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5 things to avoid when wearing a vintage watch

Don't we all love lists? Now, the idea for this list came to me as I was washing my hands (a hint for what's coming in the later parts of this article). I remembered a video I saw where a collector would remind himself not to clap too hard when wearing his vintage.

Nice dial. Hope no one drowned to make it.

So, without further adieu, here are five things you should avoid doing when wearing a vintage watch, along with the real life stories that led to my conclusions.

1. Walking in the rain

Yes, water is bad for all watches, but even more so for the vintage variety. A gentleman wearing a prized vintage and finds himself caught in a heavy rain should not attempt to walk macho through it. The seals on a vintage are firm as best, and definitely not highly water resistant.

A buddy of mine was stoked. He had just bought his first vintage watch, and was proud to show the world. Unfortunately for him, it was raining. Unfortunately for his watch, the owner was a manly man who doesn't let a little downpour stop him from getting to work.

Fortunately for the watch repairer looking for his next paycheck, there was nice a watch that's suffering from a case of water logging.

2. Shaking the rotor too hard

Because centrifugal force. Held in place usually by a screw or rivet, the rotor of an automatic watch can be thrown off center if the vigorous owner goes too crazy. if you've seen scratches on the rotor or inside back of the case back, it's likely because of an off-center rotor wreaking havoc on it.

I was stoked. I had just acquired a nice chronograph and wanted to give it a go. It was one of those old ones that did not have a hand winding feature, so I gave it a generous shake from side to side to get things going.

When I couldn't feel the rotor moving much, I decided that harder shake means better result (I was still a new collector at this time). Something came loose, and I was slapped with a repair bill.

3. Drying your hands by shaking them hard

Everyone loves a good shakedown after a nice clean wash. We do what we have to do in the washroom, and then soap up (because we love hand hygiene). With the last bits of water always the hardest to get off, we give the wrist a nice hard flick.

Well, not if we're wearing a vintage watch. Don't want to risk destroying the nice flaky lume dots on the dial and hands do we?

While I have no story of my losing lume on a watch because I shook too hard, there was a time when I was replacing a set of hands on a watch when a slight touch caused the aged lume to fall off in powdery flakes. Goes to show how delicate these things are at that age.

Now imagine shaking the watch as vigorously as you do to dry your hands.

4. Using the quickset function too often

The need for convenience could have led to many a great invention by man, but in the watch world, none could be more useful (and us more grateful for) than the quickset date and day functions. Those who own moonphase or complete calendars will also be familiar with the push buttons that come at the side of the watch case.

A simple push with a plastic nib will cause the day, date, month, and moonphase to advance, but what you don't see is the complex network of gears and springs that have to move seamlessly despite each other.

During the changing period (8pm to 4am for gradual switches, and after 6pm for jump switches), any manual manipulation to the internal gearing can cause the gears to lock against each other. It's best to let the change happen naturally. If you have to, advance the time to a safe zone (I like to use 6am) and adjust what you have to.

I was winding the crown of my complete calendar watch to power it up when I felt the gears getting jammed. I tried to apply a little more force, and it just got stuck. It was close to 11am and I instantly regretted manipulating the watch at that hour.

5. Servicing it too often

This one might be a little controversial to those who believe that a watch deserves a nice cleaning every 5-6 years.

Disclaimer: While this might be the case (new oils mean better running movement), putting your watch with any random guy who might mistreat the parts will lead to disaster. A full service means that the watch is literally taken apart and each part washed before reassembling and oiling.

That's a lot of opportunities to screw your watch over, and all it takes is one careless mistake. Trust only the best, and cheap might not be worth the risk.

The first ever Swiss watch that I serviced (I do it as a hobby and I don't personally service the watches I sell) did not end up well. While I fixed the problem of it running too slow (the oils were clogging the gears), an instance of carelessness led to the damage of one of the wheels in the automatic winding module.

Fortunately for me, the watch could still be manual wound. I left the perfectly working rotor inside the watch for the weight, but without the winding wheel, it was merely decoration.

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Best viewed on desktop, because you should really take your time with vintage.

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