To Hack Or Not To Hack? (and Handwind)

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3flushes
Posts: 70
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:00 pm

To Hack Or Not To Hack? (and Handwind)

Post by 3flushes » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:12 am

There are vast opinions and debate on this subject depending on one's interest in watches, watchmaking, and horology. I have posted versions of this in a couple places and it has generated a lot of interesting responses. I thought it would be fun to see where everybody stood on the subject here.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term: A hacking movement has a feature that stops the second hand when the stem is in the time-setting position to allow for the exact setting of the time. Hacking movements were originally developed for military use. Many watches without a hacking feature can be "force hacked" by simply turning the stem counterclockwise and maintaining a little back pressure without damaging the watch... check with the manufacturer before trying it, especially with vintage automatics.

My personal preference is for my watches to hack. I need to be able to set a watch exactly in sync with the atomic clock, as my fascination with the hobby predominantly lies in movements, and part and parcel, I'm therefore driven to track the accuracy of my watches. All of my watches. If a movement doesn't hack, it's a deal breaker.

Some automatic watches do not allow for hand winding and their numbers seem to be on the rise. All automatic movements have a clutch, called a slipping mainspring that prevents the mainspring from becoming overwound whether they can be hand wound or not. This mechanism was engineered and patented in 1863, by Adrien Phillipe to allow for the simultaneous winding of two mainspring barrels. Automatic movements were invented sixty years later by John Harwood in 1923. Like all brilliant inventors, Harwood was inspired by something very simple; it was children playing on a see-saw that gave him the idea to use the kinetic energy of the motion of the wearers' wrist to automatically wind the mainspring. His original auto movement had no provision for hand winding.

The most advantageous aspect of being able to hand wind an automatic is having the ability to keep the watch running when not worn without going to the expense of buying a decent winder. This saves one the trouble of resetting an auto, especially a complicated one, each time it is worn. Relating to my preoccupation with accuracy, auto movements generally have a "sweet spot,” or range in the tension on the mainspring that yields the most constant release of energy to the escapement. I like to try to find that sweet spot, so from a completely exhausted main spring, I need to be able to keep track of the exact number of turns of the crown I've made so I can then track the resulting accuracy from various starting points with replicable results. Even with an exhibition back, it would be impossible to count the rotations of the rotor, certainly more tedious than it would be worth.

For my purposes, I first determine the idiosyncratic full power reserve for any movement in my collection by taking the mean (arithmetic average) over several trials. In the best movements which incorporate the best components, for example, glucydor or silicone balances, nivarox or other high grade main springs, multiple barrels etc., it is difficult to discern a difference without very sophisticated equipment, as these movements are engineered to be the most accurate possible throughout the entire wind; and while it's more fun to try to get more, (or the best) out of lesser movements, it doesn't keep me from trying. I then shoot for half- I give the crown the number of turns that I believe will give me about a half-wound mainspring, set it, and go from there. On rainy boring days, if I have collected enough data on a movement over time, it is even possible via statistical tests to determine the Standard Deviation and various Standard Error rates for various states of windedness on any given movement. Fortunately, it doesn't rain much here.

So, perhaps it is my inner-watchmaker-like fixation with the pursuit of perfection, or my infatuation with the horological pursuit of isochronism, or my obsession with getting mechanical machines to rival the prowess of electronic devices that feeds this goofy pursuit. Maybe it helps to keep a few of the very few childhood nostalgias of my father worthy of calling to mind alive; setting our watches with the atomic clock in Boulder on speaker phone, syncing our watches like GI’s when we split up in the mall or at a ballgame, Saturday trips to the watchmaker, or, perhaps, I'm just old with too much time on my hands. I honestly can't tell you exactly why, but I am compelled to do so, and take great pleasure in so doing.

So, that’s my schtick about it... Are you a hacker and a hand winder? One or the other? Couldn’t give a crap less either way. What say yous?
eddiea
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Re: To Hack Or Not To Hack? (and Handwind)

Post by eddiea » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:47 am

Like my autos to hack and manually wind.....none of my mechanicals hack, but they are easy to set in perfect time.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” Jack Kerouac
MAX
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Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:00 pm

Re: To Hack Or Not To Hack? (and Handwind)

Post by MAX » Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:21 am

Hacking is nice but not a deal breaker. The same goes for manual winding but more important to me than hacking. What really drives me off the deep end is the lack of a quick set date.
kahuna74
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Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:00 pm

Re: To Hack Or Not To Hack? (and Handwind)

Post by kahuna74 » Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:18 am

MAXg wrote:Hacking is nice but not a deal breaker. The same goes for manual winding but more important to me than hacking. What really drives me off the deep end is the lack of a quick set date.
Yes me too. I have a couple of watches that if they sit for a couple of weeks I hate wearing them because of how long it takes to go through 15 to 20, 24 hours turns. Other wise hacking and non-hacking is not a big deal to me.
3flushes
Posts: 70
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:00 pm

Re: To Hack Or Not To Hack? (and Handwind)

Post by 3flushes » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:09 pm

This is the least OCD forum in which I have posted this. Here's a few responses I didn't expect from other forums: That movements that didn't hack or hand wind were somehow "stripped down" versions to make them cheaper to produce; hacking unimportant but hand winding (to insure adequate power reserve) was vital; and there were also several respnders who said they bought strictly based on factors like brand, design, or functional complications (chrono, GMT) and that the movement wasn't a factor in making a buying decision. Sure a diverse group of humans attracted to this hobby.
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