The ability to stop the second hand on any watch had an extremely important purpose during the days of the war. Today, people might need to set their watches accurately to the second for a host of reasons. But some watches, such as automatic watches, may not come standard with this built-in function.

Most automatic watches do not come with the hacking function built-in. Therefore, you may have to back-hack the watch by turning the crown counterclockwise. This will freeze the second hand in place until you release the pressure on the crown, allowing you to set your time precisely.

Whatever your reason for needing to stop the second hand on your automatic watch, you should be able to stop it relatively easily. Despite how most automatic watches are not built with a hacking function, you can override this function with a little patience and finesse. You must be careful when hacking not to damage the watch, however.

How To Stop The Second Hand On An Automatic Watch

To stop the second hand on an automatic watch, you are forcing the watch to perform a function it was not designed to do. Automatic watches are mostly non-hacking, so they do not have a built-in hacking function that will stop the second hand when the crown is pulled out.

As a result, you will need to manually override the watch mechanics to allow you to stop the second hand. If you are careful, you can perform this action without damaging the watch. You will then be able to set your watch time precisely to the second. Once you have completed this, you will need to check the watch’s ability to keep time by checking its accuracy.

Despite setting the time to the precise second, your watch may lose or gain time by a few seconds within the first twenty-four hours. This means that the time you spent hacking the watch – despite not being designed to do so – may be wasted unless you have a specific reason for hacking your watch.

The reason for this is how these watches are made. The complex machinery that makes up an automatic watch (meaning that it is self-winding) may cause inaccuracies in its timekeeping abilities. Even the most precise watches in the world can be off by up to 6 seconds and still be highly revered for their timekeeping abilities.

If precise time to the second is extremely important to you, a digital watch might be a better option.

Most automatic watch mechanisms do not allow the second hand to stop when pulling out the crown. Automatic watches are made with a self-winding mechanism and a non-hacking second hand. The advantage of this complicated little piece of machinery is that it never needs hand-winding or replacing a battery.

The simple movement of your arm during the day is sufficient to keep the watch fully wound. To add a hacking feature to a mechanical watch requires several components and engineering not required by non-hacking watches.

Stopping the second hand or hacking is usually done by simply pulling out the watch crown. If the watch is designed with a hacking feature, all of the hands of the watch will stop to allow you to set the time precisely. If your watch is not equipped with hacking, the second hand will continue moving.

To hack a watch like this that is not equipped for hacking, you must perform a task known as back-hacking. This involves placing the crown into the time-setting position before rotating it counterclockwise ever so slightly. This movement will cause the second hand to pause until you decide to release the pressure.

If the watch is fully wound, performing this task can be difficult. If this is the case, you should wait a while for the watch to become slightly unwound before attempting to back hack it. Remember that this action is not necessarily good for the watch’s health, so you should proceed with care.

Setting The Time To The Second

To back hack your automatic watch and set the time precisely to the second, you will first need to find an accurate time source such as or the “Time” function found on an app such as Hodinkee.

When stopping the second hand, you will most likely want to do so precisely when the second hand reaches the 12 o’clock position. This is not an easy feat, but it can be done with patience. You may need to practice pushing the second hand back at precisely the right time to ensure optimal accuracy.

Set the hour and date as you normally would, and set your minute hand slightly ahead of the time shown by your accurate reference. Now stop the seconds hand as explained above, and set your time. When your reference source reaches the exact time shown on your watch, quickly release the crown and start the watch up again. It may generally take a few tries to get your timing precise.

Watch Hacking, Explained

Hacking, or “stop seconds,” refers to stopping the watch’s second hand. This became a popular feature required in watches during the war. It allowed the military members to coordinate their movements precisely despite not being able to communicate directly with each other.

Military personnel would stop and synchronize their watches regularly to ensure absolute precision between all individuals. This action was critical to ensure the smooth running of any mission. To hack your timepiece, the watch requires certain components and complicated engineering that is not featured in a non-hacking watch.

To allow the second hand to stop altogether, the watch’s movement must be stopped. This requires a lever or brake to move against the balance wheel as soon as the crown is pulled out. As soon as you push the watch crown back in, the balance is released, and all components will begin moving again.

Testing Your Watch Accuracy

Suppose you want to see how your automatic watch performs in terms of accurate timekeeping. In that case, you will need to check it against your accurate reference source to ensure it is performing well. Remember that the accuracy of an automatic watch is measured by the number of seconds gained or lost in 24 hours.

Try taking a photo of your watch at a specific time, and compare the difference from one day to the next in relation to your accurate time source. This will allow you to ascertain how many lost or gained seconds.


Stopping the second hand on an automatic watch is often considered pointless today because the watch quickly loses its to-the-second accuracy within 24 hours. However, it is possible to stop the second hand on an automatic watch whether it was built with hacking abilities or not. As always, be careful when attempting this as there is potential to damage the watch.


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