Just like a good car, fine watches need maintenance. The extent of this service depends on the timepiece, its movement and its age. For instance, quartz watches generally don’t need a lot of maintenance. They typically need a battery replacement every two to three years, though some watch brands now offer quartz watches with a battery life of up to five years. The thing to remember about having your watch battery changed is to go to an authorized jeweler so you can be sure the store has the right battery and – better yet for water-resistant watches – the right gaskets for putting the watch back together after the battery change. Bad seals or gaskets can render your watch NON water-resistant.
Mechanical watches, much like automobiles, need regular servicing. The inner movements of the mechanical watch are lightly lubricated to reduce friction of the parts and ensure accuracy and reliability. Deterioration of the lubricants occurs over time and results in higher friction, increasing wear and tear and decreasing precision. A mechanical watch should be serviced every three to five years by a retailer authorized by a particular brand to work on that brand’s timepieces. (Certain extremely high-end, complicated luxury watches that utilize silicium or other high-tech materials in their movements to reduce friction need servicing less frequently.)
Servicing of a mechanical watch — especially a vintage or a complicated watch — is not just a simple oil change as it would be with a car. It is a thorough inspection wherein the watchmaker takes the case backs off of the watch, inspects the oils and lubricants and re-oils, if necessary. He or she also checks the gears, the teeth, the wheels and the crown. The crystal is inspected for scratches, and the case, as well. It is a complex process that takes time, precision and a meticulous eye.
Often, the retailer’s on-premise watchmakers have trained with the individual brands the store sells so that they are well versed on the brand’s movements. Sometimes these training sessions take place at U.S.-based service centers, and other times watchmakers travel to Switzerland for training. Utilizing an authorized retailer ensures not only proper parts and servicing, but also expert care. Additionally, sometimes the retailer will send the watch back to the brand if servicing is more complex. This requires time and owner patience.
Remember, letting a watch go too long without service can result in more expensive repair issues down the road.