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COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CLASSIC WATCHES

Q. How would you define a 'classic' watch?

A. Terms like 'vintage' , 'classic' and 'antique' are often applied to old watches. ' Antique' is easy to define, H M Customs & Excise only use this term for items over 100 years old - so watches less than a century olf should not be thus described. The term 'vintage' should really only be applied to wine, however it is now loosely used for anything old. I prefer to use 'classic' to describe something of lasting value in terms of quality and design which has stood the test of time.

Q. Could you ever describe an electronic watch as a 'classic'.

A. I suppose some collectors would argue that some early electro-mechanical watches like the Hamilton, or tuning fork watches like the Bulova Accutron as classics, however very few of these watches are still in working order as the electronic components have deteriorated and can no longer be replaced. On the other hand a high quality mechanical watch, if properly serviced will go on for centuries. Can a watch with an limited life be described as 'classic'?

Q. How accurate can I expect an older mechanical watch to be?

A. I would expect a high quality mechanical watch in good condition to keep time to within a minute or two per week, some do better than this but you must consider that an error of 1 second per day is equivalent to about 1 part in 90,000 and very few watches will approach this. Sometimes a watch will gain a little one day and loose a little the next, giving the impression that it keeps 'perfect time'.

Q. What are 'chronometer' watches?

A. Traditionally, this term was only applied to marine timekeepers which were developed in the late 18th century for navigation at sea. In the 1940's the Swiss watch industry introduced a 'chronometer' watch standard - makers could submit their watches to an observatory for testing and were awarded a certificate if it performed within certain limits i.e. the rate did not exceed + 0 - 14 seconds per day in various temperatures and positions. Maker such as Omega and Rolex have used this appelation as a useful selling point for their top of the range watches. Other fine makers don't bother.

Q. What is an automatic watch?

A. This is a self-winding watch, it depends on the movement of the wrist. A centrally mounted rotating weight called a rotor winds the mainspring of the watch each time it is moved. These watches can also be wound in the usual way and when they are run down, or if the watch is not worn all day, it is a good idea to give the winding crown a few turns.

Q. How often should a watch be serviced?

A.  Most watch cases let in dust or tiny fibres which can interfere with the delicate mechanism, watches need to dismantled and cleaned from time to time. A watch, like most mechanical devices should be lubricated to keep it in good condition and even the most advanced synthetic oils used will dry up after four or five years, although some watches will still run well without oil. To keep your watch in good condition have it professionally serviced every five years or so, or when the timekeeping deteriorates

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