Have you ever had a watch fall from your wrist? Neither have I, but twice in the past year I have come incredibly close to losing a watch without even noticing.
The first time it happened I was in a London pub on a Saturday afternoon. I glanced at the time and, to my horror, spotted how the lug bar of my Christopher Ward C63 Sealander was protruding from the bracelet. The watch itself was hanging by a thread, ready to fall from my wrist at any moment.
It’s not a particularly heavy watch, and had it received a knock in just the right direction, while walking along a crowded street, perhaps, in conversation and not acutely aware of its connection to my wrist, it would have fallen unnoticed to the ground. Shocked and relieved in equal measure, I removed the watch and slipped it into a pocket.
Fast-forward a few months and the same thing has just happened again, this time with my Tudor Black Bay 58. Thankfully I was at home this time, but had failed to notice how one of the watch’s bracelet bars had come loose. It was protruding by several millimetres from the bracelet, and although yet to disconnect completely, was surely just a few turns away from disaster.
Although relieved to have spotted the problem in time, I’m left wondering how this happened and how long the bar had spent loosening itself before I’d noticed. I tend to remove my best watches and fiddle with them quite regularly, so it couldn’t have been defective for long. Perhaps it had taken just a few hours to work itself loose, and would have detached completely before the day was out. Had it fallen from my wrist while walking or otherwise distracted, I might well not have noticed. The thought of glancing at my wrist, only to discover my watch had gone, sends a chill down my spine.
So, what to do? Neither watch or strap seem to be damaged. Instead I’ve learnt the valuable lesson of watch maintenance. I’m not talking about the eye-wateringly expensive services Swiss watchmakers are famous for, but instead a bit of general upkeep. Just as you’d check the tyre pressure of your car and top up the windscreen wash every so often, I now realise the importance of checking the lug bars and other various fastenings of a watch.
In both cases, bars that screw together and hold the steel bracelet together had come loose. I tightened both back up using the pointed end of a small, sharp kitchen knife, Sorry, horologists, I know I should have used a proper screwdriver instead.
Such tools are absolutely worth having. Not only to adjust the size of a strap but, as I’ve discovered, to check everything is tight. You can buy jewellers' screwdrivers cheaply (and expensively) online, and I reckon those tiny tools you get in a Christmas cracker would probably do the job, too.
Since we’re talking about watch upkeep, I also like to give mine a clean with a jeweller's polishing cloth every few months, in a bid to remove some of the lighter scratches and give the stainless steel a bit of a glow-up. Back when I owned an Omega Speedmaster, its plastic-like Hesalite crystal scratched easily but was quickly restored to as-new by buffing it with a tube of Polywatch and a microfibre cloth.
Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that most watches are designed to come apart and screws can come loose. Bracelets can also stretch after many years of wear – a useful indicator of how well-used a vintage watch might be – leather can dry out, crack and eventually fail, and lug bars can bend out of shape.
These are all things to check when assessing a second-hand purchase, but also worth remembering when maintaining your own collection.