are typically caused by friction in the escapement or balance. While small variations are acceptable, larger deltas require the identification and correction of any faults before moving onto the vertical position.

Vertical Positions

 The amplitude in vertical positions is likely to drop compared to the horizontal position due to the change in friction in balance pivots, the impact of gravity on the movement, and poise errors in the balance wheel. Proper lubrication of the end stones is essential to reduce friction in the vertical position. Gravity pulls the hairspring down, causing the balance wheel to use more energy to keep oscillating. Poise errors, which require advanced watch adjusting, are heavy spots on the balance wheel that also increase the energy required for oscillation. For timing purposes, dial-up, nine o’clock up, and six o’clock up positions are critical. The eight o’clock up position is also essential, as studies have shown that most people’s arms spend most of the time at 30 degrees, which puts the eight o’clock hour marker straight up.

 Positions for Pocket Watches

If you’re working on a pocket watch, the important positions to look at will be different from wristwatches. With a pocket watch, you’ll want to examine the dial-up position, the crown or pendant-up position, as well as the positions with the pendant facing left and right.

Pro Tip: Finding the Correct Lift Angle

Finding the correct lift angle for a movement can be challenging, but this technique will help you determine it with confidence.

Mark The Balance Wheel

1. Start with the power released from the mainspring and find a spot on the balance wheel where you can clearly see it at the top and have a clear view of the opposite side of the balance wheel.

2. Dip a fine probe into some liquid whiteout and put a small drop at the top of the balance wheel.

3. Visually split the wheel in half and apply a drop of the whiteout to the main plate. This drop should be exactly 180 degrees from the dot that you put on the balance wheel.

4. Add a couple of turns to the crown until the balance wheel just starts moving. You’ll be able to barely see the white dot moving back and forth at first, but as the wheel speeds up, it’ll get harder to see.

Film the Balance Wheel in Slow Motion

5. Film the balance wheel spinning in super slow motion for about four seconds with your smartphone. Watch the video and check the location of the white dot on the balance wheel. You want the dot on the balance wheel to line up with the dot that you placed on the main plate.

Figuring Out the Lift Angle
Figuring Out the Lift Angle

6. Add very small amounts of power to the mainspring until the dots line up exactly. Once the dots line up, install the movement onto the microphone stand and adjust the lift angle until the amplitude on the timegrapher reads 180 degrees.

7. Adjust the lift angle until you get the amplitude as close to 180 degrees on the screen as possible. If the dots on the movement didn’t line up exactly, adjust the lift angle so the amplitude reads a little bit more or less than 180 degrees, depending on how the two dots lined up.

8. Record the lift angle that you have determined on your timegrapher, and now you can fully wind the watch to obtain an accurate amplitude reading.

By following these steps, you can determine the correct lift angle for any movement with confidence, helping you to obtain accurate amplitude readings and regulate the watch correctly.