Watch Back Removal

In our store we change watch batteries on a daily basis. We use the
standard knifes sold in most jewelry catalogs. Some watch backs are
extremely difficult for me to pop off. What do some of you do to
get off the really tough ones?

Thanks in advance.

Dale Pavatte, Diamonds For You, Decherd, Tennessee, USA

After having done tens of thousands of watch batteries we have found
that a variety of knives are handy inasmuch as there is so much
variation in case design. I am always on the lookout for knives with
variations in thickness, curvature and any other features which
might come in handy. One should avoid knives made with stainless
steel. Stainless is not as strong and does not keep an edge well.
Old carbon steel knives are the best. Shop at thrift stores and/or
garage sales. For the most difficult watch backs we sometimes use a
small screwdriver which has been dressed so as to form a one sided
wedge. We turn the watch on its side and gently drive the wedge into
the case edge. Remember to keep your knives well dressed…a sharp
edge is a must ! Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA Merry Christmas ( We
are having our best ever ! )

Dale, I use an “Exacto” knife blade…the blade dulls quickly and
works great. Many watches require a case press to put the backs
on…I assume you have one.

Bob Staley
B.Staley, Goldsmiths
Precision Laser Welding


For many years I’ve used a small metal Stanley knife model No 10 -
095 the blade is very thin and are of the type that can be broken off
in sections as they become blunt. If the case is very tight it is
good to just make that initial gap before using the more traditional
knife. Obviously these knives are very sharp and some practice is
required in their use, I find that the sharpness actually makes the
job safer because it is more able to enter the gap with relatively
little force being applied. Todate I havent cut myself using it
unlike the tradition knife.

As a guide to its use, I would recommend using just a small length
if the blade and controlling it between the thumb and index finger.

Regards Alan Lewis

End of forwarded message


Try to get a good quality case knife, there are a few different
types, regular knife shape, hollow ground shape, flat spoon shape,
lever type. they all have their own particular use and its just a
matter of having the right tool for the job. I have a number of case
openers, mostly by Bergeon, the common knife shape is the one I use
most and if that fails I just move on to the next type.

The thing to remember is that most case backs have a particular
place where they should be opened from and should be replaced with
the same orientation. Looking from the back of the watch there is
usually an indentation or a flange at the 1 o’clock position or else
an indentation at the 9 o’clock position, then its just a matter of
levering the back open. Things to watch out for are one piece cases
where the watch movement is removed through the front of the watch by
using an “octopus tool” to remove the glass and pulling apart the
split stem. Also some watches have the levering point between the
lugs and this you wont see unless you remove the strap first.

Refitting the back, make sure it is in the right position with the
cut out above the stem, some watches have a dot to assist alignment.
Remember if was hard getting the back off it will probably be just as
hard to refit it. The thing is to push the back on square, and not
one side first. Here is where a good case press is a godsend, it only
takes a little force to do the job. If you don’t have a proper case
press try using the bottom part or your wedding band
stretcher/compressor, use a piece of leather to protect the front of
the watch where it has a flat glass and for raised glass it should
fit into the appropriate hole in the base of the wedding band

Hope this helps,
Neil KilBane,
-where yet again it looks like it will be another wet Christmas.

    Dale, I use an "Exacto" knife blade....the blade dulls quickly
and works great. Bob Staley 

Hi Bob; I favor an exacto blade also, for those difficult watches
such as Fossil, Swiss Army, etc. But please take care when you are
prying open a case with an exacto blade, as they are quite brittle
near the tip. I know one man who was using one to cut a rubber mold
and a bit broke off and hit his eye, requiring stitches in the
eyeball itself (yikes!). He didn’t even feel it until the fluid from
his eyeball was running down his cheek (sorry to be so graphic). I
always wear wrap-around safety glasses. But on the subject of
stubborn watch backs, has anyone ever tried those openers that work
like an automatic center punch and have a screwdriver tip shaped end
on them? Seems like they would work better than trying to line up a
knife on a watch back and hit it with a hammer. Supposedly, you just
press the end into the notch and press on the handle until it snaps,
giving a slight concussion to the tip and popping open the back.
I’ve wanted one, but I’m such a skinflint I’m waiting to make sure it
isn’t just another potential dust collector.

David L. Huffman
David L. Huffman Studios, Inc.

On some watches, swiss army, is one, the back is tough to get off, I
use a pop-it tool, can be found in borels watch cat. it has a
screwdriver type blade, and when you press it in it pops. kind of a
impact tool, some times sever pops in a row will losen the
watchback. and any that are that hard to do will need the back
press. I have used my grandfathers pocket knife, with a small blade
kept sharp for 10 years now. the watch blades they sell in the
tools cat. are just too thick.


I vote for a sharp pocket knife.

I have to add a story though.

A young lady came into the store and ask if I did watch batteries.
Of course the answer was yes. I popped the back off her watch and
there was the springs, and gears of a wind up. I gave the stem a
couple turns and everything came to life. I put the back, back on,
and wound the watch and gave it to her. I told here there was
nothing wrong with the battery as it didn’t have one, all it needed
was winding. She ask me if it was going to stop again and I told
her that she had to wind it every day as which point she was
flabbergasted that a watch should be wound.

We both learned something that day. She learned that some watches
had to be wound, and I learned that the younger generation was
isolated from the past. She had never heard of a wind up watch, and
I was astounded that she hadn’t.


  She ask me if it was going to stop again and I told her that she
had to wind it every day as which point she was flabbergasted that
a watch should be wound. 

Don, thanks for sharing such a really cute story with us. Yes, the
younger generation has not heard of a lot of things. And so it will
always be -when I went back to college and took a basic intro to
computers course, my own children (in college as well) couldn’t
believe I didn’t know “anything!!!” about computers - where had I
been? Well, now I’m up to speed, but it was disconcerting for me to
see 3 years old in summer computer camps who knew more than I did.
Isn’t progress wonderful? Your story made my day. Kay

I have come across the very opposite of Don’s story, not too long
ago a lady brought me in a Swatch watch and said that she used to
wind it every morning but she could not find the end of the
mainspring! When I explained that it used a battery to power the
watch, she asked if that was a “new” thing. Maybe there are some
people isolated from the present?

Neil KilBane,

On the subject of watches and the younger generation…my
neighbor, who teaches in grade school, says she has problems
getting the kids to learn how to tell time from a clock face because
they have only digital clocks at home. (on the microwave, on the
coffeemaker, on the TV, on the computer, etc.) Dee.