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Perfect Timing

How can you ensure your watch remains happy and working well? And how important is servicing anyway? Andrew Henry, Technical and QC Manager, tells all…




We tend to talk a great deal about the people who create Christopher Ward watches, but very rarely with those who keep our watches happy and healthy. Technical and QC Manager Andrew Henry heads up this operation in Maidenhead.

“I decided to try my hand at horology, believing my visual problem solving skills developed from my early career in graphic design could be transferred to more practical hands-on work. Also, it didn’t hurt that watches are a longstanding passion of mine.” (Andrew also confesses a similar passion for Chelsea FC, but don’t hold that against him.)

So, Andrew, tell us about the servicing offer at CW.
Currently we have four technicians in the watch clinic, who cover all repair work on movements, cases and bracelets, from diagnosing issues to carrying out complete and partial services on quartz and mechanical movements and replacing pushers, crowns, bezels, case gaskets or sapphire crystals. There aren’t enough of us here to offer a polishing service, but we do offer competitive pricing for replacement cases and bracelets.

There’s a 60-month guarantee on our movement work, which covers the majority of watches returned for repair, and we can repair watches outside the guarantee at competitive prices. Over the years we have gradually employed more technicians, with a current team of four. This means we rely less on our Swiss atelier for customer care. The technicians have become competent watchmakers themselves, enabling us to provide more complicated mechanical repairs here in the UK.

How often should we get a watch serviced?
A watch is a precision instrument with many moving parts, and needs to be serviced regularly. Time between services depends upon the model; the climate, environment and conditions in which it is used; and the care taken by its owner. We recommend you service your CW watch every 3-4 years, and look at it like a trip to the dentist. Taking the watch apart, re-oiling it and cleaning it where necessary will prevent components wearing.

And what happens during a service?
First, a watchmaker or technician will conduct a thorough examination of the watch and movement. This includes demagnetising the movement; full disassembly; movement repairs; cleaning of components using an ammonium-based solution; movement reassembly; regulation to appropriate tolerance; case cleaning, including bracelet; gasket replacement; and a reseat of dial and hands before the posage (that’s what we call the assembled movement, dial and hands) is put back into the case, and the watch is sealed and tested. The watch’s rate and power reserve are checked for 48 hours, or longer if necessary, before the water resistance is checked.

The whole process can take up to three days for a standard 38/42 hour power reserve, or six days for an SH21 with a 120 hour power reserve. Refurbishing is not included, but we carry out a full diagnostic of the watch prior to servicing, as some components may need to be changed. We can recommend new components if necessary – which come with an extra charge.



 
We recommend you service your CW watch every 3-4 years, and look at it like a trip to the dentist. Taking the watch apart, re-oiling it and cleaning it where necessary will prevent components wearing. ”

Andrew Henry


What would happen if a watch never got serviced?
I’ve known Rolexes that have never been serviced and still run as they did out of the box, so it’s not guaranteed to break if it’s never serviced. But a service is still advisable to ensure everything’s functioning correctly. Outgoings in the short term can save money in the long term – especially if a component were to break due to lack of upkeep. Due to the components in the watch functioning in unison, there are various parts of the movement where metal is acting on metal, which will always result in wear. This can cause further damage, such as excessive wear of jewels, increased viscosity of lubricants, defective ball bearings, broken mainsprings, loss of balance amplitude, jammed rotor weights, broken wheel teeth and arbour pinions, and loss of tension in springs. All these symptoms are likely to cause your watch to either gain or lose excessive time, or for the watch to stop completely. Obviously, it is impossible to completely prevent these issues, but servicing should decreased their probability.

How about quartz watches?
Due to the cost difference between mechanical and quartz movements, it’s often seen as uneconomical to service a quartz watch. It may be cheaper to replace the movement instead.

However, this is rarely the case with higher end quartz movements, so they are serviced similarly to a mechanical movement. The battery consumption is checked initially, at which point the watch is disassembled, with special attention paid to the electronic circuit and coils, which are removed, inspected and placed in a safe place.

High battery consumption is usually due to increased friction in the gear train, which is why all the wheels and bridges are cleaned with an ammonium-based solution before the movement is reassembled and lubricated accordingly. The battery is then replaced and the consumption checked again before case cleaning, including the bracelet. The gaskets are replaced before the posage is rehoused in the case and the watch is sealed and tested before being put through quality control.

Do individual movements have particular issues?
They do, and experience with each one allows for quicker diagnostics of faults. For example, on the JJ01 Jumping Hour module the lubricants and grease used on the detector to reduce friction on the CAM wheel will become increasingly viscous over time, meaning that the balance amplitude will reduce, and without the correct upkeep the module may begin to stop before the jump.

With SH21 we completed extensive R&D before presenting it to market, but the best test is time. We are constantly improving it in small ways, using information gathered through analysis of returned movements.

For more information or to book a service or repair, you will need to visit our service and repairs page.