Owning a watch — or even better, owning several watches — is a wholly worthwhile endeavor. They are constant companions that can accompany you anywhere, they can make for great conversation pieces, they elevate any outfit, and they serve a purpose as useful tools. But at the end of the day, watches are machines. They require regular maintenance and care, and when something goes wrong, they need to be fixed. For those times, you’ll need to find a good watch repair shop.
Finding a good watch repair shop can be a daunting task. If your watch is worth several thousands of dollars, you don’t want to just let anyone go and start tinkering with it, knowing that they could end up doing more harm than good. Even if your watch isn’t worth much monetarily, it still may be emotionally important to you, and you’ll want to find someone who’ll treat it with as much care and respect as you do. So read on for our tips on how to find a good watch repair shop — and to discover the times when you can do some repairs yourself.
Why You Need A Watch Repair Shop
Think Of Watches Like You Would Cars
Regular Maintenance: As previously stated, watches are machines. This is especially true of mechanical watches. Whether it’s a simple time-only manual wind watch, an automatic chronograph, or a perpetual calendar tourbillon, all mechanical watches require regular maintenance to function properly — usually at least one full service every five years. This maintenance requires completely disassembling and cleaning the watch’s movement, replacing any worn or damaged parts, lubricating and regulating the movement, re-upping and testing water-resistance, and then making sure everything’s working perfectly once put back together. It’s a big job, and unless you’re a watchmaker, you should not attempt to do it yourself.
Timekeeping Issues: Even if you’re getting your watch serviced at regular intervals, problems can still arise with regard to timekeeping. Maybe your watch is running noticeably fast or slow, or its power reserve is not lasting nearly as long as it should. Maybe the hands are behaving in a strange way, or your chronograph isn’t resetting to zero. All of these indicate that there’s something wrong with the movement, and a watchmaker is going to have to open your watch up and take a look to figure out what the problem is.
Something Breaks: Perhaps the most obvious reason why you would need a watch repair shop is when something breaks on your watch. A smashed crystal, hands falling off, a broken crown, or something rattling around inside the watch are all clear signs that a trip to the repair shop is in order. Luckily, these types of simple repairs will not be as costly as a full service.
When You Don’t Need A Repair Shop
Not Every Issue Requires A Professional
Battery Replacement: Quartz watches, in general, are much less finicky and easier to care for than mechanical watches, and that goes for their maintenance as well. With far fewer moving parts, quartz watch movements don’t require much servicing outside of battery changes every few years, and this is something that you can easily do yourself. With a few inexpensive tools, you should be able to pop off your case back, remove your battery, and plug in a new one in just a couple of minutes.
Bracelet Adjustments: Another easy repair you can do on your watch is making simple adjustments to your bracelet or strap. The two most common are sizing a watch bracelet and changing out your strap. For the former, you’ll need either a small screwdriver for screw-in links or a pin pusher for push-pin links so you can remove the number of links needed to fit your wrist. For strap swaps, you’ll need something called a spring bar tool that allows you to remove the retractable spring bars that attach your strap or bracelet to the lugs of your watch head. These repairs may sound intimidating, but a quick YouTube tutorial and a couple of cheap tools will have you feeling like a pro in no time.
Minor Repairs: If you’re a little more adventurous, you can attempt to try a few other repairs that don’t involve opening up the back of the watch or removing the crystal. For example, if your watch has a plexiglass or acrylic crystal that is scratched, you can buff out the scratches yourself with a little practice. In another example, let’s say you wore your dive watch to the beach and got sand under the bezel. You should be able to pop off your bezel with a specialized tool or even a thin dull knife, clean it out, and then reattach it without much trouble — just be careful not to scratch it and be sure to align it properly.
Tools You’ll Need
For The Watchmaker Inside You
Plexiglass or acrylic crystals, which are commonly found on almost all vintage watches, as well as a few modern ones — most notably on the Omega Speedmaster Professional — are widely beloved for their retro looks and “warm” aesthetic. They are extremely easy to scratch, however, which is why they’ve largely been phased out in favor of sapphire crystals. But if you do scratch your acrylic crystal, it’s not the end of the world. These scratches can be buffed out using Polywatch, and any vintage watch owner needs a tube of this in their arsenal.
Paxcoo Watch Battery Replacement Toolkit
This tool kit provides everything you need to change out the battery in your quartz watch. It includes a watch case holder, a case-opening knife, four different case openers for snap-on casebacks, and a case opener for screw-in casebacks. And the entire kit costs less than what the jewelry store at your local mall would charge to swap out your battery.
One problem that sometimes plagues mechanical watches is magnetization, and it doesn’t take a run-in with Magneto to cause it, either. The magnetic fields emitted by speakers, cell phones, computers, airport scanners, and loads of other devices you encounter every day can all mess with your watch. So if your watch starts running really fast (most often), really slow, or stops running out of nowhere, it’s worth trying to de-magnetize it with a demagnetizer to see if that solves the problem and saves you a costly trip to the repair shop.
Bausch & Lomb Single Lens 10X Loupe
If you’re farsighted or presbyopic — and sometimes even if you’re not — you may require some extra help in the eyesight department when working on your watches. Watches consist of many tiny parts, and not just when it comes to their movements. Bracelet pins and screws can also be quite small and easy to lose, so it doesn’t hurt to have a loupe around for when things get hairy. This example is from a trusted brand and offers ideal 10x magnification.
Bergeon 6767-F Spring Bar Tool
Without question, the spring bar tool will be your most-used watch tool. You’ll use this every time you want to change a strap, and if you have a lot of watches and a lot of straps, that could mean you’ll be reaching for this every day. So it makes sense to get a good one, and that’s exactly what we have here. This quality spring bar tool is a classic, and it comes from a brand the pros use.
EZTool Watch Repair Kit
If your watch fascination tempts you to start trying out more and more repairs on your own, then this starter kit is a great asset to have in your corner. It includes various caseback removers, bracelet adjusting tools, screwdrivers, a spring bar tool, a bezel pry bar, tweezers, a pin mallet, pliers, and more. It even comes with an illustrated instruction booklet that shows you how to properly use all of your new toys.
When You Do Need A Repair Shop
What To Do When Disaster Strikes
Check Your Warranty: When your watch is having problems and it was purchased pretty recently, don’t head to a repair shop just yet. First, check your warranty to see if you qualify for a free repair. Many manufacturers offer at least a two-year warranty against defects in the movement, and in lieu of that, reputable retailers will often offer similar warranties. So always check with where you purchased the watch before seeking out a repair shop on your own — you may save yourself hundreds of dollars.
Go To The Source: If you’re out of warranty but don’t want the hassle of finding a repair shop, then you can also see if your manufacturer offers repairs. Most of the big Swiss brands will repair their own watches (though some will not service certain vintage models), but be prepared to pay for it. Much like taking your car to get repaired at a dealership over a mom & pop garage, having your watch serviced by the manufacturer is more expensive, but you are guaranteed to get the best service for your specific watch.
Crosscheck Reviews: OK, let’s say the manufacturer isn’t an option for you. In this case, it’s time to locate a worthy watch repair shop. To do so, you’re going to have to do some sleuthing. Check Yelp reviews for the best watch repair shops in your area, and then see what other review sites like Google have to say about them. But don’t trust review sites entirely. Once you’ve got your search narrowed down, check on watch forums like Watchuseek and r/Watches on Reddit — or brand-specific forums like Omega Forums or Rolex Forums — to see what their users have to say about them. The more positive references you’re able to find, the more likely that you, too, will have a positive experience.
Be Informed: Basically, know what you’re looking for and what to watch out for. Steer clear of jewelry stores and stick to watch-specific shops, as they’re going to be much better suited to help you. Make sure that the shop you’re planning on going to knows how to address your specific issue and has experience working with your watch brand and, more importantly, your watch’s movement. And finally, make sure that your repair shop has some kind of legitimate accreditation. CW21 and WOSTEP certifications are both good signs of quality work.
What To Expect
Don’t Get Caught By Surprise
Cost: Mechanical watch repairs can cost a lot of money, with full services almost never costing fewer than a couple hundred dollars — at least not any worth purchasing. In most cases, you’re easily going to pay over $200 to service an average modern watch, with vintage or complicated watches fetching hundreds of dollars more. And again, manufacturer services will be even more expensive. For example, Omega’s full-service prices start at $500 for a standard mechanical watch.
Time: When a watch requires a full-service, it’s a big operation. Watch movements can consist of hundreds of tiny parts, and taking them apart, cleaning them, and getting them all back together and working properly again takes a lot of time. This process can often take weeks, or sometimes even months — the latter especially being true if, you guessed it, you send your watch to the manufacturer for repair.
Inconvenience: If you don’t live in a large city — and many times, even if you do — you need to get used to the idea that the right watch repair shop for you may not be local. Whether you decide to go the manufacturer route or you find the perfect repair shop on a forum that’s on the other side of the country, you’ll need to be prepared to send your watch away. This means packing it well, heading to the post office, and not skimping out when it comes to package insurance. But don’t worry. Once you get your watch back and working perfectly, it’ll all have been worth it.
The 12 Toughest Watches On The Planet
If all of this talk about expensive watch repairs has you spooked, then you may be interested in seeking out a tough-as-nails timepiece that will hold up better than most. And for that, you’ll want to consult our guide to the toughest watches on the planet.