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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a purely theoretical question I thought I would pose to the rest of you vintage watch collectors out there. I've seen others here talk about their collections with phrases such as "this is part of the unworn section of my collection" and I got to wondering how it would be best for a collector with a finite amount of money to store their peices.

Obviously, all the peices in the "to be worn" section need to be serviced. There may also be a section of peices that you never plan on wearing, which you can let sit there (so long as they aren't full of corrosive agents or natural oils that might break down into corrosives or thicken up until the mechanism is seized) without servicing, assuming the peice is in decent-looking condition. If, however, you buy a watch that you would like to preserve, but you don't plan on wearing it in the next five years, would it make sense to have your watchmaker do a service in the normal fashion, but without oiling it?

You certainly wouldn't want to accidentally pick up one of the watches that you didn't have oiled and thoughtlessly wind it to see it work if it was bone dry, and the automatic movements cab easily be wound at least partially by accident, but if you were just going to have then in a display cabinet would it hurt them to be sans lubrication? The idea that is trying to be resolved in my head is that maybe you would pay for a cleaning, and sure, it would cost the same as if you had oiled it, but if you could put off oiling it then you wouldn't have to pay your watchmaker for the full service if four years down the road you decide to have him oil it so you can move it into your "wearable" section of the collection.

I'm no watchmaker, so I don't know the full extent of what sort of disassembly is required for an oiling, but my guess is that you don't have to disassemble the watch as far as would be required to do a full cleaning. If this is the case, then it would make sense to do a full cleaning, then postpone oiling the watch until you decided to wear or sell it. If, however, it would take roughly the same amount of work to oil a clean movement as it would to clean and oil it, then the thought can be put out of my head.
 

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In order to properly oil and test the watch it will pretty much need to be completely stripped so I'd suggest that it would be pointless to send a watch to a watchmaker that was going to simply sit in a display cabinet - unless you needed some cosmetic work done. When you decide that it is time to wear it, get it serviced then.
 

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Cleaning and oiling properly are one in the same-a watch shouldn't have fresh oil applied without first taking apart the watch and completely cleaning it.

As far as necessity of servicing-I tend to be of the mindset that even a watch with an unknown service history won't be hurt by an occasional partial wind. I would not want to wear or wind an unserviced watch every day, but winding one a few clicks to show it off or to verify if it is in working condition won't do it any harm.

In fact, I tend to avoid servicing especially collectible watches. Two tone pocket watch movements are an especially sore spot for many collectors, as anything beyond a light hand cleaning of the plates can wash out the two toning on some of these(Hamiltons especially).
 

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I certainly wouldn't service a watch that was just going to sit in a case and never be worn, especially if it works as is.
I've had good luck with many watches unserviced and with unknown history. Granted these aren't high dollar watches, per se, I just often wear them until they show signs of getting off time or have a spring go out on me. Never caused a problem one way or the other, but then again I usually buy watches that are keeping good time to begin with and are pretty clean (which may indicate some form of cleaning and servicing within recent history; who knows).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ahh, ok. That's what I wondered. I was sort of afraid that a watch left in a drawer/case/box somewhere might degrade over time. I assumed that the synthetic oils would be safe to leave in a watch pretty much indefinitely, but wondered about the natural oils used in the 50's and 60's (and maybe later?).
 

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Risk of degradation is much more of an issue with regards humidity and dampness than it is with oils that have already sat in the watch for sixty or more years.
 

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Ahh, ok. That's what I wondered. I was sort of afraid that a watch left in a drawer/case/box somewhere might degrade over time. I assumed that the synthetic oils would be safe to leave in a watch pretty much indefinitely, but wondered about the natural oils used in the 50's and 60's (and maybe later?).
Nah, as long as it is stored in a dry (not humid!), dark place without sudden temperature changes or extremes, the watch should be fine indefinitely. I'm not aware of any type of oil that will corrode over time, I'm not an expert on oils and I could be wrong but I sure hope not, that would be some tragic oil. The problem with letting the oil sit is that it will degrade to the point of allowing friction and wear, but that's not an issue if the watch isn't running and this is resolved by servicing.

Servicing and oiling are the same thing really, the movement must be taken apart to be serviced, and a watch isn't serviced until the old oil is removed and replaced with new oil. You can't really save money by having a watch partially serviced in some fashion, the main expense is the labor involved in working on the movement in any capacity, the actual oiling itself is nothing much.

As for running watches versus letting them sit, if you keep a watch running the oils will stay in good shape and you can pick it up and wear it anytime. However, this will cause a very small amount of wear over a long period of time. For new watches that isn't much of an issue, but it can be for an 80-year-old vintage watch. The longer a movement runs the sooner parts will wear out and need replacement, but normally it takes decades for that kind of wear to happen, if you live to see it at all. For an old watch with an uncertain service history though, it could have parts on the edge so it might be good to avoid more wear, but a watch isn't much of a watch unless it is used at some point so the wear is going to happen sooner or later anyway.

So it can make sense to let a watch sit in order to preserve it, but in that case you can't wear it unless you get it serviced first. My personal feeling is that there isn't much point in owning watches I don't wear, so I run all of mine. This way I can wear them anytime I want and I enjoy that, but this also means that I have to keep an eye on how each one is running so I can spot trouble and have them serviced if needed, which is a bit of a chore. Also, it's a bit expensive to keep a lot of watches serviced, so letting some sit and rotating them into your wearing collection as you can afford to service them is a good way to cut down on service costs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yeah, I am wondering how big I'll let my collection get, to be honest. I'm not really attracted to any one company, style, or movement. I would like to be able to wear all the watches I own, but I can't afford to service a dozen watches at a time (assuming they all were bought close together). At this point I have a nice stainless steel Omega automatic and a nice RGP Omega Seamaster De Ville automatic (which covers the silver and gold looks). I want a 36000bph watch, a tuning fork watch, and a GMT/24h dial watch at some point, and in the future I would like to have a dive watch and a chronograph of some sort.

I would feel bad having a bunch of watches that are just there to look pretty in a case. I had the same feeling about Zippos when I was a smoker: that there is no reason in having one if you aren't using it... they were made to last forever (or at least until you were gone), and not using it is just disrespectful (even if it's just an object).

Unfortunately, I've gotten myself into a collecting hobby that I just don't have the kind of money to sustain at the rate that most collectors seem to maintain.
 

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Unfortunately, I've gotten myself into a collecting hobby that I just don't have the kind of money to sustain at the rate that most collectors seem to maintain.
Never buy new watches. It makes the money go a lot further!!
 

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Great story and great watches. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Hi,

I currently have a number of watches in storage... Which will hopefully be no longer than 6 months. My only concern over that period of time is moisture ingress/ humidity.

As said above, I would not have concerns over the servicing/oil over this or longer period of time. However, one thing that would concern me on a number of my watches dating to between the wars and up to the 60s, is any watch with radium painted hands. If the hands are left in the same position for long periods of time (I don't know if this takes months, years, decades), you can get ghost hands on the dial - sometimes referred to as rad/radiation burn. I'm not sure if this is an actual burn, but a reaction between the dial paint and radium.

Either way, I would not want to box up some of my ATP issued watches and risk storing them for a number of years without moving the hands every 6 months or so....


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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi,

I currently have a number of watches in storage... Which will hopefully be no longer than 6 months. My only concern over that period of time is moisture ingress/ humidity.

As said above, I would not have concerns over the servicing/oil over this or longer period of time. However, one thing that would concern me on a number of my watches dating to between the wars and up to the 60s, is any watch with radium painted hands. If the hands are left in the same position for long periods of time (I don't know if this takes months, years, decades), you can get ghost hands on the dial - sometimes referred to as rad/radiation burn. I'm not sure if this is an actual burn, but a reaction between the dial paint and radium.

Either way, I would not want to box up some of my ATP issued watches and risk storing them for a number of years without moving the hands every 6 months or so....


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Damn, that sounds exactly like what has happened to the Elgin 760 watch I just got my dad for Christmas. It has lumed hands and hour markers (dots along the edge of the dial), and there are these brown ghosts in pointed flares out from the dial center. The lume has that rusty brown/red look indicative of radium, and I was just getting ready to head out the door to the watchmaker to have him attempt to fix a start/stop issue, service the watch, and see if he could maybe clean off the radium and that dial. I didn't assume that the dial could be fixed, but was hopeful that the brown ghosts were just deposits of radium dust... didn't know they could be burns. That's too bad.

Anyway, I want him to remove the radium if he's comfortable with doing so. I'd like my dad to be able to wear the watch without having to worry about getting nuked the whole time. He appreciates American made things and I thought this would be a neat present if the stoppages can be fixed.
 

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That does sound like 'rad burn'

Like I say, I'm not sure this is actual radiation burn (even though the radium will still be nearly as radioactive as the day it was put on), but just a reaction between the dial paint a radium compound. Im sure I've read somewhere that ghosting has appeared on ww2 period painted hands (no radium).

Think I posted this link in another recent thread.

http://www.vintagewatchstraps.com/luminous.htm

Some bits may be a bit technical, but is an interesting read.





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... the brown ghosts were just deposits of radium dust... didn't know they could be burns. That's too bad....
The burning in of the hand position is due to the ionizing radiation depositing a charge on the dial. This attracts dirt. Over enough time the dirt gets fairly deeply embedded into the dial surface. I suspect it would be difficult to remove but I doubt it is radioactive.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The burning in of the hand position is due to the ionizing radiation depositing a charge on the dial. This attracts dirt. Over enough time the dirt gets fairly deeply embedded into the dial surface. I suspect it would be difficult to remove but I doubt it is radioactive.
I just dropped the watch off at the watchmaker's place. He's going to remove the radium lume from the hands and make an attempt at trying to clean up what he can of the burns (in addition to servicing the watch). The minute hand's lume is already mostly gone (loose in the case somewhere, I guess), but the hour hand is still fully lumed. He's not going to go so far that he interferes with the text on the dial (or the Durabalance logo), and mentioned that a re-dial is probably the only way to get rid of the ghosting completely. I'd prefer to avoid that, but I'm having him get rid of the radium lume so my dad can wear it every day without worry if he chooses to do so.
 
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