How to Clean and Oil Your Vintage Pocket Watch at Home?

First manufactured in the 16th century, pocket watches used to look awkward. These were then worn as a necklace.

But later (about after a hundred years), these were carried in a pocket by wealthy people.

An Antique Pocket Watch
An Antique Pocket Watch

Traditionally these were made from expensive metals like gold. The man with one would therefore symbolize his richness in that era.

The cost of a pocket watch will generally depend on the material it is made of.

If it’s a vintage watch made of expensive metal it may cost anywhere from $200 to $5,000.

Today’s watches with cheap materials may however cost as low as $15 to $25.

Why Clean Your Pocket Watch?

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We know that vintage pocket watches are rare to find!

And your antique pocket watch is so precious for you as it helps you to stay alarmed all the time and to focus on all the work at the right time.

But are you aware of the right procedure for cleaning the pocket watch effectively that keeps it safe and in working condition for a longer period?

Cleaning a pocket watch, especially if it is an antique one, involves quite a bit of labor and patience.

Especially when disassembling the mechanism inside the watch, you need to be very much careful.

Then cleaning and drying all the parts properly and effectively is a challenging job.

If you are not one of the passionate DIY’ers who have great patience to complete the work in a do-it-yourself way, you should not try cleaning the watch yourself.

Instead, take it to a professional watchmaker or a watch repair shop where you can get it serviced at a cost.

For those who are passionate about do-it-yourself techniques, here we discuss the procedure of cleaning the pocket watch at home.

5 Easy Steps to Cleaning Your Pocket Watch

Cleaning your pocket watch isn’t a tough process if you know the right steps.

Below are the five easy steps you can follow…

Step 1. Dismantling

The first process of cleaning a pocket watch is to open the back case using a blunt blade.

If it needs unscrewing, use one hand while placing the watch on its face on the palm of the other hand.

Then gently dismantle the parts of your pocket mechanical watch along with the movement and unwind the coiled spring using a screwdriver.

Step 2. Cleaning

Vintage pocket watches are often made of brass, stainless steel, silver, or gold case. These should be cleaned and dried up with a soft cloth.

Make sure that you wipe down every drop of water that may stick inside the design of the watch and case.

Jeweler’s cloth should be used while cleaning these antique expensive watches to remove any oxidation that may take place in case of water remaining inside.

The use of hard chemicals can damage the coating of the watch and should, therefore, be strictly avoided.

When it comes to cleaning the parts and movements of the pocket watch, it is advisable to soak all the parts except the mainspring in the naphtha solution.

Use a soft brush to gently brush the interiors and the parts including the mainspring and when finished leave them to dry on lint-free paper or wipes.

Some watch professionals recommend using a watch cleaning kit and ultrasonic watch cleaners which makes the cleaning job easy and affordable.

Step 3. Oiling

When you need to service a pocket watch, oiling is a step you need not overlook after cleaning the parts.

For oiling your pocket watch, use the best quality oil (like Liquid Bearings, Liberty or Moebius watch oil).

Make sure that the oil you are using is specifically for lubricating the parts and jewel holes designed on the watch bridges.

Step 4. Assembling Back

Assembling the parts is an important step, and this should be done in the reverse way of their disassembling.

You can refer few videos online like here to assemble your watch carefully.

Step 5. Polishing the Watch

Polishing the surface of your antique pocket watch (after cleaning) is highly recommended for restoring that much-appreciated shine back.

Use a normal brass or silver polish to work around the entire surface, including the watch casing and the chain.

Depending on how you wish to get the look, you can either polish it to look brand new or can let some tarnish remain on the surface so that it gets that vintage-aged look.

Care that, cleaning precious and rare pocket watches such as Waltham watches can be risky and tricky, especially if you are not an expert at it.

Below is a good video that can help you know better about cleaning Waltham pocket watches. You can also follow the procedure mentioned here to clean your wristwatch.

The Don’ts for Cleaning an Antique Pocket Watch

The above steps are easy to follow at home and can be tried out (in case you are not in a hurry).

However, there are a few donts you should know about while doing the job yourself.

You should know about them before starting the pocket watch cleaning process.

✘ Never use any lubricant, which is not recommended for the watch cleaning. Go through the manual where a list of lubricants is given which are not to be used.

✘ Soap, water, and brushes with soft bristles should not be used unless the watch is water-resistant.

✘ No other cloth other than lint-free cloth should be used to dry the parts, movements, and outside of the watch.

✘ Do not use harsh chemicals, which may damage your vintage watch’s parts and whole mechanism.

✘ Do not give your watch for cleaning to anybody with little knowledge about cleaning.

How Does Using Automatic Ultrasonic Watch Cleaning Device Help?

The delicate parts of your mechanical pocket watch should be deep cleaned every two to three years by mechanics or by jewelry shops so that it remains in proper working condition.

And to avoid all the risks involved, you should consider giving it to a reliable watchmaker who can get it serviced at a genuine price.

As getting your antique pocket watch service can be expensive, usage of automatic watch cleaning devices at home is often recommended, provided you know how to disassemble and assemble the parts back.

The safest and the most efficient of them are the ultrasonic watch cleaners, which are being recommended even for cleaning of most expensive pocket watches.

The use of these innovative devices has come into the picture lately, with each of them having its merits and demerits.

These ultrasonic cleaners are also used for cleaning pearls and jewelry items and have been found to give proven results when cleaning pocket watches effectively.

These Ultrasonic watch cleaning machines are known for their ability to clean surfaces that would be difficult to clean manually.

They are known for the precision in cleaning stuff like a watch (and spare parts), jewelry, and fine electronic instruments, which otherwise would be damaged without proper care and maintenance.

These machines are also used in the clock manufacturing units, so that the small parts of the clock can be cleaned thoroughly.

How does The Machine Work?

These automatic pocket watch cleaner works on the principle of creating ultrasound waves – usually ranging from 20 – 400 kHz in frequency.

The unit has two small parts, a small motor and a cleaning tank.

The cleaning tank has a basket in which the jewels or watch parts have to be placed.

  • As a first step, the pocket watch cleaning solution should be dispensed into the basket, and the tank should be closed.
  • Now, as soon as you turn ON the machine, small microscopic bubbles are produced that fight with the dirt and debris accumulated on the watch surface, thus removing all the dirt from the watch.
  • As this high-tech device is designed in a sophisticated manner, it reaches the hard-to-reach dirty places to clean the watch in a most professional way without harming the delicate parts.

To take the hassle out of the process, each unit comes accompanied with the instruction set and user manual.

From there, you can get the best information regarding the right pocket watch cleaning solution and other nitty-gritty steps of operation.