Every old thing, whether it’s a hip, a home, or a car, will eventually need some major TLC if you wish it to keep its value. But when it comes to vintage timepieces, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about the process.
Self-winding watches gained popularity in the 1920s during World War I. A self-winding watch (also known as an automatic watch) features a mainspring to turn the gears, which then turns to move the hands to wind the watch automatically.
If your self-winding watch needs restoration and repair, the cost of repair could sometimes exceed the value of the watch. Learning how to restore and repair your self-winding watch can save you money and you also learn a valuable skill at the same time!
In most self-winding watches, the tempered crystal covers the face. Some watches are also laser-sealed to prevent cracks and scratches. Part of the crystals function is to protect the dial and movement from daily wear and tear due to the constant exposure of one’s wrist, but the crystal can still get damaged. How to take the crystal apart can vary depending on the manufacturer, so please make sure to follow each manufacturer’s instructions carefully!
Removing the Crystal
If you need to replace the crystal for whichever reason, you can find replacements easily online. To remove the crystal, you are going to need a watch repair tool kit.
Place the crystal lift around the crystal and adjust it to grip the crystal. Holding the edge of the watch, pull the crystal out. You will hear the distinct sound of a click once you successfully remove the crystal. Tighten the same tool around the new watch crystal, position it over the watch face, and snap it into place. Make sure it fits snugly otherwise the crystal can come off. If the crystal is the type with screws, you need a wrench, also part of watch repair kits, to remove the old crystal then you can simply just screw the new one on.
Dial repairing can be a tricky task, better left in the hands of a professional. If the label is missing letters and the face is heavily discoloured, it is better to take it to a watch restoration expert. However, you can do some basic cleaning of the dial if the cost of repair is greater than the value of the watch.
Accessing the Dial
Use a rubber jar opener to remove the bezel or the ring that holds the crystal in place. Remove the cover using the jar opener and twist counterclockwise until you fully pry the bezel from the case. With the dial now exposed, place the hands of the hour, minute, and second in the centre of the dial. Using watchmaker tweezers, carefully lift each hand from the post. Leave the dial in its place, and make sure it is face-up on a surface.
Cleaning the Dial
Use a jeweller’s loupe to examine your watch and look for any type of spotting, which occurs due to dirt and dust getting under the crystal. You can gather toothpicks, a hairdryer, a soft-bristled toothbrush, soapy water, and Rodico cleaner to remove dirt from the dial. Use toothpicks to pick at and remove solid dirt, Rodico cleaner to clean spots, and a soft-bristled toothbrush for the more stubborn and stuck dirt. Set the hairdryer on low and use it to dry the dial.
You need a watch calliper, a spring bar tool, and a round-headed pin. Measure the length of your band in inches, and the width in millimetres. Refer to the measurement in choosing a new wristwatch band. Slide the spring bar tool on either side of the bar that connects the watch to the band. Use the tool to compress the bar until it pops out of the holes. Clean all lug holes and remove grime using the round-headed pin. By tracing back the process of removing the band, you will be installing the new band. Make sure the watch fits snugly and lastly adjust by piercing holes.
The chart below shows the different watch parts and lists the correct materials to access, clean, and replace them.
|Crystal||Crystal lifter, Wrench||Brass cleaner, Cleaning cloth, Q-tips|
|Dial||Rubber jar opener, Watchmaker tweezers||Jeweller’s loupe; Toothpicks; Hairdryer; Soft-bristled toothbrush; Soapy water; Rodico cleaner|
|Band||Watch calliper, Spring bar tool||Round-headed pin|
Tools for accessing watch parts are complete in the watch repair tool kit. It is also possible to use household cleaning materials to clean the watch crystal and watch dial.