Have you obtained a vintage or antique mechanical watch? Perhaps you have recently inherited a fine timepiece. Or you have started a small collection of watches for your enjoyment. Should you keep them regularly serviced?
Research your timepiece
Do you have a collectible piece that will continue to increase in value? Even If not highly collectible, is it a fine quality watch? Does it have sentimental value for you or your family? A detailed search on the internet should identify the piece and determine if it has any monetary value. Plentiful information can be found about watches with recognizable names such as Rolex or Omega. But for many good quality watches with lesser-known names, finding good information can be a challenge. Any reputable watchmaker can provide you more information about your watch. Please visit TimePieceShoppe to contact me if you need.
The Mechanics of a Vintage Watch
(This applies specifically to a mechanical watch that needs to be wound up, not a battery-operated quartz watch). Mechanical watches obtain power from a wound-up steel spring. When wound and running this spring exerts a relatively large amount of sideways pressure to the pivots on a series of gears (called the power train). As it runs these pivots are subject to friction and wear if not kept lubricated. Even if the works (known as the movement) looks clean and runs fine, the oil and grease evaporates and thickens over the course of several years even if the watch has not been wound. If the watch is run in this state, this increased friction will wear heavily on the pivots and jewels and eventually require costly repairs. Pieces with added complications such as calendars, automatic modules, and chronograph functions contain numerous moving parts that are wearing down with daily use.
The Problem of Parts
A regularly serviced watch can last for many many years. But if one adopts the “wait until the watch stops” philosophy, then the parts will start wearing out. The number of remaining factory parts for vintage watches is finite, and the cost to replace these parts will only increase. So the longer you wait to service your watch, the higher the cost will be. It may even become impractical to repair a heavily worn-out watch. Here is a good article on this particular issue with Rolex watches.
So what’s the verdict?
If you have determined that your watch is valuable, monetarily or sentimentally, then it should be serviced regularly. See What is involved in servicing a Watch for more information. I have had many watches come through my shop that have been neglected, and the inevitable costly repair could have been avoided if the watch was cared for. Conversely, I have seen many watches that are 150 years that have been well cared for and that look and operate almost like new. So if you do have a timepiece that is valuable (or valuable to you) then it is worth it to keep it serviced. If you need your watch serviced, please visit my site TimePieceShoppe.