Watch Assembly and Repair: a DIY Approach

January 27th, 2010 | 9 Comments

Assembling or repairing your own watch probably sounds scary, as it should. But unless your damaged watch looks like something out of Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, repairing or assembling it is like learning how to ride a bike or public speak; anyone can do it with a little practice and initiative.

surreal watch

Yet, like with bicycling or public speaking, watch repair is not always for everyone. That’s okay, too, because it keeps our expert cyclists, speakers and watchmakers in business.

So, before packing for your DIY adventure, consider these questions:

Should I repair/assemble my own watch?

I recently read about a DIY watch repair gone horribly wrong by a guy named Bruce. He thought he could use some ordinary household objects to repair his watch collection. You don’t want to end up like Bruce, but you can learn from his experience. Before you take a knife or screwdriver to the casing of your watch, just know that you, your watch or both could end up hurt.

If you’re a watch guru (or would like to be), and you know that your watch needs a battery or some other simple repair, I’d suggest saving yourself a trip to a watchmaker or other repairer, and invest in the necessary tools to make the repair. After all, if you collect watches, it’s likely that these tools will come in handy more than once.

However, before beginning any repair job, practice on a watch that you don’t much care for before digging into your most valuable time-keeper.

While a battery issue may seem obvious, troubles with an automatic watch may be more obscure. If you don’t know what’s troubling your watch, I would suggest taking it to a certified watchmaker (not a sales associate at a jewelry/department store) for an estimate.

Often times, watch trouble is due to internal rust, dirt or lack of oil. To avoid these issues, learn some basic watch care tips. If you take care of your quality watch, repairing it may never be necessary.

Fully cleaning and oiling watch movements may be too involved for some; so in that case, consider leaving your watch with an expert. But if not, read on to find out what you’ll need to do the job.

tool kit

What tools do I need?

Let’s say you do set off to repair or assemble your own watch. The tools necessary for watch repair and/or assembly are called micro-tools, and are similar to tools used to repair cameras or other small machines. You can purchase basic tool kits from $15-$60, depending on the amount and quality of tools, on If you need one specific tool, you can purchase individual tools, too.

The following lists the most common watch assembly/repair tools to look for:

  • Back removal tool: as the name suggests, it safely removes the backing, or casing, of the watch
  • Band tool/pin puncher: removes or adds a link to the watch band
  • Watch press: safely closes the watch case
  • Spring bar remover: removes, measures and inserts a variety of spring bars
  • Hammer: a watch hammer is different from a typical hammer; it’s smaller and one side of the hammerhead is nylon, the other is steel
  • Tweezers
  • Micro screwdrivers
  • Brushes

    More advanced and specific tools include:

    • Clock winding and pocket watch keys
    • Demagnetizer
    • Watch analyzer
    • Broach set
    • Vise
    • Watch hands remover
    • Crystal lift

    Individual tools, generally, cost from $3-$10. You can also purchase individual watch hardware (e.g. spring bars) on Amazon at a low cost as needed.

    Where can I get my watch repaired?

    If you decide that this DIY adventure involves way too many mountains, and you aren’t much into hiking and trail mix anyways, then relax because all you really need is an envelope, some stamps and a mailbox.


    Watchmakers are difficult to come by these days, especially watchmakers with automatic, mechanical or antique watch skills. Luckily, the American Watchmaker-Clockmaker Institute (AWCI) offers a directory of watchmakers in the U.S.

    Be sure to keep your search general because it’s unlikely that a watchmaker lives down the street or even in a nearby town. For example, on a general search for certified watchmakers in Pennsylvania, I found four listings. This is where the envelope, stamps and mailbox come in handy.

    Like any job, a watchmaker charges based on their certification, experience and years in the field. You will have to contact your chosen watchmaker for a specific repair or assembly estimate, but expect to pay between $50-$200 for a cleaning and oiling. The repair/assembly process can be timely, but watchmakers generally include a guarantee once your watch is returned to you.

    However, sometimes watch repairs cost more than the watch is worth, or other times the watch is irreparable. Before giving up, try gathering a few different estimates because not all watchmakers have the same skills.

    If you have an Orient Watch that’s still under warranty, don’t forget about the service and maintenance policy, which can save you a lot of watch-related stress and money. Finally, remember that a quality watch that’s taken care of may never need repair.

    Know of an excellent watchmaker? Have any DIY advice for our adventurous watch loving friends? Comment Below.

    1. 9 Comments | Tell us what you think!

    2. By Tyff Dodson on Jan 27, 2010

      love the lions & watches

    3. By Steve Poorman on Jan 27, 2010

      Awesome link for the AWCI’s referral directory. Thank you!

    4. By Dale Kent on Jan 27, 2010

      What a great, succinct encouragement for hobbyists! I have some tools coming in the mail and look forward to opening up some old watches that I’ve had lying around. Of course I’ll be sending my automatics in to the professionals if they ever need any real work done on them! Watch repair seems to me to be an art from another time. Thanks for the great link to AWCI!

    5. By tempo dulu on Jan 28, 2010

      I’m really attracted to Orient Watches because they are “real” watches with a mechanical movement inside. Nearly everyone I know has a boring quartz watch. I’m still considering which model to buy but I certainly won’t do any DIY myself as I hate to think what would happen to all the small pieces!!!

    6. By Marc on Feb 6, 2010

      I got into basic mechanical watch servicing a couple of years ago and it has become a very absorbing hobby. I use only the most basic tools and although I can’t claim to be any kind of expert I have managed to resurect many watches that have been given up for dead. It’s great to see an article that encourages others to do that same as I have been doing; at the end of the day, basic watch repair and maintenence is not black magic, and with care and patience, can be very rewarding.

    7. By Nimesh on Dec 15, 2011

      I m good watch technicin Thanks

    8. By Steven on Sep 18, 2012

      In a world of throw-away things and moving electrons, it’s nice to work with something that is both incredibly complex and simple.

    9. By Asad on Mar 6, 2013

      This was a good article as I am trying to get into watch assembly and repair to some extent – I was wondering if you know of any other guides etc. which one can read which you have found useful?

    10. By David I. Lynch on Feb 16, 2014

      As an avid watch collector I decided it was time to look into watch repair as a hobby. I have always enjoyed taking things apart. Asd a child at Christmas I would always have disassembled my toys just to see how they worked and I usually was able to put them back together and have them working like new the same day. I progressed to bicycle repair then to car motors and transmissions then on to computers and since I have so many watches in styles from quartz, mechanical and automatics I want to learn how to fix them and this article was super informative and very encouraging to me. Thank you Marlee.

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