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Using Alkaline Watch Batteries

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Dear Simon @simon2, I wonder if you could just answer a question for me about batteries in quartz watches. I like to be able to test quartz watches I buy, and wear different watches at different times for short periods. The price differential between silver oxide and alkaline batteries is such that popping an alkaline button cell into a watch just as a temporary measure is so much cheaper than having to use silver oxide cells all the time. Obviously, long-term wearers deserve silver oxide batteries, and I would avoid using alkaline cells in my best and most expensive quartz watches, but is the use of alkaline batteries generally OK as a short term measure?

I thank you in advance for your advice.:)

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I originally posted the above query in the Watchmaking and Repairs section of the Forum but later wondered if I had perhaps asked a stupid question as there were no replies posted. I then felt guilty that I had been a bit lazy and that I should have done the research online myself rather than bother our busy watch repairer, Simon. So, here is a useful piece culled from the internet which answers the bulk of my question, and because I feel that it may be of more general use by members, I have transferred the thread to the Watch Discussion section of the Forum. This piece was taken from the watchbattery.co.uk website:



Which Watch Battery do you need?

The interesting world of Watch Batteries!

All About Watch Batteries

We thought that you may find it useful for us to give you an insight into the interesting world of watch batteries. (We know it's not that interesting, but it may help you order the correct battery!).

Battery Chemistry:

With respect to watch batteries there are 3 main types of chemistry, Silver Oxide, Alkaline or Lithium. The Lithium button cells will be 3 Volt cells (apart from the Renata 751 which is a 2V lithium battery) and the Silver Oxide and Alkaline button cells will be 1.5 Volt. Therefore, the voltage of your application will dictate whether you will need a Lithium battery or not. The Lithium cells tend to be the larger button cell batteries and their references tend to be prefixed with either CR or BR. For example, a CR2032 is a Lithium battery.

Silver Oxide or Alkaline?

Since Silver Oxide and Alkaline watch batteries give the same voltage (1.5 Volts) then which battery do you choose?
Well, firstly Silver Oxide watch batteries tend to be more expensive than an Alkaline cell of the same size. So can you just use the Alkaline watch battery of the correct size? Well, this depends on your application and if the Alkaline version is available. There is a much wider choice of Silver Oxide watch battery sizes. In fact Rayovac make only two Alkaline button cell sizes but approximately 30 different Silver Oxide watch battery sizes. Where Silver Oxide cells score over their Alkaline counterpart is in their ability to maintain a more stable voltage. This characteristic makes them better for clocks and watches and absolutlely essential for metering equipment (like light meters in cameras for example) where a stable voltage is required. An Alkaline cell though is good for high current devices where a stable voltage is not required, for example, in electronic toys and calculators. Many of those children's noisy books use LR44s (Alkaline), but can run equally as well using the Silver Oxide equivalent (Rayovac 357). Many electronic toys use LR44s or LR41s and there is no problem using a Silver Oxide watch battery of the equivalent size. Rayovac do not make a LR41 so we have no problem in suggesting to owners of the Thunderbird Soundtech toys (which use 3 x LR41) that they can use the Silver Oxide equivalent (Rayovac 392) instead. Since some of our customers have been charged £4.00 for each LR41 by High Street jewellers, they have no problem in paying us for the more expensive Silver Oxide watch battery at a mere £1.50 each!
So to summarise, if your application calls for a stable voltage under load (watches, clocks, metering equipment etc.) use a Silver Oxide watch battery. If not, and you can get the Alkaline equivalent then use that. And remember, you can always use a Silver Oxide watch battery to replace an Alkaline watch battery.

Battery Sizes:

Now this is interesting (honest). The Lithium button cell battery sizes are easy to determine from their reference numbers. The first two digits refer to the diameter of the battery in mm and the second two digits give the height or thickness of the battery in tenths of mm. So, for example, a CR2032 is a Lithium button cell which is 20mm in diameter and 3.2mm thick. A CR2430 is a Lithium button cell which is 24mm in diameter and 3.0mm thick. There, told you that this was interesting!
Now having had this lesson, you will begin to see that other watch batteries also have a reference number which give a similar clue to their size. Take for example a Vinnic L1154. Now you would be excused for thinking that this was 11mm in diameter and 5.4mm thick. Close. But in this case the first two digits refer to the range of the diameter and the second two again, as for the Lithium button cells, refers to the thickness in tenths of mms. The diameter in this case is in the 11mm range. A quick check in our reference table will show that all watch battery diameters in the 11mm range are 11.6 mm in diameter. Therefore, a L1154 is an Alkaline button cell 11.6mm in diameter and 5.4mm thick.
Other manufacturers use a similar reference numbering system for their watch batteries, and as a general rule wherever you see a three or four digit reference number for a watch battery it is likely to follow the rule described above. For example, a Sony SR626SW is a Silver oxide watch battery which has a diameter in the 6mm range and is 2.6mm thick. All watch batteries in the 6mm range have a diameter of 6.8mm. So a SR626SW is 6.8mm in diameter and 2.6mm thick giving a Rayovac equivalent battery, from the reference table, as a 377.
Other manufacturers, like Rayovac, number their batteries without giving a clue as to the size of the watch battery, so to refer from these to other manufacturers' batteries you really need to use a cross reference table like ours.

Battery Prefixes:

What do the letters at the beginning of the reference number mean?
So what about these prefixes? This is just down to experience I suppose so here's a short list. Manufacturers who use SR to denote a Silver Oxide watch battery will tend to use LR to denote Alkaline. Those which use SG to denote Silver Oxide will tend to use AG to denote Alkaline.



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I tend to only use Silver Oxides when I change my watch batteries, and I buy the more common sizes in boxes of 10 where they work out a lot cheaper than buying a single battery from say, Goldsmiths. The last one I bought many years ago cost me about £5. I get mine from Cousins now and a box of 10 Seizaiken 377s is around £1.80 or 18p each. A box of 399s is £4.68 or 47p each.  At those prices, I wouldn't even bother with alkalines, and I soon get through a box changing the batteries in my friends watches as well as my own.

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Many of my watches use Lithium primary cells, those that use circa 1.5v cells get Silver Oxide fitted rather than Alkaline cells.

Alkaline cells have the tendency to swell and eventually leak when depleted. In a seldom used watch, you may not be aware that an Alkaline cell has stopped powering it and that the cell might then decompose and damage that seldom used watch.

I've had Alkaline cells fail in the pack they came in, in one case a well known make leaked two years prior to the use by date!

Sorry, I don't trust Alkaline cells to have a reliable longevity.:huh:



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