I am a retail jeweler that is nearing retirement and am looking forward to my move to the Redoubt where we already have a house with some land to grow and raise things on.
So in reading the SurvivalBlog, I have been thinking how we will keep time after the watch batteries run out and the mechanical watches stop working, and of course the electric clocks have stopped.
There are multiple ways to achieve accurate time keeping when the power is off, some temporary and some permanent. My first solution is to buy a solar powered wrist watch, then make sure that I have one or two mechanical clocks and when time permits, construct a sun dial.
The recommendations below are just my take on solutions and if you choose to purchase any products that I suggest, I will have no economic or other benefit. I just thought that time keeping might not be a high priority on everyone’s list of lists but something useful to think about.
In the past I have sold Citizen Eco-Drive watches and they have been very reliable. They come with a five year warranty and have performed well, with a very low percentage of non working watches. Citizen first sold them in the mid 1990s, so I expect that they have improved the technology since then. I have not owned one since then as I have been wearing high end mechanical watches which need expert watchmakers to keep operating. When the Schumer hits the fan, these will eventually stop operating and the other battery operated watches that I have will also stop when the small power cell goes dead.
The Eco-Drive has a solar collector under the dial and the battery will not ever have to be replaced. Any light will charge it. Casio also makes a solar drive watch, but most are more expensive and have complicated functions. Citizen has a large selection of watches with Eco-Drive as I viewed the company web site today. Unfortunately, men’s styles outnumber the women’ styles in the Eco-Drive.
My recommendation is the simple stainless steel with time and calendar only as the complicated movements are nice to look at and the stop watch function is useful at times, but they add an unknown factor of failure. So the simple timekeeper is what I will buy online soon. My choice is model number AW1150-07E.
Most people will opt for the metal bracelet. Not me. I want the comfort of a leather strap as they tend to soak the sweat and are more comfortable for me. The watch that I will order comes with a synthetic black rubber band. I will get a few black leather bands and spring bars that attach band to the case so I can replace as needed as leather is my preference.
Normally, I do not recommend that a person attempts to change the power cell in their own watch as there are many mine fields in doing so. It seems that the cheaper the watch the more difficult it is to remove and replace the case back. Jewelers have special tools to either unscrew or snap open the back and a pressure tool to reinstall the snap backs and that results in a broken crystal on occasion. So unless you have a screw case back and proper wrench, it is unlikely that a non jeweler would have much success at battery installation even if the correct battery was on hand. There are at least fifty different batteries that fit watches and they have various shelf lives, lithium having the longest shelf and working life, most are silver oxide and the advertised shelf life is one year. My experience is that the shelf life is much longer. I have not done a real time study but used some that have been around for several years and they worked just fine.
A person that is determined to keep his or her battery powered watch( with a screw back only) operating for a long as possible could go to their local jeweler to find out the specific battery required and then order from a jewelers supply a number of batteries and a case opener . I talked to Roseco, Inc., 13740 Omega Road, Dallas, TX 75244 -972-991-9731 and they will sell to non jewelers watch case openers and batteries. The one that I recommend for a screw back watch would be L-G Master case opener wrench Stock number WCW100. ($45.95) This is an adjustable wrench that will fit ladies and men’s watches. Small screwdrivers, item number SSE100 ($4.69) also from Roseco, Inc. will be required and the Home Depot or Ace Hardware also has similar small sets in stock.
One thing to know is if the crown on the watch is pulled out, it ;eaves and incomplete circuit and the watch will stop as the battery is not being used. So a watch will have a good battery that is not using power at the maximum, only the shelf life discharge. This would be a way of keeping several watches in reserve, remember they might work when needed or not depending on the shelf life of each specific battery. I have seen some that will work five years after the crown is pulled out, most likely the exception.
If a person is handy, most windup clocks can be cleaned and oiled and they will run and keep time.
Overview of the task: Remove from case, remove hands and dial, go carefully with this as hands and dial damage easily. Clean movement in a petroleum based cleaner, kerosene, benzene or other light solvent, using a brush to remove black residue from the bearings. Rinse in rubbing alcohol and let dry. Using very light oil, 3 in one, etc. apply a VERY VERY SMALL amount in each bearing and a little on the Main Spring. Attach dial and carefully install hands, hour hand first and then the minute hand, line up the hour hand at the 6 o’clock position and then put the minute hand at the 12 o’clock position and the hands should be in time with each other, and last, the seconds hand if there is one. Make sure the hands are level and do not touch each other as that will stop the clock. Return it to the case; be sure to clean the crystal before installation. Most clocks have time adjustments but the clock most likely was keeping time before it stopped, so it should keep time after cleaning if adjustments have not been disturbed.
If adjusting is required there usually is an adjustment on the escapement or balance wheel on a windup clock. On a pendulum clock the adjustment is to raise or lower the pendulum, lower is slower. Amazon has several books on clock repair listed.
There is another solution to a battery powered clock, which is to have a solar panel with battery charger and rechargeable batteries. Then the only challenge is to reset a clock when changing batteries and if you anticipate when the battery will expire or just plan to put a freshly recharged battery in at regular times you should be able to do it quickly and the time will not be off too much.
Another solution is a sun dial which has ancient roots. There is a good video demonstrated how to make a sun dial. Even though it is constructed from foam board, I would think one could be made from stainless steel and brass or copper for markers that will be my plan. Just remember to get your location correct in order for the sun dial to be accurate.
It is fortunate that I have a Jaeger Le Coulter Atmos Clock which is powered by air pressure. They will operate for 10-20 years without service. In a TEOTWAWKI situation when this clock stops it will not be able to be repaired until the world is functioning again. When this clock was sent to the company, Le Coulter, for servicing six years ago, the cost was $1,500. These are available on EBay from $700 to over $2,600. I believe the retail cost is $5,000 at this time. These might not be in the budget and buying a used clock that may operate for a long time that is costly to repair or might not be able to be repaired might not be the best use of funds while prepping. Just wanted to inform what is available in time keeping that does not need electricity.
My solution is to have most of the above time keeping devises and to monitor them as to accuracy and adjust as required before they become critical.
When I move to the American Redoubt, I will take some watch batteries, work bench and tools to replace batteries and even to clean and repair windup clocks if there are any in the neighborhood. Since I am thinking about the subject, I will make an effort to stop by yard sales etc, and buy all Big Ben or Baby Ben clocks as they are easy to repair and of course, no electricity or batteries needed. Many people have old wind up wall or desk clocks and they will come in handy in the future if they are operating.