Monday, May 10, 2021

Service overdue by 650 days


No, this is not a stock photo - my car is actually almost two years overdue for a service. Before you (rightly)  call me an irresponsible car owner: there is a valid explanation. Since 2019, that car has been parked in garage and driven for less than 2,000 km. 

Many of you, watch collectors and enthusiasts, use the same excuse. "I have 20 watches I wear in rotation. Low mileage, no need for service." 

Technically, if your watches are 5 years old, or have not been serviced in the past 5 years, then they actually do. Of course, I am not here to judge you. The purpose of this short write-up is to help you understand the timeline of the disintegration process in mechanical watches, and hit the brakes before its too late, too expensive, or both.

1. "My 10 years old watch is perfectly fine, it just no longer holds full power reserve". Loss of power reserve (watch stopping overnight) is the first sign that a watch is overdue for an overhaul. Paradoxically, some watches with poor power reserve will still keep reasonably accurate time, therefore good timekeeping alone is not a sign that a watch should be worn. The right thing to do: stop wearing that watch and have it overhauled. 

2. Watch stopping while worn on the wrist. Think of it as a red engine light: a last and final warning that if no immediate action is taken, the watch will be dead in matter of months. 

3. “There is some rattling inside, but the watch still keeps reasonably good time if I wind it every few hours, by hand.”

Rattling is never a good sign. Actually, the very first thing I do when inspecting a watch is to check for ‘rattling’. Rattling means that some watch components are heavily worn out, disintegrating or already floating lose inside the case. The fact the watch no longer winds itself means that the entire auto winding section has failed. Broken jewels, worn-out arbours, lose screws. Ratting is expensive!

4. The watch has stopped completely, and even winding it manually won't get it going. It’s dead. Unfortunately, this is the time when most watch owners decide to take the watch for service. Again, unfortunately, cleaning and oiling will no longer be enough to return the watch in good functioning order. The engine has 'overheated and seized up'.  An expensive and time consuming rebuild. You’ve killed it.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that a watch worn on rotation has to be serviced as frequently as the one worn daily. However, it is very important that you watch for that first ‘service overdue’ sign: the loss of power reserve. If a watch worn for 8 hours or so does not ‘last’ for at least 24 hours of the wrist, then don’t wear it anymore, have it serviced. Beyond that point, you are on borrowed time, don’t push your luck.

Enjoy your watches, but do take good care of them. Remember – they are built to last for many  decades, and if you look after them, they will. 

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