How to Open a Pocket Watch With a Closed Cover

Written by kate kotler
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How to Open a Pocket Watch With a Closed Cover
Get the front or back casing of your pocket watch open with a few taps of the watchmaker's hammer. (pocket watch image by timur1970 from

Whether it is a family heirloom, or just a beautiful piece of vintage jewellery that you've picked up in your travels, a pocket watch is an iconic accessory that stands the test of time. With the advent of the digital age, horologists, the master craftsmen who fix watches, are becoming scarce. If you just need to fix a simple problem such as a pocket watch cover which is closed and stuck you may have to make the repair yourself.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Watch case opening tool or flat non-serrated butter knife
  • Adjustable case wrench
  • Watchmaker's hammer
  • Hand towel
  • Pocket watch

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  1. 1

    Inspect the watch to determine what kind of case you are trying to open. There are many different types of pocket watch casings. Some are easy to open and can be popped off with as little as your fingernail. Others are more difficult and require specialised tools to open if stuck in the closed position.

  2. 2

    Buy the appropriate tools. A snapback case, screw-back/bezel, hinge-back/bezel, swing-out case, hunting case or dust cover can likely be opened with your hands/a fingernail and pressure or a watch case opening tool/butter knife. A screw-back case with six notches around the outside of the casing will require an adjustable case wrench.

  3. 3

    Examine the watch case to find areas with small raised lips or indentations that indicate where the watch is meant to be opened.

  4. 4

    Use your fingernail to try to open the casing at the pop point first. If that doesn't work, use watch case opening tool/butter knife or adjustable case wrench to exert gentle force either up or clockwise (depending on the case type) to open the casing. If the casing is still stuck, place the watch on top of a hand towel on a flat surface and gently tap on the watch case opening tool with a watchmaker's hammer.

    If you have a screw-back/bezel case, place the watch, movement side down into your palm and place your other palm on top of it. Exert about the amount of energy you would need to open a jar of jelly or pickles. The case should loosen and come off in your hand.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not force either the front or back casing off as you might substantially damage the watch and its movement. If you have followed the above steps and still are not able to open the casing, take the watch to a jeweller.

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