How to Take the Back off a Pocket Watch

Written by nicole fotheringham
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How to Take the Back off a Pocket Watch
Pocket watches make stylish embellishments for men's formal wear. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Pocket watches come in many shapes and sizes and some are antiques. Over the years, different watchmakers have invented various methods for securing the watch back to the watch. If you want to inspect your watch, repair it or learn more about it, you will have to open it up. Always open your watch in a clean work space to prevent dust and lint from getting into the mechanism and preventing the watch from functioning optimally.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Soft cloth
  • Case opener

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  1. 1

    Clear your work surface of debris. Always work in a clean area free of dust and lint. Spread the soft cloth out on the work surface and lay the watch face down on the cloth. The cloth will protect the watch face from scratches.

  2. 2

    Inspect the back of the pocket watch. If you see a little lip and no hinges, the watch has a snap back lid. Simply place the case knife beneath the lip and gently pry the back off. You can try a fingernail or a nail file if you don't have a case opener.

  3. 3

    Check the case for a small gap between the case and the bezel (the metal rim that holds the crystal), which indicates a screw-back case, advises K. Singer on the Comcast Home website. Place the pocket watch in the palm of your left hand and hold the watch dial down with the winding stem touching your left thumb, Singer says. Press your right palm down on the back of the pocket watch case and turn the case counterclockwise to remove the back.

  4. 4

    Check if your pocket watch has a small lip on one edge and hinges on the other. Singer notes that this indicates a hinge back and bezel case. Simply slide the case opener in under the lip and pry open. The watch back will swing open on the hinges.

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