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Advice requested: Date not advancing.


I’m new to the group, but have been using the website for a while.  This is a great resource.  I’ve got a few Bulova watches that I need to get listed.

But I have a question and could use some advice.

I purchased a Caravelle automatic dive watch from eBay.  The description said that it worked, but had not been timed for accuracy.  I was OK with that because it looked really nice for a watch that was 48 years old.  After it arrived, I set the time and it’s been working fine — it maybe lost 2 minutes in the first day.  However, the date does not properly advance.  If I advance the time past midnight, the date just barely budges.  I advanced the time past midnight about 10 times, and it very slowly advanced about one day during that.


Is this an easy repair?  I am guessing that if this needs work, it’s probably also due for regular maintenance.  Is there any harm that would come to the watch by continuing to use it and just ignoring the date until I get it repaired?


I would appreciate any advice.  Thank you.

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Panel Member
Posted March 30, 2018 - 9:36pm

Your guess is correct.

The vast majority of vintage watches (and clocks) are not in freshly serviced condition. I'd say the number is probably 99%. Most of the time we are seeing watches that were in drawers for decades, or worn until something didn't work properly, or got shabby looking, etc. 

Even a NOS watch needs to be serviced before being used regularly. A dried out or dirty watch will damage itself. Lubricating a dirty watch actually makes it worse, mobilizing dirt and debris and carrying it directly where it can do the most damage. 

Friction is always the problem. Your date won't change because of friction. Friction also is the cause of watches stopping, of dirt acting as an abrasive and general wear and tear. 

I always strongly recommend getting a watch properly serviced by a qualified watchmaker if you intend to use it. I have purchased many watches online or from other sources and been told adamantly that the watch was 'just serviced'. I have NEVER found this to be true. 

A full service (CTR) requires full disassembly, then cleaning in Industry standard baths, followed by inspection, repair, re-assembly with modern lubricants, and demagnetisation and regulation. There are no half measures, there are no shortcuts. A watch cannot be cleaned unless it is fully disassembled. The part most often replaced as a rule of thumb is the mainspring. 

Date discs can be bent, or pinched between dial and upper plate. The date jumper can be stiff or stuck, or the teeth of the date disc can be badly damaged. Additional issues may be caused by other parts of the date mechanism like the instantaneous date change device (A spring loaded assist) or quickset date parts. Attempting to quickset change the date at the half-out crown position between the hours of approximatley 9 pm and midnight can destroy the date mechanism. It is critical to always know what time the watch is displaying. Automatic watches left on the dresser will stop after awhile, so when you pick it up, you need to know what time it stopped. Advance the hands past 12 and see if the date changes, if it does not, advance them further to past 12 again. If the date changes, it is midnight. If nothing happens, your date mechanism is damaged. 

In non-quickset date watches (This includes a lot of of vintage watches) there is no half-out position of the crown, it is either pushed in or pulled out. If you can turn the hands almost effortlessly, this is the first symptom of a worn cannon pinion. (What follows will be the watch losing a lot of time) This happens because the hands on these watches get moved a lot in correcting the date. On most, you can advance the hands past 12, the date changes, then you back up to 8:30 or 9 and advance again. The date should change at 12 again. This is tedious, but still quicker than some older systems where you had to literally go 24 hours to go forward or 24 to go back, there was no way to 'back and forth' the setting. These watches almost always have cannon pinion issues.

So my advice is to take to the watch to a qualified watchmaker, the NAWCC has them listed on the site by area. They will be able to tell you exactly what is wrong, and what it will cost to fix it. My money is on full CTR. If the date mechanism is all gummed up, it is a good indicator that the rest of the watch badly needs service  also. If you are lucky, that is all that will be wrong. I do a fair amount of repairs where I am fixing something that was done incorrectly or damaged by someone else. 

Hope this helps.
Posted March 30, 2018 - 9:27am

Thank you for your detailed response.  I appreciate it.  It pretty much confirms what I suspected— it needs a full service.  I was hoping not to have to do this quite yet.  I suppose that the bright side of this is that it should be trouble-free and accurate afterwards.

Thanks again.