Fact: Well made automatic watches have an indefinite lifespan. In other words, they have the potential to last “forever.”
Of course, the owner of such a fine timepiece can manage to treat it in such a way that the watch fails prematurely. The owner may also treat their watch properly to achieve that incredible automatic watch lifespan.
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Exceeding the Watches Depth Rating
Exceeding the depth rating of a watch can certainly allow the ingress of water into the watch, leading to corrosion and the eventual, untimely death of the watch.
If you exceed the depth rating on a diving watch, much worse than water ingress can happen! At high pressures, deep underwater, the watch can deform and physically break. Pressure can even push the crystal inward to the point that it interferes with the movement of the hands.
Exposing the Watch to Magnetism
Incidental exposure to a magnetic field will not typically cause any actual or permanent damage to your watch. More likely, it may cause your watch to stop or to go out of time. This can be undone by simply setting the time and re-energizing your watch.
However, if your watch is exposed to a strong magnet or magnetic field long enough, your movement or parts of the movement may become magnetized. This can, in fact, spell the end for your watch.
If spring coils become magnetized, they may stick together, and the spring itself may break or some other component in the movement may be disrupted and may fail.
If the balance wheel becomes magnetized, it may be attracted to other components and make contact with them, increasing friction. This increased friction will certainly cause your watch to lose time, and may very well cause the balance wheel to become damaged. The balance wheel may also damage other components.
Improperly Setting the Date and Time
Every automatic watch will have specific instructions on when you can and, more importantly, when you can’t, set the date and time on your watch.
If you attempt to set the date and time on your watch outside of the appropriate times, you will be forcing the movements to move in the opposite direction from which they were designed. This will cause damage to various components, including the mainspring.
Improper Storage (True) – Keep Watch Away From Moisture
Watches simply cannot be stored in moist environments. Be sure to have your beautiful, elegant, expensive watch stored in a location worthy of it. Include some desiccant packs and never worry about moisture.
Improper Storage (Myth) – Lubricants will Pool or Harden in your Watch
It is simply not true that watch oil will harden or pool in your watch, and this has probably never been true.
Today, and for quite some time now, watches have been lubricated with synthetic lubricants that simply never harden.
The idea of the lubricant pooling is actually somewhat humorous. The old school rule of thumb when applying oil to a watch movement is “if you can see the oil, you are using too much!”
The fact is that only .001 of a milliliter of watch oil is required to lubricate the entire watch.
There is simply not enough oil in a watch to pool.
Physical Shocks / Physical Damage
For nearly 100 years now, watches have included some type of shock protection system. Modern watches have excellent shock protection. You can partake in all sorts of activities, such as digging and hammering, without causing damage to your watch.
Very large shocks, however, defeat these shock protection systems. A good example of this is dropping a watch from a height (exact height depends on the exact watch being dropped) onto a hard surface.
Once the shock defenses system is defeated, gears, springs, and other components can break or be physically displaced, ruining your watch.
Rather than asking “How Long do Automatic Watches Last”, ask if you are willing to take good care of your watch.
Don’t exceed your watches depth rating. Avoid magnets. Follow directions when setting the date and time. Store your watch in a nice, dry place. Try not to drop your watch. Do these things, and your watch will last for generations. We’ve all heard tales about watches that last forever. Do automatic watches last forever? Yours might.