To Polish or Not: Pros and Cons of Watch Polishing and the Different Ways to Do So

It should not come as a surprise that there is more to owning a watch than just buying and wearing it. As with any prized possession, you have to make sure that your watch is properly maintained so that it is clean, free from damage, and most importantly, works as well as always. In order to keep your watches in tip-top shape, you need to have your timepieces carefully serviced every once in a while.

Of course, although servicing your wristwatch is always recommended, the same cannot be said for polishing. For years, people have debated about whether or not one should have their watch polished, or leave it as is. While polishing does have its benefits, there are also some downsides to it too. Join us as we look through the different methods of watch polishing, along with the ups and downs of having your wristwatch polished.

Different Ways to Polish Your Watch

1. Letting a Professional Do the Job

side view of Patek Philippe Calatrava watch
Image By: Hendrik Mintarno (Flickr)

Let us say the wristwatch you want to polish is an exorbitant and elegant Patek Philippe Calatrava. Are you sure you are capable of polishing this timepiece flawlessly? Perhaps the safest decision you can make with watch polishing is to have it be done by a professional. These professionals are not only highly experienced and proficient with the process and the tools but are also able to remove the least amount of metal possible when polishing your watch.

A professional watch polisher is capable of delicately removing both light and deep scratches from the surface of your timepiece. Additionally, you can also state your preferences to the expert by indicating clearly which specific parts you want to have polished and which areas you would want to leave as is. For greater convenience, you can also opt to have your watch polished and serviced at the same time, so it is returned to pristine condition.

2. Doing It Yourself

If you have the tools and the confidence to spruce up your own trusty timekeeper, then you can definitely polish your watch yourself. Compared to having it done by a professional, doing it yourself is a more affordable avenue that also gives you more time to bond with your timepiece. Furthermore, since you are the one doing all the work, you can freely polish the wristwatch to your preferred likeness at any given time. Take note that typically, polishing the watch yourself only allows you to remove light scratches, and will not be very effective on the deeper scratch marks.

Cleaning Your Watch

While we are at it, let us also talk about a convenient and easy way to clean your timepiece yourself. Make sure to prepare a cup of warm water, dish soap, a soft-bristled toothbrush, and a microfiber cloth before you start.

The first step to cleaning your watch is to add a tablespoon of dish soap to the cup of warm water. After a thorough mix, soak the toothbrush and lightly scrub it back and forth over the surface of the watch. If the model is not waterproof, try your best to keep the scrubbing away from the watch face or any areas where liquid could leak in.

When you are done with that, gently rinse the timepiece with tap water. Make sure to cover the watch case when doing so if it has a low water resistance rating. Finally, wipe your timekeeper dry with the microfiber cloth. Although any absorbent towel is good enough for this job, microfiber is ideal for watches because it does not leave streak marks. Now that it is squeaky-clean, it is time to get your wristwatch polished. 

How To Polish A Watch On Your Own

Not sure that you know how to polish a timepiece properly? Fret not because we will now go through a few watch polishing methods for you to choose from. For newcomers, this activity may be a bit daunting at first, but rest assured that polishing a watch on your own is something anyone can learn.

1. Using A Rotary Tool

Rotary Polishing Tool from Dremel
Image By: Dremel

If you look through various videos online about polishing watches, you will notice that each content creator always has a rotary tool or a rotary polishing machine. As you may have guessed, a rotary tool is an essential piece of equipment for polishing watches. By attaching a polishing wheel, you will be able to buff out those annoying scratches with the simple push of a button.

Before you get to work with your rotary tool, make sure to apply a sufficient amount of polishing agent on the watch case and bracelet. When using the rotary polish, only remove a sufficient amount of metal to level the scratch, since too much polishing will deform the structure of your case or bracelet. For the best results, you can rub the case with 1500-grit sandpaper before applying the polishing agent and polishing the watch with your rotary tool. 

2. Polishing By Hand

front view of Citizen Eco-Drive blue dial watch
Image By: Jimmy Smith (Flickr)

No rotary tool? No problem! You can always polish your cherished timekeeper by hand too. All you need is a sheet of 1500-grit sandpaper and a polishing cloth designed for metals. You can easily find polishing cloths in various jewelry stores.

First, run water over the sandpaper. Water acts as a lubricant and helps remove particles from the sandpaper so that it does not get clogged and create additional scratches. Make sure to use consistent pressure for an evenly-finished surface. Continue sanding the timepiece until you are satisfied with the finish. For the bracelet, you can polish it with 1500-grit sandpaper one link at a time.

Now that the scratches are gone, the next step is to bring back the luster of the watch. Grab your polishing cloth and rub it back and forth against the case and bracelet for about two minutes. Do not forget to polish the edges for an even shine. At the beginning of the process, rub the cloth against your watch gently to see if it is enough to remove some scratches. If the marks are still there, rub the timepiece with more pressure. Take note that applying too much pressure can leave the watch with uneven surfaces.

Watch Polishing: Benefits and Drawbacks

closer view of Omega Seamaster watch
Image By: Mark (Flickr)

Although it is easy enough to learn, watch polishing is not as simple as it sounds. In fact, there are many factors you need to consider before even beginning to have your timepiece polished. And although the matter seems trivial, watch polishing does have some irreversible consequences that may haunt you if you make the wrong decision. To avoid that, let us have a look at some of the pros and cons of having your watch polished.


1: Removes Scratches

Sometimes, we get into accidents with our watches, and it does not always end well. Unless your wristwatch is an ultra-sturdy Casio G-Shock, chances are it has probably ended up with a scratch or two on its case. Apart from damaging the exterior, these scratch marks are awful to look at. Most watch enthusiasts would therefore opt to have their watch polished to get rid of these unwanted scratches. By buffing the damaged surfaces, wearers can give their beloved timekeeper a renewed clean and unblemished look, as if it has never been dinged at all. With watch polishing, you can rest assured that no scratch mark is permanent.

2. Rejuvenates Appearance

Whether it is an extravagant Royal Oak Offshore or an affordable Seiko Prospex, everybody loves the look of a shiny new wristwatch. But through the passage of time, its luster will start to fade, effectively reducing the watch’s attractiveness. Although the loss of its sheen does not dramatically affect its durability, a watch with a dull case is not the most appealing timepiece to look at, especially when it is covered in dirt and scratches. Aside from buffing out scratch marks, watch polishing also spruces up your wristwatch — giving it a brand-new, sleek look. When you and your watch have gone through a lot together, a good polishing treatment can help it feel revitalized.


1. Permanently Alters Structure

The process of polishing a watch involves removing thin layers of metal from its case. Unless you are proficient in laser welding, this process is irreversible. A wristwatch that has undergone polishing may end up with a shinier surface, but it also loses some of its design and build.

By cutting some of its metal layers out, the watch can lose some of its attractive bevels and chamfers. This usually results in softened edges, flattened bezels, and rounded lugs. In the worst-case scenario, you could end up making your watch appear malformed and less authentic. If you want to keep the architecture of your trusty timekeeper intact, it is recommended to avoid having your watch polished.

2. Decreases Value

Have you ever wondered why collectors prefer a banged-up Rolex over a newly-polished model? That is because a timepiece that has not been polished retains most of its value. Having your watch polished will not only affect its composition but also take away some of its value — and we are not just talking about a couple of thousand bucks. This especially applies to vintage watches, since seasoned collectors that plan on purchasing the model will always prefer genuine looks over flawlessness. Are you planning to sell your nicked luxury watch? Polishing it is the last thing you would want to do.

When Should I Have My Watch Polished?

side view of Breitling three sub-dial watch
Image: Simon Winch (Flickr)

Now that you know what polishing can do for a watch, you will also need to know when you should have it done. There is a big difference between polishing a lavish timepiece for yourself and polishing one for sale. As such, here are some things to consider when debating when or when not to have your wristwatch polished.

1. Should I Have It Polished If It Has Scratches?

Typically, you would want to keep your watch as immaculate as possible. As stated previously, the main goal with watch polishing is to remove any unattractive marks and scratches. But does that mean you should treat your wristwatch once it gets a scratch? The answer is not necessarily.

Assume you have a scratched-up Tissot. You would only really want to have your watch polished when it has accumulated numerous scratches on its body. Unless the scratches are pretty deep, having a mark or two on your watch should be no cause for concern. As such, you should hold back on having your watch polished until it has amassed a noticeable number of scratches and nicks.

2. Should I Have It Polished If I Want To Sell The Watch?

As we previously stated, in most circumstances, you would not want to polish your watch if you plan to have it sold. Note that watch polishing will affect the value of your watch. However, there are some exceptions to this. When looking for a timepiece, some wearers do prefer to purchase a model that looks fresh. In these situations, an unpolished wristwatch would not be any good. As such, if you find a customer who wants to buy a used watch that still bears a shiny appearance, it would be appropriate to have it polished.

Of course, if you are selling something like a vintage Vacheron Constantin timepiece and you have to choose between two customers — one who wants it kept as is, and another who wants it shiny and new-looking — it would be better for you to sell your timepiece to the buyer looking for an original case. As was stated earlier, a watch with a genuine and unpolished case retains most of its value, allowing your timepiece to command a higher price in the market.

3. Should I Have It Polished If I Intend To Keep The Watch For Myself?

If you plan to keep the watch, then the idea of the watch’s value is no longer a priority. All that matters now is your preference. Do you want your timepiece to look as good as it came out of the box? Having it polished will get you just that. Do not really mind the scratches? Then leaving your timekeeper at its current state is not a bad idea. Now, if you are not sure if you want to keep or sell your timepiece, it is advisable to refrain from having it polished, just in case you ever decide to sell it.

For instance, let us say you are in possession of a 10-year old $45,000 USD Rolex Cosmograph Daytona with a good number of scratches on its case and bracelet. If you decide to have the watch polished, you will be more or less cutting the value of your timepiece in half forever. 

Final Thoughts

Deciding whether or not to have your timepiece polished is a lot more to think about than it originally seems. And while there are some favorable benefits to polishing a wristwatch such as reclaiming a sleek look, it also comes with its own set of downsides, like removing its metal and depreciating its value. Of course, the final decision of whether or not to polish a watch is always up to the wearer. 

Overall, there is not much wrong with having your wristwatch polished from time to time. That said, make sure you do not have it polished too frequently, as too much will deform its case. Even though scratches can be unavoidable, it is essential to always be careful with your watch. A few proper steps of care and alertness can go a long way in keeping your timepiece neat, stylish, and without the need to polish.

Featured Image By: Endemoniada (Flickr)

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