A Cheap Watch Service Is Often the Most Expensive Thing You Can Do

A fellow collector once said that if you can’t afford to service your watch, you basically can’t afford the watch itself. There is a lot of truth to these words, but the servicing part is often not top of mind when people purchase a new timepiece. Once confronted with problems, they can go for the cheapest option, which is often the most expensive choice you can make.

I was reminded of this again when a local watch repair shop shared pictures of one of the watches they had on their workbench. They referred comically, yet rightfully, to it with the text, “when you let your local car repair shop work on your Rolex.” The images, as you can see in this article, show massive amounts of the wrong type of oil and severe damage from using the wrong tools.

Oiling a watch is a delicate task, and shouldn’t look like this.

What some people fail to understand is that a mechanical wristwatch is very much like a high-performance sports car. Even with a 99.9% accuracy rate, it is still off by 1 minute and 27 seconds daily, which most watch connoisseurs find rather unacceptable. Instead, the vast majority of watches are capable of running within the +6/-4 seconds a day range, which means an accuracy of 99.994%. To achieve this, lubricant plays an essential factor in keeping things running smoothly. However, several different types of these synthetic oils are needed, as parts have their own requirement in what kind of oil and how much they need. The wrong kind, or amount, can affect the precision but also increase wear.

Using the wrong tools can wreak havoc on the parts, like this oscillating weight

Then there are the tools to disassemble and assemble a watch during service. Often, they are rather specific and are usually made for just a single watch model. Obtaining all of these tools is a huge investment, but of vital importance, as when a tool doesn’t fit just right, you will damage the part. With those specific tools must also come the knowledge of how to use them correctly, which is yet another investment that must be made. This means there cannot be such a thing as a cheap service, but the focus should instead be on giving your precious watch a proper service from an expert. It might seem expensive, but in the end, it is the least costly route you can take, as it preserves not only the function of your timepiece but also safeguards its value.

Special thanks to Tempus for allowing us to use the images.

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