Most luxury watches are built to last several lifetimes. In fact, high-end watches are often passed down from generation to generation as cherished family heirlooms. However, longevity is of course dependent on how well you take care of the watch. Proper maintenance is an essential part of watch ownership. Therefore, it’s important to understand the effort and costs involved in maintaining a luxury timepiece before investing in one.
In addition to offering advanced technology and exciting designs, fine watch brands are also boasting longer warranty periods. It wasn’t so long ago that industry-standard warranties spanned two years. However, in more recent times, big brands such as Rolex and Omega have extended their warranty period from two to five years, and other brands, such as Cartier and IWC are now offering warranty extensions.
Generally speaking, the warranty “follows the watch” (as long as the correct paperwork was filled by an authorized dealer at the time of purchase), which means that if you buy a pre-owned watch that still has time left on the warranty, then the watch is still covered.
However, it can differ from brand to brand so it’s best to check the fine print of a specific watch company. Also, remember that warranties cover “manufacture defects” and not damage that may have resulted from any accidents. Plus, if a watch has been customized, modified, tampered with, or serviced by any unauthorized party, it typically voids the warranty.
Just like cars, watches benefit from regular servicing and maintenance. Most brands suggest how often their watches should go in for a check-up, which can range anywhere between two to ten years. However, if you wear your watch all the time and regularly have it on while swimming or in the shower, then shorter intervals between servicing could be necessary.
During a service, a watch is normally disassembled and all parts are checked and cleaned thoroughly. Even the movements are carefully taken apart and inspected. Some components, such as dials and crystals, may have to be replaced (with the owner’s consent, of course), movement components need lubrication, and gaskets are switched out to retain optimal water resistance. Polishing is also normally part of the servicing routine unless it is specifically requested by the owner to avoid polishing.
When the watch technician puts the watch back together, the watch movement is regulated and tested to ensure timekeeping is in order. The watch is usually also pressure-tested for water resistance.
If your watch has a battery that has run out, it is important to have the battery replaced as soon as possible. Dead batteries can leak fluids into the watch, which can cause substantial damage in the long run.
The price of a watch service not only depends on the brand, age, and type of watch but also if the piece requires any extensive repair. For instance, the more complications a watch has, the more work needs to go into servicing it due to all the extra parts. A watch service can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Regular maintenance and servicing of a watch are not normally covered by a warranty—unless it needs repair due to a manufacturing defect.
A watch’s water-resistance rating will determine where and when you can wear your watch. Some watches are only splash resistant, which means they can handle a bit of rain but not much more than that. Others can be taken into the shower or go with you for a swim in the pool, and highly water-resistant watches can safely go on a dive in the ocean.
Another thing to keep in mind that is all crowns and pushers must be securely pushed (or screwed-down) into the case before the watch comes into contact with water. And never operate a watch’s pushers or crowns underwater either.
If water gets inside the watch, it can cause significant damage to the dial and/or movement. So it’s always best to check the owner’s manual (check online for a PDF if you don’t have the paperwork in hand) for your watch’s specific water-resistance rating. When planning to buy a watch, it’s always a good idea to think about how often it will get wet so you can choose accordingly.
However, it’s important to note that a watch’s water resistance is not forever—vintage watches can no longer be expected to withstand exposure to water, regardless of what the original depth rating was. It’s never recommended to submerge a vintage watch underwater.
To maintain a watch’s official water depth rating, gaskets and seals should be checked regularly (at suggested servicing intervals, for instance). What’s more, a watch should undergo a pressure test any time it’s been opened up and reassembled to confirm that it’s still as water-resistant as it should be.