Mechanical watches at least in my assumption are one of the wonders of the world, considering when they were first conceived, and how little, the very basics of their time telling prowess have changed right up to this day. As time moved through history, or history through time, we leaned towards throwing out the past in the relentless quest of improvement and wonder. That mechanical watch on your wrist today has had many foes in the past trying to end it’s reign as a mechanical wonder, but it has fought off all attackers, including the quartz revolution, admirably.
But, mechanical watches do not become vintage, or collectors items without a little care along the way. You effectively have a motor on your wrist, so from time to time the hood, or the case back as it were needs to be lifted. Those same watches also need to be parked correctly while not on your wrist. So with full due respect to our choice of telling time, let’s take a look at few things we can do to keep our passion running smoothly.
1.Changing The Date
The first rule you should adhere to before you walk out the door with the correct time and date on your wrist, is to never set that date between the hours of 10 and 2 on any mechanical watch, whether it be automatic or manual wind. Most mechanical watches are in the process of automatically changing the date between these hours. Any other forced manual change while the auto date change is engaged could do damage to the movement.Ulysses Nardin is one of the most well known Swiss brands immune to this horological quirk.
2.Changing The Time Backwards
It seems a harmless enough action to take, changing the time backwards, after all they built the watch with the hands free to spin both ways, so what could the harm be? Actually, if your watch has the simplest of complications, say for instance, a date window, depending on the watch, the harm could be substantial. As mentioned earlier Ulysses Nardin can tolerate such an action, but it is good to get into the 10 and 2 rule. Never change the date between 10 and 2 o’clock.
Most modern day automatic mechanical watches are designed with a mechanism that allows the mainspring to slide inside the barrel once it is fully wound, to avoid damage from over winding. Manual wind watches are a different story. You will feel the spring tighten and the crown becoming tighter each turn. That feeling should be followed by you immediately stopping the winding process and pushing in or screwing down the crown.
4. Chronograph Use
On the vast majority of modern day chronographs, the stop and start button are almost always the same button generally located at 2 o’clock above the crown and can be pushed at will to measure intervals of time. The reset, normally at 4 o’clock, when pushed will reset all chronograph sub-dials. Flyback chronographs snap all time indicators back to zero in an instant, while non flyback chronographs reset in a slower clockwise rotation. The best rule of thumb when it comes to chronograph usage and water, is, never start or reset your chronograph while the watch is submerged in water. Even though Omega, I.W.C. and a handful of other brands are built for such usage, the benefits may outweigh the costs. Personally I engage the chronograph before entering the water to swim and stop and reset the dials after exiting the ocean to view the accumulated time.
5. Screw-down Crown
This one is simple short and sweet. If you own a watch with a screw down crown and or chrono pushers, check, double check, and triple check, that they are screwed tightly in place. To my knowledge no watch is equipped with a bilge pump, and that is exactly what you will need should you forget this one simple step.
Speaking of water, hot water in a jacuzzi for instance, which feels really good to an aching human body, may not produce the same sensation for your watch, as you relax your weary muscles. Dive watches with extreme depth ratings may suffer no adverse effects from hot water. But if you wear your favorite Swiss timepiece with a 3 to 5 ATM water-resistance, the rates of expansion of the metals the crystal, and one of the most vulnerable parts , the gaskets, you may open yourself up to water damage and a large repair bill at your local watchmaker.
If your Rolex Submariner suddenly begins to run fast or slow, one simple thing to check for is to see if your watch has become magnetized. We are inundated daily by a myriad of frequencies waiting to reek havoc on our watches.If your watch is anything like mine it hangs out by a computer and a cell phone all day long, both producing ample interference to affect your time. Magnetism primarily impacts the balance spring which plays a key role in the accuracy of your watch. If the spring is magnetized the hairspring coils can become attracted to each other mimicking the effect of altering the hairsprings length, therefore speeding up or slowing down the watch. Many top Swiss brands, most notably, the Rolex Milguass, equipped their watch with a soft iron core to deflect magnetic fields. A good service department, like the one at Hal Martin’s Watch & Jewelry Co. will have a degausser which often times can quickly fix the problem.
As your watch collection grows so equally decreases the amount of time you have to wear each timepiece. Not to mention, falling in love, for a time, with a certain piece, can leave everyone else left alone on the shelf, movements idle. Mechanical watches have various types of oil inside the movements to lubricate such delicate parts. Left sitting on the dresser those oils begin to form a skin, akin to can of paint forgotten in the garage. Therefore it’s viscosity or effectiveness diminishes. The best solution is to maintain all of your watches on an automatic winder to keep everything moving and happy. Picture your dog, he is healthiest and happiest when he is running. Depending on the immensity of your collection cost could become a factor, or not. If so, the best alternative is to invest a little bit of time each week and give everyone a good wind to keep them happy. And who knows with whom you will fall in love with once again, for a time.
Service is always an entire article in itself and today is not the time. The basic rule of thumb you will hear throughout the watch world is, service your watch every 3 to 5 years to help avoid any problems from normal usage or neglect.
So there we have a few guidelines to help you care for one the great joys in your life and allow them to continue to help you smile.