When a watch is serviced, oil is placed at specific
areas of wear such as pivot holes.  As time goes by,
dust enters the watch and the oil deteriorates.  This
deteriorated oil mixes with the dust and create a sticky
gritty substance that actually wears the pivots more
than if there was no oil at all . The balance wheel in
particular receives extreme wear, as it oscillates
18,000 times per hour. That is why a watch is oiled
very sparingly, reducing the possibility of oil migrating
to other parts of the watch and gathering more dust.

In the early century, watchmakers claimed that a
watch should be cleaned and oiled every year or year
and a half at the most.  The oils used at that time did
not hold up as well as modern synthetic lubrication.  
Even at that, many people of the time ignored that
advice and many watches were not serviced for five to
ten years, or until the watch stopped working.
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If you have acquired an old watch that has not been
run for quite some time and plan to start using it, then
it should be fully serviced.  After that, Opinion's vary,
but it is generally recommended that a watch be
serviced every 3-5 years if run on a daily basis.  How
a watch is serviced may very from watchmaker to
watchmaker, but  when I service a watch the following
procedure is followed:

Please see a complete checklist

What is involved in servicing an
antique mechanical watch, and how
often should this be done?
  • Complete disassembly
  • Cleaned in a three chemical agitation
    cleaning machine,
  • inspected for wear
  • re-assembled,and oiled
  • mainspring replaced
  • Regulated (as apposed to adjusting)
Complete disassembly is generally considered
the best way to clean a watch.  I use an agitation
cleaner, instead of an ultrasonic cleaner
because ultrasonic cleaners tend to loosen older
jewels out of their settings.  Also, since the watch
is apart already, it makes sense to replace the
mainspring (unless it has been recently