How to look af­ter your time­pieces while on hol­i­day.

As the an­nual sum­mer hol­i­day ex­o­dus takes place, Sean Li gives some top point­ers on how to prop­erly look af­ter the time­pieces that ac­com­pany you on your jour­neys

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

It’s no se­cret that me­chan­i­cal watches need to be han­dled with a cer­tain amount of care. While mod­ern tech­nolo­gies, both in ma­te­ri­als and pro­duc­tion tech­niques, have en­abled watch­mak­ers to build in a higher de­gree of re­sis­tance to the el­e­ments and un­due han­dling, these are still ma­chines on a very small scale that can be in­ad­ver­tently dam­aged. You’d be sur­prised at how much force is ac­tu­ally trans­mit­ted to the parts of a watch by even a ca­sual knock on the ta­ble—and that’s just at home. Trav­el­ling with your watch (or watches) brings in it­self an ad­di­tional set of chal­lenges and pos­si­ble ne­far­i­ous ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences. As the old adage goes, though, a lit­tle prepa­ra­tion goes a long way. Here are some point­ers on how to best pre­pare for travel while tak­ing care of your prized horo­log­i­cal pos­ses­sions.

Most watch col­lec­tors are likely to travel, par­tic­u­larly on ex­tended sum­mer hol­i­days, with more than one time­piece. You need to en­sure that they’re ad­e­quately pro­tected in transit. Padded ser­vice boxes, such as the ones you may get af­ter the watch has been re­turned from the watch­maker fol­low­ing a re­vi­sion, may not be the most glam­orous but they’re very ef­fec­tive at pro­tect­ing against me­tal­lic ob­jects that could mar the sur­face of the watch, as well as the var­i­ous bumps and shocks you’ll en­counter along the way. Hav­ing in­di­vid­ual boxes al­lows you some flex­i­bil­ity if you’re stay­ing in a ho­tel, as some of the safes they pro­vide can be on the small side.

It’s also in the ho­tel safe that you’ll need to be aware of an in­vis­i­ble dan­ger to me­chan­i­cal watches in par­tic­u­lar: mag­netism. As you’re very likely to be stor­ing some kind of tablet or e-reader in the safe, bear in mind that many of these de­vices in­cor­po­rate a num­ber of mag­nets, usu­ally to keep the cover closed or at­tached to the de­vice. These mag­nets can af­fect the reg­u­lar tim­ing of the watch’s move­ment and can even go as far as to mag­ne­tise key com­po­nents. If you ever see your watch run­ning un­usu­ally fast—as in gain­ing 15 min­utes or so in a day or more— the likely cul­prit is mag­neti­sa­tion. It’s an is­sue that’s easily re­solved, but only if you have ac­cess to a de­mag­ne­tiser. Most watch shops and tech­ni­cians will have one, but it’s not equip­ment that you’re likely to carry on hol­i­day. There’s lit­tle that can be done oth­er­wise and it can be a se­ri­ous has­sle if it hap­pens to be the only watch you brought.

Mag­neti­sa­tion isn’t a new is­sue for me­chan­i­cal watches. It’s been part and par­cel of fre­quent air travel, thanks to the me­tal de­tec­tors you have to pass through at air­port se­cu­rity check­points. They work by de­tect­ing shifts in mag­netic fields due to the pres­ence of me­tal­lic ob­jects; in short, they’re gi­ant mag­nets. When­ever I travel, I make it a point of re­mov­ing the watch from my wrist and plac­ing it in a pouch or ser­vice box in my travel bag, so that it goes through the scan­ner rather than the me­tal de­tec­tor.

If that’s not pos­si­ble—ei­ther be­cause the se­cu­rity agent in­sists you keep your watch on (a very rare oc­cur­rence, but I’ve seen it hap­pen) or you sent your bag through al­ready—make sure you keep your watch as close to the cen­tre of the me­tal de­tec­tor by slightly cross­ing your arm across your body, where the mag­netic field will gen­er­ally be the weak­est. This rule also ap­plies when you’re plac­ing the watch in the safe along­side that mag­netic cover for your tablet; keep them as far apart as you can within the safe and you should min­imise the risk of mag­neti­sa­tion.

For those who like to go swimming with your watches, do make sure that your watch’s wa­ter re­sis­tance is adapted to your ac­tiv­ity level. The com­mon rat­ings are based on wa­ter pres­sure, which is gen­er­ally mea­sured by depth. But bear in mind that this is a static pres­sure read­ing and if you’re ac­tive in the wa­ter, you can easily ex­ceed that pres­sure just by jump­ing into a swimming pool. The rule of thumb is that you need a watch that’s rated to 100 me­tres, or 10 at­mos­pheres (ATM), to safely go swimming. Lower rat­ings can only with­stand the oc­ca­sional splash or dip in shal­low wa­ter, or a rain­storm. Also re­mem­ber that any watch with a wa­ter re­sis­tance rat­ing needs to be retested if the case is ever opened; watches with a high de­gree of wa­ter re­sis­tance will likely need new gas­kets as well to en­sure they pre­vent any liq­uid from en­ter­ing.

Lastly, for those with me­chan­i­cal watches that have dates or cal­en­dar func­tions, be mind­ful when you make that time ad­just­ment dur­ing your trav­els. These mech­a­nisms are of­ten very grad­ual—that is, the chang­ing of the date, month or any re­lated in­di­ca­tion is sel­dom in­stan­ta­neous, and the gears are en­gaged of­ten hours be­fore you ac­tu­ally see the change oc­cur. It’s at this stage that you should be care­ful to not turn the hands on your watch back­wards, for not all move­ments are able to re­verse the process. Should you ap­ply too much force, you could easily dam­age the small gears. Here, it’s gen­er­ally af­ter 10pm and 2am that the hands should not be re­versed. If you’re un­sure whether the time shown is 10am or 10pm, you can just move the hands for­ward a few hours as a safety pre­cau­tion.

Per­pet­ual cal­en­dars can be even more finicky, as most will not change all the in­di­ca­tions at the same time since it would re­quire a lot of energy from the move­ment. In­stead, you might see the date in­di­ca­tions change around mid­night, while the moon­phase will click for­ward a few hours later. Un­for­tu­nately, this is where you’ll need to pe­ruse the owner’s man­ual; per­pet­ual cal­en­dars that have these kinds of op­er­a­tional re­stric­tions will state them very clearly.

All that re­mains is for me to wish you safe trav­els—and the en­joy­ment of your time­pieces dur­ing your hol­i­days.

TRAV­EL­LING WITH YOUR WATCH (OR WATCHES) BRINGS IN IT­SELF AN AD­DI­TIONAL SET OF CHAL­LENGES AND POS­SI­BLE NE­FAR­I­OUS EX­TER­NAL IN­FLU­ENCES

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