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Too many questions about watch servicing/maintenance

  1. Steve9pm

    Steve9pm Strangely obsessed with cheap manual wind watches. Sep 7, 2019

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    I didn’t realize watch servicing would be so expensive, especially if you do them as often as recommended!

    Out of curiosity:

    1) How many watches are in your collection that you would bother servicing? (For example, I wouldn’t service a G-shock beater).

    2) Would you consider yourself someone that keeps below average, average, or above average care of your watches?

    3) With 2 in mind, roughly how often do you service a watch and what is your average maintenance cost? Average annual maintenance cost?

    3) Let’s say you have 30 mechanical watches and cycle them each day. Standard service frequency might be every 3-5 years, but since you cycle your watches, there’s less wear and tear. How would you decide how often to service your watches? Feel free to tailor this question to your personal collection size.

    I know these questions might be overly general, but I think the answers would be interesting. I’m trying to calibrate my intended collection size, and think gauging my expected servicing costs would be helpful by gathering data from this forum, which I believe has more thoughtful watch enthusiasts.
     
  2. Wryfox

    Wryfox Sep 7, 2019

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    I collect a lot of vintage watches. The overlords of this site have bashed me repeatedly for saying this, BUT I don't service a damn thing until it runs wrong, and then I do as much as I can myself.

    "You're ruining history" "They should be preserved" "You're a custodian for future owners"

    Bullshite

    They are mine and I'll do what I damn please with them. If one goes to the great horologist in the sky, it makes yours worth more, so knock it off.

    The last time I did a regular maintenance was on a cherry Rolex two tone, because I though I should. That was ten years ago. Came back running the same as when I sent it in, and I was $1400 poorer for it. Runs the same today, 10yrs later. Never again.
     
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  3. SG90

    SG90 Sep 7, 2019

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    The idea between the servicing isn’t just for the wear on the parts, the issue is that the oils tend to dry up after the allotted service time... however it is obviously within the brands interest to get you to service you watch with slightly more frequency than strictly necessary as they want to avoid the mechanical wear and tear.
    So even if you don’t wear the watches every single day, the oils will still be drying out.
     
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  4. connieseamaster

    connieseamaster Sep 7, 2019

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    The oils drying out is a much less significant problem with modern lubricants. The stuff used now can retain it's viscosity for 10+ years
     
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  5. Larry S

    Larry S Color Commentator for the Hyperbole. Sep 7, 2019

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    I service them when I need to. Usually this means upon arrival. I service them when they malfunction. I’m fortunate to have a reasonably priced shop near me. Yes the money adds up with a large collection and as a retiree I am now revisiting. The older and more complicated, the more care is needed.
     
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  6. Steve9pm

    Steve9pm Strangely obsessed with cheap manual wind watches. Sep 7, 2019

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    Yup, and that’s why I wanted to informally poll OF about their service habits. It already seems like there’ll be diversity in replies.
     
  7. Donn Chambers

    Donn Chambers Sep 7, 2019

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    I own 3 relatively new Omega watches and I plan to service all on the recommended 5-7 year cycle (assuming, of course, that I don’t get tired of one before then). The most expensive to service will be the Speedmaster: $750 at the current rate. Assuming I go only 5 years, that works out to $12.50/month I have to save. I actually put $30/month into a savings account targeted for watch service, so I will be good to go when I need it.

    Doing regular service should generally avoid the really expensive service charges that happen when something goes wrong and major parts need to be replaced, or there was moisture intrusion.

    With that said, I do have several cheaper mechanical watches i’ve had for over 10 years and only wear occasionally. They aren’t worth as much as a service would cost and I have no sentimental attachment, so I don’t plan to ever service them and just wear them until they break a mainspring or something else goes wrong.

    But I’d never do that with a watch that cost me as much as my Omegas.
     
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  8. JwRosenthal

    JwRosenthal Sep 7, 2019

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    I think for many members it’s a sliding scale depending on the value of the watch. A $50 fun vintage watch I pick up on in antique store that’s running well, I will continue to run until a problem arises (50/50 chance it will go for years). Some have gone to the scrap pile and some have I felt worthy of spending the money for service.
    My more valuable watches I service about every 10 years as they get rotated.
    When I bring my perfectly working watches to my watchmaker for routine service his first question is “what’s wrong with it”. When I say “nothing” he just looks at me funny. I think he thinks I’m crazy for servicing a perfectly fine running watch but does it thinking “ it’s your money”.
    Rarer vintage watches I get serviced right away if the service history is unknown so I have a baseline.
     
  9. Archer

    Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Sep 7, 2019

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    Can I ask what you base this on?
     
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  10. JwRosenthal

    JwRosenthal Sep 7, 2019

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    I will also add that just because it’s “running fine” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have issues. I recently picked up a Zodaic Seawolf in extraordinary shape and it is keeping time within 5 sec/day. I brought it to my watchmaker for my baseline service and it needs a host of common wear parts .
     
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  11. gostang9

    gostang9 Sep 7, 2019

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    1. I have 2 watches I wear 90% of the time.
    a) A Rolex Exp II (new in 2015) that will be serviced every 5 years at a cost of about $800 CAD.
    b) A Seiko 5 SNZF (new in 2018) that will be worn until it stops keeping time, then replaced with a new equivalent.
    c) the rest of my watches are not worn frequently and so will be serviced based on how often I end up wearing them. I have them all serviced when I first get them so they are in perfect condition. My plan is to service them after I’ve worn them 100 times, or 20 years, whichever comes first.

    2. I consider myself someone that takes similar care to those who have a relatively small collection (<20) and tend to keep all of their watches. I consider myself far above average from serial flippers who wear and sell as is without even thinking of servicing them during ownership as there would never be a payback.
    I expect my average cost of service to be about $700 CAD per watch. Based on my maintenance plan, my annual cost is budgeted at approximately $1000 for those in my collection, and another $1000 for new ones I add.

    3. I explained my mindset in #1, but if I had 30 that I cycled daily, it means I’d have worn each 100 times after about 8 years and I would have it serviced then. There is no real scientific proof that this makes any sense, but it’s my plan and works for me.

    My thoughts won’t match that of many others, and it isn’t intended to judge or criticize anyone else. You wanted to poll others, so there’s my plan.

    Since every thread is better with photos, here is my daily EXP II on my wrist as I board a plane for a week in China.

    3310920E-27BE-41B6-8452-52B98BD7AFAD.jpeg
     
  12. gostang9

    gostang9 Sep 7, 2019

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    “Running fine” means absolutely nothing. In my experience, it means anything from about $600 to $2000 in servicing to get it back to proper condition.
     
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  13. SG90

    SG90 Sep 7, 2019

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    ‘Running fine’ = does work but needs service and I don’t want to say that because you will try to negotiate the price harder.
     
  14. Ville_W

    Ville_W Sep 7, 2019

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    Most of my watches are vintage pieces and following these simple “rules” make me sleep well.
    1) Accept cost for service as a part of your interest for watches.
    2) Service on need and not time based. It’s always a risk to open a vintage watch.
    3) Never trust a seller claiming the watch is serviced unless he can prove it or you by own experience can trust him.
     
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  15. Wryfox

    Wryfox Sep 7, 2019

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    BUT, running fine means running fine. If it stops, I'll fix it.

    There are a zillion 1990s Hondas running just fine every day, but bring one to a mechanic and he'll give you a bill for $2k and it'll run the same after.

    And please, no arguments about oil changes being maintenance. Of course you do that, and if I could get a watch service for $20 I'd do that too.
     
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  16. connieseamaster

    connieseamaster Sep 7, 2019

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    Discussions with my watchmaker
     
  17. Archer

    Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Sep 7, 2019

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    The subject of watch servicing is an interesting one to watch on forums. It tends to bring out deeply held beliefs that sometimes defy logic, almost like a religion. For me personally, I don't care if other people service their watches or not. I was personally brought up with the idea that when you bought something, you took care of it, but that way of thinking has gone by the wayside to a great extent in today's throw away society. Also as an engineer, I was heavily involved in preventative maintenance programs, so that sort of mindset comes naturally to me.

    From a professional point of view, I don't do all that many "maintenance" services, as most of the watches that come to me have some sort of problem. I'm certainly not trying to change people's minds, because there will always be the 10%-ers that won't change their beliefs no matter what. However there is one main thing people need to keep in mind when it comes to servicing...

    There is no one size fits all answer that makes sense in every situation.

    Different situations require different approaches to servicing. If you the type of person who primarily cares about costs, and you have a modern watch that you will be sending to the brand service center, then from an economic standpoint letting it run until it stops working could very well be the most economic option. It would depend on the brand, what they charge, how many parts they include in their base service pricing, etc.

    For a vintage watch where the parts are discontinued, hard to find, and expensive, you are very often better off taking the steps needed to keep the parts that are inside the watch in good shape, so servicing before the oils dry up and the parts wear will reduce the service costs and delays looking for parts going forward.

    How long a watch can go between servicing is not an easy question to answer. It depends on how the watch is used, so if it is worn daily as the only watch you own, it will likely need servicing more frequently than a watch that is worn in rotation with a dozen others than only gets worn a few weeks per year.

    I have a Sinn 556 with an ETA 2824-2 movement in it in my shop right now. The watch was bought new 7 years ago and worn daily - not owned by a collector. On inspection I see oils that are dried up, and some that have failed and there are obvious signs of wear products in the jewels. Here are some photos to illustrate this - first the balance jewel was dry:

    [​IMG]

    Here is the intermediate wheel jewel - note that the oil has turned brown, and there are products of wear in the oil that's left:

    [​IMG]

    Same here in the third wheel jewel:

    [​IMG]

    The oil in the seconds wheel jewel is completely dry, and the wear products here is in the form of a powder, rather than an oily sludge:

    [​IMG]

    The escape wheel jewel has some minor signs of wear:

    [​IMG]

    So let's look at the parts that are riding in those jewels - first the intermediate wheel - pivots worn on both ends:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now the third wheel - one end not so bad:

    [​IMG]

    The other lots of wear on the pivot - these pivots should be cylindrical:

    [​IMG]

    How about that seconds wheel - I would say this one is well worn:

    [​IMG]

    Escape wheel - there is some wear right up against the shoulder:

    [​IMG]

    In addition to this both reversing wheels required replacing, plus the ratchet wheel driving wheel.

    Now none of these parts are particularly expensive. Most train wheels for this movement are maybe $15 each, with the escape wheel being a bit more so this isn't adding a significant expense to the service. But as I mentioned, vintage is a different story. Here is a worn third wheel pivot from a vintage watch:

    [​IMG]

    This part is long discontinued, but I did manage to find a brand new one - cost will be $150, so this one worn part will cost more than all the worn parts on the 2824-2 combined. On a vintage movement the parts cost can quickly rise to a point where it costs more to service the watch than it's worth.

    So rather than sticking to dogmatic claims made by people on forums, I encourage people to think about things themselves, and do the research needed to determine what makes the most sense for the watches you have.

    Cheers, Al
     
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  18. Archer

    Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Sep 7, 2019

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    My experience is very different.
     
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  19. kennethwashere

    kennethwashere Sep 7, 2019

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    Very interesting read and replies here. I, too, have been factoring in the cost of service during my hunt for my first Omega.

    Yes, it sounds rather expensive to service it keep it going, but that's why we get into this hobby, right? ;)

    Same goes for vintage cars, or any car for that matter. If you love it, you're going to end up putting more money into it than it's probably worth...but in there lies the fun. It's what makes it "yours."
     
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  20. JwRosenthal

    JwRosenthal Sep 7, 2019

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    Yeah, if one saw an ad for a ‘63 Corvette that read “ All original, original battery, belts brakes, fluids, oil filter, tires- factory original and unmolested with great patina” I think a sane person would bring a trailer and not jump start it and drive it home.
     
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