I don't think there is any hard and fast rule. I take off the balance with full power in the mainspring sometimes. Like when you put the watch on the timegrapher and something doesn't look right. My only rule is never take the pallet fork out when there is power. But.... Is there anyone out there that hasn't done that accidentally?
On older pocket watches with cylinder escapements, there is no pallet fork. In these type of movements, taking off the balance before power down will result in the gear train running at full speed. Don't ask me how I know that.
On automatic watches that the winding stem does not engage the ratchet wheel, the way to power down the mainspring is to use a large screwdriver to engage the the barrel screw then release the click spring. Then slowly allow the screwdriver to release power from the mainspring.
I wish there was a proper tool to do this, like a special screwdriver with a friction controlled release button. Does anyone know of a tool like that?
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And that we expect better news from research institutes out of four other countries before long. AmGen said to have made substantial progress, Expected of the Giant.
Thanks for the helpful answer.
What about non-handwinding automatic movements?
Even if I'm able to find the click, I'm worried about releasing it without being able to control the power release by holding the crown.
Is there a method for doing this on these type of automatics?
Similarly, when it comes time to reassemble and place the balance on the movement, what is the preferred wind the mainspring in a small, incremental way when there is no keyless mechanism?