Storing a watch sounds like a simple process. However, there are things to consider before storing a watch. If the watch is not correctly stored or prepped for storage, it can have fatal consequences for the watch.
Watches must be stored in a dry place with a stable temperature. Quartz watches must have their batteries removed to avoid battery leakage. Mechanical watches must be wound occasionally to keep the movement from being damaged.
Storing a watch is very normal when you own more than 1 watch. There are different storing options. It can be a necessity if the watches are valuable and want to protect them from theft that you keep them at a bank or have the watches insured. Regardless of the value, you want the watch to be stored appropriately to avoid any damage while stored.
While storing a watch away for a longer period, it’s important to do it correctly. There can be some serious implications if the watches are stored incorrectly. Very high or very low temperatures, moisture, watch winders, and service intervals can have a significant impact on the performance of the watch after the storage period.
There can be many reasons why watches get damaged. However, sometimes we don’t notice that the watch might have internal damages or wear. However, if the watch is running to slow or too fast, this is typically a clear indication that something is wrong. This post is a guideline to avoid such damaged while the watches is stored.
Securing Against Moisture
A commonplace to store things, in general, is attics and basements. A lot of houses and apartments are equipped with attics and basements meant for storage. However, in both attics and basements, there are significant risks of increased humidity.
Both mechanical and quartz watches must be stored in areas with low humidity. Alternatively, it’s possible to use cigar boxes and silica gel. Cigar boxes can be used as they are built to keep the content dry. Silica gel can be used to absorb the humidity when storing the watches.
In case you are to use the attic or basement for storage, look through some old shoe boxes to find silica gel. Find a storage box, something like a plastic box that can be tightly sealed, and place the silica gel inside the storage box.
If you don’t have a spare plastic container, you can try to find a cigar box. While cigar boxes is not a common item to see in the common household, they are perfectly designed to keep moisture from messing with your watch.
If the watch is going to be stored somewhere inside the main areas of the house, which isn’t exposed to moisture, it’s not important to find silica gel or a cigar box or alike. However, it’s a good measure of safety.
If a watch gets moisture while being stored, it could end up rusting. The internal components of a watch is rarely made of materials that can resist rust. Therefore, a little bit of moisture can cause the whole movement to be salvageable.
Accounting for Temperature
The temperature in a watch is important for its long term functionality. When looking at watch manufacturers’ own advice, they state that watches must not be exposed to either low temperatures or high temperatures.
The reason temperatures should be kept stable is to prevent the lubrication of the components from thickening or from getting thinner. When the temperature gets too hot, the lubrication will get thinner. When the temperature gets too cold, the lubrication will thicker.
Watches must be stored at stable room temperature. Temperatures below -20°C/-4°F and above 60ºC/140ºF must be avoided. Excessive heat or cold can alter the properties of the lubrication used in the watches. While it’s possible to fix, it’s a costly process.
If the lubrication ends up thickening, the components will have a difficult time to move properly. You can think of the consistency of the lubrication like old, half-dried oil. With a half-dried consistency, there is no lubricating properties left.
In the case the lubrication is thinned by excessive heat, the lubrication can start to move from its intended location to unwanted areas in the movement. If the lubrication begins to move to places that are not intended, it will degrade the watch’s performance and accuracy.
It’s very costly to fix a degraded oil as it requires a full stripdown and clearing of the internal components. While this is a routine procedure for mechanical watches, such services is only done every 5-10 years and can cost upwards of $1,000.
Clearing Watch Before Storing
One of the more important tips for storing a watch is to give it a thorough cleaning before putting it away for an extended period. Cleaning a watch helps preserve the condition of your watch. The cleaning is very important, including your bracelet/strap.
A watch must be cleaned before storing it. Metal bracelets and the backside of the watch can build up a lot of grime (such as salts from sweat), which can corrode the watch during the storage period. Leather straps need to get proper condition oil; otherwise, the leather will dry out.
A lot of all watch cases and bracelets are made of stainless steel. There are also other commonly used materials such as plastics, titanium, or carbon fiber. However, rust is most likely to occur on stainless steel, although rare.
When a metal surface has been wet, it can rust over time. Although stainless steel doesn’t corrode in a normal environment, such as exposing it to water or outdoor activities, in time without cleaning, the metal could start rusting.
Therefore, it’s important to wash the case and metal bracelet of a watch before storing it. You most likely don’t know how long it will be stored for, and rust could appear within 1 year of neglected cleaning (which is what happened to mine in the picture above).
Just as important as it’s to clean metals that can rust, just as important is it to clean and condition leather. However, leather has to be serviced more frequently compared to the metal. When leather is neglected, it will start to crack, as shown in the picture above.
The sad thing about cracked leather is that it can’t be fixed. The leather needs to be conditioned with natural oils to keep it flexible for wearing. Furthermore, it requires the oils to keep the leather from drying, which will result in cracking of the leather.
Storing Box and Papers
One of the things that has a big impact on the price of a watch is the box and papers that originally came with the watch. If the box and papers are original and intact, the seller can get a better price rather than selling the watch as a “watch only” sale.
Storing boxes and papers is important to keep the highest possible value of the watch. The box and papers have to be stored in a non-humid environment with no exposure to sunlight.
When storing the papers regardless of being receipts or manuals, you should never fold them or shove them tight together. When you do so, the print will start to appear transparent, and before you know it, it will be impossible to see.
When storing the watch in a safe, in the attic, basement, etc. it’s important that you are not using the watch box as the storage option. If the box is destroyed from moisture and whatnot from being stored, moisture can enter the watch box’s inner side, destroying the papers as well. In the extreme scenario, it might even damage the watch as well.
It’s therefore important that the box and papers is protected against all the classic storage conditions like moisture, falling objects, animals (insects, mice, and rats), etc. If something falls on the watch box or animals start to penetrate the watch box, it could, again, lead to damage to whatever is stored inside the watch box.
If you are ever going to be selling one of the watches which you are storing, you would for sure want the box and papers to be in good condition.
Chrono24 (Europe’s biggest secondary market for watches) has revealed some interesting information about prices of some of the most popular watch models if box and papers are a part of the sale:
- Rolex Submariner reference 16610 sells for 17.2% more with box and papers.
- Omega Speedmaster 3126.96.36.199.01.005 sells for 13.2% more with box and papers.
- Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 sells for 23.3% more with box and papers.
- Cartier Santos 100XL 2656 sells for 20.8% more with box and papers.
Furthermore, if you have the box and papers, you will sell the watch 13.1% faster than not having the box and papers.
Moral of the story, keep the box and papers, and make sure they are in good condition if you ever decide to sell your watches.
Using Watch Winders for Storing Automatic Watches
Watch winders is a useful tool for any owner of automatic watches. The watch winders is developed to mimic the movement of your wrist. The watch winder will keep the watch wound while it’s being stored. In general watch winders is a good idea. However, there are some considerations to take before buying a watch winder.
Using a watch winder for storage helps to maintain automatic watches. The benefits of a watch winder include an always wound watch that doesn’t need adjustment, and the lubrication keeps flowing in the movement of the watch while being stored.
Watch winders is a great tool for anyone owning an automatic watch because you don’t have to adjust the time, date, year, or whatever else function the watch has when you decide to wear it after a storage period.
You don’t need a watch winder when having a quartz watch. Since quartz watches are driven by a battery, there is no reason to place it in a watch winder. However, there is a lot of positives of owning automatic watches as well.
However, watch winders also have some drawbacks. A watch winder is an electronic device that has a motor. In the motor, there could potentially be a magnet. If the magnet is not adequately isolated, it can magnetize your watch. Although it’s not a huge deal, it can damage your watch and a small bill from the watch repair shop might be required.
Furthermore, some watch winders are unable to adjust the turns per day (TPD). When the turns per day is to fast, the slip-clutch will be engaged more frequently than needed. Hence excessive wear is forced on the watch. While the common consensus is that automatic watches can‘t be overwound, they can experience excessive wear.
Storage During Travel
As a watch enthusiast traveling with more than one watch is quite reasonable. You want the everyday watch, and the dress watch to both join you on your travels. So when you are at the business meeting, date, fine dining, etc., you want the dress watch, and while being at the pool, exploring the area, etc. you want the everyday watch.
When traveling with more than 1 watch, the watch must be stored in a watch roll, pouch, or case with a hard case inside. The hard case prevents the storage option from bending from external pressure, such as an overpacked briefcase.
There are many different options when it comes to the storage of watches while traveling. There are watch rolls with 1-5 slots for watches. Each slot is a soft fabric middle, which the watch is wrapped around. Between each slot, there is typically a “wall” to separate the watches to protect them from bumping into each other during travel.
The watch rolls is a very traditional way of storing watches, even when not traveling.
The watch pouches share the same concept as the watch rolls. It’s possible to get watch pouches that can store between 1 and 6 watches. In a watch pouch, the watches are put into a slim pocket/pouch. In between each pocket/pouch, stitching is made to separate the watches in the row of pockets/pouches.
The pouch is then rolled together into sushi of watches. This way, the watches are separated from each other and protected. However, a watch pouch is vulnerable to a lot of external pressure and bumps/drops. Nonetheless, it’s a very space-efficient storage option, and it’s very convenient to carry.
The last option is the best for a lot of external pressure and dropping: the hard case. Hard cases are actually not seen that often. Which there is some reason behind. First of all, they are not very space-efficient, and secondly, they are not very pretty to look at for the most part.
Long Term Storage of Quartz Watches
Since the storage of watches is almost an inevitable thing to do at some point when owning more than a single watch, it’s worth to know how to store a quartz watch (99 percent of all watches). Since quartz watches are driven by a battery, there are some precisions to consider before putting the watch away for a longer period.
When a quartz watch is stored for more than 1 month, the battery must be removed to secure there is no battery leaks. A battery leak can quickly destroy a quartz watch.
Battery leakage (commonly known as battery acid) is nasty, corrosive stuff – it can burn your skin, contaminate soil, and of course, ruin whatever device it has leaked into.Energizer.com (Source)
Battery acid is hazardous to the watch’s internals, so risking a battery leak while being stored is not a good idea. The battery leak could, in the worst-case scenario, completely destroy the watch.
If you manage to find the battery leak before it’s all over the entire watch, it’s actually not that harmful. If you see a silver-ish powder around the battery, you simply have to remove the damaged watch, take some 95% or higher isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab, and gently scrape the battery acid away.
You should be aware that some solar watches have batteries that can be removed. You should remove the battery from both quartz watches and solar watches. It’s a misconception that solar watches don’t have removable batteries. While some solar watches have internal “capacitors” (unremovable batteries), they also have removable batteries, just like a regular quartz watch.
Even though you are going to get the batteries removed from your quartz watches, it’s a good idea to have batteries laying around when you decide to take out a quartz watch. Since all quartz doesn’t use the same battery, you want to figure out which battery it uses.
Servicing of Stored Watches
Servicing of watches is every watch enthusiast wallet’s worst nightmare. Although a regular service is not necessarily that expensive, it’s a reoccurring expense that all watch enthusiasts would like not to have. Sadly, it’s a part of owning watches.
Although stored watches experience less wear, they must be serviced at the recommended intervals to remain fully operational. Since mechanical watches aren’t moving when being stored, the lubrication will harden over time. Quartz watches need battery changes to prevent the lubrication from hardening as well.
When a watch is stored away, you can’t neglect the need for a proper service. The watches have to be serviced according to the manufacturer’s schedule.
While the servicing intervals is made as a maintained plan to ensure that your watch will last a lifetime. A part of that maintenance is to ensure the dial has its original color and isn’t discolored and that the bracelet and case are polished as original.
|Watch manufactures||Service interval|
|Omega||5 to 8 years|
|Patek Philippe||5 years|
|Orient||3 to 5 years|
|Longines||4 to 5 years|
|Certina||3 to 4 years|
Since you are storing the watch away, it will not have the same amount of wear and tear that it would receive when you wear it daily. However, if you have worn the watch for 2 years and then plan to store it for 2 to 3 years, you would be past the recommended service interval suggested by the watch manufacturers.
Service intervals can be taken with a grain of salt. The modern lubrication is a synthetic oil that is rather difficult to harden. However, the lubrication will require regular changes, just like any genuine oils.
Furthermore, water resistance is properly the biggest reason you want to stick to the recommended service intervals. If the water resistance breaks and water enters the watch, it could be permanently damaged beyond repair.
Storing the Watch in a Personal Safe
Some people have a safe in their house. Some house has jewelry safes, and some houses have gun safes. Both types of safes can be bought and installed in your home if you don’t currently have one.
Using a safe for storing watches is a good idea to prevent theft, and to have the opportunity to change out in the rotation of watches quickly.
Storing watches in a personal safe prevents moisture and fire from damaging the watches. Furthermore, safes prevent theft of the watches. It’s possible to acquire safes that are well isolated against fire and humidity, which is a better storage option in contrast to the attic or basement.
Some insurance companies accept claims when jewelry and watches is kept in (approved) safes if the thieves is tough enough to get into the safe. However, you should contact your own insurance company to fact check, as this varies between insurance companies.
Many safes which is niched into watches so-called watch safes is often integrated with watch winders. The watch winders keep the automatic watches wound at all times. Therefore, when changing to a different watch, there is no need to adjust the time, date, etc.
Storing the Watch With a Bank
An alternative and cheaper option to a watch safe is to use the bank’s deposit boxes. The metal boxes found inside the back rooms of the bank is often insured, and no one but you has access to the box.
Storing a watch in a bank deposit box is a safe way of keeping watches that are not used. Banks are willing to insure and hold very expensive timepieces.
Using the banks will also prevent a lot of the need to secure your watches against moisture. The banks is keeping a lot of valuable paper, jewelry, and other stuff that can’t be exposed to moisture.
In the case that something was to happen to your watch, the bank is liable to redeem the damages as the deposit boxes are insured.
However, using a bank’s deposit box can become a hassle if you are the type that likes to change up the rotation of watches. Going to the bank and changing watches from the deposit box requires a lot of planning and would eventually get tiring.
When storing a watch, it’s exposed to several unavoidable occurrences that could mean that your watch is lost forever. Some insurance programs will insure watches on the home contents insurance. However, most insurance companies have separate jewelry insurance.
When looking for insurance, it’s very important to read the terms. Some insurance companies might offer coverage of $10,000. However, when reading the terms, it might only be $1,000 per watch with the ability to cover up to 10 $1,000 watches. Therefore, you must know the value of your watches before getting insurance.
There are some reasons why you want to secure your watches against some different occurrences.
- Breaking/theft of stored watches
- Water damage to stored items in basement/attic
- Fire damage to stored items in your own home
In the unfortunate event that your house burns down, has a breaking, or the house catches fire, you will be able to cover the watches’ financial losses, which can be quite significant.
Take out the Watch Occasionally
While servicing is still required even when stored away, you can actually do something for the watch to keep it in a better internal condition. Having the watch to run will keep the lubrication to flow throughout the components of the watch. This will help prevent the lubrication from hardening so that the accuracy will perform as before the watch was stored.
When storing manual and automatic watches, it’s healthy to occasionally take out the watches to wind the watch. Getting the lubrication to flow through the watch will prevent hardening. Solar watches also benefit from getting sunlight to charge.
Any mechanical watch (manual or automatic) will benefit from being wound every once in a while. Since all components rely on a frictionless movement between the gears, it ultimately relies on a good condition of lubrication.
Solar watches can keep going for 6 months without any light. However, to keep the watch running, you want to occasionally take out the watch to keep the battery charged. While this is a con to owning a solar watch in comparison to a quartz watch where the battery is easier to remove (not all solar watches allows for a battery removal), having the battery in the solar watch will not damage the watch when stored.
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