If you happen to own a mechanical watch, or you are considering buying one, it is natural to ask the question: “How long does a mechanical watch last?” Mechanical watches can last for decades. How long it lasts really depends on the type of mechanical watch you buy, and how often you get the watch serviced.
Even in this technological age of smartwatches, there is still a place for mechanical watches. As with classic cars, mechanical watches are here to stay. There will always be mechanical watch enthusiasts. Also, mechanical watches have a natural aesthetic and charm to them. Some of the more expensive luxury watches are mechanical watches!
In this article, we will go in depth in an attempt to answer all of your questions regarding how long a mechanical watch does, in fact, last. To start things off, however, we need to first define exactly what a mechanical watch is.
What Is A Mechanical Watch?
First off, a mechanical watch is defined as any type of watch that is powered purely on mechanical processes. A mechanical watch, unlike a quartz watch, does not require the use of a battery to function. Instead, it is powered by a mainspring.
The function of a watch is called its “movement”. So a battery powered quartz watch will be quartz “movement”, an automatic self-winding watch uses automatic self-winding “movement”, etc.
This brings us to the next point. There are actually several types of mechanical watches. You may have heard of automatic self-winding watches, or tourbillon watches, for instance. These are just a couple of different types of mechanical watches. The main point of confusion when it comes to mechanical watches seems to be manual vs automatic watches, so we will explain the difference between the two in the next section.
Manual Vs Automatic Watches
In the simplest terms, a manual, or hand winding watch is a watch in which you actually have to wind up the crown in order to transfer power to the mainspring. If a manual watch is not wound regularly, the mainspring will lose power and the watch will stop until it is wound up again.
An automatic, or self-winding watch is one that you do not have to actually wind up. Instead, it is powered through the motions of your arms. An automatic watch contains a rotor, that is moved as your arms move. As this rotor spins, it charges the mainspring. If an automatic watch is not worn often, it too, will lose power and stop.
There are various other movements found in mechanical watches. Some of these are repeaters, calendar, chronograph, hacking, wind indicator, and moon phase. We will not get into those in this article though.
Now that you know the difference between manual vs automatic watches, it’s time to get back to the main point of this article, which is…..
…How Long Does A Mechanical Watch Last?
Well there are a couple of ways that you can approach this question. The first would be, “How long does a mechanical watch hold power?” The second is, “How many years can a mechanical watch continue to function? ” We will start by answering that first question.
How long does a mechanical watch hold power?
Most mechanical watches will hold power for somewhere between 33 and 40 hours. So, on average, without use, it would be alright to assume that a mechanical watch will last about 2 days. After that point, you would wind a hand wound watch, or wear an automatic watch. Even an automatic watch would need to be hand wound initially, if it hasn’t been worn in a while.
On that note, a commonly asked question is: Is it ok to let a mechanical watch stop? The truth is that no harm will come to a mechanical watch from letting it stop. All this means is that the mainspring is completely unwound, and thus no longer holds power. However, as part of general maintenance and upkeep of a watch, you may want to wind it daily.
Now we will look at the next question.
How many years will a mechanical watch last?
We briefly touched on this topic by stating that mechanical watches can last for decades, which is true. But to give an exact time frame is nearly impossible to say for sure. Just know that they can last a very long time! Even the cheapest of mechanical watches can last for 40 years!
Mechanical watches are built to last. It is an inherent part of their design. This is why a lot of times mechanical watches will seem to be more expensive. Their internal workings and mechanisms are finely tuned. That is why the luxury watch market is made up of mechanical watches. Take Rolex, for example!
Like I said before, if a mechanical watch is well maintained, it can potentially last indefinitely. In the next part I will briefly go over ways that you can keep a mechanical watch well-maintained and running for the entirety of its life cycle.
How Do You Maintain A Mechanical Watch?
There are a few simple things that you can do with your watch to extend its life cycle. As with anything, the proper care can make all the difference in the world.
This is by far the simplest thing you can do. Just wind it daily. For a manual watch you would do this manually. For an automatic, you can just wear it everyday, or manually wind it if you are not going to be wearing it daily.
One question that always comes up on the topic of winding is the question of: “Can you over wind a watch?” For the most part, it is impossible to over wind a watch. Once the watch is fully wound, the winding mechanism will separate from the mainspring. This essentially keeps the mainspring from over winding.
There are exceptions to this though, such as older watches, or watches made of much lower quality materials. Thankfully, you can usually tell when a watch is sufficiently wound, because you will start to feel a resistance in the crown when it gets close to being fully wound.
This one should be pretty obvious, but you need to keep your watch clean. Over time your watch will be exposed to dust, dirt, and grime, so it is important to clean it regularly. There are watch cleaning kits you can purchase to easily achieve this. Additionally, there are ultrasonic jewelry cleaners that can do the job a bit more professionally.
If these options seem like overkill, then you can always just wipe it down with a towel or something.
Get It Serviced
The final piece of advice I can give for increasing the longevity of a watch is to get it professionally serviced. You can usually find places near you that clean jewelry and service watches. A simple google search should do the trick. Also, sometimes you can send it directly to the manufacturer of the watch to get it serviced. This is something that would definitely be worth looking into.
A professional will have all the tools and know how to make sure your watch is clean, oiled up, and running smoothly. It is usually good to have a watch serviced every 3 to 5 years.
Well I think we can conclude that a mechanical watch can be with us for a very long time indeed! They can be worn for life, or even passed down through the generations, provided they are taken care of.
If you happen to have learned something new, then you can go ahead and apply this knowledge to your present or future watch collections! Using these methods will ensure you get the most out of your mechanical watches!