Part of the fun in collecting watches is gathering all the various paraphernalia supporting your obsession – you know, just the necessary accouterments – books, straps, watch boxes, magazine subscriptions, and tools – yes tools.
Nothing serious. Certainly no brushless motors, but tools nonetheless. After all, we’re dealing with an “object d’art” and certain tasks are required. At the same time, we need to be cautious, or somewhat careful, lest we destroy or mar said object d’ art.
So… what are we doing? Well, we need to change straps and bracelets – of course, we need to measure to get the right sizes. And, we need to adjust bracelets. In certain situations, we need to change a battery – for those that own quartz watches. And, of course, we need to look at our “objet d’art” – closely.
The bottom line, our needs are minimal but critical. That describes a number of things, but I won’t go there.
So, seriously, what exactly is needed?
You really don’t need too many tools. The tools you use should be top quality to get the job done without any damage or other problems. If you need more than this, you may want to consider using a watch repair shop or maybe go into the business of creating watches yourself – perhaps a Kickstarter?
I don’t recommend the combo tool kits. Most are junk and include tools that are never used, while those that are used can be dangerous to the sanctimony of your watch.
Spring Bar Tool
This will be the most commonly used tool unless all your straps and bracelets have quick-release functionality. My advice, buy the best and learn how to use it.
- Bergeon has really been the standard in watch tools and their 6767-F watch spring bar tool (available on Amazon) is excellent and inexpensive.
- If you want to go all out and need a better grip, Robert Isaac of Baughblabs handcrafts a standard and a travel spring bar tool that is outstanding. What’s especially nice about this tool is that it’s designed to use the Bergeon replacement tips.
- A final option that really helps in changing straps, although you probably still need one of the above spring bar tools above, is the:
Obviously, a good spring bar tool is a basic watch collector’s necessity. I have read that the lesser expensive Horofix spring bar tweezer is a great option, but you can decide that.
Higher quality bracelets usually have a flat head or hex screws. Some, however, contain pressure pins and require a different tool in order to make adjustments. For those bracelets, you’ll need a specific watch link removal tool. Selizo makes a tool, available from Amazon that gets the job done. A word of advice, you don’t want to pull out your hammer…
Of course, the easiest way to determine the various sizes of your watch’s lug width, etc. is by checking your watch’s specifications online. If you want, you can measure with a caliper, but you may want to avoid the standard stainless steel version, as they can easily scratch the watch. Since you’re not planning a space launch, you don’t need super exacting measurements. A very inexpensive plastic caliper is available here on Amazon and it will meet your needs for years to come.
Bracelet links can be pressure links, to which the link remover above addresses, hex screws, to which most watches so endowed usually include in the original purchase, or a flat-head screw, to which you need some sort of screwdriver. A quality set that will meet your needs and even provide a few hex drivers is TackLife precision screwdriver set available at Amazon.
For the more fastidious, however, you might want to invest in a watch bracelet screwdriver, available at Esslinger here.
Watch back remover
Most water-resistant quartz watches will either require a screwdriver or a watch back remover tool such as the Dowswin Watch Back Remover Tool. This is a simple tool and is really all you need.
It is disturbing what lurks in some stainless steel bracelets. It's also near impossible to clean them by hand. Enter the ultrasonic cleaner and one that meets the needs is the Fosmon cleaner available on Amazon. I don't recommend you use this on watches but certainly, clean your bracelets with it.
Watch manufacturers don’t produce watches with exhibition back without a reason – we want to see the mechanical movements in all their glory. It’s also helpful to inspect watches we are considering purchasing, especially vintage watches, to know what we’re dealing with or getting into. Enter the loupe.
For years, collectors have been using the Bausch & Lomb Hastings 10X Triplet loupe (available on Amazon). Recently, Hodinkee and others have been singing the praises of The Loupe System which has received rave reviews but is not inexpensive with a 3x, 6x or 10x black silicon rubber model going for $580. An accessory that allows the loupe to couple with a smartphone to capture macro shots is available for an additional cost. Quality does cost and the reviews on this loupe are extremely complementary.
I haven’t reviewed The Loupe as of yet but I do have another alternative that may meet your needs until you can save up for The Loupe System. I recommend that you look at the Carson ML-20 MagniLoupe system available at Amazon. In addition to 4.5x, 6.5X, 8x, and 13x loupes, the system includes a simple smartphone adapter to capture smartphone macro shots. The 6.5x is probably the one you’ll use most often. Even if you don’t like this option, you’ll only be out $18 – and you can always save up to purchase The Loupe System later.
Is the Carson the Loupe System's replacement? Hardly, but it's a step in the right direction until you can justify purchasing The Loupe System.
A final option is the Bausch & Lomb 5X Watchmaker Loupe available from Amazon. It's not a triplet but the magnification is almost perfect for watches and at less than $10, it's hard to go wrong.
You'll notice in many of the watch reviews, an analysis of the watch's accuracy. Deviations in seconds per 24 hours on the wrist, dial-up, dial down, etcetera. While this may seem too technical if you are buying and selling watches (collecting) it may be a good idea to invest in a mechanical timing tester. Amazon has a well-respected matching, the Otoolworld MTG Watch Tester Timegrapher for around $200 that may be worth your consideration.
Whether you want to test your new acquisition or offer some specificity on the sale of a watch, the timegrapher is invaluable in determining the accuracy of a mechanical watch. I have a post on the meaning of the various watch accuracy specifications here.
There are also a number of smartphone apps that measure accuracy of your watch with, not surprisingly, varied results. Check out Toolwatch and look for other similiar apps.
The argument continues to rage on, concerning the efficacy of using a winder for your mechanical watches. And, whichever side you fall on, the use and deployment of a watch winder serve at least two real functions; it displays your collection and continues the setting on your watches, without resetting every time you decide to wear them.
Be aware, the prices on Amazon may be slightly higher than the actual European manufacturer. Whether the premium is worth dealing with Amazon vs. a European concern is something you will need to decide.
You'll want a winder that individually controls the number and direction of the winding movement. To determine this, you may want to check the specifications on Barrington for their database of turns per day.
Really, that’s about it. You don’t really need any more tools. If, for whatever reason, you decide that you do, try to buy quality. You can check out most of the Bergeon tools on Amazon or Esslinger.
Also, check out this blog post on “The complete watch repair tools kit for watchmakers.” It’s probably a bit more than a collector will normally need but it’s well worth the read just to understand what's available.