Watch care and handling

1. How often does a mechanical watch need to be serviced?

Manufacturer’s recommendations vary, but most range from every three to five years.

2. Do quartz watches need to be serviced like mechanical ones?

No. Quartz watch movements do not need nearly as much maintenance as mechanical ones do. That’s because they have far fewer moving parts -just the gears that move the hands. (A digital watch has no moving parts at all). All that most quartz watches really require is that when the case is opened for a batter change, it be cleaned of accumulated dirt. However, some expensive quartz analog watch movements should have their gear train lubricated ever eight to 10 years. For inexpensive quartz watches, this isn’t worth doing.

3.How often does a watch’s water resistance need to be checked?

All water resistant watches need to have their water resistance checked every time the battery is changed or the case is opened for any other reason. If the watch is worn in the water, frequently or exposed to a lot of sweat, it should be checked at least ever two years and, if exposure to water is very frequent, every year, says Efim Khankin, owner of Universal Watch & Jewelry Co., Birmingham, Mich.

4. Will heat and cold affect a watch’s accuracy?

Heat and cold will affect the time-keeping ability of a quartz watch. Quartz crystals, whose extremely steady vibrations are responsible for the unrivaled accuracy of quartz watches, are cut so they perform optimally at room temperature, says Fenwick. A temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit will throw the timing off by about 1 second a day, as will one of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme temperature will also affect the accuracy of a mechanical watch, but not as much as other factors (see below). One reason is that hot and cold cause the metal parts of a watch movement to expand and contract (though advances in metallurgy have made this less of a problem than in the past). Another reason is that heat and cold affect the viscosity of the oil that lubricates the movement, and thereby affect the movement’s accuracy.

5. What other factors affect the accuracy of a watch?

In a mechanical watch, wearing habits such as when the watch is wound, how long it’s worn each day and what position it lies in when it is not being worn all play a critical role in determining how consistently a watch runs. Although a typical mechanical watch might gain or lose about 5 minutes a month, it’s possible, by adjusting the watch to fit a wearer’s regular habits, to achieve much higher accuracy than that. “The more consistent your wearing habits, the more consistent the time-telling will be,” says Joseph Cerullo, technical director at the Movado Group, Lyndhurst, N.J. None of these factors make any difference with a quartz watch. With quartz, temperature is the only variable that affects the accuracy of the movement.

6. Can a mechanical watch be worn playing sports?

In general yes, Cerullo says. All or nearly all mechanical watches manufactured today are equipped with anti-shock devices that protect the watch’s balance-staff pivots – the part of the watch movement most vulnerable to damage from impact. These devices are usually effective enough to protect the watch from the shock it encounters when you hit a tennis or golf ball, for instance. Nonetheless, there is a small change that an especially hard knock could damage not only the balance but the rotor axle, which is some automatic movements serves to secure the rotor to the watch movement. So deciding whether to wear your mechanical watch or not while playing sports is a matter of risk assessment. The odds, however, are on your side.

7. Is the same true of a quartz watch?

There is very little chance of damaging the movement of a quartz watch while playing sports -a quartz watch does not contain the delicate balance-staff pivots that make anti-shock devices necessary in mechanical watches. You can, of course, damage other parts of the watch -the crystal of instance- whether the watch is quartz or mechanical.

8. How long will a quartz-watch battery last?

A silver oxide battery will last two to three years. Lithium batteries will last 10 years or more. (They aren’t interchangeable. Watches are designed to use either silver oxide or lithium batteries.)

9. It is true you can preserve a quartz watch’s battery power by pulling out the stem if you won’t be wearing the watch for a few days?

Pulling out the stem saves 75% to 80% of the watch’s energy because the gears and hands aren’t turning, says Fenwick of the Swatch Group. However, he points out, the savings is marginal when you consider that a silver oxide battery will lose 5% to 8% of its power a year just sitting unused. Another argument against trying to save battery power this way is that if the gears in the gear train sit stationary for a long time, the lubricants congeal.

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