Choosing a MicroSet

There are four models of MicroSet and a variety of optional features and accessories. How do you decide what to order? The following guidelines may help you.

The four models of MicroSet are: MicroSet 2, MicroSet 3, the MicroSet Watch Timer and the MicroSet Watch Timer Pro. They generally look the same and have generally the same internal circuitry, but there are differences in some of the features. MicroSet 3 costs more than MicroSet 2 because it has additional features written into the firmware that’s inside it. You can upgrade a MicroSet 2 to a MicroSet 3 by changing the program chip.

The MicroSet Watch Timers have features tailored for watch work, and are packaged with sensors used by watchmakers who don’t generally work with clocks. If you also work with clocks, you can get a clock sensor for a MicroSet Watch Timer. (You can also get a watch sensor to work with your MicroSet Clock Timer.) The Watch Timer Pro is an enhanced system with more features used by serious watchmakers.

Any modern MicroSet can be upgraded to any better model of MicroSet. The original version of MicroSet, sold before January of 2000, has different circuitry inside and cannot be upgraded to the current features.

MicroSet Watch Timer
If you do not work on clocks, you probably want one of the MicroSet Watch Timers.

MicroSet 2 and MicroSet 3
Both timers include several significant features of the original MicroSet design:

Each MicroSet comes with both an acoustic pickup (to hear the tick sound) and an optical detector (to measure rate from the pendulum). The optical sensor eliminates false readings from noise and is a major feature. MicroSet has a resolution of one microsecond and shows rates as Seconds Per Beat (to six decimal places) or as Beats Per Hour (to two decimal places). The timebase in MicroSet is trimmed to +/- one part per million.
MicroSet has a wide variety of optional features and accessories to extend the usefulness of the tool far beyond that of a simple clock timer.

Both timers have the following standard operating modes. Click on one to get more detail.

  • Time – To measure the current rate of a clock or watch.
  • Beat Error – To measure the beat error of a clock or watch.
  • Strike – To count the number of times a clock strikes at each interval to help you find errors.
  • Count – To count the swings of a pendulum as a way of finding the correct rate.

In addition, there are several technical modes for the serious experimenter that are not commonly used in the repair trade but that provide useful functions. These include:

  • Tach – Measures the RPMs of a spinning tool, like your lathe or milling machine.
  • Width – Measures the amount of time an optical sensor is blocked by the object it senses. This is an analog of the speed of the pendulum.
  • Lite/Dark – Measures both the interval when the optical sensor is obscured and when it is not.
  • Temperature – Will output the measured temperature each second (if the temperature option has been added).
  • Barometer – Will output the current barometric pressure (if you have purchased the MicroSet atmospheric sensor).

MicroSet 3
MicroSet 3 adds several features. The first two are of value to people who work with both clocks and watches. The others are only used with watches:

  • Running Average Mode – This feature is a breakthrough in electronic timers. It allows MicroSet 3 to refine the rate it measures over time to show you the accumulated average rate. This makes your measurements much more stable and more accurate.
  • MicroSet 3 adds the ability to display clock or watch rates as seconds of error per day. It’s not limited to a pre-defined set of train times. It can be configured for any clock or watch you’re working on.
  • A Pendulum Adjustment mode displays the amount you must move the pendulum bob to achieve the correct rate.
  • Accutron Mode – Will display the rate of Accutron watches as seconds of error per day or the frequency of the tuning fork.
  • Tick Mode – Works with the Windows interface software version 3 to display a graphical representation of the component sounds of individual watch ticks, and allows you to measure the balance wheel amplitude.
    When used with the Windows interface software version 3, MicroSet 3 can display a simulation of paper tape charts.

Optional Features
In addition to the standard features listed above, the following extra cost options can be added to either MicroSet 2 or MicroSet 3. These optional features allow you to customize your timer with the features you want without making you pay for the ones you don’t need. These options can be incorporated when you order your MicroSet, or added later. Prices for the options can be found on the MicroSet order entry page.

  • Built-in beat amplifier – Adds a speaker to the bottom of the timer so you can hear the amplified tick of the clock or watch you’re working on.
  • The Rate Finder – This unique feature allows you to automatically count the correct number of Beats Per Hour of any running pendulum movement. We add a second input jack to the timer and provide a special magnetic sensor that is used to count rotations of the minute hand while the standard optical sensor counts beats of the pendulum. An increasingly accurate reading of Beats Per Hour to two decimal places is updated on the LCD screen each time the minute hand goes around.
  • TCXO timebase – MicroSet can be ordered with a Temperature Compensated Crystal oscillator. This allows you to make precision measurements as the temperature changes. This feature is used for measuring the most accurate clocks and watches or for studying the temperature compensation in them. Without the TCXO timebase, the timebase in MicroSet can drift by one or two parts per million over ten degrees of room temperature change (equivalent to an error of one second per week).
  • Computer interface software – There are two versions of software available for Windows. These allow you to capture the performance of clocks or watches over time and display graphs of the changes. This is a very powerful feature of MicroSet and we recommend it strongly.
  • Data Capture Memory – Normally, MicroSet must be connected to a personal computer to capture the performance over time. The Data Capture memory allows you to capture a history of a clock or watch inside MicroSet when it’s not connected to a computer. You can then “dump” the captured history into your computer when you get back to it.
  • Balance Wheel Amplitude – This hardware modification allows MicroSet 3 to display an accurate reading of the amplitude of a watches balance wheel. It requires the Windows interface software version 3.
  • Temperature sensor – A temperature sensor can be added to MicroSet to facilitate the study of temperature compensation in clocks and watches. When used with the Windows interface software versions 2 or 3 you can plot the rate of your timepiece along with the temperature.
  • Atmospheric sensor – An atmospheric sensor can be added to MicroSet to measure the barometric pressure, the temperature, and the humidity along with clock or watch rates. This facilitates the study of temperature or barometric compensation in clocks and watches, and allows you to observe the effect of changing humidity on your timepieces. It requires Windows interface software versions 2 or 3.
  • GPS Mode – You can add a GPS receiver to provide a precision reference to make measurements of high-accuracy clocks to a resolution of seconds per month or seconds per year.

A Flow Chart
For simple measurements, the common operations come first and require only a couple of key presses. If you only wish to measure a clock rate and not get into fancy features, it’s easy to do that. You turn on the timer, press MODE once and press BEGIN to start timing the clock. But as you become familiar with MicroSet, you may find it interesting to explore the extended features as well. After you’ve performed the simple tasks, MicroSet makes it possible to understand the world inside your clocks and watches in new ways. A flow chart of MicroSet functions shows the number of commands that are built into each mdoel. To see the flow chart, CLICK HERE.

So how do I choose?
For basic timing of clocks, MicroSet 2 is fine, but there are three features in MicroSet 3 that are worth considering. These are the ability to display the rate as an error in seconds per day, the Running Average mode, and the Pendulum Adjustment mode.

Optional features

  • If you like to hear the amplified tick sound, you can get the built-in beat amplifier.
  • The Rate Finder can be useful in finding the correct rate of pendulum clocks.
  • The Balance Wheel Amplitude option will display watch balance wheel amplitude easily and accurately.
  • The Computer Interface Software is incredibly useful. It allows you to see the performance of a clock or watch over time, and this gives you a much better understanding of what the clock is doing than a single reading. Version 2 performs all the basic functions. Version 3 has added features for watches.
  • If you would like to study clocks with the computer sofware but your computer is not near the clock, the Data Capture Memory will let you capture the data in MicroSet and then dump it into a computer later.
  • The TCXO timebase is used by people who work with precision pendulums or precision watches and wish to study the temperature compensation built into them, or wish to be certain that temperature changes don’t affect the MicroSet accuracy even slightly.
  • The Temperature Sensor is used with Windows interface software versions 2 or 3 to record the temperature and the clock or watch rate at the same time, to study the effect of temperature on the timepiece.
  • The Atmospheric Sensor will measure temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.
  • The GPS Mode uses a GPS receiver to measure ultimate accuracy in precision pendulums.



There are a variety of accessories and sensors for specific situations. CLICK HERE to see them.