Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.
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  1. #1
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    Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    I have a small but growing collection of vintage manual mechanical watches. I had intended to rotate their usage in order to extend the life span of each individual watch. Hoping that the theory would work that if I use a watch less it will last longer before needing servicing/repair as the the parts of the movements will experience less wear.

    I recently read that a mechanical watch has to be wound every day or the lubricant will dry out and the movement become stiff/break/not work properly etc.

    Is this really true

    I recently inherited an early 60's Omega Sea Master 30 which hadn't been wound since the 80's and it works perfectly. The same with a 30's Laco Watch that hadn't been wound since the 1950's.

    What's the real scoop? To preserve a wind up is it better to have it running all the time or to let it sit unwound and still in a drawer.

  2. #2
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    All mechanical watches need service eventually whether they sit in a drawer or not. There's lots of info on here about that topic if you care to search. Certainly any watch that's 30 (or 80!) years old should be serviced. A watch can run and destroy itself internally while still appearing to keep good time.
    Obviously a watch that doesn't run won't wear itself out until you take it out of the drawer and wind it up decades later. But watch out if it isn't serviced at that point. Most 100 year old antiques that work well today probably sat around for 70 years and then were serviced.
    Last edited by Ray MacDonald; September 3rd, 2012 at 03:29.

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  3. #3
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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    The modern oils used today are well formulated for their use. They do not age so quickly.
    I think it is beneficial for the watch not to run ( if not used).

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  5. #4
    Member Gary123's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    A watch wears out from running, although this is a slow process. If you will not use a watch for long periods, it is best not to have it running. However, the oils or lubricants in a watch must be replaced around every 5 years. A full service is required for this. It makes little difference if the watch has been running every day for those 5 years or if it sat in a drawer. Also gaskets, which protect the movement from intrusion of water and to a lesser extent dust, need to be replaced every 5 or so years.

    It is a simple test for a watch repair technician to determine if the watch needs a full service (overhaul). They can put it on a machine and get a readout. I would suggest you have your vintage watches checked for servicing and water resistance - if they were rated for it. As Ray said, they may seem to be running fine, but all the lubricant could be gone and parts may be wearing excessively.
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  6. #5
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    Quote Originally Posted by TimeWanderer View Post
    I have a small but growing collection of vintage manual mechanical watches. I had intended to rotate their usage in order to extend the life span of each individual watch. Hoping that the theory would work that if I use a watch less it will last longer before needing servicing/repair as the the parts of the movements will experience less wear.

    I recently read that a mechanical watch has to be wound every day or the lubricant will dry out and the movement become stiff/break/not work properly etc.

    Is this really true

    I recently inherited an early 60's Omega Sea Master 30 which hadn't been wound since the 80's and it works perfectly. The same with a 30's Laco Watch that hadn't been wound since the 1950's.

    What's the real scoop? To preserve a wind up is it better to have it running all the time or to let it sit unwound and still in a drawer.
    Your plan will indeed extend the working life of a watch. But the beneficiaries of such gentle treatment will be several generations down the road. A single well made automatic watch if worn every day and serviced only when the accuracy or power reserve changes will literally last the owners life time. The case will likely show wear and tear but the movement will be fine.

    The oils in your watches will need to be replaced regardless if you use the watch or not. The easiest way to determine if service is needed is to just be aware of accuracy and power reserve. When either one changes significantly the oil is thickening and need replacement. Another benefit of regular service is that the moisture seals are replaced before they leak.

    With a watch collection it is important to only wind the watch you will wear today. Let the others run down.
    skidfrog likes this.

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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    Wait I'm a little confused, do I have to get the watch re-oiled/serviced regardless of whether its keeping perfect time every five years?Or should I wait until I notice a slight difference in accuracy and power reserve? There seem to be two schools of thought here.

    I think for sure though I won't be winding up the old seamaster and laco until I get them re-lubricated, just to be on the safe side considering their age. But for a newer or recently serviced watch which is the better methodology.

  8. #7
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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    Quote Originally Posted by TimeWanderer View Post
    There seem to be two schools of thought here.
    Well, there are two schools of thought...
    Last edited by ken_sturrock; September 3rd, 2012 at 12:13.

  9. #8
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    I thought we were talking vintage here. A new watch is a different matter because of dust/water protection among other things. A new watch is more likely to have modern lubricants. A new watch has a known usage history or will have.
    A new watch can go longer than 5 years in all probability - whether you use it or not. But I'd say by 10 years it'll need service whether it sits in a drawer or not. And if it's a very high end watch I'd be getting it serviced every 5 years. Why take the chance it'll wear excessively?
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  10. #9
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: Question regarding keeping mechanical watches working.

    Quote Originally Posted by TimeWanderer View Post
    Wait I'm a little confused, do I have to get the watch re-oiled/serviced regardless of whether its keeping perfect time every five years?Or should I wait until I notice a slight difference in accuracy and power reserve? There seem to be two schools of thought here.

    I think for sure though I won't be winding up the old seamaster and laco until I get them re-lubricated, just to be on the safe side considering their age. But for a newer or recently serviced watch which is the better methodology.
    There is no reason to disassemble, clean, reoil, reassemble and retime a watch if it continues to run accurately and maintain a good power reserve. If you can't determine whether the watch is performing properly then it's a good idea to spend a couple hundred dollars to have it serviced. But sitting it on a shelf won't buy an extended service interval.
    Last edited by John MS; September 3rd, 2012 at 17:11.

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