How to maintain a fine mechanical watch properly

What Your Timepiece Salesperson Should Tell you but Usually Forgets! In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that even the most skilled and knowledgeable timepiece salespeople forget to tell you the following “Donts” of properly maintaining a fine watch (including myself).

With the average repair time for a fine wristwatch now exceeding 90 days (and often longer) and costing over $300, here are a few things to avoid to keep your watch disappearing to the nearly bottomless black hole of most watch company repair departments. I apologize as my list is going to be far from complete but should hit most of the major causes that we see for repairs:

In no particular order…..

  • If you don’t wear your automatic watch everyday then you need to give it 30-40 winds before you put it on. Most watches have 42-48 hours of power once fully wound, but if you don’t wear it often and don’t wind it enough before you do occasionally wear it…… your going to think it needs repair. It probably doesn’t.
  • If your watch is only water resistant to 30 meters, DON’T get it wet. It may withstand an accidental “light splash” but is NOT meant to be worn in water (and don’t get your leather straps wet, it dramatically shortens the already limited life span of an expensive leather strap). As a matter of fact, the only watches that should be worn in the water are those resistant at a 100 meters or more. Trust me on this one!
  • Do not jolt or shock a mechanical watch. Playing golf with a watch is simply a bad idea. The number of repairs that roll into Rolex’s watch department needing adjustment because of their marketing with people wearing watches while shanking a golf ball, must be enormous. This type of shock will make an automatic watch often run very inaccurately.
  • Don’t put your watch near speakers or magnets. A magnetized watch doesn’t keep very good time. The number of people who take their watches off every night and put it on a speaker is surprising.
  • If you have a watch with a screw down crown, make it a practice to check it everyday, especially before you get the watch wet. It is NOT water resistant unless the crown is screwed down.
  • If you have a heavy watch ( i.e. steel sport watch, gold sport watch, platinum watch on bracelet)….the weight of the watch often causes the bracelet screws to work loose. Have them checked every 6-12 months to avoid a screw falling out and the watch falling off and hitting the pavement.
  • If you have a chronograph, never push the 2 pushers at the same time (one to start and one to stop and reset). Not sure why anybody does this but it seems to happen and it will cause bad things to happen.

More Complicated Watch Warnings

If you have a watch that has pushers to adjust watch functions, do not use them or the crown for “rapid correction” until you’ve read the watch instruction booklet. 95% of complicated calendaring watches suggest the hour hand should be at 6am (southern hemisphere of the watch) when doing any sort of rapid calendaring adjustment with the pushers or crown.

  • If you have a perpetual calendar, NEVER wind the hands backwards. Most have pushers otherwise you do your adjustment via the crown (see comment 8 and your instruction booklet) i.e. IWC Grand Complication, if you over advance the watch using the crown, you will either have to patiently wait for the date to catch up with your over-set watch or send it to the factory to have them set it back.
  • If you have a chiming, hour striker or repeater watch…… never jolt or shock it (the gongs don’t like this abuse) and don’t activate the chiming more than once every 30 seconds and certainly NOT until one chiming cycle has finished.
  • Lastly, don’t try and polish your own watch. Its ok to wipe off the fingerprints etc with a soft cloth (avoid any polishing cloths that have polishing compound in them). Never try to polish titanium as its usually sandblasted/beaded at the factory and the correct finish can only be replicated there. For white gold, if you polish it (bad idea), you will remove the final rhodium treatment that most brands add to make it look shiner and whiter, so if you polish it, it will likely take of the rhodium finish and give it an ugly yellowish tinge, yikes!
Water Resistance rating chart

Adhere to most of these DONT’s and you’ll find your watch will work better and be in less need of lengthy, overly expensive repairs.

About Steve

Stephen Culcasi’s passion is for fine timepieces. He discovered his love of fine watches when he entered the industry ten years ago and brings extensive experience in retail management and private client service to Lussori. Stephen takes pride in the impressive selection of timepieces offered at Lussori which is located on Ocean Avenue in Carmel, California and has a keen eye for spotting new trends. His clients make up a who’s who list of celebrities, high profile business people, and respected collectors worldwide. Stephen holds a bachelors degree from Cal State Long beach. He enjoys restoring antique cars and photography.

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