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.
IT’S NOT A MIC, DON’T DROP IT...
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 a long one 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.
GENTLY STORE THEM WHEN NOT WEARING THEM
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.
MESSING WITH THE SETTINGS
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.
USING THE CHRONOGRAPH UNDERWATER
Starting the chronograph underwater can allow water to enter into the case. Timing underwater should be done with a unidirectional 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.
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.