Watches - A Visit To

What goes on in a Cartier watch service?

Someone once said that if everyone thought too much about all the things that could go wrong with childbirth, no one would have children. The same might be said of fine watches. If one assesses all the problems a mechanical watch could have, few people would bother owning and enjoying them.

Whilst it’s true that luxury watches are designed and built to last a lifetime, they do require regular maintenance to ensure they function correctly and remain accurate. Regular exposure to dirt, moisture and shocks all take their toll on your precious timepiece. Moving parts will wear over time and lubricating oils that reduce friction between the parts will dry up, leading to unnecessary wear on the movement. Much like a car, ignoring issues such as these can lead to permanent damage to the movement, stopping the watch from working and resulting in a much larger bill to have it repaired.

cartier santos 100 open caseback in a workshop

The spa treatment

So how often should you service your mechanical watch? Cartier recommend a service every five years to ensure that the watch works as intended. This should also be in conjunction with treating and storing the watch in the correct way to prevent any accidents from happening.    

If that answers the when, how about the where? One thing is for sure: you should never take a fine wristwatch for service to someone not qualified to work on it. Don’t be tempted to take it to your local jeweller or watch repair shop. Not least because many high street ‘watch repairers’ will not have access to original parts, and won’t have been trained to work on specific or complicated pieces.

Always take your watch a Cartier-accredited workshop. At Xupes we provide an accredited service for Cartier watches (as well as Omega and Longines) in our on-site workshop, and all work is backed by a two-year guarantee.   

certified cartier watchmaker removing the balance from a cartier watch

It’s complicated

So what’s involved in servicing a watch? Well, it partly depends on what kind of watch you wear. Cartier make a wide range of both mechanical and quartz luxury watches to very exacting standards.  

Mechanical watches are made up of hundreds of small moving parts and much of the time involved in servicing them is taken up working on the movement. Quartz watches are powered by a battery, simpler in construction and are generally easier to work on.

Whilst the processes involved in their servicing vary, the objective of a service is the same: to return the watch to its peak operating condition.

Initial tests on the movement are carried out by a Timegrapher. In a mechanical watch, this means assessing the amplitude of the movement which will inform the watchmaker of the issues with the watch.   

Once this has been defined, the first stage of your service is the complete disassembly of the watch. Each individual part will be inspected and ultrasonically cleaned if required. Any parts that are beyond repair are noted and replaced with official Cartier parts. 

various cartier watch movement parts on a workbench

Test it and test it again

Once disassembled, the case and bracelet will be refurbished as per client instructions. Every part of the movement will be individually inspected before being lubricated, and reassembled by hand. Your watch will then spend 48 hours being tested for timekeeping accuracy. The watch will be fully wound and stored on a carousel that simulates daily wear on your wrist. Once the 48 hours have passed, the watchmaker will re-measure the amplitude of the watch and make any necessary adjustments to the balance calibration to ensure accurate timekeeping. If adjustments are needed, the watch will need to go back on test for another 48 hours.

When you send a quartz watch in for a service the first thing that gets checked is the battery cell. These typically need replacing every 2 years which can be performed separately to a full service. If your quartz watch has stopped, it is important to not leave the dead cell in the watch for too long as the movement can be permanently damaged by leaked battery acid. Once the battery has been replaced the movement circuitry is tested repaired if needed and finally the consumption rate of the new cell is checked to ensure optimum performance.

Water resistance for both mechanical and quartz watches is provided by rubber seals and gaskets that fit around any openings in the case, typically the crown and case back. During a service, these will be checked and replaced in the last stages of reassembly if they are showing signs of wear. The watch undergoes testing in a pressure chamber which simulates the effect of immersion in water to various depths, checking that the watch remains watertight.

cartier watch in a pressure chamber test

Patina or polish?

If your Cartier watch is a vintage example you might wish to leave the case unpolished as changes to the case can affect the appearance and value of your watch. Our watchmakers will discuss this with you before doing any polishing or refinishing work. Otherwise, if you’re happy, your watch will be gently polished and brought back to as-new appearance.

Once all these stages have been completed your watch will be passed on for the final inspection phase, during which the watchmaker carries out a technical and aesthetic inspection to make sure that your watch meets the manufacturer’s standards.

So, the lesson is that if you love your watch you need to take care of it. Yes, it's an expense and means a little time without your watch, but if you look after it properly your Cartier really should last you a lifetime.