A selection of tools are required to disassemble and service a watch, whilst many tools are merely a convenience, some tools are absolutely essential. You do not need to spend a lot of money to acquire a basic set of watchmaking tools. I have invested approximately £400 in the tools and equipment listed below, however, if you are careful when creating your toolkit, it is possible to obtain the basic tools for any budget. These are the tools that I use to fully service a watch movement from start to finish.
A set of high-quality screwdrivers is one of the most important additions to your toolkit. It is important to have a wide selection to hand so that you can select the screwdriver that correctly fits the screw to prevent marring the head. The Bergeon ergonomic screwdriver set (pictured above) is arguably one of the best sets on the market, costing around £100 for a 9 piece set with rotating stand, it is certainly a worthy investment. If your budget will not stretch enough for the Bergeon set, A*F Swiss also make exceptionally high-quality screwdriver sets for less than half the cost of the Bergeon set.
A couple of pairs of precision, anti-magnetic, tweezers are essential for watchmaking. I have found that Dumont manufactures the best tweezers available. Like screwdrivers, tweezers come in a variety of sizes to best suit the task at hand. I would recommend buying a set of no. 2 tweezers and a set of no. 4s. The no. 2s have a broader tip and are best suited for manipulating larger parts such as rotors and wheels. No. 4 tweezers have incredibly fine tips that lend themselves for manipulating screws and other delicate parts. Dumont makes several ranges of tweezers, for around £25 a pair, the Dumoxel range offers excellent value for money as they are anti-magnetic and are highly corrosion resistant.
It is advisable to use a watch repair mat when working on watch movements, they are inexpensive (around £6) and offer many benefits. The main ones being that they protect the parts that you are working on and are easy on the eye when working on small parts for extended periods of time. They are usually pale green and made from rubber-coated foam. Using a mat also aids you in keeping track of small parts if you treat the mat as a no-go zone for anything other that the watch that you are working on and ensure that all pieces of the watch movement stay within the confines of the mat.
Hand fitting and hand removal tools
Hand removing levers are sold in pairs and are inserted underneath the hands in order to pry the hands off of the arbor. whilst other types of hand lifting tools are available, levers are by far the most inexpensive option and cost only a few pounds.
A set of hand fitting tools can be purchased for less than £10 and are used to press watch hands onto the arbor. They come in a selection of sizes and it is important to select the correct size for the hands.
Cannon pinion tool
A cannon pinion tool performs one function, that is to pull the cannon pinion off of the arbor of the wheel it is fitted to. Unfortunately, there is no other method to remove the cannon pinion safely and therefore this tool is essential when dismantling a watch movement. Cannon pinion tools typically cost around £10 upwards.
Oilers, Oil pots and Lubricants
When servicing a watch it is important to apply lubricants to all of the wear points. In order to dispense the correct amount of lubricant to the location required, oilers are used. Oilers come in a selection of sizes; each size dispenses a different quantity of lubricant. Oilers are usually sold as sets and cost around £10 for a set of 5 different sizes.
A convenient yet inexpensive addition to your kit is an oil pot, whilst you can spend £30 upwards on one it is really not necessary and a perfectly adequate oil pot can be had for as little as £3. A small quantity of lubricant can be dispensed into the oil pot so that it is easier to dip the oiler into the lubricant. It is important to choose an oil pot that has a lid, to protect the oil from contamination. Oil pots with multiple wells are particularly useful, as you will require more than one lubricant to correctly service a watch.
At least two types of lubricants are required when servicing a watch, a viscous oil, and a low viscosity oil. A viscous oil should be applied to the high friction points such as the mainspring barrel, Moebius D5 is recommended by many manufacturers, such as ETA for this application. A low viscosity oil is required to lubricate the low friction points, such as the balance end stones and other jewels. Moebius 9010 is the industry standard for this application. Some movements require specialized lubricants for optimal performance, however, Moebius 9010 and D5 will work for the majority of situations.
A benzene jar is small glass jar used for cleaning small parts. Benzene is traditionally used to clean small parts, however, a cheaper and more readily available alternative is lighter fluid. The solvent should be placed into the glass and the parts should then be left for 5-10 minutes to bathe. The parts should then be removed from the solvent and dried thoroughly with the aid of an air blower. A small jam jar works perfectly as the lid creates an airtight seal that prevents the solvent from evaporating.
Many professional watchmakers work in environments with specialist air filters that almost entirely eradicate air-bourn dust particles that can settle upon freshly cleaned watch parts. Unfortunately, many hobbyists, including myself, do not have the luxury of such equipment and must resort to other means to ensure that dust does not find its way into the movement. A simple solution is to use a dust blower to displace dust particles from the surface of the parts. There are several different styles available, the most common being a rubber bellow that when squeezed, expels high-pressure air from a nozzle. Not only is this useful for removing dust, it can also be used to dry watch parts that have been cleaned with a solvent, as mentioned above.
Another popular product for removing dust as well as fingerprints is Rodico, a sticky putty specifically formulated for this purpose. Rodico can be molded into a point and used to target offending dust particles, or rolled into a small ball to remove fingerprints or other contaminants from the surface of parts. Rodico can also be used to clean tools.
After meticulously cleaning parts, it is a good idea to store them in a container that prevents them from becoming contaminated; one of the most convenient options is to use a parts tray with a dust cover. The trays are usually divided into several sections, which can be used to organise parts. The benefit of this design is that the dust cover can be removed and replaced with one hand whilst the other hand is used to retrieve the desired part. Typically these can be had for as little as £2 and it is recommended to purchase a couple, as you can never be too organised!
Another great option is an organiser box that can be purchased from any hardware or hobby shop. These are particularly useful for the long-term storage of a dismantled movement, as most will have a lid that securely locks into place.
Whilst most watchmaking tasks can be carried out with the naked eye, some tasks do require magnification. A watchmakers eyeglass is an extremely useful piece of equipment necessary when inspecting small parts for signs of wear or damage. Watchmakers eyeglasses are available at a wide range of prices, basic models can be had for just £1, whilst these suffice higher quality eyeglasses do offer greater optical clarity and it is worth spending a few pounds more for a higher quality eyeglass. I suggest purchasing a few eyeglasses of varying magnifications, I use 2.5X, 5X and 10X depending on the application. A watchmakers eyeglass is usually held in the eye socket, however, I find a wire headband is incredibly convenient as it allows the eyeglass to be suspended around the neck when not in use.
Occasionally higher magnification is required a 40X magnification jewelers loupe can be helpful.
When working on watch movements it is advised to place the movement in a movement holder. The most convenient solution is using a universal movement holder, although movement rings are also a good option. The purpose of a movement holder is to hold the movement stable when it is being disassembled and reassembled. The reason the use of a holder is advisable is it prevent protruding parts from being damaged by keeping the movement raised above the work surface. Movement holders can be custom made to hold a specific movement, however, universal holders can be had for £5-£10.
In order to access the movement, a variety of tools are needed to open the watch case. Many watch cases can be opened with a case back knife, however, water resistant watches often require a screw back tool to open and close the case. Particularly on dive watches the case backs can be extremely difficult to turn and a watch case vice may be necessary to firmly hold the case whilst the screw back tool is used to open/close the case.
Case back press
A case back press is used to close cases that have a press fitted case back. Case back presses can also be used to press fit a replacement crystal watch glass. Case back presses can be purchased for less than £15 and usually come with a variety of plastic fittings of different sizes.
Spring bar tools
The majority of bracelets and straps are secured to the case using spring bars, the best tool for removing the bracelet or strap is a spring bar tool. This is a tool that is worth spending the extra money on to get a top quality tool, as they really are worlds apart from the cheap spring bar tools available from eBay. A good option is the Bergeon spring bar tool that can be found online for around £13. Some bracelets require a pair of spring bar tools to remove the bracelet, so it is a good idea to purchase a couple!
Peg wood – a special type of wooden stick that is whittled into a point and can be used to clean watch parts. Peg wood is extremely inexpensive and is discarded after in becomes too short to use.
Finger cots – a disposable latex finger protector worn when servicing watches to prevent oils from your fingers from contaminating the watch parts. Finger cots allow for greater dexterity than using standard latex gloves.
Polyamide tape – an abrasion resistant masking tape used when refinishing watch cases and bracelets. I have a tutorial on refinishing bracelets for more details on using polyamide tape. Here is a link to the tutorial –
Cleaning swabs – used for cleaning small parts.
Grip lock bags – used for storing small parts and protecting the dial when removing the hands.
Whilst this is by no means an exhaustive list of watchmaking tools, these are the basics that you will require to dismantle and assemble a watch. I hope that you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions please contact me. If you enjoyed reading this post, please subscribe to my blog so that you are notified when I post new articles.