Pocket Watch Repair How To Fix a Broken Watch

Pocket Watch Repair How To Fix a Broken Watch


A pocket watch is a beloved antique that has been seen in men’s pockets for centuries. Over time, it may need repairs or maintenance. To fix a broken pocket watch, you have to find out what is wrong and change or adjust the part(s).

In this guide, we will cover the tools and techniques needed to repair a broken pocket watch:

  • The process of fixing your pocket watch involves taking apart the movement to reach the internal pieces. This includes removing hands, dials and components such as mainspring, balance wheel assembly and escapement wheels.
  • It might seem intimidating at first because of the complexity of the mechanisms. However, with time and practice, you can become confident in your abilities.

This article is meant to give helpful information for those who want to learn how to fix their own broken watches!

Identifying the Problem

Before you repair a pocket watch, diagnose the issue. Estimate the damage, and check if the parts are working correctly. To understand the problem better, inspect the inner workings of the watch. After you know what’s wrong, start fixing it!

Check the movement

Before attempting to repair your watch, get a basic understanding of its parts and design. Step one for diagnosing a pocket watch issue? Check the movement. This is a complex system of small parts. They power the watch and control it, like ticking and hands moving. It’s composed of a gear train, bridges, a mainspring, and a winding stem.

To check it, use a loupe to look for dirt or damage. Make sure each gear part turns smoothly. Then use a screwdriver to slowly turn them while watching the hands. If all these components seem good, consider other solutions.

Check the hands

Inspecting someone’s hands can help spot potential medical issues. Here are key indicators to watch for:

  • The skin on the hands – check for any changes in color or texture. Redness or swelling could signal an issue.
  • Fingernails – Brittle and cracked? Discolored? These can mean poor nutrition, infection, or other illness.
  • Temperature – Cold or hot skin could be a sign of inflammation or infection. Cold hands may be due to systemic illness or injury.
  • Joints – Look for pain, tenderness, deformities, or instability. Especially check kids’ hands as growth plates change with age and they may be more prone to fractures.
  • Movement – Are they able to spread their fingers apart normally? If not, this could mean nerve damage.
  • Muscles – Fingers should move smoothly with minimal resistance. Tightness could mean a muscular disorder.

Check the crystal

An engineer should first check the crystal when trying to spot the source of a problem. The crystal is a quartz chip that works as a timer for a control system. A malfunctioning crystal can create problems which appear on a circuit board.

Looking at the crystal can show if it has overheated or is damaged; this shows if it needs replacing. It is also important to measure the frequency and compare it to design specs. This way, technicians can be sure of their diagnosis before searching for other causes and/or solutions.

Tools and Supplies Needed

Are you mending a busted pocket watch? First, get your equipments and stuffs. This includes screwdrivers, tweezers, watch oil, magnifying glass, watch cleaning solution. You may also need a set of small, watch-sized hands and a new mainspring. All are important for a successful repair.

Let’s look at each one closely:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Tweezers
  • Watch oil
  • Magnifying glass
  • Watch cleaning solution
  • Small, watch-sized hands
  • New mainspring


A screwdriver is essential for basic watch repair. Check the instruction manual to find the correct type of screwdriver (Phillips head or flathead). Using the right size and type driver is important. This helps with accuracy and stops screws from getting stripped.

It’s good to have different sizes of screwdrivers since many watches have tiny screws. If you can’t find a driver that fits, buy an inexpensive set from the store or online.


Tweezers are a helpful gadget when dealing with small parts or components. They are perfect for dealing with delicate parts while they are secured to a circuit board. Or if they need to move away from the board to make room for soldering.

Tweezers come in various shapes and sizes. The most popular type is the pointed type. Pointed tweezers are great for precision tasks like removing small intricate pieces. Another sort of tweezer is the flat tipped, which has wider and flatter tips compared to pointed types. This makes it better for wide objects such as Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs).

In addition to pointed and flat-tip tweezers, specialty tweezers such as bent tip tweezers can be used for griping hard to reach items or tiny screws.

All tweezers should be crafted from non-magnetic material such as stainless steel. This reduces the risk of static electricity damage. Protective eyewear is essential when using these tools, so remember to wear your safety glasses at all times!

Cotton swabs

Cotton swabs? An absolute must for pocket watch repair! They come in various forms and shapes, but all have a small cotton ball on the tips of thin, flexible cardboard stems. Swabbing is perfect for cleaning tight spaces and for precise activities, such as adding oil or glue to mini mechanical parts.

Artificial swabs, like polyester foam, won’t break apart when cleaning, like natural cotton fibers can. Be sure to always have some fresh swabs around; dust and other materials contaminating the watch could cause extra harm when fixing up pocket watches.

Repairing the Movement

To repair your pocket watch, first you must inspect the movement. It is the part of the watch that holds the gears and mechanisms. To make sure it is in working condition, check for any visible damage.

Here are the details of inspecting and repairing the movement:

Remove the screws

Secure your watch first. Then, use a flat screwdriver to pry the case back open. The kind and size of screw used in a pocket watch is different depending on its age and maker. Research can help you figure it out. The screwdriver should fit well over the screw head. Be careful not to use too much force – it may damage the watch or tool.

Unscrew all screws until you can get to the inner workings of your pocket watch.

Open the movement

Whether you know pocket watch repair or it’s your first DIY watch project, opening a pocket watch movement is important. You’ll need a case opening tool and case press. Most modern pocket watches use an inner case fitting and require brass levers. Check the watch for access holes that could provide access with a hand-operated jig.

To open the movement, unscrew any screws that secure the back plate. If they’re too tight, use lubricant or aluminum foil. Then remove all metal components, including dials and balance bridle screws. Inspect all parts for wear and damage before removing other components.

Use tweezers or cotton swabs to clean off dirt and debris. Avoid prodding tools too aggressively to prevent damaging delicate internal parts.

Inspect the parts

Examine all the parts of the movement closely. Pay attention to details such as wear and tear, or any uncalibrated parts. Document damage, in case repairs are needed later.

Check if plates, wheels and bridges are correctly assembled. Also, look at smaller elements like screws, washers and spring bars for any damage. Replace faulty parts with new ones from suppliers.

Check if two or more elements within the movement have any defects that could affect each other. It is best to use specialized tools when dealing with delicate watches or jewellery pieces. It reduces the risk of further damage and strain on individual components.

Unless you have experience in watchmaking, or if directed by an expert, do not reconfigure parts of the movement.

Replacing the Hands

When a pocket watch is broken, the initial step in repair is to switch out the hands. Generally, this is an uncomplicated process. But it takes exactness and patience.

This article will show what tools and materials required for this repair. As well as, the steps for substituting the hands of a pocket watch:

  • Step 1: Gather the necessary tools and materials.
  • Step 2: Remove the hands from the watch.
  • Step 3: Install the new hands.
  • Step 4: Test the watch.

Remove the hands

To repair a pocket watch, you need to remove its hands. This calls for a steady hand and lots of patience.

  1. Unscrew the tiny screws that hold the hands. Don’t overtighten them, as this can damage the delicate metal parts.
  2. Handle the hands carefully; they can break or get bent.
  3. Replace them with new hands.
  4. Put the screws back in their spots and fit the new hands into place.
  5. Wind it up.

Install the new hands

Installing new hands on a clock is simple. You need tools like screwdrivers, tweezers, pliers and a damp cloth.

  1. Start by removing the old hands from 12 o’clock, and mark each one with tape.
  2. Inspect them for cleaning or oiling.
  3. Get replacement parts, and place each in its corresponding location. Press down firmly until it clicks.
  4. Finally, test run the minute hand, and make sure there is no debris.

Adjust the hands

A clock hand adjustment is something you can do without taking the movement out of the clock case. Begin by cleaning the hands and movement with a soft cloth. Look for the round disc called the canon pinion, which is in the center of the dial where all four hands connect. It decides how much time passes with each rotation of the minute hand.

Turn off the power and let the clock stop. Take an awl or a small screwdriver and place it in one of the side-holes (if there are none, use a slotted screwdriver at 12 o’clock). Gently move the hand back to another braking notch. Turn the power back on, and wait for the movement to reset.

Be careful not to go over any braking notches, as it might lead to damage. When setting up Westminster chimes and alarms, make sure all arms are lined up correctly, so that they sound correctly when they go off.

Replacing the Crystal

Pocket watch repair is an intricate job. Only experienced watchmakers should attempt it. To replace the crystal, these steps must be taken. Here, we will explain the steps required to replace a pocket watch crystal:

  1. Remove the back of the watch.
  2. Remove the dial.
  3. Remove the hands.
  4. Remove the bezel.
  5. Remove the old crystal.
  6. Clean the pocket watch case and the bezel.
  7. Install the new crystal.
  8. Replace the bezel.
  9. Replace the hands.
  10. Replace the dial.
  11. Replace the back of the pocket watch.

Remove the old crystal

Pocket watch repair can be a bit tricky. But, with the right help you’ll fix it in no time. Let’s start with the crystal!

In most cases, a precision case opener is needed to remove the crystal. Put the curved tip of the opener against the edge of the clock. Turn it counter-clockwise until it comes off. Use a soft cloth or tissue to clean away dust or debris before replacing. Set the old crystal aside in a clean area. This will help when you reinstall it.

Install the new crystal

Obtain a new crystal for your pocket watch. Then, place the watch face down on a soft surface. Unscrew the tiny screws at the four corners until loose.

Remove the metal frame (bezel) that holds the crystal in place. Don’t lose any of the screws – they may be hard to replace.

Gently fit the new crystal into the opening. Make sure it lies flat against the face. Insert the four screws at each corner. Secure them tightly. Ensure the bezel fits flush with both sides of the crystal. Finally, fasten all four screws down evenly. Test out the security by lightly pressing on them with your thumb or finger. Now you can wear your vintage timepiece!

Secure the crystal

To replace a crystal, you must be careful. Use a voltage meter to locate the damaged crystal. Clean off any residue from the socket. Get an appropriate replacement. Insert it, making sure the pins are secure. Use wire cutters, pliers, or small screwdrivers to manipulate the contact pins. Solder the replacement crystal into place. Check for loose connections that could cause short circuits.

  1. Test the circuit before replacing any panels.
  2. Confirm proper operation.

Final Steps

Fixing pocket watches is tough! It’s especially tricky for newcomers to the craft. After hours of hard work, we come to the last step: assembly. To get the watch ticking again, all parts need to be re-assembled and tightly secured.

This guide will show the essential final steps of pocket watch repair:

Reassemble the watch

Time to reassemble the watch! It can be complicated, so don’t rush!

  1. Secure the mainspring with screws. Then place the dial over the hands and secure them.
  2. Put the balance wheel in place. Make sure it’s on its axis and secure it.
  3. Reattach the innermost pieces first. Stem first, then secure with screws or nuts.
  4. Add two bridge plates. Balance bridges for stability.
  5. Add more casing pieces.
  6. Test the accuracy. Adjust balance bridge settings.
  7. Orient everything correctly.

That’s it! Timepiece repair finished.

Test the watch

Testing your watch is crucial. Even though it may not seem necessary, it is worth it in the long run. The testing process depends on the complexity of the watch.

Start off by testing the accuracy of the watch. Compare its time to a reliable source or use a timing machine. Look and listen to the components to make sure they are working well. Check if the chronograph is functioning, and ensure all buttons are responsive.

If water resistance is an issue, perform a pressure test. Replace seals or rings if needed. Certain watches require additional tests for shock resistance or winding power measurement.

Lubricate certain parts such as wipers, pallets and screws for smooth operation when assembling them. Once done and sealed without any issue, you’re good to go!

Clean the watch

Watchmaking has changed, yet some things stay the same – like cleaning a watch. This means removing dirt and oil, and polishing it for best performance.

  1. Take the movement out of the case.
  2. Loosen any corroded or stuck parts. This way, you won’t scratch or damage any part while you clean.
  3. Use an old toothbrush and special cleaning solution (from most jewelry stores). Gently scrub away dirt and oil until all components are clean. Brush lightly around all moving parts, like the escapement and balance wheels. Wipe each part with a cloth without residue when done. Use a toothpick or tweezers to remove dirt from small crevices.
  4. After cleaning, put all parts back together, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, have an expert technician do it. That way, your watch will last longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What tools do I need to repair a pocket watch?

A1: To repair a pocket watch, you need a screwdriver, tweezers, a magnifying glass, and a watchmaker’s toolkit.

Q2: How do I open a pocket watch?

A2: To open a pocket watch, you need to first remove the back cover with a screwdriver. Once the cover is removed, you can access the internal components and begin repairs.

Q3: How do I identify the source of a pocket watch problem?

A3: To identify the source of a pocket watch problem, you should first examine the movement and hand position. If the hands are not moving, it may be due to a worn out mainspring or a broken balance wheel. If the hands are moving but the watch is not keeping time accurately, the problem is likely due to a broken escapement or a worn out gear train.