Precision timepieces are designed and built for durability and accuracy. However, there are limits to what a new watch can endure, and as with everything, time and wear take their toll on even the finest timepiece.
Temperature extremes may damage your watch or affect performance. Saunas, hot tubs, and even the dashboard of a car are too hot for most timepieces. The transition between very warm and very cold temperatures can cause damage and is to be avoided. Exposure to extreme cold may cause erratic timekeeping until the watch has reached normal operating temperature.
Nearly all mechanical timepieces are resistant to impact and are suitable for wear during mild sporting activities such as tennis or golf. However, the shock of impact against a hard surface could damage the mechanism, even if the watch is equipped with anti-shock devices.
Avoid exposing your timepiece to harsh chemicals, gases, or solvents. Hair sprays, cosmetics, perfumes, chlorine, adhesives, gasoline, paint, nail polish remover, and household cleaning chemicals can damage the finish of the case and bracelet, damage leather or rubber bands, or even work their way into the watch and damage the mechanism.
Exposure to strong magnetic fields or electronics that emit static electricity may disrupt your timepiece’s operation. Avoid close or continuous proximity to such devices as microwave ovens, televisions, computer monitors, speakers, and mobile phones. Magnetic coin trays or bracelets are also potential sources of trouble. In general, momentary contact is not harmful, but extended contact is to be avoided.
Keeping your watch water-tight is a number one priority. Even a diving watch can develop serious problems if the water tightness is compromised. Only allow qualified experts to service your timepiece. Even changing a battery should always be done by a professional equipped to test for water tightness. If your watch is serviced and not tested for water-tightness, treat it as not water-resistant until it is tested. Adjust the date or time only when the watch is dry to avoid introducing moisture within the timepiece.
Handle the crown gently, but make sure to close it securely after making adjustments. If your timepiece has a screw-type crown be sure to engage the threads properly and close the crown until it is fully closed. Do not force the crown if you feel resistance. Open it and carefully engage the threads before attempting to close it fully. Stop when the corn is fully closed and tight, but avoid using excessive force which could cause damage.
Setting Time and Date
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when setting the time or date on your timepiece. Improper operation can make your watch inaccurate or even cause permanent damage to the mechanism. As mentioned above, never operate the pushes, buttons, or crown if your watch is wet. If your watch has a screw-type crown, be sure to unscrew it before attempting to set the time or date, and to screw it closed securely after making changes to the settings.
Operate the crown gently when switching positions and rotating it to change settings. While durable, the crown and connected parts require careful handling to avoid damage. The date on some watches cannot be set when the display is between certain hours, as this can damage the date mechanism. Check your manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid damaging the watch during the date/time setting.
Check the AM/PM time setting before setting the date to avoid having the date change at noon instead of midnight.
If your timepiece has a quick date feature use it only to reach the date prior to the desired date. Then switch to the regular date setting mode and advance the hour until the data reaches the desired date.
A watch worn daily should be allowed to wind down completely before being wound. Watches worn only occasionally should be wound on the same day each week for the best performance. Never wind a watch while worn on the wrist as this can cause damage to the stem.
Manual winding watches use this method:
Grasp the winding stem between thumb and forefinger and gently pull the stem out and away from the watch to engage the winding mechanism.
Rotate the stem forward (towards the 12 on a wristwatch or towards the 9 on a pocket watch) and backward between the thumb and forefinger. Alternately, hold the stem still and rotate the watch body to cause the forward and backward motion of the stem.
Do not exceed a full rotation of the stem in a single motion.
Wind until the turning becomes hard, then stop. Be sure to wind the watch until you feel resistance.
Rotate the stem backward several times to relieve tension within the mechanism, especially in older watches.
Push the stem in towards the center of the watch to lock the winding mechanism in position.
Automatic winding watches are wound continuously by the natural movement of the wearer’s wrist.
However, they can stop if unworn. Generally, all that is needed is to put the watch on and wear it until the normal wrist movement restarts and winds the watch. Some automatic timepieces can also be wound manually, but others cannot. Consult the manufacturer’s documents for your timepiece to determine if the manual winding is possible, and for the correct method if it is possible. It is best to keep a watch wound and avoid having it stop and be restarted, especially if there are dates or other functions which must then be reset. An automatic watch winder is a good investment for a fine automatic timepiece.
Remove smudges and fingerprints from the crystal, case, and metal bracelet with a soft, clean cloth. The type of cloth used for cleaning camera lenses or spectacles is appropriate. Never use tissue, other paper products, or clothing material, as these can introduce scratches on the crystal.
Use the cloth gently and avoid pressing hard on the timepiece surface. Dirt or grit caught between the cleaning cloth and the surface can cause significant damage.
If your watch is water-resistant and less than 1 year old or has had water resistance certified by a qualified professional in the past year it is safe to use a soft brush and slightly soapy water to clean the metal parts and crystal. Be sure the crown is in place before beginning the cleaning and rinse the watch with clear water, and then dry it with a soft cloth.
Leather or other animal skin, fabric, or other natural material bands should not be cleaned with water as this may damage or discolour them. Normal wear will cause gradual changes that are to be expected and which cannot be avoided. Wipe perspiration or other moisture from the band to preserve the appearance as long as possible.
Timepieces should be stored without contact with each other or other items, such as jewelry. It is best to keep the watch in the original box or a case designed for storing multiple timepieces in separate compartments. Automatic watches are best stored in a watch winding device to keep them wound and operating.
Keep watches in a location that avoids extremes of temperature and humidity, out of direct sunlight, and never in the bathroom where moisture can cause damage. A closet or drawer is a good choice. Cigar humidors have been suggested as good for control of humidity and protection from light.
Very valuable watches, such as heirloom timepieces or those with precious stones should be kept in a secure location such as a safe, but always protected from impact and temperature/humidity extremes. Fire safes are not suitable for watches, as they promote moisture buildup. Even standard safes may require dehumidifying to protect the timepiece mechanism.