A watch movement is a finally balanced machine which can easily be thrown out of balance by contamination, hence the need for regular service intervals.
Everyone has oil in their skin, under each of our pores is a gland that produces natural oils called sebum. This helps keep your skin hydrated and healthy. Unfortunately these oils can contaminate and massively hinder a watch movements accuracy. One of the first things you learn in watchmaking is that you must never touch a watch movement or watch part with your bare fingers or hands.
There are watchmakers out there who do not use any form of hand/finger protection. They have evolved their skill to use pegwood, or an acrylic/plastic pick to help position bridges or manipulate parts in conjunction with tweezers. This means their fingers need not touch the parts themselves.
For the rest of us watchmakers, we will use one of the following tools/consumables when working on a watch movement. These help form a barrier between the skin and the movement or movement parts while still allowing us to work on the watch.
Disposable latex gloves are probably the obvious choice here but they are not without their issues. Finding the right size to match your hands which feel comfortable (even though they are available in multiple size options) can be an issue. The bigger issue is the lack of any form of ventilation which will make your hands very sweaty. This may hinder your work on intricate parts of a watch movement.
- Basic Variety = around £18 (pack of 100 – 50 pairs)
Go for a cheap option like these Multi-Purpose Powder Free Vinyl Gloves on Amazon.
Latex Finger Cots
Disposable latex finger cots (also known as finger gloves) are available in multiple size options and my preferred option, as well as most watchmakers. You’ll notice coloured fingers from finger cots in numerous online watchmaking videos. I’m a 3 finger cot guy – thumb/index and middle finger on both hands, but some people wear them on all fingers and only on their non-dominate hand. It’s up to you to see what suits you best.
The great thing about using finger cots is that your hand still breaths so sweating is less of an issue. Although they can reduce the blood flood to that finger after prolonged use. They also allow for greater dexterity than latex gloves.
- Basic Variety = around £4 (pack of 100)
- Branded Variety = from £10
It’s worth splashing the cash for a branded finger cots that are likely to split less. I personally use the Bergeon 7968 Latex Finger Cots pictured above.
Whichever option you choose make sure you go for the non-powdered variety for obvious reasons.
If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.