Friday, November 2, 2018

Service Your Watch...Or Else!

How often should I service my watch?
The basic principle is “the more you use it, the more it wear down.” If your watch is ticking, its parts will wear, and if you find your watch is losing more than fifteen seconds a day, it’s overdue for a good cleaning and oiling.
Portrait of a watchmaker by Richard.
Licenced through Creative Commons.
If your watch hasn’t been serviced since the Beatles were touring then it’s definitely time.
Your watch’s instruction manual will have a recommended service interval. This recommendation assumes you are wearing your watch daily, something few of us get to do because most of us have a collection we rotate around—unless you stick all your watches on a 24/7 rotating watch-winder, which is not a good idea. The recommended service interval serves as a guide rather than a rule.
That said, if your watch has been sitting idle for months, chances are the lubricants have hardened, and you also risk damaging your watch’s parts. Even synthetic oil can gum up. The candle burns from both ends when it comes to watch wear and tear. So give your watch a good winding every six to eight weeks. If your watch has been idle for more than two years, please get it cleaned before letting it tick-tock.
A modern Rolex is extremely robust and its parts do have higher wear tolerance than most other watch brands. The in-house synthetic lubricants modern Rolexes use also last much longer than most other brands. Modern Rolexes stand apart from any other watch brands we know of today. But a modern Rolex will still wear, depending on how one uses it. No watch is Superman.
Not many other brands can claim to be in the same league as Rolex, not even Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, or Audemars Piguet. I don’t know enough about Grand Seikos yet to say if they have a higher tolerance to wear than the Big Three, or about Omega (which in my opinion is second only to Rolex in terms of robustness). Grand Seiko Spring Drives, despite their use of a quartz crystal for timing, are still mechanical watches—from the mainspring to the going train to the flywheel —and will wear like any other mechanical watch. Seiko hi-beats, beating at 36,000 times per hour will wear faster than a watch operating at 4hz, such as a Seiko Presage, which beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour, because more speed means more friction and heat, which creates more wear and tear.
The Watchmaker, photo by Alan Cleaver.
Licenced under Creative Commons.
Can a watch last twenty years between service intervals? Theoretically yes, but only if you are wearing your watch once a week. Twenty years times fifty-two weeks equals 1,040 days, which is less than three years of wear and tear, and under the five year recommended servicing interval period for many watches. In reality, it’s not as simple as that, because most watches tick for fifty to seventy hours (two to three days) once you’ve put them on, and lubricants do dry up over time, regardless of whether or not you wear your watch.
Ideally, you should be sending in your watch before it is losing fifteen seconds a day, or your crown starts to grind regardless of recommended service intervals. But once visible or audible problems begin, please send your watch in for some lubricating love ASAP. If you wait too long, by the time the watch gets to the service center there may be a lot more damage, which will require ordering of parts and an increased repair cost. Plus your watch will be away from home longer.
Physics always wins.

All this raises the question: Should you use a watch winder? Is it safe? We’ll talk about watch winders in a future article.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Grand Seiko Owner’s Club,

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