There is something special about owning a high-end mechanical timepiece. The intricacy, almost artistry with which mechanical watches are made makes them highly valued devices that end up becoming family heirlooms.

Mechanical watches consist of very highly precise working with very fine tolerances. It makes them susceptible to temperature changes, being exposed to magnetic fields, being banged about, how they are worn on the wrist and stored when not worn, and how well they are maintained.

While it is said that mechanical watches are not accurate, they are inaccurate is very small. In the worst-case example, a mechanical watch can lose up to ten seconds per day, while in the best case, they will only lose 1 second per day.

Why Are Mechanical Watches Not As Accurate?

Many factors affect a mechanical watch’s accuracy, including.

  • Temperature.
  • Magnetism.
  • Shocks.
  • Position on the wrist.
  • Position It is stored.
  • Frequency of Maintenance.

How Does Temperature Affect A Mechanical Watch?

Like any mechanical device made with metal parts, the temperatures affect a mechanical watch.

As the heat increases, the metal components that make up the watch’s mechanical systems will expand.

Watches are made to extremely high tolerances, which can be negatively impacted when the metal expands.

The same applies to colder temperatures where the metals contract in size.

As a rule of thumb Normally, a mechanical watch will generally lose time under high temperatures because the system slows down slightly.

At lower temperatures, it will gain time because the system runs slightly faster.

How Does Magnetism Affect A Mechanical Watch?

Because the inner workings of a watch are made of metal and alloy parts, they can be affected by magnetism. Depending on the orientation of the magnetic field, they will either gain or lose time.

If a watch begins to run very fast (20+ seconds per day to hours fast per day), the cause can generally be identified as the hairspring coils becoming magnetized.

It will cause the coils to stick together, which shortens the balance wheel’s rotation and increases the beat rate.

A watchmaker can quickly rectify this by, in extreme cases, opening the back of the instrument.

The watchmaker then passes the watch through a demagnetizing machine, and the magnetic fields are removed, releasing the hairspring coils.

Magnets that may affect a mechanical watch may include those installed in.

  • Cell phones.
  • Television and PC speakers.
  • Magnetic necklaces.
  • Handbag clasps.
  • Hair-driers.
  • Electric razors,
  • Magnetic components of a refrigerator.

If the watch has been exposed to a very powerful magnet, it may even cause the watch to stop.

How Can A Shock Affect A Mechanical Watch?

Even a small jol may cause the coils to become tangled.

Although this happens less frequently than problems associated with magnetism, it does happen and will generally cause the mechanical watch to run too fast.

If a shock entangles the coils, it will reduce the rotation of the balance wheel, increasing the frequency of the beats.

Once again, a watchmaker will be able to resolve the problem quickly.

How Does The Position It Is Worn On The Wrist Affect It?

The watch’s orientation to the vertical axis will affect a mechanical watch’s accuracy.

It is because gravity affects the moving parts.

How Does The Position It Is Stored Affect It?

In the same way as to how the watch is positioned on the arm, the orientation it is stored in can also be impacted by gravity.

The factors affecting how it is stored include.

  • Whether it is stored with its face up or down.
  • Being laid on its 12:00 / 3:00 / 6:00 / 9:00 side respectively

It is recommended that you test the watch in the different periods over eight hours periods (checking against your cell phone time is very accurate) and see which position has the biggest impact.

Maintain The Watch

If the watch is maintained following the manufacturer’s instructions, and if any damage is immediately attended to, you can expect the watch to last a very long time.

How Accurate Are Mechanical Watches?

Despite the expected longevity of mechanical watches, of the three types, they are the least accurate.

The time loss which can be expected from a mechanical watch is listed in the table below.

The Contrôle officiel suisse des Chronometers (COSC) certifies the accuracy and high end precision Swiss watches.

Each watch is tested continuously over 15 days and is wound daily at precisely the same time each day. The watches are measured daily with the aid of cameras. They are checked against the following data points.

  • Temperature
  • The position of the movement (3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, dial on top, dial on the bottom).

The watches are compared against two atomic clocks synchronized on GPS time.

Modern Mechanical non-COSC Certified watch
Worst case scenario+/-10 seconds per 24-hour cycleAccurate to 99.988%
Typical scenario+/-5 seconds per 24-hour cycleAccurate to 99.994%
Excellent scenario+/-3 seconds per 24-hour cycleAccurate to 99.996%
Modern Mechanical COSC Certified watch
Worst Case Scenario+6/-4 seconds per 24-hour cycleAccurate to 99.994%
Typical scenario+/-3 seconds per 24-hour cycleAccurate to 99.996%
Excellent scenario+/-1 seconds per24 hour cycleAccurate to 99.998%

What are the three main types of a watch?

The three main categories of the watch are.

  • Mechanical watches
  • Quartz watches
  • Digital watches

How A Mechanical Watch Works

A mainspring powers a mechanical watch and drives a series of gears that activate a balance wheel.

The balance wheel, which oscillates at a constant frequency and is a device called an escapement, releases the watch’s wheels to move every second with each motion of the balance wheel.

How A Quartz Watch Works

A battery produces a current in the watch circuit, of which the quartz crystal is a part.

This current causes the quartz to vibrate at 32768 times a second. The circuit counts the oscillations and turns every 32768 vibrations into one electric pulse.

How A Digital Watch Works

While the ned result and displays look different, digital watches work similarly.

They both use a quartz crystal which vibrates at precisely 32768 times a second; however, in the case of a digital watch, the vibrations are picked up by a silicon chip, which converts them into regular electronic pulses, which are converted by the chip into the words and numerals which appear in the LCD (Liquid Crystal) readout.

Which type of watch lasts the longest?

A quartz watch should last for two to three decades before the electronic components of the watch finally wear out. Quartz watches require a battery to work, which will need to be changed periodically.

On the other hand, a high-quality precision mechanical watch that is well-maintained should outlive the original purchaser. It makes the top mechanical watches great heirlooms which can be handed down through the generations.

While digital watches require regular battery changes, the life expectancy will be influenced by the conditions it is exposed to. Under controlled conditions, the LCD will probably be the first component to wear out, determining the watch’s life expectancy.


While a mechanical watch is less accurate than a quartz or digital watch, there is nothing quite like the ownership experience of a good quality device.

Correctly maintained, a high-end mechanical watch can be expected to last a lifetime (and beyond) until it becomes a family heirloom to be passed down through the generations.


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