Friday, August 14, 2009

Maintenance & Repair

A wristwatch is an item most people have and wear daily, whether to the office, on a scuba dive, or an evening at the opera. It is is one of the few devices that we rely upon without interruption in our daily lives. However, the inner workings of a mechanical watch are far more intricate than most people realize and they require a certain degree of care and maintenance. It's important to understand the purpose and limitations of your timepiece. A knowledgeable watch sales person at an authorized retailer is often the most suitable person to answer all of your questions. Please note that buying your timepiece from an authorized retailer is the only way to ensure that you'll get the proper manufacturer's warranty. Should you purchase your watch from a non-authorized source, you will likely be promised a "warranty" provided by the retailer themselves. A local watchmaker affiliated with such a dealer will handle your timepiece, in lieu of a proper factory service center with staff fully trained in that brand's techniques. Full timepiece servicing can be expensive so having a proper warranty can usually outweigh the savings you think you will get from buying from a non-authorized source. Servicing on a mechanical watch can be lengthy and expensive, taking 3-4 months (more for advanced complications) for completion and costing in the approximate range of $400-$900. Generally speaking, quartz watches, which use a battery for a power source, doesn't require any service until the battery needs replacement, usually 2-3 years from the time it leaves the factory (note that this is not necessarily when you purchase it). Mechanical watch movements, meaning automatic watches or those needing hand-winding, require a more dedicated level of maintenance. Because these watches have movements comprised of hundreds of moving parts, they require multiple types of lubrication to ensure optimum performance and minimized wear through friction. Most fine watch companies suggest that you send your mechanical watch in for general servicing and a movement overhaul every 4-6 years. This is a safe and conservative guideline to think about in keeping safe your investment in a fine timepiece. In the last 10 years, continued advancements in movement technology, assembly and lubrication have made the need for service even more infrequent. If you don't get your watch wet and it is continuing to keep good time, you can often go 1-3 years longer. For users who swim or regularly immerse their watches in water, it's important to have the case and crown seals checked and the watch pressure tested periodically. It is a good rule of thumb to have this procedure carried out every 2-3 years, or every year in the case of divers whose lives depend upon their timepiece. WATCH CARE GUIDELINES - Watches with water resistance under 50 meters really shouldn't be subjected to immersion, if you can help it. If your timepiece has a screw down crown, always be sure that it is completely secured down before entering any water. - If you regularly get your watch wet, make sure the seals are tested regularly and that a pressure test is performed to verify the security of all case seals - Never press any buttons on the watch or adjust the crown when the watch is wet or underwater, unless the manufacturer SPECIFICALLY has engineered the watch for such activity (as always, thoroughly read your owners manuals to be absolutely certain) - Realize that if you wear a timepiece with a leather strap in hot climates, perspiration will degrade the strap faster and necessitate its replacement sooner - If you own a chronograph watch, NEVER push both buttons at the same time. - Most automatic watches have a 40-50 hour power reserve when they are fully wound. If you let your watch sit idle for a day or two, make sure you wind it 20-30 times before putting it back on. (being sure to screw the crown back down after this operation, if your watch has such a crown) - If you put your watch on a watch winder, keep in mind that some automatic movements need a more aggressive winder regimen to keep them wound. Also, some watches have rotors that wind in only one direction of rotation. If the winder isn't keeping the watch wound, the fault may lie with the winder's operation, rather than the watch itself. - Numerous watch companies have a close marketing affiliation with the sport of golf. Despite this relationship, golfing while wearing a mechanical watch is not a good idea. The shock that occurs to the balance staff, the escapement, and other fragile parts in your mechanical movement can often accelerate wear sharply and take a toll on accuracy. Take your watch off when you hit the links, or wear your Timex Triathlon, or some other battery-powered quartz athletic watch. PREVENTATIVE CARE FOR COMPLICATED WATCHES - These watches, by definition, are particularly delicate and deserve special care. As a rule, do not subject these timepieces to any strenuous activity. With some exceptions designed specifically for this type of usage, avoid exposing such timepieces to water. - With very few exceptions, NEVER adjust the hands of a perpetual calendar watch backwards; advance the hands clockwise only. - If you are setting a perpetual calendar, make sure the hour and minute hands are in the bottom hemisphere of the dial before using quick-set features. Instructions may vary according to the manufacturer, but in general, this rule can be applied broadly. - Avoid exposing Minute Repeaters (or any watch with striking or chimes) to any shock. When engaging the chiming function, pull the lever completely and do not repeat more often than every 30 seconds. Grande Sonneries are particularly vulnerable to mechanical mishap as a result of being chimed with insufficient energy in the movement, so follow instructions on such exceptional timepieces to the letter.

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