5 Uncommon Ways You Can Break Your Watch and How to Avoid Them
Watches can be built to withstand extreme conditions and still fail under the smallest mistakes. No matter if it is a rugged tool watch, or a luxury watch costing in the hundreds of thousands, or made of very durable materials like Titanium Grade 5, there is still a risk of rendering the watch useless if you don’t know about these mistakes.
We’re not going to be covering obvious stuff here like exposing your watch to strong magnets or dropping them off a good height. We’re looking at more subtle ways that sound harmless at first but are actually stuff you need to be mindful of and avoid.
Let’s get right to mistake number 1.
1. Letting it Sit Idle for Weeks / Months
Since we can only wear one watch at a time, people with larger collections of watches will have units that stay in the drawer (or vault, wherever you like to store them) for long periods of time.
Or behind some cans of paint, your choice. Source: WatchPro
This stops the watch caliber from operating as it is normally powered by your movement from day to day wear. In itself, this is not a big deal as you can simply wind the crown to ‘charge’ up your watch movement, but what you may not have known is that letting it sit idle for extended periods will actually cause the oils to concentrate and lose their lubricating properties.
These pockets of oil can then dry up and gunk up the gears of the movement, and when this happens, it’ll cost you a trip to the repair shop.
What to do?
Outside of wearing the watch from time to time, the one other solution to keep your watch from idling too long and developing this gunk issue is by using automatic watch winders. These are special storage units that will not only keep your watch away from dust, they will also spin your watch to keep them wound during the entirety of their storage.
That said, you should be wary of cheap watch winders which can also ‘overwind’ a watch. A watch is actually meant to stop moving every once in a while so keeping it spinning 24/7 for weeks is also detrimental to a timepiece.
A good watch collector keeps 'em spinning. Source: Millenary Watches
There are brands like Wolf which come highly recommended, as they are aware of this issue and their watch winders actually count the turns and stop from time to time to keep a watch from overwinding. They even have models that are calibrated to specific watches or watch movements - something hardcore enthusiasts and luxury watch owners can appreciate. These cost hundreds of dollars which may sound expensive but if you are using them to extend the longevity of watches that cost tens of thousands, they are well worth it.
2. Adjusting the Date at the Wrong Time
Still related to the first issue about having a watch sit idly for long periods, there is one small action that can be very bad for your watch if you do it, unaware of the consequences.
Once a watch goes to a complete stop and you wind it back up again, you will also have to set it to the correct time. But if you happen to be setting your time and date between 9 in the evening and 3 in the morning (this is the time on your movement, not actual real-world time), you can damage the date change mechanism and cause the date wheel to misalign on the date window of your dial.
The time in which you adjust your time, is of the essence. Source: Gear Patrol
Why does this happen? Since date changes are an instantaneous switch unlike the hour hands that tick slowly, the date mechanism “charges up” to build enough torque for the switch. This charging up starts at 9PM and lasts until 3AM when the watch owner is supposedly asleep.
When accessing the date setting system between this timeframe, you are exerting more force than intended and can cause damage.
What to do?
It is actually quite simple: avoid setting the date between 9PM and 3AM and you should be good. The most recommended time to do the date change is between 5 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon, a good few hours before or after the date change mechanism does its job.
That said, this specified time frame may not be applicable to all watch calibres, and some movements don’t even carry this risk of damage at all. Be sure to check this info for your particular watch before hastily setting your time and date!
3. Wearing and Winding
Much like drinking and driving, winding your watch while it is still on your wrist is something to avoid. Doing so can accidentally cause overwinding, or in extreme cases, cause you to suddenly pull out the crown and damage the watch movement. For people with wider or thicker wrists, this can also cause you to wind the crown at an angle which can put unwanted stress on some parts of the movement.
Don't try this at home! Source: Grayton Watches
Do it enough times over a period of time and you can even break the crown stem or worse, the movement’s mainspring. When this happens, it’ll be time to hit the watch repair shop.
Sure, it’s more convenient to just wind the watch while still wearing it, and there’s a certain charm to doing this, but is it really worth the risk?
What to do?
Real gentlemen know to remove the watch from their hands first before doing any hacking or hand-winding. It is important to pull out the crown at the correct angle before making adjustments. This simple gesture will extend the longevity of your watch and if you make it a habit, you will thank yourself in a few years’ time.
4. Forcing in the Crown
Okay, so now you know that you need to take off your watch before adjusting the time or date. Do you also know how to properly put back the crown?
This part may not be applicable to the newer Seiko 5 Sports watches which have a push / pull crown but for divers watches that have a screwdown crown, this is important. The crown threading is very delicate and should perfectly match the threading on the crown tube of your watch. You should feel some resistance when threading it in, but not too much that it stops and prevents you from screwing the crown in further.
The crown can be a single point of failure if not handled properly. Source: Hodinkee
If it stops halfway, the threading on the crown and crown tube might not be perfectly aligned. You might be tempted to just force it in, but this can be a very expensive mistake.
It can ruin the threading on the crown, which is still relatively easy to fix, but you also run the risk of damaging the threading on the crown tube. And if your case does not allow for changing just the tube, then you’re looking at an entire case replacement.
What to do?
Careful with the crown. Source: WatchuSeek
Crown adjustments should always be done delicately, especially for divers watches with screwdown crowns. Once you feel some resistance while threading, and especially if it stops and you can’t rotate the crown further, unscrew the crown immediately and try again. If it gets stuck (can’t thread it in or out), you need to wobble the crown just enough so the threading gets unstuck and you can pull it out to try again.
Take your time during this process and soon you’ll get a feel for how to properly handle this delicate part of a watch.
5. Not Bringing it in for Servicing
No matter if you use your watch regularly or not, bringing your timepiece in for servicing in their recommended interval is a must. Watches are mainly serviced to replace the lubricants which dry up after a few years. In the early days when whale sperm was being used to lubricate the watch movement, you would have had to bring in your watch every year. Thanks to technological progress, we now use synthetic oils that last much longer and thereby extend the time between servicing.
Have a professional take a close look at your watch every few years. Source: Crown and Caliber Blog
Aside from dried up oils, gaskets also naturally degrade over time. When these rubber gaskets or O-rings dry up and become brittle, they lose their function of keeping a watch water resistant.
And if you regularly bring your watch for diving, you may not notice it but moisture can get inside a watch and rust some of the parts.
What to do?
Watch servicing can get pretty expensive since checkups can cost hundreds of dollars while full servicing can cost thousands. That, on top of the price you paid for the watch. While watchmakers will advise you to have your watch checked every 2 years, you can safely go 3-5 years before having your watch serviced depending on how often you use it.
Overhauls are recommended every few years. Source: IWC
When it comes to your most used diver, having the water resistance checked every year is the norm.
Remember that the longer you unnecessarily wait before bringing in your watch to the service center, the greater the wear which can lead to some permanent damage.
As with any tool, the more you use them, the more likely you are to break them. Watches are not an exception to this. Unless you tuck your watch safely away in an automatic winder, you’re going to scratch it, bump it, maybe even drop it, and unawaringly do things that can cause damage to it.
If your watch is not working properly, it is best to bring it to a professional as DIY-ing a stopped watch can cause more harm than good.
But if they’re just simple visual issues like scratches and dents, you might be able to repair them at home. If you’d like to try your hand in a bit of DIY, you can check out our store for a wide selection of Seiko mod parts that you can use to repair and upgrade your SKX-style or Seiko 5 Sports watch.