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Horology Horrors: When Watches and Water Don’t Mix

There are few things in life more terrifying than running out of treats with a neighborhood full of pint-sized monsters and witches clamoring at your door. Discovering water inside your brand new Seiko Prospex or your vintage Bulova Snorkel comes pretty darn close, though. With Halloween approaching, we’re devoting this blog to one of the scariest things that can happen to your watch: water damage. Considering that our watches represent significant sentimental and monetary investments, is it any wonder that the idea of them being damaged beyond repair would give us nightmares? Water inside your timepiece, especially when it includes particles like salt, algae, and soap, will corrode the metal parts of your case and movement if left untreated.
Horology Horrors: When Watches and Water Don’t Mix
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An obvious clue that your watch is not sealed correctly anymore is condensation. Moisture fog or droplets on the inside of the crystal mean that water has seeped into your watch and likely sits in your movement. Other tell-tale signs of water damage are broken lumes and malfunctioning hands. If the luminescent markers on your watch hands and face suddenly stop working, or your hands stutter or stop entirely, then moisture should be your number-one suspect. Your dive watch is made to be worn in the water, so what happened? One possibility is that the O-ring gasket that wraps securely around the crown has failed. The gasket, usually made of rubber or silicone, can dry, crack, or break altogether, leaving your watch vulnerable to water infiltration. Another culprit is user error. If you didn’t properly set your watch bezel, or your crown and pushers weren’t screwed in tightly before you plunged in, you’re going to have water issues.

Home Repair Options

For those of you who feel confident enough to tackle a water damage fix on your own, our watch repair gurus offer the following tips if the seepage isn’t too extensive:

Add a Little Heat

Place your watch caseback-side down on a windowsill in the sunlight, under a lamp, or on a radiator. The heat source will draw the moisture away from the movement and dry things out faster. Be careful not to overheat your watch, though.

Desiccants Rule!

A tried and true method for drying out electronics and other devices is to place them in desiccants like dry, uncooked rice or clean, white pure silica-gel cat litter. If you own a smartphone, you know what I’m talking about. Again, place the watch flat, caseback-side down. After a few hours, the desiccant and gravity will have done their jobs to wick out the water. Once the watch is thoroughly dry, it’s time to figure out how the water got in there in the first place. If it was a user error, well, now you know better, and you won’t ever go into the water again without first adequately securing your watch, right? Right! A failed gasket will take a little more work. First, you’ll need to determine what kind of caseback you have. The four main types are snap-off, screw-off, notched, and those held together with screws. Once you remove the caseback, you’ll need to separate the crown and stem assembly from the watch movement. Often, there is a tiny push release dimple on the movement near the stem. Using a pin-point tool, press down on the dimple to release the stem and pull the stem and crown out with your fingernails. Take a look at the gasket – is it hidden inside the crown or exposed on the stem? If the rubber gasket is hidden, our watch repair experts recommend you purchase an entirely new crown. However, if your gasket is exposed on the stem, you can replace it with a new one pretty easily. You’ll need a few tools to replace an exposed gasket – a toothpick or plastic pick, a new crown gasket, a digital micrometer, and, optionally, silicone grease. Use the pick to pry the gasket out of the channel on the stem and slide it off. With the digital micrometer, measure the diameter of the groove where the gasket will sit on the stem. This will help you determine what size replacement gasket you need. Finally, you may want to lubricate the gasket with a bit of silicone grease to prolong its life. Then, slide the gasket up the stem until it slips into the groove. Replace the crown and stem assembly, and you’re done.

Wait…I’m in over my Head (pun intended)

If the water damage in your watch is too much for a DIY fix, your best bet is to mail your timepiece to our Swiss-trained watch repair experts at Times Ticking. Customers worldwide trust our technicians to take care of their Bulova, Luminox, Seiko, and Rolex repair and more—no matter how difficult or irreparable they might seem. It may be the season for tales of horror and fright, but thankfully, water in your watch doesn’t have to be one of them. With your beloved Bulova nice and dry, thanks to you or your favorite watch repair shop, it’s time to raid your kids’ candy stash!