Complete Watch Care Handbook: Master Cleaning and Storage with Expert Tips for Beginners – The Ultimate Guide

Written by: Maz P
Updated on:
Rolex Sea Dweller Watch

A timepiece is many things, it is a fashion accessory, a symbol of status, and overall, a watch is an exceptional investment. Understanding how to care for it correctly is paramount to ensure that it both retains its luster and retains its value.  Caring for your timepiece goes beyond basic maintenance and cleaning, also requiring correct storage, handling, and regular servicing.  Whether you’re a watch collector or an aspiring watchmaker, understanding how to look after your watch is essential to keep it gleaming and ticking with precision.

Whilst some tasks are best left to professionals, anyone interested in horology needs to understand at least the basics of watch care.  If however, you are on a journey through the world of watchmaking, you can learn as you progress to carry out some of these more advanced tasks yourself.

This beginner’s guide will provide you with the essentials of mechanical watch care, making looking after your watch easy with tips, tricks, and recommended kits to keep your timepiece looking pristine and working accurately.

How to Take Care of Watches

Taking care of a watch is not a simple task as it requires many elements.  However, once you know exactly what you need to be doing to look after it, taking care of a timepiece becomes second nature.  If you are a watch collector, you need to know the basics of watch care to keep it looking fresh and to secure your investment.  More advanced watch care can be carried out by a professional watchmaker when you book it for a service.  On the other hand, if you are starting your journey in watchmaking, you may also want to give some of the more advanced watch-care tasks a go.  This will give you first-hand experience of the intricacies of watchmaking and progress you further along in your watchmaking journey.  I will take you through how to maintain a watch to keep it functioning correctly and how to clean a watch to keep it looking in tip-top condition.

How do I Maintain my Watch?

Regular watch maintenance ensures that your timepiece continues ticking and working efficiently with accurate timekeeping.  There are many elements of watch maintenance that you can carry out at home to ensure your watch keeps working with precision but unless you are a watchmaker, you will also need to book your watch in for a service periodically.

Watch Winding for Automatic Watches

If you have an automatic watch, watch winding is essential to ensure your timepiece continues to work.  This is particularly important if you have many watches that you wear interchangeably or if you save your watch for special occasions.  With an automatic watch, it is self-winding which is powered by movement, typically the movement of your wrist as you go about your day-to-day life.  If you wear your timepiece daily, this is less of an issue but without frequent wear, the watch is not exposed to this movement and therefore needs to be wound.  Automatic watch winders are very easy to purchase with many styles available and offering a variety of functions.  The watch winders keep your watch moving when not being worn which ensures that your timepiece is kept precise.

Watch Winding for Manual Watches

If you have a manual watch, it will also require winding.  However, unlike an automatic manual watch, it is not self-winding and the winding needs to be carried out, as the name suggests, manually.  You will find that most manual watches are vintage, however, some watchmakers like to keep with tradition and continue producing manual watches to this day.  Omega produces some manual Speedmasters and De Ville Tresors whilst other brands such as Breitling, Panerai, and Hublot also still produce manual watches.  When winding a manual watch, make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions as each watch needs to be wound a different number of times.  Your watch will then have a power reserve that keeps the watch ticking.

Battery Replacement for Quartz Watches

These days, quartz watches are one of the most common types of watches on the market.  They require both a quartz crystal and a battery for their energy and it is therefore important to ensure that the battery is periodically replaced.  Quartz watches are renowned as the most reliable in the industry and you do not want to be caught short when your battery burns out.  You can get the battery replaced in line with your regular service to ensure it continues ticking with precision.

Correct Storage

As many watches come with an expensive price tag or are precious heirloom, you want to ensure that it is stored correctly to protect them from accidental knocks, scratches, and damage.  When you are not wearing your watch, ensure you are storing it somewhere safe and where it is unlikely to be bumped.  The best storage solutions are often a watch box or stand and if you have an automatic watch that requires a winder, this is also a great 2-in-1 storage solution.  For traveling, you can also get roll-up watch cases which take up minimal space in your luggage whilst protecting your treasured timepieces.

Check Gaskets and Seals Regularly on Waterproof Watches

If your timepiece is water-resistant, you must check gaskets and seals regularly to ensure optimal performance and resistance from water pressure.  Whilst your watch may have a high water resistance level, gaskets and seals can wear and dry out which will impact the effectiveness of the water resistance.  Gaskets and seals can be changed along with your annual service, however, many watchmakers also invest in a machine to check water resistance.  Watchmakers may want to consider this as a worthwhile addition to their toolbox whilst others can typically get a water resistance test from a local professional watchmaker for a low cost.  It is also crucial that you do not expose your watch to hot water as this can damage the gaskets and seals protecting the internal components.

Limit Sun Exposure

Exposing your timepiece to sunlight for long periods can impact the appearance of your watch.  It can dull, fade, and discolor your timepiece and ultimately deteriorate your watch’s visual appeal.  Watches with leather straps particularly need to avoid the sun as the UV rays can make the material brittle resulting in cracking.  In addition, the heat of the sun can reduce battery life and the lubricants may also dry out impacting performance.  This does not mean you cannot wear your timepiece out in the sun but at all other times, make sure it is protected and out of direct sunlight.

Change Straps with Care

One of the most common ways to damage a watch is by changing the strap.  Whilst most scratches are typically minor, they can impact both the appearance and value of your timepiece and are therefore best avoided.  Although it may seem like a simple process, and theoretically it is, it needs to be carried out with precision to avoid damage.  You also need to ensure you are using the correct tool for the job, again to minimize the risk of scratches.  If you are just getting started in watchmaking and are unfamiliar with the task, you may want to practice on a timepiece of a lesser value first.

Scratch Removal

If you do find that you end up with minor scratches on your timepiece, there is no need to fret as many can be easily buffed away.  The Polywatch Scratch Remover features a polish, buff, and polishing cloth and is renowned for effectively removing minor scratches.

Polywatch Plastic Watch Crystal Scratch Remover Polywatch Plastic Watch Crystal Scratch Remover
  • Cream Tube 5ml
  • String buff
  • 5"x5" Microfiber Polishing Cloth
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Regular Service

All timepieces require regular service, whether you are a watchmaker and can perform this yourself or you need to book it with a professional.  For a full service, a watch needs to be completely disassembled so make sure you are comfortable with this process before you attempt it.  If you would prefer a professional to take on this task, you can book to get your watch serviced with a local watchmaker or the brand’s service center.  A service involves relubrication, deep cleaning, and replacing any worn components.

How to Clean a Watch

Cleaning a watch is the very foundation of watch care.  Even the most looked-after timepieces need regular cleaning.  Although they may look pristine, watches are subject daily to oils, sweat, hair, and dead skin plus external debris and filth that can also build on the timepiece.  Over time, this dulls the appearance of your watch so cleaning is crucial to keep it gleaming.  Not only do you need to clean the timepiece to retain its visual appeal and luster, but it also needs cleaning to keep it working correctly and also, to avoid any potential damage that could be caused by dust and debris.

There are several elements to cleaning a watch, some that need to be performed more regularly than others but all are at the very core of watch care.  Cleaning processes also differ depending on the materials used for your watch so make sure you understand what you are working with before attempting to clean.

Case Cleaning

Jewelry cleaning wipes are ultimately the best for case cleaning.  Specially designed to effectively clean jewelry and watches, they are equipped to efficiently clean your watch and feature anti-tarnish properties to protect and clean your timepiece without dulling its appearance.  Alternatively, you can also use a damp cloth to clean the case of your watch.  This will efficiently remove surface dirt and oils restoring the shine of your watch.  Even if your watch is water-resistant, make sure not to submerge your watch in hot water during the cleaning process as this can damage the gaskets and seals.

Metal Strap Cleaning

Metal straps can be cleaned using the same methods applied to the case with jewelry cleaning wipes or a damp cloth both working well.  For those hard-to-reach areas between links, a cotton bud, toothpick or pegwood works wonders.

In addition, if you want to revitalize your watch back to its sparkly best then I would recommend the Sparklean Ultimate SparkBrush.

The ultra-soft bristles are designed to pamper your prized asset, gliding across the metal material without leaving a trace.

Leather Strap Cleaning

Leather straps are renowned for being the most difficult to clean and it will be worthwhile investing in a specialized leather cleaner.  The most important thing is to avoid the leather strap getting wet as this can damage both the integrity and the appearance of the strap.

Material Strap Cleaning

Material straps are a complex matter when it comes to cleaning as different materials need to be cleaned in different ways.  Make sure you are confident in the material of your strap before attempting to clean it.  In some cases, you may find your material strap is machine washable but most will need to be hand washed.  Just make sure to use a laundry detergent rather than any harsh chemicals.

Rubber Strap Cleaning

Rubber straps are the easiest to clean as they are easily wipeable.  You can typically clean rubber straps with any cleaning wipe or a damp cloth.

Internal Cleaning

Cleaning of the inner components requires disassembly and should therefore only be performed by someone who feels comfortable to do so.  There are many tools you can use to clean the watch parts but one of the best are these Watch Dial Cleaner Pens.  They easily remove dust, debris, and blockages on watch dials without compromising the watch face.

Professional Cleaning

If you are unsure about cleaning your watch in any way, leave it to the professionals.  Watchmakers and service centers will both provide exceptional cleaning services that will achieve the professional results you may not be able to achieve at home alone.  The inner workings of your timepiece will also need to be cleaned periodically, however, this can be performed as part of your watch’s regular service.

Watch Cleaning

Cleaning a watch is an essential part of watch care and there are multiple ways in which you can carry out this task. Whether you use a watch care kit or a more advanced ultrasonic cleaner, you can make sure your timepiece is clear of dust, debris, and build-up ensuring that it works efficiently and looks exceptional.

Ultrasonic Cleaners

Designed specifically for cleaning watches and jewelry, an ultrasonic cleaner uses ultrasonic frequencies to achieve unrivaled cleaning results.  Renowned as the most efficient cleaning tool for watches, it is considered the ultimate solution for watchmakers. It reaches the deepest and most concealed parts of any timepiece, ensuring a comprehensive and meticulous cleaning process.  However, it is critical to understand that you should never put the entire watch in an ultrasonic cleaner.  An ultrasonic cleaner should only be used for straps and disassembled watch parts.

Watch Care Kits

Using a watch repair care kit is a comprehensive way to efficiently clean your timepiece.  These kits feature all the tools you need to effectively clean your watch and are typically supplied with a handy case to keep these tools together.  At a fraction of the price of an ultrasonic cleaner, a watch care kit is a great option for watch collectors, new watchmakers, and anyone taking care of a timepiece on a budget.  Even if you do invest in an ultrasonic cleaner throughout your watchmaking journey, a watch care kit is still essential as whilst extremely effective, you can not put an entire watch in an ultrasonic cleaner.  Therefore, a watch care kit will also be used throughout your cleaning process

Basic Watch Care Kits

In most cases, cleaning a watch is a relatively simple task that requires minimal tools.  If you are just getting started in your watchmaking journey, a basic watch cleaning kit will provide everything you need to effectively clean your timepiece without breaking the bank.

For the most budget-friendly watch cleaning solution, this Watch Cleaning Brush Set provides the bare essentials for watch cleaning.  Featuring a selection of brushes, this kit is great for cleaning small parts and getting into hard-to-reach areas.  It also has a deep detail scrubber cleaner tool which is an incredible watch-cleaning tool that gets into difficult corners and works well on stubborn smudges.

Watch Cleaning Brush Set Watch Cleaning Brush Set
Pieces in Set: 5
03/07/2024 08:38 pm GMT

This comprehensive kit has everything needed to keep timepieces in impeccable condition. The microfiber cloth provides a gentle yet effective cleaning experience with a streak-free shine whilst the cleaning solution is specially formulated to effortlessly remove dirt.  Also featuring a fine horsehair brush, you can reach between links and access the most hidden corners effectively saying goodbye to any grime.

Watch Cleaning Kit Watch Cleaning Kit
  • 1 x 2oz Watch Cleaner Gel Spray
  • 1 x 8oz Watch Cleaner Gel Spray
  • 3 x Microfiber Cloth
  • 2 x Horsehair Brush
Pieces in Set: 7
03/07/2024 08:33 pm GMT

Best Luxury Watch Cleaning Kit

Whilst there are many watch cleaning kits available on the market, the best results will be achieved by a luxury watch cleaning kit.  This kit is fully-comprehensive featuring all of the tools you could need for a thorough watch cleaning whilst also made of high-quality, durable materials to ensure their longevity and effectiveness.

Nano Clear is a game-changer for watch cleaning and is no doubt the best luxury watch cleaning kit currently on the market.  This kit transcends conventional cleaning with its advanced Nano Clear Solution designed to deep clean every crevice and gently erase scratches, blemishes, and smudges. Designed for luxury, Nano Clear adds a touch of indulgence to your cleaning routine and is ideal for watchmakers who demand the finest.  Plus, the compact case adds a touch of elegance that makes it a great gift for any watchmaker.

Leather Watch Strap Cleaning Kit

Leather watch straps require specialized cleaning to avoid damaging both the appearance and integrity of the material.  Thankfully, you can purchase cleaning kits dedicated to cleaning timepieces with leather straps making the process easy and convenient.

This kit is the ultimate solution for restoring the brilliance and beauty of your watches. It contains everything you need to clean, polish, and renew your watches in just minutes. Whether you have leather, gold, silver, platinum, or stainless steel watch strap, this kit works wonders on all metals and materials.

The Blitz Watch Care Kit is specially formulated for the care of leather, gold, silver and platinum watch straps. It includes essential items to maintain your timepieces:

  • Polishing Cloth: Cleans and restores the original brilliance to your watch face.
  • Silicone Leather Treatment Cloth: Cleans and protects your leather watch bands.
  • Blitz Foamz: Deep cleans metal, diamond, and gemstone jewelry without the mess.
  • Microfiber Cloth: Takes special care of crystal faces, designed to be lint-free and non-damaging.

This comprehensive kit ensures your watches stay in top condition.

Watch Care FAQ

Watch maintenance involves regular care and cleaning to ensure it retains its visual appeal and performs accurately.  It includes cleaning, lubrication, adjustment, and regular servicing to keep the watch in optimal condition.

Regular winding helps maintain accurate timekeeping and ensures every watch functions smoothly.  For quartz watches, keeping the battery charged is essential.

To keep your watch in the best condition, you should perform regular cleaning and get it serviced periodically.  You should also make sure to store your timepiece safely to protect it from damage and make sure that any automatic or manual watches are wound.

Cleaning a watch is an essential part of watch care and there are multiple ways to do it.  You can use a watch care kit, an ultrasonic cleaner, or a specialized cleaning solution depending on the type and material of your watch.  You should also clean the inner components of your watch periodically by disassembling it or taking it to a professional.

Servicing your watch is important to maintain its accuracy and performance.  You should service your watch every 3 to 5 years depending on the brand and model.  A service involves relubrication, deep cleaning, and replacing any worn components.  You can service your watch yourself if you have the right tools and skills, or you can take it to a watchmaker or a service center.

Storing your watch safely is crucial to protect it from damage and preserve its value.  You should store your watch in a dry and cool place, away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.  You can use a watch box, a watch stand, or a watch winder to store your watch.  A watch winder is especially useful for automatic watches as it keeps them wound when not in use.

Winding your watch correctly is essential to keep it running smoothly and accurately.  If you have an automatic watch, you can wind it by wearing it or using a watch winder.  If you have a manual watch, you need to wind it by hand using the crown.  You should check the manufacturer’s instructions for the optimal number of turns and the direction of winding.

Changing the strap of your watch is a simple way to customize your watch and give it a new look.  You can change the strap of your watch by using a spring bar tool, a pin remover, or a strap-changing tool.  You should be careful not to scratch the case or the lugs of your watch when changing the strap.  You should also make sure that the strap fits your watch and your wrist comfortably.

If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.


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I started WatchmakingTools to share my passion and knowledge with those already bitten by the watchmaking bug. I’ve often spent hours searching online for answers on a specific issue, and even though there is a wealth of information out there, it hasn’t always been very useful, hence why I wanted to share my own findings.

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