How to Polish a Watch by Extropian

How to polish a watch
Pros & cons
Polishing by hand
Rotary tool
Vintage watch
Gold plate
How to Polish a Watch by Extropian

Ever get the impression your watch is looking a little past its best? Well, a thorough polish could be a great way to give it a new lease of life!  We’re going to give you a few handy hints about how to do it (and when to avoid it!).

Polishing a watch by hand

Probably the easiest (and cheapest) way to polish a watch is by hand. And all you’ll really need are a piece of 1500-grit sandpaper and a metal-polishing cloth.

Before you begin, make sure the watch and bracelet are thoroughly cleaned to get rid of any dirt and debris and, if possible, remove the bracelet so you can get to every part of the watch.

Step One: Sanding

  1. Run some water over the sandpaper to dampen it. This acts as a lubricant and removes loose particles from the sandpaper, so it doesn’t get clogged and create more scratches.
  1. Rub the sandpaper over the watch for about 30 seconds and check the result. If scratches are still visible, continue sanding for a little longer. Use consistent pressure as this will give an even finish, but don’t rub too hard as this can make the surface uneven.
  1. Next, sand the bracelet one link at a time, again with consistent pressure and in a horizontal direction, until you’re happy with the result.

Step Two: Polishing

The next step is to bring back the watch’s luster. To do this, rub the polishing cloth over the case for a couple of minutes. Begin gently but apply a little more pressure if the scratches are still visible.

Repeat the process for the bracelet (again, one link at a time), and make sure to polish the edges for an even, all-over finish.

Step Three: Polishing the crystal

Rub the damp sandpaper over the watch face for about 30 seconds, again using a consistent pressure. Then place a drop of aluminum polish onto a clean cloth and rub it back and forth over the crystal until you’re happy with the result. Finally, wipe away any streaks with a microfiber cloth.

Polishing with a rotary tool

If polishing by hand doesn’t appeal you can use a rotary tool with a polishing wheel (such as a Dremel). For best results, apply a metal-polishing agent to the watch before you start. Then, using one of the lowest speed settings, work the wheel slowly over the watch progressing from medium to light pressure. Make sure to only remove enough surface metal to even out any scratches, otherwise you could permanently deform your watch! 

Repeat this process for the bracelet.

Important Tips

  1. Only polish parts with a brushed finish, not those with a polished finish (ie; those with a shiny, glass-like effect).
  1. Polish gold watches as little as possible, otherwise you’ll remove a lot of the surface metal.
  1. Never polish gold plate or folded gold.
  2. Never polish any parts of a watch which have been coated with PVC, DLC, or any other type of coating.
  3. Don’t polish sapphire or mineral crystals – this requires special equipment, so leave it to a professional.
  4. If you’re not sure about doing it yourself, the best option is to send your watch to a professional to be polished. And this is always a good idea if it’s an especially expensive model.

Pros and cons of polishing a watch

Polishing a watch is not always necessary or desirable. Let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons.


Polishing a watch is great if you’re someone who prefers to keep their favorite timepieces in immaculate condition. Like having the bodywork of a car re-done, it removes scratches and rejuvenates the appearance of a watch, making it look almost like new again.


Many people prefer to keep watches in their original condition, embracing the fact that they’ll accumulate scratches and other marks over time. This is part of what gives a vintage watch its original, unique character, and is part of the appeal for most collectors. So, polishing can reduce the value of a watch as they generally prefer an authentic patina to over-polished perfection.


In the end, of course, the decision of whether to have your watch polished is entirely up to you. If you want to keep it in pristine condition and aren’t thinking about ever selling it, it can be a great idea. However, if you want to retain the resale value of a more expensive piece it’s probably a good idea to think twice before breaking out the sandpaper and polish!

And if you want to give you an entire watch a little facelift why not check our guide on How to Clean a Watch?

Created the 2023-04-21

Modified the 2024-02-16

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