Beginners Guide to Watchmakers Screwdrivers

Written by: Maz P
Updated on:
Watchmakers Screwdrivers

One of the first things to consider purchasing when starting your watch repair journey is watchmaking screwdrivers. Along with watchmakers’ tweezers, watchmaking screwdrivers are likely to be your most used tool while working on a movement. Watchmaking screwdrivers are essential tools for any watchmaker. These instruments are designed for the precise and intricate work required in watchmaking.

Throughout your watchmaking journey, you will require a variety of screwdrivers. Watches come in all shapes and sizes that use a variety of different screws. The smallest screws can measure just 0.5mm in diameter, requiring screwdrivers with incredibly thin blades.

It is therefore crucial that you have a set of screwdrivers for watchmakers that can cover all bases. A wide selection of watchmakers screwdrivers ensures that you can select the best screwdriver for the task.

What Makes a Good Watchmakers Screwdriver

Not all watchmaking screwdrivers are created equal and there are some features that ensure the user can work on watches with confidence and accuracy.

Precision: Watchmakers screwdrivers are designed to be precise with tips that can be as thin as 0.05mm in diameter. This precision is necessary to work on the tiny screws found in watch movements, which can be as small as 0.5mm. The accuracy of the screwdriver tip ensures that the screw is not damaged during the process.

Durability: Watchmaking screwdrivers should be made from high-quality materials, such as steel and brass, which make them durable and long-lasting. These materials can withstand repeated use and remain reliable, making them a good investment for any watchmaker.

Ergonomics: The handles of watchmakers screwdrivers should be ergonomic, providing a comfortable grip for the user. An ergonomic design ensures that the user can work for extended periods without experiencing hand fatigue, which is especially important for delicate watchmaking work.

Specialization: Watchmakers screwdrivers are specialised tools designed specifically for the needs of watchmaking work. These screwdrivers are available in a range of sizes and types, each suited to a specific task, ensuring that the user has the right tool for the job. Make sure to select screwdrivers specialised to watchmaking.

Horotec Watchmakers Screwdrivers Set

Why You Should Spend Money on Good Watch Screwdrivers

Since screwdrivers are a pretty straight forward tool, it can be easy to buy the most budget-friendly option as all screwdrivers perform the same job, right? Although they may be designed for the same task, not all screwdrivers are created equal. It is important to not cheap out on watchmaking screwdrivers.

Although a cheaper set may initially look decent quality, in most circumstances, they will have imperfections that a more expensive set simply won’t have. These flaws will vary a lot from a simple annoyance to being completely useless and honestly, it is not worth the frustration to save a bit of money.

Whilst imperfections may be acceptable in larger tools, you need to remember that with watchmaking, you are working on delicate parts. It is therefore crucial to have good control and precision quality.

I spent pennies on my first set and was severely disappointed. Originally, I bought a cheap set of 9 screwdrivers via eBay, which came with replacement blades. The first set arrived and one screwdriver in the set was missing the screw that holds the screwdriver blade in place.

Luckily the seller was very fair and agreed to send me another set. However, although the second set I received was complete, I discovered issues that you wouldn’t expect.

Firstly, the blades were not straight or sharp to begin with. Whilst I was able to resolve this myself, it shouldn’t have been an issue. Secondly, some of the screws holding in the blades were never able to be tightened strongly enough to stop the blade rotating when used with any force. This effectively made the screwdriver useless.

Lastly, the holes in the rotating stand were not cut precisely enough to fit all the screwdrivers, so some would not sit in the stand as they should.

This opened my eyes to the benefits of a branded set. I purchased a set of precision Horotec screwdrivers and haven’t looked back. I have found that spending money on a branded set rather than a cheap alternative ensures that your screwdrivers will perform adequately, be of great quality and have increased longevity.

Think of your set of watchmaking screwdrivers as an investment. Whilst the price may sting a little at first, you will be rewarded in the long run.

More expensive sets of watchmakers screwdrivers also come with a case, box or a rotating stand. This is not only a great storage solution but also keeps your desk area tidy. The rotating stands are really great offering a great display and easy access to your entire set. Cheaper sets often just come in plastic and offer no storage or protection.

If you do need to cut costs somewhere when it comes to buying watchmaking screwdrivers, you can afford to go cheaper with Phillips screwdrivers. They will be used a lot less as flat headed screwdrivers will make up the majority of your set and be used more often.

As a rough guideline, you should expect to spend the following on watchmaking screwdrivers:

  • Basic Variety = around $16 for a set of 9
  • Branded Variety = around $20 per screwdriver or $90-200 for a starter set

Things to Consider when Purchasing Watchmakers Screwdrivers

Whilst watchmakers screwdrivers may seem like a simple thing to purchase, when it comes to the world of watchmaking, there are more things to consider. Your screwdrivers make up an important part of your watchmaking toolbox so it is critical to ensure you get the correct ones.

As you will be working with them often and for a long time, watchmaking screwdrivers are tools that you want to give some thought to. When you purchase the right watchmaking screwdrivers, they will last for many years to come and will be a worthwhile investment.

Watchmakers Screwdrivers

Buy a screwdriver set rather than individual screwdrivers. Unless you already have some screwdrivers and are just missing a few sizes. By buying a set, it is guaranteed that each screwdriver will be the same quality. It also saves you messing up and buying duplicates accidentally as the set will include one of each size. A set will also come with some storage whether that be a box or a rotating stand. When it comes to working with such small parts, it is important to have a clear desk so any storage is really helpful.

Make flat headed screwdrivers your first and main purchase. All watch movement parts only ever use flat headed screws so these should be your first purchase. Flat headed screwdrivers will make up the majority of your set. There are some case backs (mainly quartz watches) that will use Phillips screws so it is likely you may need both types of screwdriver eventually. However I would only purchase a set of Phillips screwdrivers if/when needed.

Replaceable blades are essential to allow you to sharpen the blades when required and to extend their longevity. Most quality screwdrivers will be supplied with a spare blade. Alternatively, replaceable blades can also be purchased separately helping screwdrivers to stand the test of time.

Quality is super important. Any watchmaking screwdriver should feel slick and smooth with no drag. It helps to purchase in person if you can. Whilst it is super easy to buy online these days, it is hard to determine the quality of an item on a screen. Seeing it in person and being able to hold it will help you to select screwdrivers of high quality. There is no doubt that quality is key.

High-quality watchmakers screwdriver handles feature a hexagonal end piece. This is to prevent them from rolling off the workbench when put down. It is important when working with the delicacies and intricacies of watchmaking that tools are close to hand and easy to access. It would be extremely inconvenient for your screwdrivers to be rolling all over the place.

It is beneficial to have two different screwdriver sets for watchmaking. It seems screws in quartz movements are cut slightly differently so you may find that your set of screwdrivers does not go deep enough in the screw head to provide enough grip to be able to turn the screw. The best solution is to have two sets of screwdrivers which are sharpened at different angles to be able to handle the different types of screws.

Pitfalls of Cheap Watchmakers Screwdrivers Set

Originally, I bought a cheap set of 9 watchmakers screwdrivers via Amazon, which had replaceable blades. The first set arrived and had one screwdriver with a missing screw that holds the blade in place. Luckily the seller was very fair and agreed to send me another set. The second set I received was complete, but during use, I discovered issues that you wouldn’t expect with a branded set.

First, the blades were not all straight and sharp to begin with, although this was something I was able to resolve myself. Second, some of the screws holding in the blades were never able to be tightened strongly enough to stop the blade rotating when used with any force. This effectively made the screwdriver useless. Last, the holes in the rotating stand were not cut precisely enough to fit all the screwdrivers, so some would not sit in the stand as they should.

It was these reasons that opened my eyes to the benefits of a branded set. So I purchased a set of precision Horotec screwdrivers, and I haven’t looked back since.

However, recently while working on a quartz ETA movement, I found that my Horotec screwdrivers would not go deep enough in the screw head to provide enough grip to be able to turn the screw. I ended up resorting to using my original cheap set of screwdrivers for the majority of this movement.

It seems screws in quartz movements are cut slightly differently, so you may come across this. I think ultimately the best solution is to have 2 sets of screwdrivers, which are sharpened at different angles to be able to handle both types of screws.

Bergeon and Horotec seem to be the two main screwdriver manufacturers held in the highest esteem by watchmakers. This also makes them the most expensive option. AF Switzerland also makes high-quality screwdrivers at a slightly lower cost. All three Swiss made brands are worth considering should your budget be suited to the brands. 

Watchmakers Screwdrivers

If you would rather purchase individual watchmakers screwdrivers, then the general consensus amongst watchmakers is to go for the following sizes:

0.50mm

0.60mm

0.80mm

1.00mm

1.20mm

1.40mm

My set of Horotec screwdrivers consists of 9 sizes, but I can honestly say I’ve never used the three largest sizes – 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0mm.

Bergeon and Horotec seem to be the two main screwdriver manufacturers held in the highest esteem by watchmakers. This also makes them the most expensive option. AF Switzerland also make high-quality screwdrivers at a slightly lower cost.

Tips for Using Watchmakers Screwdrivers

When it comes to using screwdrivers, usage is pretty self-explanatory. However, when applied to the intricacies of watchmaking, there are some tips and tricks on how to use them.

Make sure to use the correct size screwdriver. A rule of thumb is that the width of the screwdriver tip should match the width of the screw head. This will mean you have good contact and reduce the risk of a stripped screw which you will later struggle to remove.

Watchmakers screwdrivers are generally colour coded to identify the blade size making them easy to select whilst working on a watch. However, be wary when using different brands of screwdriver as annoyingly, there is no colour uniformity between manufacturers.

Keep the screwdriver straight. When working with watch screws, it’s important to keep the screwdriver straight and perpendicular to the screw head. Tilting the screwdriver can cause the screw to slip or strip, making it difficult to remove. A screw or screwdriver that slips can also cause damage to watch parts.

Apply the correct amount of pressure. Working with watches is such a delicate task that care needs to be taken at every point. When turning a screw, apply gentle pressure and turn slowly. Applying too much pressure or turning too quickly can damage the screw or cause it to become stuck.

Clean the screwdriver after use. After working on a watch, clean the screwdriver tip to remove any debris or dust that may have accumulated. This will ensure that the screwdriver remains sharp and accurate, ready for the next use. It also stops any dust or debris being transferred to watch parts the next time you use it.

Sharpen your screwdrivers on a regular basis. A dull screwdriver can slip and damage the delicate parts of a watch, which can be costly to repair. That’s why it’s essential to resharpen the blades of your watchmakers screwdrivers on a regular basis.

As a rule, I always advise that you should purchase the best quality screwdrivers that you can afford. As this is a key tool you will use constantly and if looked after can last a lifetime, it’s worth splashing the cash for a branded set of precision screwdrivers from Bergeon, Horotec or AF Switzerland.

Whilst a cheaper set may initially be more affordable, a branded set offers higher quality and is therefore a greater long-term investment. You can really feel the quality when you use one of these branded screwdrivers.

However, if a full set of watchmakers screwdrivers from one of these brands does not fit your budget, you could also look at purchasing individual screwdrivers of the most popular sizes. This will dramatically reduce your spend without compromising on the quality of your watchmakers screwdrivers. You can always increase your collection of screwdrivers when you have additional funds at your disposal.

Beginners Guide to Buying Watchmakers Screwdrivers – Recommendation

Spend
Horotec MSA 01.218-B Watchmakers Screwdrivers Horotec MSA 01.218-B Watchmakers Screwdrivers
$82.00
Quantity: 5
Material: Stainless Steel
Sizes: 0.60mm, 0.80mm, 1.00mm, 1.20mm and 1.40mm
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03/07/2024 10:51 pm GMT
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Quantity:
9
Quantity:
5
Quantity:
10
Material:
Alloy Steel
Material:
Stainless Steel
Material:
Stainless Steel
Sizes:
0.80mm,1.00mm,1.20mm,1.40mm,1.60mm,1.80mm and 2.0mm
Slotted Screwdrivers Sizes: 1.20mm,1.60mm
Sizes:
0.60mm, 0.80mm, 1.00mm, 1.20mm and 1.40mm
Sizes:
0.50mm, 0.60mm, 0.8mm, 1.0mm, 1.2mm, 1.4mm, 1.6mm, 2.0mm, 2.5mm and 3.0mm
Primary Rating:
4.1
Primary Rating:
5.0
Primary Rating:
4.0
$14.99
$82.00
$299.00$280.11
Save
Quantity:
9
Material:
Alloy Steel
Sizes:
0.80mm,1.00mm,1.20mm,1.40mm,1.60mm,1.80mm and 2.0mm
Slotted Screwdrivers Sizes: 1.20mm,1.60mm
Primary Rating:
4.1
$14.99
Spend
Quantity:
5
Material:
Stainless Steel
Sizes:
0.60mm, 0.80mm, 1.00mm, 1.20mm and 1.40mm
Primary Rating:
5.0
$82.00
Splurge
Quantity:
10
Material:
Stainless Steel
Sizes:
0.50mm, 0.60mm, 0.8mm, 1.0mm, 1.2mm, 1.4mm, 1.6mm, 2.0mm, 2.5mm and 3.0mm
Primary Rating:
4.0
$299.00$280.11
03/07/2024 10:39 pm GMT

Watchmakers Screwdrivers FAQ

Crafted with precision and designed for delicate maneuvers, Watchmakers Screwdrivers are made with tempered steel blades to make them tough and long lasting. From tiny, jewel-like screws to minute components tucked away in the heart of a wristwatch, this mighty instrument fearlessly tackles them all.

Watchmakers screwdrivers come in various sizes and are measured by the width of the tip of the blade – typically ranging from 0.6mm to 3.0mm. The size you need depends on the specific watch you’re working on. To determine the right size, you’ll want to measure the diameter of the screw or refer to the size chart provided by the manufacturer.

Remember, using the wrong size screwdriver can lead to damage, so it’s crucial to ensure a perfect fit.

The two biggest watchmaking screwdriver manufacturers are Bergeon and Horotec, both held in the highest esteem by watchmakers. This also makes them the most expensive options. AF Switzerland also makes high-quality screwdrivers at a slightly lower cost. All three brands are definitely worth considering should you have the budget and you can really feel the quality when you use one of these branded options.

The size of watchmaking screwdrivers depends on the size of the screws and parts of the watch you are working on. The width of the screwdriver tip should match the width of the screw head to ensure a good contact and avoid damage. Watchmaking screwdrivers are measured by the width of the tip, typically ranging from 0.6mm to 3.0mm. You can refer to the size chart provided by the manufacturer or measure the diameter of the screw to determine the right size.

To use watchmaking screwdrivers, you need to select the correct size for the screw or part you are working on, hold the screwdriver straight and perpendicular to the screw head, apply gentle pressure and turn slowly, and clean the screwdriver tip after use. You also need to sharpen your watchmaking screwdrivers regularly to maintain their performance and avoid slippage or damage.

To sharpen watchmaking screwdrivers, you need to use a sharpening stone or a staking tool with a sharpening attachment. You need to remove the blade from the handle, place it on the stone or tool at an appropriate angle, and move it back and forth until it forms a sharp edge. You also need to check the blade for burrs or irregularities and polish it with a fine abrasive paper or cloth.

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

AUTHOR

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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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