Whether you bought the watch yourself or inherited it from your family, a vintage watch is often a very valuable and personal item. Just as with other vintage items, a watch needs to be taken care of. In here you will find the ‘Do’s & Don’ts’.
If, after reading this article, you think something essential is missing, It would be appreciate if you would contact us about the missing part(s) so we can add it to the article.
Water damage is one of the biggest enemies of your vintage watch. It can cause major parts of your watch to become affected or damaged.
Watches that bear a ‘waterproof’ signature are often not as resistant for water as they used to be. The major reason that watches are affected by water is due to the failure of gaskets. Throughout the years gaskets become dry, brittle or even a bit damaged and therefore lose their water resistance. It is advised to replace your gaskets every two years.
Also, the possibility your watch crystal has been replaced is very high. There is no certainty that this new crystal is the perfect size. Although you can’t see this with the naked eye, a crystal that is a mere 0.1mm too small can let water molecules percolate through to the inner workings of your watch.
Keep in mind that changing the exposure of your watch from an air-conditioned room to a warm and humid outdoor climate causes pressure and temperature changes which can ease the access of water vapor into your beloved watch.
If this happens, and the inside of your crystal gets foggy, let your watch rest for some time.
If you have access to a dust free room you can pull out the crown, as if you were to adjust the time. This allows the water vapor to exit the watch quicker.
There is a big misunderstanding in the water resistance of your watch. When your watch says it is water resistance up to 100 meters, it does not actually mean you can dive that deep. Yes, your watch is resistant for water pressure at a depth of 100 meters, when it is laying still at this depth. But you can’t dive with your watch to this depth because while you are diving you are swimming and moving your arms. This means an additional pressure is added on top of the ‘normal’ pressure for being deep underwater. The quicker you move your watch, the more additional pressure you are applying to your watch. High impact water sports such as surfing require a high water resistant watch, preferably more than 15 ATM.
All of the above information should be applied whilst keeping in mind what you think is best. You are the owner and wearer of your watch so you should know what you can and cannot do.
Obviously, it also makes a difference if you are wearing a new Rolex Submariner or a 1950s chronograph. When you are walking outside and it’s pouring with rain like in the amazon, it might be smart to slip your vintage chronograph into your pocket, while you shouldn’t worry about wearing your Submariner.
If you are eager to find out if your vintage watch is still waterproof, a certified watchmaker can help you to find the answer. There will be a story explaining the different procedures on how the water resistance is tested soon to be found on this website.
The main rule is; Try to keep your watch away from water and high humidity exposure.
Your vintage watch is being powered by a mechanical movement containing various gears and axles. Every once in a while the movement has to be cleaned to remove dirt and dust.
Besides getting rid of all the dirt, the movement of your watch needs special oil to keep it running smoothly.
It is a common saying in the world of watchmakers that a mechanical movement needs a good clean every five years. This should not be a strict rule in my opinion. If you wear your watch very infrequently, and take good care of it, you shouldn’t be too worried about maintaining a strict schedule for servicing.
Where do you service your watch? You can service your watch with the original manufacturer. Most definitely not the cheapest and quickest option since watch manufactures can take up to several months to return the watch, but nevertheless an insurance for professionalism.
Instead of sending the watch back to the original manufacturer, you can try and find a trustworthy watchmaker closer to your home. This is often a cheaper and quicker option. Sometimes it can be a lot of fun if the watchmakers takes the time to explain to you what he did and why your watch is ready to be worn again.
If the watchmaker is educated and dedicated, it doesn’t really matter where he is working. What does matter, is that you will have to be very specific about the service you require.
Surely not all, but some watchmakers, tend to take fate in their own hands by doing with the watch what they think is best. For instance, a watchmaker can replace dials, hands, crystals, pushers and crowns. They can also apply new lume on the dial or hands in order to give them a ‘new’ look. Most common of all; they will polish out small scratches from the case and bracelet. This is not what you want…
A collector of watches finds value in the originality of the watch and how it has been aged naturally throughout the years. By messing with its originality, the value of your watch can drop sharply. So be clear and specific about what you want when bringing your watch to the spa!
Although the winding of your watch is a simple task, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Be gentle; the mainspring of your watch is quite strong. When fully wound, you can feel it’s resistance thru the crown. Do not try to take a last turn out of it by over-winding your watch.
Consistency; the average vintage watch has a power reserve of somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. Therefore, it is recommended to wind your watch once a day. Try to find a moment in your day to wind your watch and make it a habit. Also, be consistent in ‘putting’ back the crown in its original position. By leaving the crown out, the crown is more likely to break off due to impact. In the meantime, leaving the crown out only allows dust and dirt more access into the movement.
Off of your wrist; when you wind your watch, take it off of your wrist. When you wind your watch whilst wearing it, you are putting the delicate system of the winding mechanism under pressure by turning in an angle.
Keeping your automatic watch in a watch winder is not the best way to let your watches ‘rest’. A movement is made to run, yes, but just as any mechanical machine, a movement also causes wear and tear. By keeping the mainspring fully wound and the movement always in ticking motion, you are reducing the lifetime of your watch.
If you have multiple watches and you can’t wear your watch all the time, keep it somewhere safe and unwound. When you decide to wear the watch again simply wind it up and set the correct date and time.
Magnetic fields can be a threat to the accuracy of your watch. When your watch is exposed to magnetic fields, the coils of the thin and very vulnerable hairspring can ‘stick’ to each other causing the coil to differ from its original length. As a result your watch will run faster than it is supposed to.
If your watch has been exposed to magnetic fields frequently, you can pay a visit to your watchmaker. A demagnetizer device is an easy and fast way to get rid of this problem.
So far a number of important aspects when taking care of your vintage watch in a good and safe way. Enjoy your timepiece and look after it for the next generation.