Interestingly enough, the topic of scratches on a watch is something that splits opinions.
On the one hand, we have those who say ”don’t baby your watch, just accept the scratches and enjoy it" On the other hand, we have those who shed a tear and go on to a watch forum desperately asking what to do as soon as they get the tiniest mark or scratch on their watch.
Naturally, we want to take care of the things we own. This is particularly true if you have just bought a brand new luxury watch and spent thousands and thousands on it. Just like you don’t want to scratch your car, you don’t want to scratch your watch. And whilst that is not exactly a completely accurate comparison, you need to be aware that when you wear your watch, you will get scratches.
But we do believe that one does not necessarily have to exclude the other. We believe that you can enjoy your watch to the fullest whilst also taking the appropriate precautions to protect your watch from scratches and keeping it in a condition that is as good as possible. And you can do this by being mindful about the situations where your watch runs a high risk of getting scratches and think about how and when you wear it. The good news is that many of these solutions are very simple too! Keep in mind that these are just general advice. Remember: you are of course completely free to wear your watch however you please, but since you are here, you will likely find our tips useful.
In this article, we share our top tips and tricks to how you can protect your watch from scratches. But before we dig in, here’s a word about polishing.
A word about polishing watches
The best solution for removing scratches on a watch is through polishing. But whilst polishing is effective, there are also a few caveats to it. We won’t go into the details for this article, but what you need to know is that the main reason why polishing has a bit of a bad reputation in the watch world is that it tends to ”damage” the watch’s original lines and shapes. It may not do it after just one polish, but if you consistently polish your watch time and time over, it will eventually lose its original lines and forms. Now, for a cheap Seiko, this may not be the end of the world, but for a luxury watch such as a Rolex, it can have a great negative effect on its value and become less attractive for collectors.
This is because when you are polishing, you are effectively removing material from the watch to create a smooth surface. Do that repeatedly enough times and you will have changed the watch’s original shape.
The reason we bring this up is that there are people who, as soon as they get one scratch on their watch, ask if they should polish it. The issue is that another scratch will likely appear shortly after and you will have to polish it again. With that said, if you are going to polish your watch to remove scratches, do it once in a while and certainly not more than once a year, that is at least our recommendation.
With that sorted out, let’s look at what you can do to protect your watch from scratches.
How to protect your watch from scratches
Don’t store your watch together with other items
One of the biggest mistakes we see people make from a scratch perspective is that they store their watch together with other items - in particular jewelry. A lot of people have, for example, a small tray or similar where they put their belongings at the end of the day - including the watch. Watches + jewelry is not a good combination from a scratch perspective because due to sharp edges, gemstones, brushed surfaces, etc will leave scratches on your watch. Therefore, when you are storing your watch, always make sure to keep it away from other objects, in particular jewelry.
This brings us to the next point…
Store your watch on a soft material when not in use
Ideally, you want to store your watch in a dedicated spot when you are not using it, for example, a watch box or a watch stand. These are often made in soft materials that are designed to not leave any scratches on your watch. People that do not have a dedicated spot to place their watches may leave them on the countertop, on the nightstand, etc. and these places are not always ideal and may leave scratches on your watch - particularly over time.
Use a travel case when traveling (if not in use)
If you are traveling and are not wearing your watch (for example if you bring multiple), it’s important to think about how you store it. A lot of people just put their watch in one of the compartments of the bag, or in a pocket somewhere but this is not ideal if you want to protect it against scratches. Your watch may be subject to rough materials that can cause a lot of small scratches on the watch. If your watch has a metal bracelet, the result can be even worse as the bracelet will scratch against the case and the bracelet will rub against itself. In addition to this, your watch may also be subject to shocks and bangs which are certainly not ideal for the movement of your watch.
With that in mind, the best way to travel with your watch is with a watch travel case which is hard and has a soft lining to protect it from shocks, but most importantly, from scratches. It will also keep your watch from sliding around and rubbing against not-so-ideal materials.
Remove your watch during demanding activities
This one is rather obvious. Of course, you should be able to enjoy and wear your watch, but it is important to be thoughtful about which situations you wear your watch and think about whether it is necessary to have it on if the risk of getting scratches is considerably high. Some activities are more prone to giving your watch scratches than others, and these may include garden work, sports, or things like construction. Not only do demanding activities greatly increase the risk of scratching your watch, they may also greatly increase the wear and tear to your watch movement. For example, wearing a watch whilst using a hammer may at worst cause the movement to break (but that’s a topic for a completely different article).
Avoid wearing abrasive bracelets on the same wrist as your watch
We have seen many examples of watches from people who have worn abrasive bracelets on the same wrists as their watch. Unfortunately, the result is not very appealing. For example, a friend of mine pairs a Rolex Submariner together with an abrasive metal bracelet right next to it on the left side. The result is that the left side of the case (which is polished) has gotten an almost matte finish consisting of countless small scratches built up due to the bracelet working almost as sandpaper that is consistently rubbing against the case.
If you wear more gentle bracelets, for example, one made in leather or textile, it won’t really scratch the watch, but our advice is to avoid rough, sharp, or abrasive bracelets on the same wrist as your watch.
Think about where you have your watch
This is actually not what it sounds like. By this, we mean that you should be mindful of where you have your watch when you have it on your wrist and check the area for objects that may risk scratching your watch. For example, if you walk past a house with a brick wall in a tight area, it may be a good idea to put your arm behind your back as you pass through to avoid accidentally hitting the wall and making big scratches on your watch. As a matter of fact, it is often these types of situations that cause large and annoying scratches, for example, accidentally hitting a stone countertop or accidentally hitting a door handle with your watch as you are walking through.
To a lot of people, it may sound too complicated and a lot to think about, but as a matter of act, a lot of people do this automatically by muscle memory. Soon, you’ll automatically identify potentially hazardous objects that are prone to scratch watches without even thinking about it.
Avoid common objects known to scratch watches
There are a lot of common objects around the house and in other places, we find ourselves that are known to cause scratches to watches. Perhaps the most obvious and well-known enemy is Mac laptops which tend to cause lots of scratches to watch clasps on metal bracelets. A watch against the Mac is not a pleasant sound, and the result is not a pleasant view either. Think about the common objects you use around the house and whether they impose a scratch risk on your watch.