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Is your Rolex running slow, fast, or both…


Keeping Time

Mechanical watches are regulated by a simple hair spring that has a life of its own. Just like with anything else living, the mood, temperature, position, and age of the hairspring affects the overall speed and reliability of your mechanical watch. Before the digital era back when mechanical watches were the only means for easily telling time, the discussion on watches frequently revolved around “does your watch keep good time?” Wristwatches commonly were fast, slow, or a combination of either depending upon use, temperature, and quality. Accurate timekeeping is now commonplace in the digital era, but for mechanical watches the same issues that affected accurate time keeping pre-digital era are still the same today.

Like with anything mechanical, the impediments to accurate timekeeping are friction and gravity. Fortunately Rolex minimizes these issues by using precision engineering, their in-house Parachrom hairspring, and COSC certification to insure that their watches do not deviate from no more than -4 to +6 seconds/day. The deviation between -4 to +6 seconds/day varies upon activity (high activity day vs laying in bed/sitting at a desk), how well the watch is regulated, and how long it has been since the watch was regulated and/or serviced.

Even with COSC certified movements, you can use gravity to your advantage to keep the deviation at a minimum.  Overnight when sleeping leave your watch in the position below:

  • Speed Up = Lie Flat
  • Slow Down = Lie Vertically

Regulating Positions

This image taken from an old Rolex guarantee explains this simple poor man’s regulation. How the watch is positioned utilizes gravity on the amount of friction that is on the balance staff that the balance rotates upon the jewels in the shock mechanism. Although this method may not necessarily keep your watch precisely regulated, it is an easy and effective way to make small adjustments.

If a wristwatch is gradually becoming slow over years of use, then the watch might not necessarily be out of regulation, but rather requires a cleaning. When to have a watch serviced and cleaned fuels much debate on whether to follow manufacturer suggestions ranging from 2 to 7 years or to wait until the watch slows down. Nevertheless, if your watch either gradually slows down, or all of a sudden slows down as a result of a drop or precipitating incident, get it serviced.

If your wristwatch all of a sudden speeds up (eg. 30 seconds to multiple minutes), then most likely the balance spring became magnetized. Powerful magnets found in stereo speakers, and some laptops have found to magnetize balance springs causing the coils to stick together, effectively shortening the balance spring and speeding up the watch. Most watchmakers have demagnetizers and is a simple 10 minute repair that does not require removing the caseback. Fortunately, many watches, including Rolexes, have hairsprings that are hard to magnetize. Occasionally it happens to a Rolex, but it is a simple repair by a certified watchmaker.

  • Steve

    Hello my rolex GMT Master started to lose time all of a sudden. Does this
    Indicate that the watch needs a service? The sweeping second hand
    Is still going it just looses a lot of time. About an hour in a 24 hour period. Is
    There any way I can check it


    • Hello Steve,
      When was the last time your apples has been serviced? Generally, a Rolex should be serviced every 3 to 7 years. Usually when you start to notice inconsistencies with the time keeping, it can be a sign that it is ready to be serviced.


      • Steve

        Thanks Matt the fat lady is 18 years old. So she well deserves a service
        That’s for you help I thought it was something major.


  • Steve

    Sorry meant to say thanks for you help. I thought
    It was something major.

    • Thanks Steve. Let me know if we can assist with anything in the future!

  • Emeka Okezie

    My GMT Master, 10 years to date, has never been serviced, has fallen with me from a storey building height, banging extra hard on a ladder which I fell on in 2005, but, it is as uncomplaining as a good healthy heart & body! well made workhorse!

  • bill matthews

    my oyster perpetual day date is now 26 years old and has been keeping perfect time ,except after a service in the USA by a rolex dealer,it now stops occasionally whilst I am wearing it. I never needed to wind the watch in all the years prior to the service but the assistant in the shop did so before returning my watch to me.

    • Rolex service now includes a two-year warranty as if the watch were new. If the watch stops after service (and the watch is worn regularly), send it back to Rolex and have them to a Warranty Inspection and repair.

  • marie

    hope you can help. I bought a Rolex perpetual oyster second hand from jewellers, it came with all paper work and two year warranty. I’ve had it now for over 2 months and wear it 24/7 only take of to shower as had after market diamond bezel. I’ve noticed its lost time. it has gained 4 min. I’m not sure why!!! do you think I should get them to check it as still under warranty or is it just one them things with Rolex watch’s.

    • admin

      If you have a warranty on the watch I would recommend having them correct the timing issue. It sounds like it is an escapement issue.

  • Colin

    Great email site Matt. I’m from Australia. Purchased a second hand 1971 oyster perpetual day date watch in London from a reputable dealer 4 months ago. I love it! However in recent days it has started to gain time. It now runs an hour plus over time. Woke this morning and it was 2 hours ahead! No bumps, no accidents, nothing unusual. can you recommend anything. I wear it 24/7, even in the shower. I don’t work near laptops or audio. Could the balance spring have become magnatized?

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      I would have the company that you purchased the watch from check the watch. it could be the mainspring. I am sure if it was purchased only 4 months ago, it would have a warranty. This can save you the cost of repair.

  • Viral Parikh

    I am wearing a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust. The dial also says its Superlative Chromometer Officially Certified. I have observed that my watch perpetually runs about 4 to 5 minutes slow. I have tried re-adjusting of time but again it slows down by 5 minutes. I have even tried advancing the time by 10 minutes but after a few hours it again slowed down and continues to run 5 minutes slow.

  • Al Lemerande

    Matt, My Rolex is running about 20 seconds fast a day. I think it needs to be serviced. I’d like you to do it. How can I go about making this happen? Sincerely, Al

  • Sam Hawkins

    Hi there my rolex is running exactly 10 seconds behind overnight, does it need servicing :)

  • josiane breton

    Hello, my diamond bezel perpetual motion watch has gone crazy., since I stopped wearing it 100%. I was advised to reduce personal use, due to diamond bezel, risks, exposure to moisture. Now, it seems, this has invited further following problem. consistently lost track of time, running fast. It is escalated, to high speed, does not function. no damage to date, and has not been cleaned in two years. i live in the Phoenix area, and would appreciate your assistance in resolving this. thank you, Josiane Breton

  • My new datejust is keeping good time but the date is ether a day ahead or behind a day .I’ve tried advancing the calender to see if I was in am or pm nothing seems to help .

  • Guillaume de Nav

    Hello all,
    My Rolex Submariner Oyster perpetual date seems to be running faster, just a couple of seconds a day. It was serviced on Dec of 2011, I weare it almost every day, obviously not at night…. and I leave it on my night table horizontaly. On the label ti says to leave it verticaly… I realy do not uderstand that, shall I hang it some how? Any help will be most apreciated, I have 200 Euro Roamer that I use ocationally which is more acurate… it is kind of frustrating.


  • Steve Childs

    My Rolex submariner gains around 3 minutes over the course of a week or so and has suddenly stopped twice over the last few days – any thoughts?

  • Don’t be surprised that a Rolex automatic is off by 3 minutes a week! That seems typical after the automatic movement stabilizes after a month or so. If you want accurate timing, get a quartz time movement watch, using battery power with
    stable DC power voltage and not mechanical energy storeage! An inexpensive Timex quartz battery
    digital watch is better than a fraction of second per day (see Wikipedia website on time movements) compared to the best
    mechanical storage automatic movement watches. If you have an analog watch using a quartz with battery, it can also be much
    more accurate than those expensive Rolex types. I have a Westminster analog quartz battery operated and it is better than
    a second a day accuracy; and much better than the Oyster Pearl Rolex.

    • Namit Verma

      It’s sad, but you are right. My Rolex Oyester Perpetual Datejust is a major embarrassment: it just doesn’t keep good time. Slows down all the time.

    • D M

      I don’t know about that. For several years, my 11 year old submariner was running fast (about a minute/day). I assumed that was just as good as ot gets. But I had it serviced for the first time (at the Rolex Service shop in San Francisco) two months ago. It is running great since then. I last set it October 1st and it has only lost 28 seconds in the past 22 days. I think that’s amazing for a mechanical device.

  • Joy


    I have a Rolex Perpetual Datejust. It has been stopping within 8 hours of leaving it idle. I had the movement machine of the watch serviced. But a week after it is still facing the same issue.

    The watch has no such issue if its wound. Somehow I feel it shows this problem only after wearing it.
    Could you help me with identifying what the issue could be?


  • Emma

    my new Rolex, had it for around 1 and a half years is suddenly running slow, and quite alot.. I have worn it nearly everyday, but cant think of anything that i have done to cause this. Is there anything i can do, dose this indicate that my Rolex is a “bad seed”?

  • DJ

    Hello –
    I recently had my DateJust fully services/overhauled by a Rolex authorized watchmaker (with parts account). It’s been a month and it runs about 3 – 4 seconds fast per day. I found if I stood it on its side with the crown down, it would lose at about the same rate and so I was able to keep it within a second a day (that was the only position, including crown-up, that seemed to lose time). All-of-a-sudden, it no longer loses time in the crown-down position, or any position. Any ideas on why it would stop losing time in a position that just worked for that?
    Thank you!

    • Good question. Watches do change behavior over time. I would have the watchmaker who serviced the watch put it on a timing machine. Once on a timing machine, the watchmaker will have a better idea what is happening.

  • gil

    Hey matt

    I have a gmt II i think its from the early 80s. It is the design where you must go through the hours of the days to advance the date.

    My watch has been serviced often since i received it about 12 years ago. The signs before failure have been the same each time. Initially the watch is accurate to within a few seconds a day. First sign: once in a while it will stop completely for a few minutes to an hour. Soon it stops until you give it a light knock. Next it runs intermittedly until i let it exhaust its reserves. After that it works fine for a brief time then it abruptly begins to run crazy fast. It will gain 15 minutes an hour.

    Diagnosis appreciated.

    • Sounds like its time for another service as something is not right. Stopping after a few seconds means something is either not adjusted correctly, or that potentially a tooth is broken on one of the gear train wheels (among many other possibilities). I would have your watch serviced by one who specializes in restoring vintage time pieces and who has a Rolex parts account.

  • Mark Gander

    My Longines Legendary Diver is losing a few seconds a day is there any possible position to lay the watch at night while resting that may improve the time som?

    Thanks looking forward to hearing from you soon


  • Albert Pearce

    I have a stainless steel Rolex Daytona cosmograph, perhaps 10 years old, that occasionally stops overnight. It seems as long as I’m wearing it, it works fine. But on occasiona, when I take if off for 24-36 hours, it stops. After winding, it’ll work as long as I’m wearing it. But as soon as it’s off for 24-36, it quits again. Should I wind it more often, like each morning, even when it seems to be fine most of the time?

  • John McEwen

    My 1957 Oyster Perpetual loses a bit less than a minute per week and it’s quite consistent. I think that is very respectable for such an elderly time piece. I leave it lying on its bracelet with dial up each night. As it’s on the bracelet, it doesn’t lie perfectly flat so possibly if I correct this, it might lose a bit less time. In any event, its very decent performance for a 57 year old mechanical device that is subject to constantly varying motion during the day. Bravo Rolex!

  • steve

    I have a 1972 gmt master. I have own he watch for 20 years. About every 7 years I stars running slow. I have had it serviced twice. Keeping time well now. But I can tell servicing is in the future . Now the first time serviced. Perfect except bezel would not turn. Second time I sent it threw a dealer. When I received it back . It was losing time. I had the watch returned , came back fine. Running to this day. I have sense found out the jeweler I have been using is no reputable . I have herd horror story’s of Rolexs being sent out to service. They take the quality parts. Replacing with a cheaper par. Now my watch runs great and always has. But can anyone tell me where I could get my watched looked at. To make sure all the right pars. I have been paying around $500 for servicing. Is that about the market? Thanks Steve

  • Thad

    My Rolex Deepsea that I’ve had for four years is definitely losing its ability to stay charged. I used to never have to wind it as I wear it everyday after an initial winding. Now every two days I have to wind it. Any help/advice? Thank you in advance for your time.

  • Joan Bohlmann

    Hi there, my Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust runs well, but the date advances too fast. I know the hands should go past the 12 mark twice for the date to advance once, and I have tried doing this but it still advances too fast. Today is the 4th but the date says 6. What should I do? Thanks!

  • john sierra

    I bought a submariner new from a jeweler and right from the start it is 6 minutes /month slow. I wear continuously except to shower. The store has returned to Rolex for service 3 tines but after a month it goes back to running slow. I have endured countless lecture on the way to wind which I have always followed religiously. Rolex has the watch again for one week and say it is -1/day so it is fine. I know I will get it back again and in 1 month it will start running behind. The store is not helping at all. I would like to get a new one since it has run slow since I bought it less than a year ago. Is this normal and is it reasonable to want it replaced?

  • DMadrid

    I just bought an early 80’s Rolex Datejust. I notice that the second hand stops running 2 minutes after I put it on a non-moving position. It will run again if I shake it a bit. Is this normal?

  • Hello DMadrid – Did you manually wind the watch? It could be that it is not “charged”?

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