Mechanical watches are designed to last a lifetime, and if taken care of they can last multiple lifetimes. Normal wear and tear from everyday wear is expected with watches, which is why it is recommended to service them every 3-5 years. While these mechanical watches are designed to withstand normal wear, they are still very easily damaged, requiring extensive (and expensive) repairs, in a few very simple ways.
Everyday Ways to Damage Your Watch
One of the easiest, and possibly the most common way to damage your watch is to drop it. Damage can come from a short drop or from a greater height, depending on the landing surface and how the watch falls. Any time the watch slams against a hard surface, it can potentially cause damage, this includes when it is being worn and collides with something hard.
To prevent dropping the watch, carefully remove it from your wrist or case and keep it away from ledges. If you’re planning on wearing the watch while potentially running into walls or other hard surfaces, maybe consider taking it off first.
Improper Watch Storage
Storing the watch properly also can help keep the watch ticking and avoiding damage. Keeping the watch in extreme heat or cold can cause damage to the movement and gaskets. A quick transfer from excessive hot and cold temperatures can cause parts to expand and contract. This can lead to water vapor entering the dial and movement and causing damage. Heat can especially dry out the lubricant, or cause it to congeal, creating friction on the gears.
Keeping your watch in room temperature environments and gradually changing the extreme environmental situations is ideal. If you know your watch will be in extreme temperatures, make sure it has had a proper servicing to check the gaskets for a tight seal.
Setting Functions Wrong
Incorrectly setting the functions on your watch can also cause damages to the movement and gears. Setting the date during the “danger zone” period can cause a misalignment of the date window and broken parts in the movement. The danger zone of watch setting is between the hours of 9pm and 3am. During this time the gears are in movement to switch the date.
If the date window is misaligned, you may begin to see the date change early or even after midnight rather than right when the watch hits 12am. Refer to the watch instruction manual for safe times and safe date changing procedures. Typically, bringing the hour hands to the lower half of the dial avoids the “danger zone.”
The functions aren’t limited to only date changing. Improperly setting any complication on the watch can cause damages to the movement. Additionally, setting the time backwards rather than forwards can damage the mainspring.
Winding a Watch On Your Wrist
While it may seem easy, and convenient, to either wind or set the time on your watch while you are wearing it, you may be doing more harm. Wearing the watch while winding can accidentally pull the crown out, or cause you to over wind. The angle you are moving the crown at can cause stress on the movement. Removing the watch before setting both the time or winding will allow you to feel the resistance and pull the crown out at the right angle.
Most watches will have some resistance when the mainspring is close to being fully wound. In newer models, some mainsprings have a built in feature that allows you to continuously wind without hurting the movement. Double check your model, and if you feel resistance stop winding.
Cross-threading the Crown
Another way to damage the crown, other than pulling it at the wrong angle, is when you are threading it back in. Not all watches have a screw down crown but if yours does, be cautious when closing it. The crown can become jammed and cause permanent damage.
A crown that is slightly out of alignment can allow water to get into the movement and dial, causing further damage. To avoid cross-threading and jamming the crown, take your time while screwing it back in, avoiding force. Crowns typically rotate 1.5 full turns and could be up to three. Be careful of screwing the crown too tightly, it could also become impossible to unscrew!
Using The Chronograph Underwater
Starting the chronograph underwater can allow water to enter into the case. Timing underwater should be done with a uni-directional bezel rather than the chronograph. Pressing the pushers underwater can compromise the seal. This allows water into the movement, causing rust. The dial can also be damaged and can rust or become discolored.
To avoid the water damage, only use the rotating bezel while underwater. If you have screw down pushers, make sure they are also completely screwed down before submerging. If you’re not sure the gaskets are watertight, take your watch to an authorized repair center.
Incorrectly Aligning The Pushers
Along with adjusting the crown properly, you will also want to make sure the pushers are aligned. These pushers are most commonly found in more complicated watches, including perpetual and annual calendars. If you don’t push them in all the way before letting them out, the complication can get stuck in the middle. When a complication gets stuck, the wheels can break or the complication doesn’t advance properly.
Take your time when using the features of your watch. Push the pusher in all the way and then let it out all the way. It is important to use the correct stylus or push pin provided by the brand. Sometimes, the mistake can be quickly corrected by advancing the watch 24-hours, but in many cases this needs to be sent to an authorized repair facility.
Exposing the Watch to Magnetic Fields
A magnetic field may seem like an unknowing culprit that can damage your watch. The escapement can begin to act erratically and can even seize up. If you’re not familiar with the escapement, it regulates the oscillations of your watch and helps keep proper timing.
Avoiding putting your watch on radios, speakers, and electronic devices such as cell phones and tablets, is the best way to avoid damaging the movement. Some watches were specifically designed for high magnetic fields, such as the Rolex Milgauss and Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra.
Watches that have a high anti-magnetic features are labeled with their Gauss rating. A Gauss is the unit for measuring magnetism. With the advancement of watch technologies, some brands are using alternative, non-magnetic, materials inside their movements.
Take Care Of Your Watch
Preventing damage to your luxury watch will keep it running smoothly and will help avoid any costly repairs it may need. While all watches should have an overhaul every few years, between visits they should be in great running order. Store the watch in its box or another safe place when you’re not wearing it, and double check the different parts to avoid any unknown damages.