How Often to Service Automatic Watch?

Automatic watches are marvelous pieces of engineering, fusing centuries-old craft with modern precision. These timepieces, also known as self-winding watches, are a favorite among watch enthusiasts for their intricate mechanism and the convenience of not requiring manual winding. They work by harnessing the kinetic energy generated by the wearer’s wrist movements, winding the mainspring which powers the watch.

Regular servicing is crucial to maintain an automatic watch’s performance and longevity. Generally, an automatic watch should be serviced every 4 to 5 years, although this can depend on various factors such as the watch’s age, wear and tear, and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

The importance of regular servicing cannot be overstated. It is akin to getting your car serviced — ensuring it runs smoothly, extending its life, and preventing possible issues down the line. This article will take you through the world of automatic watch servicing, exploring its various facets and providing valuable insights.

What is an Automatic Watch?

An automatic watch, often described as a self-winding watch, is a mechanical timepiece that winds itself automatically. The mechanism relies on a rotor, a metal weight attached to the movement, which swings freely as the wearer’s wrist moves. This rotation winds the mainspring, which stores the energy required to power the watch.

Automatic watches are a marvel of miniaturized engineering, housing hundreds of tiny components within a compact space. Each part plays a crucial role, and their harmonious interaction is what keeps the watch ticking accurately.

Why Do Automatic Watches Require Regular Servicing?

The intricacy of automatic watches is both a source of fascination and a reason for their need for regular servicing. With each tick, the watch’s components are moving, creating friction. To reduce this friction and prevent wear, watchmakers use lubricants. However, over time, these lubricants degrade, reducing their effectiveness and potentially leading to increased friction and damage to the watch’s delicate parts.

Regular servicing ensures that the watch continues to function optimally, with the lubricants replaced and any wear and tear addressed. It helps maintain the watch’s precision, prevents premature wear and damage, and ultimately prolongs the lifespan of the watch.

How Often Should You Service an Automatic Watch?

While a general guideline suggests servicing an automatic watch every 4 to 5 years, several factors can influence this frequency. For instance, a newly purchased automatic watch may not need servicing for the first few years, whereas an older, frequently worn watch may require more frequent attention.

Factors such as the watch’s brand, the environment in which it’s worn (like high humidity, dust, or temperature extremes), and how the watch is treated can all play a part in determining the optimal servicing frequency.

Signs Your Automatic Watch Needs Servicing

Just as a car might start to show signs of needing a service, so too can an automatic watch. For example, you might notice that the watch is losing or gaining time beyond its usual range, or there might be visible issues such as condensation under the crystal or the movement stopping altogether.

Ignoring these signs can result in further damage, potentially leading to more costly repairs down the line. Regular servicing helps to prevent such issues and keeps your watch in prime condition.

What Happens During an Automatic Watch Service?

Servicing an automatic watch is a meticulous process that should be undertaken by a skilled watchmaker. It usually involves disassembling the watch, cleaning all the parts, replacing any worn components, reassembling the watch, and then calibrating it for accurate timekeeping.

Attempting to service an automatic watch without the necessary skills and tools can result in damage, so it’s recommended to always have your watch serviced by a professional.

How to Extend the Time Between Servicings?

Regular servicing is non-negotiable for maintaining your automatic watch’s longevity and precision, but there are some steps you can take to ensure your watch stays in top condition for longer between each servicing.

Proper Storage

When you’re not wearing your automatic watch, ensure it is stored in a cool, dry place. Avoid environments with high humidity, as this can lead to condensation within the watch, potentially damaging the delicate internal components.

Avoid Physical Shocks

While many automatic watches are designed to withstand a certain degree of shock, they’re not invincible. Try to avoid subjecting your watch to extreme physical shocks like dropping it or knocking it against hard surfaces, as this can damage the movement.

Limit Exposure to Magnets

Modern automatic watches are more resistant to magnetism than their vintage counterparts, but they’re not completely immune. Prolonged exposure to strong magnetic fields can affect your watch’s timekeeping ability.

Regular Cleaning

Clean the exterior of your watch regularly using a soft cloth to remove dust, sweat, and other particles that could potentially work their way into the watch’s internals.

Wind it Regularly

If you don’t wear your automatic watch every day, make sure to wind it manually at least once every two weeks. This helps keep the lubricants inside the watch from drying out.

The Cost of Servicing an Automatic Watch

Servicing an automatic watch involves a lot of precision and skill, and this is reflected in the cost. The exact price can vary based on the watch brand, the watch’s complexity, the level of service needed, and the watchmaker’s expertise.

While it might be tempting to put off servicing due to the cost, it’s important to view it as an investment. Regular servicing ensures your watch functions accurately, maintains its value, and can significantly extend its lifespan.

FAQs about Automatic Watch Servicing

Can I service my automatic watch myself?

While it might be tempting to try servicing your automatic watch yourself, it’s usually not recommended unless you have professional training. The internal mechanisms of an automatic watch are incredibly delicate and intricate, requiring specialized tools and knowledge to service correctly.

How long does watch servicing take?

The exact time it takes to service a watch can vary widely depending on the watch and the level of service needed. Generally, a full service can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Can I wear my automatic watch while swimming?

Most modern automatic watches are water-resistant to some degree, but it’s always best to check the specific water resistance rating of your watch. Even for water-resistant watches, it’s a good idea to have the seals checked annually if you frequently wear your watch in water, as they can degrade over time.

How can I tell if my watch needs servicing?

Signs that your watch may need servicing include losing or gaining time, the watch stopping, or visible condensation under the crystal. If you notice any of these issues, it’s likely time to get your watch serviced.


The importance of regular servicing for an automatic watch cannot be emphasized enough. Just like a car needs regular maintenance to run smoothly, your automatic watch requires care to perform optimally. With proper servicing, your automatic watch can keep ticking accurately for decades, serving as a testament to the intricate and precise craft of watchmaking.

Sherry's editorial journey seamlessly merges with her passion for horology at WatchReflect. As a seasoned editor and watch enthusiast, she curates insightful guides that cater to novices and connoisseurs alike. With a penchant for research and a flair for storytelling, Sherry transforms horological complexities into engaging narratives. Her mission is to illuminate the path for those navigating the multifaceted realm of timekeeping.

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