What Not To Do With Your Watch@Pompeak
Watches are so much more than a timekeeping device. They’re works of art, an expression of character and a symbol of hundreds of years of innovation and dedication. Mechanical watches in particular consist of many tiny, delicate components that, when keeping accurate time, work in perfect harmony.
It's easy to forget that inside the (water-resistant, scratch-resistant, shock-resistant) metal case sitting on your wrist is an intricate eco-system that can collapse if not appropriately protected or maintained.
In this article, we’re running through the things you should never do to your watch if you want it to continue ticking smoothly.
Leaving the crown open
When the crown isn’t being used to wind the watch, set the time, or change the date, it should be fully closed in order to keep out dust, dirt and moisture. Modern movements are incredibly well designed and efficient, but they (particularly mechanical movements) are in a delicate balance where a rogue grain of dirt or drop of water can cause havoc.
Water has the potential to be far more damaging than dirt as it moves freely inside the watch case, affecting everything it touches.
While the watch case may be made from stainless steel, the springs, gears and wheels of the movement aren’t, meaning they’re vulnerable to corrosion. Once corrosion has started, the complexity and man hours required to check and replace every affected component means a completely new movement is often the only feasible option.
Overtightening the crown
On the flip side on not closing the crown is over-tightening. Applying excessive force when tightening the crown can accelerate damage to the seals, gaskets and threading within the crown, compromising its ability to keep water and dirt out.
A lot of mechanical watch owners have a fear of overwinding their watches. Whilst this caution is certainly not a bad thing, most modern movements do have a clutch system to prevent overwinding the mainspring.
That said, excessive winding will accelerate the wear and tear on various components within the watch (as well as being a big waste of time for you).
Using the quick-set date feature in the danger zone
For watches with calendar complications, the so called “Danger zone” refers to the period of time where the date change function is engaged - somewhere between 9PM and 3AM for most watches. Using the quickset date function while the automatic date mechanism is engaged can cause irreversible damage to the movement.
The date wheel runs around the outside of the movement and is rolled forward by a date jumper which in turn is driven by the main gear train. In a perfect world the automatic change would happen immediately at exactly midnight and the danger zone wouldn’t be a thing. In reality however, the change takes place over a small period of time during which any manual override can cause the date jumper to turn faster than the connected gears, potentially shearing teeth and rendering the date mechanism broken.
The simplest and safest way of ensuring you are out of the danger zone, is to set the time to 6 o’clock. Whether AM or PM, you’ll be safe to use the quickset function*.
*Disclaimer: This is generic advice, please refer to your watch manual before using your watch functions.
Check out our quick start setting the date guide.
Rapid Temperature Change
Rapid temperature changes cause the rubber seals of a watch to compress and expand very quickly, potentially affecting their integrity and ability to keep the watch watertight. While day to day temperature changes such as going from a cold walk into a heated building won’t have a detrimental effect, it's best not to bounce between the hot tub and ice bath.
Note: Dive watches and other high rated watches will fair better than a low or unrated dress watch.
As sauna’s regularly reach temperatures of 80°c we suggest taking off your watch before entering. Aside from the expansion of the seals, oils within the watch can lose their lubricating properties at these temperatures.
Operating the crown when on wrist
Occasionally I’ll see someone attempting to wind their watch or set the time one-handed while the watch is still on their wrist.
This might be convenient, but the awkward angle can put unnecessary strain on the crown stem (the slim piece of metal connecting the crown to the movement). The stem can bend and unwanted force can be exerted on the gears in directions they are not designed for.
Worse case scenario: You snap the stem and are left with a gaping hole in the side of your watch case – not ideal for keeping water out.
Exposure to magnetism
A watch relies on a delicate balance of motion to run, so something as invasive as magnetism can cause absolute chaos. The hairspring (the fine coil of wire that dictates how the balance wheels rotates and how fast the watch runs) is most affected. At 100th of a millimetre thick, it can be impacted by a relatively weak magnet.
When it becomes magnetised, the coils bind together, shortening the spring and quickening the beats per minute which speed up the watch.
If you notice a sudden increase your watch’s pace, don’t panic, your local watch repairer will be able to demagnetise the watch, leaving your timepiece running as good as new.
This is another obvious one, somewhat mitigated by developments in shock resistance, but powerful impacts can damage the watch case, crystal and movement. We spoke about modern shock protection systems in an earlier blog, and they are an engineering marvel, but their effectiveness is somewhat limited by their size, so it’s best to avoid dropping your watch out a second story window or hitting it with a hammer.
So this one may be a little controversial to some, and if you are DIY inclined, you might be tempted to ignore my words of warning, but do not attempt to repair or modify your watch yourself.
Watches and watch movements in particular are complicated things that are intricately assembled by highly skilled professionals. YouTube tutorials may have you think that a minor repair is in reach, but trust me, it takes a long time, the right tools, and a lot of perseverance to be able to confidently perform open watch surgery.
Not only will you likely not be able to fully correct the issue, but risk further damage while voiding the warranty and making it even harder for the professional to repair it. I would always recommend taking your watch straight to a jewellers or dedicated repairer – the service fee is well worth the peace of mind knowing your watch is back at its best.
A watch service is like a car MOT for your watch. For a fee, you’ll be left with a watch looking and running at its very best.
Most manufacturers will recommend services every two to five years depending on the movement, and we highly recommend you stick to that. Exactly how often you should get your timepiece serviced depends on how often and how long its worn, and how its kept when not.
Depending on the watch, services won’t cost the earth, with quartz services starting around £50 and mechanical starting around the £90 mark. Most include a full disassembly, chemical clean and reassembly of the watch and movement while inspecting and tuning timekeeping and functions. This will also include replacement of seals where necessary and a spring clean of the watch.
If you avoid making the above mistakes, a well-built watch should last a lifetime.
If you suspect the movement is damaged or the integrity of the case has been compromised, time is of the essence – take your timepiece to a professional within 48 hours for the best chance of saving your movement.