The Basic Guidelines
In this brief guide we aim to answer some of the questions people frequently ask regarding watches. Some aspects of watch maintenance are regularly disputed by watch enthusiasts, for example how often to service a watch, whether taking a shower with the watch poses poses a high risk etc. The basic guidelines below should help you to avoid these pitfalls.
Winding a Mechanical Watch
Before you do anything, make sure it's actually a mechanical model. If it says Quartz, Eco-Drive, or Kinetic on the dial somewhere, it's not a manual winding watch or automatic. If your Quartz watch has stopped, you can get it running again simply by replacing the battery at your local jeweller or mall watch shop - make sure to use a reputable service centre to ensure the water resistance is not compromised. Many military watches are quartz even though they may not say so on the dial. The best way to tell is to look for a battery hatch on the back, or, if it's running, watch if the second hand moves in one second increments, please note though that hybrid watches often appear outwardly to be mechanical and the second hand sweeps. Mechanical movements always sweep without moving in one second increments. If you're sure the watch is mechanical, and it needs winding, follow these steps. This will apply equally to a hanwound watch or an automatic.
1: Check to see if it has a screw-down crown, if it does unscrew it to ready it for winding. If, when you start to wind the crown, it starts to screw itself back in, you may need to gently pull the crown out one stop. If you have a normal crown, i.e., non-screw-down, you can just wind the watch without any preliminaries.
2: Wind the watch by turning the crown clockwise a number of complete revolutions, 40 or 50 is enough to get the watch fully wound. With the watch face-up in your left hand, pinch the crown between your right forefinger and thumb and rotate the crown clockwise. "Clockwise" means rotating it away from you. Wind slowly and consistently. Wind the crown as far as you can in each turn and then release it and start again.
3: Wind it this way until you start to feel some increased resistance, with a manual wind watch this will become apparent but not with an automatic. Be patient. As mentioned above for a completely unwound mainspring, this can take from 20 up to 40 or 50 revolutions depending on the movement and power reserve .
4: Assuming your watch is a hand wound mechanical model after you feel resistance stop winding. NB: Some watch experts suggest that you wind the crown backwards (counterclockwise) five or six turns. This may help re-distribute some lubricant, and, in the case of some early or special models, it may relieve some strain on the watch's inner workings. In any case, doing this "back-winding" won't harm your watch.
Many people prefer to wind a watch using a rocking motion, i.e., alternating rotating the crown clockwise and then counter-clockwise. You can wind the watch in this way without having to remove your fingers from the crown. This has exactly the same effect on winding the mainspring as the clockwise-only approach, and it has the added benefit of putting a little back-wind into each cycle.
If you have a manual wind watch, try to wind it at the same time every day. Winding it in the morning is best because you will have consistent power throughout the day. This may also contribute to more accurate timekeeping.
When the watch is fully wound you will feel resistance as the mainspring tightens. That's enough winding. Don't try and force it any further. You could damage both the mainspring and components in the escapement or at the very least lock the watch up.
NB: When winding a manual wind watch, it is advisable to take off the watch. If you keep the watch on while you wind it, you may put unnecessary strain on the winding stem at all points but particularly where the stem attaches to the winding crown. This is why most manufacturers exclude the crown from the guarantee.
What about Automatics? Some self-winding mechanical watches (also known as "automatics") can also be wound manually and in the case of MWC all have the ability to be hand wound if needed. For watches other than ours check your documentation or with your dealer to see if your watch can be hand wound although in the case of military watches most will have this option. Assuming it can be handwound you may want to wind it, at least several revolutions, each day to insure an adequate power reserve, or, if its power reserve has run out and the watch has stopped, you can wind it to give it a jump start and then let it self wind on the wrist.
Guidelines Regarding the Power Reserve of Automatic Watches
There is a common misconception that automatic watches never need to be wound. Whilst this is true to a point if the watch has not been worn for a day and like most of our automatic models has a power reserve of 41 hours (movements used by other manufacturers maybe less but would generally be at least 35 hours) it would be quite possible that the watch would be close to the end of its power reserve, people often assume it just needs to be worn for a while to wind itself up. This is partially correct because it may well give you just enough power to keep the watch while it's on the wrist, it may even run for a sometime afterwards when it's not being worn, the concern is it may not have had the chance to fully wind although it should be okay if you have been very active over a period of a few hours, this doesn't mean that you have to be doing something particularly energetic like playing tennis or golf just walking around the town or the office would normally be sufficient.
To give you an idea of what to expect as a guide if you wear an automatic watch daily and lead a moderately active lifestyle it should be sufficient to keep the watch fully wound, even if you don't wear the watch overnight it should still be fine because it would normally build up at least 24 hours reserve during the course of the day.
If the watch hasn’t been worn for more than a day and most of its power reserve has been depleted, for example even if it's been sitting on a table, once you put it on and go for a walk or even just move around the house and garden it would normally be enough to to get it up to power, if however you decide to put it on in the afternoon and it hasn't been worn for a day it may not be able to build up enough power reserve to get it through the night. It makes sense in this situation to give it a manual wind to be certain. There is nothing worse than suddenly discovering that the watch has unexpectedly stopped and you've missed something which was scheduled at a specific time.
If you lead a very sedentary lifestyle or are elderly sometimes an automatic watch will struggle to build up sufficient reserve, we often find people such as accountants or lawyers who tend to be working on a computer for many hours a day frequently don't move their wrists enough to fully wind a watch. Many people in deskbound occupations need to give it a top up occasionally by winding the crown about 30 - 40 times, surprisingly even long haul pilots often struggle because they rarely leave the cockpit and their job does not require them to move their arms a great deal. Generally we would recommend that if a person is not very active or their job requires them to be sitting at a desk all day without walking around and they are also not active in the evening then it may be wise to consider a quartz or hybrid watch.
It has to be said that for most people even if they are not particularly active an automatic watch will be fine because there will be sufficient movement during the course of the day to keep it topped up, in any case it will not take very long once you own an automatic watch to get used to how it generally performs and how long its power reserve tends to last based on your personal activity level. Most buyers of course never discover how long the reserve will actually hold up on their watch because they wear it daily in which case it will usually never stop.
Adjusting the Strap or Bracelet
With bracelets, there is often some adjustment available in the clasp itself, this is achieved through the use of a spring loaded pin which locks into the holes in the clasp. This adjustment is easily made using a pin, paperclip or anything thin enough to press the pin in and release it so it can be repositioned. Be cautious when you do this because the pins can fly out and you could spend a considerable time searching the floor for it. We tend to recommend the watch is on table top of flat surface and that you lay out a cloth or towel to ensure the watch glass is not damaged while the job is carried out.
There are various types of bracelet and some use use push pins and others use screws for attaching the links to one other. If you don't have the tools to do this then maybe its best left to a jeweller or watchmaker but as a guide a small electrical screwdriver or one designed to tighten the arms on spectacles can do the job. Whatever happens use a screwdriver that is the correct size because if the thread is damaged or the head of the screw it might have to be drilled out.
Spring pins are very different and I find more awkward but keep in mind there are usually small arrows on the underside of the links to show which way the pin should be pushed out. These pins are quite easy to remove and once removed they are replaced from the opposite end. The key with this job is holding the bracelet firmly and a vice is ideal but use cloth to prevent scratches to the bracelet. There is a tool specifically to deal with spring pins which is here https://www.mwcwatches.com/search?q=PINTOOL.1
NATO straps and Leather Straps
These straps are easy to deal with if you have a punch and have worked out where the holes need to be but if you don’t have the tools a shoe repairer or jeweler should be able to help.
Types of Strap Pin
We generally use three types of pins depending on the specific model and type of watch.
We have summarized below the various types of pins used and any vital points which need to be noted.
Spring Bars / Pins
The primary benefit of spring pins or bars is that they enable the easy fitment of any type of strap you would potentially want to use, for example silicon, bracelets, NATO straps or leather bands. Care must be taken with spring pins to avoid one of them being ripped out of the casing. This could happen if the strap was snagged on a rock or caught on something which managed to dislodge the pin. The pins we use are quite robust so this would be quite rare but if you are working in a situation where there is a significant risk that the watch could be caught on something then fitting a NATO strap would avoid the risk of losing the actual watch itself in the event that one of the pins was lost. Interestingly this is the reason why the NATO strap was originally designed because even if one of the pins is lost the watch would still remain on the wrist provided the other pins was still in place. It goes without saying that managing to rip out both pins simultaneously would be extremely unlikely.
Screw pins have some benefits of spring bars but also the strength of solid bars, the only thing to keep in mind is that if they are undone they must be re-secured with a Threadlock, a typical example is Loctite 243, if they are unscrewed from the case and put back without the Threadlock over time they would work loose and one of the pins would inevitably fall out, this can be catastrophic because the watch would potentially drop to the ground and be badly damaged.
Fixed Solid Strap Bars
These types of pins are used on some of our watches but generally only on models which are popular with serving military personnel, police officers and other people who work in a situation where their watch is at higher risk of been snagged on something than would be normal. The downside of solid strap bars is you are restricted to one-piece straps although there are a few leather straps which can be fitted to these types of watch. The pins cannot be removed from the case if they are forced out the options to repair the watch are very limited. When the watch uses these types of Pin it is specifically mentioned in the specification.
We are often asked what are the main factors which affect water resistance? Basically the thickness and the material from which the case is made is a big factor in determining whether a watch can safely be worn underwater. The case must be sturdy enough to withstand pressure without caving in. In general, this means a steel or sometimes a titanium case. A screw-on case back, as opposed to one that pushes in, also contributes to a watch's water resistance. A screw-in crown, a feature of most divers' watches, helps prevent water getting into the case through the watch-stem hole. When it is screwed down it forms a water tight seal like the hatch on a submarine. Generally screw crowns are used when the watch is water resistance rated at 100m/330ft or more although we use screw down locking crowns on some 50m models for durability reasons, regardless of the model it is vital they are screwed down before the watch is used in water. The other factor which is extremely important is that if a screw down crown is not secured there is a high risk that any knock will break it off.
The various different levels of water resistance as expressed in meters, atmospheres or feet are only theoretical. They refer to the depth at which a watch will keep out water if both the watch and the water are still. These conditions, of course, are never met in the real world. When you are swimming the movement of the wearer's arm through the water increases the pressure on the watch dramatically; so it can't be worn to the depths indicated by lab testing machines.
The following water resistance recommendations are accepted by most watch manufacturers.
* MWC do not make any models with these ratings but other brands do.
Please note: We do not recommend swimming or diving with your watch unless it has a screw-down crown (also known as screw-lock or screw-in crown) and is water-resistant to at least 100 meters. Many military watches which are rated at 50m/150ft such as the MWC G10 with battery hatch are fine because latest versions have locking crowns - please be cautious with any brand of watch which is only rated to 30m or 99ft because this is only classified as splash proof.
One thing which is very important to keep in mind is that it is not generally recommended to wear your watch in a hot shower, sauna or bath regardless of the water resistance rating, as we will explain the risk is best avoided. Many people ignore this and get away with it but the fact remains though that it is not recommended and is at your own risk if you chance it, the reason this potentially causes a problem is because the extreme heat causes the metal parts to expand at a different rate to the rubber gaskets. This creates tiny openings that can allow small traces of water to penetrate the watch. Sudden temperature changes are also especially harsh, for example if you lie in the hot sun and then dive into cold water this can result in thermal shock. Thermal shock occurs with lots of items and not just watches, it arises when there is a sudden variation of temperature, either from hot to cold or vice versa. It is most common in materials that are structurally weak as well as those which offer poor heat conductivity. The weak link with watches is the seals/gaskets.
Some buyers ask if they have to do anything to care for the watch after they have been in the sea but our advice is to rinse the watch in a stream of fresh water when you get home. If your watch has a rotating bezel, turn the bezel several times while rinsing it in case any bits of sand or mud have got between the bezel and the case, it will also prevent salt build up and corrosion of the bezel ring. Whilst salt water is not a great problem generally some chemicals can corrode the gaskets and make them vulnerable. Heavily chlorinated water can also cause problems, as can chlorine bleach, bath foams and hairsprays that work their way into the watch's seams and damage the gaskets. (They can also damage the watch's finish although this is rare with military specification watches.
The Best Straps for use in Water
Although fairly rare on Military Watches leather straps can be made to be water resistant too. Generally however, leather straps are easily damaged by frequent exposure to water and also start to smell unpleasant if they are regularly immersed in water so we tend to avoid them. My recommendation if you are going to wear your watch whilst swimming is to use a metal bracelet, carbon fibre, Kevlar, rubber/silicon strap or best of all a Nylon NATO strap, these are ideal and can be washed easily and also dry fast. We have a large number of NATO strap options on the website here https://www.mwcwatches.com/search?q=NATO+strap
What about heat and sunlight?
Heat in the form of saunas etc isn't really recommended, particularly if you take a sauna and then enter the icy waters of the plunge pool! Quite simply, rapid hot to cold like which means that something may contract rather rapidly as mentioned above leading to thermal shock, if that something is the seal which has softened due to the heat then you are asking for trouble. Also, any watch will have some moisture in it simply because it has air in it; rapid cooling means this may condense, probably only to disappear again but it could leave a stain under the crystal or worse.
Heat in terms of wearing the watch in hot weather generally can't be avoided and shouldn't be too much of a problem. However, if at all possible, avoid leaving/wearing the watch in direct strong sunlight then diving into a cold pool or the sea; the problem with direct sunlight is also that the watch is going to get very hot which won't do the lubricants much good; secondly, direct sunlight can prematurely age dials and cause dial lacquers to lift or micro bubbles, in the case of GTLS Tritium watches it could negatively effect the vials themselves. This isn't to say that your watch should be kept under shirt sleeves whenever the sun is out! It's just a case of using common sense; don't fry your watch! Other than thermal shock or the lubricants drying out the other issues are rare but they can happen.
Your watch might well be shock-resistant but it's best not to test its ability to withstand shock; mechanical watches are almost always fitted with certain shock absorbing devices and this especially applies to military watches but even so, do not expose your watch to sudden shocks, vibration, dropping etc. Mechanical watches are pretty tough but there is a limit; exposing the watch to severe shock can at the least affect timekeeping and at worst will cause mechanical failure or most commonly a hand to come off. In our experience firearms can have very negative effects on a watch because of the sudden violent recoil with heavy calibres.
Assuming the watch is rated 50m or higher as far as water resistance we recommend occasionally cleaning the watch with an old toothbrush around the bracelet, lugs and caseback which will remove debris.
If the watch has an acrylic (plastic / plexiglass) it is easy to remove scratches. People use all sorts of things to get a good result, we find smokers toothpaste or even standard toothpaste works but other people swear by metal polish or car rubbing compound, there are also specialist polishes such as Polywatch. Applying whatever you plan to use and rubbing in circular motions should work for minor or medium scratches. Deeper scratches are harder and it is often better to polish back and forth along the scratch. Once these steps are taken an acrylic crystal will often come up like new. polyWatch is available here https://www.mwcwatches.com/search?q=polywatch
A mineral glass crystal is a much more awkward problem if it gets chipped or scratched and might need to be replaced although on the plus side it is harder to scratch in the first place when compared with an acrylic crystal and a sapphire crystal which is the best option very rarely scratches or shatters because it is not far off the hardness of a diamond so very little can damage it.
We are often asked the question how accurate can I expect my watch to be?
The answer is that when it comes to accuracy there is one very important fact you need to know in advance. A $25 watch from the local discount store will keep time just as well as, and possibly better than, a top of the range MWC, CWC or Marathon mechanical or possibly even a $20,000 solid gold mechanical IWC, Rolex, or other high end watch.
If that last statement surprised you, read the rest of this section carefully.
All watches tend to gain or lose a few seconds over a period of time. These are small mechanical or electro-mechanical devices that are counting out 86,400 seconds per day. Even if a watch is 99.9% accurate, it will still be off by a minute and a half in only 24 hours! So even a mediocre wristwatch has to be well over 99.9% accurate to even begin to be useful on an ongoing basis.
So, what is a reasonable expectation of accuracy from a wristwatch? As a guide a modern mechanical watch could vary between +/- 15 seconds a day at worst and +/- 2 or 3 seconds a day at best and both figures are generally within tolerance depending on the type of watch and age. For example an automatic watch is usually more accurate than a handwound mechanical but quartz watches are better than any mechanical watch by a large margin. As a rule a quartz watch could be as accurate as +/- 0.01 although +/- 2 seconds a days is within the acceptable limits of most manufacturers.
The question people often ask is why would anyone want a less accurate watch that costs more than a cheap watch which is more accurate? The short answer is that pretty much any modern wristwatch from a reputable brand is more than accurate enough for normal use. So some people prefer older mechanical watch technologies over the small accuracy advantages of quartz watches. In the 1970s everything was heading towards quartz watches but by the 1990s handwound and automatic mechanicals were once again firmly establishing themselves in the mid ranges and high end market. The thing to keep in mind is that quartz watches as a rule are always more accurate than mechanical ones but not always. Accuracy and precision are not exactly the same thing.
Another consideration is that even when a mechanical watch is allowed to vary +6/-4 seconds per day, that does not mean it will consistently vary by that high an amount each day. Mechanical movements -except the very rare 'turbillon' movements that correct for it -are noticably affected by the gravitational pull of the Earth. It only takes a performance distortion of 1/1000th of a percent for a watch movement to be one second less accurate in a day. This causes the performance of mechanical movements to vary from day to day when not stored in a fixed position. The good news is that the actual variations of a mechanical watch will often cancel each other out. This means a mechanical watch will tend to be more accurate over a longer period than the single-day COSC measurement may imply.
Regardless the day-to-day performance of quartz is much more consistent than mechanical under identical conditions. Quartz performance is affected mainly by temperature changes and weakened batteries. So a quartz watch that you measured to gains 0.5 second yesterday will usually be consistently off the correct time by around that amount. You can be pretty certain that in 60 days, it will be about 30 seconds off. At the end of a year, it would be likely be over 180 seconds off.
Compare that to a mechanical watch that you measured to gain 2 seconds yesterday. It would seem that our example quartz watch is 4 times more accurate than this. But while the measured daily variations seem much higher, they are not likely to be as consistent, so it will have a dampening effect. You cannot accurately predict that this mechanical would therefore be off by 120 seconds at the end of the same 60 days. It might be right on time, or it may be 200 seconds off. That broader range of variations allows most mechanical watches to stay closer to correct time than the daily variation rate implies. Over a year, some mechanicals can on average stay closer to correct time without having to be reset than a quartz watch might where others always tend to gain roughly the same amount each day.
Alignment of the sweep second hand
We get quite a few emails asking if it is a fault if the second hand of a quartz watch does not fall exactly on the markers around the outside of the dial of the watch. The fact is that this is almost always within manufacturing tolerances, and occurs on almost all watch brands to a certain degree. A slight inaccuracy of the hand alignment is always possible, but he does not deem this to mean that the watch is faulty or has a manufacturing defect.
The reason this occurs is because the parts which move the hands of the watch are all controlled by mechanical parts, e.g. springs and gears. The stopping point of these components vary slightly after the manufacturing process due to the 'breaking in' process. This does not mean that a watch will become more misaligned over time, it just means that it is impossible to predict with perfect accuracy whether a second hand will line up perfectly after it has been manufactured.
We understand this is annoying to some clients and that it is quite easy to stress over the most minor of inaccuracies - however minor hand misalignment is absolutely normal and is even evident in many high-end Swiss brands.
For further information see these URL’s
This is a subject open to a lot of debate but much depends on whether to use the watch in water.
Much of the area around servicing is common sense for example a diver's watch used in water on a daily basis will be subject to a much harder life than a diver's watch worn by someone who goes to the local pool or in the sea once a week. We tend to recommend that people who surf, diver or snorkel regularly get the watch checked for water resistance yearly and fully serviced around every two years. In the case of a watch that has an easy life then the water resistance check might be extended to two years with a full service every five years. My feeling is a rule of thumb is that a mechanical watch needs a service at somewhere been three and five years.
I have known watches to run for ten or more years without any attention but the issue is that when a service is needed it can be very costly and this applies particularly to old watches where the parts might have to be made.
For more useful tips regarding watches in general go to this link at Timepiece Service Centre who are one of our watchmakers http://support.timepieceservices.net/support/home