Quartz watches have a habit of stopping every once in a while. While frustration, there can be multiple reasons the watch is stopping. Having a quartz watch to stop unexpected is very frustrating when it’s used for timekeeping. Even if it’s just a fashion piece, it looks odd if the time isn’t correct.
The most common reason for a quartz watch to stop is due to a dead battery. However, quartz watches can also stop due to water damage, poor quality, physical damage, magnetism, electrical shocks, stem misplacement, or intermittent electrical connection.
The damages can be fatal for a quartz watch, and while some failures can lead to an unrepairable watch, most failures can be fixed. While the repair might be an expense bigger than the cost of the watch, quartz watches are not necessarily doomed to the trashcan if they get faulty.
Although I would like to make the disclaimer that I’m not a watchmaker, I’m just a guy that is very passionate about watches and know a few tips and tricks. Therefore, whatever you read in the article is just suggestions to what can be done, whereas you will benefit from visiting a watchmaker in 9 out of 10 times rather than trying to diagnose and/or fix the issues yourself.
A dead battery is a common issue for quartz watches. The apparent reason is that a battery drives quartz watches, and sooner or later will it will run out of energy. However, there is also the possibility that the battery has gotten too old/damaged and has started leaking.
The rate at which a battery will deplete energy will depend on the manufacturer, the complications in the watch, and the battery’s size. Obviously, a smaller battery will result in a shorter life cycle. Furthermore, the more features the watch has, the more energy is withdrawn. Likewise, if the manufacturer uses a good quality movement, it’s better at preserving power.
The most common reason a quartz watch stops ticking is due to a dead battery. Getting a battery is a quick and cheap operation. If you have the capabilities to do the battery replacement yourself, it can be done within 10 minutes. Alternatively, a watchmaker can replace the battery for around $50.
While a battery change is easy to do yourself, it’s also very cheap to get a watch repairer to just change it for you. Having a watch repairer to replace the battery you will avoid during any damage to your watch.
Another fairly common reasons a quartz watch stops is due to leaking batteries. When a battery is discharging, the battery releases hydrogen gas, which increases the pressure in the battery, which could lead to leakage. This is also why it’s important to remove the battery when the watch has to be stored for an extended period.
Having a leaking battery can cause the watch to be beyond repair. However, it can also be a fix and easy fix with a little cleaning. The amount of damage done to the watch depends on how long the battery has been leaking inside the watch.
To clean a leaking battery, simply remove the case back, remove the battery, take a high percentage isopropyl alcohol and gently rub the leakage from the battery. You should never do this if you are not comfortable touching the inside of your watch.
If you are comfortable opening your watch on your own, you can actually replace both the battery and repair/clean any battery leaks by yourself. However, it does come with the risk of damaging your watch. Therefore, the cost of going to a watch repairer can be good to sacrifice if you love your watch.
If your watch tends to stop and start in short durations, it could be due to battery leakage. We have all had a TV remote in our hands that just won’t function all the time. When we took off the cover and just rolled the batteries a couple of times, the remote would start working again. This is the symptoms that can be observed with a watch. However, a battery replacement is recommended at this stage.
If you are not comfortable with changing the battery, go to a watch repairer who will also look at any other malfunctions or needed servicing. It’s almost impossible to give you a price estimate, however, if you are going to a watch repairer for something larger than a battery change, expect to pay at least somewhere between $50 and $200 depending on the watch brand and servicing needed.
How to Change a Watch Battery
As I stated before, replacing a battery is quite a simple process. While it’s tedious when during it the first time (because you haven’t tried it before), it’s easy, and there are not many things that can go wrong if done correctly. However, it’s important to state that it can be fatal for your watch if something goes wrong.
In the following section, I will walk you through how to make the battery change. To replace a battery, you will go through a 6 step process. The process is straightforward, and as long as you avoid touching the bronze-colored coil, there should be no damage done.
Steps to replace the battery in a quartz watch:
- Remove the case back
- Identify the battery code
- Find a replacement battery of the same type
- Replace the battery
- Ensure gaskets are placed correctly
- Screw/pop the case back in place
When removing the case back, you will either have to screw it off or pop it off. If your watch has indents in the form of circles or rectangles in the outer edge of the case back, you will most likely have a screw-down case back. The indents are characterized by their even spacing all around the case back. In which case you obviously need to screw the case back on and off.
In contrast, if there is an indent in the case back between the watch case and the case back, you will have to pop it back off. When getting the case back on to the watch again, you will have to apply pressure until you hear a snap.
In the picture below, an illustration of an open quartz watch is presented to show you what to expect when you have taken the case back. The bronze-colored coil must not be touched. The coil is essential for your watch, and it’s made of copper wire thinner than your own hair.
On the battery, you will find a code. You can look in the chart I have created from accumulated information around the battery manufacturers to help you identify the battery you can use.
The battery codes can be found in the post here. Simply search by press CTRL and F simultaneously on your keyboard and enter the battery code. The codes in the same row as the code form your battery can be used as replacements. As a quick example from the first row: Your battery code is 357. Searching in the table, you find the battery code in the first row of the table. You see that 357 is in the same row as SR44W. This means that you can use batteries with the code SR44W in your watch as well.
When you have the replacement battery, it’s as simple as replace the old battery with the new. The saying goes that you shouldn’t use metals tools to prevent short circuits. Furthermore, don’t open the watch if you are in a humid place (if you for some reason wanted to open the watch in the bathroom after taking a shower, just don’t).
Another reason your quartz watch might stop could be due to poor quality. Sadly, there are products in today’s world made in poor quality, not just watches. More often than not, you will get what you pay for. Hence, expensive watches come with quality, while cheap dollar watches don’t have much quality to it.
Quality is a determining factor for how well and how long your watch will be functioning correctly. A dollar store watch will not perform with the same performance and longevity as a high-quality manufacturer watch.
Many have an interpretation that quartz watches are cheap, lightweight, soulless junk that should only exist to tell the time when you don’t want to expose your mechanical watch to the real world (such as being outdoors, working on the car, diving, etc.). However, there are some very high-quality quartz watches that is everything but soulless junk.
The risk you run when buying a quartz watch is that it comes with a cheap movement. Many fashion brands are using relatively cheap movements and simply making a good looking dial that makes the watch looks appealing and worth the cost. However, my personal experience is that the cost of fashion watches is far off compared to the quality you are getting.
In the picture, you see below is a watch I bought on a trip to the U.S. from U.S. Polo Assn. For those not familiar with the brand, it’s a clothing brand that sells premium cloths. I saw the watch in the store, and it was very appealing, thinking it was a good looking watch. However, after about 3-4 months, the watch died.
After taking it to a watch repairer, I was told the movement wasn’t worth repairing as the movement was a cheap piece of junk (his words). He said that you should never purchase fashion brand watches when buying watches (Gucci, Ralph Lauren, etc.) as they are making the watches as fashion pieces and not as actual long-term watches.
In essence, they use the money on the watch’s external appearance, rather than having a good movement. This ensures that the fashion brands maintain their insane profit margins while getting the customers to have matching cloth and watch.
While I have properly just scared you from ever looking at a quartz watch again, I can assure you that there are plenty of very high-quality quartz watches, which is cheap. Good watch brands such as Seiko, Citizen, Omega, and TAG Heuer, as quartz watches that are very good and last a lifetime.
Water damage is properly the biggest threat to your quartz watch. We all know and learned in school that electricity and water don’t work together. Furthermore, a lot of quartz watches have a lot of metal inside as well. Since metal is a good conductor of electricity, this is another threat to your watch’s well being.
Water damage can occur from rain, swimming, bathing, or steam from cooking. Any moisture that enters the watch can be fatal. To ensure that a watch isn’t damaged from moisture, it’s vital to have water-resistant services done and ensuring that the crown and pushers are always in the correct position.
Water damage can come from various causes, and it’s not always easy to spot when a watch has been damaged from water. In some cases, where the crown is pulled in the time adjustment setting and being submerged in water, the watch will be filled with water quickly. You will be able to see the water between the crystal and the dial.
In contrast, water damage can also occur from swimming with a dive watch, that might have a faulty gasket. Having a faulty gasket might allow very small amounts of moisture the enter the watch, and with time corrode the inside of the watch. However, when small amounts of moisture/water enter the watch, it’s impossible to foresee or spot the watch has been infiltrated with moisture.
To prevent water and moisture damage, you should do the following things:
- Ensure that the crown and pushers are always in the correct position.
- Get a yearly water-resistance check if the watch is worn near water or humid conditions. Otherwise, be mindful of where the watch is worn (don’t bring it to the swimming pool).
- Keep the water resistance in mind.
Ensuring that crown and pushers are always in their “in” position should be fairly easy to remember. Whenever you adjust the time, just push/screw in the crown when you are done changing the time. For watches with pushers (Pushers are what starts and stops the chronograph function), it’s important to screw them back if they are screw-down pushers. No matter what, pushers must never be used underwater.
One thing is always to forget or remember to do something like adjusting the crowns and pushers on the watch; another is to understand how the water resistance work. The water resistance is not just an absolute value that means that the watch will survive anything above said water resistance.
Understanding Water Resistance
Water-resistance is a measure of assigning a rating to a watch to give the user an indication of its water durability. The “durability” is measured in “bar” or “atm,” which is a pressure unit. The idea is that using atm (standard atmospheric) or bar it’s possible to estimate the watch’s rated water depth.
1 atm is equivalent to 1.013 bar, and therefore the difference in very subtle. If your watch is rated for 10 atm, it’s the same as if it was rated for 10 bar—so no need to worry there.
The atm and bar pressure unit comes in handy to determine how deep a watch can be submerged. The testing is done in a pressure chamber using tap water. The watch is put inside the pressure chamber, which is filled with water. Then the pressure is increased to whatever rating the watch has to test for leakage.
However, this type of testing only shows 1 thing: How deep the watch can be submerged in tap water with no movement. In the table below is the recommended activities you can be with the water-resistance of your watch.
|Water-resistance Chart||>30 meters|
|Swimming and snorkeling||✕||✕||✓||✓||✓|
|Water activities (Jetski, water skiing, pool parties, etc.)||✕||✕||✕||✓||✓|
|Serious diving (Scuba diving)||✕||✕||✕||✓||✓|
When reality comes to play, and you are water skiing or swimming crawl, the watch is exposed to a lot of force. When the watch is tested, it sits still in water will the pressure is slowly increasing.
In the real world, you will eventually fall when being on water-skies, and when you hit the water with your arm, the watch will be exposed to a big amount of pressure. Here water depth can really do used. Therefore, the table above was created to show what can be done wearing a watch with e.g., 50 meters of water resistance.
Physical Damage (Impact Damage)
Quartz watches are very robust. This is due to their simple design and the fact that they consist mainly of one big PCB. Their mechanical counterparts (known as manual and automatic watches) consists solely of mechanical components.
The mechanical watches are generally viewed as less robust since it’s easier to damage or misplace tiny components rather than a PCB, which fills the entire inside of the watch.
However, you can still damage your quartz watch by some kind of physical damage. The quality is also a massive factor in how well a quartz watch can handle physical damage. In lower-quality watches, the coil, PCB, or mechanical components might be in a “rough” condition and easier to damage, in contrast to a high-quality watch.
To avoid physical damage to your quartz watch, open doors with your right hand if you are wearing the watch on your left hand to avoid doorknobs. Another tip is to take off and on the watch at a table to avoid dropping the watch.
Impact damage is also more than just damaging the movement. It’s possible to crack the crystal and bracelet. However, both of these occasions are relatively easy fixes, although potentially costly.
When a quartz watch is dropped, the watch could very well die as something inside the movement broke. The best thing to do in this situation is just to find the courage and go to the watch repairer with the wallet open and hope they can fix whatever went wrong.
Yet another danger of owning a quartz watch is magnetism. Magnetism is dangerous for the movement of your watch. Inside a quartz movement is the little pitch fork shaped quartz crystal in a metal cylinder, and the motor that makes your watch go “tick, tick” is driven by a magnetic stepping motor.
When wearing a quartz watch, magnetic objects should be avoided. Magnetic objects that are strong enough to disturb the watch are magnetic bag clasp snaps, fridge magnets, hard-disks, electric motors, and household speakers.
Quartz watches use the magnetic force’s power when operating its stepping motor to move the gears to tell time. These stepping motors is very small, and due to their small size, they are quite easily affected by magnetism. If the stepping motor is magnetized, the watch might stop or fail to keep time.
The magnetism inside the watch does not affect the timekeeping as it’s a part of the stepping motor’s function. However, if your quartz watch has been exposed to a strong magnet or you identify that it fails to keep time, have the watch demagnetized.
The demagnetization can be done in one of two ways. Either you go to a watch repairer and have the watch repairer demagnetize the watch, or potentially replace parts that have been caused to fail due to magnetism.
The watch repairer can quickly demagnetize the watch and identify if the watch fails in other areas. Since people that own quartz watches rarely take the watch to service (i mean no offense), it’s properly also the best just to go to the watch repairer. This way, you are also sure that the watch is pristine.
The second option is to buy a watch demagnetizer (Link to Amazon). Using the demagnetizer, you place the watch flat in the demagnetizing area. Once on the area, you activate the demagnetizer and, in a steady movement take the watch from its place in a vertical line away from the demagnetizer. The watch should now be demagnetized.
Electrical shocks are so rare that they have become a myth. And no, I have not heard of anyone that has a watch damaged by electrical shocks. However, it’s a theoretical possibility if your quartz watch has stopped working.
A good example is when wind turbine companies transport repair engineers to the wind turbines in the ocean. The engineers are transported by helicopter. The metal wire the engineers are repelling down from ahs a big piece of lead in the end, which touches the platform of the wind turbine to discharge all static electricity generated by the helicopter. The static electricity that can build up is very significant. The wire has to be discharged before anyone touches the wire. Otherwise, it can put the engineers at considerable risk.
Electrical shock can be caused to a quartz watch through static electricity. Although highly unlikely, an electrical shock can damage a quartz watch. The quartz watch is more exposed to electrical shocks if the watch’s case is made of metal, as metal is a good electrical conductor.
Therefore, if you are an engineer, electrician, line installer/repairer, etc., there is a slight possibility that your watch has died of an electrical shock if you have been shocked recently by electricity.
An electrical shock to your quartz watch will cause the electrical components inside the movement to malfunction (think of putting too much current through a thin wire, the wire will melt and become two pieces). The same would happen inside your quartz watch’s electrical components if you were to be exposed to high current.
Some of the very rare but also quite interesting ways a quartz watch could be stopping is when the stem is misplaced or outright damaged. Many watches, both mechanical and quartz, are made to stop when the stem is removed. This is a servicing feature.
When the watchmaker is to repair on a watch, the hands must not be turning. Therefore, as a process of removing the movement from the case, the stem has to be removed, which also stops the movement.
One reason that a quartz watch has stopped in due to a misplaced stem. A servicing feature made to most watches is that the hands will stop moving once the stem is removed. This makes the watch serviceable for the watch repairer, but could also be why a quartz watch has stopped unexpectedly.
While misplacing a stem is highly unlikely, it can happen, and if you have the stem, it’s also a straightforward fix. However, if the stem has fallen out of your watch, you need to find a watch repairer and make them find a replacement part.
To place the stem correctly, you will have to open your quartz watch and identify the little lever which moves when you pull the crown/stem. When you identify the lever, there should be a little dimple. This little dimple has to be pushed with a pointy tool simultaneously with pulling the crown. This process will remove the stem correctly. This process is also illustrated in the picture below.
Now to placing the stem correctly, you simply gently push the stem in the case’s hole, which you just removed it from. However, you should never force the stem in. If you feel some resistance, you must jiggle the stem a little bit on the way in. With some jiggling and gentle force, the stem should mount right back into place.
The last and again not very likely reason your quartz watch is faulty could be due to a short circuit somewhere in the movement of your watch. As electrical components ages and are exposed to current all the time, the weldings and thin wires are getting worn down. At worst this could mean the watch has a short circuit somewhere.
A short circuit can occur as the watch ages, and the internal components are slowly being worn down. While very rare, a short circuit can happen and will require a movement replacement.
There are examples of people who have caused a short circuit in their watches when replacing the battery. It’s an unfortunate event but you have nothing to do, but replace the movement if there is a short circuit.
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