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How To Care For Your Watch At Home
Watch 101

How To Care For Your Watch At Home

By Natasha Fernandes
13 Nov 2023
6 min read

Our in-house watchmaker shares the best tips to keep your timepieces ticking 

In the watch space, even the most seasoned collectors occasionally find themselves lost when it comes to taking proper care of their cherished pieces. As an amateur collector, I found myself in a bit of a sticky situation three weeks ago when I accidentally scratched my Cartier Baignoire. This unfortunate incident was a direct consequence of my failure to keep it safe—I carelessly left it on the bedside table. Well, proper care and maintenance are essential to keeping your watches in pristine condition and ensuring accurate timekeeping. While professional servicing is recommended, there are several ways to care for your watches at home. 

Our Professional Services Lead, Peter Glomb shares some effective ways to store, clean, set and synchronize your watch with an atomic clock. Read on to explore the best practices to handle your watch like a pro.

Storage

When it comes to storage of your watches, it's helpful to approach it with a mindset similar to skincare. To maintain the optimal condition of your timepieces, make it a habit to establish a regular storage ritual, regardless of your fatigue levels. Keep in mind that caring for watches with bracelets or straps requires different methods due to the varying materials involved.

1. First things first, when you’re taking off or putting on your watch, make sure to take all your jewelry pieces off. This is to prevent any potential scratching or damage to both the watch and the other jewelry pieces.

2. Choosing a suitable storage location for your watches is vital. Opt for a dry and cool environment to prevent moisture damage and exposure to extreme temperatures, ensuring their longevity and optimal performance.

3. If you can get your hands on silica gel packs, do it! It helps to avoid moisture buildup.

4. Invest in a watch box or roll: These storage solutions shield your watches from dust, preventing it from settling on the delicate surfaces and affecting their appearance. They provide a layer of defense against scratches, keeping your watches in pristine condition. A watch box or roll offers cushioning and protection against potential impact damage, safeguarding your valuable timepieces from accidental bumps or falls. Also, watch rolls come in super handy when you decide to travel with your timepieces.

5. Avoid direct sunlight: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can fade the colors of watch dials and straps. Store your watches in a shaded area. If you do have a vintage watch, letting it sit in sunlight will accelerate the fading of the dial.

6. When storing your watches, remember these key points: opt for a wooden drawer if possible, as it provides a stable environment; protect gold watches from oxidation by storing them separately; never rest a watch on its caseback with the dial facing up; always use a soft cloth as a resting surface; and avoid resting watches with steel bracelets dial up. 

Cleaning

Regular cleaning is essential for preserving both the appearance and functionality of your watches. It is recommended to clean your watch at least once a week to minimize the buildup of bacteria and dirt. When cleaning, go for contactless methods, such as ultrasonic cleaning or using a mixture of mild dish soap and water. These approaches effectively remove impurities without causing damage to your timepiece.

1. Occasional Cleaning

Clean your watch with a gentle touch using a soft microfiber cloth, wipe away fingerprints and smudges from the watch case, crystal, and strap. When placing the watch down, it is advisable to use a nylon cloth as a protective barrier, avoiding direct contact with metal or other hard surfaces. Refrain from using harsh chemicals that could potentially harm the watch's finish and seals, prioritizing gentle cleaning methods instead.

2. Occasional Deep Cleaning

To ensure thorough cleaning, it is recommended to consult our watchmaker, Peter Glomb. He can assess your watch and provide guidance on whether it requires a deep cleaning or if it can be postponed.

3. Self-polishing kits are a BIG no-no! Self-polishing kits will significantly damage your watch. Best practice is to have a professional watchmaker/ polisher refurbish your watch using proper equipment and techniques. 

4. Ultrasonic cleaners are good to have. Mostly because you can do the occasional cleaning on your own. If you do use an ultrasonic cleaner with soap, the watch has to be rinsed of soap completely and then heat-dried with a dryer. Heat helps to evaporate any moisture. Don’t let it air dry.

5. To clean leather straps, a dry brush is ideal. 

6. If the leather gets wet, it is important to allow it to air dry naturally and avoid using heat sources.

Setting/Winding

Properly setting and winding your watch is essential for optimal performance. 

1. Different watches have different setting and winding mechanisms. For professional assistance with setting and winding your watch, we recommend visiting our store, Wristcheck. If you encounter any difficulties with perpetual calendars, our store is the ideal destination for expert guidance and support.

2. We have to bring this up sooner than later: NO WATCH WINDERS! (Yes, we had to put it up in all caps.) Watch winders accelerate the internal wear and tear on parts like the rotor axle, ball bearing and pivots.

Pictured is a worn pivot Photo: The Last Wind-Up
Pictured is a worn pivot Photo: The Last Wind-Up

3. Be gentle when setting the time: Avoid quick or forceful movements that may damage the delicate components inside the watch.

4. To maintain optimal performance of your mechanical watch, whether it is manual winding or self-winding, regular winding is essential. For manual-winding watches, it is necessary to wind them daily or follow the manufacturer's recommended frequency. Automatic watches can also be wound manually by rotating the crown 5-10 times. Self-winding watches are designed to generate a constant force, thus it is important to keep them fully wound at all times. Manual-winding watches require hand-winding to maintain a full wind.

5. When manually adjusting the date on your watch, it is important to ensure that the hour hand is set to either 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. This positioning prevents the engagement of the date-jumping mechanism, particularly during the hours between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Service Intervals

Regular servicing is necessary to keep your watches in top condition. 

1. Regular servicing is recommended for mechanical watches approximately every 3-5 years. Neglecting to service a watch and prolonging the interval can lead to potential damage to its components, but mostly it will lead to inaccuracy.

2. Indicators that suggest the need for service: When your watch begins to exhibit time gain or loss or when one or more of its functions cease to operate, it is advisable to seek professional servicing for your timepiece.

Timing to an Atomic Clock

Synchronizing your watch with an atomic clock ensures precise timekeeping

1. Ensure accuracy by utilizing reliable reference sources, such as online atomic clock websites or radio-controlled clocks that synchronize with atomic time. Another convenient option is to use your cellphone as a reliable timekeeping reference.

2. Perform a comparison and adjustment: Compare the time shown on your watch with the precise atomic clock time. If any discrepancy exists, make the necessary adjustment to the time displayed on your watch. 

3. Perform regular checks: Periodically verify and adjust the time on your watch using an atomic clock as a reference, as watches may experience slight gains or losses of a few seconds over time.

4. Ensure precise synchronization: When comparing your watch to the reference clock, set the seconds hand to match the exact second. Then, wait for a minimum of 24 hours before verifying the accuracy of your watch. This way you can compare and establish the seconds per day variance of your timepiece.

5. You can buy a timing machine or visit Wristcheck to get your watch timed. Five-position timing is the most accurate way to verify the precision of your watch because a mechanical watch can perform drastically differently across multiple positions.

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Book an appointment with our Professional Services Lead here.