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Sleep on it

by Jordan Ficklin

After a long reprieve, I’m back and I’m going to try and write more frequently again. I’ve been working on a pretty big project for the watchmaking community (you’ll read more about it next week) but it is pretty much wrapped up for now.

Sometimes a watch presents you with a terrible problem that you just can’t seem to solve. I faced this recently. I was working on a beautiful Bulova from the 1940s. It is really a great looking watch in a tank style rose colored case. The problem I faced is that it ran well in one position but would sometimes come to a stop in other positions. I looked it over for what seemed like most of a day and didn’t find any problems with it. I thought I had checked everything and was ready to disassemble the watch and start over, looking for something I must have overlooked. Instead, I set it aside, not just for a few minutes or even over night but for a couple of days. Luckily, I was not under any time pressure on this one. Meanwhile I fixed a few other watches. When I came back to the watch the problem became obvious to me in just a few minutes. The hairspring was rubbing on one of the balance arms. Now this should seem obvious and I know I looked at it but for some reason it wasn’t until I let my brain reset that this problem manifested itself to me and I could quickly remedy it and make the customer happy. Moral of the story: sometimes your brain gets tired and you need to let your mind completely focus on other things before coming back to a problem. Sleep on it and look at the problem with a fresh set of eyes.

One Comment

  1. Greg
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Glad to hear you’ll be posting more again! For what it’s worth, the ‘brain reset’ is the same for computer programmers staring at a bug. The number of times I’ve realised the cause of a bug while in the shower, working on the car, cooking dinner, something completely different – it’s amazing. I’m a big advocat of walking away for a day. :-)

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