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How to Clean Antique Watches

Although some antique watch repair shops clean watches ultrasonically, the hand-cleaning method is still preferred for many antique watches.


  • Step 1: Disassemble the watch movement Disassemble the watch movement, and place all of the parts except the mainspring, balance, and pallets in a commercial cleaning solution.
  • TIP: Check with a professional antique watch repair shop about suitable cleaning compounds and methods for your watch. The age of and construction materials used in the watch will determine which ones you use.
  • Step 2: Focus on movement bottom plate Remove the bottom clock plate and dry it with a clean, lint-free rag. Brush both surfaces with a soft watch brush, clean out the jewel holes and the pivot holes with pegwood, and blow the plate with bellows.
  • TIP: A mechanical watch consists of a movement bottom plate, balance assembly, motion works, keyless works, screws, a mainspring and barrel, a wheel train and wheels, and an escapement.
  • Step 3: Focus on balance Remove the lower balance end-piece from the cleaning solution. Brush both sides, clean the active surface of the endstone with a piece of pegwood, and place it in position on the bottom plate. Remove the bridges and cocks from the cleaning solution, and clean them the same way.
  • Step 4: Focus on motion works Clean each wheel and brush the teeth and both sides. Clean each leaf of the pinion with a pointed piece of pegwood, and clean each pivot so that it is free of congealed oil.
  • Step 5: Focus on keyless works and screws Remove the keyless parts from the cleaning solution, and brush both sides. Clean the screws in the same manner. Clean the cannon pinion, minute and hour wheels, and then pegwood the holes.
  • Step 6: Focus on mainspring and barrel Clean the barrel, cover, and arbor. Wind the mainspring into the barrel using a mainspring winder. Press the spring into the barrel with the flat end of a piece of pegwood, and then snap the barrel cover on.
  • Step 7: Focus on wheel train, wheels, and escapement Place the escape wheel and pallets in the cleaning solution. Quickly remove the pallets, and brush them with a soft brush. Clean the pallet and stones with a piece of pith.
  • Step 8: Focus on wheel train, wheels, and escapement, continued Clean the escape wheel, and wipe the teeth with pith. Remove the balance spring from the balance, place them both in cleaning solution, then clean them.
  • FACT: The first pocket watch was invented in Germany in the 1500s.

You Will Need

  • Watchmakers' tools
  • Cleaning solution
  • A lint-free rag
  • A watch brush
  • Pegwood
  • A bellows
  • A mainspring winder
  • Pith
  • An antique watch repair shop (optional)

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