Polishing keeps watches looking as good as new.

How to Buff a Watch

by Melissa King

After a few years of wear and tear, your watch's metal case may look tarnished and dirty. Some watch crystals are especially prone to scratches that mar the beauty of the piece. If your watch looks beat up, you don't need to buy a replacement. With a bit of metal polish, you can buff and polish your watch so it looks new again. Polishing makes the metal case shine and helps remove scratches from your watch's crystal.

Open the watch case. If your watch has a screw-type case, unscrew it to take it apart. If the watch has a snap-off case, insert the tip of a small flat-head screwdriver into the case seam. Pry the halves apart, but don't use excessive force.

Remove the movement ring from the watch and set it in a safe spot.

Press on the crystal to pop it out of its case. If the crystal won't come out, don't try to force it. You can still polish the crystal even if it's stuck in the case.

Wash the crystal and case with hot, soapy water to remove any built-up dirt and debris. Use a toothbrush to clean crevices that your hands can't reach. After washing, allow the parts to dry.

Apply a few drops of metal polish to a soft, clean cloth. Rub the polish into the case so that all surfaces are covered.

Buff the polish into the case until it disappears and the metal looks clean and shiny.

Put a dab of metal polish on the cloth and gently buff the crystal. Continue buffing until the crystal is shiny and free of scratches.

Put a drop or two of crystal cement on the grooved part of the case.

Snap the crystal back into the case. Allow the cement to dry.

Replace the movement ring and snap or screw the case parts back together.

Items you will need

  • Small flat-head screwdriver
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Metal polish
  • Cloth
  • Crystal cement


  • Metal polish is unlikely to damage gold, gold-filled or stainless-steel watch cases. It may damage electroplated cases because they are coated with a very thin layer of gold.
  • If you can't get the watch case open, ask a jeweler for help.


  • These instructions will only work for plastic or acrylic watch crystal. It's difficult to remove scratches from mineral crystals, but a jeweler may be able to do the job for you. Sapphire crystal usually cannot be repaired.

About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

Photo Credits

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