Things you should and shouldn’t do with a mechanical watch

Owning a mechanical watch is a great pleasure, but it is also a slight responsibility.  There are some definite Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to taking care of a mechanical watch.

Things you should and shouldn’t do with a mechanical watch

One of the great things about mechanical watches is that they are meant to last a lifetime and more. Comprised of hundreds of tiny parts that work together in harmony, a mechanical watch may need a little extra care than a quartz watch, and there are definitely a few things you should and shouldn’t do with it. Here we take a look at how to properly care for your mechanical timepiece.

Don’t Do These Things With Your Mechanical Watch:

1 – Don’t Overwind

Unlike with a quartz watch,  you need to wind your mechanical watch. Even if it is a self-winding (automatic) watch, if it has stopped running, it needs to be wound. If it is a hand-wound watch, you can wind it even if it is still running. The most important thing to remember, though, with a mechanical watch is not to overwind it. Stop winding as soon as you feel resistance on the crown. If you overwind it, you could damage the mainspring.

2 – Don’t Operate Your Chronograph Under Water

If your mechanical watch has a chronograph (stopwatch) built into it, do not use the chronograph when underwater. By pressing the pushers of the chronograph, it will allow water to seep into the case and the movement. It is best to time your dives, if that is what you are doing underwater, by using the unidirectional rotating bezel.

3 – Don’t Set Certain Functions at the Wrong Time

There are certain settings on a mechanical watch that should not be changed during the critical time when the watch is making its own mechanical calculations. For instance, you should not set the date on a calendar watch between the hours of  9 pm and 2 am on the watch. During those hours, the date-changing mechanism of the watch is engaging the gear train to tell it to automatically change the date. The gear train disengages at 2 am. If you try setting the date during those hours, the teeth of the mechanism could break. Often, if you move the hands to the lower portion of the dial (considered the safe area), you can then set the date.

4 – Don’t Over-Rely on Watch Winders

This point is especially true with vintage mechanical watches.  Typically, vintage watches are best lying flat in a drawer or in their box instead of being put on a watch winder. This is because many vintage watches are not built to have the mainspring constantly fully wound. The constant winding could cause wear and tear and lubrication issues.

Wolf winder
Wolf Watch Winder

Definitely Do These Things With Your Mechanical Watch

1 – Take it Off Your Wrist to Wind it

It is important to take the mechanical hand-wound watch off your wrist if you want to wind it.  By winding it while you are wearing it, you put undue stress on the crown (sometimes referred to as stem) from an odd position. By taking it in your hand to wind it, you minimize the stress on the winding system. It is also a good idea to wind your hand-wound watch every morning before putting it on to ensure its power doesn’t run out.

2 – Keep it Clean

The mechanical watch has two enemies: water and dust. Your watch is especially vulnerable to dust when the crown is open for setting. It is best to wipe the dust (even if you don’t see it, it’s there) off the watch before pulling the crown out to set the time or date. Use a soft cloth. Also, it’s a good idea to wipe the case back once in a while, as well, since dirt and oils from the skin can accumulate there.

3 – Be Gentle With it

Remember, a mechanical watch has hundreds of tiny parts inside that work together in a carefully orchestrated dance. Unless your watch is made of high-tech materials inside and out, you should avoid high-impact stresses such as playing tennis or other impact sports with it on the wrist. Set it while sitting at a table or over a dresser to avoid accidentally dropping it. If your watch is a vintage piece, you may have hollow bracelet links that can dent more easily than solid links.

4 – Service It

Just like a luxury car, you don’t wait for something to break before getting it looked at. You give it oil and a tune up. A watch needs similar servicing. It is a good idea to check once every couple of years that it is still water-resistant and the gaskets inside are still holding tight and haven’t deteriorated. Have your watch serviced by an authorized service center for the brand or by the brand itself once every five years. During those years, the lubricants in the watch could have dried up. While it is serviced you can also ask to have scratches removed from the metal case or bracelet. If you value the originality of the watch, don’t let the service  center replace the dial.

Watchmaker from the Haute Horlogerie workshop at Girard-Perregaux
Watchmaker from the Haute Horlogerie workshop at Girard-Perregaux

In general, a mechanical watch, whether automatic or hand-wound, should easily last forever. Taking proper care of it will help ensure that.



Find Your Watch

Over 150 watch brands' new collections.
Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Patek Philippe and more.

Start your search