Over the years from visiting and watching watchmakers service their clients I have learned quite a bit from them about how to do basic repairs and cleaning. I was surprised on some of these methods that where used as they are so simple and basic that is genius. I will share with you what I have learned and if anyone has any better tips please feel free to forward them on! Please keep in mind these are just tips, if you do happen to use them its at your own discretion, I am not promoting or recommending anyone use any of these tips.
This one is a no brainer, the dirt and junk you get around the case back and lugs is always annoying to clean. Just get a toothbrush with hard bristles and your off to the races. If the toothbrush doesnt work scroll down the the bamboo skewer trick. The more simple the toothbrush the better, you dont want to use those fancy ones with rubber in the bristles.
Sticky Wall Putty
You know that sticky blue putty you use to hang posers and paper on the wall? well apparently its great for cleaning dirt from Dials and other parts of the watch without leaving any residue. I found this to be a really great trick and I have used it now many times, I keep a small chunk of it at my workbench for various uses.
Brasso or Diamond Polish for Polishing Crystals
This trick has been around forever, if you have ever owned a watch with an acrylic (Plastic) crystal you know they scuff and scratch easily. Like most people I used to buy (and still do use from time to time) a product called PolyWatch, its about $8-10 for a small 5 gram tube probably good for about 10 polishes and can be purchased on ebay. Well apparently just using some diamond polish (also can be purchased on ebay, I put a picture of the exact brand I use below) at the 1-2 micron will do the same thing and if you dont have that then a bit of brasso which you can buy at the local store in the house hold cleaning isle can also do the job (however I generally dont use the comet but it does produce similar results and I have friends that swear by it). For deeper scratches on acrylic crystals though I like to use 800 then 1600 grit sand paper then move to the brasso or diamond polish.
Sometimes the dirt and grime on a watch are just to thick or stuck to the watch, you want to just take a small screwdriver and chip away at it… but thats a horrible idea. The technique used here is to take a standard bamboo skewer the same type you would use to make chicken or shrimp BBQ Skewers with and cut the end on an angle like a spear. this method I have found not only gets the hard stuff out but also doesn’t damage the watch because its soft enough where it wont scratch it. (toothpicks work to but bamboo seems to not break apart as fast)
Just like diamond polish there are different levels of polishing cloths. back when I first started I used to love the Shunshine cloth as im sure many out there use as their primary polisher. However I learned that it can be quite harsh on the plating and metals so after speaking with a Jeweler about this he recommended that I use another cloth that was used for gemstone and diamond polishing cloth as well there where even a vast array of other polishing cloths I have not tried yet that are for gold, silver, platinum syvet etc.. its a little bit of a work in progress but right now iv been super happy with the general use of the gemstone polishing cloth, I use it on cases, crystals and bands but if I feel I need to get some real shine then I use the sunshine cloth.
Rubbing Alcohol and Cotton Swabs
Last but not least I have to of course mention to good ol rubbing alcohol (I use the 99% USP which you might need to buy at the counter) and Cotton Swabs (also known as Q-Tips). these have been a staple of cleaning watch cases and anything with a lot of dirt build up. You have to be careful when using alcohol on acrylic crystals and anything with a plastic case or rubber as I have had pain smears, crystals cracking etc… its not for everything but certainly is great on metal. With the Q-tips you can even cut the ends off in a 45 degree angle or more to get them into the tight corners kid of the same idea as the bamboo skewers. I also like to use the cheaper dollar store brand cotton swabs as they have a hollow plastic stem that are easier to use when you cut them vs the Q-Tips which have a paper stem although more sturdy are not as good for cleaning the tight corners.