How often should I service my automatic / mechanical watch

I got this boy size Rolex watch from my Dad, 39 years ago!

When I got it, the watch was already more than 10 years old and it needed a new crystal and was not keeping time. My Dad had it repaired (for a princely sum in those days) and gave it to me as a birthday present.

I used the watch regularly when I was in primary and secondary school and in the 70’s and 80’s it was very unusual for a kid my age to wear a Rolex watch to school. Many people thought it was a fake 🙂

I started wearing it less when I enlisted in the Army and then started working’ Firstly because I did not want to damage it when I was in the Army and also because it looked a little small on my wrist.

Over the last 20 years however the watch has been used at least once every 10 days or so and has always kept time. A part finally broke on it a couple of months ago – AFTER 39 years – and I had it repaired and serviced for about $120.

Whilst it was in the shop I got the crystal polished and the watch is working perfectly. I hope it won’t need another service for another 39 years. 🙂

Why am I sharing this story?

I always get asked by friends and readers of this blog how often they should service their watch. Even worse, I often hear “horror” stories about people who have sent their watches back to Rolex, Omega or other brands and paid a lot of money for what can be done for less than $200.

Just last week, Jenny told me that she got her 6694 repaired at Rolex for more than $2000 – basically more than the watch sells for today.

Don’t get me wrong. If your watch needs parts such as dials, inserts or pushers that is only stocked by the brands themselves,, you will need to send it back to an agent by 90% of the time an experienced watchmaker can repair your watch for a fraction of the price.

Also, the main reason why you need to go back to the agent for the parts listed in the preceding paragraph is because major watch brands (primarily under the Swatch brand) are restricting supply of these parts to watchmakers. Check out this post if you are interested to find out more.

Coming back to the original question for this post – how often should you service your mechanical watch?

My answer is “never” – unless it stops working correctly.

Let me qualify that answer. I am not a watchmaker, simply a collector. I have more than 300 watches and about 40 of those I wear ‘regularly’.

Less than a handful of them are quartz watches but the rest are not. I have had about 3 of them serviced in the last 20 years but the rest work perfectly. Anytime one has had an issue, I bring it to an experienced watchmaker and he gets them working again.

I generally do not use these mechanical watches for swimming but every time I swim in the ocean or use them in extreme situations, I give them a rinse with water to get rid of the dirt and grime, dry them off and put them back in the watch case for it’s next ‘adventure’.

If you have the budget or are inclined to follow the ‘instructions’ of watch brands to get your watch serviced every 3 – 5 years and only at one of their service centres, that’s fine but I do not and have never seen the need to do so. This is just my perspective that I wanted to share with readers.

Happy collecting.

4 Comments Posted

  1. Hi,
    I came across your blog while searching for a vintage watch repair shop.
    I have a 1960 Poljot alarm watch which was working fine until it got a slight knock last week and stopped moving.
    While it is not expensive, I really like the aged champagne dial.
    Would you be able to advise where can I find a vintage watch repair shop which charge reasonable fee?
    I went to Bencoolen last week and one quoted me 150 bucks without even opening up the watch.
    Thank you so much.

    • Emmanual,

      It all depends on which shop you went to.

      If you like, you can send me your watch and I will see what I can do to get it back in working order.

      I will cap the repair to S$50 or less.


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