3 Signs It’s Time for Watch Maintenance

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Mechanical watches are the result of great engineering. They require a sizeable investment because they represent a long history of expertise and handcrafted ingenuity, and are meant to last for a lifetime.

As well made as they are, they’re not “set it and forget it” machines. They can run trouble-free for many years, but they still require regular maintenance. Many in the watch industry suggest getting a watch serviced, anywhere between 3 to 5 years.

That said, there are some reliable signs that your watch needs to be checked by an expert – even if it has been serviced recently.


What does it mean to “service” a watch?

A full service entails a couple of complicated procedures. It begins by opening the watch, disassembling the movement, and cleaning its parts. Some parts will need to be fixed or replaced if there is damage.

Once it’s cleaned, the movement is reassembled and its parts, especially contact points, are fully lubricated. The gaskets – a mechanical seal that fills the parts between two surfaces – are also changed to ensure that water resistance is replaced. The watch is then adjusted and timed for accuracy.


Jaeger LeCoultre Master World Geographic Mens Watch
Mechanical watches are meant to last for a lifetime, but still require regular maintenance.
Pictured: Jaeger LeCoultre Master World Geographic Mens Watch


Signs that your watch needs a service

Most watch manufacturers recommend a service every 3 to 5 years, and some can stretch as long as 10 years. However, there are telltale signs that your watch needs a service sooner rather than later. Look out for these signs:


1. There is moisture inside the watch case.

Moisture is one of the main causes of damage in watches, as it can cause corrosion inside the movement. If you notice moisture or condensation underneath the glass, you need to have it professionally checked as soon as possible.

Moisture inside the watch may indicate that the gaskets have been worn out or that the watch was not resealed properly (if it has just recently been serviced).

Lastly, keep wearing your watch, even at night, if you can’t send it for servicing immediately. Your body temperature will help keep moisture away from the moving parts.


Tag Heuer Grand Carrera and Omega Speedmaster Titanium MoonWatch
Moisture and magnetism are some of the most common causes of damage in watches.
Pictured: Tag Heuer Grand Carrera and Omega Speedmaster Titanium MoonWatch


2. It’s not keeping accurate time.

According to COSC or Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute’s standards, the margin of error for a watch is up to 4 seconds slow or 6 seconds fast. Some watches may have a stricter margin of error, such as Rolex with its current +2 / -2 standard.

If your watch is running slower or faster than this, then it’s best to have it checked by a professional.

There are different scenarios for this. It’s possible that your movement has been magnetized; the lubrication in your watch is drying up and needs to be oiled again or some parts have been worn down or affected by impact. In any case, an expert needs to assess what may be causing the inaccuracies.


Cartier Calibre Silver Dial and Black Dial Chronograph Mens Watch
If your watch is not keeping accurate time, it may be time for a service.
Pictured: Cartier Calibre Silver Dial and Black Dial Chronograph Mens Watch


3. Some parts seem to be either loose or tight. 

There are at least 100 different parts in the average automatic watch that can be jostled as you wear it. If the hands seem to be loose or you hear a rattling noise inside the watch, there may be a spring or screw that’s not in place. It’s a good idea to have your watch checked to see if everything is in its right place.

You may also notice that over time, the crown becomes stiff or loose; and it becomes more difficult to set the time and date. It may indicate that the stem (which is inside the watch movement) has been stuck or has snapped – and it will need to be professionally repaired.



It’s also a good idea to have your watch checked if you will be exposing it to elements — such as when you’re going on a vacation. Have it checked for magnetization and water resistance and inspected for any loose or damaged parts.

These preventive measures will ensure that your watch is protected against common hazards and will be in tip-top shape.





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