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How often should you have your mechanical watch serviced? What is it safe to do with your watch? Well, that is totally up to you in the end, but I can give a little guidance.
11 Points Of Common Sense For Any Watch
Don't beat your watch to death just to see if it will take it, most won't. This is particularly true of pocket watches, if you drop a pocket watch the balance staff will probably break. I HIGHLY recommend that you wear a chain with your pocket watch when you carry it!
If you know you are going to be working in or around something that is bad for your watch, such as chemicals, take it off.
DO NOT shower with your watch on, the soap and shampoo, etc. can eat the gaskets and turn them into "goo"!
DO NOT pull out the crown or use ANY buttons on the watch while under the water (or in the water), to do so will instantly allow water to enter the watch! There is ONE exception to the pusher rule, some of the just released watches use magnetic switches in their pushers and hence do not have any way for water to enter when the pushers are used. This feature is only on a few watches (and they are VERY expensive), so I wouldn't test my luck trying to see if it is on your watch (and it most likely isn't)!
If you want to keep your watch clean and safe the first step is to take it off when you are doing something not conductive to that end. I have worked on watches where the person cut meat 8 hours a day with the watch on. Needless to say the watch was not only filthy but downright gross. One fellow cooked crab with his watch on, the watch ended up not only filthy but cooked as well. One person worked in a kitchen all day long and had dough literally welded to their watch so bad it had to be scraped off. These are just some examples, there are many more. If most people had any idea how much dirt and who knows what else is trapped in their watchband they would probably not even wear it while eating!
Most watches, no matter what the BAR or water resistance rating, are not suitable for SCUBA diving. If the watch is not rated at 20 BAR or above then it absolutely should not be used for SCUBA diving. Swimming may be fine if the watch is tested for water resistance beforehand. Washing the car with a garden hose can even be bad as the pressure of the water from the hose can exceed the water resistance of the watch.
If you have a mechanical watch it needs to be serviced at least every 3 to 7 years weather you wear it or not. Why? Because the oil dries out. If it is non water resistant watch dirt collects. In the end with the oil dried up parts will wear. It is up to you if to follow this advice or not, many don't and the end result is an expensive repair bill. Worse yet are worn out parts that are no longer available so the watch then becomes unrepairable or custom parts must be made which is very expensive. Pocket watches that are used and carried should be serviced every two years due to them not having a sealed case.
DO NOT touch the bridges or wheels of a pocket watch (or any other mechanical watch for that matter) with your fingers! This will lead to rust, and the oils from the finger prints can actually etch the plates of the movement (leaving a permanent finger print). Likewise, do not blow on the movement, this will introduce moisture and could lead to rust.
If you have a pocket watch keep it clean and dry, they are not sealed watches and are VERY susceptible to rust and dirt. This would also not storing the watch in a damp environment such as a basement or garage. Noting, besides lack of service, will ruin a family heirloom faster than rust and dirt!
Most modern mechanical watches have some magnetic resistance, most old pocket watches do not. If you get your watch near a strong magnetic source, such as a magnetic elevator or speaker magnet, it will probably become magnetized. If this happens it will either stop entirely or the time keeping will become very erratic. The only cure is to have it demagnetized by a jeweler or watchmaker (unless you have access to a demag).
As a general rule I DO NOT recommend watch winders for any watch, unless you want to wear the watch out faster that is. The exception would be a complicated perpetual calendar watch. It does not take that long to wind a watch or set it, using a watch winder on a regular basis will just wear out the automatic winding parts twice as fast. A properly serviced automatic watch should run from 30-48 hours on a winding, if the watch is being worn on a daily basis there should be no need to wind it most usually (and the automatic parts get a "rest" at night when the watch is not being worn).
SERVICING YOUR WATCH
Pocket Watch Servicing
For pocket watches I recommend 2-5 years once the watch has been brought back into proper working order. If you don't use the watch much then the 5-year figure may be appropriate, if the watch is carried daily then the 2-year figure is more appropriate. Keep in mind that when pocket watches were used on the railroads servicing was mandatory every 1-2 years. Pocket watches are more susceptible to dust, dirt, moisture, and rust on the movement just for the fact that their cases are not sealed airtight.
Mechanical Wrist Watch Servicing
For wristwatches I recommend 2-7 years depending on the watch and how much it is worn. If you have a vintage wrist watch that is not sealed and is not dust and water resistant that you wear daily then the 2-year figure may be appropriate. If you have a more modern wristwatch that is sealed and is marked as being dust and water resistant then the 7-year figure may be appropriate even if the watch is worn daily. No watch should go beyond 7 years for servicing due to the fact that parts are going to start to wear once the oil dries-out. If you "run it till it stops" then figure on a large repair bill, if the parts that are ate-up are even available. Mechanical watches that receive proper service can last a lifetime, those that don't usually don't make it beyond a decade if that.
Therefore, in the end it really depends on the type of watch and the owner how long the watch can go between servicing. I have heard wild claims of 20 years between watch servicing, but please don't attempt this unless you like large repair bills. Even the best oils will dry-up over time, once that happens you get wear, a lot of wear. If you stop to think that a mechanical watch balance wheel makes at least 18,000 vibrations each minute (more modern watches can be 28,800-36,000) then you see that it will not take long for parts to start wearing once the lubrication is gone. What I like to compare it to is running your car 20 years without an oil change (although I am sure that has been done!). I also do not recommend that any mechanical watch be put in a safe or lock box for years, even if it has just been serviced. A mechanical watch needs to be wound and run from time-to-time if for nothing else but to keep the lubrication in the watch from congealing.
Quartz Wrist Watch Servicing
Nothing really to service on these except maintaining the water resistance and replacing the battery. To be honest, most quartz movements are not worth repairing, it is cheaper just to replace the movement. Quartz watches don't really need the movement cleaned like mechanical watches do, when they finally do stop, or wear batteries out fast, I usually just replace the movement. Some can be freed-up using a Cyclonic cleaner I have and there is just a small charge for this. If the watch stops, and it still has good pulse, this cleaning can often return the watch to usable status for some time, possibly even a few years.
WATER RESISTANCE OF WATCHES
Please click the link below to see the water resistance page, there is a lot of valuable information there on water resistance of watches.
CLICK HERE FOR THE WATER RESISTANCE PAGE
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