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8 Things You Need to Know Before Buying A Mechanical Watch

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and go mechanical. We’re proud of you, but we’ve (unfortunately) discovered that a great deal of those who have chosen to listen to the siren song of the battery-free tend to forget a few things about their timepieces.

Fret not—we’re here to keep you from making the sort of mistakes that’ll have you rushing to your friendly neighborhood service center or that’ll keep you up all night Googling “how to fix mechanical watch help me please what have I done”. The truth (sometimes) hurts, but we must all soldier on because some things are worth it.

Your watch will stop when not used.

One of the perks of having a mechanical watch is that it doesn’t run because of a common battery, but because of centuries-old techniques, which essentially makes that slug on your wrist a veritable engineering marvel.

While that is something worth being in awe of, this isn’t without a catch: a mechanical watch only has enough power in it to run for a few days, and when left unworn or unused, the mainspring—which powers the whole watch—will have unwound, leaving the watch without energy.

Automatic watches typically only require being worn (or kept in a winder) to keep it running, thanks to its rotor, but a totally mechanical watch demands winding every few days. So if you’re not wearing or winding (never on your wrist, and never too tightly) it on the regular, don’t expect it to keep time for weeks at a time.

You cannot set the calendar when the hands are near 12 o’clock/between 9 PM and 2 AM.

That is, unless you want to potentially ruin it.

In all seriousness, don’t do it. It’s when the watch hands are in this position that the watch should be changing the date on its own, engaging the gear train. Making any adjustments could potentially break important parts within your timepiece—and good watch repairs don’t come cheap.

You’ll need to have your watch serviced every eight to 10 years.

At the end of the day, it’s still a machine. You wouldn’t forego getting, say, your car serviced, would you? The same goes for your watch, which is just as complicated a machine. Pieces wear out, oils dry up, and straps and bracelets get dirty (particularly leather straps, which tend to degrade faster in hot, humid, tropical weather), so do yourself—and your watch— a favor by taking it to a certified service center every few years for a nice tune-up.

Your sapphire glass can’t get scratched—except by a sapphire or diamond.

One of the reasons you’re probably using to justify shelling out the amount you’ve paid is that the crystal on your watch is pretty much scratchproof. The operative phrase, of course, is “pretty much,” because there’s always the possibility that you’ll mar that pristine, shiny surface if you try hard enough, but unless you’re routinely rubbing against the aforementioned precious stones, you and your watch should be fine.

However, there is a caveat: That anti-glare coating the watch brand’s so proud of? That might look like a scratch on the crystal, even if your watch is fitted with a sapphire scratch resistant glass.

There’s no such thing as “waterproof” in this industry, and the ratings can get confusing.

Water resistance to 30 meters? 50 meters? 100? Great, you can swim and dive with your watch to that depth!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you really can’t. We’d advise you err on the more conservative side and keep your watch from water, and even steam. Even if you have a diving watch—which is typically marked water resistant to a minimum depth of 200 meters, and which you should only take down to about half that depth—you need to consider that exposing it to extreme conditions means you’ll need to pay close attention to its functionality and have it serviced regularly. Another thing to take note of: the waterproof warranty on your watch expires yearly after the initial warranty provided by the manufacturer unless if you bring it in for waterproofing.

The fact is there is no truly waterproof watch. The water resistance watchmakers mark their pieces with are determined under strict, highly controlled conditions (e.g. steady, continuous pressure and still water) that are far from the reality of the world around us. Simply put: don’t risk it.

Your watch is inaccurate.

If you’re a stickler for semantics, that is. Plus or minus three seconds a day, or even a minute and a half per month, to be specific. That’s just the way it is: watchmakers are constantly striving to achieve complete accuracy, but the journey there is a long, arduous, and ongoing one.

Take a deep breath. It’s fine. We’ve all learned this and had our hearts temporarily broken. But you’ll live. And trust us, your watch is still great.

If magnetized, your watch could run fast up—to several minutes to hours faster. It could even stop.

Think about it: hundreds of tiny metal pieces arranged with extreme precision, holding each other in place and working in perfect harmony. Beautiful. All right, that may sound incredibly simplistic when explaining the negative effects of magnetization on a watch, but any exposure your watch gets to a magnetic force—present in everyday things like your phone, your microwave, your laptop—throws the delicate springs and gears of your watch out of sync, throwing off the timing or even stopping the watch completely. While it might feel like your heart has stopped along with your watch should it ever be magnetized, don’t worry; a well-equipped service center should be able to make any necessary repairs and adjustments to your timepiece.

The price of your watch might go up. Or down.

Bought your watch because you were sure it was a good investment piece? While most watches do appreciate in value, you need to take into consideration several things: the brand, the model, and the market. Several brands typically fetch great prices on the aftermarket, but models within brands might be priced lightyears differently. The laws of supply and demand also play a massive role, with buyers’ wants potentially dictating prices of secondhand pieces. Our advice? While it isn’t in any way a bad thing to buy a piece with the hopes that its value might go up, the main reason you should be buying a piece is because of how much you love it in that moment.

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