Watch Care 101: How to Care for your Timepiece

Watch Care 101

Buying a watch isn’t an average purchase. It’s an investment in a piece of functional art that you may plan to pass on to future generations. Watches are built to withstand the test of time, and they can run for decades or even centuries with proper watch care.

Whether you just invested in a new timepiece or whether you were given or inherited one, you’ll want to keep it looking great and working smoothly for the years ahead. In order to do that, it’s important to practice proper watch care. It’s more expensive to repair a watch than it is to maintain one, and, luckily, taking care of your watch is simple if you know what to do and maintain it regularly. That’s why we’ve outlined some easy practices for basic care and maintenance.

Clean Your Watch

There are a lot of small creases and crevasses to clean on your watch where dirt and oil can accumulate, from the links in the bracelet to the area joining the case and bezel. Day to day, you can wipe down your watch with a lint-free cloth, but you should also do a deeper clean of your watch every couple of months. Simply remove the bracelet from the watch and soak the case in a bowl of warm water and mild dish soap for a few minutes or hours, depending on how dirty the watch is. You can repeat this same process if you have a bracelet strap, or, for a leather strap, soak in warm water and white vinegar instead. Be sure your watch is completely dry before reassembling it.

Wind Your Watch

Winding your watch is an imperative aspect of watch care. An unwound and unused watch can malfunction and be expensive to repair. If you have an automatic watch, it will continue running until it goes into power reserve mode. To get out of power reserve mode, set the time and wind the watch. With automatic watches, clutches disengage the winding mechanism, so there’s no way it can be over-wound. If you have a manual watch, try to make a habit of winding it at the same time each day. With manual watches, you should always stop winding when you feel the slightest bit of resistance. Otherwise, you can damage the spring if you wind it too much.

Wear Your Watch Regularly

It may seem counterintuitive, but wearing your watch regularly will actually keep it in better condition than storing it. Wearing your watch regularly helps to maintain the viscosity of the lubricants in the movement. If your watch remains untouched for long periods of time, these lubricants can harden and cause friction, which can ultimately damage the movement.

Store Your Watch Properly

If you don’t plan to wear your watch regularly, it’s important to store it properly. The best possible place to keep your watch is in a watch winder. A watch winder will not only keep your watch safe and dry but also keep the gears moving and prevents the lubricants from hardening. If you don’t invest in a watch winder, the original box or a watch roll is the best place to store your watch. Try to remember to wind it at least once a week and keep it in a dry, temperature-controlled place.

Know Your Watch’s Water Resistance

Most modern watches are built with a certain water resistance, and it’s important to know the unique measure for your watch. However, vintage watches may not be water resistant, or they may lose their water resistance over time. If your watch isn’t water resistant, it can likely still handle a small splash of water from washing your hands. However, the best rule of thumb is to avoid water exposure. If your watch has a leather band, you should also avoid getting it wet as water can damage and weaken the leather.

Avoid Extreme Heat and Humidity

While many watches are built to endure the elements, it’s good practice to avoid exposing them to extreme heat or humidity. Don’t let your watch have extended exposure to direct sunlight. The heat can shorten the battery life and the sunlight can fade the color of the watch face or leather band. Humid conditions, even those in your bathroom, can damage your watch and increase the likelihood of rusting. Any drastic changes in temperature or humidity could be detrimental to your watches ability to function properly.

Avoid Chemicals and Colognes

You should also keep your watch away from chemicals like cleaning supplies, colognes or perfumes, and even substances like lotions. They can get caught in those tiny creases and crevasses of your watch causing dirt and debris to build up. If you have a leather band, these types of substances can weaken the leather or even cause it to tear. Be sure to take off your watch before cleaning or if you apply a cologne, perfume, or lotion. After application, make sure it’s completely dry before putting on your watch.

Avoid Magnets

Try to keep you watch away from magnets, from small magnets like handbag clasps to large magnets like airport detectors. Any type of magnet has the ability to severely damage your watch and cause expensive repairs. If your watch slows down or stops after magnet exposure, take it to an expert repair or service person.

Read Your Manual

We’ve laid out some basic watch care and maintenance steps that apply to watches across the board. However, it’s important to remember that every watch is unique and should be treated as such. You should always read your manual before doing anything to your watch. If you don’t have the original manual, a quick search online for your particular watch can help you find resources for your timepiece. 

Get Your Watch Serviced

The one thing you should absolutely never do in watch care is open your watch. Opening your watch could cause further damage by exposing its inner workings to moisture or dust. If your watch malfunctions or stops working, you should always take it to an expert.

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