3 things you should never do with a mechanical watch

Don't make these common mistakes – or you could risk damaging your watch!

A close up of the movement inside a watch, with a mix of yellow and white coloured metals and some bright red jewels
(Image credit: Getty Images / seraficus)

Owning a mechanical watch – or, you know, more than one... no judgement here – is great. The movements inside them are arguably among the greatest examples of good old-fashioned engineering in a tiny space.

Look inside and you'll find an elaborate array of cogs, clutches, springs, rotors and more, all working in perfect harmony to keep accurate time. It may seem old hat in the modern age, with smartwatches and smartphones as commonplace as they are, but the majesty is not lost on the watch community. Just look at the sheer volume of new models on display at Watches and Wonders 2023 to see how healthy the market is.

They aren't without compromise though. In particular, mechanical watches can be delicate things. It's no surprise really – some of the components inside are incredibly small and thin.

Regardless, the mechanical watch has experienced a massive surge in popularity recently, finding favour with a new generation. So, whether you've just snagged your first watch, or just want to learn more about keeping your treasured timepiece safe and sound, here are three things you should never do with a mechanical watch.

1. Drop your watch

Let's start with a fairly obvious one. Sure, most watches are more durable than we give them credit for. Shock resistance mechanisms can help to mitigate the effects of big impacts, but they can only do so much.

If your watch does take a strong impact, there's a few things that could happen. Best-case scenario, the watch is fine. Middle-case scenario, you might find that the watch runs slightly outside of its usual time tolerance. Worst case? You could damage part of the movement. Depending on which watch you have, and the movement inside, that could lead to a pretty hefty repair cost, too.

If, for whatever reason, you expect to subject your watch to impacts on a more regular basis, you'd be well placed to check out something like a Casio G-Shock. They're fantastically tough, and can handle a lot more abuse without fear of damage.

2. Expose your watch to water with the crown pulled out

Most watches you buy – certainly modern examples – will have a water resistance rating on them. That can either be expressed as a unit of depth, or a unit of pressure – you'll typically see Atm or Bar.

It's worth noting that not all water resistance ratings are created equally. Most manufacturers give you a guide when you buy it of the kinds of things each rating should be safe for. Plus, the metre rating is slightly misleading – a 200m water resistance rating doesn't automatically mean you can dive 200m and be fine, as the pressure can change with other factors, too.

One thing that is true irrespective of the rated water resistance is that it's completely meaningless with the crown pulled out. Watches, in general, can be sealed pretty well, but the crown not only creates gaps in the casing, but offers any moisture a direct route into the movement itself.

For this reason, it's important to keep moisture as far away as possible when the crown is extended. Moisture getting into the movement can cause all sorts of problems, with rust developing and potentially killing the movement.

3. Change the date on your watch at night

Saving the most unusual for last, you should never change the date on your watch when the hands are set between 9pm and 3am. Why? Well, it's all down to the movement again.

Watches with a date complication mechanically shift the date window around once every 24 hours. In order to shift the date wheel, significantly more torque is required than that used to move the hands. To build up this torque, that part of the movement engages around 9pm and stays engaged until around 3am.

Of course, this can differ slightly between different brands and models, but it's generally accepted that this period is the no-go zone. If you do need to change the date manually, it's best to move the hands to around 5 or 6 o'clock before doing so. That should be ensure that the date mechanism isn't engaged, and minimise any potential to damage it.

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at T3.com, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.