Historical Horology: Servicing A Vintage Watch
Servicing a watch is much like having your car worked on – it’s something we all know we need to have done, somewhere in the back of our mind. Even with that, though, we often put it off as long as we can, or we’ll let the watch sit in the back of the drawer for a few years until we get around to sending the watch in, or taking it to our local shop.
What if your watch is something a bit more unique, say, like a Grand Seiko? Over at Professional Watches (here), Jason Pitsch recently sent his 1967 Grand Seiko back to the motherland for servicing (that’s right, directly back to Japan). While he wasn’t surprised to learn that the watch had a broken mainspring, he was surprised by Grand Seiko Japan’s response.
What they said, basically, was the watch is over 40 years old, and is not expected to be serviceable, and they would not be able to repair it. Now, I know that the mainspring is one of the more critical components, but you’d think something like that should be replaceable. Of course, Grand Seiko is in the clear (kind of) as their own documentation states that you’re only guaranteed parts availability for about ten years.
He then tried to take the watch to a local watchmaker, who believed he could likely source a suitable replacement, if he knew the specs of the spring. Unfortunately, somehow the Seiko service department has no details on the specifications of that particular part. This is an unfortunate thing, because we’ve come to expect that high-end mechanical watches are something that can be maintained for decades and eventually passed along to another generation.
In fact, that’s something that many Swiss and German firms tout very highly. And yes, it does help that for watches utilizing more common movements (say, the ETA 2824) that many more third-party watchmakers are familiar with them, and can readily work on the movement. Rarity of a movement shouldn’t make it impossible to repair, though. More difficult, especially due to the age? Sure, I get that – parts are harder to come by.
While long-term serviceability (or lack thereof) doesn’t necessarily mean that the watch in question is of any greater or lesser quality today, for sure. However, if you’re looking to pick up a piece that will be handed down to grandchildren, or you’re perusing for a steal on a vintage piece that needs a little work, it’s something you’ll want to keep in mind.
All images courtesy of ProfressionalWatches