Brand new and mint condition luxury watches are considerably more valuable than those in pre-owned or worn condition – with the exception of certain vintage watches. Of course, the newer, brighter, shinier, unworn/unused version of basically anything is almost always more desirable – like with cars, jewelry, electronics, clothes, etc. Luckily, restoring an older and slightly weathered watch back to like-new condition can be accomplished with the right materials, some time and patience, and a little elbow grease. To be explicit here, while polishing watches is “DIY-able”, The Watch Standard does not endorse polishing watches by yourself. For best results, and if you’re able to, we recommend having your watch professionally polished by a brand authorized reputable watchmaker. Please be mindful – the slightest misstep while polishing your own watch can result in severely damaging your watch. For those who absolutely must polish their own watch, below are some how-to instructions that we’ve found from other sources online.
The Rolex Datejust 41 prior to being DIY-polished
Polishing Metal Watch Bracelets
Depending on the model and with the right amount of proper tender love and care, luxury watches can increase or hold their value and last through generations. While simple DIY maintenance can also be applied to a watch’s crystal and case, we will be focusing on how to polish metal watch bracelets in this article. While metal bracelets add a level of class and sophistication to a watch’s aesthetics, they can be prone to scratches and normal wear and tear over time. Generally, watch bracelets are made of four different types of metals: steel, titanium, gold, and platinum – either on their own, or in various combinations of these metals. Luckily, small surface scratches can be easily removed from these metals with a proper polish every few months to keep your bracelet looking shiny and new. Please note that while at-home maintenance can be done for minor scratches, we absolutely recommend having a brand authorized and reputable provider polish your watch if at all possible – especially for deeper, more severe scratches on your watch.
Materials Needed To Polish Your Watch
You won’t need very much as far as tools and materials go, but the quality of them will definitely make a difference here. To polish your metal watch bracelet, you will need the following:
1. 1500-grit sandpaper
1500-Grit Sand Paper
2. A polishing cloth
Cape Cod Polishing Cloths for Fine Metals
3. Metal polish (optional)
You can purchase the sandpaper and metal polish at a hardware store. Good polishing cloths can best be found at a jewelry store. Make sure that the cloth you use is good for polishing stainless steel surfaces.
Preparation / Pre-Cleaning
Be sure to clean your bracelet before polishing your watch to remove any dirt, debris, and natural oils that may have collected on it over time. First, remove the bracelet from the watch and place it in a bowl of warm water and mild dish soap. Use a clean, damp toothbrush to gently scrub the bracelet clean.
Polishing your watch bracelet doesn’t take very much time, but it’s a good idea to allow enough time for some trial and error to get your bracelet looking its best and to your liking. Like with anything, you will get better and more familiar with the process after a few times. For the first-timers, here is our most simplified step-by-step guide for polishing your metal bracelet:
1. First, run some water over the 1500-grit sandpaper to wet it.
2. Use the wet sandpaper to rub 1 link of the bracelet. Rub the link horizontally with the sandpaper for about 30 seconds. Be sure to use a consistent pressure as you sand the link, as this will give the bracelet an even finish. *Pro tip: Rub the link gently at first. If the scratches are still visible, rub them again with some added pressure. Avoid rubbing too hard as this can make the surface and finish uneven; there is such a thing as exerting too much pressure here. Continue sanding until you are happy with the finish of the link.
3. Once the link is sanded to your liking, rub a polishing cloth over the link for up to 2 minutes – making sure to polish the edges of the link so that the bracelet has an even shine all over. Be sure to choose a polishing cloth that is designed for fine metals. For some extra polishing effect, you may also apply a small amount of the metal polish onto the cloth.
4. Repeat this process from steps 1-3 on each link of the bracelet – sanding and polishing one link at a time to achieve an even shine across the bracelet. Feel free to touch up any areas that look dull and less shiny by rubbing the polishing cloth over them until it appears even.
Your “New” Freshly Polished Watch
It’s important to note that deciding to polish your watch is largely based on personal preference. In some cases, polishing a vintage watch may lessen its value. Much of a watch’s character and charm is a result of its history and provenance, which is often characterized by the scratches, dings, patina, and gradual weathering that the watch has accumulated over time. These battle scars, so to speak, are marks of a timepiece’s story over time and usually indicate that the watch was well-loved and cherished by its wearer. For those who prefer to maintain their watch’s original shine and quality, the above guide we found (and a little practice) should equip you to restore your worn and weathered metal watch bracelets back to their former glory. While your watch may no longer be brand new, cleaning and polishing it regularly will not only maintain a like-new quality and appeal. In closing, we would be remiss if we didn’t reiterate – best results for polishing your watch can be achieved by a professional, particularly a brand authorized and reputable watchmaker. Please note: The Watch Standard accepts no responsibility for the outcome of any watch polishing attempts. With all that said, please polish at your own risk!
The Rolex Datejust 41 after DIY-polishing