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How to Polish Watches: A Guide and Things to Consider

How to Polish Watches: A Guide and Things to Consider

Polishing watches indeed bring your watch to its new look. But, there are things to consider. Find out how to polish watches and more details here!
May 14, 2024

Wondering how to polish watches? Truth be told, it has been a sensitive topic as some watch enthusiasts might have a bad experience with polishing watches. Therefore, it is very much suggested that you take your watch to professionals and let them do the job.

Regardless, having a well-polished watch can instantly elevate your style and enhance the overall appearance of your timepiece. Regular maintenance and care are essential to ensure that your watches remain in top condition. 

In this article, we’re going to show you how trained professionals polish your watches effectively. Whether you own a stainless steel, gold, or leather-strapped watch, these techniques will help you maintain its luster and keep it looking its best.

Things to Consider Before Polishing Watches

Before start polishing your watch, there are several things you need to consider. You don’t want to damage your watch just for the sake to fulfill your wonder to polish by yourself, right?

Is your watch valuable, vintage, or in an unpolished condition? In such cases, it is advisable to refrain from attempting the polishing yourself and instead seek the assistance of a professional watch polisher who specializes in the particular brand of your watch.

Vintage watches can lose up to 50% of their value if improperly polished, and verifiably unpolished watches may lose their highly sought-after “unpolished” status.

Polishing watches isn’t something you can undo, so, be careful! An over-polishing or improper polishing can lead to difficulties in repairing the watch, if repairable at all. 

When it comes to using a polishing motor, it is advisable to entrust the task to professionals due to their ability to swiftly remove material and the specialized training required.

Read also: A Guide to Removing Scratches from Stainless Steel Watches

How to Polish Watches

There are several steps required to polish watches. Further, it’s also important to note that different watch surfaces require different techniques to achieve the desired results. 

That said, there are differences between polishing watches with brushed or satin surfaces and those with polished surfaces.

Gather the Tools

Before you begin polishing watches, it is crucial to gather all the necessary supplies. Below are the supplies to prepare:

  • A soft microfiber cloth
  • A soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild soap
  • A satin/brushed finishing pen
  • A polishing cloth or pad
  • A polishing compound or paste suitable for the watch’s material
  • A watch case holder or soft cloth to hold the watch securely

Prepare the Watch

Start by removing the watch strap or bracelet, if possible, as it may require separate cleaning and polishing. Inspect the watch for any loose parts or damaged components. 

If you notice any significant issues, it is advisable to take the watch to a professional. For basic polishing, ensure the watch is clean and free of dust or debris by gently wiping it with a microfiber cloth.

Clean the Watch

To clean the watch case, fill a bowl with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild soap. Dip the soft-bristle toothbrush into the soapy water and gently scrub the case, paying attention to hard-to-reach areas and crevices. 

Avoid submerging the watch if it is not water-resistant. After cleaning, rinse the watch under running water to remove any soap residue and pat it dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

Read also: How to Clean Watch Band: Which Type Do You Have at Home?

Polishing Satin Brushed Surfaces

To restore the satin or brushed finish, you will need a specific tool called a satin or brushed finishing pen. 

This tool has abrasive tips or wheels designed to recreate the original brushed texture. Select a tip or wheel with a coarseness that matches the original finish of your watch.

With the satin or brushed finishing pen, carefully follow the original brushing direction of the watch’s surface. Apply gentle pressure and make even strokes along the length of the surface, maintaining consistent pressure and direction.

Steinhart Ocean One Vintage GMT with satin brushed finish
Steinhart Ocean One Vintage GMT with satin brushed finish

To achieve a uniform look, overlap the brush strokes slightly to blend the finish together. Be cautious not to overdo it, as too much brushing may result in an uneven appearance.

Periodically stop and examine the brushed surface under good lighting to evaluate the consistency and match it with the rest of the watch. Make any necessary adjustments by continuing to brush lightly until you achieve the desired result.

Once you are satisfied with the brushed finish, clean the watch again using a damp cloth to remove any residue from the polishing process. Reassemble the watch carefully, ensuring all components are securely in place.

Polishing Polished Surfaces 

After ensuring that the watch surface is clean, you can apply a small amount of polishing compound or paste onto a soft cloth or pad. Ensure the compound is specifically designed for polishing polished surfaces.

Gently rub the polishing compound onto the polished surface using circular motions. Focus on any scratches, scuffs, or dull areas, applying even pressure. Continuously assess the progress to avoid over-polishing.

King Seiko Mechanical Automatic Sunburst Silver with brushed and polished Zaratsu-finishings
King Seiko Mechanical Automatic Sunburst Silver with brushed and polished Zaratsu-finishings

Regularly inspect the surface under good lighting to evaluate the shine and smoothness. If necessary, repeat the polishing process using a fresh cloth or pad and a small amount of polishing compound.

Once satisfied with the polished surface, clean the watch again using a damp cloth to remove any remaining polishing compound. Reassemble the watch carefully, ensuring all components are properly aligned and secured.

Pros and Cons: To Polish or Not

As you’re reading this article, you might think that polishing watches is easy but it’s not. You need to carefully consider several factors before deciding whether to polish or not. 

Polishing watches are irreversible consequences that might give you nightmares if done improperly. Therefore, let’s take a look at some benefits and drawbacks of polishing watches to give you a second thought. 

Pro: Remove Scratches

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid scratches. When you bump into something, you might get one or two scratches on your watch case or bracelet. Scratches on watches do make the watch looks bad, right?

Therefore, some watch enthusiasts opt for getting their watches polished. That way, they can get remove the scratches and have their watch like a brand new one.

Read also: 7 Toughest Watches in 2023 [Most Durable]

Con: Irreversibly Modifies Composition

Polishing a watch entails the removal of thin layers of metal from its case, which is a non-reversible process unless one possesses expertise in laser welding. 

While this procedure can enhance the watch’s surface shine, it also entails the loss of certain design elements and structural integrity.

Pro: Renewed Appearance

From the lavish Rolex Daytona to the more affordable Seiko Prospex, everyone admires the appearance of a gleaming, fresh wristwatch. a watch revitalizes its overall appearance, granting it a sleek and rejuvenated look. 

When both you and your watch have shared numerous experiences, a thorough polishing treatment can breathe new life into it, revitalizing its allure.

Con: Decrease Value

Polishing a watch can impact its structure and diminish its worth, and we’re not just referring to a small amount of money. 

This is particularly significant for vintage watches, as experienced collectors interested in acquiring the model prioritize authentic appearances over absolute perfection. If you intend to sell your scratched luxury watch, polishing it should be avoided at all costs.

Final Thought

Polishing a watch is a rewarding task that can restore its original shine and elegance. However, it’s worth noting that polishing a watch also has some drawbacks that you need to carefully consider. 

Regardless, if you think that you need to polish your watch, it’s also more suggested to bring it to professional care. That way, you won’t be haunted by the unwise decision you might make. 

Read also: Watch Collecting: How to Store Watches When Not In Use

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