how to Clean & Service a watch

Cleaning and servicing a quartz watch is a time consuming and is a job that should never be rushed. It can not be done in a dirty area as even the smallest speck of dust can cause the watch to stop wasting your time and effort.

The job can be broken down into 4 steps


Dismantle

Certain parts of a watch need to be cleaned with strong cleaning fluids which will damage other more delicate parts so the watch has to be dismantled before cleaning. In the early days of you cleaning a watch try to have an system/order that you work to. Use plenty of air tight pots which you can label where the parts go. When I was learning I would have loved a way of photographing each step so use your camera/phone as a record of where parts go.

note: screws are not all the same so you must not mix them up (a mistake i made 2 days ago and ended up wasting time re-dismantling and reassembling a watch)


Clean

Do not clean

  • The Coil: it is just too delicate. The most you can do is lift dust off it with rodico and brush the contacts carefully with a fibreglass brush. Do the least work that you can with the coil.

Delicate parts

  • Hands: clean with rodico or a pencil eraser
  • Dial: use rodico to lift dirt from dial. Any rust on the back of the dial can be brushed off with a fibreglass brush but be careful that the fibreglass pieces do not mark the front.
  • Circuit: brush with a fibreglass brush

Casing and Bracelet either:

  • Clean with soap and hot water. Scrub dirt off with an old toothbrush
  • or in an ultrasonic bath

Normal Parts

Clean in a cleaning machine: Many quartz watches have plastic parts that will melt under too much heat so do not use the heat on the last drying pot.

or by hand. Soak the parts in watch cleaner then scrub with a coarse paintbrush with the bristles trimmed to 1 cm. Then scrub again with the rinse. finally soak in clean rinse before blowing each part dry.
This is really not recommended because of the chemicals in the cleaner and rinse are not good for you. Just look at the warning symbols on the bottles


Replace Parts, Oil & Reassemble

Re-assembly is the reverse of dismantling except that you need to oil it and adjust a few parts.

When Reassembling the Movement

  • De Fur the Magnetic Rotor: any metal fragments in the movement or the old oils are attracted to the Rotor and will stick to it. This needs to be removed. I roll the rotor in Rodico until it is perfect.
  • The Setting Mechanism: this needs to operate smoothly and easily yet firm enough not to accidentally pop out to the time or date set position. Oil (D5 oil is my preference) each part that rubs another with the bare minimum oil needed.
  • The Cannon Wheel: this part allows the time to be set without all the wheels spinning. It needs to be oiled (D5 oil again) and move smoothly yet have enough friction not to slip.
  • Oil Long Pinions: pinions on the seconds wheel are too long to oil in place so need to be oiled before reassembly (mobus 9010 oil)
  • Check the wheels are able to move freely: Each wheel should be loose in their jewel with a small amount of up-down play.

after you refit a bridge, oil (9010 oil) top and bottom pinion of each wheel with watch oil. There should be barely enough oil in the well to see with the eye glass.

tip: Once I’ve fitted the hands and dial I like to check the movement in an air tight box for 24 hours. If I’ve missed something or allowed dust to enter the movement, checking it for 24 hours gives time for the error to show itself. If the movement has lost time or stopped You will have to accept you need to do more work.

Once you are happy that the Movement is correct case it up and check it is running correct


Check

You must be certain that the watch is working perfectly as you will not be charging pennies for this repair so a couple of days on test is essential. Every time you give out a job that is not perfect is a chance that you loose a customer forever.

Checklist to check before returning to the customer:

  • It has a new battery: don’t scrimp on a battery
  • Setting mechanism works correctly
  • Hands Are correct
  • Casing looks Clean
  • The watch is as waterproof as possible
  • No marks or smears on the glass
  • There no imminent problems with the strap or bracelet
  • Any parts that you have changed are bagged up for the customer
  • The watch is keeping time

The watch is now as good as it is possible to make it and should be working as good as the day it left the factory. You have done a job that is worth congratulating so “Well done”


I have used quite a complex watch as an example of how to undertake this type of repair.

Once this job is done then internally the watch should be almost as good as new. Outside of the watch should be clean and checked for potential faults as the customer can not see the work you have done on the movement and will feel duped if something as basic as a pin breaks or he finds the clasp full of gunk after he has parted with his hard earned money for you to repair his watch. Polishing the case of steel watches also goes down well but obviously do not polish plated watches.

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