Definitive Guide to Watches and Watch Care

A watch is not a high-maintenance accessory, but it does require care and attention in order to keep it running smoothly and looking as fantastic as it did the day you bought it. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve spent $50 or $50,000 on it, if you look after your watch then there’s no reason that it can’t last you a lifetime! Unsure what your specific watch needs are and how to best care for your brand new timepiece? We’ve put together the ultimate watch guide to answer all your questions.

1: Cleaning

The most important aspect of taking care of your watch is keeping it clean. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to keeping your watch clean and removing any marks or stains, as this will vary dramatically depending on what your watch is made of. A good rule of thumb is to separate your watch strap from the face before you begin cleaning, to avoid causing any damage to the delicate mechanisms within. If this isn’t possible, then take extra care when cleaning your watch. Here is a break down on how to clean your watch depending on the material it’s crafted from. The good news is, simple cleaning products you will already have lying around your house can do the job:

Cleaning a Wooden Watch

Unlike a piece of wooden furniture, you don’t need to apply any special oils or polishes to your wooden watch to keep it clean. This is because most quality wooden watches will already have been oiled extensively during the construction process. Adding oil or polish may damage the mechanism of the watch, negatively affecting its functionality. Wooden watches are actually incredibly low maintenance: the best way to clean one is to simply rub it with a fresh, dry cloth to bring out its natural richness and shine.

Cleaning a Stainless steel Watch

Stainless steel is a resilient material that doesn’t scratch or scuff easily, but it can lose its luster if it is worn on a daily basis and accumulates dirt and grime. A cloth dipped in glass cleaner is the best way to renew that shine and ensure that your stainless steel watch is free from marks and blemishes. Dry it immediately to protect its internal mechanisms.

Cleaning a Rubber Watch

Rubber watch straps are durable and tend to repel and resist dirt, however, like all watches they benefit from occasional maintenance. A damp cloth will do the trick here, but what if you have a stain that water won’t budge? Then rubbing alcohol applied using a cotton round can help to remove stubborn marks. If you have a stain that still refuses to disappear, then create a baking soda and water paste to apply on top and make your watch squeaky clean!

Cleaning a Plastic Watch

Plastic is a porous material which means that it absorbs dirt and grime and can appear dirty very quickly. If you have a stain on a plastic watch strap that you want to remove, then diluted bleach and diluted baking soda will be your go-to tools. Rubbing alcohol can also help to remove stubborn stains from plastic watch straps.

Cleaning a Aluminum Watch

Brushed aluminum has a beautiful, natural shine, and is surprisingly easy to clean when you notice it’s beginning to look dull and listless. Household cleaning spray, applied with a soft cloth, is the best way to reawaken that natural sheen and remove any dust or dirt from your watch. Make sure your cloth is damp, rather than wet, in order to avoid over-soaking and damaging your timepiece.

Cleaning a Gold Watch

Fine jewelry, such as your prized gold watch, can be very delicate, so it’s important to take great care of these possessions. A wet cotton round will help remove dirt without the risk of causing damage, and is a fast and easy solution for light cleaning. To treat those stubborn spots, try smearing a dab of toothpaste on your watch and rubbing it gently with a clean cloth. You can also invest in a gold cleaning mitt, which contains a managed balance of chemicals to make cleaning your gold watch safe and simple. Gold-plated jewelry can tarnish over time, so cleaning your watch regularly will help you keep it looking its best. If in doubt, take your watch to a reputable jeweler, who will be able to clean it for you for a relatively low fee.

Cleaning a Silver Watch

Modern silver watches are rare, with most silver watches being family heirlooms. Like all silver jewelry, these watches can appear black when they are tarnished and need to be cleaned. Silver needs regular maintenance. To do this job, invest in a silver cleaning cloth and gently rub away the buildup of grime on your watch. For stubborn or ingrained stains, warm, soapy water can also be helpful.

Cleaning a Titanium Watch

Dirt and grime can ruin the appearance of a titanium watch, but the good news is these marks are easy to remove. Use soapy water and a soft, bristled toothbrush to clean all the nooks and grooves of your watch strap. Then, take a polishing cloth to restore the natural sheen of your piece.

Cleaning a Platinum Watch

Platinum is used in very high-quality, expensive watches, and while it is much harder than gold, the cleaning methods are exactly the same. With a watch of this quality, the best way to ensure it is cleaned safely is to take it to a jeweler with expertise.

Cleaning the Leather of a Watch Band

If you choose to wear a watch with a leather strap, then it’s likely it will look and feel dirty after repeated use. Many people choose to replace their leather watch strap, but you can revitalize it instead using a specialized leather cleaner in combination with a damp cloth. Rub gently until any marks and stains are completely removed.

2: Changing a Watch Battery

Even a stopped watch is right twice a day, but if you’d like your watch to be a little more accurate, then it may be time to change the battery! Changing a watch battery is simple if you follow the instructions carefully. Before opening your watch, it is important to ask yourself whether your watch was very expensive or whether it has significant sentimental value. If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then it may be a better option to have your battery changed by a watch specialist: expensive watches can be difficult to open, and the delicate mechanisms of all watches can be easily damaged by an inexperienced hand. If not, then here are some simple steps to guide you through the process of changing your watch battery:

Changing the Batteries if Your Watch Back Needs to Be Pried Open

  • To remove the back from your watch, insert a flat blade (such as a pen knife) under the raised lip of your watch back, and then twist slowly until the back casing pops open. You should hear a slight popping sound as the back is removed. 
 Tip—to avoid cutting or hurting yourself with the blade, cover the hand that is holding the watch with a cloth or towel to both provide traction and protection.
  • Once the watch back is opened, lift it completely away from the watch and place it to the side.
  • Look for the watch battery: this will be easy to find as it is flat, round, and silver, and will usually be the largest object inside your watch case. Sometimes this will be held in place by a plastic cover or clip that you will have to remove to access it, but usually you can simply ease it out of its compartment using your fingers or, if you’re not nimble, a small screwdriver.
  • Insert the new battery, being careful to avoid handling it too much as grease, dirt, and grime could all affect its functionality. If you have them, a small pair of plastic tweezers would be helpful for this step. When positioning the battery, make sure that the positive side (displaying this symbol: +) is facing upwards.
  • Finally, turn your watch over to check that it is working and that your battery replacement has been successful, before putting the watch case back on. To do this, ensure that you have lined up the notches that indicate the case is placed in the correct position, and then push the back onto the watch casing firmly until you hear it click.

Changing the Batteries if Your Watch Back Needs to Be Unscrewed

  • For this you’re going to need a small jewelers screw driver, or simply a tiny screw driver. You can find one at a craft or hardware store.
  • Before you begin, grab a fridge magnet and keep it close by.
  • Un-screw each screw and place them on the fridge magnet so they don’t go rolling all over the place and get lost.
  • All watches are different, but after your screws are taken out you still may need to do some prying. If this is the case, find the small lip on the side of the back plate, insert a small flat-head screw driver and twist, popping the case off.
  • Most watches will have a rubber gasket to prevent water damage. Remove the gasket and set aside with your screws.
  • Look for the watch battery: this will be easy to find as it is flat, round, and silver, and will usually be the largest object inside your watch case. Sometimes this will be held in place by a plastic cover or clip that you will have to remove to access it, but usually you can simply ease it out of its compartment using your fingers or, if you’re not nimble, a small screwdriver.
  • Insert the new battery, being careful to avoid handling it too much as grease, dirt, and grime could all affect its functionality. If you have them, a small pair of plastic tweezers would be helpful for this step. When positioning the battery, make sure that the positive side (displaying this symbol: +) is facing upwards.
  • Finally, turn your watch over to check that it is working and that your battery replacement has been successful, before putting the watch case back on. To do this, ensure that you have lined up the notches that indicate the case is placed in the correct position, and then push the back onto the watch casing firmly until you hear it click.

3: Replacing a Watch Pin

A watch pin is a small, inexpensive piece that holds your watch face to the watch band. Most watches will have two of these, one on either side of the face. If you find that one of your watch pins is broken, then it will almost always be cheaper to simply replace the pin than it will be to try and repair the existing one. If you have a broken watch pin, then it will render your watch unwearable. The good news is that it is relatively easy and straightforward to replace this pin at home. Here are some tips for getting it right:

  • First thing’s first, it’s time to talk tools! You will need one of two tools to replace your broken watch pin, depending on if it’s a spring pin or a screw pin. If your pin runs all the way through your watch and you can see screw holes on either side of it, you need a screw pin. If not, you need a spring pin.
  • To change a spring pin you need a spring bar tool. These can be purchased either from your local jeweler’s or an online retailer. You can expect to spend around $10 for a basic model and as much as $40 if you are looking for a premium piece.
  • To change a screw pin you will need a small screwdriver. You may already have one of these at home, otherwise, you can purchase small jeweler’s screwdrivers.

To Replace a Spring Watch Pin

  • Rest your watch dial side-down on your work surface to change the pin. This will minimize the risk of damaging the face.
  • If your watch has drilled lugs (small holes to the side of the bar), then you can push your spring bar tool into this hole and use it to depress the bar.
  • If your watch doesn’t have drilled lugs (there are no holes to the side of your watch), then you will need to use the fork shaped piece at the end of the spring bar tool to hook around and then depress the bar. Use the leverage of the fork to remove the bar from the watch.
  • To place the new bar inside the watch, you will need to compress the ends of the spring bar to make it as small as it can be. Put one end into the watch and then line up the other end before slotting into place and decompressing.
  • You’ll know the watch pin is in the right place as you should hear it click.

To Replace a Screw Watch Pin

  • Screw watch pins are generally easier to change. Take your screwdriver and push it into the screw slot firmly, turning it to loosen the screw.
  • Some screw bars are double ended, meaning that they are slotted on both sides of the watch. If this is the case then you will need to use two screwdrivers at the same time and turn them against each other to release the pin.
  • If you have tried both these techniques and find that the screw won’t budge, don’t force it, as it could cause permanent damage to the watch. Instead, try using a blow dryer to loosen the thread glue and see if that makes the screw easier to manipulate. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to take your watch to a jeweler.
  • To add your new screw watch pin, simply reverse the steps: insert the pin and then screw it into place.

4: Polishing Your Watch

Watches that are used daily can quickly lose their shine, but you can polish it yourself quickly and easily. The first step to polishing your watch to a glossy finish is to invest in a good quality, double-sided, jeweler’s cleaning cloth. Pioneer or Shino Polishing Cloths are both highly recommended. Rub your watch thoroughly with your cleaning cloth, buffing to bring out its natural luster. The key here is to take your time: the longer you buff your watch, the better it will look.

For slightly deeper scratches on a glass face, you could try applying a small amount of white toothpaste. Take a clean, microfiber cloth, add a dab of toothpaste to the stain, and then buff the toothpaste out. This will help to remove the scratch and leave the watch looking better than ever, provided the scratch isn’t too deep or too wide.

If you have deep scratches on your watch, then they cannot be removed simply by polishing them; no matter how hard you buff! Instead take your watch to a specialist who will be able to use a laser soldering machine to repair your watch by melting and then rebuilding it, leaving it free from its deep scratches and looking as good as new.

5: The Different Types of Watch Movements

The movement of your watch (also referred to as the caliber), is effectively a watch’s engine: this is the mechanism that will make its movement and other functions work. Without the movement, a watch simply wouldn’t function. Watch enthusiasts often debate which is the best kind of movement, and which tends to keep the best time. Different types of movements will have different maintenance requirements, and some are considered much more accurate than others. Understanding the different types of movements available will help you to determine which one is right for you.

Quartz

If you’re looking for a simple, accurate, no-frills watch movement, then a quartz watch movement is the perfect option. This kind of watch is powered by a battery and requires little maintenance. However, it doesn’t have the same level of craftsmanship as a manual watch, making it less desirable to watch enthusiasts.

How a Quartz Watch Works:

  • A Quartz watch will use a battery as its main energy source, and the battery will control the movement.
  • The battery within the watch will send an electrical current through a small quartz crystal, causing it to become electrified and create small vibrations
  • These vibrations will keep the movement of the watch oscillating, and this will drive the motor.
  • The motor will make the watch hands move, in a ticking motion.

Pros of Choosing a Quartz Watch:

  • Quartz watches require little maintenance. You simply need to change the battery when the watch stops. A typical watch battery will last between 12 and 24 months, depending on the watch.
  • The Quartz watch movement is the most accurate kind of watch movement currently produced.
  • Quartz watches tend to be more cost effective to repair and maintain if something goes wrong.

Cons of Choosing a Quartz Watch:

  • Quartz watches are usually made by machines rather than by hand, making them less desirable to watch enthusiasts.
  • If the battery is not removed from the watch once it has stopped, then it could leak acid throughout the watch casing, causing permanent damage.
  • Quartz watches can lose accuracy over time: this is estimated to be around 5 seconds per year.

Mechanical

A mechanical watch movement is the oldest type available, and is often chosen by vintage watch enthusiasts. It requires you to regularly wind it by hand, and there is an art to winding a manual watch correctly to ensure you don’t damage it.

How to Wind a Mechanical Watch:


The watch should be wound until you feel tension within the winding mechanism. This is your sign that it’s time to stop, as winding beyond this point could cause damage to your watch. It is also recommended that you remove your watch from your wrist in order to wind it and set it properly each day. Failure to do this properly could also cause irreparable damage to the movement of your watch.

How a Mechanical Watch Works:

  • Turning the watch’s dial winds its mainspring, which causes it to store energy, usually enough to last 24 hours.
  • This energy powers the small gears that turn the manual mechanism to operate the watch, allowing it to measure out the energy needed for the watch in equal parts.
  • Every certain number of beats, the dial train transfers the energy to the hands of the watch.
  • The hands advance, usually in a smooth and sweeping motion.

Pros of Choosing a Mechanical Watch:

  • Manual mechanisms are often chosen by luxury watchmakers and craftsmen because they allow the hands to advance smoothly.
  • It is possible to choose a manual watch with a clear back casing, allowing you to see the expertly-made watch movement.
  • You are not dependent on battery power to make your watch move. If your watch stops working, then you can simply wind it yourself.

Cons of Choosing a Mechanical Watch:

  • Manual watches require winding by hand on a regular basis in order to function. If you don’t remember to wind your watch, it will stop, often at the most inconvenient times!
  • Manual watches are not as accurate as automatic or quartz watches. As their movement begins to run out of energy they will slow down, meaning the time displayed could be slightly behind.

Automatic

An automatic watch (also called a self-winding watch), is considered to be a manual watch, as it is not operated by battery. Instead, kinetic energy from the movement of the wearer’s wrist is transferred automatically into energy that will drive the mechanism inside the watch. This is a great choice for watch owners looking for the quality of a manual watch, without the inconvenience of having to manually wind the watch everyday.

How an Automatic Watch Works:

  • Inside the automatic watch is a weight that oscillates in order to put tension on the mainspring. This causes it to wind when it is moved while on the wearer’s arm.
  • The watch will also feature a dial so that the spring can be manually turned: ideal if you don’t wear your watch daily.
  • These features provide enough energy to turn the small gears inside the watch, in turn transferring this energy into the watch’s hands and causing them to move.
  • The watch hands will move in a sleek and smooth motion.

Pros of Choosing an Automatic Watch:

  • Automatic watches are relatively low maintenance, since they don’t require winding or batteries that will eventually need to be replaced.
  • Automatic watches usually have clear back casing, allowing you to see the beauty of the functioning mechanism within.
  • You can often feel the movement of the motor when wearing an automatic watch, which is considered a huge pro to watch enthusiasts!

Cons of Choosing an Automatic Watch:

  • Automatic watches can be very expensive to purchase, meaning they are unlikely to be the right choice for consumers on a budget.
  • If you choose not to wear your watch for an extended period of time, then it is likely to have stopped by the time you return to it.
  • Automatic watches tend to be less accurate than their quartz equivalents.

6: Straps and Bands: Pros, Cons & Caring

One of the most important decisions you can make about your watch, from an aesthetic point of view, is the kind of strap or band you prefer. These can be divided into three categories: leather, metal, or synthetic, and each have their pros and cons. The right kind of watch strap for you is subjective, and will depend on many different factors, such as how active you are or what you do for a living.

Leather

Leather straps come in a wide range of colors, patterns, and styles, meaning that when you opt to choose a leather strap for your watch you really will be spoiled for choice! Leather watches are a classic, and because you can now buy leather watch straps at affordable prices, there’s no reason not to own different straps for different occasions.

Cleaning a Leather Watch Strap

Water is the best choice for cleaning a leather watch strap, but you should avoid completely submerging the strap in water as this could damage it. To remove smells and stains from the watch, mix a small amount of water with bathroom hand soap, and use this to scrub the watch band on both sides. Remove the soap with clean water, and then thoroughly dry the strap with a soft, dry cloth.

The Pros of Choosing a Leather Watch Strap

  • Leather watch straps are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace.
  • They come in many different colors and styles, meaning that you can regularly change the look and feel of your watch.
  • Leather is lightweight, feels comfortable against the skin, and will mold to fit your wrist.

The Cons of Choosing a Leather Watch Strap

  • Leather isn’t a great choice in warm climates, as it absorbs sweat and can begin to smell unpleasant over time.
  • Leather deteriorates quickly when exposed to liquids, such as water or sweat.
  • Leather watch straps can become worn and damaged easily, meaning that they often need to be replaced.

Metal

Metal watch straps are a popular choice, and recent statistics suggest that 90% of Rolex’s are sold with metal bracelets: they are the go-to option for high-end watches. Strong, stable, and attractive, if you have a comfortable budget then a watch with metal links is a great choice.

Cleaning a Metal Watch Strap

A metal watch strap can be gently cleaned using a soft toothbrush or cloth that has been dipped into warm, soapy water. Use a wet cotton round to clean the crevices between the links of the watch strap. Dry the watch strap as soon as it is clean, as this will prevent the water from damaging its structural integrity. Buff with a soft cloth after, to reignite its natural gleam.

The Pros of Choosing a Metal Watch Strap

  • Metal watch straps are durable and easy to clean.
  • Metal watch straps are ideal for formal wear and pair well with a business suit.

The Cons of Choosing a Metal Watch Strap

  • Metal watch straps feel heavier than their leather or synthetic counterparts.
  • Some metals can be easily scratched, and these are more expensive to replace.
  • Metal straps are more difficult to adjust to fit your wrist than leather or synthetic straps.

Synthetic

Synthetic watch straps, such as those made from rubber or plastic, are great for guys that enjoy water sports or any other kinds of active pursuits. If you like to wear your watch when you run or to the gym then a synthetic watch strap is a sensible and popular choice.

Cleaning a Synthetic Watch Strap

Synthetic watch straps are relatively easy to clean because they repel water and aren’t porous, meaning that most marks and stains can be easily wiped away as soon as you notice them. Dirt and grime can be removed from synthetic watch straps by making a paste from baking soda and water. Mix the paste until it has the consistency of toothpaste, and then apply in gentle circles to the stain until it disappears.

The Pros of Choosing a Synthetic Watch Strap

  • These straps are water proof, meaning they can be worn for all types of sports and activities without getting damaged.
  • Lightweight and durable, these watch straps can withstand high impact activity easily.
  • Synthetic watch straps are the most affordable option if you’re on a budget.

The Cons of Choosing a Synthetic Watch Strap

  • Not suitable for wearing with a suit or formal wear. This kind of watch is designed for casual wear.
  • Synthetic materials can cause the wrist to sweat, meaning they can feel uncomfortable at high temperatures.
  • White rubber straps can look discolored quickly, and are difficult to clean.

7: Buckles Versus Clasps

The hardware that closes your watch and holds it onto your wrist is integral to the look and feel of the piece, and yet it is something that very few people consider when choosing a new timepiece. The two most common options available are the ardillon buckle and the deployant clasp, each with their own benefits and disadvantages. Because there is no right or wrong decision about which clasp to choose, it’s best to try on both styles and decide which is best-suited to your wrist.

Pros and Cons of the Ardillon Buckle

The Ardillon buckle is the most common type of buckle, and is the most traditional and timeless watch-fastening solution. Most commonly found on watches with leather straps, one end of the leather is slotted through a metal buckle and then held into place using a pin (just like the buckle you would find on a belt or a shoe).

Pros:

  • Watches with ardillon buckles tend to be less expensive and maintain than those with modern clasps.
  • The ardillon buckle is easy to use and they adjust to best fit you.
  • Ardillon buckles have a classic look, and are designed to flatter any wrist size or shape.

Cons:

  • More susceptible to wear and tear, the buckle can damage a leather watch strap.
  • For individuals with arthritis or limited dexterity, the fastening can be difficult to open.
  • If your buckle falls open when you are wearing the watch, then it is likely to be lost




Pros and Cons of the Deployant Clasp

Most commonly found on metal bracelet watches, the deployant clasp is a folding metal buckle that ensures your watch is kept on your wrist in a constant loop. This means it’s less likely to fall off or become lost if it becomes undone. This kind of watch clasp was first invented by Louis Cartier in the early 20th century, and remains incredibly popular to this day.

Pros:


  • Quick and convenient to use.
• Safe and secure: your watch is unlikely to fall off if the clasp becomes undone.
  • 
Sits flat to your wrist, meaning it feels incredibly comfortable.
  • 
Easy to put on for individuals who have limited dexterity in their hands (such as those with arthritis).

Cons:

  • 
Can initially be tricky to attach and fit properly, particularly if you’re used to a traditional buckle.

  • The metal clasp can bend under pressure, meaning its fit may become less secure over time.
  • 
May not be suitable for smaller wrists, as it may not fit flatly and therefore could feel uncomfortable.

8: Numbers and Dials

Finally, it’s important to think about the numbers and dials that you choose for your watch, as these will affect both its aesthetic style and its functionality. Generally, you will have three different number options to choose from: traditional numbers, roman numerals, or lines and dashes (no numbers). Many people find traditional numbers easier to read if they are in a rush, but these can also tend to make your watch face look cluttered and crowded. Roman numerals are a great choice if you are searching for a watch with gravitas and a vintage feel (a dress watch, for example), and choosing a watch with no numbers at all lends the piece a modern and minimalistic feel.

When selecting the style of numbers and dials for your new watch, it is important to consider that while all watches will have hour and minute hands, not all watches will have a second hand. This is something to think about if you like to see the movement of your watch functioning (particularly if you have chosen a manual watch for this reason), or if you use your watch to track specific times, in lieu of a stop watch. While this may seem like an overwhelming amount of information, and is certainly a lot to keep in mind, these tips will help you pick the perfect watch to suit your budget, style, and lifestyle.