11/15/2021
 6 minutes

Make Your Watch Last a Lifetime With These 5 Watch Care Tips

By Donato Andrioli
IWC-Big-Pilot-wind-up-2-1

Purchasing and wearing a luxury watch are both very special experiences. To make sure it stays that way, we’ve compiled our top five tips for how to care for your cherished timepiece properly. Follow these, and your luxury watch will last a lifetime.  

1. Wind Your Watch Correctly

If you already have experience with luxury watches, this pointer will probably sound a bit trivial to you. However, when I think back to my early days of watch collecting, I know that beginners can be particularly afraid of breaking something. I’ll tell you in a moment when it’s worthwhile to be more cautious, but when it comes to winding, the fear of damaging your timepiece is, in most cases, completely unfounded. If you have an automatic watch, turn the crown about 30 to 35 times to wind it. As long as you wear it regularly, you won’t need to rewind your watch until you leave it off for a few days and its power reserve runs out. You can’t break your automatic watch by “over-winding” it, so don’t worry. If you have a manual or “hand-wound” watch, you will need to fully wind the watch every time the power reserve is running low or exhausted, regardless of whether you’ve worn it or not. In this case, you actually do have to be a little more careful when winding: When the crown resists turning, the watch is fully wound. At this point, do not continue winding as you can, in the worst case, damage your timepiece.  

A bit more caution is necessary when winding a manual watch than an automatic one.

2. Clean Your Watch Properly

If you want to remove dust and dirt from your watch from time to time, you can use a clean, soft microfiber cloth. However, be careful not to apply too much pressure when cleaning – even a soft cloth can leave fine micro-scratches on your watch’s polished surfaces, especially if small dust particles have found their way onto the cloth. If your watch is water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft), you can occasionally clean it with lukewarm water and fragrance-free detergent. Make sure that the crown of your watch is screwed down to prevent water from entering the movement and maintain the timepiece’s water resistance. Use your hands to clean the watch, as they are gentler compared to other cleaning utensils. Then, rinse the watch thoroughly until all detergent residue is gone and pat it dry with a soft, clean cloth. Afterward, let your watch air dry for a bit. 

By the way: For an even more thorough cleaning, you can also use a soft toothbrush. But beware: Even the softest brush combined with mechanical friction can leave behind a lot of micro-scratches. I had the pleasure of discovering this effect myself when admiring my own self-cleaned watch one sunny afternoon. So be careful when using a brush for cleaning. If your watch is only water-resistant to 50 m (5 bar, 164 ft), you should avoid water altogether and only clean the watch with a damp cloth. While I do know some people who have gone swimming with their Speedmaster Professionals, I would strongly advise you to avoid this risk so you can enjoy your watch longer. Cleaning your watch is an essential part of watch care. When you use the right methods and care, your piece of jewelry will shine like new.  

Water-resistant watches can be easily cleaned with water and detergent.

3. Proper Watch Storage & When to Use a Watch Winder

Do you need a watch winder? Beginners often ask themselves if they can damage a mechanical watch by leaving it standing for an extended period. I’ll address when a watch winder is useful, but before doing so, I want to show you another way to store your luxury watch in safety and style. Watch boxes and watch rolls look great in the living room and are also easy to put away. I, for one, own a small watch box made of black wood that looks great and has enough space for all my watches. If I’m traveling and want to take more than one timepiece with me, I use a watch roll to store my watches safely.  

A watch winder is a great, aesthetically appealing way to store your luxury watch(es). It is especially practical if you have a watch with grand complications and wear it in rotation. A watch winder will ensure that you don’t have to reset the various displays each time you put your timepiece on. For automatic watches, watch winders can save you the hassle of having to rewind and set your timepiece, but they’re not a must. In fact, letting automatic watches you don’t regularly wear rest can be the right decision, as sitting in a watch winder can actually cause more wear and tear to the movement because it will never stop running. 

When you’re not wearing your luxury watch, you can store it safely in watch boxes, rolls, or winders.

4. Avoid Scratches

No matter how careful you are with your luxury watch, one thing is for sure: It will get scratched sooner or later. You can’t win this battle, but you can make sure that these traces of wear are kept to a minimum. Pay attention to the most mundane things in everyday life, like opening doors or buckling up. If you take these small extra precautions throughout your day, you will spare your beloved watch any major scuffs.  

Use your non-watch-wearing hand when opening doors or buckling up in the car. When wearing jackets, make sure that no buttons or zippers come into contact with your watch. Do not wear your luxury watch when performing mechanical work of any kind. Never leave your luxury watch in the hands of strangers, especially people who don’t share your passion for watches. They are not as watch-crazy as you are and, therefore, will not treat your timepiece with the care you do. When cleaning your watch, don’t apply too much pressure and make sure the polishing cloth is always clean, or else it will leave scratches. And if (or when) your favorite piece inevitably gets a scratch, try to look on the bright side. Your watch is now individual and developing its own story.  

In the case of “tool watches,” scratches can even make your timepiece look a little more interesting.
In the case of “tool watches,” scratches can even make your timepiece look a little more interesting.

5. Having Your Watch Serviced

You’re probably wondering: How often does a mechanical watch need to be serviced? Well, this depends not only on your watch-wearing habits but also in part on the model and manufacturer. Some manufacturers recommend a service interval of about four to five years, while others allow for a more generous time frame. Rolex, for example, now suggests a revision only once every 10 years. Regardless of manufacturer specifications and recommendations, there is a precise moment when your timepiece definitely needs to be serviced: namely, when its accuracy begins to wane.  

For a complicated watch, a full servicing will cost around $2,000.
For a complicated watch, a full servicing will cost around $2,000.

Servicing can be carried out either directly by the manufacturer or by an authorized dealer with their own workshop. During servicing, the watchmaking will test all the components subject to wear and replace them as necessary. You also can have optional work done, such as an optical refurbishment. The cost of this maintenance depends not only on the manufacturer but also on the kind of watch. Three-hand watches are generally cheaper to overhaul than models with chronographs or grand complications. While you can get away with having a watch with an ETA movement serviced for less than $500, a Rolex three-hand watch currently costs just over $800. On the other hand, for a complicated timepiece like the Royal Oak Tourbillon Extra-Thin from Audemars Piguet, you’ll have to be ready to invest around $2,000.  

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About the Author

Donato Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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