Solar Watch Keeps Stopping? A Troubleshooting Guide

The increasing focus on sustainability is a good era for solar watches. While the development of the solar watch back in the 1970s was for functionality, it now has become a marketing tool.

Most watch owners know about both Seiko Solar and Citizen Eco-Drive. 2 very well-known brands make their own solar technology to improve accuracy, reliability, and useability even better than traditional quartz watches.

You will most likely remember the Seiko Solar watch with the black photovoltaic solar panel at the top of the watch. While it might not have been pretty, it was quite functional. The accuracy, durability, and reliability of the traditional quartz watches are kept in a shell that can power itself with external light sources.

Classic Seiko Solar
Classic Seiko Solar (Credit)

In the 1990s, Citizen came with the new invention of Eco-Drive technology, which massively increased the efficiency of absorbing solar power. As time has gone on, the solar panels in watches have become extremely efficient both in absorbing light and being virtually invisible. The Eco-Drive technology was the first to make the “invisible” solar panel. The solar panel is hidden behind the dial of the watch, meaning you can have a good looking watch without an array of black panels.

Having a solar watch is an amazing experience. You have the accuracy of a quartz watch, but with the solar technology of the modern age. Smartwatches do almost anything else than show your time, your phone has to get power constantly, and your laptop is too big to pull out every time you want to see the time. Therefore, solar watches is still superior to modern smartwatches or phones. However, what’s not an amazing experience is when the watch suddenly stops ticking.

When a solar watch suddenly stops ticking, it can be caused by multiple reasons. It is never fun to have something that is broken, and if you are using the timepiece for keeping time, it’s even worse compared to those who use them as fashion pieces.

Today a lot of regular quartz models have been transitioned into solar watches. It helps the user to keep the battery change fee down, it becomes more user-friendly as the battery doesn’t have to be changed frequently. With the current technology, the solar panels no longer interfere with the design of the watch.

Why Does my Solar Watch Keep Stopping?

The reason your solar watch keeps stopping can happen for the simplest reasons. Sometimes we just have a 404 in our brain. However, there can also be not so obvious reasons for a stopping solar watch.

Whether the watch is new or old can be both a simple problem or a complicated problem. Usually, the issues can be solved. However, at times you must also just face that a watch has to be replaced when reaching a certain age, or have been treated rather poorly.

The two most common reasons solar watches stop is the lack of adequate lighting and obsolete batteries. To troubleshoot: Put the solar watch in direct sunlight; if the watch doesn’t charge, you will have an obsolete battery. Take the watch to a watchmaker to get a rechargeable battery change.

You can also replace the battery yourself fairly easily. However, you need a little knowledge to change the battery, which you can learn in this post. Then you also need a battery, which you can find cheap on Amazon. To find the correct battery type, you can look at the conversion chart I have made.

In general, if it has been more than 5-10 years since the last battery change, you should consider a battery change before anything else. However, before rushing to the watchmaker for a battery change, try to put the watch in direct sunlight.

Putting the watch in direct sunlight works best when on sunny days. However, in case you are in a winter period, try to find a day with not that many clouds. Let the watch charge for a day or 2. If it doesn’t work, it’s most likely time for a battery change.

Charging of the Watch

Having a watch that is a couple of hours late when you wake up is an absolute pain (I have been there). You will have to adjust the watch every morning, and even though it’s a solar watch, it never seems to charge the watch properly. It could easily appear as the watch is not being charged with the adequately needed lighting or timing.

Charging a watch for an hour every week can be more than enough to keep it going for a long time, given you live with many sunny days. However, if you live in a region such as Scandinavia, where there isn’t much sun for about 6 months, further charging might be needed.

Charging a solar watch should be a monthly activity to make sure it runs on a full charge. Let’s face it, most of us work office jobs, and in an office, there is often not much natural light to power the watch. Over time the watch will discharge, and therefore occasionally charging the watch is a good idea.

Natural Light and Artificial Light

Are you actively charging you watch ever now and again, and which light source is used when you charge the watch? The first problem arises if you are never charging the watch. If you are wandering the dark halls of the office and don’t see much sunlight, the solar watch would eventually die out. While most solar watches are made to absorb even the low lighting in offices, they simply won’t make the watch last forever.

Artificial light is 90% of the time less effective compared to natural light. Using even cloudy days to recharge the watch is better than trying to use a lamp or your laptop screen. There are generally different recommendations, however, using the Citizen Eco-Drive recommendations is a good pilot.

Just remember than Citizen’s main product is Eco-Drive watches. Therefore, their Eco-Drive watches is most likely more effective compared to other solar watches. Having that in mind, you can reference the table below and just add additional minutes and hours to be sure your watch is fully charged.

Type of lightLux levelsLux levels equivalentCharging time for 1 day of useCharging time for a full charge
Natural100,000Outdoors – Sunny day2 minutes11 hours
Natural10,000Outdoors – Overcast12 minutes40 hours
Artificial3,000Indoors – Office lights40 minutes130 hours
Citizen Eco-Drive Charging Recommendation

If you own a Seiko watch and the second hand is stopping at the 15 or 45 seconds, it means the watch has not been exposed to adequate light. If the watch is stopped at either 15 or 45 seconds, it means the watch hasn’t seen light in at least 72 hours. Other solar watches have similar functions, which is made to save the remaining power when it’s no longer receiving any new energy.

Another example of a power-saving feature is Citizen Eco-Drive watches. Some Eco-Drive watches have a hibernation function that sets the second, minute, and hour hand to 12 o’clock. However, the internal mechanism of the quartz watch will keep ticking. So whenever the watch senses light again, it will wake and automatically adjust to the current time.

Time Since Battery Change

Citizen claims that their watches can last for up to 20 years before needing a battery change. The rechargeable battery will lose energy storage capacity, however, after the 20 years, Citizen claims that the rechargeable batteries will only have lost 20% of its storage capacity. Seiko Solar watches, or in general other brands might not be effective for just as long.

If you’re in a position where you don’t feel terrified of anything, it is actually quite simple to change a battery for a watch. However, solar watches use special batteries. They have to be rechargeable. A rechargeable battery has a little plate attached to one of the flat sides, as illustrated in the picture below.

Some watches can be damaged if the current battery is not changed with another rechargeable battery. All you need to do is to figure out which type of battery the watch uses, go to a battery store or any other store selling batteries, and pick the right model.

It seems more complicated than it actually is. If you need any help, I have made a guide to watch batteries, which should be straightforward to follow.

Citizen Rechargeable Battery (Referred to as a capacitor by Citizen)
Citizen Rechargeable Battery (Referred to as a capacitor by Citizen)

Solar watches such as Citizen Eco-Drive and Seiko Solar use the solar power and directly transfer the energy into the movement of the watch. Any excess energy is stored in the battery. Therefore, you will often find that if the battery is damaged, or simply too old to be charged appropriately, the watch will stop ticking when it gets dark.

Therefore, the watch will have lost time in the morning when you get up. Some watches will have their own troubleshooting indicator for when the battery is either low or not adequately charged.

If you own a Citizen Eco-Drive watch, you will experience the second hand jumping once every 2 seconds. The hand will also skip 2 seconds per time. This is also the case for most Seiko watches.

Servicing of the Watch

Another common problem that can occur when having a solar watch stopping is a lack of service. Whether you skipped the mechanical watches intentionally to avoid the servicing and maintenance, or if it was unintentional, the solar watches do need occasional servicing.

If you experience the watch slowing down (hence not actually stopping), it might be because the mechanical parts in the movement need new layers of fresh lubrication.

If the watch is completely stopped and excessive charging doesn’t work, it might be due to damage in the movement. The moving parts in a quartz watch can break. The wear and tear to a watch will happen regardless of its quality. Sadly, quartz watches don’t live forever. Nonetheless, it’s possible to save most watches with a trip to a watchmaker.

While modern quartz watches is expected to outlive their owner, it’s not possible if the watch isn’t cared for. Therefore, maintaining the movement is just as important as charging the watch.

Common defects due can be mechanical failures, electrical failures, defective coil, and salt or oxidation around the battery. To prevent these failures from occurring, a service interval of about 3-5 years is recommended.

Battery Leakage

A good way to see if the watch might have battery leakage is to go outside on a sunny day and have the watch charge. Usually, the solar watches will use the solar energy directly in the movement and save the excess. However, if the battery is damaged, it will stop when you go back indoors. Hence, if the watch works outside in sunny weather but doesn’t in a darkened office, you might have a bad battery.

One thing that is very common with any electronic devices that have been stored for an extended period of time is quite common. The battery acid is highly corrosive, can burn your skin, and can ruin the device it is leaking in.

An obvious sign of leakage is if there is a grey smush coming out the backside of the watch. As highlighted in the picture below, the white/grey powdery substance is the battery acid. If that powder stuff starts to come out of your watch, you must go to a watchmaker ASAP.

Leaking AA battery
Leaking AA battery

If a watch has just stopped out of nowhere, this could be a reason. However, a battery usually has to be relatively old and inactive to start leaking. Over time the battery will begin to discharge, whether active or not. The chemistry in the battery changes over time, and hydrogen is generated. Sooner or later, the hydrogen will rupture the battery, making it leak.

Therefore if the watch has been storage for an extended period of time, get it to a watchmaker as the battery could be leaking. If the battery is leaking, the watch can quickly become permanently damaged.

If the watch has not reached permanent damage, it’s straightforward to remove the leaked acid from the watch and have it running again.

Compliance With Water Resistance

In conjunction with the service, intervals is the water resistance. Watches made with water resistance is not water-proof, and certainly not if they aren’t serviced every now and again. What makes the watch water resistant is the silicon gaskets at different places on the watch.

If the gaskets are poorly oiled or damaged, the water can slowly but surely start penetrating the watch. Since solar watches are made of electronics, water is horrible to have inside the watch.

Citizen Eco-Drive Skyhawk solar watch: Solar Watch with 100 meters Water Resistance
Citizen Eco-Drive Skyhawk Solar Watch: Solar Watch with 100 Meters Water Resistance

If you went diving on vacation but didn’t take off the watch as it’s 100 meters water-resistant, but haven’t had it serviced for 5 years, there could be a good chance that water has entered the watch.

When the watch is used in your everyday life, soap and other dissolvents will come in contact with the watch. Over time the soaps and dissolvents will start to wear down the oiling on the gaskets and the gaskets itself. This means the watch will stop being water-resistant at some point if it is neglected its servicing.

Age and General Treatment of the Watch

In conjunction with all the factors mentioned above is how the watch has been cared for. If the watch has had a proper service every 3-5 years, it should be in excellent condition. Whereas, if the watch has never had a service, it can wear the watch down a lot. The moving parts of the lubrication, the battery will need occasional changes, and gaskets have to be relubricated and replaced when damaged.

Furthermore, has the watch been with you the entire period of ownership, it could have some nasty bumps that could cause water to enter the case of the watch.

If the watch has been worn when doing hard physical labor, it might have some nasty scratches or dents that could compromise the integrity of the watch. Small cracks to the inside of the case could potentially let moisture, dirt, or debris into the watch. You would be amazed by how small such cracks can be and still let contaminating materials into the watch.

Storing the Watch

Some watches have power-saving features. This is very helpful when you store the watch for periods of time. However, regardless of the power saving functionality, if the watch is stored too long, it will eventually lose its stored power.

Most Citizen Eco-Drive watches are designed with a power-saving feature. The Citizen Eco-Drive watches can last for up to 6 months in complete darkness. If the Eco-Drive watch has stopped, caused by 2 reasons.

First, the Eco-Drive watches are designed to go into hibernation when stored in the dark, making the watch appear dead when taken out of storage or just being put in darkness for some time. If the battery isn’t broken, put the watch under direct sunlight, and it should start going after about 8 hours.

Second, if the Eco-Drive watch doesn’t start ticking after 8 hours of direct sunlight, the battery (referred to as a capacitor for Eco-Drive watches) needs a replacement.

This troubleshooting method is not exclusively for Eco-Drive watches. However, it’s what Citizen recommends. There will be some slight changes in what is recommended for each brand. However, this method is a good way to test any solar watch.


Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

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