How to Open a Watch Back 

Learn how to remove backs from watches with this easy to follow guide

There are many reasons that you might need to open a watch back and a variety of watch tools that can be used. If you need to change your watch battery or to replace a watch gasket, straighten the hands and remove dust, or completely replace a watch movement you will need to open the watch to do the work. There are many types of watch backs that can be opened in a variety of mechanical ways that sometimes are very easy and can be done with very little effort and others that require special watch tools that are sometimes best done by a person with training or experience in watch repair. Before you open any watch, make yourself a mental note; Is this a very expensive watch? If the answer is yes, be very careful in attempting to open the back. Even inexpensive watches can sometimes be very difficult to open and can be easily damaged.

This guide will go over how to open the 3 most common types of wrist watch backs and will also go into some of the unusual types of backs including high end and brand name watches. 


Tools for opening watch backs:

Before you begin, inspect the watch because you may have to open the band clasp to have more room to work. Some metal bands make it difficult to work in the back because they are ridged and don't leave much room for your hands to work - if you need help on watch band replacement or watch band repair clickhere for instructions.


How to open the 3 most common types of case backs:

removing a screw off watch back

#1) A screw off watch back will have notches for around the edges of the back of the watch. Use the L-G master case opener and case holder, L-G case wrench. Set the watch in the case holder and unscrew the back.. Be careful - there is awatch gasket between the case and the back that needs to be replaced if we damage it.

Related Article: 
How to Open a Screw Down Case Back






#2) Pressure fit watch back: The second type of watch case back is the pressure type. It is plain and smooth and we intend to leave it that way opening a pressure fit watchwhen we finish. Many watches withcrystal press this type of back have a small dent or notchon the side or between the lugs - a place to put your knife: watchmakers Swiss case knife, 4".

Cover your hand with a shammy cloth - It will help you as beginner and give you a better grip and protect your hand in case you miss the watch case.

Once the dent is found, put the knife against it and apply pressure. It will resemble the opening of an oyster. The same principles apply; apply pressure and move the knife sideways to open the back. If the case does not have a notch to put the knife in, start with a razor blade. The razors sharp edge may give you the opening for the knife that you need.

You have to be extremely careful when you open a watch with a pressure type case back. If you put too much, you could slip with the knife and could damage the coil of the watch or other sensitive parts on the watch movement. Also, remember that there is a gasket in this type of back that should be taken care of when removing the watch back or closing the watch back. If you have a worn or damaged watch back gasket, we have a guide to replacing watch gaskets with the information on replacing your gasket. 

Sometimes this type of watch back can't be closed with your hands . You will have to use case press w/ nylon dies. I like the case press with nylon dies because it doesn't leave any marks on the watch metal.

Related Article: How to Open a Snap Off Case Back

#3) 4 screws watch back: The third most popular watch case back has 4 screws holding the back on. It can be any kind of watch material, metal case and metal back, opening a 4 screws watch backplastic or rubber case and metal back, plastic case and plastic back, and so on. you will need a set of screwdrivers in rotating stand, set of 9. Choose the right screwdriver for the right screw. You don't want strip the head of the screw, and remember that it will be a gasket that you will have to deal with, so be careful.

In addition to this back, you will encounter the Swatch watch. For those types you can use a knife a flat screwdriver, or any small flat surface tool.

What if the watch is a high end brand, made of gold, or very expensive?

The first thing that we must do is recognize the watch brand. Is it a Rolex? Omega, Patek?, Audemar? B. Mercier, gold watch... We would need extra tools.

Related Article: How to Open a Case Back with Screws

Of course, with a Rolex, you need the Rolex dies. The Baum Mercier sometimes is difficult to recognize the need for special dies, the name is the best clue. The Swiss army make a case back that resembles B.M. but it pops open with a knife. Many people mistake Baum Mercier for the same type of back, put a knife to it and try to pry the case open and than have a big problem now. The back is jammed and it would be very difficult if not impossible to open the watch. Some people try to use the Rolex dies to open the B.M. and though they look simillar, the back would be damaged. To open the Baum Mercier thes B-M Dies, Set of 3 Item Number: 59.917 is needed.

Try not to use your Watchmakers Swiss watch knife, 4" in a gold watch with a friction back. Chances are you would leave marks on it. Instead, use a razor blade, put it between the case and the back, put a little pressure it is easy to open. If you don't feel up to the challenge, ask the costumer to leave the watch for a day or so, you can open it taking enough time to make sure it is done correctly. If you accidentally leave a scratch or mark, gold watches are very easy to polish using a polishing wheel and some jewelry polishing rouge. You can also charge more for these services as they require more time, more training, and there are few people who are doing the work. 

When you are dealing with expensive watches, there are all kinds of different factors that you will have to consider. You will have to make the choice to open it or not, some of them have a hexagonal back. You need a special tool for that, others have screws on the side of the gold case like 'Cartier'. Not only have I seen these with 4 or 6 screws on the back, but also on the side of the case. Others in 18k gold have 6 round holes in the back, you will need a special tool for that too as trying to fit other tools on the watch back and turning will usually result in large scratches on the watch back. 

Some watches open from the front of the watch, you should inspect the back very carefully, if you don't see an opening, chances are that you are dealing with a watch that has to be opened from the front. If you have never done anything like this before, I recommend that you let somebody with some experience with this design do the work.

Try to keep an open mind and use common sense because you are dealing with a mechanical design. If the watch that you are going to open looks expensive and looks very difficult to open, chances are that it is. Don't be afraid to say no, the alternative could be very costly to you.


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