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How to clean your watch

How To Clean Your Watch


A true luxury watch is far more than simply a way to tell the time. It is also an indication of the wearer’s personality, an heirloom to pass down to future generations and, if chosen well enough, a strong financial asset. However, for any watch to live up to all those obligations, the owner has to shoulder a few responsibilities as well.

Just as you couldn’t reasonably expect a car to keep performing optimally if you neglected its maintenance, so it is with watches. For it to stay at its best, you will need to commit to a commonsense servicing schedule, avoid exposing it to prolonged sunlight, salt water or chemicals, and do your utmost to protect it from the scrapes and knocks of everyday life.

But one of the most important and under appreciated things you can do for your watch is simply keep it clean. This goes beyond merely making sure the piece continues to look good. Grit, dirt and dust are some of the biggest enemies for mechanical watches. If the case seals have been left to degrade through not being serviced frequently enough, particulates can seep inside and cause havoc with the delicate movement components.

Similarly, any sort of grime on the bracelet can, over time, damage or even stretch the links which will eventually require either fixing or replacing completely.

Fortunately, cleaning your watch need not be difficult or time-consuming. A few minutes and some easily obtainable ingredients are all you need to keep things ticking along as they should. In today’s blog we will be demonstrating with the Rolex Submariner, leather straps and you will need a bowl of warm water, toothbrush, toothpicks, and a lint-free cloth.

Read on below to find out the best way to keep your luxury watch clean.

Here is a guide on cleaning your watch.

How To Clean Your Watch

Step 1: Prevention (Weekly/Monthly)

There are actually a couple of things you can do as an easily adhered-to routine that will make cleaning your watch that much simpler in the long run. Try and make it a habit to remove your watch first and only put it back on when your wrist is clean and dry. You want to avoid getting a buildup of hand soap residue on it.

Then, once or twice a week, it is a good idea to just give the watch a quick clean with an antibacterial wipe as a preventative measure. Some like to do this on a monthly cadence which is perfectly fine as well. If you’re not sure how often you need to wash your watch, give it a little sniff and that should help you determine it.

Lint Free microfiber cloth and rolex submariner

Cleaning The Case (Every 3 Months)

Every few months, a deeper clean of the model is recommended. To get this done most effectively, you will need to remove the bracelet or strap. This achieves two things:

  • It makes more of the watch accessible, so you can get into the smallest nooks and crannies.
  • If your model sits on a leather strap, overexposure to some the cleansers you may be using on the watch head can cause the leather to dry out and eventually crack.

Once separated, it is vital that you ensure the crown and any pushers (on a chronograph, for example) are screwed down. This will prevent moisture from seeping inside the case.

How to clean your watch

On that note, you will see people who advocate for submerging your watch in soapy water to clean it. While that is an option for newer models, it is something to be wary of for vintage pieces, even vintage dive watches. Water resistance lessens over time, so to be completely sure, we suggest the following:

  • Firstly, inspect the watch thoroughly. You are looking for any damage to the case which may allow for moisture to get inside. Concentrate on the crown and particularly the edge of the crystal. If it is chipped in any way, even slightly, it will be better to have it professionally replaced.
  • Next, if you are certain your watch is watertight, get a soft bristled toothbrush (a child’s toothbrush is ideal), a bowl of warm water and some dish soap. Any mild soap with minimal oils should be suitable for this job such as Dawn. Alternatively, you can use a dedicated watch cleaner like WristClean from Veraet.
  • Then, again making sure the crown and all pushers are secured, dip your brush in the soapy water and gently wipe it over the case in small circular motions. For parts that are especially small and hard to reach, take a toothpick (you can snip off the pointed end to make it less likely to snap) wrap it in a cleansing wipe and get to work in the problem areas.
  • Once finished, take a second soft brush, run it under clean warm water and go over the watch one last time, getting rid of the soap as much as possible.
  • Finally, let the model dry, then take a clean microfiber cloth and buff the case to bring up the gleaming shine, much like a chamois leather on a car.

How to clean you watch case

Cleaning The Bracelet/Strap (Every 3 Months)

Cleaning your watch’s bracelet or strap is, as mentioned already, also important. Obviously, with the materials being so different from one another, the process for cleaning a metal bracelet is different than for a leather strap.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Cleaning Metal Bracelets (Every 3 Months)

You don’t have to be quite as delicate with the bracelet as you were with the main part of the watch.

In fact, here you can submerge the band in a bowl of soapy water for an effective clean. If it has a diver’s extension, make sure it is open to get all the gunk out, then set to work with your soft toothbrush, working in small circles again.

When it’s done, ensure it is well-rinsed under running water, left to dry and given a final wipe over with a lint-free cotton cloth.

If you want to go even further, you can invest in an ultrasonic cleaner. These machines create ultrasound waves which form tiny bubbles in water that dissolve and remove dirt. They are one of the most effective ways of cleaning all types of jewelry, and they are not as expensive as you might think. You can pick one up for about $40 or $50 which will do the job. As an added bonus you’ll get to witness all the dirt that was stuck in the watch.

*Important Note: Ultrasonic cleaners are for bracelets only. Do not use one for cleaning the whole watch.

How to clean your watch bracelet.

Leather Straps

To clean a leather strap, first make sure it is completely dry by wiping it with a soft cotton cloth.

Then, put a small spot of moisturizing hand soap on the cloth and scrub the strap on both sides.

When done, dampen a second cloth with clean water and remove any excess soap, before leaving the strap to air dry.

As a finishing touch, apply a good quality leather conditioner (Leather Honey, for example) to keep the strap soft and supple.

*Another Important Note: If your strap is unfinished leather (i.e. without a shiny finish) you should use saddle soap instead of hand soap.

how to clean your watch leather strap

And that’s it. After you have reattached your bracelet, your watch should be looking as good as new.

I hope this article has been of use. Check back in with us to keep up-to-date with all the best tips and latest news about everything going on in the watch industry.

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