When your grandparent bequeaths a family heirloom to you, you likely feel a mix of emotions, from gratitude to pride to sadness, because the item reminds you of your loss. But even if you acquired an heirloom-quality watch through a purchase, you still have the responsibility of maintaining the timepiece for future generations.
So how often should you service your antique watch? And what, exactly, should that service entail?
Treat Your Watch With Care
Before you even think about when you should have your antique watch serviced, make sure you’re treating your watch well to keep it in top condition. This means handling it gently (don’t drop, shake, or tap on it) and keeping it clean.
Use a lint-free cloth to gently clean the crystal and the case so fabric fibers won’t work their way into the mechanical part of the watch. Don’t overwind your watch. To set it, move the hands in the clockwise direction only.
Above all, keep it away from water! Antique and vintage watches aren’t waterproof or even water resistant, so don’t forget the watch in your pocket on laundry day. Avoid magnets also, as these can affect the workings of old watches.
If your watch is already quite dirty, don’t try to clean it yourself, and don’t wind it. Grit and grime in the watch can get worked into it when you wind it, creating scratches or grooves that can negatively impact the watch’s operation. When you take your watch for service to a professional watch repair shop, they’ll clean it for you.
Antique vs. Vintage Watches
Truly antique watches are those that are more than 100 years old. “Vintage” watches range from 50-99 years old. Anything younger than that is called an “estate” piece. All antique and vintage watches are “mechanical” watches, meaning they must be wound manually, as opposed to watches that run on batteries.
Mechanical watches are inherently less accurate than battery-powered watches. Antique watches will have a greater range of error than vintage watches, but don’t expect either to keep exact time. It’s not unusual for these watches to run one to three minutes behind time. Don’t overwind in frustration. Just factor in the difference when you’re on a tight schedule.
So after all this, how often should you service your antique watch? Generally, antique watches should visit a qualified watch repair shop around every three years for cleaning and lubrication. Some shops recommend two years, while others say your watch will be fine for seven years. Much depends on how old your watch is, its design, what materials it is made from, who made it, and how you treat it. Shop around for a knowledgeable repair shop, and pay attention to recommendations and testimonials. Of course, if you drop your watch or the crystal or case is broken or damaged, take the watch in for repair as soon as possible.
Caring for an antique watch just takes attentiveness and a gentle touch. Don’t wear your antique watch when playing tennis or golf and put it away when you’re out doing yard work. If you take good care of it, your watch should be in good shape when it’s time for you to pass it on to someone else in your family.
If you’re considering buying an antique watch for yourself or as a gift, browse our collection online or visit us in the charming, historic town of Solvang, California. Our store, Solvang Antiques, is located at 1683 Copenhagen Drive, Suite B in Solvang, CA. Call 1-805-686-2322 for hours and to discuss your specific interests in antique watches.