It’s about time for a spring clean

Your watch is probably long overdue a service – and what better time of the year to do so? Allow the watchmakers at Wempe to explain

VENTURE down the stairs at Breitling or Vacheron Constantin’s shiny new boutiques on Bond Street, or simply browse the windows of David M Robinson in Canary Wharf’s subterranean Jubilee Place, and you’ll be greeted by the sight of labcoated technicians, tweezering away behind glass.

The in-house watchmaker has become a regular fixture at the finer watch emporia, and for good reason. For a start, you can actually meet the person who will be dismantling and fiddling with the inner workings of your pride and joy, which is always reassuring. Plus, the dearth of qualified watchmakers relative to the number of watches flooding into the market means that the promise of a quick turnaround on-premises has become a big selling point.

Arguably, it was Germany’s Wempe group who paved the way, being the first to bring their watchmakers out of the attic and on to the shopfloor. At Bond Street alone, you will be greeted by three friendly watchmakers qualified to repair and service Rolex, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, IWC, Baume et Mercier, Glashütte Original, Officine Panerai and Nomos.
“For me,” says store manager Lynn Schroeder, “it’s so important the customer can speak to the watchmaker – it makes them feel comfortable. After all, as retailer, we have an after-sales responsibility to our customers.”

In turn, what so many owners of mechanical watches fail to realise is the responsibility they have to their prized possessions. All manufacturers recommend a full service every three to five years – but how many of us actually adhere to this? The consequences can be dire, with oils hardening to a varnish and causing friction to delicate parts. Broken parts can even come loose, reeking havoc within the inner workings. It may cost around four or five hundred pounds for something that’s, on the face of it, seemingly unnecessary, but look at it this way: you never hesitate to take your perfectly functional car in for a regular service, do you? Well, the engine of a mechanical watch is under far more duress in relative terms, running constantly at full pelt. A service every five years suddenly seems quite sensible. And what a service.

“The public are under this impression,” says Wempe’s watchmaker

Graham Forster, “that you just take out the movement and give the case a quick clean. But it’s a very complicated procedure.
“Everything is stripped down to its bare bones, piece by piece, with each component of the movement individually checked for wear, replaced if necessary. Then the parts are placed in an automatic cleaning machine – four tanks of ultrasonically charged cleaning and rinse fluids.”

While the machine does its thing, Forster cleans and polishes the case, buffing out any scratches, before beginning the painstaking process of reassembling and re-oiling the hundreds of watch components, then casing it all back up. All of which takes the best part of a day, for a single watch. And it doesn’t end there.

“After we’ve regulated the watch twice for precise timekeeping,” Forster continues, “every serviced watch goes on to a winder and we then carry out a check every morning for a whole week. We check the hands are staying in line, and of course that it keeps good time. Only after a week’s quality control do we hand it back to the customer.”
That five hundred-or-so quid

doesn’t seem so much now, does it?


Graham’s top tips for a tip-top timepiece

1. A mechanical watch needs servicing every three to five years. Look after your watch and it will look after you.

2. Every couple of years, have your watch checked for water resistance, and have any seals replaced if
needs be.

3. If you have an automatic, invest in a watch winder – it keeps it wound and the oils from thickening.

3. Don’t wear your watch loosely. As well as looking gauche, it can cause premature ageing in the bracelet links.

3. Don’t use soap to clean your watch – just a damp cloth, or, ideally, alcohol wipes.

Wolf at the door
Above, Wempe’s watchmaker recommends a watch winder to anyone with an automatic watch – but do you really need one? Well, if you wear your watch relatively infrequently, it does pay to keep the oils from draining away from their various pivots instead of restarting the mechanics and smashing bare metal against bare metal. Ex-pat Simon Wolf’s LA-based company makes a particularly slick winder box, whose injection-moulded acrylic gears mean that it can whirr away on your dresser without keeping you awake., from £112.99