FAQ: Can I Safely Wear a Watch Found in a Drawer?

 In FAQ

You’re cleaning up and going through drawers, and suddenly you find a watch. It might have been from a loved one who’s passed away. Sometimes, nobody has a clue whose watch it was and how it got there. Anyway, a watch deserves better than collecting dust in a drawer. It needs to be worn.

Is it a good idea to immediately start wearing it though? Probably not.

A matter of circumstances

Here’s the good question: why did the watch end up in a drawer?

Often that’s because personal belongings of a deceased relative are simply packed. No one’s really in the mood to examine what they are.

However, this relative could have placed it in a drawer during their lifetime. Sometimes that’s because they got another one, and stopped wearing their old watch. It’s also possible that, for whatever reason, they preferred to buy a new watch instead of getting the old one repaired or serviced.

Anyway, regarding the watch you just found, the first thing you need to check is if it’s mechanical or quartz.

It’s quartz. What to do?

By “quartz” I mean a movement with a quartz-controlled stepper motor. Have the battery replaced, and check the performance of the watch. If it runs OK, that’s it; it’s usually good to go. However, you’d want to have the gaskets replaced. Just that the watch hasn’t been worn for some time doesn’t mean that the rubber gaskets haven’t deteriorated.

Electric, but not quartz watches are a different matter. Watches with a balance controlled by an electric motor have a structure that’s in many ways similar to a mechanical watch. You should look around for a watchmaker specializing in these movements.

The same goes for tuning fork movements, the Bulova Accutron and its Swiss clones built by ETA/ESA under license from Bulova. While the structure of these is entirely different from that of a mechanical watch, you should have a tuning fork movement inspected and serviced. Few watchmakers specialize in these. Still, there must have been a reason for the watch having landed up in a drawer. What usually benches an Accutron is an issue with the tuning fork itself.

It’s mechanical. What to do?

It doesn’t matter if it runs or not. You don’t know when it was serviced last.

The watch isn’t going to explode if you want to wind it to see if it runs. Only do it that one time though. If the movement is very dirty or dry, you could damage it by repeatedly winding it.

Take it to a watchmaker to see if it’s safe to wear or if it needs to be repaired or serviced.

Conclusion

Imagine finding a car in a shed you’re inherited. Would you charge the battery, fill the gas tank and take it for a spin? Without checking the oil level; before inspecting the brakes? Of course not, it wouldn’t be safe.

Just like cars, watches need to be taken care of and serviced in a regular interval, especially mechanical watches.

Let a watchmaker have a look at the watch. It’s likely that the watch is an heirloom piece and has sentimental value. Better be safe than sorry.

Have you ever found a watch in a drawer? Let me know in the comments below.

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  • Avatar
    Ryszard Mostowicz
    Reply

    Hi,
    After ca 20 years since my father passed away, I found the watch, which belonged to him but I have never seen him wearing it. It is ETERNA MATIC Automatic watch. I showed it to the watchmaker, he cleaned it and now I am wearing it.
    I wonder, what is the production year of my Eterna watch. On the case there is number 3 165 476 but I don’t know the number on the movement.

    • Michał Kolwas
      Michał Kolwas
      Reply

      You did well to have it serviced before wearing it. Just past the 3.1 million mark is a very early serial to find on an Eterna-Matic. It points to circa 1946. Since the Eterna-Matic system was introduced in 1948, there’s a year or two of a difference between the case and movement, but that’s within the norm in mass production. To have any solid confirmation, best check the movement serial, and contact Eterna’s After Sales Department – they’ll need both the case and movement serials, but they will provide the year of production, and if possible, also the reference number.

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