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Do you know how to adjust the time of your automatic watch? For some this may seem banal, but you would be surprised how many automatic movements have been broken because the wearer did not know how to set the watch correctly. This applies not only to automatic watches, but also to watches with manual winding: When setting the watch, the greatest care should be taken! As soon as you turn the watch crown, you should be extremely careful not to damage anything. The crown is the direct connection to the movement.

The crown of diver’s watches must first be unscrewed and then screwed in again after adjustment to ensure that the watch is water-resistant again.

Danger zone: Date change

Since a day has 24 hours, but a watch displays only 12 hours, the time of the date change should be taken into account when setting the watch, so that the date does not change at noon, when it should only change at midnight. The time period in which the watch switches to the next day is between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM for most of them. The manufacturers must give the movement some leeway so that it does not wear out. To be on the safe side, you should refer to your watch's operating instructions to know the exact time window. Some manufacturers such as Rolex have mastered an automatic and instantaneous date change at midnight with models such as the Datejust.

At the date change, the movement is already in a mode where it is changing over and can therefore be damaged by a quick change. As you turn the crown, you will feel resistance. Turning the crown further may damage the gears and cause.

Setting your watch in 5 steps

It’s this easy – with these five simple steps you will get your watch ticking right:

  1. Set the clock to 5:00 AM or 5:00 PM. This means that you are safely outside the date range and can always view the date window.

  2. Now set the date to yesterday's date.

  3. Wait until the second hand circles the dial once and pull out the crown completely.

  4. Use the time setting to adjust the time past midnight to change the date. You now have the correct date.

  5. Finally, set the correct time. Take care to turn the hour hand once beyond noon for times past 12 PM, otherwise the date will switch too early at noon.

How to set a watch with a perpetual calendar

Even though the perpetual calendar designation may only be used on watch models that do not require any additional adjustment until the year 2100, it is possible that you will one day find yourself needing to set your watch with a perpetual calendar. The following things should be carefully noted when doing so:

  1. As with other watches with a calendar function, the following also applies to watches with a perpetual calendar: under no circumstances should you adjust the date between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM. This is the period for the date jump described above and the movement can easily be damaged within this window of time..

  2. The best time to set your perpetual calendar watch is at 6 o'clock.

  3. The date should never be set backwards, as the delicate, highly complex mechanism inside the watch may suffer damage.

A watch winder is very useful for a watch with a perpetual calendar to avoid the watch stopping and having to be set. Every day that has passed since the watch has stopped running must be manually adjusted.

Still having problems setting the date?

It is possible that you have set the time incorrectly. Go through the above points again step by step. If you are still experiencing problems, it is recommended that you consult a professional watchmaker. Do not continue to play around with the date mechanism as this may cause further damage!

Special cases when adjusting a watch

As with just about everything in life, there are some special cases when adjusting the watch that require additional explanation. In order to avoid problems when setting GMT watches and models with a moon phase complication, these two special cases will be examined in more detail below.

Moon phases: Complication with complications?

Particular care should be taken with watches with a moon phase complication. The mechanism is even more complex than with conventional watches and offers virtually no leeway. If you turn too far, or if you turn the mechanism too coarsely, the damage is quickly done. To prevent problems when setting your moon phase watch, simply follow the steps below. Depending on the model, you can adjust the moon phase either with a pusher or the crown. When adjusting the moon phase, use the full moon as a guide.

Adjustment of the moon phase display by means of a pusher:

  1. Use the pusher on your watch to switch to full moon.

  2. Use a lunar calendar to find out which day was the last full moon.

  3. Calculate the difference to today's date.

  4. Press the button according to the previously calculated number. The moon display is now set correctly.

Example: The last full moon was on July 16, 2019 and you want to set your watch to August 6, 2019. 22 days have passed since the last full moon. If you press the button 22 times, the moon phase is now set correctly.

Setting the moon phase of a Patek Philippe Complications watch

Setting the moon phase display via the crown:

The moon phase setting is directly related to the date when changing time with the crown.

  1. Set the date to the last full moon.

  2. Then set the current date again and the moon phase is correct.

Always follow your watch's instructions to find out the correct procedure.

GMT watches: The time(s) at one glance

Being able to check a second time zone on the GMT-Master II is one of the most useful features a luxury watch can offer you. Aside from the general workings of a GMT watch, you should also know how to set it correctly.

A GMT clock consists of a local time and a reference time. The local time is the time where you are; the reference time is a second time zone you wish to set. Since the hour hand moves with the reference time, you must set it before the local time.

Set the reference time:

  1. Unscrew the crown and pull it out to position 2.

  2. Make sure that the bezel is in the home position. The triangle is pointing at 12 o’clock.

  3. Turn the crown to set the reference time. The hours are read from the bezel, the minutes from the dial as normal.

Set the local time:

  1. Pull the crown out to position 1.

  2. Set the local time by moving the crown in the appropriate direction. The hour hand will move at 1-hour intervals.

  3. The date is linked to the local time and adjusts automatically when the hour hand exceeds midnight.

  4. After setting the time, do not forget to tighten the crown again to ensure that it is waterproof!

Setting a Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 watchROLEX GMT-MASTER II 16710