Watch Repair 101: Beginner’s Guide to Servicing a Timepiece


Think of watch repair the same way you think of servicing your vehicle, though thankfully, with much less frequent intervals.

When it comes to mechanical timepieces, some parts will wear out over time and it will require a bit of fine-tuning.

Keeping up with the regular maintenance not only goes a long way toward ensuring your timepiece maintains accuracy and continues working like it should but can also help you avoid costly watch repairs down the line.

How Often to Service Your Watch

Unfortunately, there are no steadfast rules on how often your timepiece needs to be serviced.

Guidelines from the manufactures, themselves, can vary anywhere from two to ten years.

Just remember, If it’s not broke, don’t fix it…

Sometimes, all you need to is to change the bezel on the watch to make it look better after so many battles with the door frames.


If you wear your timepiece in the water, it’s generally a good idea to have it checked out every year or two. That way, you can ensure the seals are good and are not risking damage to the timepiece.

Full-Service Watch Repair AKA an Overhaul

A full overhaul is usually recommended around the five-year-mark. However, this is one area where watchmakers differentiate themselves.

For example, you can get away with not taking your Rolex in for a decade, but a TAG needs to go in every two.

What the Watchmakers Say

Audemars Piguet: “Water resistance seals exposed to the environment should be replaced every two to three years depending on wear and tear…

Complete maintenance service: Regardless of whether the watch has been worn, the mechanical movement can nevertheless start to lose some accuracy four to six years after its purchase date.”

Breitling: Maintenance service is recommended every two years, which includes water resistance checks; complete service is recommended every 4-6 years

Cartier: “In the Complete Service, a number of checks are performed to verify the good functioning of your Cartier watch. It is recommended approximately every five years.”

Hublot: “We recommend a complete overhaul every 3 to 5 years.”

Omega: “Have the water resistance checked once a year and a complete service performed every 5 to 8 years.”

Panerai: “Have it checked every 2 to 3 years or every year if the watch is used for water activities… We recommend a complete overhaul every 4 to 5 years.”

Rolex: “It is recommended to service your Rolex approximately every 10 years depending on the model and real-life usage.”

TAG Heuer: “We recommend a maintenance service after 2 years or a failed water-resistance test. As a general rule, all TAG Heuer watches require an annual check of their water-resistance.”

Ulysse Nardin: “We recommend that your timepiece be serviced every 3 to 5 years.”

What Are Some Signs I Need to Have My Watch Repaired ASAP?

There are times you should take your timepiece in for servicing even if it hasn’t reached the threshold.

Moisture: If you can detect any signs of moisture in the case, get it serviced right away.

Each day that the moisture festers, rust is developing on the parts inside, which increases the expense of watch repair drastically.

The same is true if you detect signs of dust or dirt inside the case.

Noise: Rattles from inside the case mean something is loose, and chances are, it’s going to get worse fast.

Skipping Hands: When the hands jump on a quartz timepiece, it usually means the battery is going and needs to be replaced.

Inaccuracy: Losing or gaining time could be an issue with lubrication, magnetism, or wear and tear.

Either way, it’s not getting better on its own, so get it checked out.

Pre-Owned: If you’re purchasing a pre-owned piece that does not have records indicating a recent service, it’s a good idea to get it checked out.

Why Are Service Intervals So Different?

Some timepieces are simply more sensitive than others.

Furthermore, many watchmakers set their service intervals based upon the lifestyle of those who wear the timepieces and the anticipated wear and tear.

Watchmakers also give ranges for this same reason. For example, a timepiece not being worn underwater isn’t exposed to the same risks as one that is not, so it can generally go longer without servicing.

Environmental conditions, such as humidity or dryness will impact how often you need to take yours in as well.

What Happens During a Full Overhaul?

The process carried out during a full overhaul varies, but generally speaking, the movement is removed and cleaned.

Any components showing serious wear are removed and replaced and all functional components of the movement are lubricated.

The accuracy will be tested, and the piece will be recalibrated if need be. Lastly, the piece will be polished and reassembled.

Where Should I Take My Watch for Repairs and Servicing?

If you purchased the timepiece new and it is under a warranty, you may need to send it to the manufacture or an authorized watch repair shop for servicing to keep the warranty intact.

Aside from this, you may opt to take yours to a third-party of your choosing.

In these cases, you’ll want to be sure you select someone who frequently works with your brand, uses authentic parts, and has a good reputation.

Watch Repair Got You Down? Get a New One for Less!

Depending on the manufacture, full overhauls and restorations can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

If your timepiece is hitting that point where it’s obsolete and parts are rising in cost, you may be happier with a new timepiece.

Check out our watch marketplace and get a great deal on a pre-owned timepiece.


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