Gold pocket watches, for a long time, have been a much-cherished item. Something of a status symbol for some, an inherited timepiece for others. The pocket watch has stood the test of time and whilst perhaps not seen in quite the same way today as it was when it first adorned the jacket pockets or necks of the rich, it does still hold an allure.

It was 1510 when Peter Henlein, a famous locksmith, created the pocket watch in Nuremberg, Germany and by the 16th century, his innovative creation had spread throughout the rest of Europe. Seen as a signifier of wealth or importance, the watch was much sought-after and saw various styles appear, all of which saw established nobles and those looking to climb the social ladder acquire them to showcase their wealth, style and connection to the latest trends.

Of course, a gold pocket watch would often be the pocket watch of choice for those looking to demonstrate their financial muscle but as much as gold shines, it also gets dirty, and the fine nature of the components that make up the watch can lead to it developing faults should dirt and debris find its way in. With regular maintenance and a simple yet regular cleaning schedule, a gold pocket watch can benefit from an extended life that you may not have thought possible. Not only that but the potentially costly pocket watch repairs some watch repairers may charge can be avoided.

In this edition of our blog, we give you a step-by-step guide on how to reinvigorate your gold pocket watch.

Why Regular Cleaning is Essential

Antique watches are something to treasure, and in many cases can command significant value when sold at auction. Their classic design, intricate mechanisms and the alluring mystique of their past see them remain high in demand among collectors, horologists, and antique dealers. This value can drop fast though when the correct care is not given. As with many items passed through the generations, discolouration, scratches, faults and more can all naturally occur but without regular attention, those common faults are enhanced by a lack of care. A lack of care that then fails to uphold the true value of the beautiful gold pocket watch.

For many though, the value is not in the money, it’s in the sentiment, and the preference would be for the watch to continue running or continue looking pristine. Regular cleaning ensures the continuation of the pocket watch story and allows the mechanical components to work properly. With no grinding of parts and instead, a smooth functionality, cleaning your pocket watch becomes a joy rather than a chore as your watch gets to extend its life. The appearance of the watch should not be forgotten either, and an accumulation of dirt can very soon make the vibrant and beautiful gold case and chain look unappealing.

For your best results, you should be looking to clean your gold pocket watch approximately once a month.

So, let’s prepare to clean your gold pocket watch.

Preparing to Clean Your Gold Pocket Watch

Cleaning a gold pocket watch is a relatively simple process and won’t take you a great deal of time. At the end, you have a watch restored to a watch that is perhaps the closest you could bring it to the day it was lovingly crafted. Before acquiring the items you need for cleaning or dedicating an area of the house for you to start the process, it may be advisable to ensure you won’t get disturbed or have your concentration compromised. Depending on how deep into cleaning your watch you want to go, there could be several small parts at your workstation. Distractions could lead you to forget some, misplace some or reinstall them incorrectly. This could then see all your cleaning work be for nothing when your gold pocket watch stops working.

Set up a Workspace

Dedicate a well-lit room, or area to the task. Preferably one where no pets can clamber over you, or the inquisitive hand of a child won’t grab at the pieces. Let the household know what you are doing and shut yourself away for a while. Perhaps pour yourself a drink, turn on some music and just immerse yourself in the task.

Gather The Necessary Supplies

Cleaning a gold pocket watch doesn’t require intensive cleaning products and for the most part, all will be readily available at home. Gather yourself the following:

  • Soft cloth (microfibre would be best)
  • Clean water
  • Some toothpaste
  • Soapy water (made up of washing up liquid or black soap)
  • Soft brush (a toothbrush would be ideal)

How you use the above items will depend on whether your watch is a waterproof or non-waterproof pocket watch. We will break down the different methods below so you can ensure your watch is cleaned as it should be.

A Step-by-step Guide to Cleaning Your Gold Pocket Watch

The following gives you the processes of cleaning your gold pocket watch so that when you finish, it is in the best possible condition for you to keep enjoying it again.

Cleaning a Waterproof Pocket Watch

Many of the older pocket watches will not be waterproof, however, more modern variations will come with a degree of water protection. Should yours be waterproof, follow the below instructions to give your gold pocket watch a restorative clean.

Fill a glass, a jug or other suitable container with warm water and some of the soap product. You should then dip the toothbrush into the warmer water and gently brush the watch in a circular motion. This should help bring up any of the dirt that covers the outer casing of the watch. After rinsing the brush with cold water, use the same brush and some more cold water to remove the leftover soapy water.

Then using a non-abrasive cloth, dry the watch.

In some cases, where stubborn stains may appear, use a small dab of toothpaste on the cloth and gently rub it over the bit that requires cleaning. Once done, remove the toothpaste with a damp and clean cloth. Make sure no toothpaste remains and the watch is dried.

Cleaning a Non-waterproof Gold Pocket Watch

If your pocket watch is not waterproof, and in most cases, it won’t be if it’s an antique, you will need to be a little more careful.

Dampen the cloth and use small circular motions to remove any dirt from your pocket watch. Should there be particularly stubborn stains, use the toothbrush, slightly damp to help remove them.

Using a microfiber cloth, finish up the cleaning and then dry with another cloth.

Cleaning The Glass

Glass can be prone to many scratches quite easily and over time, these can get worse, or at least, show evidence of dirt that makes the appearance of your watch significantly worse.

Going back to the toothpaste, you will be able to clean and remove any small scratches that have managed to occur on your pocket watch. Toothpaste has a mild abrasive nature to it meaning that it works brilliantly at renovating some surfaces. The only problem is that should you apply too much, you could make the scratches much more prevalent.

Start by dabbing a little toothpaste onto your soft cloth. Then gently rub in clockwise motions. Make sure the same spot is not treated twice as you could overdo the cleaning and cause more damage to the glass.

Once done, use a cloth, slightly dampened and remove any remaining toothpaste. With a clean and dry cloth, gently polish the surface to restore its shine.

Cleaning The Glass of a Pocket Watch

The interior of a pocket watch can be extremely delicate and in many cases, it would be advised to take your watch to a pocket watch specialist who can carefully disassemble your watch, clean it and put it back together again.

Should you opt to do it yourself, you will require a tool thin enough to allow you to pry the watch apart. You will need to carefully work your way around the lop gently freeing one piece at a time. Don’t force it at all as you could cause permanent damage. As you gently release the case, put any loose parts into a container so they don’t get lost. You can then carefully clean the inside.  No chemical products should be used to complete this and if opting to use water it should only be a small amount. A gentle brush can remove any surface debris but ensure the tip is relatively thin to enable it to get between the dials.

Please note that any attempt to clean the inside and mechanisms of the watch could prove to be difficult and compromise the watch itself.

After Cleaning Care

Your watch, in some cases, is a valuable heirloom and you will want to pass it on to others in years to come. So to keep it at its best, make sure that cleaning isn’t the only love you show it.

Keep your gold pocket watch stored in a cool dry place. This stops the watch from being exposed to temperature fluctuations that could prove damaging. If you regularly move from hot to cold or spend too much time in the sun, you could find that the glass from your pocket watch weakens and cracks.

Furthermore, exposure to perfumes, deodorants, cleaning products, or solvents could all lead to discolouration and damage to your valuable pocket watch.

You should also look at only keeping your watch in a pocket where nothing else is kept. Additional items in pockets could cause new and more significant scratches or chips to the watch.

With general care you can have your watch running well and looking good for years to come however it is often suggested that having a watch expert check it every three years would be a best practice to follow. A well cleaned pocket watch is also one that is easier to set when you need to change the time on your pocket watch too!

Common Mistakes When Cleaning Pocket Watches

The most common fault encountered is owners of pocket watches being too aggressive with their cleaning. The materials we have mentioned should all be used gently and in moderation. Extreme use can cause additional damage and could even break the watch in places. People unfortunately tend to think that a stronger cleaning product will help remove the more hardened stains or marks, but this is widely seen as detrimental. The delicate materials used within your watch could be permanently damaged if you opt for a cleaning product.

Regular cleaning of your pocket watch can give it a lifespan way beyond what you may have first imagined. Not only that, but regular care can also see the watch attain a much higher value should you ever consider selling it or having it valued.  Should you need advice on your pocket watch, contact our team of horologists at The Clock Clinic. We have been working with watches for well over 30 years and understand just how important these timepieces are to you. Our appointment-only service allows you to get the very best possible service from a professional dedicated to your needs. Book one today and have us help you get the best from your antique watch or clock.