Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?
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Thread: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

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  1. #1
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    Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    Curious about this. Some of the 50+ year old watches on eBay / vintage watch sellers have lots of marks on inside of caseback, others have none.

    If it has none - does that mean it hasn't been serviced in its lifetime?

    Intuitively that seems incorrect. But curious what other vintage watch buyers think about marks like that.

  2. #2
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    Re: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    I should add too that I recently acquired a late 1950s / early 1960s Longines Flagship that runs +/- 5 seconds WITHOUT any marks on the inside of the case back. So part of my interest in this question is practical, I'm wondering if I should take it in to be serviced. Would feel a bit silly doing so since it's running so accurately.

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    Member Dan S's Avatar
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    Re: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    I have often read that vintage watches should ideally be serviced every 5 years or so, regardless of whether they are keeping good time. The issue is related to the degradation of lubricant, accumulation of particulate matter, and wear-and-tear to the various contact points of the movement. It is preventative maintenance, like changing the oil and other fluids in your car, even when the car seems to be running well.
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    Re: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    If the watch is old enough - then I generally see the lack of marks as a sign it has never been serviced. There might have been a few watchmakers that didn't scratch in a code - but I think that was the exception not the rule. So if an old watch has been routinely serviced it would likely have some marks. Unless of course it was always taken to the same watchmaker who was also one that didn't track work this way...

    Certainly I have seen signs of the same watchmaker servicing the same watch for years. At least that is how I interpret the columns of scratch codes with the same number of digits all about the same size.

    I have not seen as watch without marks which had definitive signs of service in the movement itself (marks on the plates or bridges, marks on screws, an alloy spring where the factory would have had a blue one). Of course, a good watchmakers leaves no such traces behind...

    I would have the watch serviced...or at least looked at by a professional with a good reputation.

  6. #5
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    Re: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    Thanks guys, appreciate the comments - very illuminating. I'll have it looked it!
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    Re: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    Quote Originally Posted by orzo1212 View Post
    I should add too that I recently acquired a late 1950s / early 1960s Longines Flagship that runs +/- 5 seconds WITHOUT any marks on the inside of the case back. So part of my interest in this question is practical, I'm wondering if I should take it in to be serviced. Would feel a bit silly doing so since it's running so accurately.

    A watch that has not been serviced for years can run fine without service up until the parts grind themselves up due to lack of lubricant.

    Running well is not an indicator of it being serviced. When it doubt service it.

    Now a lot of watch out there were not serviced because they did not cost much and it was cheaper/same price to get a new watch when the old one died.

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    Re: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    I'm sure that a lot of vintage watches with no service marks were probably not serviced. I'm sure it was much easier to buy a watch in the 50's & 60's but money for service was probably limited. Unless someone did their own servicing, I would bet that watches were just put in a drawer until sold or inherited when they started running irregular.
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    Re: Does lack of marks on inside of caseback mean it hasn't been serviced?

    Learn how to visualize amplitude, look at the regulator position, and use a loupe to see how "dirty" the movement looks. All of these are tell-tales of neglect or recent service, and I would say more reliable than relying on caseback markings.

    BTW, things like screw heads can also tell you a lot about a watch's service history.
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