Should You Polish Your Watch? – The Pros and Cons of Polishing a Watch

Let’s say you have a Rolex, Tudor, IWC or any other watch you love and enjoy wearing.

You do not take it off your wrist at all. No matter how much you take care of the watch, after a while, the first scratches show up on the case and bracelet, and then the question inevitably arises.

Should you polish the watch or not?

And this is where the controversy starts because there are divided opinions on whether you should polish the watch and, if so, how to go about it.

In this article, you will find out the following:

  • What do we mean by “polishing”?
  • What are the arguments in favour of polishing watches?
  • What are the arguments against polishing watches?
  • If you decide to polish, how to do it?

What do we mean by Polishing?

First, let us define “polishing” and work out the difference with “cleaning a watch”.

When we talk about Polishing, we mean removing scratches and dents from the surface of the watch case, bracelet, bezel and lugs.

So, Polishing removes layers of metal from the case or the part of the watch you are polishing, compromising the piece’s integrity.

Yes, even stainless steel.

The bottom line is that Polishing is a destructive process, even if the end result looks new.

Heavy Polishing removes material from certain areas and makes the edges of your watch less sharp.

However, cleaning is not the same as Polishing.

Cleaning is a non-destructive process, so you can clean your watch as often as you like.

And I can assure you that cleaning can greatly improve the watch’s appearance!

The best way to clean a watch is to have it serviced by an experienced watchmaker.

However, you can also clean it yourself with a damp cloth.

Remember that most bracelets can be removed from the watch and cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner like the ones used to clean rings, glasses, and jewellery.

For a step-by-step guide on how to clean your watch, click here.

Cleaning my Omega Speedmaster

Advantages of Polishing Watches

The two main reasons for polishing watches are to remove scratches and rejuvenate the watch’s appearance.

Most watch collectors will avoid polishing their watches.

At the same time, many people prefer their watches to be pristine and in perfect condition.

This is especially true if they’ve spent a lot of money on the watch.

The logic is simple: just like you don’t want scratches on your new car, you don’t want scratches on your watch.

But as reasonable as this logic may seem at first glance, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t polish your watch.

So before you decide to polish, consider the counterarguments.

Disadvantages of Polishing Watches

When asked how often I should polish my watch, the most avid watch collectors will give you a short answer: never, unless necessary.

And here’s why.

As we mentioned earlier, polishing a watch removes thin layers of metal from the case.

A wristwatch that’s been polished may have a shinier finish, but it also loses some of its design and construction.

The attractive bevels and edges of the watch can be lost by removing some layers of metal.

Soft edges, flattened bezels, and rounded lugs are the usual results.

In the worst case, this can make your watch look distorted and less authentic.

Another critical aspect is that not all finishes are created equal.

There are shiny and satin finishes, and many of them can appear on the same watch.

It can be difficult to restore a watch to its original finish – and you should not try unless you are very skilled.

Avoid having your watch polished if you want to keep the architecture of your trusty timepiece intact.

Another reason not to polish a watch is that it not only changes its composition but also reduces its value.

This is especially true for old watches, as experienced collectors who want to buy the model always prefer a genuine look over flawlessness.

A true expert could tell you a watch has been polished just by touching it.

Do you intend to sell your luxury watch?

The last thing you want to do is polish it.

What if I Still want to Polish my Watch?

If you still want to have your watch polished, better leave this task to a professional.

If you have the opportunity, you can also ask him to lightly polish the watch.

It is most difficult when a watch has deep dents and scratches because then the watch needs to be smoothed and polished to remove the scratches.

Since light polishing removes less metal, polishing only light scratches and hairline cracks will not have the same negative impact on the original case shape.

If you prefer to do a light polish yourself, I recommend a Cape Cod polishing cloth.

The most popular polishing cloths on the market are Cape Cod polishing cloths.

The main reason is that they are great for polishing your watch.  

With this cloth, you can bring your scratched, old watches back to life in no time.

They’re suitable for almost all metals, such as stainless steel, silver, chrome and gold.

Using Cape Cod cloth is relatively simple.

Rub the cloth over the part you want to polish, and very quickly, the small scratches will disappear.

Deep scratches take more force and time than shallow ones, so you’ll need to spend more time polishing a deep scratch, but it’s not impossible.

Conclusion

Deciding whether or not to have your watch polished is more complicated than it seems.

While polishing a watch has some advantages, such as restoring an elegant appearance, it also has some disadvantages, such as removing the metal and reducing the value of the watch.

Of course, the final decision to polish a watch is always up to the wearer.

The first thing you should consider is whether or not you want to sell your watch.

If you don’t intend to sell it, feel free to run it through an angle grinder if that makes you happy.

If you do intend to sell it, don’t even think about having it polished.

The reason is that polishing a watch to remove scuffs and scratches removes much of the original finish, irreparably altering the architecture of the case, bracelet, bezel and lugs.

Therefore, I advise you to take as much care of your watch as possible and store it in a box when you aren’t using it.

Every six months or so, you can clean and buff your watch at home with a soft toothbrush and warm soapy water applied to the metal surfaces.

Combined with cleaning with an equally soft cloth, your watch will look like new without causing irreversible damage.