There are several different methods for setting vintage, engraved pocket watches, so it's important to understand how your watch is set. To determine how your watch is set, look at the dial. If there's a button near the winding stem, your watch is pin set. If the watch came with one or two small keys, the watch is key set. When the winding knob on your watch will move in or out, that's a sign of a pendant-set watch. Here's a look at how to set each one.
Key-set watches are typically sold with one or two keys. If you only have one key, you'll use the same key for winding and setting. You'll need to determine which key is for setting if you have two. Test both keys in the winding arbor. The one that fits most securely is the winding key.
To set your key-set watch, you need to put the key into the arbor that's connected to the watch hands. Hold the key perpendicular to the watch dial to keep from shifting the hands horizontally. Turn the key to adjust the hands and then pull it straight out when the time is accurate.
The piece of the watch case where the winding crown attaches is called the pendant. When you push the crown in on a pendant-set watch, you can turn the crown and wind the spring. If you pull the crown out away from the watch, you can then turn it to adjust the hands of the watch to the proper time. Once the time is set, you should push the crown back into place.
A pin-set pocket watch is fitted with a small button somewhere near the winding stem. You'll press and hold that button while you turn the crown to set the time on these pieces. Pin-set watches aren't as popular in America, but can be seen on many European pocket watches. Pin setting is uncommon among the higher-end models, but can be found on many standard pocket watch styles throughout Europe.
Another style you'll commonly see is a lever-set pocket watch. If you look at the face of your watch and you can see a small lever along one side of the dial, that's a lever-set watch. To set this one, you'll need to unscrew or unhinge the watch face cover. Then, pull the setting lever straight out, away from the watch face.
With the setting lever in the extended position, turn the crown button to adjust the time. Once the time is correct, push the lever back into place.
Keeping the time accurate on your pocket watch is important, but you may have to adjust it for daylight savings time or simply to correct the time if you purchase one in an estate sale. Knowing how to set these unique timepieces is important. With the tips presented here, you'll be able to set any of the most common pocket watch styles.