Did your watch suddenly stop working? In this guide, we’ll go over 11 of the most common reasons this might have happened and the fixes for each.
Maybe your watch needs to be wound, charged, or have its battery replaced. Or… Maybe it’s not that obvious, and you need some detective work to figure out exactly what’s stopping your watch from working and how to fix it.
Read on to find out if each common issue applies to the problem you’re having with your watch, and if so, what to do about it!
1. Battery Died
If you have a quartz watch, the first thing you should check is the battery. If it has been around two years since you last replaced the battery, this is almost certainly the explanation for your watch stopping.
Sometimes watch batteries can die in under two years as well. This is common if you often use the watch’s features, such as a stopwatch, chronograph, or alarm in the case of a digital watch.
The storage temperature of the watch can affect its battery life as well. Batteries tend to drain quicker in cold climates. It’s best to store your unworn, battery-powered watches at room temperature, otherwise, they may drain quicker than usual.
How Can You Tell If The Battery Died?
If the watch has a battery, there are a few obvious signs that it is a dead battery and not something else.
In the case of an analog watch (like a clock), the hands will stop ticking or tick incredibly slowly (such as every few seconds). Any feature or function, like a stopwatch, you try to use won’t activate.
How To Tell If You Have a Battery-Powered Watch
Of course, not every watch has batteries, so how can you tell if yours does?
Here, we get into the discussion of the different types of watches and figure out which one you have. Most are either quartz or mechanical.
A quartz watch is battery-powered and often says ‘quartz’ somewhere on the dial or the back of the case. If not, you can remove the case back. If the watch has electronic circuits and a battery, you have your answer! If not, read the rest of this article for other common causes.
Replace the battery. Most experienced watchmakers or jewelers can replace a watch battery for no more than a few dollars.
You can replace a watch battery yourself with the right tools, a replacement battery, and patience by following the video below.
2. Solar-Powered Movement Needs Charging
Speaking of quartz watches, you might have one that features a solar-powered movement. This means it charges in direct sunlight. If your solar watch stopped working, it likely hasn’t been getting enough sunlight to keep it charged.
Solar-powered watches usually stay charged for up to 4–6 months after being charged in the sun for just a few hours.
The solar-powered watch recharges itself anytime you wear it in the sun. If you have not worn it in a while, it’s sitting in a dark drawer, or your schedule prevents you from getting a lot of daylight, your watch charge could run out.
Artificial light can charge a solar watch, but not as quickly as sunlight can. Plus, if the watch is constantly under your sleeve, for example, it might not be getting a lot of light exposure.
Charge the solar-powered movement by leaving your watch in direct sunlight for at least 6 hours.
Of course, solar-powered watches are charged by solar-powered batteries, which may wear out over time. If you’ve given your solar-powered watch enough sunlight, it may require swapping the battery out for a fresh one to get it running again.
3. Mechanical or Automatic Watch Needs to Be Wound
Unlike battery-powered watches, mechanical and automatic watches require winding regularly.
A hand-wound watch needs to be wound for obvious reasons. The only way to keep it running is to wind it. If you don’t wind a hand-winding mechanical watch for a few days, it will stop. Rotate the crown forward until you feel some resistance, and it should start running again as long as the watch is in working order.
But, some may be confused about why you need to wind an automatic watch. The name ‘automatic watch’ refers to its ability to keep itself wound while on your wrist. This generates power for the watch and keeps it running. If you stop wearing your watch for a couple of days, it is no longer generating power automatically from the motion of your wrist.
Your automatic watch will automatically wind as you wear it again each day. But, if you go days without wearing it, it will stop.
Wind your watch to get it working again.
In the case of a hand-wound watch, rotate the crown forward until you feel some resistance. Do not overwind it.
In the case of an automatic watch, give it a gentle shake, back and forth, for up to 30 seconds, as if you are mixing a drink. Then, wear it on your wrist throughout the day.
From now on, try to wind your watch daily to prevent it from stopping. If you don’t wind it and the watch stops again, don’t worry! It’s not a bad thing. Just follow these instructions to get it running again.
4. Your Watch Needs a Service
Watches do not keep running in perfect condition indefinitely without maintenance; they are complex gadgets with moving parts that require attention and care.
Typically, it is recommended that you service your watch every 3–5 years, especially if you wear it often.
If it has been years since your last watch service and it has stopped working, it could be because:
- Debris is blocking mechanisms from functioning.
- Parts have loosened.
- Some parts are stuck because oils have dried up.
- Components might be damaged.
During service, a watchmaker can address all of these issues, returning your watch in working condition. Regularly servicing your watch will also extend its lifespan.
Bring your watch to your manufacturer’s service center and/or an independent watchmaker for servicing.
5. The Watch Was Dropped
Speaking of damaged components, no watch is 100% shockproof. A G-Shock is pretty close; even if you run over one with a truck or drop it from a helicopter, it might keep functioning. But even the best shock resistance only goes so far.
If you have a regular watch that features more modest shock resistance or no shock resistance, it might stop working if you drop it or bang it into something. Impacts can knock components loose, deform them, or break them outright.
If you suspect you broke your watch through impact damage, the best action is to get it serviced and repaired by your watch’s service center or an experienced watchmaker.
6. The Watch Was Overwound
Sometimes you will see people warn you not to overwind your watch. Other times, you will read claims that this is not possible. Which is true?
That depends on your watch. With modern automatic watches, you do not have to worry about overwinding. These watches are designed in such a way as to protect the mainspring from damage.
But if you have an old-fashioned hand-winding-only watch, that can be a different story.
When winding a watch by hand, you will feel resistance when you have turned the crown a sufficient number of times to power it fully. If you kept winding past that point, there’s a chance you might have damaged the mainspring, a crucial component in keeping a mechanical watch running. In vintage watches, the mainspring may be especially fragile.
Around 30-40 rotations of the crown usually is enough to wind a mechanical watch fully. If you believe you’ve overwound the watch, take it to your watch’s service center or an experienced watchmaker for service and repair.
7. Water Damage
There is no such thing as a watch that is genuinely “waterproof.” Watches aren’t even allowed to be marketed with that term.
Instead, watches may sometimes be water-resistant.
If you took your watch into the pool or shower or even washed your hands with it, it may have gotten damaged if it was not water-resistant enough for the water pressure it was exposed to.
Open the case back and leave the watch to dry in a warm, sunlit area. A windowsill is a great place to let your wet watch air out. Do not use it until it has dried fully. And definitely don’t try the old “put it in a bag of rice” trick with a watch, as little debris can enter the watch and worsen the problem.
If the watch is still having issues, take it to an experienced watchmaker who will be able to open it and restore it if it has any water damage.
They can also run a pressure test, which will be able to measure precisely how water-resistant your watch is, so you can avoid water damage in the future.
8. High Humidity or Heat
Wearing a watch in an area with excessively high humidity or heat for extended periods can wear down its parts.
Heat and humidity can cause many problems:
- It will wear down the gaskets, reducing the water resistance over time.
- Condensation will form in the watch when it cools down later, resulting in the oxidization of its parts.
- It can dry up the oils that lubricate the watch parts and reduce the friction between them.
It’s best to avoid wearing a watch in an area with too high humidity or heat, and especially avoid steam rooms, hot tubs, showers, etc. If you really want to wear a watch there, consider picking up an affordable ‘beater’ watch that you wouldn’t mind if it were to get damaged.
Even worse, bringing a watch from an area of low humidity (a cool, air-conditioned room) to the hot and humid outdoors will quickly cause condensation build up in the watch.
Leave the watch in a room-temperature area. If parts in the watch have corroded or oils have dried up, take them to your watch’s service center, or an experienced watchmaker for a service.
9. Smartwatch Needs to be Charged
We have already discussed replacing depleted watch batteries, charging solar-powered movements, and winding watches.
If you have a smartwatch such as an Apple Watch, Garmin, or Samsung, you must keep your watch charged if you want it to work.
This is typically just a matter of using a charging cable to connect your smartwatch to a USB port.
Of course, smartwatches have wildly varying battery lives. A new Apple Watch can have a battery life between 18 – 36 hours, while a Garmin watch can last up to 50 days!
Make sure you charge your smartwatch frequently so it’s ready to go!
10. The Crown Isn’t Pushed In
Did your watch stop working after you set the time? It could very well be that you forgot to push the crown back in once you were done.
Some watches stop running when you pull out the crown to be able to set the time more accurately. This feature is called ‘hacking,’ and not all watches have it.
If you do not return the crown to its original position, the watch will still be in “hacking” mode, and will not run. This is intended, and does not mean your watch is damaged.
Just check the crown and see if you can push it any further back in. If you can and the watch starts working again, your problem is solved!
Always push the crown firmly back in place after setting the time.
11. The Watch is Poorly Made
If you have a watch that is poorly made, it may use a low-quality movement that is fragile and has a short lifespan.
Sometimes the movement can be swapped for a better one by an experienced watchmaker. However, this process is frequently more expensive than the replacement watch itself.
You’d be surprised at how many brands these days spam ads claiming their watches are “luxury”, but aren’t more than cheap watches purchased from marketplaces and sold at a premium. It’s best to steer clear of them, but if their well-crafted ads get to you, well… I’m sorry.
But the good news is, you’ve learned your lesson.
Research and purchase a high-quality watch from a trusted brand like Seiko, Casio, Hamilton, Tissot, Omega, or Rolex (to name a few!), depending on your budget. Of course, you need a watch that looks good, but you also want a watch that is built well and will last you a long time.
Particularly look at the movements they use. Are they proud of the exact movement they use, displaying it in the specifications of their watch listing, or do they obfuscate it with generic words such as “quartz movement”? If the former, you can research the exact movement they use, and see if it’s high quality. If the latter, well… Good luck.
My Watch Doesn’t Work Even With a New Battery
If you replaced your watch battery but it still won’t work, one possibility is that the battery itself is bad. Try replacing it again, ensuring you’ve placed the battery in the right face up/down position.
If that doesn’t work either, check the battery connections to make sure they are clean. A q-tip and some 70% Isopropyl alcohol will quickly clean any dirt without damaging the connection points.
Additionally, if a watch hasn’t run for a while, parts of the movement can stick together. Try placing your watch somewhere warm for a day or so after you replace the battery. Using the crown to move the watch’s hands and tapping the watch might help too (be gentle).
If none of these things work, it could be that there is another problem with the watch. Take it to a watchmaker to investigate.
My Watch Stopped Working After Not Wearing It
This is usually a situation where you have an automatic watch that requires kinetic motion to wind. If you have not been wearing it, it has not received that motion, and the power reserve has depleted. Give the watch a gentle shake, back and forth, for about 30 seconds. Some automatic watches can also be hand-wound by winding the crown.
That said, the movement might be stuck after not running for so long. Use the crown to rotate the hands, and give the watch a gentle tap.
My Watch Stopped Working After Being in Water
Take off the case back, and let the watch dry out in the sun. Resist the urge to press the watch’s buttons, shake or spin the watch, or apply heat.
Hopefully, your watch will dry out and you can return to using it. But if it is still not working, take it to an experienced watchmaker, or your watch manufacturer’s official service center.
My Mechanical Watch Stopped Working
There are many possible explanations for mechanical failure in a watch, including gears wearing down too much, loose screws, dust or debris, or oil drying up. A watchmaker can service or repair your mechanical watch to get it back in working order.
My Citizen Eco Drive Stopped Working
Usually, this just means you need to recharge the solar-powered movement. If you want to recharge the watch more quickly, try pulling out the crown as you do it.
If recharging the watch still does not get it working, you might need a new battery.
My Apple Watch Stopped Working
If your Apple Watch stops working, first try resetting it. You can follow these instructions provided by Apple. If you are unsuccessful through this method, you can next try charging it for 2-3 hours and then restarting it.
My Fossil Watch Stopped Working
If your Fossil watch stopped working, find out the type of watch it is. Whether it’s battery-powered quartz, automatic, or smartwatch, it may need to have its battery replaced or be wound.
Depending on the type of watch it is, look at the common issues earlier in this guide and find the ones that apply to that watch.
If these steps fail, Fossil suggests sending in your watch to their service center for repair. Alas, this can often be necessary, given that Fossil watches are fashion watches. They are designed for looks rather than functionality and durability. So, they are not all that robust or reliable.
My Seiko 5 Stopped Working
The Seiko 5 is an automatic watch, which requires motion to keep it wound. Gently shake the watch for 30 seconds, then wear it on your wrist, and it should continue to run. If it’s still not running, send it into Seiko for a service, or find an experienced, independent watchmaker to service it.
There are many reasons why your watch may have stopped working. Thankfully, many of these issues are easy to troubleshoot with equally simple solutions: replace the battery, wind the watch, charge the watch, and so forth. In other situations, your watch might require servicing or repair.
By winding your watch regularly, ensuring it has a fresh battery, and taking it in for a service every 3-5 years, you can prevent most malfunctions and keep your watch running accurately and reliably for many years.
If your watch still isn’t working, let us know in the comments below the issue, and watch model. We may not be able to fix it, but we’ll be glad to point you in the right direction!– Anthony