Setting and winding your antique or vintage watch

If you are old enough to remember wearing a mechanical wind-up wrist watch, you know that you simply wind the stem each day, and pull the stem out to set the watch (actually if you wear a modern analog quartz watch, the setting is the same).

There are various acronyms and abbreviations regarding the setting and winding function of a pocket watch.  Well, here is a concise list of these functions and brief “How To”:

Stem Set (SS): This is the most well know. You simply pull the stem out and turn to set the hands.  Sometimes the stem is a little stubborn to get out on an older watch, due to corrosion and the like.  But before you pull to hard, make sure that the watch is not a lever set.

Lever Set (LS): On a watch with a lever set, you have to remove the front bezel (the part with the glass) by unscrewing, or opening on a hinge.  When you have this open, there should be a small groove with the end of the lever that can be gently pulled out with your finger nail. Be cautious not to bend or break the lever off, as it can be fragile. After the lever is out, you can use the crown to set the hands.  After complete, simply push the lever back in.

Lever Set Hamilton Pocket Watch
Lever Set Hamilton Pocket Watch

Key Set (KS): For this older design, you simply have a key that is mated to a square arbor on in the middle of the dial on the hands, and turn the hands directly. Again, you have to remove the front bezel.

Stem Wind (SW): Simply wind the stem until resistance is felt. Some watches can be harder to wind than others.

Key Wind (KW): Using the same key as setting, you open the back of the watch (there is usually an inner casing, and put the key on the square arbor and wind until resistance is felt).

Pin Set: Often there is a small button or “pin” on the one side or the other of the stem. In this case this pain is pushed in while turning the stem to set the hands.

With more contemporary wrist watches there are more options for a stem is that watch. For example if the watch has a Calendar the stem can be used to set the calendar and day depending on how far it is pulled out etc. There are also many other variations.