How to Store Watches

Mar 12, 2024 / Matthew Sanderson

Jon Goldfarb knows how to keep timepieces ticking for generations. As owner of a Beverly Hills store that sells antique timepieces, he often helps clients with his valuable advice on how to store watches.

First he shares that an owner should not be too cautious with his or her beautiful antique, even though some of the finest watches in his shop sell for tens of thousands of dollars for a Swiss-made gold model. No matter the cost, you should feel free to enjoy it, because you actually need to use a watch to preserve it.

“Watches are made to be worn,” said Goldfarb, owner of Second Time Around Watch Company.

Whether you’re a serious collector or instead have a few different budget styles on hand to match your wardrobe, improper watch storage and maintenance can lead to damage and disappointment! Keep reading to learn how to preserve watches old and new for generations.

Watch Storage Tips

watch storage boxes

If you store them correctly, watches can withstand the test of time.

Sunlight and incandescent light can cause the dial to fade and deteriorate if overexposed. Light can also cause the hands and luminous details that glow after dark to age faster.

There are a few options for storing your watch at home. Some collectors prefer wood and glass cases or cabinets, which resemble cigar humidors and jewelry boxes. This way, you can display your collection, says Sam Boktor, owner of Sam’s Jewelry and Watch Repair.

Line these boxes with felt or another plush fabric to prevent scratches, and store the watch face up.

You can also opt to take a DIY approach and buy a watch tray to insert in a drawer you already have, such as a dresser drawer. You can even keep your watch dry in a cigar humidor. You just won’t have the glass case to show it off.

You can also use a secure, temperature- and humidity-controlled safe, especially for a rare or vintage timepiece.

For travel, consider using zip-up watch storage cases and watch rolls to protect them during transit.

How to Protect Watches from Moisture

Moisture is the natural enemy for watches, since water will damage the dial and inner workings as well as the band. For this reason, store your watches at room temperature in a dry environment, suggests Goldfarb.

Older and vintage watches have even less protection from water. They don’t tend to have the same seals or gaskets to prevent moisture exposure when compared to modern watches.

For protection, wrap the vintage watch in a paper towel sealed in a plastic bag with a Silica gel pack. Then, wrap it in protective bubble wrap within the plastic bag and store in a cardboard box, said Goldfarb.

Advice on Watch Maintenance

Boktor and Goldfarb say you should service and maintain your watch every four years to keep it ticking. After cleaning, Boktor “oils the jewels” as part of the service. Fine mechanical watches contain jewels used as bearings for moving gears that power the timepieces.

You want to oil and lubricate your watch to remove any dust, dirt and debris the builds up.

“It keeps it in good condition,” said Boktor. “It saves the jewels from being corroded. Even after four years in storage, bring it in for service.”

Even if it’s vintage, wear the watch periodically.

“Non-use causes the oil in the watch movement to coagulate or dry up, causing potential damage when used at a later date,” said Goldfarb.

If you have an older watch, be aware that coming in contact with a magnetic field can cause it to gain or lose minutes per hour or run for only a few hours, then lock up.

Magnets are surprisingly common in our everyday lives these days. They are in cell phones, handbag clasps, PC speakers. Avoid contact with strong magnets and prolonged contact with weaker ones. In other words, don’t store a mechanical watch on top of a cell phone all day every day.

Also be careful not to drop your watch, of course. Your vintage wristwatch or pocket watch will likely have no shock absorbers, so if you drop it or ram it, it can stop running or run inaccurately. Depending on its value, you could also consider insuring your watch.

If you do have problems, there are vintage-watch specialists out there to help you.

“Always seek an experienced vintage watchmaker to perform regular services and any repair,” said Goldfarb. “Seek professional help whenever the watch no longer operates accurately.”

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