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Should You Service Your Watch At All?
If you own a luxury watch you’ve probably considered whether or not you should service the watch and if so, at what interval. There are no hard and fast rules and there are certainly divided opinions - some saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and others saying that it is important to service mechanical watches, but less important in quartz watches. So what is the answer?
The general recommendation by manufacturers is to have your mechanical watch serviced every 5 years. This time period may be shorter when it is linked to a battery change in a high-end quartz watch. This interval is shorter still if the watch is worn in extreme conditions of temperature or activity as the wear on the watch and the parts will increase.
If you have ever had your luxury watch serviced, you’ve no doubt noticed that servicing can be an expensive and time consuming process, with prices typically ranging from £300 to £800+ for a full service on some high-end watches and taking around 8 weeks.
But why does it cost so much and take so long? And do you actually need to do it? We take a look at what’s involved in getting your watch ship shape and whether it is worth your time and money to do it at all.
What’s involved in a watch service?
A watch service varies depending on whether it is mechanical or quartz. A mechanical watch service tends to be more complicated, take longer and be more costly, so we are going to focus on that process for the purpose of this article.
During a watch service a technician will check the exterior of the watch before removing the casing with specialised tools specific to the make and model of the watch. They will then remove the movement, hands, dial and date disc before unwinding the mainspring and continuing to dismantle the rest of the watch into the numerous (sometimes into the hundreds) of tiny component parts that make up its various mechanisms, carrying out a series of polishing, cleaning and lubricating procedures before your watch is meticulously reassembled and tested to ensure they have retained their accuracy.
Naturally this requires a significant amount of knowledge of the watch in question, not to mention specialised tools, a practically sterile environment due to the disastrous effects dust can have on the inner workings of a watch and not a little patience and manual dexterity.
The care and specialisation required in servicing and rebuilding more complex timepieces is the reason for the time and expense involved in a service.
The length of time it can take is simply down to the availability of fine watchmakers. There simply aren't enough watchmakers to service the watches that need servicing. This means that waiting times can be long. The situation is the same for independent (certainly in the UK) and for sending your watch to the manufacturer.
Why service your watch?
The first sign that your watch might be in need of a service is generally the gaining or losing of time. You may notice the watch is a few seconds fast or slow every day. The Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute’s (or COSC) certified chronometer daily rate tolerance is -4 seconds to +6 seconds a day though most manufacturers aim for better than this. Your watch falling outside these guidelines is often a sign that the lubrication on the watch is beginning to degrade or that parts inside the watch are wearing down.
In the case of quartz watches, when the battery is low you will often see the second hand 'jumping' in five second intervals. This means it is time for a battery change.
You may also hear rattling inside the case due to loose parts or notice moisture in the case which is a sign of the waterproofing beginning to fail. If you notice either of these you should get your watch serviced immediately as either of these can cause a breakdown of the components inside the watch.
If your watch is working fine it’s probably tempting to put off getting it serviced until you start to notice an actual problem with it. After all, why fix what isn’t broken?
The reason most watch manufacturers recommend you get your watch serviced every 5 years is that once you notice that something’s wrong it’s often too late. A lack of servicing can lead to damage to the inner working of the watch that often requires more specialised work, increased repair time, replacement parts and, of course, yet more expense.
If you’re concerned about your watch or want more advice on getting a service feel free to contact us here at TWG Watches and we’ll be happy to help.
Since the introduction of, at the time, revolutionary quartz technology for watches in the late 1960s watch aficionados have debated whether they prefer the classical stylings of mechanical movement or the ease and simplicity of quartz-based watches.
But what are the differences? How do they work? Is one really better than the other? We take a look at the mechanics, benefits and drawbacks of each.
So, what’s the difference between mechanical and quartz watches?
For those unfamiliar with the basic concept behind each style of movement let’s look at how they actually work.
A mechanical watch movement is one of the great achievements of human engineering, first appearing in Europe in the 17th century in an golden age of innovation that also saw the appearance of telescopes, microscopes, electricity and calculus to name but a few. In mechanical watches a spring, known as a mainspring, gradually unwinds at a known rate, transferring its energy, in a regulated fashion, to a host of gears and wheels that translate to the hands on the dial of your watch. Ensuring the regulation and accuracy is no easy task, especially in changing and challenging environments, which is why Harrison’s marine chronometers of the late 1700s were such a fantastic achievement. That’s not to say mechanical watches are historic remnants; contemporary watchmakers are constantly innovating for accuracy, precision and complications. It’s an exciting industry where art truly meets science as can be seen in this picture below of a Bremont automatic chronometer.
Mechanical movements can be hand wound or automatic. Hand wound watches require regular winding to ensure the main spring is wound and can release energy to the gears to keep the watch moving. Automatic watches have a rotor, which spins when moved during wearing, which keeps the main spring wound.
A quartz movement is electronic in nature and uses a battery to apply an electric current to a quartz crystal. The current causes the crystal to vibrate at a specific frequency, approximately 33 times a second, which is used to time the release of power through an integrated circuit, providing an accurate measurement of the time. A quartz watch will run constantly, with little variation, whilst the battery has charge.
You can usually spot the difference between a quartz and a mechanical watch as the second hand on a quartz watch will tend to ‘tick’ from one second to the next. On a mechanical watch, the second hand will tend to sweep continuously. Beware though as this is not always the case, there has been a recent fashion for high-end mechanical watches to be produce with a ‘tick’, or ‘dead beat’ seconds as a sought after ‘complication’ as it is a mechanical challenge to produce.
This Rolex is a Oyster Quartz - one of only a few thousand produced. Note the 'tick' of the second hand:
Advantages and Disadvantages: mechanical and quartz watches
In terms of pure accuracy and ease of use, quartz watches hold the advantage. The electronic method of measuring the time stays correct for longer and generally requires less maintenance. Quartz watches are always ready to be worn and show the time and date as accurate. They are perfect if you are an occasional watch wearer, or change the watch you wear regularly.
There is a school of thought, however, that watches are pieces of art as much as they are there to provide a practical function and, to that end, the intricacies of a mechanical watch definitely win out. Let’s be honest, most people just look at their phone to tell the time. The feeling of wearing a tiny machine on your wrist, as well as the connection to hundreds of years of watchmaking tradition, means that watches with a mechanical movement are commonly viewed as the watch of the connoisseur.
There are, of course, disadvantages to each. The need to replace the battery in a quartz watch is often seen as a counting against them. Some mechanical watches, however, must be manually wound (although most modern ones use the kinetic movement of the wearer’s wrist to wind the spring) and must be serviced occasionally which can work out to be more costly and time consuming than replacing a battery.
Which is better: mechanical or quartz watches?
No watch expert will be able to give you a straight answer on this. Do you want a timekeeping device that is accurate and easy or do you like the idea of cogs and springs whirring away and interacting in the watch’s interior like a miniature ecosystem?
Almost all very high-end watches will be mechanical watches and many of the high-end manufactures don’t make many, if any, quartz watches. Those that do produce quartz watches, such as Tag Heuer and Omega, pitch those watches at the lower end of their price range because those wishing to spend very large sums of money on watches tend to want mechanical watches.
While in practical terms it’s hard not to recommend a quartz-based watch there’s definitely something to the personality and charm of a mechanical watch that makes them hard to resist.
If you need advice on the best kind of watch for you feel free to get in touch with us at TWG Watches and we’ll be happy to wax lyrical about it. It’s our passion after all!