12/15/2015
 3 minutes

Watch Service & Repair

By Christopher Beccan
Watchmaker at work
Watchmaker at work

Owning a mechanical watch is much like owning a car. I’ve been asked on various occasions for advice when it comes to buying a watch but I always throw a caveat regarding servicing in there with my suggestions, too. To which I’m always asked, “What do you mean servicing?” Well, I always put it like this: a mechanical watch is much like a car, and just as your car needs servicing, a mechanical watch needs servicing. As with anything that is mechanical, in order to maintain its performance, it needs servicing at regular intervals. There is no doubt that some would argue how regular is, well, regular, of course. I’d say between 4–5 years should be about right. Some watch manufacturers may insist that even more frequent servicing is necessary, but let’s not get into that just now. So this is something you have to factor in when buying a new or for that matter a pre-owned watch—and I’m not even talking about vintage watches. That is a whole other thing, which I will get to.

So what is the process for new and old watches, what is carried out, what is done, and how long does it all take? That last question can also depend on where the watch is taken for servicing. There are quite a few things that will happen to your timepiece when it is being serviced, but how much is done all depends upon the condition of your timepiece. A routine servicing will involve the watch being completely dismantled, including the crown and possibly any pushers if it is a chronograph, along with the case being broken down into its individual components. The dial will also be taken out, along with the movement. At this point, your watch will be extensively examined to look at the condition of parts to see what may need replacing.

Omega Speedmaster Movement 321
Omega Speedmaster Movement 321, Image: FratelloWatches

Now, this is where things start to get a little bit interesting—at this point, any part of the watch case that needs to be refinished (polished) will be worked on until it is as factory fresh as possible (this will also include the bracelet if the timepiece is accompanied by one). The entire case will be sonically cleaned and reassembled. Then the movement and dial will be completely dismantled, the movement will be checked for wear, any parts that need replacing will be replaced, and the entire movement will be cleaned and reassembled. Then the performance of the timepiece will be checked under strict control conditions. The entire watch will be put back together, and there you have it: your watch, freshly serviced.

As you can see from the explanation of what will be done to your watch, it is not quite comparable to having your car serviced. There is a lot more involved. What I’ve just mentioned above, though, is what you would expect a modern timepiece to go through. Vintage timepieces, on the other hand, are a whole other subject. You see, the thing with vintage is keeping things as original as they come, so all that case refinishing (polishing) is not something many collectors would want to see their prized possession go through. That’s something I completely understand. Replacing parts on dials would be another no-go area. The one area that collectors of vintage pieces always want to see in good working order is the movement, and this is where some problems can crop up. Depending on the movement, it can sometimes be very difficult to find replacement parts.

Now, the bit I haven’t mentioned is how much this can cost but that question is rather ambiguous, so I’ll just say this: it all depends on the watch brand, the condition of the watch, and most importantly, how complicated the watch is.

Watch Service
Watch Service, Image: Bexsonn

And this leads me to the next area I have avoided: time. As you can see, there is a lot involved in servicing your watch. Depending on whether replacement parts are needed and the complexity of the watch, a watch service will take some time. In most cases that means a few weeks. This is also due to logistic processes because highly valuable watches are often sent back to the manufacturer in Switzerland, Germany or Japan, which can be a long travel route.

Therefore, always consider this insightful bit of information when purchasing a timepiece—but don’t let it stop you from picking up the piece of your dreams.


About the Author

Christopher Beccan

Christopher Beccan is the founder of the online magazine "Bexsonn," where he regularly writes about his two passions: extraordinary timepieces and whiskey. His work …

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