So you just bought yourself a watch. Or you inherited it. Or you received it as a gift. Either way, if you want to keep it running for a long time, you need to know how to take care of your watch.
We admire precision timepieces for their high quality and functionality—it’s the reason they command such a high price. It’s more expensive to repair a broken watch than it is to maintain one, but luckily, taking care of your watch is easy if you know what to do and maintain it regularly.
Basic Care and Maintenance
Wear Your Watch Regularly
If you think storing your watch for long periods of time keeps it in perfect condition, think again. Regularly wearing your watch is what will really keep it in perfect running condition. Wearing is caring—wear your watch if you really want to take care of it.
Why’s that? When you wear your watch regularly, you maintain the viscosity of the lubricants in the movement. When the watch is a standstill for long periods of time, these lubricants may harden, causing friction. Eventually, this friction may damage the functioning of the movement.
So if you don’t wear your watch regularly, wind it at least once a week. This keeps the watch gears moving and keep the lubricants from hardening. Better yet, get a good watch winder, which will keep your watch functioning properly when it’s not on your wrist. Read more here.
Clean Your Watch
A luxury watch requires occasional cleaning and upkeep. There are many places on a watch where dirt, body oils, and other greasy particles can accumulate: between the links on the bracelet, in the area joining the case and the bezel, and around the lens. If you’re wearing your watch regularly (as you should be), you’ll need to thoroughly clean your watch every so often:
- Remove the band or bracelet from the watch case. (Need a refresher on how to do that? Check out this quick video.)
- Place the bracelet in a bowl of warm water and mild dish soap. Have a leather strap? Put it in a bowl of warm water and white vinegar. Leather cleaner also works well.
- Let the band soak in the water. If the dirt build up is light, the watch may only need to soak for a few minutes. For heavier dirt build-up, let the bracelet soak for a couple of hours.
- Once the dirt has separated from the band, take a soft-bristled toothbrush and lightly scrub the band to loosen any leftover dirt.
- Rinse the band off in clean water until you’ve removed all dirt from the bracelet.
- Take a lint-free cloth and dry off the band and the watch. Be sure to dry up all of the moisture to prevent mildew.
- Once the watch is completely dry, assemble the band back onto the watch case and immediately put it back on your wrist.
There are some easy, daily things you can do to clean your watch. Wipe down your watch bracelet with a lint-free cloth—that’ll keep you from having to deep-clean it often. Also, keep perfumes, colognes, and lotions away from your watch area. These liquids get caught in your watch and cause dirt build up.
Wind Your Watch
It should go without saying that you need to wind your watch. An unwound watch left unused starts to malfunction, which can be an expensive fix. To take care of your watch, make sure it’s wound regularly.
When you’re not wearing it, a self-winding watch will continue running for 48 hours before it stops tracking time and goes into power reserve mode. To get out of power reserve, just set the time and wind the watch. To do that, turn the crown clockwise a few times, then set the necessary time by pulling the winding stem out one notch. Generally speaking, it’s best to turn an automatic watch 30 times the first time you wear it. They have clutches that disengage the winding mechanism, so no matter how many times you wind it, it can’t be over-wound.
If you need to store your automatic watch for an extended amount of time, seriously consider getting a watch winder. It’ll wind the watch for you when you’re not wearing it.
If you have a manual watch, you should try to wind it at the same time each day, preferably before putting it on. The amount of winding a manual watch needs really depends on its make; some may require winding once a day, while others may only need once every two or three days. When you’re winding the watch, you should always stop when you feel even the slightest bit of resistance—you could damage the spring if you wind it too much.
When In Doubt, Read the Manual
While the steps we laid out above are all necessary to maintain your luxury watch, it’s important to know that every watch is different. You should always consult your watch manual before doing anything to your watch. Don’t have the original manual? There are plenty of online resources at your disposal. Or, visit a watch specialist who can give you specific advice.
Don’t Try This At Home
We strongly recommend you never open your watch yourself. Doing so might expose the movement to moisture or dust and cause more harm to your watch than good. And if your watch needs a repair or service, never try to do that yourself. Leave that kind of work to the experts.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on January 15, 2014. We have updated it for clarity.