Caring for Vintage Watches

I’ve been asked several times by customers to provide input on caring for vintage watches. The Support section of the website and related FAQ provide a good deal of information on this topic. In this blog I wanted to address some key considerations:

  • Should I keep my watch running all the time and wind it every day? Do I need a watch winder?

In my opinion, and I am not alone in this opinion, watch winders for automatic watches are not necessary to maintain your watches and can increase wear. Watches are micro-machines. When you keep the running, they incur wear. The theory behind automatic watch winders is that they “keep the oil moving” and not sticking in the watch. The oil in a watch does not require a 24x7 running watch to stop from sticking. If this were the case. then every jewelry store would have their watches in the stock room on winders. They don’t.  Whether a watch is manual or automatic, if you wind or wear it once per month, in my opinion this is more than adequate to keep any oil in the watch from sticking or coagulating in some undesirable fashion. Also, if the watch has a complication such as a chronograph or alarm function, it’s also a good idea to activate that at least once per month. 

  • Keep vintage watches dry and away from moisture when worn or in storage.

Moisture is the enemy of your watches. Store them in a safe, closet, or drawer that has a dehumidifier. The dehumidifier, depending on the size of area where you store your watches, can be as simple as a closet dehumdifer such as the airBOSS Closet Dehumidifier available at Amazon or in in your local hardware store. Desiccant packets that often come in watch boxes and can be obtained in bulk can also help when maintained inside a watch box. Observe all manufacture guidance when using dehumidifiers and desiccant packets.

  • Store your watches in a protective case, they don’t need to be expensive

Over many years as horologist/watchmaker/clockmaker, I’ve had some pretty expensive watch storage cases. In the end, I found a very inexpensive model that I really like and have used extensively. It’s the SONGMICS 8-Slot Portable Watch Box Travel Case Storage Organizer and is available on Amazon:

This case fits in a drawer or safe easily. It’s space efficient and the elastic bands hold the watch in-place. When putting bracelet watches in the case, you can put a piece of cloth (any cloth will do or for example a microfiber polishing cloth) between the back of the watch and bracelet to reduce the risk of scratches. Always open the case on a table and slowly/carefull.

  • Develop what I call “wrist awareness”

Become more wrist aware.  Even better than self-awareness, wrist aware people assure dishwater doesn’t hit their watches during dish cleaning, cover their watch if it’s raining, and lift and cross their wrist across their chest as they approach awkward door knobs or other risky obstacles. If I am walking through a busy area (airplane aisle, restaurant), I will place my left hand across my chest (like a pledge of allegiance) to protect my vintage watch.

  • Always put your watch on or off on a soft surface and over carpeting.

Do not put watch on while walking or standing on a hard surface such as tile or hardwood. Always assure that if there is an accident while putting-on or taking-off your watch, the watch is protected by a short drop onto a soft surface.

  • Occasionally check watch bands and associated spring bars for soundness before putting watch to assure they aren’t ready to come-off or fail

Look around the lugs to assure the watch strap isn't coming-apart. Gently tug and twist, over a soft surface in case the band comes-off, to assure the watch band is on securely. If the watch band has screws in it such as for fixed lug straps, then assure the screws are still tight. If you have a deployant strap, assure the section of the strap that holds the deployant into the holes of the strap (where you adjust tigthtness) is clamped-down onto the strap securely.