The watch you wear is a defining feature of your look and the impression that you make. When you walk into a room it’s said that the first thing people notice are the shoes and the watch that you’re wearing. Once you’ve bought the timepiece that is right for you, it needs care and maintenance, in the same way that your car or property does. But what kind of professional care does your watch need?
Why do you need to service your watch?
Automatic watches use energy stored in a wound spring. This energy is slowly released through a set of gears as the spring unwinds, which turns the mechanism and drives the movement of the hands. Regardless of how expensive or well-maintained your watch is, the mechanical action of the intricate cogs and gears will ultimately result in wear and tear.
Quartz watches, powered by a battery, also contain small parts, including cogs and an electric motor, so servicing is still necessary.
During a watch service, the components will be cleaned, any damaged parts replaced and lubrication applied to the moving elements of the mechanism. Any minor external blemishes or knocks can also be polished out.
How often should you have your watch serviced?
Recommendations for the regularity of servicing vary between manufacturers, but typically between every three to five years.
If your watch is running well after five years with no issues, should you still book it in for a service? It could be argued that once a problem has become evident then the damage is already done, damage which could have been prevented by an earlier service. Others say if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. There is a school of thought that argues a service is only needed when your timepiece starts running faster or slower or has a clear problem. To support this, there are examples out there of watches that haven’t been serviced for twenty-five years but are still in perfect working order.
It really comes down to your own choice – taking your watch apart, re-lubricating the parts, and cleaning it will prevent parts wearing. If parts wear they will in turn damage other parts. It all costs money, and if you only need to replace a part or two, a valid question would be whether or not the cost of that part outweighs the cost of regular services.
How long does it take?
Some independent repairers offer a 7 day service for an additional fee but if serviced by the manufacturer, your watch can be away for upwards of six weeks, and sometimes several months.
What does it cost?
Servicing costs are more expensive for mechanical compared to quartz watches, due to the increased intricacy of the movement. If we use Breitling as an example, in the UK they currently charge £340 for a complete service on a quartz, and £385 for a self-winding mechanical watch. It is possible to source independent watch repairers who will service a Breitling timepiece from £150.
Mechanical and automatic watches are traditionally more expensive to buy than battery powered quartz watches, but there is a market emerging for automatic and affordable luxury watches which has changed the landscape and means that you can now buy beautiful automatic timepieces for less money than it costs to service a more well-known brand.
Who should you trust to service your timepiece?
You can take your timepiece back to the manufacturer for its service, which often carries a premium price tag, but they are likely to carry out additional work such as replacing the battery and seals. There are other touches too, such as the watch being returned in a service case, complete with a certificate of authenticity and an insurance valuation. If you send your timepiece back to the manufacturer, any replacements will be original parts and will come with longer guarantees, but as mentioned above, the service is likely to be a lot more expensive.
Another thing to consider is that often a brand will replace parts during a service whether or not it is necessary. The result is that while you’re getting a comprehensive service, the work might not all be strictly required so you end up paying more.
Finally, because of the amount of work they get, waiting times are often a lot longer at the manufacturer. This, combined with more competitive pricing, has led to a rise in popularity of third party servicing. If you do decide to use a third party, ensure you check their credentials and speak with people who have used them in the past to ensure their competence.