How to Tell if Your Watch is Broken – Common Timepiece Problems Explained


Did you just purchase a watch or perhaps notice something about the timepiece you have been wearing and are wondering if it is broken or damaged? Here are some common mistakes when determining if there is something wrong with your watch, or if it is operating normally:

  1. The Second Hand is Not Ticking
    • Is your watch a chronograph? If your watch is a chronograph, that large hand that is normally where the second hand would be is not actually the second hand, that is in fact the chronograph hand that operates only when using the timing function of the watch. On most chronographs, the second hand is actually located in one of the smaller sub dials, take a look, are one of those hands ticking ? If so, your watch is not broken and is functioning normally.
    • If your watch is NOT a chronograph, make sure the crown (the knob used to set the time) is pushed in, and there is no “battery saver” preventing you from pushing it all the way in. If the crown does not seem to push in all the way, check to see if it is a screw down crown (which can normally be found on watches 100 meter water resistance or more). If you can screw in the crown and it starts ticking you are all set!
    • Still not ticking? If your watch is still not ticking, it could need to be charged if it is solar, or require a simple battery change. DO NOT attempt to get a battery changed on a solar power watch, you should attempt to charge it first using the instructions from the manufacturer. If it still does not work after attempting to charge it, you may need to get it repaired.
  2. The Second Hand is Ticking, but Skipping a Space (or Ticking Two Seconds Instead of One)
    • Is your watch solar powered? This means your watch has a low charge. Simply pull out the crown (knob used to set the time as if you are setting the time) and either follow the charging instructions your watch came with or put it under a household lamp for 24-48 hours to give it a charge.
    • If your watch is not solar powered, some other types of movements (including quartz watches) may have this feature to indicate that the battery needs to be changed
  3. The Watch Crystal (Glass) Appears to be Scratched, but I Just Bought It!
    • There is probably a protective plastic cover on the watch crystal – this can sometimes be tricky to see and remove! Look carefully for the edge of the crystal protector to peel it off. Plastic protectors are also sometimes found on the back, bracelet and clasp of the watch as well – If you cannot find a crystal cover on the watch, and determine that it is scratched, you should consider taking it back or exchanging it as it could be a manufacturer defect, or was scratched during production and missed in inspection. However, once you have started wearing the watch, it is common for the crystal to become scratched. If your watch is badly scratched, you can seek out a repair or crystal replacement.
  4. The Crown Appears to be Blue in Color, But it Shouldn’t Be
    • This is the same solution as above. Sometimes there is a plastic cover on the crown, or other part of the watch and it is blue in color to indicate that it is in fact some type of protective cover or coating. Simply attempt to peel or scrape it off using your finger nail.
  5. The Day Window Appears to be in Another Language, Did I Get the Wrong Watch?
    • Most watches feature the day in both English and either Spanish or French. All you have to do is re-set the day to appear in English if that is your preferred language. However, if you purchased the watch internationally, or purchased an international model, you may be out of luck.
  6. My Watch Says it is Water Resistant or Water Proof, but Water Got Under the Crystal, Why?
    • There are different levels of water resistance, and no watch is absolutely “water proof” (and we recommend avoiding purchasing a watch that claims to be without stating a water resistance level on it). Forgetting to push or screw the crown back in, using the watch around steam, in a hot tub, swimming pool (with chlorine) or around other caustic/corrosive chemicals can cause the watch to take on water regardless of resistance. Read our Water Resistance Guide before purchasing a watch if the water resistance is important to you.
  7. My Watch is Atomic, but it Never Seems to get a Signal, or Why Can’t I set the Minute Hand?
    • Atomic and even some newer Satellite watches although are highly accurate, still rely on being able to receive a signal. If you live in a mountainous region, or are constantly around electronics, magnetic equipment, or anything that could disrupt the signal, your watch may not be able to receive a signal or work properly.
    • Atomic watches have to be set to your local time zone, and will update based on that zone and if daylight savings time is in effect (you will have to reference your instruction manual when initially setting your watch to do this). Once set, the watch receives a signal from one of the atomic clocks located around the world, and will update the time based on that signal. Which means… if you are accustomed to setting your watch 5 or 10 minutes fast to make sure you are always early or on time, you won’t be able to do this – we would recommend getting a non-atomic watch with either a quartz or solar powered movement in this instance. The Bulova UHF (Ultra High Frequency) collection watches are highly accurate watches you can manually set the time with.
  8. My Mechanical or Automatic Timepiece is Losing or Gaining Time
    • These movements are practical, don’t require batteries and are still coveted by watch enthusiasts today. If you noticed you are losing or gaining so many seconds per day, or a minute or so by the end of the week, this is purely the nature of an automatic or mechanical timepiece. Because they rely on mechanical forms of power by winding, how often the user winds the piece, the way the user wears the watch, and how long they have had the watch can all effect the accuracy of the timepiece. Some recommend if you just received the watch, to give it a chance – wear it for a month or so to get its gears working and lubricants distributed throughout the piece. It is also recommended to put the watch on a winder (in the case of an automatic) when not wearing it to keep it moving and charged. For a mechanical watch, it is recommended to follow the winding instructions carefully to ensure best accuracy.
  9. The Chronograph Hand Does Not Return to the “12:00” Position
    • Before you send that watch in for repair, or return it to the store, watch our video on how to fix this below (this may not work for all watches). In some cases, the user can actually set where they want the chronograph hand to start timing. Which also means, you can re-set the chronograph hand if it is off the mark.

We hope this article has helped you determine if your watch needs to be returned or sent in for repair. These are the most common problems we see when our customers return their watches to us and in most instances the extra time taken to send back and return the piece was unnecessary. If this list does not include a problem you are having with your watch, we recommend contacting the manufacturer of the watch or referencing your manual for more information.

Leave a Reply

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