Lifespan Of A Watch?
June 6, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Bought my first watch (ever). Will I be passing it on to my (future) grandkids? What is the lifespan of a watch?

I am in my 20s and last month I started what is likely to be a great adventure and career.

To celebrate, I bought my first watch. It is a Citizen Men's Eco-Drive.

I was wondering what is the long term quality of this type of watch. Could I give it to my grandkids in 40 years? Or, will I be buying a new watch in 5 years when this one falls apart?
posted by Spurious to Technology (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
20+ years before battery needs servicing, according to Wikipedia. Take with appropriate amount of salt
posted by tigrrrlily at 9:52 AM on June 6, 2009

And whether you'll be able to find somebody making the battery twenty years from now is as yet an unresolved question.

Battery aside, whether the watch will last five years or twenty is largely a function of how you treat it.
posted by box at 9:57 AM on June 6, 2009

Keep it and pass it on anyway. There is something about watches and men. My husband's dad passed away recently and the one possession that my husband kept, brought home, and put in his "prized stuff" space was his dad's beat up old field watch.

For a long-term, high quality watch, you probably want to keep an eye out for mechanical watches.
posted by txvtchick at 10:23 AM on June 6, 2009

Ahem. 104 years old and still ticking. My grandfather's 1905 Elgin National watch.
posted by pjern at 10:42 AM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

keep an eye out for mechanical watches.

The standard is 23 jewels now, not 17.

An battery-powered $80 watch with a canvas strap is not really heirloom material.

This is something timeless.

But it's expensive.

This is probably more in your price range and it's something you can give to your kid.
posted by Zambrano at 10:47 AM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ugh that VC link should have linked to the Patrimony model.
posted by Zambrano at 10:52 AM on June 6, 2009

Patek Philippe's entire ad campaign is "You never actually OWN a Patek, you just look after it for the next generation," with a picture of a father and son.

That said, YOU won't actually OWN a Patek unless you're willing to part with something in the $1,000-$10,000+ range...

But I think that's kind of the point. Long-term or not, I don't think an Eco-Drive, $80 watch is something I'd much care about having handed down... unless it had true sentimental value to its owner and was timeless enough. (And the battery issue speaks to that a bit, whereas an automatic will continue to operate with the help of a good horologist into the distant forever.)

Think about something that you have to save for, something that is elegant and a conversation piece and that shows a bit of yourself and a bit of taste when you purchase, and invest, in it. A watch can be a great piece for all of those things, but yeah, an $80 watch isn't cutting it any more than my $280 bluetooth Fossil (that shows caller ID on it from my phone!) is going to be, you know?
posted by disillusioned at 10:53 AM on June 6, 2009

Yes - there is definately something about watches and men. My first watch was given to me by my grandfather when I turned 18 - a mid-70's Seiko, self-winding chronograph that he found in a washroom when travelling on the Orient Express... (Sigh, on one hand I think it was pretty rude that he didn't turn it in, on the other hand... what a watch and what a story....),

Of course, I had no idea at the time what it was worth... Wore it everywhere, it was often mistaken for a Rolex, but eventually the band started wearing out and before I could have it fixed ended up at the bottom of a swamp during a reclamation job.

Currently I have another Seiko (as I could not justify a Tag due to the crappy 1-year warranty) and a Pathfinder. My plan is eventually to get a Breitling/Omega/Rolex that I can pass onto my son...
posted by jkaczor at 11:22 AM on June 6, 2009

My dad had a similar watch. Canvas strap, good-but-not-hugely-expensive, simple design (couldn't do Pythagorean math or tell me my current airspeed), and it worked for a decently long time (he had it probably 10-15 years before I got it), and for some reason that I can't explain, it meant a great deal to me. Maybe just the comfort that what worked so long for him worked for me.

(Just as the end of the story) I, in a fit of boneheaded stupidity (or bad luck), had it on my wrist as I dove for a baseball in a concrete parking lot, shattering the glass, and knocking it up a bit. ... couldn't tell you why, but I felt like I was breaking my dad. Still have it, in a piece of cloth in my desk, and once I find a watch shop I like, I'll get it repaired.

Also, I have the watch you posted, and have been using it for about five years now. It's a great timepiece. ... compared to some of the "timeless" ones linked to on this page, maybe it's only adequate... but it's solid, durable, and reliable- my only criticism is the calendar mechanism-- that tends to get off-date every couple of months as it has only one scroll wheel of days (every month has 30 days, I think, which means you have to roll the days forward/back every once in a while)
posted by Seeba at 11:23 AM on June 6, 2009

I'm going to disagree with the people saying that the one you're interested in isn't going to be heirloom material. My dad's watch is a Waltham -- a perfectly serviceable watch, but not an expensive one that he probably bought sometime in the '50s. One winter (Quebec) he was shoveling snow and it fell off his wrist. I found it the following spring. It was no worse for the experience, and I still check on it when I see him. I'll be proud to own that watch. And your kids will love your watch because it's yours, not because it has any inherent value. So if you like that watch go for it!

Having said that, I do think there is something almost magic about mechanical watches. Stick it up to your ear, hear it tick, steady for year after year after year. And winding it becomes a daily ritual, a brief morning meditation.

The key to keeping a watch a long time is to take it in every couple of years and have it cleaned and lubricated. Otherwise any mechanical parts will wear. If you look at mechanical watches on ebay you'll see plenty of them that are keeping time 100 years on. Who knows with newer, non-mechanical ones.
posted by Killick at 1:20 PM on June 6, 2009

I am a watch-a-holic. I'm not talking about "oh, i like favorite is a rolex with bling...or even a g-shock bape". No, I'm talking about REALLY knowing watches. I can give you a rough estimate as to what a specific watch will cost in your neck of the woods...and where in the US to buy it from to get the best deal. talk about giving it to your grandkids; thats sweet. There are a few things you need in order to make that happen...and almost NONE have to do with the price of the watch.

1. Crystal (aka the glass) of the watch. Is it sapphire (virtually unscratchable, yet not shatter resistant), or mineral (scratch-resistant...but still scratch city). As long as you aren't going into Space, you should have a sapphire crystal, as it will have 1-2 serious scratches over 20 years, as opposed to mineral crystal which can have the scratch taken out...but thats done by eroding a layer of the mineral crystal.

2. Band/strap/bracelet. Read above...see the accidents people had with their watches...ALL due to a failing band/strap/bracelet. If you regularly replace a band/strap before it SHOWS wear, you are all good. If you have a bracelet, make sure it doesn't lose strength over the years.

3. Crown. This is the part of the watch that you pull out to adjust the time. Do you see where I'm going with this? Because you touch it also is prone to breakage. Because it sticks out, it is also prone to snagging on things. What you want is a SCREW down crown. I didn't really find out about this till I got into higher end watches (although some $100 seikos have them too). After the time/date is adjusted, you push it down, and screw it in. It then becomes as close to solid as it can.

I won't even talk about things such as metal, caseback, and movement since technology has pretty much perfected them. The only things technology can't improve are things which your human hands/fingers will touch. Thats why you will have to make them as strong/durable as possible.

The $80 watch you have has a mineral crystal, canvas band, and a regular crown. Could it last 50 years? ABSOLUTELY! Are the chances high that this watch will last 20 years if this is your daily

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:10 PM on June 6, 2009 [10 favorites]

Hal_c_on please do a post on sweet watches that last forever, I suddenly feel like owning a couple future heirlooms.
posted by cyphill at 8:01 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um, all of those things listed above have to do with the price of the watch. In fact, they have a lot to do with the price.
posted by Zambrano at 9:25 AM on June 7, 2009

I'm going to disagree with the people saying that the one you're interested in isn't going to be heirloom material. My dad's watch is a Waltham..

That's fine.. but this person is going into this looking for suggestions. He's afraid his watch won't go the distance. Your dad's watch was already established as an heirloom.
posted by Zambrano at 9:35 AM on June 7, 2009

Watches can last for generations if they're looked after. I have a lower end Tag Heuer my folks gave me when I was 18. Still works, survived university, kayaking expeditions, mountain biking, working offshore etc.
I have an automatic Omega that I've had for 10 years, that is still going strong without much scratching. Mark hal_c_on's words though, I had to replace the clasp after 10 years. But that's the only problem I've ever had with it.
My dad just gave me his automatic Longines Crusader, 52+ years old, that he bought when doing his national service in the 1950s. Works like a charm too and looks great with a nice new strap. Marvellous watch, all I want now is his old valve radio.
I agree, there's something about nice watches :o)
posted by arcticseal at 4:48 PM on June 7, 2009

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