Caring for your Mechanical

There are two predominant watch types in the world today, quartz watches and mechanical watches.  From the outside however, these two types of watches can look virtually the same.  In fact, if you are looking at a picture of them, there is often no way to tell the difference (unless it is a digital type quartz watch of course).  Only by observing the motion of the seconds hand will you get a hint of what is ticking inside.  Yet, under the covers, they are actually rather different.   They have quite extensive historical, technological, structural and operational differences.

Mechanical watches are not only generally more expensive than quartz watches, they are also more complex and do require a little more care and attention.  But if you find these intricate little specimens of micro-engineering captivating, as most watch admirers do, and you appreciate the tradition, skill and craftsmanship that they personify, then the little extra attention they require will be well worth your consideration.

Watch repairs

 

Here are some tips and a few simple guidelines that may help you get the most out of your mechanical marvel.

  1. Time changes

    Never adjust the time on your watch in a backwards direction – you should always adjust the time moving the watch’s hands in a forward (clockwise) direction – even if it means you need to turn the hands right the way through a twelve hour cycle.

    This is easy to remember, as time should always moves forwards. :)

  2. Date changes

    Do not adjust the date on the watch when the time reads between 10 and 2 o’clock.

    When the watch’s mechanism is in the process of changing the date, which typical occurs progressively between the hours of about 10:00pm and 2:00am, the tiny gears and pinions that drive the date change mechanism are fully engaged.  Inadvertently changing the date during this period can irreversibly damage these gears.  While you can of course safely change the date between 10:00am and 2:00pm, this is probably not a good habit to get into, as little mistakes can happen.

  3. Over winding

    If your watch is an automatic, i.e. a self-winding watch, then you do not normally need to worry too much about manually winding it using the crown as your watch will wind itself as you move about in your daily routine.

    However, if you have a manual-winding watch (a non-automatic) you will need to wind it using the crown every day or so.  When you do this, be sensitive to the changing resistance in the crown as you approach full-wind.  As the mainspring becomes taught you should be able to sense this through a little extra resistance in the crown.  Stop winding at this point and never force the crown to turn.

    Many automatic watches however can also be manually wound via the crown if required.  While these watches are fitted with over-wind protection mechanisms and thus in theory cannot be over wound, it is generally preferable to observe the same precautions.

  4. Shock treatment

    While all modern watches are equipped with anti-shock mechanisms, mechanical watches are highly complex and intricate little machines.  Be aware that a half-decent fall or knock may well break it.  Any fall from above a few feet onto a hard surface will not bode them well.  They do not bounce too well. :)

    For this reason it is wise to treat them with care.

  5. Water resistance

    No watch is 100% waterproof.  A watch that is "water resistant" means however it has 'some degree' of protection from water damage.  To find out what that degree of protection is, you need to refer to the specifications published for the watch by the manufacture.  The degree of water resistance may also be printed on the dial or elsewhere on the watch itself.

    The specifications generally describe the amount of water resistance in either 'meters' of water pressure (for example '100 meters'), in ATM, or in BAR. These terms are generally synonymous however, where 1 ATM = 1 BAR = 10 metres of water pressure.

    The following is a guide to an appropriate level of usage:

    • 30 meters (3 ATM/3 BAR) — can withstand light splashes of water.  Not suitable for showering, bathing, swimming, snorkelling, water related work, diving or fishing.
    • 50 meters (5 ATM/5 BAR) — suitable for showering or swimming in very shallow water only
    • 100 meters (10 ATM/10 BAR) — suitable for recreational swimming or snorkelling
    • 200 meters (20 ATM/20 BAR) — suitable for swimming and amateur scuba diving
    • 300 meters (30 ATM/30 BAR) or more — professional or deep-sea diving

    Note: The water resistance refers to the amount of water pressure the case can withstand, not the depth to which the watch can actually be worn.  Water pressure specifications apply to a watch immersed in completely motionless water only, under laboratory testing conditions.  A watch worn on a wearer’s wrist while showering or swimming is subject to far greater pressure, due to the motion of the water and/or the wearer’s arm through the water.

    Always make sure the crown is pushed in all the way, or is screwed in if is a screw-in type crown, before using it around water.

    Furthermore, never adjust or use the watch’s crown or operate any functions while submerged in water.  This can allow water to enter the case through the seals.

    We also strongly recommend you do not wear your watch in a Jacuzzi or sauna where steam and heat can affect the watch.  Also, wearing your watch in the shower may expose it to corrosive chemicals used in soaps and leave soap residue that can damage the watch over a period of time and thus should be avoided.

    In general though, unless the watch was specifically designed for use in water, such as a diver’s watch, our recommendation is that you avoid wearing it when swimming or showering.  This recommendation applies to both quartz and mechanical watches.

  6. Magnetisation

    Magnetic fields found in everyday environments, such as near electronic devices and refrigerator doors, can affect the accuracy or precision of your mechanical watch.  Even minor magnetic fields can have negative effects on the watch’s accuracy and timing by in turn magnetising its internal components.

    For this reason, you should never leave you watch on top of or near mobile phones, computers or other electronic devices for extended periods.

    If it does inadvertently become magnetised it will cause your watch to run faster or slower, in which case it will require degaussing by a certified watchmaker.

  7. When at rest

    The crown of the watch is the knob on the side of the case that is turned to wind the watch's mainspring and to set the hands and other functions of the watch.

    The crown is a weak point in the watch’s case, therefore when placing your watch down it is a good habit to place it either face up or lying on the side opposite the crown.

  8. Cleaning your watch

    Watches that are worn everyday can quickly build-up a layer or residue of dirt and grime from the skin and exposure to other substances from our daily routines. This can cause them to lose their shine and lustre and if not removed may eventually permanently spoil or damage the watch’s casing, band or seals.

    It is thus very important to regularly clean your watch be wiping all surfaces with a soft, dry cloth, tissue or brush.

    You should also avoid exposing your watch to abrasive materials, solvents, detergents, grease and other lubricants, perfumes, cosmetics, lotions, cleaning fluids or other chemicals.

  9. Servicing your watch

    A watch is a mechanical timepiece, and like all things mechanical, needs to be maintained.  Most manufacturers recommend a mechanical watch be serviced by a professional and qualified watchmaker every three to five years.

    A service includes the complete disassembly of the watch, parts are inspected and cleaned to remove old lubricants, all worn or damaged parts are replaced, lubrication and regulation of the movement is performed, the watch is water pressure tested to ensure it meets its specifications, and a complete functional test is performed.

  10. Insure to be sure

    Mechanical watches can often be quite valuable, and like any piece of fine jewellery, it may be worth a check to see if it is covered by your home and contents insurance or, depending on its value, insuring it specifically.

    With this in mind it may also be worth photographing your timepiece to streamline any insurance claims that may be necessary.

     

    If your watch is a chronograph (it has a stop-watch type function), there are also a few additional points of attention.  With a standard chronograph mechanism, the start/stop push-button is located at 2 o’clock, just above the crown, and the reset push-button is located at 4 o’clock, just below the crown.

    You should always ensure that the chronograph is in the ‘stopped’ state before being reset.  Resetting the chronograph using the lower push-button while the chronograph is still running can have disastrous consequences on its intricate mechanical mechanism.

    You should also ensure you do not operate the chronograph while the watch is exposed to water.

     

    …..and that’s about it.  When cared for properly, your mechanical watch should give you many years of pleasurable and reliable service.

    Enjoy!!

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