Guide to storing and maintaining your antique watches

Regardless of whether your watch is antique or not, storing and maintaining your timepieces is essential to protect the longevity of the piece. In this feature we will be providing you with handy tips for storing and maintaining your watch so you can admire your piece for years to come.

antique watches need proper dry, dark and safe storage.

1) The right storage for your antique watches

Watches are sensitive to humidity and dust, so making sure they are stored in a dry environment, where you can ideally control the temperature, is vital for maintaining the quality of your antique watches. The trouble with humidity is that moisture will get into your watches, which can destroy dials and cause rusting.

Another vital element that can be detrimental to watches is sunlight. Whilst some watches may increase in value through slight signs of ageing, the majority of watches are priced on their quality. Light will often cause fading on black dials in vintage watches, changing the colour to a brown tinge. Sometimes these tinges can be desirable and valuable in vintage watches, depending on the brand, model and aesthetics. However, this should be checked before you expose your watch to repetitive sun exposure.

2) Insuring your antique watches

Whenever you buy a new watch it is always advised to properly insure the timepiece, because these pieces are small, portable and highly valuable watches can often be desirable to thieves. It is always best to consider where you are wearing the timepiece to avoid theft.

Many people will store their watches in safes while at home to protect them from this possibility. It is always best to keep a record of serial numbers and photographs of the watches you own so that if it is stolen you can give these records to the authorities and the insurance agencies. Many watch companies will also accept these records so that if the watch does return into their possession they can reunite you with your timepiece. The internet can also provide you with support, with websites and forums to posts information regarding your stolen watch. Potential buyers can then inform you if they have spotted it for sale.

3) Wearing your antique watch

Wearing your antique watch can be the best part of owning it, however be careful about when you wear it. Consider the environment of the occasion before putting on your watch, as humidity and water damage can ruin vintage watches. Watches with screw-down case backs will tend to be more resilient over time, with water, oil and dust kept out from the casing; however vintage chronographs with square pushers are renowned for letting humidity in, so you must carefully consider when you will wear these types of watches.

4) Regular servicing

It is advised that you should have your watch serviced every few years from a reputable specialist. If you frequently wear your timepiece it is generally thought you should have it serviced every three to five years to maintain it. If you properly store your watches and it is only worn on special occasions you may not have to service quite as regularly. If your antique watches are complex in design and functions, for example chronographs and minute repeaters, the watch may need more regular and detailed attention to maintain it. Many manufacturers will accept the watch back to look at servicing it in-house, although you can also search for reputable watchmakers close to home that are endorsed by the brand.

5) Communication with your watchmaker

Always maintain communication with your watchmaker or servicing company. Make sure you are clear on what you want from them. If you do not want certain parts replaced or polished you must inform them beforehand to avoid any changes that cannot be altered. Always find a trustworthy and reliable watchmaker, who has great reviews, to avoid any mistakes that could ruin your timepiece. Maintaining a good relationship with a reputable watchmaker can be essential for the up-keep of your watch.

6) Professional polishing

Restoring a timepiece to how it originally looked can dramatically reduce the value of certain timepieces, especially if the case is polished, luminous material on a dial is repainted or original parts of the watch are replaced.

It is important, in terms of value, to maintain the watch’s original finish without worry over little nicks or scratches. When a watchmaker polished a watch to make it look ‘brand new’ this can alter the metals original finish and can change the original bevels on the edge of the case. This can dramatically decrease the watches value and any interest from potential buyers.

7) Maintaining the dials and bezels

Typically, the value of a watch comes from the dial, so it is important to keep the originals where possible. The watches of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s had dials that were painted with radium for luminosity. If the radium material, bezels and crowns are removed from the watch it can significantly decrease the value of the watch.

8) Replacing crystals

Having the original crystals in a watch can be a plus in an antique watch but most collectors can be forgiving of replacements, as if the original crystals are scratched or cracked it can ruin the overall aesthetics of the watch. This is, however, not overlooked if the crystals are signed, or where an adequate replacement has not been found. Watches from the sixties, like Omegas and Universals, had crystals within their logos which collectors will look for.

If you are having a crystal replaced do make sure to retain the original crystal so that you can sell the crystal along with the piece in the future.

9) Keep the original bracelets

Original bracelets can be highly valuable to collectors. These can be important for the overall aesthetics of the watch, with more and more collectors nowadays wanting the authentic bracelets for their timepiece for aesthetics and wear.

10) Take care over the movements

Movements need to be kept in a good working order, therefore you need a good watchmaker to maintain this part of the watch. If your watch has encountered dust or moisture this can affect the movements within the piece. There can be hundreds of individual components that make up the movements in your watch so therefore you need a skilled technician who will be able to clean and lubricate these parts when needed.

So if you have, or are considering getting antique watches, make sure you follow this guide to maintain the value and quality.