What Is The Best Way To Get Scratches Out Of A Watch Case?

Andrew E. from Indiana, USA asks:

What do you recommend to get out out scratches on polished stainless steel watches? What about watches with brushed finishes?

First of all, polishing a watch is usually part of getting it serviced when you send it back to a good watchmaker or the brand every several years. Some people (the brave ones) try it themselves.

It is very difficult to get scratches out of a polished steel bracelet unless you use a professional polishing wheel, but here are some tips to get an adequate finish in the home environment. We don't recommend you try these unless you are confident in your abilities to use the techniques described and we accept no responsibility for any damage you may do to your own timepieces.

For polished bracelets and cases you an use a small hand-held Dremel multi-tool with a polishing mop attachment. When polishing, be sure to be very careful not to push too hard so you don't blur the edges of the watch and change the shape (and potentially affecting water resistance too). Use polishing rouge to ensure you get a bright finish (i.e not a dry polishing mop) and don't use the same mop for different types of rouge. You can get rouge from most jewellery tool suppliers. You'll need a steel rouge initially to remove deeper and heavier marks (it is normally grey) and then a fine rouge for the brighter finish (this is normally beige or yellow). Make sure you clean the bracelet with warm water, washing up detergent and a soft tooth brush to remove excess rouge afterwards. If left on the watch it can wear between the links and create friction. Be careful if your watch has low level of water resistance when cleaning.

For matte/satin finish bracelets use a small abrasive block to give back the grain of the watch. Something like Garyflex is perfect. This is a flexible polishing block and should be fine for home use. Go for the grey 120 grit as anything heaver will give a rough grain and anything lighter starts to highly polish the bracelet, rather than grain it. Be VERY careful with excess abrasive being left in the bracelet afterwards as this will undo all your hard work as it rubs and may damage the watch. Also be very careful not to satinize any areas that are polished as this makes life very difficult to rectify. By all means, use masking tape, but be careful it doesn't tear or wear through in places giving a ragged polished look. There are specific satin mops used in the industry and to get a straight grain is an art in itself. If this is done badly, the watch will look worse than before you started!

Most watchmakers have extensive training on polishing and whilst it is best to leave this to the professionals, as long as you are careful and meticulous you should get a passable result using the methods we have described here.

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  • BathysHawaii

    1500 grit sandpaper and finger pressure works great for me on brushed cases.

  • Biffo10

    I use a very fine grade emery rubbing block & very gently work the minor scratches out.  Deeper ones like those
    caused by ham fisted amateurish removal of screw casebacks are a problem of course, so depends on how brutal
    you care to be to minimise these. Then a rub over with a mildly abrasive car paint restorative liquid ( T cut in UK ) .
    Wipe that off or if it’s a caseback wash in warm detergent & rinse. Finish off with some Polywatch acrylic polish scratch remover.  This walkthrough has proved successful on deeply scored acrylic crystals too, yes after the rubbing compound
    you can hardly see through it at first lol !…..but continue with the polishes.   If you don’t have any miracle Polywatch, try toothpaste,, some swear by it.      And in passing, forget expensive treatment kits for titanium cases & bracelets.  A little detergent on the green side of a Scotchbrite pan scouring pad ( the other side has the yellow foam ) & rub in the same direction, no circular motions ! , & the shine will return & the scratches gone. My titanium Longines VHP looks as good as new.

  • KentClark1

    This is good information. I just bought a stainless steel watch for my brother. As soon as I left the store, I dropped it and it was scratched pretty badly. I think though that I had just wasted all of my money. I’ll give this a try. Maybe it will help me make it all better.

  • daveyhiltz

    That’s quite the therapy I’d say for a steel watch. I’ll actually give it a shot myself though, because I really like my steel watch. I’m somewhat lazy to try and go to a store and have them fix it instead. Most stores I don’t think offer that kind of service anyway.