Open a screwed on watch back

Here’s another watch-related bodge sent in by Peter:

A Swiss Army knife, duct tape, and a cricket ball can save
YOU tens of dollars!

I like that this blog has offered ideas on how to reduce the use of
batteries (e.g., the vacuum cleaner suggestion).  I am all for this
approach, and have stemmed the flow of lithium into my carbon
footprint by employing only good old-fashioned mechanical power in my
wristwatches.  Sure they’re not as accurate as a quartz watch, (or
your phone), but who needs to know the exact time anyway?  Besides,
being late is fashionable, especially if you’re a municipal bus.  The
problem with a mechanical watch (and a battery-powered one for that
matter) is that, from time to time, one must get inside the working of
it to service or regulate it, and the manufactures have managed to
make that pretty difficult without special tools.  But fear not!


There are three common tools we all have at our disposal that will
remove the back of almost any watch with some ingenuity and small
effort (exception noted below).  Oh, and these methods will also work
just fine to get into the backs of similar quartz watches to change
batteries as well.  Make sure you clean your watch backs well before
doing any of the following so crud doesn’t get into the movements and
you can see what you’re doing.

For snap back cases:
1.  Swiss Army knife.  The Swiss make great pocket knives, and, it so
happens that they make watches that are ok too.  So entwined are these
two industries that many Swiss Army knives are designed especially to
open most snap back watch case backs.  Until now, you only knew these
horological attachments as the “can opener” and the “small knife”.
The can opener attachment in particular seems well-suited to fit into
those little notches on the back of snap on cases (examine your case
carefully for the little indent or notch where it’s best to pry, and
cover the back with masking tape if you care if it gets scratched).
Use the point of the bit that cuts into the can, not the little
screwdriver fitting, slide it into the opening notch, press, twist,
and POP.  If that doesn’t work, usually the small knife blade will get
the watch back off, but it’s a bit more dangerous for obvious reasons
(you might break your blade, remove your finger, etc.).  Failing that,
the large blade can work, with even more warnings.  So be careful.

Next up, screw back cases.
1. Cricket ball.  Ok, maybe you don’t have this hanging around, but a
nice soft practice cricket ball (or similar), when pressed HARD
against a screw down watch back and twisted counter clockwise, will
often get the back off quickly and without marring the case.  You can
scar the surface of the rubber ball with a knife and rub it briskly on
a hard surface to heat and soften it to give it more grip (and cheat
on your spin bowling game).  Don’t have a cricket ball or need
something a bit grippier?

2.  Duct tape.  You definitely have this around.  Take duct tape, and
make it into a dense ball, sticky-side out.  When the ball gets to be
about 20% bigger than your watch back (you want the entire back of the
watch to be in contact with the adhesive), you’re ready to go.  Press
hard onto the back of your watch so that the adhesive surface is
sticking well to the watch back, twist counter clockwise, and hope for
the best.  If you don’t get it off on the first try, switch to a fresh
bit of the ball and try harder.  You can also stick a cold pack on the
back of the watch beforehand to try to get the metal to contract a bit
beforehand, but make sure it doesn’t get wet and ruin the tape’s
adhesion.

These techniques have worked to open all the watches I’ve attempted
with one exception.  My vintage Tudor back has never budged.  So there
are limitations, but you might save yourself some tool box space and
money by trying the bodge solutions first…