Mastering the Retrograde Watch: Tips for Reading and Setting the Time

Retrograde watches are marvels of horological craftsmanship, featuring a unique time display mechanism that sets them apart from traditional watches. While these timepieces exude sophistication and style, they can be a bit perplexing to those unfamiliar with their intricacies. In this blog post, we'll guide you through the art of reading and setting the time on a retrograde watch, helping you unlock the full potential of this exquisite timekeeping device. 

Image from Thomas Earnshaw

Understanding the Retrograde Watch

1.The Retrograde Hand: The most distinctive feature of a retrograde watch is the retrograde hand. This hand moves along an arc or semicircular scale on the watch dial, rather than in a continuous circle. 


2.The Scale: The scale corresponds to the function being displayed, which can vary from a date, day of the week, or power reserve indicator. 

Reading the Time

1.Start and End Points: Pay attention to the starting and ending points of the retrograde hand's journey along the scale. These points indicate the limits of the displayed function. 


2.Direction of Movement: Observe the direction in which the retrograde hand moves. It typically progresses in one direction until it reaches the end, at which point it instantaneously resets to the starting point. 


3.Time Calculation: To determine the time or function being displayed, check the scale where the retrograde hand currently resides. The scale markings or numerals will indicate the value. 

Setting the Time

1.Setting Process: Setting a retrograde watch involves two steps. First, set the time as you would on a conventional watch by pulling out the crown. Ensure that the retrograde hand is not obstructed or near the end of its scale during this step. 


2.Setting the Function: To set the retrograde function (e.g., date), look for a dedicated pusher or button on the watch case. Press or activate this feature to advance the retrograde hand to the desired position. Be gentle, as some retrograde mechanisms are delicate. 

Image from Thomas Earnshaw

Common Mistakes to Avoid

1.Forcing the Hand: Never force the retrograde hand past its limits. Doing so can damage the watch's movement. 


2.Ignoring the Manual: Each retrograde watch may have specific instructions for setting and using its features. Consult the watch's manual for guidance. 

Practice and Patience

Retrograde watches can be a bit intimidating at first, but with practice and patience, you'll become adept at reading and setting them. Regularly wear and interact with your retrograde timepiece to become more familiar with its operation. 

Mastering the retrograde watch is a rewarding endeavor that allows you to appreciate the intricate craftsmanship and unique design of these timepieces. By understanding the retrograde display, reading the time correctly, and following the proper procedures for setting the time and function, you can confidently enjoy the functionality and elegance that a retrograde watch brings to your wrist. 


Remember that each retrograde watch may have its own quirks and nuances, so don't hesitate to refer to the manufacturer's instructions and consult with a watch expert if needed. With time and experience, you'll develop a deep appreciation for the artistry and engineering behind retrograde watches, making them not just timekeepers but also captivating works of horological art.