How often should a mechanical watch be serviced? Why does a watch need a service? What is a service?

A common question for a watch dealer or watchmaker is, “How often should a mechanical watch be serviced?” I asked multiple watchmakers and they generally went along with the watch industry recommendations. Most manufacturers recommend having a watch serviced every five years.

Bernard Watch times every pre-owned watch that is being bought, sold, or traded on our electronic timing machines. We often find watches that we know to be eight to twelve years old and never serviced to be running fine. These are most often Rolexes and brands like Omega, Breitling, Tag Heuer that use ETA movements. We believe that these high production, well refined and efficient movements are better than many low production “manufacture” movements in some of the very high-end brands. We believe that these work horse, high production movements can easily go seven to ten years between servicing.

There are different oils used in wristwatches. Thin lubricants are used for low-torque, high-speed applications. Heavier, thicker oils are used for high-torque, low-speed applications. Thin oils can dry up and thicken and heavy oils can lose their cohesiveness and move off the pivots over time. The gaskets that make sure water resistance are the other reason for wanting to get your watch serviced. The rubber, silicone or plastic gaskets generally do not get much action and can stay effective for longer than the oils. Keep in mind, if you ever see your crystal fog up, do not ignore the warning signal. Get your watch to a watchmaker as soon as you can. The moisture will rust and corrode your movement, dial and hands.

If you are concerned about your watch, take it to a watchmaker that has an electronic timing machine and ask him to evaluate it. If the amplitude (swing of the balance wheel) is lower than 225 on average, your watch needs to be serviced. Your watchmaker should also have the tools to test the water resistance.

What does a service entail? Servicing (aka: Overhauling, COA =Clean/Oil/Adjust) is completely disassembling the movement and placing the parts in special chemical solution that dissolves oil residue, dirt and dust. The movement is then reassembled and special oils are applied to lubricate the essential parts as the watch is being put back together. It’s best to go ahead and change the gaskets if you are having the watch serviced, since they are usually generic, relatively cheap and readily available for most watches. This will make sure your watch stays to the water-resistant specifications it came with.

By Jeff Bernard

Jeff Bernard has been dealing Swiss watches since 1990.


  1. I just got a new old stock RW Roamer with FE140 movement.
    It is brand new, never used, manufactured in 1976.
    Will I damage this watch by using it now without first having it cleaned and relubricated??

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