Monday, May 11, 2009

The Curse of the White Towel

Early morning breakfast without reading the daily papers is inconceivable. Having nothing better to do, my attention was caught by a small label sticking out from a cotton towel laying on the kitchen table:

"Wash separately before use. Wash dark colours separately. Warm gentle machine wash at max temp 40C. Do not use oxidizing/chlorine based bleaching agents. Avoid excessive use of fabric softeners and detergents containing optical brighteners. Warm tumble dry.
Do not iron or dry-clean. 100% cotton..."

Before you stop reading and conclude that I'm going cuckoo, I just want to make a point out of this random, ordinary observation. Isn't it amazing how much information the $5 dollar towel manufacturer provided on the label concerning "duty of care", required to keep the towel in top condition for the years to come?

Yet, how many high grade, elaborated and expensive watches come with any information such as "How to care" manual, service papers, or even technical information?

Here is an example of an International Guarantee card, enclosed with a $2,500 high-grade mechanical Swiss watch:

"This ... watch has been manufactured at Bienne Switzerland with choice materials only. For two years from date of sale, this watch is guaranteed against all defects, except those resulting from willful neglect."

How pathetic!

Believe it or not, the most common factor that cause the premature death of watches is not poor design, bad engineering or inferior parts used in production... The real 'cause of death' is simply a lack of regular maintenance and basic understanding of the watch's functionality.

It is a common mistake from all watch manufacturers to spend too little time (if any) in educating new owners upon acquiring their precious products. Instead, more effort and money are invested in advertising brand names, less on how to care for the watch.

Obviously, watch manufacturers are not very keen to tell you the truth:
Your mechanical watch is NOT capable of keeping flawless time,
it is most likely NOT water or shock resistant
and it requires maintenance on a regular basis, performed by an expert watchmaker.

If your watch would come with a label, like the ones produced by Caninngvale Australia, it would read something along those lines:

"Your watch is miracle of mechanical engineering. Although beautiful and expensive, it is very fragile so extra care is needed to assure proper performance. It is built to last for ever, as long as you take care of it -so complete overhaul on a regular basis is absolutely essential. Do not wear it while showering, surfing, swimming, being in the sauna, playing golf or sailing.
Do not wear it while operating electrical tools, bungee jumping or on public transport after midnight. If you do so, then you'll get what you deserve, or more precisely you'll lose what you don't deserve in the first place.

Branding is nothing. Your watch is not of investment value because watches in general are poor investment. However if you look after it like you should, it will have enormous sentimental value to your kids - until the day they run out of cash."

So there you go - I can't help but help.


redwolf said...

What would be a fair estimate on how often a watch needs regular maintenance? Does it differ on whether the watch is worn every day, regularly or on special occasions?

Nick said...

A regular overhaul is advised due to the deterioration of lubricant and the rubber seal. Ideally, overhaul should be carried on a mechanical watch every 4-5 years.
In addition to regular services, professional water resistant watches have to be pressure-tested on a yearly basis.

If the watch is not worn everyday, the owner can wait for up to a period of 5-6 years before sending the watch for servicing.
Beyond that time-frame, permanent and irreversible damage might affect your watch, resulting in inferior performance and poor timekeeping.

David Barrett said...

I actually thought wearing my watch in the shower wouldn't be a problem at all - given its 150m water resistance and that I'm always careful to make sure the crown is locked tight.

Similarly, even playing golf seemed surprising as a "risky watch" activity - until I saw your earlier 'Golf anyone?' post.

Rod said...

hot tubs do a wonderful job of slow simmering the internal seals and mechanical works as well.

wackyvorlon said...

I would add: This is a precision instrument. It is exceedingly delicate and expensive, show it due respect.

It's a funny thing, in the past a watch was expensive and hard to get. Now it can be something trivial.

Anonymous said...

They gave the Apollo teams a bunch of Speedmasters and told them to go to the moon and back - risky behavior, yet the watches (except one) withstood the punishment.