I have wound muy omega speedmaster automatic to tightly at the bezel and it has stopped working. Can you tell me if there is something inside that can be released tostart it again?
There's a misconception that mechanical watches can be "overwound." Mainsprings in old watches can indeed set in place and freeze up if they are wound tightly and not permitted to unwind, but the steel used in modern mainsprings used in the past 50 years or so is an alloy that's much less likely to bind up compared to 19th century pocket watches. In addition, the winding mechanism in an automatic (aka, self-winding) watch is designed to slip once the spring has been fully wound so that the rotor and winding parts aren't damaged by suddenly binding up. In a manual wind watch, once the mainspring is fully wound, it's simply not possible to wind the watch further unless the mainspring snaps or comes loose from its anchoring--in which case, you'd be able to wind the watch forever without ever storing power in the mainspring to drive the movement. While it is possible for a watchmaker to open your watch and release tension on the mainspring, it's overwhelmingly likely that something entirely different is keeping your watch from ticking and keeping time.
Mechanical watches generally stop running for two reasons: (1) lack of power to the movement; or (2) something in the movement that is preventing the movement from running. If your mainspring is fully wound, you have power to drive the movement. It's time to think about what could be causing #2.
Problems in the movement are usually caused by dust or dirt that preventing a delicate movement part from working properly (e.g., dirt at the pivots can freeze up a gear, stopping a movement). However, it's also possible to have a mechanical failure, such as a bent tooth on a gear in the train. A further possibility is so-called "overbanking," which some believe is the origin of the myth of overwinding. A mechanical watch's balance assembly drives a tiny little forked lever back and forth to control the escapement and the rate at which the watch keeps time. If the watch receives a physical shock or if the parts are worn, it's possible for this tiny lever to get bumped out of its tiny pivot and jammed in place. When that happens, the watch will stop, even though a superficial check will seem to indicate that the balance is still moving freely. At the same time, because the watch isn't ticking, the mainspring isn't unwinding, and so the watch cannot be wound further.
In my experience, watches usually stop running due to dirt at the pivots or on one or more gear teeth. I generally see overbanking in older watches or mechanical watches that have been less precisely made and not routinely cleaned over their working lives--though I have seen it also occur in a few newer watches that were dropped. Better designed watches--and I would include Omega in this category--have escapement levers with built-in guards to make it more difficult for them to overbank.
As for how dirt gets into a watch that's supposed to be water-resistant and generally sealed against exactly that problem--well, as odd as it sounds, watches "breathe," and this process draws in dust and dirt over time. Worn against the body, a watch warms up and expands the air inside it, pushing some of it out of the case; upon cooling, some air is drawn back into the case. This process is obviously reduced in watches designed with a significant degree of water resistance (aka 50 meters or more), but the process is accelerated when you pull the stem out to set the time or even wind the watch via the stem--there's some degree of air gap between the stem and the stem tube, or else it wouldn't be possible to turn the stem. This microscopic dust--in minute quantities--mixes with the lubricating oils inside a mechanical watch and increase the friction in some of the key pivots. Over time, the combination of naturally solidifying oils that are thickening and a minute amount of dust can turn lubricating oil into glue. The watch cleaning process flushes the old oil and accumulated dirt from the pivot bushings so that fresh, uncontaminated oil can be used to re-lubricate these key gear axles.
Bottom line: if your mechanical watch has stopped working, it's much more likely that something is interrupting the intricate gears in the watch movement rather than a problem with the mainspring. A competent watchmaker or watch repair technician should be able to identify the problem relatively quickly and give you a definitive answer as to the true cause of--and cost to fix--your watch.
Jun 11, 2011 |