Hamish Robertson, Dec 4 2020

How Do You Know If Your Watch Needs A Service?

How Do You Know If Your Watch Needs A Service?

If you own a watch, you have probably thought to yourself “Does my watch need a service?”. Here is a very straightforward guide to whether you need to service your watch. First, we will explain what a service is, then we will give guidance why they are needed, what you should expect, and where to look to get it done.

A “Service” is an inspection, clean, repair, reassembly, and test of a timepiece. It will identify any problems and areas in need of repair. Any dirt will be removed, and new lubricants will be applied to the movement. Once finished, the watch will be tested for accuracy and water resistance if applicable. Services are carried out by professionally trained watchmakers.

Does My Watch Need A Service?

Here are some simple guidelines:

  • If your watch is losing or gaining more than ten minutes per day, it needs a full service.
  • If it has a rattle, feels like something is moving, or has any moisture or condensation inside, it needs a full service.
  • If you have any reason to think your watch isn’t working properly, get a full service.
  • If you are getting a watch battery changed, get it tested for water resistance at the same time.
  • If you are getting a watch cleaned or polished, get it tested for water resistance at the same time.
  • If you are going to store a watch with a battery in it without wearing it for a long time, over a year or so, remove the battery.

If you are in doubt, just think of it like a car. If you have a car with moving parts in the engine that doesn’t get serviced for years, you would not be surprised if some part broke. Older cars are famous for leaking. Watches are the same. Without regular maintenance they can break, and the longer it goes without a service, the more likely it is it that water or dust can get in.

The year window looks mis-aligned here

The year window looks mis-aligned here

All Mechanical Watches Need Servicing

It doesn’t matter how good they are, how simple or complex they are, how old they are, how big or small they are. All of them need servicing. One very important reason is because the movement needs to remain lubricated.

Every mechanical watch is made up of small wheels, pinions, and levers, with some springs, hands, and other parts in there too. Most of these need to stay clean and clear of dust or dirt to keep working properly. Lubricants help the parts work together properly. When the lubricants dry out, the parts wear against each other leading to damage. Damage stops the watch working properly.

A mechanical watch that is worn regularly should be serviced every 3 to 5 years. Only the most very modern watches have a service interval longer than that. These are still very new and rare. If in doubt, get your watch serviced.

Photo from Josh Redd on Unsplash. Every wheel needs lubrication.

Photo from Josh Redd on Unsplash. Every wheel needs lubrication.

What Happens In A Watch Service?

Steps that a watchmaker will take:

  • Listen to customer report of any problems to help with diagnosis.
  • Take the watch apart, examine every single part carefully. Note which are damaged and need repair or replacement.
  • Clean every part to remove all oil, grease, and dirt.
  • Clean every part of the case and examine all the seals.
  • Re-assemble case with new seals and lubricants where required.
  • Re-assemble and lubricate the movement, using modern lubricants.
  • Put movement into the case and check no dirt or dust remain.
  • Close the case and test for water resistance.
  • Check timekeeping and functions work properly.

If any parts have worn out, then they will usually be replaced there and then if possible. If they need to be specially ordered from the manufacturer or made from scratch, the watchmaker will tell you. It is helpful to the watchmaker if you report any problems you have noticed about the watch. Be as clear as you can.

It is crucial to understand that this is a labour-intensive process and takes time. It also costs money. It should be highlighted that the more complicated the watch, the more complicated the service. A complicated service will be more expensive, even if the watch is in good condition.

If you try to save money by not getting a service, or only getting a waterproofing test and polish, it is likely you are simply delaying paying for a more expensive service later, as more wear and tear accumulates.

Do Quartz watches need servicing?

Electrical watches that are quartz powered or digital also eventually need servicing. This is for two reasons: firstly, the seals that keep the watch safe from water, dust and dirt can wear out and need replacing. Secondly, if they have moving parts these needs servicing, or if on a digital watch the screens can wear out. These things are unlikely to happen for at least ten years of continuous use, but still need doing. This is especially true for quartz watches featuring any complications.

Traditional style watch batteries are also famously at risk of leaking after ten years, so should be changed fairly regularly even if they haven’t stopped working. The new style of battery called Lithium Ion, found in many solar powered watches, and all smart watches, do not leak but do degrade. It is likely that they will need replacing eventually.

Where To Get Your Watch Serviced?

The more complicated the watch, the higher quality of watchmaker needed. Do not expect your local key cutting store that replaces watch batteries for a small sum to be able to service a high-end Swiss or Japanese timepiece.

As with many local services, the internet is your friend. It is best to get your watch serviced by a watchmaker based in your home country with experience in the type of watch you have. Hunt online for an established company with clear guidance on their website that they deal with your brand and model of timepiece. Check for testimonials. If in doubt, call them and ask if they can service your watch, and send them pictures to help.

You can also ask for local recommendations on Social Media. Look for brand specific watch groups on Facebook or search on Instagram for watchmakers. If you have no alternatives you can send your watch back to the manufacturer for servicing via a local dealer. This will undoubtedly cost you more and take longer than using a specialist independent watchmaker. The reasons for this are too complicated to go into here, but we at The Watch Collectors Club have plenty of experience using independent watchmakers for services. We are happy to recommend you find yourself a qualified independent watchmaker. Just remember that the crucial thing to check is their experience in servicing a timepiece similar to yours.

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Make the watch world simple

Make the watch world simple