Watch Curmudgeon: Are Your Watches Hygienically Challenged?


Your mother most likely ingrained in you that cleanliness is next to Godliness. So, I will assume that you, at least periodically, brush your teeth, shower, swab your ears, and remove foreign substances from beneath your nails. Clean underwear and socks are also, hopefully, part of the regimen.

But your mom forgot one item. One drastically important item: your watch. As they say in Geneva and other civilized parts of the world, “A clean watch is a happy watch.” Unfortunately, however, too many people, even fanatical watch lovers like myself, don’t extend the proper virtues of hygiene to their watches. And that’s a travesty!

Just think about this: Your watch sits obediently on your wrist all day and possibly even all night. It’s your constant companion, so it endures all you endure. What does this mean, you ask? It gets soaked in sweat, which efficiently absorbs any sloughed off skin cells. This seemingly innocuous concoction becomes a welcome mat for just too many unpleasantries.

Sneezing and coughing by you and others shower your watch with all wonders of microbes and bacteria. Then there are those errant splatterings of things like salsa, beer, hoisin sauce, puke, cat urine, and squid ink, just to name a few. Occupational hazards also apply. For example, if you happen to be a proctologist, who knows what evil may be lurking in some crevice on your Seamaster’s bracelet.


If you were to examine your watch under a microscope, the view would be rather frightening. You’d see swarms of little monsters pulsating all over the place. Eccch! To make matters worse, they’re not content to simply stay on your watch; They run amok all up and down your arm. Please understand that I’m not attempting to scare you. I’m just stating the facts.

So, my thoroughly disgusted friends, what are we going to do about this? Over the years, I’ve developed some ridiculously simple practices for keeping my watches clean, even some old quartz clunkers that I couldn’t care less about. What follows is a list of don’ts and dos.

DON’T use sandpaper, steel wool or other abrasives to clean your watches.

DON’T dip your watches in vats of Lysol, paint thinner, battery acid or boiling water.


DO take a damp, clean, old toothbrush and gently remove any muck from the back of your watch. For those pesky, hard to reach spots, use a toothpick, then finish up with a slightly damp, unused Q-tip.

DO, from time to time, remove your watch strap with your handy Worn & Wound spring bar tool. You’ll then be able to efficiently clean inside your strap lugs as well as your spring bar. Yup, that gets yucky, as well. While you’re at it, clean your buckle.

DO remove your bracelet and rinse it in warm, soapy water. Use your toothbrush and toothpick to remove all the crap lodged in the clasp, and do the same within the links. When all is done, thoroughly rinse and dry with a soft cloth. You’ll find that your bracelet may even gain its original flexibility.


DO use your toothpick and/or dry toothbrush to dislodge dust and gunk from your crown and screw-in threads. Eventually, this stuff could work its way into the movement, which would be a profound bummer.

DO take a clean microfiber eyeglass cloth, and gently rub the rest of your watch. In no time you’ll have a handsome, clean machine.

DO rinse your presumably water resistant watch in clean water after you’ve been swimming. If you’ve been in the ocean, you’ve got to get all the salt off. Salt ain’t a watch’s best friend. If you’ve been swimming in a pool, you’ve got to get the chlorine off. And if the pool was full of kids, there will have been all sorts of other lovely unmentionables mixed in the water. (For watches costing over $10,000., it may be advisable to immerse and rinse in Evian water.)

DO take great care cleaning vintage timepieces. Some have an enviable patina that could be compromised. And any vigorous rubbing could remove gold and even steel plating. If the watch was previously worn by a famous celebrity like Marilyn Monroe, for instance, you may not want to remove any of her DNA. Well… least…..I wouldn’t want to.


One final DON’T that really has nothing to do with cleaning, but I thought I’d mention it out of kindness to my brethren watchaholics. Guys, don’t leave your watches in the sun, even if you want to hasten one of those enviable tropic dials. Tremendous heat can build up in a sealed watch case, and that can cause horrific problems. You can blow seals and gaskets, warp gears, dry out the lubricants, and so on! I always make damn sure that I never buy a watch that’s been sitting in a store window. And to get even more anal, when I’m catching rays, I turn my watch around on my wrist. Ok, so I’m paranoid about anything and everything that can harm a watch! YOU SHOULD BE TOO.

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