How do I remove scratches from my watch?
Polished Stainless Steel
1. For fine scratches, we've found that nothing beats a jewelers cloth, like the Pioneer/Shino Polishing Cloth available from most watch suppliers. It is a double cloth. The inner cloth is impregnated with a red polishing powder (ferric oxide or rouge).
The outer cloth protects your hand from the nasty red stain and is also used to give the final polish. This jewelers polishing cloth works even better on gold.
You may also use Sylvet washable or the double sided jewelers cloth typically sold in drug stores. The only other tools you need are elbow grease and common sense.
2. For deep scratches, use Never-Dull, usually sold in drug stores and hardware stores. Never-Dull is cotton impregnated with a strong cleaner/polisher.
It has an unpleasant smell (like the polishing compound for cars) but works fast, leaving behind only faint scratches that can be removed with a jewelers cloth. And presto, you've got a mirror finish!
CAVEAT: You will always leave microscopic scratches on a highly polished SS (or gold) surface. These ultra-fine scratches are visible only in bright light and from a certain angle.
The only perfect finish is a factory finish. Even jobs done by jewelers are still inferior to the factory mirror finish.
Brushed Stainless Steel
1. To remove fine scratches, use a jewelers cloth. Be GENTLE or you will put a shine on the finish, which will not quite match the brushed look. If that happens, you can put the brushed finish back on by following Step 3 below.
2. For scratches over a small area, use a fiber-glass brush (e.g. the German-made Eurotool sold by watch-tool suppliers). It looks like a mechanical pencil with a bundle of glass fibers instead of lead that can be dispensed from the tip. )
You brush this glass-fiber tip on the SS surface to remove the scratches and to create a new brush finish. We would not recommend using this tool over a large area because the brush strokes tend to be uneven, especially around curves, though you can get better with practice.
WARNING: The broken fiber glass on your skin can cause unpleasant itches. Wear a thin latex glove and use a brush to remove fiber-glass debris from your watch after repair.
3. For scratches over a large area, use a Styrofoam block made for polishing finger nails (sold in beauty supply store). Each block is about an inch thick and 3 inches long. Its surface is impregnated with a very fine abrasive material.
Brush gently with the grain to remove the scratches and to blend the new brush strokes with the original ones. I prefer this Styrofoam block to sand paper or steel wool as it is easy to grip and to maneuver.
The soft Styrofoam also conforms to curved surfaces and is very forgiving.
With patience, you can even remove deep dents and reshape small parts safely with this Styrofoam polisher.
Sand or Bead Blased Stainless Steel
Leave it alone! Even fine jewelers cloth will still put a slight shine on the finish, which ruins it in our opinion. Get this finish re-done by professionals such as RGM.
Final Comments on Steel
Above tips are for repairing minor scratches which are annoying to you but not worth a trip to your local watchmaker/jeweler, or shipping out the watch.
If you are careful and patient, the results can be very satisfying.
But to restore the whole watch, often a necessity when you dabble in vintage watches, We have found it best to send the watch out to professionals with the right tools and skills for the job.
There is a commonly used product called PolyWatch which can be purchased online for less than $10. This mildly abrasive paste is useful for removing many types of scratches and other abrasions, including some scratches in the anti-reflective coating.
Gold or Platinum
Use the appropriate polish from a jewelry store, keeping in mind that a brushed gold/platinum finish will be harder to match than a glossy finish (see the stainless steel article for pointers on matching the pattern.)
For gold filled or gold plate, we would recommend that you leave them alone - you don't want to remove any more of the finish than already exists!
(used with permission of TimeZone)