What is an Overhaul and Why Does Your Watch Need It?

In the latest episode of The Classroom, watchmaker Mike Michaels takes us on a deep dive into the world of watch overhauls. If you’ve ever wondered what an overhaul is, why your watch might need one, and when to send it in for service, this episode has all the answers. Mike breaks down the process of a complete disassembly, cleaning, adjustment, and lubrication of a mechanical timepiece, as well as the importance of using the right lubricants in the right places. He also shares valuable insights into how to determine if your watch needs an overhaul based on its power reserve and emphasizes the importance of choosing a certified watchmaker for the job. Don’t miss this informative episode if you want to protect and maintain the value of your watch investment!

What is an Overhaul?

Definition of an overhaul

An overhaul refers to the complete disassembly, cleaning, adjustment, and lubrication of a mechanical timepiece. It is a comprehensive maintenance process that ensures the watch is functioning at its optimal level.

Components involved in an overhaul

During an overhaul, the watchmaker carefully takes apart every component of the watch. This includes the dial, hands, case, crown, and movement. Each piece is then cleaned and inspected for wear or misalignment. After cleaning, the watch is reassembled with new lubricants to ensure smooth movement and proper functioning. The goal of an overhaul is to restore the watch to its original specifications and performance.

Why Does Your Watch Need an Overhaul?

Importance of regular maintenance

Regular maintenance, such as an overhaul, is crucial for the longevity and performance of your watch. Just like any precision instrument, a watch requires upkeep to ensure it continues to function accurately. Over time, dust, dirt, and moisture can accumulate inside the watch, leading to decreased performance and potential damage. By scheduling regular overhauls, you can prevent these issues and keep your watch in optimal condition.

Signs that your watch needs an overhaul

There are several signs that indicate your watch may need an overhaul. If you notice significant timekeeping discrepancies, such as the watch running too fast or too slow, it may be a sign that the movement needs to be cleaned and adjusted. Other signs include a decrease in power reserve, difficulty in winding or setting the watch, and any strange noises or vibrations coming from the timepiece. If you experience any of these issues, it is advisable to consult a professional watchmaker for an assessment.

Effects of not getting an overhaul

Neglecting to get your watch overhauled can have detrimental effects on its performance and longevity. Accumulated dirt and dust can cause increased friction, leading to premature wear on the movement’s components. Over time, this wear can result in poor timekeeping, decreased accuracy, and potential damage to internal parts. By neglecting regular maintenance, you risk reducing the lifespan of your watch and compromising its functionality.

When Should You Send Your Watch in for an Overhaul?

Factors to consider

There are several factors to consider when deciding when to send your watch in for an overhaul. First and foremost, it is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for service intervals. These guidelines are usually based on the specific movement and can provide valuable insight into when an overhaul is necessary. Additionally, factors such as the watch’s age, usage, and environmental conditions should be taken into account. If you have any concerns about the performance of your watch, it is best to consult a professional watchmaker for guidance.

Role of power reserve in determining the need for an overhaul

The power reserve of a watch is an important indicator of when an overhaul may be required. The power reserve refers to the amount of time the watch can run without being wound. As the watch ages and components wear down, the power reserve may decrease. If you notice a significant drop in the power reserve, it is a strong indication that an overhaul is necessary. It is important to keep an eye on your watch’s power reserve and consult a professional if there are any noticeable changes.

What Happens During an Overhaul?

Complete disassembly of the watch

During an overhaul, the watchmaker carefully disassembles the watch, starting with removing the case back and bezel. This allows for access to the movement and other internal components. Each part is meticulously taken apart to ensure a thorough cleaning and inspection.

Cleaning and lubricating the components

Once the watch is disassembled, each component undergoes a meticulous cleaning process. Various methods, such as ultrasonic cleaning, are used to remove dirt, dust, and oils that have accumulated over time. After cleaning, the watchmaker applies the appropriate lubricants to ensure smooth movement and reduce friction.

Inspection and checking for wear or misalignment

As the watch is being cleaned, the watchmaker inspects each component for wear or misalignment. This includes checking the gears, springs, and other intricate parts. Any parts showing signs of excessive wear or damage are replaced to ensure the watch functions properly.

Reassembling the watch

After cleaning and inspecting each component, the watchmaker begins the process of reassembling the watch. This involves carefully aligning and securing each part in its proper place. Once reassembled, the watch undergoes a series of tests to ensure accurate timekeeping and proper functionality.

Choosing the Right Watchmaker for an Overhaul

Importance of certified watchmakers

When selecting a watchmaker for an overhaul, it is essential to choose someone who is certified and experienced in working with your specific watch brand. Certified watchmakers have undergone rigorous training and have access to brand-specific manuals and parts. This ensures that your watch is in the hands of a knowledgeable professional who understands the intricacies of your timepiece.

Benefits of going to a brand-certified watchmaker

Opting for a brand-certified watchmaker offers several advantages. These watchmakers have been trained and authorized by the watch brand to perform overhauls and other maintenance tasks. They have access to the latest technical information, tools, and genuine parts, ensuring that your watch is repaired to the manufacturer’s standards. By choosing a brand-certified watchmaker, you can have peace of mind knowing that your watch is in the best possible hands.

How Long Does an Overhaul Take?

Time required for a thorough overhaul

The duration of an overhaul can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the movement, the watchmaker’s workload, and any additional repairs needed. On average, a thorough overhaul can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. It is important to remember that an overhaul is a meticulous process that requires precision and attention to detail. Rushing the process can compromise the quality of work performed.

The importance of allowing watchmakers to take their time

While it may be tempting to request a quick turnaround for an overhaul, it is crucial to allow the watchmaker sufficient time to perform the necessary tasks with precision. Rushing the process can lead to errors and subpar results. By giving the watchmaker the time they need, you can ensure that your watch receives the attention it deserves, resulting in a properly serviced timepiece.

The Cost of an Overhaul

Factors affecting the cost of an overhaul

The cost of an overhaul can vary depending on multiple factors. The complexity of the movement, the brand of the watch, the need for additional repairs or replacement parts, and the reputation of the watchmaker can all influence the cost. It is advisable to consult with different watchmakers and obtain quotes to determine a reasonable price range for the specific overhaul your watch requires.

Value of investing in a high-quality overhaul

While an overhaul might seem like a significant upfront cost, it is a worthwhile investment in the long run. By regularly servicing your watch and addressing any issues promptly, you can extend its lifespan and maintain its accuracy. Additionally, a properly serviced watch retains its value better than one that has been neglected. By investing in a high-quality overhaul, you are preserving the integrity of your watch and protecting your investment.

Overhaul vs. Routine Maintenance

Difference between an overhaul and routine maintenance

An overhaul differs from routine maintenance in terms of its scope and thoroughness. Routine maintenance involves regular cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment of the watch to keep it running smoothly. It is a preventative measure that helps prevent major issues and ensures optimal performance. On the other hand, an overhaul is a more comprehensive process that involves complete disassembly, cleaning, and inspection of every component of the watch. It is typically required less frequently than routine maintenance.

Frequency of routine maintenance

The frequency of routine maintenance depends on the brand and type of watch, as well as the wearer’s habits and environment. As a general guideline, it is recommended to have your watch serviced every three to five years. However, if you wear your watch daily or expose it to harsh conditions, more frequent servicing may be necessary. Consulting the manufacturer’s guidelines or a professional watchmaker can provide more specific recommendations based on your watch and usage patterns.

Protecting Your Watch with an Overhaul

Preserving the integrity of the watch

An overhaul plays a crucial role in preserving the overall integrity of your watch. By thoroughly cleaning and inspecting every component, a watchmaker can identify and address any potential issues before they cause significant damage. This proactive approach ensures that your watch remains in optimal condition and continues to perform accurately.

Preventing further wear and damage

Neglecting to get an overhaul can lead to further wear and damage to your watch. By allowing dirt, dust, and moisture to accumulate, you increase the risk of friction and premature wear on the movement. Over time, this wear can result in irreparable damage and decreased performance. By getting regular overhauls, you can prevent further wear and damage, ensuring the longevity of your watch.

Maintaining the value and investment

An overhaul is an essential part of maintaining the value and investment of your watch. By keeping your timepiece in optimal condition, you are preserving its integrity and functionality. Moreover, a properly serviced watch is likely to retain its value better than one that has been neglected. Whether you plan on keeping the watch for personal enjoyment or potentially selling it in the future, regular overhauls are crucial in ensuring its long-term value.


Regular overhauls are a vital aspect of maintaining the performance and longevity of your watch. By understanding the importance of an overhaul, recognizing the signs that your watch needs one, and selecting the right watchmaker for the job, you can ensure that your timepiece remains in optimal condition. Investing in regular overhauls not only protects your watch but also safeguards your investment and preserves its value. By taking care of your watch with regular overhauls and routine maintenance, you can enjoy its long-lasting performance and continue to cherish it for years to come.