In the Wired article 9 Russian Adventurers Mysteriously Froze to Death. A New Theory Explains Why, it is stated that:

Without body heat to keep it warm, in such cold weather—estimated to be –13 degrees F (-25 degrees C), based on readings from the closest weather stations—a person’s watch stops ticking about an hour after their death.

How cold must it be for a mechanical spring powered wrist or pocket watch, circa 1950s, to stop operating?

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    $\begingroup$ Any info on the lubricant on any bearings? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @SolarMike: whatever watchmakers typically used in the 1950s, most likely a light lubricant, this site recommends a heavy lubricant for high torque, low speed segments (mainspring, 1st and 2nd wheel pivots) & a light lubricant for low torque, high speed segments (3rd, 4th, escape wheel pivots, balance pivots, escape wheel teeth, clock strike governor pivots, etc.) $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ This program is a "mocumentary" , they write what they want. The light oils used in watches would not offer resistance until temperatures like liquid air. These oils are high boiling point, hydro refined at very high temperature ( 800 F) , not low temperature mentioned in the otherwise excellent reference. NASA used this type oil in orbiting satellites ( very cold) before a wide variety of silicone base oils were developed $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ It depends what oil was used. Looking at the spec for the "classic" oils (as opposed to modern synthetics) sold by Moebius (a leading Swiss oil manufacturer for the past 150 years) their "low temperature" oils claim performance down to -35C, and almost all of the "classic" oil range (about 20 different products!) is rated down to -15C. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Considering the time and location ; there could easily have been oil that would stop movements in moderately low temperatures. So a good answer would need more info about the oils used. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 22:56


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