How Do I Know If My Watch Needs to Be Serviced?

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If you’ve spent a lot of money on your watch, you’ll want it to last. Most watch manufacturers recommend that you service your watch every three to five years, but of course, that time frame depends on the manufacturer of the watch. Some luxury watches will need servicing much less often than that, while some of the less expensive watches need servicing more often. The first thing you should do when you purchase a watch is check your instructions to determine how often your watch needs to be serviced. While servicing a watch may seem rather unimportant, it is actually one of the smartest things you can do if you intend to keep the watch for a very long time.

What Does it Mean to “Service” a Watch?

Servicing a watch is important mainly because watches are intricately and rather delicately designed, and everything inside of the watch has to work together in a delicate balance to make everything work right. Even if you take good care of your watch, it needs to be serviced periodically, but not taking good care of it will make the service even more important. So, what happens when a watch is “serviced”? The simple answer is this: the watch expert checks everything “under the hood” to make sure it is working properly, much like a car mechanic does when checking a vehicle.

Inside of your watch are dozens of components, which include gaskets, gears, springs, and oil, and over time, these parts often need to be repaired or replaced due to general wear and tear. Fresh oil needs to be used on the parts, and the watch has to be completely disassembled for the servicing to begin. This means it is taken apart and most of the components are removed and checked thoroughly. If something needs to be repaired or replaced, the job is done at that point, and if you think a car mechanic takes a long time, you’d be shocked to learn that watch experts can take much longer to service your watch.

So, what does a watch service include? For the most part, watch experts will clean, oil, and polish all of the watch components so that they work smoothly and efficiently once they’re replaced. They test the watch to make sure it is accurate timewise and that it’s working the way it’s supposed to, and by the time they put the watch back together, it is like you’re getting a brand-new watch. When they’re cleaning the components, they soak them in a special solution that dissolves dirt, grease, and dust, and they will usually demagnetize the watch to make it safer and more functional in the future. Servicing a watch means a complete overhaul, so to speak, so you get back a watch that is sometimes better than the one you bought in the first place.

Five Signs That Your Watch Needs a Service

If you haven’t had your watch for very long and you’re wondering if it needs to be serviced, there are simple ways to know for sure. If your watch isn’t giving you any problems, you can wait at least three years before bringing it to a repair expert. But if you’re having any of the following issues, it’s time to bring the watch in for servicing.

  1. You notice moisture in the case. If you notice any water or condensation in your watch case, forget about putting it in a bag of dry rice or using a hairdryer on it. Those things usually don’t work with watches. The experts have a way to test the dampness level inside of the watch, and they’ll know if parts need to be replaced and when they don’t.
  2. Your watch is off by more than five to six seconds per day. If your watch is running either fast or slow by more than five or six seconds, this usually means it needs to be serviced. Watches aren’t supposed to be that inaccurate, and watch manufacturers’ goal is to make sure your watch is as accurate as possible every single day.
  3. You are getting ready to travel. Traveling can wreak havoc on a watch and expose it to things that can cause it to work improperly, including salt and sand, magnetization from security scanners at the airport, and much more. If you’re traveling either for business or pleasure, have a watch professional take a look at it before you go.
  4. The secondhand skips several seconds. This sort of “jumpy” movement may simply indicate that you need the battery in the watch replaced, but it could also be a sign that the watch needs servicing. Only a professional watch expert will know for sure.
  5. You think there could be something loose inside the watch. If you hear something rattling in the watch or it looks like one of the dials or hands is loose, you should have it serviced immediately. A good watch technician will know for sure what your watch needs to work properly from that point forward.

How Much Does a Watch Service Cost?

As you can imagine, a watch service cost can vary quite a bit. After all, the cost will depend on various factors, including:

    • The type of watch: analog or digital
    • The way the watch works: mechanical or automatic
    • The age of the watch
    • The brand of the watch
    • The materials it’s made of: stainless steel, gold, platinum, and so on
    • How many repairs or replacements the watch technician needs to make

A lot of times, the watch expert won’t be able to give you an exact estimate because the only way to know for sure what needs to be done to it is to open it up and check out all of the components. Some of the more expensive watches will give you estimates of repair prices on their websites, and some watch technicians will give you a very basic estimate before getting started with the work. Nevertheless, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 for a battery replacement on an inexpensive watch to hundreds of dollars or more on complex servicing for the more expensive luxury brands (think Rolex or Omega).

If this sounds vague, that’s okay because the prices for servicing a watch do vary greatly. The more you spent on the watch originally, the more you can expect to pay for the servicing. That being said, some of the newer luxury watches only have to be serviced every 8 to 10 years, so you won’t be forking out that kind of money on a regular basis.

How Long Does It Take to Service a Watch?

If you’re going to have your watch professionally serviced, you shouldn’t expect to get it back in a few days because that’s not usually how it will work out for you. The time it takes to service a watch depends on many factors, including:

    • How complex your watch is to service
    • The number of technicians who can work on your brand of watch
    • How many things might be wrong with the watch

Good watch repair people can be hard to find, and unfortunately, they often have a backlog of watches to service. Because of this, you can expect to be without your watch for several weeks while it’s being serviced, maybe even longer. Some of the more expensive watches, in fact, can take months to be serviced, with some of them being separated from their owners for up to one year. If you need your watch serviced, you’d be wise to make a few phone calls and get an estimate of how long it might take them to do the job. Smaller, independent watch repair companies sometimes give better and faster service, but that depends a lot on where you live and what your watch needs done with it.

How Often Does a Mechanical Watch Need to Be Serviced?

Mechanical watches usually need to be serviced every three to six years. Why? For several reasons, but one of these reasons is that the oils they used to lubricate the components of the watch usually last from three to six years, which means your watch will need the oil replaced during that time frame. It is also a good time frame because it allows technicians to check the components inside of the watch and determine if anything needs to be cleaned, repaired, replaced, or even demagnetized.

The service on a mechanical watch is comparable to many other watches, so it’s crucial to get the watch serviced on a regular basis to keep it running properly for many years to come.

How Often Does an Automatic Watch Need to Be Serviced?

Automatic watches also need to be serviced regularly, with most manufacturers recommending that you service the watch every three to five years. It’s important to remember that with all watches, going by the manufacturer’s recommendation is the smartest thing to do. While the three- to five-year time frame is what is normally recommended, each brand will have its own guidelines to go by when deciding when to have your watch serviced. The manufacturer’s recommendation should always be considered more important than any general guidelines you might hear about through word-of-mouth or any article you might read.

Remember that with both mechanical and automatic watches, there can be over 100 components inside of the watch, which makes regular servicing of the watch extremely important. General wear and tear can ruin watch parts, and regular servicing will make sure these parts are repaired or replaced immediately so that you can continue to wear your watch and count on it to be accurate.

What About Rolex and Other Luxury Watches?

At least one of the latest Rolex watches on the market boasts about needing servicing only every 10 years, but for most luxury watches, you shouldn’t let it go longer than five years in between a good service job. The three- to five-year rule applies to luxury watches just like it does to regular watches, but since luxury watches are an investment, you need to make sure you bring it in anytime you feel like it’s necessary. For example, having your watch serviced is imperative if you:

  • Have gotten the watch wet (especially if it isn’t waterproof or water-resistant)
  • Are having a hard time setting the time or date functions
  • Notice that the watch is running fast or slow
  • Hear any odd sounds coming from the watch

With any watch, there is no overstating how important it is to have it serviced every three to five years; however, this is even more important for luxury watches simply because of the price you paid for the watch in the first place. Remember that all of the components and hardware of the watch are going to be more expensive to manufacture with luxury watches, which means it is even more important that you keep the watch regularly serviced. Waiting too long can mean the service will cost you a lot more, and this is something no one wants.

Are There Factors That Affect the Service Time Frame?

Since each watch is different, each time frame for servicing the watch is going to be different as well. One of the things that affects the service period is how much use the watch gets on a regular basis. Remember the neighbor with the classic car that only took it out for a drive on certain days, and only when the weather was perfect? Watches are a lot like that automobile. If you only wear your watch occasionally, you can usually wait longer to have it serviced. If it’s worn every day of your life, you’ll need to stick closer to the three-year mark than the five-year mark.

The most important thing to remember is to stick to the manufacturer’s recommendation when it comes to having your watch serviced. After all, no one knows the watch better than the company that made it. Should something be a little “off” in the meantime, or if you’ve put the watch through something that you feel might have damaged it, you can always get it serviced even sooner. After all, there really isn’t such a thing as servicing watches too often. Only the opposite is true.