And thirdly, it can be risky –risky in all sorts of ways. If you take an old watch in for factory authorized service and you want it left as original as possible, you may be in for a tussle. As a rule, watch manufacturers, and their after-sales service departments, do not consider themselves in the restoration and preservation business. Their task as they see it (often) is to present their clients with, as much as possible, an essentially new watch, with the most recent technical upgrades and updates. Under such circumstances the insistence on the part of a customer that, for example, the dial and hands remain untouched can seem nothing short of bizarre –if you want, the thinking goes, a properly functioning watch why in the world would you want to keep some ancient dial, with its ability to luminesce long gone, instead of getting a nice, shiny fresh one that glows brightly in the dark as any self-respecting dial should? This means that, in addition to cleaning and renewal of oils, very often parts are simply replaced –dials, hands, mainsprings, crown, stem, gaskets are all generally candidates for replacement with new ones, and it’s not unheard of, in the case of larger companies, for entire movements to sometimes be swapped out for upgraded versions.
And on the client’s side, of course, it can be infuriating to hear that an after-sales service department insists on changing parts when to do so may utterly destroy the value, to a collector, of a vintage watch. Add to this the issues of cost and time mentioned above, and what you have is a sort of perfect storm –a failsafe, reliable, works-every-time recipe for mutual acrimony and discontent. Nonetheless, it’s worth finding out –even from a sample size of one –what it’s like, so here’s a quick look at one person’s experience (mine) with one watch.