How to Buff a Watch

Written by rob wagner
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How to Buff a Watch
Buffing a watch requires a polishing compound and a dry cloth. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Wrist watches receive minor scratches on the case and crystal with daily wear. Most scratches and scuffs are minor and owners can buff the watch to its original lustre with a mild polish and a dry cloth. Older watch crystals are made of plastic and require no extra special treatment, but sapphire glass crystals are much harder to buff out scratches. A professional watchmaker should buff sapphire crystals. Most watches have stainless steel cases and are easy to polish. However, buffing a textured case will ruin its original appearance.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Dry cloth
  • Masking tape
  • Fine grade sandpaper
  • Displex or Brasso polishing compound
  • Toothpick
  • Simichrome polish

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    Buffing the Crystal

  1. 1

    Use a dry, clean cloth to brush away dust or dirt from the crystal. Use masking tape to cover the case and case back to protect it from the polishing compound.

  2. 2

    Apply fine grade sandpaper of about 1000 grade to the crystal surface. Lightly sand the surface of the plastic crystal. This removes the scratches and provides an even surface on the crystal. Be conservative in using the sandpaper. Using a light touch is essential because you want only to remove the surface.

  3. 3

    Apply a small dab of Displex or Brasso polishing compound with the tip of your finger to the crystal. Use the cloth to rub the compound in a circular motion on the crystal surface. Continue rubbing the compound for five minutes.

    Use the cloth to wipe away excess compound to monitor your progress. Continue rubbing in the compound until the crystal is clear, shiny and free of scratches. Repeat the procedure if necessary.

  4. 4

    Use the clean cloth to buff to a final finish. Remove the masking tape from the case.

    Buffing the Case

  1. 1

    Use a clean, dry cloth to remove dust and debris from the watchcase and case back. Place the tip of a toothpick into the seam between the case and case back and move it along the seam to remove stubborn dirt.

  2. 2

    Mask the crystal with masking tape to protect it from the polish.

  3. 3

    Apply a small amount of Simichrome to the case and case back with your finger and rub it into the surface with the cloth. Continue rubbing for five minutes. Remove excess polish to determine your progress and repeat the step if necessary.

  4. 4

    Use the toothpick tip to clean out excess polish from the seam of the case and case back. Use a clean cloth to buff the case. Remove the masking tape from the crystal.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a Dremel rotary power tool with a soft cloth on the disc to finish the job faster. Do not excessively polish the crystal or case, as this could ruin the finish.
  • Buffing watchcases with textured or satin finishes will devalue the watch and ruin the finish.
  • Titanium cases are extremely difficult to buff. Leave the job to a professional watchmaker.

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