For every watch lover, a fresh scratch on a beautiful crystal is the worst sight. It’s a sad feeling, and even worse when on a brand-new watch or a watch that has just returned from service. Before you send your damaged possession to a watch repair shop for crystal replacement, you may benefit from a few home remedies. First, you have to determine what can be done, which greatly depends on your timepiece’s crystal.
Until the 1980s, nearly all watches were fitted with an acrylic crystal to protect the dial and hands. It is known for its low cost and how well it polishes. When you do a quick search on fixing these scratches, you will get a dozen different remedies. It seems like everybody has the “correct” method. In reality, you can’t go wrong as long as you follow a simple set of instructions. Toothpaste, Brasso, Displex, and Polywatch are the most commonly endorsed polishing agents.
The process is as follows:
- Cover the bezel with tape for protection during polishing
- While using a soft polishing rag (or similar), work a small amount of your chosen substance into the scratch in a circular motion. It will generally take a few minutes to clear the scratches, as long as they are not too deep. If your watch does have deep scratches, you’ll have to pay for a crystal replacement.
Although acrylic crystals are still used on less expensive watches, many watch manufacturers have moved on to the mineral glass. Mineral glasses are made by a melting process involving glass and hardening minerals. This process creates a substance seven times harder than acrylic and more scratch and impact resistant. Unfortunately, its hardness creates difficulties when it comes to polishing your watch. Many watchmakers recommend replacing these crystals. The cost is negligible when you compare it to the parts and work involved in DIY.
High-end watchmakers mainly use sapphire crystal. Sapphire scores a solid 9 out of 10 just below the diamond on the Mohs mineral hardness scale, making it even more scratch-resistant than mineral glass. Because of its remarkable capabilities, sapphire comes at a premium.
The cost of replacing a sapphire crystal depends on what type of watch you own and where you go to have it done. Replacement can run anywhere from $75 to $250. If you do a bit of research and some elbow grease, you can restore your crystal for $30 or less. Even though sapphire crystal is much harder than mineral glass, the extra effort of at-home repair is worth the payoff.
Below we have provided the tried and true steps to repairing a damaged crystal right in your own home:
Step 1: Tape your bezel.
Protect your bezel from the diamond paste with masking tape, as you would cover wood trim before painting a room.
Step 2: Begin buffing.
Apply a tiny amount of 3-micron polishing paste to the damaged area and scrub in a firm, circular motion with a cloth. After a few minutes, the scratch will appear to fade away.
Step 3: Continue buffing.
Once you notice that the scratch has faded, wipe away the excess and apply a finer, .25-micron polishing paste. Pick the clean area of the cloth and begin the same circular motion, as discussed before. This ultra-fine paste will give your crystal the glass-like finish it once had. If the damage looks to have disappeared and you’re satisfied, wipe the excess paste and inspect your work.
Step 4: Repeat (if needed).
If remnants of the scratch remain, rinse and repeat from steps two and three. Once it’s gone, clean and wipe away residue or fingerprints with a cloth.