Lever Set Pocket Watch – How to Set

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A lever set pocket watch - Ball Brotherhood of Trainmen pocket watch

My name is Robert Farago and I’m addicted to collecting American lever set railroad pocket watches. It’s been three days since I bought my last pocket watch. I know it’s no excuse but I wear my pocket watches. Which means I have to set the time. At the risk of putting a pocket watch monkey on your back, here’s a guide to the process from my dealer, a man known only as The Pocket Watch Guy . . .

Winding the crown on a lever set pocket watch

1) Wind the lever set pocket watch

A full wind ensures maximum running time and performance from a pocket watch’s mainspring. Turn the crown until you feel a bit of tension. After a few more winds it will come to a stop. (A mechanism called the “click wheel” helps prevent overwinding.)

2) Access the lever

This process depends on your lever set pocket watch’s case configuration: screw down bezel, snap or pressure bezel; hinged or hunter case.

Unscrewing the bezel on a lever set pocket watch

Screw-down bezel case – The bezel unscrews in a counterclockwise direction. Be careful to grip the bezel, NOT the glass. Place the bezel down carefully – don’t put any pressure on the inside of the crystal. 

NOTE: In all but one case (so to speak), the lever sits flush against the dial at approximately the six minute position.

Set a lever set pocket watch - pry off the bezel

Pressure or snap bezel case – Work a pocket watch case opener – a knife with a small dull blade –  into the seam at roughly the two o’clock position. (There’s often a “nail notch” indicating where to apply the case opener.) Use a little pressure to move the blade toward the crown. The bezel will pop free.

Hinged case – A hinged case has a “nail notch” around the two o’clock position to pry the case cover forwards to open.

Hinged case pocket watch

Hunter Case – Press down on the winding stem/crown to pop open the front cover.

NOTE: The lever lives at around the 26 minute position.

3) Set the time

Pull the lever out with a thumbnail or toothpick – nothing sharp! No force is needed, the lever will extend with a gentle pull. The winding crown now sets the time. Turn the crown to the correct time.

Push it in

4) Replace the lever set pocket watch lever

Gently push the lever back in towards the dial so it once again lies flush. Make sure it stays in while replacing the bezel.

Replace the lever

5) Replace the bezel

Screw-down bezel case – Gently place the bezel on the front threads. To prevent cross-threading on a lever set pocket watch, slowly turn the bezel counterclockwise until you hear a click. Then rotate the bezel to the right or clockwise, gently, until it sets. Screw it down until its secure, but not too tight.

Pressure or snap bezel case – The front bezel will return home with a little downward pressure, delivering a “snap” closure. Apply pressure to the bezel, not the crystal. Work your way around the bezel to ensure its set in place properly.

Hinged case – Swing the cover closed and press down gently until it snaps shut.

Hunter case – Press down on the front cover and the crown at the same time, then close the cover. When the it’s closed, release the crown. (This increases the case spring’s longevity.)

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