First, you will need a few items first to get the job done right...
BRASSO BRASS CLEANER
OLD RAGS (CLEAN/SOFT)
WATCH CRYSTAL CEMENT
A NEW WATCH BAND
DREMMEL POLISHING BITS
DREMMEL POLISHING COMPOUND
I have found that a crisp, clear, scratch-free crystal can improve the looks of an old watch dramatically; surprisingly even!. Crystals are very easy to replace and your local watch-repair shop will usually only charge about $15 to replace.
If the watch has a plastic crystal that doesn't look too bad (no deep scratches) you can actually remove the scratches. Here's how:
- The easiest way is to take the watch to your jeweler or watch-repair person and ask them to buff the crystal. Cost: a couple of bucks.
- You can remove the scratches yourself as follows. Follow the steps below to remove the back cover and take the movement out of the case. Pour a little Brasso on the corner of a clean rag and rub the scratches away. It may take a little time, but it works! Brasso is mildly abrasive and works well on plastic crystals. Buff with a dry clean cloth.
- If you have a dremmel you can buy polishing bits and polishing compound which also work extremely well. This takes a little practice and skill as you can sometimes polish too deeply and leave ripples in the crystal, so be careful!
The pictures below show how to open and remove a movement from a watch-case. The setup of the watch shown is the easiest to work on. The back snaps off easily, and the movement simply lifts out of the case. (Not all watches are this easy to figure out. Take your time and read the section on repair where I describe other configurations.)
1) Snap open the case
2) Lift out the Movement and set it aside
3) Pop out the crystal from the inside. DONT FORCE IT.
Take a look at the pictures below. Believe it or not, that's the same watch!. This is what is possible when it comes to restoring old watches. It only takes a little practice, a little skill, some elbow grease. In this section you will learn the process for getting the same results, what tools and supplies you will need, and I will even share some valuable tricks to get your old watch looking it's best.
Note: Most old watches have crystals that can be easily popped outwards from the case. If it doesn't come out easily, don't force it... it may be a special fit, and may break if you use too much pressure. Don't worry...You can work with it in.
Now that you have the movement and the crystal out of the watch you can clean the case without damaging either. Take the case to the sink and with a little dish soap, hot water, and a toothbrush, brush all of the gunk off of the case. Next, take a soft cloth and a little Brasso and polish the case thoroughly and buff with a clean soft cloth.
NOTE: I have never had a problem doing this with any stainless, gold, or gold filled cases... however, you must be aware that using Brasso will remove a micro-thin layer of metal. Electro-plated cases could be ruined using Brasso because the layer of gold is very thin...So use your best judgement, and be careful.
Polish the crystal as described above, and remove any gunk around the edges. Once the case and crystal are clean and shiny, place a small amount of crystal cement in the groove around the edge of the case where the crystal sits. (Don't use too much). Once the cement is in place, carefully snap the crystal in place and allow it to dry.
Another easy thing to do to improve the look of an old watch is to replace the band. Most old watches that I find have an old leather or metal stretch Spiedel bands that is worn out and loaded with gunk. Go down to the local department store and buy a new one. You will be so glad you did.
Sounds easy right? Trust me... a little elbow grease is usually all it takes. Now that your watch has a new shine on the case, fewer scratches on the crystal and a new band, your vintage watch will look its best.... And to keep it looking it's best, buy a gold polishing cloth while you are at the department store. They cost about $5... Use it to buff your watch about once a month to keep it looking good, prevent tarnishing... So you don't have to go through all of that work anytime soon...