Watchmakers’ workshops often hear that a client has put on a fully operational watch at the start of the day that has then suddenly stopped ticking at some point several hours later. In other cases a watch may no longer display the correct time in the morning because it has stopped functioning sometime during the night. The following post will explain the four most common reasons for why a watch may suddenly stop working. Additionally, it seeks to inform you of the expected costs associated with the repair, so that you’re able to estimate the corresponding effect on your wallet ahead of time.
1. A screw has loosened and is blocking the internal mechanism.
Even if it may surprise, this is in fact quite a common issue, as even regular hand motion can cause screws to get loose. We have customers for whom we have to tighten every bolt periodically every 3 months because they’ve left their watch on while mountain-biking or playing golf. Fixing this problem takes but a few steps: first, the screw is removed from the mechanism, before being reintroduced and tightened to restore functionality. The estimated cost of this should be between 15 - 30 EUR/GBP including water resistence testing.
2. Dirt and/or Dust are blocking the internal mechanism.
Dirt and dust blockages occur when a watch hasn’t been serviced for an extended period of time. Therefore, a service must always be carried out should this problem occur. This entails separating the watch movement into its individual pieces, at which point each component is cleaned and oiled. The costs associated with this are heavily dependent on the type and brand of watch in question. Generally though, the more complicated the mechanism, the more expensive it will be. For a simple watch the cost should be circa 100 EUR/GBP. For automatic watches expect a cost of around 150 EUR/GBP, while chronographs may cost between 200 EU/GBP and 300 EUR/GBP. However, as already mentioned the price is also dependent on the brand, Rolex repairs start at circa 275 EUR/GBP.
3. The mainspring is broken.
90% of all springs tear either because the material is subject to natural aging or because it has been subjected to too much clamping pressure. In automatic watches, a special mechanism ensures that further movements of the rotor are hindered to prevent over-tightening in the mainspring. If the watch is older, even this maximum tension the watch is designed for can be sufficient to break the spring. The repair involves a replacement of the damaged spring. During repair one must always ensure that each following wheels remain intact. Replacement costs start at 60 EUR/GBP but are heavily dependent on the watch make. Since damage to the spring can cause issues with components of the gear wheel, one should make the choice of the spare spring dependent not least on the value of the watch.
4. The automatic winding mechanism is defective.
A defective winding mechanism can be caused by a number of issues; for example, the rotor axis may be broken due to a forceful impact. Therefore, it is difficult to provide reliable estimates of cost. Also, especially where older watches are concerned (for example, watches with the old automatic “bumper” mechanism), repair can be difficult since replacement pieces are either expensive or difficult to source.
Tip from the watchmaker:
Have the waterproofness of your watches checked by a specialist annually and have the mechanism proofed every 5 - 6 years. This way you can avoid many of the problems that occur. Should damage occur, we recommend to immediately stop wearing the watch or even shaking it (in an attempt to rock it back into motion). Instead, the watch should be brought directly to the watchmaker to prevent any further damage.
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