Pocket watches were first popularised in the 16th century, and still worn today as an imminent symbol of class and taste. However, these time-honoured time-keepers will only endure when given the right amount of “round the clock” maintenance. This guide on how to clean a pocket will show you how to keep these men’s gifts shining, and all their components working correctly.

How to dismantle the pocket watch

In order to give it a proper clean, it is necessary to expose the watch’s inside mechanism - but this need not be as frightening as it sounds. Pocket watches tend to have two types of back: one that can be pried open by hand, and another that requires unscrewing. Whilst this guide concerns brand new men’s pocket watches, you should take extreme care when taking apart an antique model.

Next, you have to dismantle the individual parts. These include the following:

  • Disengaging the metal stopper from the mainspring gears. This will cause the watch to unwind.
  • Taking out the hands, using an appropriately sized screwdriver or a specially made hands remover tool.
  • Removing the hour wheel, cannon pinion, bridge, balance wheel and every other smaller part of the pocket watch

Make sure each part is carefully placed in a special parts tray where they won’t be misplaced or damaged. For you own reference, it may be a good idea to photograph the watch on your phone at each stage.

Cleaning the individual parts

Now that your watch is fully taken apart, it’s time to clean and oil the various pieces. You should avoid going straight for the chemical cleaners found under your kitchen sink, as these may tarnish the finish on the silver, pewter etc. There are special parts cleaning solutions available, but you should always enquire with the manufacturer to ensure its appropriate for your watch, and of course you MUST follow the safety instructions if using a solvent.

For the cleaning itself, place each individual part (bar the mainspring, as this will rust) in the cleaning solution, let is soak for a few minutes, and then thoroughly brush. If the part is still dirty, soak it again and repeat. Go through each section of your parts tray, taking care to clean between gears and jewel holes, and lubricating the latter with a tiny amount of oil.

Additional pocket watch cleaning tools

If you’re a collector of these timekeepers, and will find yourself cleaning them several times throughout the year, it may be worth investing in the following specialist equipment:

  • Loupe: Those classic magnifying eye pieces you see every time watch cleaning gets featured in a movie or TV show. They come in various styles, but are usually made to attach to a pair of glasses.
  • Blower: These are used to dry the parts after cleaning, or to blow away dust from the dial. Why not just blow on it yourself? Even though you may not see them, you’d actually be blowing little particles of spit onto these delicate components…
  • Parts Tray: As mentioned several times before, these specially made boxes are uniquely compartmentalized to provide convenience and clarity for the watch cleaner.
  • Watch Paper: Yes, there’s actually special paper for watch parts to sit on whilst they dry. It’s lintless and highly absorbent (they’re often used by jewellers too), and is most often sold in packs of 1000.
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Post By Nicole Sage