A visit to a vintage watch store in town prompted me to write this article. I was sitting there chatting with the owner when a young man walked in with an awesome watch that he had a problem with - he had switched the case of the vintage watch to one of a better condition.
I won't berate the obviously bad decision to compromise the authenticity of a good vintage by switching parts, but for the case of this young man it resulted in the movement being placed in a very slightly larger case from a different batch. This was what brought the man into the shop in the first place.
He found that when he pulled out the crown to adjust the time, the movement and dial moved a little. It was then when the shop owner noticed the way he handled the crown on his watch,
After what seemed an eternity (it was a teachable moment, by an old man; they'll give it to ya, with extras), both me and the young man walked away with a little more knowledge about proper crown care.
I also thought back about some of the watches I've come across with bent crowns that are hard to turn and might even break off from the stem. Improper crown use when quick setting the day and date might also result in damage to the movement. In both cases, it's a trip to the workshop.
So I thought I'd share, for those of us who won't mind a little more know-how. In list form. Because who has the time?!
Do not pull the crown out while you're wearing the watch
This is how you get misaligned or bent crowns. There is so much force being applied to one side of the crown in the attempt to pull it out that it bends the stem or screw thread ever so slightly. Adjusting a watch with a bent winding stem may damage your watch. So take off that watch before you do anything to the crown.
Do not winding the watch with one finger
The trick shots of AD staff all over Singapore is to use their index finger to wind an automatic watch. While this is quicker and slightly impressive showmanship, it also adds uneven stress on one side of the crown.
Pull the crown out with two fingers
I've seen some people manipulate the crown with one finger, prying their nails in to the back and use a crowbar action to pull the crown out. Instead, try and get two of your fingers underneath the crown in a pincer grab, and pull with equal force so that the crown isn't experiencing too much force on one single side. If done properly, you will also feel that the crown turns a little smoother.
Make sure you have engaged the gears properly before turning
For watches with quick set day and/or date, it's important to make sure that you have pulled the crown out enough to start adjusting it. There is usually feedback from the movement that you've engaged the gears in the right way, so look out and feel for that before you start man-handling the movement.
Push the crown back slowly and firmly
After you're done adjusting the time, day or date, all that's left is to push the crown back into its original position. Do this with a firm and steady push downwards instead of a fast jab. This gives the gears more time to get into place. The oils on the movement gears help with easing the parts in place, but do little to absorb the shock of a sudden onslaught.
A note on screw-down crowns
The threading on screw-down crowns can be quite delicate, and should be treated with care. When securing the crown after adjustment, take care not to lock it down too tightly or you might risk damaging the threads. Once you grind those down it's a case and crown replacement for you. Also, the gasket and threading will take care of water resistance; forcing the crown down too tightly does nothing more.