Battery Replacement: done correctly

These checks should be done with the customer present as it is so much easier to point out a broken glass, for example, than to have to explain after they return.

  • Winder is in the run position

It is still surprising to me just how often this is the whole problem. It is the first check on the preliminary checks as you can test it as the customer is handing you the watch.
If the winder is out and the watch starts when you put it in the run position I never assume it is the problem straight away. Find out if the watch has been losing time, stopping or just stopped once.
If it is one of the first 2, then the winder out is not your problem, only if they say the 3rd, stopped once, is it likely to be the winder out.
Even if you suspect it is just the winder in the time set position, do not set it running and assume it is just that. There is a chance that it is still the battery and if it is, you will earn money on the battery replacement. Carry on with the battery replacement process until you find the battery is full.

  • Check the watch is not working

If the watch is already working when the customer hands it to you, you need to find out some information.
What is the watch doing wrong? Is it:

  • Losing time: this is ok and the battery is probably low
  • Going fast: this is very unusual and if it is going fast then there is probably a circuit fault or more likely the customer has got confused with going slow
  • Stopping: this is ok and is probably the battery
  • Working fine the customer just wants a battery: hmm. What a waste of the worlds resources. Many watch repairers would change the battery (we are in business after all) but personally I tell the customer to wait until the watch is going slow.

Once you have found out what the customer thinks the watch is doing there are a few more thing to check

  • Is the watch is not on the correct time but working: it could be the battery but bear in mind it could be something else like the watch hasn’t been set after the DST change
  • Watch is a battery watch. it’s a Wind-up: This happens so often, people bring in an automatic or windup watch for a battery without realising so save yourself some time and check.
  • No sign of water: Water is the great watch killer!
    Always look for signs of water and advise the customer. This stops any future comeback and prepares the customer for any problem
  • Glass is not broken: Some customers can look at their watches 50 times a day and still not see that crack across the glass, but if they spot it after you give it back to them, they may believe you have broken it and you will lose them as a customer.
    A watch with a broken glass has had a knock hard enough to break the glass so may have other problems like:
    Bent / broken casing or back: especially gold, plastic and ceramic watches
    Broken bracelet
    Broken winder
    Bent hands
    Damaged movement

    Also changing the glass is quite profitable and easy to do
  • State of the watch back, ie. scratches: Scratches on a watch that you have not pointed out can be blamed on you, losing you that customer so it is essential to show the customer.
  • State of the watch strap / bracelet If the strap is not in a good condition than the customer needs to be advised. I don’t mean if it is dirty, as you may insult them (although many times I’ve wanted to when they bring in a stinking piece of leather). I mean if the watch is about to fall off the wrist.
    Look for:
    bent spring bars, especially on bracelets with curved end pieces
    rotten leather
    broken links
    faulty clasps
    cracking or brittle “rubber” straps
    the last one in particular as you are going to bend the plastic in a different way than the customer normally would and old plastic straps can fall apart!
  • Crown is working and is not worn / broken
    Visually look to see if the crown is in 1 piece and not broken.
    Turn it anticlockwise to check it is free and the gasket is not binding
    Gently pull the winder into the time set position and move the hands
    If you feel there is a problem, advise your customer. Common problems are immovable crowns glued in place with dirt, broken / rusty stems, crowns that have worn away, faulty¬†“bolt”¬†and rusty setting mechanisms
  • That the watch is genuine or a copy: Always check to see if a watch is a genuine or fake.
    Every year this is getting harder and harder for 2 reasons.
    1: The copies are getting better at passing themselves off as the real thing
    2:There are more and more “premium brand” watches worth copying whose quality is not exceptional


    In the past copies were Rolex, Omega, Cartier, and a handful of others and easy to spot because of the vast difference in quality, but now it takes care to be certain. In no way am I saying that the copies are becoming “good watches” they are just getting good at looking like the real thing. If you define a good watch to be a watch that keeps good time and has few flaws then the modern copy Rolexs are worse than the old battery copies which the hand ticks.
    If you do not spot a copy and put the watch down as a genuine, then there is a chance you may have a legal issue. It would be interesting to hear from any lawyers reading this of their opinion. If in doubt, do not put any make on the customer’s receipt .
  • General condition of the watch: it is important.
    If the watch is in a particularly bad state, then it maybe time to sell them a new one. The older cheap watches used a nickle “base metal” alloy for the casing which is eaten away by the customer’s sweat leaving gaping holes for dirt and water ingress. In some instances, the cases are so bad that doing a good job is actually a bad idea. The process of cleaning dirt from the watch case, which is normally essential for the integrity of the watch, removes the only thing protecting it- the dirt. If the customer insists on “repairing” it, put the battery in, hope for the best and then wash your hands.
  • Is the watch a one piece case with no watch back. If so then there are separate instructions to follow

Bag the watch up in a clear seal able bag with a receipt until you are ready to work on it. 
Always ask the customer for time to do the job correctly. I ask for 10 minutes for a battery change even after 20+ years and thousands of a million watches repaired.

This list is not exhaustive. If you feel that there should be anything added, please contact me.
The customer has come in for what they believe is a simple battery change, which most of the time it is, but if you have spotted a potential problem they will be more prepared for any additional repair that maybe needed.

It may seam overkill checking all this but avoiding a problem before it happens is better than trying to solve one. With those checks complete you can now Start