Do Watch Batteries Have a Shelf Life? (Button/Coin Batteries)

Watch batteries are always a good thing to have to lie around because we never know when the watch will die from a lack of power. Storing watch batteries can therefore come in handy when your watch needs a battery change. However, how long can watch/button/coin batteries be stored? The shelf life of watch batteries varies a lot depending on the type of battery.

Yes, watch batteries will expire over time. Lithium batteries have a shelf life of 10 years, alkaline 5 years, lithium-ion 3 years, silver oxide 3 years, and zinc 2 years. Humidity and temperatures in the range of -4 to 140°F (-20 to 60°C) will rapidly deteriorate the battery.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that using lithium batteries is by far the best option if you always want to be ready for a spontaneous battery change. Since changing the battery is not too hard, it’s nice to save the $20 battery change at the jeweler by just having the battery yourself.

Button battery
Watch battery is also called button battery.

Do Watch Batteries Leak?

A leaking battery is some of the worst that can happen inside one of your electrical devices if it’s not discovered. At worst, a battery leak can destroy your device beyond repair. Alkaline batteries leak a corrosive acid that will destroy all internal components. A lithium-ion battery will leak a highly flammable fluid. So the question is, do watch batteries leak?

Yes, watch batteries will eventually leak if the battery has fully discharged and remains in the watch. An alkaline battery will leak a corrosive liquid, which will damage your watch. A lithium-ion battery will leak a highly flammable fluid, which could burn your wrist.

A burning lithium-ion battery can’t be extinguished. Therefore, you should try to let the battery burn in a controlled fashion, if possible. Lithium-ion batteries should be handled with care when storing them. The best option is to charge/discharge the lithium-ion batteries to 50% to 70% and then put them in a fire-safe container in a cool place like a refrigerator.

Lithium-ion batteries are not smart to store over longer periods, as the potential for leakage could be very dangerous. When a lithium-ion battery is lit, it will start to self-heat, which will end up in a “thermal runaway.” The thermal runaway is just a fancy term for saying you can’t control the temperature progression.

Leaking AA battery
Leaking AA battery

Do Watches With Batteries Need to Be Wound?

If you have ever heard of Rolex or other luxury watches, you know that high-end watches are mechanical. If you didn’t know, mechanical watches are powered by a wound spring rather than a battery. The spring releases its energy, which makes the watch tick. Therefore, it’s natural if you were wondering if your battery-driven watch needs to be wound as well.

Watches with batteries don’t need to be wound. Battery driven watches are known as quartz watches and is only relying on a battery to keep time. Watches with batteries are powered by a battery. Quartz watches don’t need winding, whereas mechanical watches do.

You can’t wind a watch with a battery, simple as that. Don’t let anyone tell you that a quartz watch is to be wound. The only thing that is driving the mechanism of a quartz watch is a battery. However, if you experience your watch to stop or behave weirdly, something could be wrong.

If your battery-driven watch has stopped working, there can be several reasons why. I have might an extensive list you can go through to troubleshot your issues with ease.

Do Batteries Go Bad if Not Used?

Batteries are a mystery for the ordinary human being. There is so much chemistry and engineering involved that it’s hard to grasp. However, I’m here to help us all get a simple and understandable explanation of batteries can go bad if not used.

Unused batteries will go bad over time and reach a point where the battery can no longer perform the rated output. The “use by” date is when the battery will start to deteriorate in performance, where “shelf life” is the date where the battery’s performance is expended to degrade significantly.

The time before a battery goes bad is heavily dependent on multiple factors. First is the chemistry or battery type. Zinc batteries are terrible at maintaining their capacity and will discharge approximately 13% per month.

Alkaline batteries are much better, as they can maintain 80% of their full capacity after 5 years. Rechargeable alkaline batteries have similar performance; however, they are rechargeable. Silver-oxide is another common button battery that has a similar performance to alkaline batteries.

Battery typeDischarging when unusedShelf life
Zinc13% per month2 years
Silver-oxide2-3% per month3 years
Alkaline2-3% per month5 years
Lithium-ion0.35% to 2.5% per month3 years
Lithium0.6% per year10 years
Different types of button batteries and their discharging rate

Lithium batteries are the superior battery type to the other 3 types. Lithium batteries have a very flat discharge rate when unused. It’s important to keep the difference between lithium and lithium-ion batteries in mind when looking at the discharge rate. A lithium battery is not most often not rechargeable, whereas lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable.

While lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable, they are often not used in watches due to their short shelf life. Most watches can last 2-3 years on a freshly charged battery. Therefore, the lithium-ion battery’s life will also be done by the time it needs a recharge.

Do Li-ion Batteries Have a Shelf Life?

Lithium-ion batteries, also known as Li-ion batteries, is a rechargeable battery which has great advantages over alternative battery types. Li-ion batteries have a high energy density, low discharge rate, and provides high current for applications such as power tools.

Lithium-ion batteries have a shelf life of 3 years when stored at room temperature. When lithium batteries are stored unused, they will discharge 0.35% to 2.5% per month. Humidity and temperature can vastly degrade the shelf life of a li-ion battery.

Li-ion batteries are very good for many different things that discharge the batteries quickly. However, for watches, the use of Li-ion batteries is quite limited.

The only “real” use li-ion batteries have in watches is for solar power watches. Solar-powered watches will continuously be charging, and therefore, li-ion batteries make sense.

In traditionally battery-driven watches (known as quartz watches), a non-rechargeable battery is typically used. A typical quartz watch’s battery will last for about 2-3 years. Therefore, a Li-ion battery just doesn’t make sense when its life expectancy is 3 years.

How Do I Know if My Lithium Ion Battery Is Bad?

It’s very important to be aware of when your batteries are bad. In general lithium-ion batteries are expected to be able to recharge 200 to 500 times before they die. In itself, a bad battery isn’t dangerous or bad for your devices.

However, over time a bad battery can end up causing harmful damages to your device and yourself. An unstable lithium-ion battery can catch fire and be impossible to stop before it naturally burns out.

The security control is stringent on lithium batteries. Sony once recalled millions of batteries used in laptops because there was a one in 200,000 failure. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry about being in danger while near a lithium-ion battery.

Without any tools, the best way to tell if a lithium-ion battery is bad is if the battery doesn’t hold a charge well, doesn’t perform as well as it used to, and/or gets warmer than it used to. A more uncommon way to tell if a lithium-ion battery is bad is if the battery is bulging.

Without tools, you’re able to make a basic diagnosis of your battery. To be perfectly clear, you don’t need tools to assess the health of your battery. The assessment will be more accurate with the correct tools, nonetheless not a requirement.

Using tools such as a multimeter, you can measure the voltage, resistance, temperature, and performance according to the battery manufacturer’s specifications. A slight deviation is okay. However, if a considerable variation is measured, discarding the batteries would be responsible.

Using tools such as multimeters or just a simple voltmeter can be more than enough to tell if a lithium-ion battery is bad (or any other battery type for that matter). The most important when using tools is to compare your measurements with the specifications from the battery manufacturer.

If the measurements are deviating a little from the manufacturer’s specification, it’s okay. However, if you find large deviations, you should dispose of the battery as it has become inefficient and because you risk harming your devices or yourself, although highly unlikely.

Batteries are made to withstand the buildup of gasses inside the battery when it’s degrading. However, a faulty seal in the battery could be harmful to your device.

Final Thoughts

It’s safe to say that batteries are a world of chemistry that most of us don’t understand without a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. However, this post explains the battery shelf life in layman’s language, so we all understand.

All batteries have a shelf life. However, the most important thing is to know the battery type to figure out the battery’s shelf life. There are many different types of batteries. If you can’t remember what type of battery you have, it’s better to dispose of the battery than to risk harming your watch or other devices.

The most dangerous is lithium-ion batteries if they catch fire. You’re not able to put off the fire yourself. You will have to make the battery burn out in a controlled manner.

Sources used in this post,often%20used%20for%20this%20size.,to%20undergo%20%22thermal%20runaway%22.&text=The%20organic%20electrolytes%20in%20many,are%20highly%20flammable%20when%20heated..

Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

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