The watch crystal — that is, the glass front on your watch — is made to protect the delicate workings inside while still letting you see the time. But when scratches build up in the glass, your view of time starts getting fuzzy.
If the watch crystal is otherwise in good shape and you’re feeling brave, you can buff out most scratches on your own using a rotary tool, buffing wheel, and polishing compound. You’ll also need some masking tape and a soft cloth, and if the scratch is deep a sanding disk will make things go much faster.
Removing the scratches
Place tape around the bezel — the ring where the glass meets the rest of the watch case — to avoid damaging the rest of the watch. If you’re dealing with deep scratches, start with the sanding disk. Wet the disk or spritz the watch face with water, then sand over the scratch with light pressure until you can’t see the scratch anymore. The glass may be cloudy-looking, but you’re about to fix that. Take a break if the watch crystal starts feeling hot to the touch.
The next step — or the first step, if you’re dealing with fine scratches — is to apply a dab of polishing compound to the watch crystal, then use the buffing wheel to polish the glass. If you used sandpaper, start with a coarse polishing compound and work your way to medium and fine compounds. If you’re dealing with light scratches, you can get away with going straight to finer compounds.
You’re done once the watch crystal is shiny and clear, and you can’t see any scratches. Remove the tape and buff the face of the crystal with a soft cloth to remove any last traces of the polishing compound.
A few tips to keep in mind
As straightforward as this process is, keep these things in mind:
- Wear safety goggles and a face mask for protection — just in case.
- If the watch crystal is chipped, cracked or extremely thin, you’re better off replacing it.
- If you’re dealing with an antique or heirloom watch, take it straight to an expert — better safe than sorry.
- This process will work on any watch crystals except for those made from sapphire. You’ll need special jeweler tools to tackle this hard gem.
Finally, you may have heard of polishing scratches out with toothpaste. This does work as a temporary measure to make the scratch less noticeable but, like oil treatments for the same purpose, it will need to be redone periodically. But it’s a great stopgap: Just use a soft cloth to work the toothpaste into the scratch until it disappears, or at the very least is less noticeable.