How to Clean a Vintage Watch Face

Updated April 17, 2017

When your watch face becomes dirty, it can be expensive to pay for a professional cleaning service. The watch face is relatively straight forward to clean and can be an enjoyable hobby for any collector when performed correctly. Always take care when cleaning a watch face, especially vintage or antique watches; a good clean will help keep its value and avoid unnecessary repairs.

Remove the wristband from the watch. Normally, the wristbands will have tiny screws keeping the band in place, which can be removed by using watchmaker screwdrivers. If you cannot remove the wristband, use masking tape to cover the band and protect it.

Open the glass case protecting the watch face and remove the movement, the hands and dials. The glass case over the watch face can normally be snapped open from the sides, pried open or removed using the watchmaker screwdrivers. Take care to explore where and how the protective glass can be removed on your watch model.

Once the case is open use tweezers to carefully remove the hands, which should not be difficult to pull away. Put the hands and any other parts in your plastic container to keep them safe.

Dab a small amount of alcohol rub on a clean cloth. Carefully remove any dirt on the watch face. For expensive watches made of gold or with diamonds, invest in a jewelery cleaner, which is specially designed for precious metals and stones. You can also use gentle soapy water to clean the clock face rather than alcohol rub.

Dry the clock face gently with a cotton swab. Make sure the watch face is completely dry before replacing the hands or case. If the watch face does not dry completely, use a hairdryer from a distance and take care not to damage the watch. Do not blow on the watch with your mouth.

Replace the hands using tweezers. Again, these should snap back into place. You can reset the hands to the correct time when finished.

Replace the watch case. This should also snap back into its original position. If the case is dirty, use the same steps to clean the case. Use a clean cloth with alcohol rub to remove any dirt from the case and dab it dry with cotton wool.

Reset the watch hands. Re-attach the wrist band or remove the masking tape.


Use professional jewellery cleaner for the best results. Only apply a small amount of liquid when cleaning the watch face.


Do not force the hands or case of the watch open. Do not apply excessive amounts of liquid to the watch, as it will be difficult to dry and may damage the watch.

Things You'll Need

  • Watchmaker precision screwdrivers
  • Masking tape
  • Tweezers
  • Plastic pot
  • Alcohol rub
  • Clean cloth
  • Cotton swabs
  • Hairdryer
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About the Author

Victoria Gorski has been a freelance copywriter since 2005, producing articles for small businesses, newspapers and magazines, as well as creating marketing material. She also publishes material for literacy communities and regional newspapers, such as the "MEN" and "Bolton News." Gorski is pursuing a Master of Arts in creative writing and a postgraduate certificate in education.