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Feature: 10 things you must never do with your watch

Whether you’ve paid hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands for your watch, I’ve got a hunch you’ll want that thing to last a while. For the most part, mechanical watches are rugged and reliable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still wear them down. So if you want to keep your watch in top notch condition, make sure to follow these ten little tips to maximise that box fresh feeling.

Don’t leave the crown unscrewed

However tempting it might be to unscrew the crown of your watch and pull it to hack the seconds and keep it wound for the next time you pick it up, I’d recommend not to. Even with watches that don’t have a screw down crown, it’s best to keep it snug up against the case. Why? Because I’ll be willing to bet that your bedroom is adjacent to your bathroom, and maybe you even have an ensuite. That hot, moist air just loves to get into movements and turn them into rust, and the crown in its closed position is there to prevent that. You can even find that if moist air gets in, when the watch gets hot, the inside of the crystal can get condensation forming. Worst of all, if you leave that crown pulled, you might forget and take it for a dip. Instant fatality!

Don’t overtighten the crown

So, whilst it’s good practice to keep the crown screwed in on water-resistant watches with a screw down crown, it’s worth bearing in mind that you don’t want to screw it down too tight. For one, if you button it down too hard, you may bend the threads and jam the thing together, but to be honest you’d really have to be going for it to make that happen. What’s more likely when screwing it down a bit too much is the premature perishing of the rubber gaskets designed to keep the watch watertight. They work on a pressure seal, but they really don’t need that much pressure to work. Finger tight is the general guidance, but what does that mean exactly? Well, it’s about as much as you could tighten it up if your fingers were numb.

Don’t let your watch stay dirty

Whilst it’s not necessary to give your watch a weekly wash, wax and polish—in fact, it’s generally not recommended to polish your watch too much, if at all—it is recommended to give it a once over every few months. A damp, soft bristled toothbrush, preferably not one that’s still doing teeth cleaning duties, is ideal. For watches without any water resistance, when I say damp, I mean barely. You want it just damp enough to feel cold. For anyone who’s spent a night in a tent, you’ll know exactly what level of damp feels like cold. Then some very light agitation to remove any build-up of schmutz, and you’re good to go. It’s especially important to do this where there are moving parts, like bracelet links, as that schmutz can turn into a human abrasive, getting in between and wearing them down. Informative and gross!

Don’t try to reset a chronograph that’s running

There are special kinds of chronographs that have a feature that allows them to be reset whilst they’re running. They’re called flybacks, and once they reset they start right back up again. Very impressive, and perfect for timing sequential laps without having to ask the athlete to, “Wait just a moment, will you?” every lap. But if your chronograph is not a flyback, then pressing the reset button during operation is not ideal. Most mechanisms these days have a block to prevent damage, although some vintage chronographs don’t. But since the block could imply more pressure is needed to make the pusher work, it’s best just to avoid it altogether.

Don’t put your watch on freestyle

84% of all watch-related accidents occur within the first ten seconds, when it’s being put on. That’s not a real stat, but it probably should be, because pretty much every time I’ve almost spoiled my underwear by having a near miss with a watch, it’s when I’m putting it on. Yes, it’s tempting to just go for it and slap it over your wrist and buckle it up right there and then in free air, but one little fumble and it’s game over. Watches are created with an innate desire to be on the floor, especially tiled floors, and it doesn’t take much for one to seize to opportunity to fly out of your grasp. So make sure to pin it in place first, perhaps against a softly dressed knee, before securing the buckle. For those of you with bracelets or deployant clasps, there’s nothing to see here. Move on!

Don’t set the date at midnight

Watches are very much like gremlins in that fiddling with them at midnight can result in untold woe. Pretty much all watches with a quickset date mechanism have a singular and deadly flaw: use that quickset date when the watch is already trying to change the date around midnight and things are about to get expensive. It’s like putting your car in reverse on the motorway, but instead of a bang and several hours on the hard shoulder trying to get hold of a recovery vehicle in the rain, it’s the tiniest of pops and then at least a month of rage-barrassmant. The date on most watches actually engages a little before midnight and remains engaged until just after midnight—longer than most celebrity couples—so it’s advised not to use a quickset a few hours before and after. The manual for your watch will specify exactly. Also, this isn’t to be taken literally. I’m not saying you can’t change the quickset date on your watch when it’s actually midnight. Of course you can. You just need to make sure the time on the watch doesn’t read around midnight.

Don’t leave spatial awareness to chance

This is especially important for those brave souls who’ve spent an uncomfortable amount of money on a tall watch. In most cases, there’s no need to alter your behaviour to accommodate your watch, as any misjudgement on clearance would also render your arm injured, but when your watch starts to wander north of 13mm thick, it’s worth recalibrating the old spatial awareness or else you’re going to start taking chunks out of the steel. It sounds neurotic, but like how when you’ve stubbed your little toe do you realise how often it makes contact with stuff, when you wear a thick watch it’ll become all too apparent how often you thread the needle with your wrist. So practice wristwatch safety and consider your actions before you got thrusting your hand into any deep crevices. And to be on the safe side, avoid general thrashing!

Don’t wear the bracelet too loose

Despite the very real risk of spontaneous wrist swelling, I would generally not advise wearing a watch loose enough that it could be lifted right off when doing a duck shadow puppet. The 80s tanned to shoe leather look with the bracelet hanging almost to the floor may be very in right now, but what definitely isn’t in is premature bracelet wear. It can happen to the best of us, and when it does, it can be very embarrassing. So protect that bracelet by wearing it just tight enough to move around a little, maybe an inch or so, but not too much. If your hand goes blue and feels like fire, then you’ve gone too far the other way.

Don’t keep your watches in a heap

I imagine the vast majority of you here with more than one watch will either lay them out on the side next to each other or keep them in a watch box or something like that. This is good. Watches like their personal space and so separate compartments are going to keep them and you happy. But—and I know it’s not you—some people like to take their watches off and chuck them all into the same drawer on top of each other in some kind of hideous potluck. I say this not for the many but the few who don’t realise that this is not a good way to keep your watches in good condition. You may as well keep them in a rock tumbler. Respect the watches and they’ll respect you back.

Don’t wear watches and bracelets together

I know how we all want to mimic the style and grace of former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, but I’m afraid I have to be the boring party pooper and insist that the wearing of bracelets and watches at the same time on the same wrist simply won’t do. This is especially true of bracelets with pokey bits, dangly bits and especially scratchy bits. You wouldn’t lay a handful of metal shards down on a chair before you sat on it, and so should you not inflict the same treatment upon your watch. The only acceptable form of bracelet that can be worn at the same time as a watch is a rubber one, although I state that merely from a practicality perspective. I am otherwise unqualified to advise on taste and suggest you seek qualification on that elsewhere.

What are your Neddy no-nos for watch owners?