What is Hacking Watch Movement & Back Hacking A Watch

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While having a discussion on a forum or checking out a new mechanical watch you must have come across the term, “hacking watch”. So you must be wondering what is a hacking watch or what does it means?

Before I begin explaining what is hacking movement we need to talk about mechanical watches first. These watches have existed for more than a century now and as the name suggests they run mechanically. Instead of a battery, they are powered by winding up using a key, crown, or other similar mechanisms.

Consider reading my short guide on how mechanical watches work and the difference between mechanical & automatic watches. If you already know about them then let’s start with an explanation of the watch hacking movement.

Quick links to specific parts of the article:

What Does Hacking Movement Mean In Watches?

What is hacking movement

During the early days of mechanical watches, they had a limitation, i.e. while setting the time on them, the second hand keeps on moving. It was only later when hacking capabilities to mechanical watches were added. So automatic or mechanical watch with hacking capability means that the second hand would stop moving while adjusting the time.

While this might not seem a big deal if you have previously used quartz watches but this is a big deal in automatic or mechanical watches. Because the existence of hacking capability is directly correlated to the quality of the watch movement you are getting. This signifies that the movement you get with the watch is of high quality and is a good yardstick to assess the movement of a watch.

That’s why all the high-end watch brands like Rolex watches have these features. However, some affordable watch brands like Orient come with hacking capabilities at reasonable prices.

Recommended Read: Best Orient watches

What Is Hacking Second On A Watch?

This simply means that when you pull the crown to set the time on a watch, the second hand would stop working. This process is sometimes referred to as the hacking second on a watch.

All the quartz watches have this but only some mechanical watches come with this feature. And, the reason for that is when you are pulling the crown you are also stopping the movement of the gears in the watch. While it may not be an issue for a battery-powered watch but it is for mechanical watches. Extra effort is required by the manufacturer to make a mechanical caliber that comes with hacking movement.

How Can I Hack My Watch?

A simple act of pulling the crown to set the time is hacking and no special tool or expertise is required to hack your watch.

What Does Hand-Winding A Watch Mean?

what does hand winding a watch mean

Unlike quartz watches, mechanical watches don’t run on batteries instead they store the tension generated by users when they wind the watch. Just like a toy train with a key that only needs to be winded periodically, a mechanical watch runs on the same principle.

However, instead of a key, the watch is winded using the crown of the watch. And, if it’s an automatic watch then it will have a pendulum-like mechanism that rotates because of the wearer’s wrist movement which then winds the watch. However, you can also manually wind the automatic watch using the crown.

This process of winding your watch with your hand is known as hand winding.

Are Non-Hacking Watches Bad?

are non hacking watches bad

No, a non-hacking watch is in no way good or bad compared to a hacking watch. The only difference is that you can set the most accurate time on a mechanical watch that can be hacked. However, if accuracy is that important for you then ideally you will prefer a quartz watch.

Still, that doesn’t mean hacking watches don’t have any merit. Let’s say you have purchased the best luxury Swiss watch for yourself. Now how would find out how good is the watch in timekeeping. That’s why a hacking watch can be a very important tool for benchmarking your watch. You can set the watch to the most accurate time and see how many seconds it loses in a day. This can also help you assess whether or not the premium watch you own requires servicing.

Can I Hack My Non-Hacking Watches?

The hacking watch isn’t a very crucial feature in my opinion so you aren’t missing out on anything. However, if it’s a must-have feature for you then some mechanical watches can be hacked using a process called Back Hacking.

What Is Back Hacking A Watch?

To wind a watch manually, you need to rotate the crown which is rotated in an anti-clockwise direction. However, some mechanical watches can be hacked by using a process called back hacking. If the name is not a dead giveaway, it means you have to rotate the crown in the opposite direction than you usually do while winding the watch.

To back hack your watch you need to follow the steps given below:

  • First, pull the crown of your mechanical watch, as soon as you will do that the hour hand and minute hand would stop. However, the second hand would continue to move without being affected in your non-hacking watch.
  • Now set the time and ignore the moving second hand. Once you have adjusted the minute and hour hand to the correct time then proceed to the next step.
  • Now, when the second hand reaches your desired position, rotate the crown in the opposite direction you usually wind the crown. By doing this, you will notice that the second hand will stop.
  • If you will wind the crown or push back the crown into the case the second hand will start moving again.

One thing to note here is that it will only work with a few watch models from some selected watch brands. Two notable names whose watch models are known for supporting back hacking are Seiko and Omega watches. However, I won’t recommend doing this anyway as some watch enthusiasts suggest it can damage the watch.

On the other hand, some claim this method is mentioned in their watch manual but still, I don’t recommend gambling with a high-end watch.


I have done my best to impart all the knowledge that I have gathered after researching for hours. Next time you stumble upon a watch with hacking support or have a conversation with a fellow watch nerd, you will know what the term means.


What Is Hacking Movement In Watches?

Hacking movement simply means when you pull the crown on your automatic or mechanical watch, the second hand on it will stop moving just like a quartz watch.

Is Back Hacking Bad For The Watch?

There is no clear consensus among the watch enthusiasts whether or not back hacking is bad for a watch or not. Some recommend doing it, while others argue that if it's not supported by the movement in the first place then you shouldn't be doing it.

What Is Hacking A Second Hand?

It simply means stopping the second hand from moving when you pull the crown to set the time.

Tom Nielson

Tom's love for watches started when his grandfather gifted him his Rolex watch when he turned 18! Being a teenager it was a big deal for him. Later when he got his first job he bought Fossil Palm Pilot back in 2003 which was a smartwatch. Since then smartwatches have come a long way and so is Tom's love for them. His experience with watches inspired him to start Wearholic and share his knowledge of wearables including watches, smartwatches, smart glasses, & smart clothing.

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