Timeley Advice: Watch Care

Watches are investments and invaluable heirlooms. By implementing a solid risk management program and considering the measures outlined below, you will be better equipped to help prevent immediate losses and preserve your collection for years to come. 

General care

  • When initially used, automatic watches should be wound with a few turns of the winding crown.
  • Watches with manual mechanical movements should be wound once daily, at the same time, without   over-winding. Stop winding as soon as you feel resistance.
  • Mechanical watches should be wound once monthly if not used, to keep their movements properly lubricated.
  • Don’t store automatic watches on electronic winders for prolonged periods of time. Keeping a watch constantly running increases wear and accelerates service intervals. 
  • Keep watches working optimally with a complete movement overhaul every three to five years. New watches may need earlier maintenance to preserve the manufacturer's warranty. 
  • Watches that stop keeping time, or which run too slowly or too fast by one minute per day or more, likely need servicing. 
  • Check for water resistance regularly. Condensation under the crystal or an oxidized dial are signs to    have your watch repaired professionally immediately.
  • When servicing a vintage or luxury watch, request that the case and bracelet be kept as is; not to be refinished or polished. Likewise, request no parts be replaced, especially the dial and hands, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid scratches by storing watches away from metallic objects and not wearing them alongside metal bracelets.
  • Wash metal bands with a soft brush and warm, soapy water, then rinse with warm, clean water before drying. Leather straps should not get wet.
  • Clean regularly worn watches every few months with a soft, dry cloth to remove debris and chemicals. Avoid wrist contact with products such as cosmetics, detergents, moisturizers and perfumes, which can damage a watch's function and finish.
  • Preserve all original documentation for your watch, including the original box and guarantee.
  • If your watch has a quartz movement, remove and/or replace worn batteries every three years or sooner.


At home

  • Store watches in a safe and make a habit of removing one just before wearing then returning it to the safe once you take it off. 
  • If stored outside of a safe, be sure to keep watches hidden in a difficult-to-find location; avoid drawers   and closets.
  • Safes should be bolted into the structure of your home so they cannot be removed then broken into later. 
  • Store watches in original boxes or watch cases to ensure they are not scratched by contact.
  • When visitors or contractors are in your home, keep watches out of site to minimize the possibility of theft.
  • Remove watches before showering or bathing. Soapy water can corrode the gaskets that enable water resistance.
  • Maintain an updated, detailed list of your watch collection, ideally with photographs and serial numbers. Store a copy of your inventory offsite. 


Away from home

  • While traveling, unworn watches should be protected in a padded jewelry portfolio or watch box. Never leave watches in a checked bag.
  • Beware of potential theft of carry-on bags in overhead compartments. If possible, keep additional watches separately in a pants or jacket pocket.
  • When staying in a hotel, store unworn watches in your hotel safe or a safe deposit box. 
  • Wear watches discreetly in foreign countries where thieves can recognize valuable articles.
  • Valuable watches should only be shipped using specialized jewelry shippers, not standard overnight services. To avoid shipping risks, try to identify local resources for repairs, maintenance and appraisals.
  • Chlorine and saltwater can damage metals, so remove watches before swimming. If you must wear a watch in the water, ensure it is water resistant. To prevent seepage, ensure the crown is pushed in or screwed down and do not adjust the crown or press buttons once submerged. After contact with chlorinated or salt water, rinse the watch in fresh clean water.


Additional considerations

  • Avoid extreme temperature changes and humid environments like showers, hot tubs and saunas. 
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight should be avoided as it can potentially dry the movement’s lubrication.
  • Avoid wearing or storing a watch near equipment with strong magnetic fields, such as speakers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and metal detectors.
  • Avoid violent shocks and activities such as golf or tennis that require repetitive motion, which can negatively impact accuracy and damage the movement (unless the watch was designed for it).

For more information on protecting your valuable watches, contact your independent insurance advisor or email

We extend our gratitude to Paul Boutros, Head of Americas for the Phillips Watch Department in New York, for his contributions to this piece. Mr. Boutros advises on watch acquisitions, sales and valuations for private collectors worldwide.