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.
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:
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.
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 Amazon.com. 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
- Micro screwdrivers
More advanced and specific tools include:
- Clock winding and pocket watch keys
- Watch analyzer
- Broach set
- 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.
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.