How To: Open A Watch Case

There are two basic types of watch cases, screw back and snap back. There are others, but we are only going to discuss the two most popular. In order to remove these types of back you will need a few tools:



Here you can see the blue ball called a Watch Case Opener Friction Ball which is very useful and removes over 50% of the screw back cases I run into. Just to the right of that you see the Jaxa Type Watch Case Back Opener which will take off the other 50% of screw back cases with its bag of interchangeable tips. On the bottom left is what is called a watch case knife and will open the snap back cases.



Here is a typical screw back case. Note the notches where a tool would fit to remove the case. Other forms of screw back cases look something like a large nut with sides or lands for something like a wrench to grab. We can usually use the same tools for both. On a screw back case the first tool to try is the ball. This is not an ordinary ball, the rubber is very grabby and it is soft enough to mash into the back and grip very tightly. Press the ball firmly into the back of the case while supporting the front with your other hand like this:



Now twist the ball counter clockwise to unscrew the back. If that does not work we need to use the bigger tool. There are several tips like this:



The first and third tips can be used for watches with notches in the back, the fourth is great for watches with lands or sides. I have never used the second one for anything. Since this watch has notches and the first point fits in the notches very well we place all three of these tips in the three holders on the tool (each of the tips above come in a set of three). Make sure by twisting the tool's handle and the adjustment knob on top that all three tips are securely in place on the back of the watch in the notches like this:



Once you are sure it is grabbing securely hold the watch in a case holder or in your hand, and twist the tool counter clockwise. You can do the same thing on a watch with lands or sides by using the fourth tips shown above and tightening them on the sides. If this does not remove the back seek immediate help and do not try to force it. If the back spins and will not unscrew it could be a fake screw back case. Some cheaper watches have backs that look like screw backs but really are snap backs, and for that we need a case knife. Take the case knife and insert it between the back and the rest of the case near a lug as shown below:



Push the blade in towards the center of the watch while twisting the knife away from you pulling the sharper edge of the blade towards you and down. If you look at the case back above you see it has the lands or sides I was talking about earlier, on this watch those are to make it look more expensive than it really is because this is really a snap back case. I would highly suggest you practice this a while before you do it on a nice watch as it is easy to scratch the heck out of the back with a case knife. One other warning, a case knife is a special made tool, you can not use a standard knife to do its job. If you try, at best you will dull the heck out of your knife, at worst you can stab yourself, break the blade and have it fly into your eye, or worse. Always use the correct tool for the job and practice with it.

Now with snap back cases you will have to close them. Some you can just snap back in by hand with no problem. The real problem comes with tougher ones you may be tempted to use too much force on, even to the point of putting the watch crystal down on a desk or table and putting your body weight into snapping the case back on. This can, and very often does, cause the crystal to crack. To avoid that you need this tool:



This is a small and watch case press. It comes with an assortment of different sized nylon pieces that can be used to make sure the tool fits the case correctly. Most of the time you just need to make sure that the nylon pieces are large enough to put even pressure on the top and bottom of the watch and you should be fine, like this:



By applying the force evenly you run far less risk of cracking the crystal. If you use a nylon piece that is too small the force will not be applied evenly, if you use one too big, the lugs may get in the way and either snap off or cause the watch to sit unevenly and once again crack the crystal. If your crystal is already cracked even using this tool carefully will likely result in destroying the crystal.

Good luck!


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