May 1998

Timepieces:Education & Repair

Replacing the Quartz Watch Battery

A guide to clean and efficient replacements

by David A. Christianson
Certified Watchmaker

When a quartz watch stops keeping time, the immediate assumption is the battery needs to be replaced. More often than not, that assumption is correct. Any other problem is less likely because the quartz watch, whether digital or analog, is an accurate and dependable timekeeper.

When it comes time to replace the battery, here are some things to keep in mind. A quartz watch consists of a quartz oscillating crystal, an electronic circuit to drive it, a means of displaying time and a battery to power the whole system.

The battery in a quartz watch generally rests in a well with a negative battery contact strap on the bottom and a positive contract strap on the side. In some models, the hold-down strap itself acts as the positive contact.

In either case, both straps must be clear of residue. Wiping the straps with a clean piece of sharpened peg wood (available from jeweler supply houses) should clean them. If residue persists, use a sharpened typewriter eraser.

If the battery is held with a strap and a screw, use a sharp screwdriver with a blade the width of the screw slot. Don't let it slip and skip across the watch movement, which would cause serious damage.

If the battery is not held into position with a strap, often it uses spring tension from a side-mounted contact. In this case, use a small screwdriver, with the blade biting into the side of the battery and lifting it. Be sure not to push the side-mounted positive contact down into the battery well. This positive contact must touch the edge or side of the battery or it won't work.

Replace with Care
Handle the battery with plastic tweezers (forceps) because oil and salt from your fingers can have a corrosive effect. If you can't insert the battery completely with tweezers, use a piece of Rodico or rubber finger cots on your fingertips. Long finger nails are good for pushing the battery into place.

Don't touch any part of the watch movement except the battery, its straps and its screws. And touch these only with tweezers - plastic for the battery and thin metal tweezers for the screws and retainer strap.

Digital Quartz Watches
In many quartz watches, mainly digital or a combination of analog and digital, the electronic circuit must be cleared before the battery is changed. This provision is called an AC - or all-clear - circuit. This is typically a small silver or gold-colored dot marked AC on the back of the movement.

To clear the circuit before changing the battery, use metal tweezers. Place one point of the tweezers on the dot and the other on the positive (+) side of the battery. Or push a spring tab onto the AC dot with a tweezer tip or probe. In either case, the watch display will likely become blank and be ready for a battery change. On some models, the display may remain, but the watch cannot be reset until the AC is cleared.

Quartz Analog Watches
Cleanliness is a primary concern when changing the battery in quartz analog watches. They use tiny motors that pulse or rotate once per second, causing the second hand to jump forward one second at a time. Its gears are driven by such low power the slightest amount of dirt, lint or dried lubricant will stop the moving parts.

Be vigilant when removing dirt from the case back when opening the watch to change the battery. This is also the reason the gaskets in quartz watches must be replaced periodically (see Professional Jeweler,March 1997, p. 66).

Next Month: Diagnosing Fault, Setting the Watch.

David A. Christianson is a fourth-generation owner of Christianson Jewelry, Kendallville, IN. He is a director and first vice president of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute, a certified master watchmaker and a fellow of the British Horological Society. Questions, suggestions and comments on this monthly column may be sent to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102; e-mail

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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