Destruction can be beautiful...

I've always been fascinated by watches: they may be small devices, but they have all the components to mechanically keep the time without electrical reliance (in the case of mechanical watches, at least). At a recent Mini Maker Faire in the East Bay, I came across Compass Rose Design, which had small $6 packets of watch parts for people to buy and design with. When busing home with my loot of small, broken mechanical watches, I decided to stop at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse and of course, what would I leave with except another couple of larger broken watches (some quartz watches as opposed to mechanical ones in this batch).

It was my chance to open up watches to understand the inner workings, but admittedly I was a bit skeptical to start: I've seen the expansive set of tools at watch repair shops, and at best I merely had a standard set of screwdrivers. The first watch I opened was a test run, and it was surprisingly simple. Because I didn't have to worry about damaging the parts, unlike someone repairing a watch, I really didn't need the specialized hands remover: just tweezers, 1/16" screwdriver, and a small blade were enough. I also didn't need to worry about jewels as much as I though I'd need to, which greatly simplified things.

Step 1: Materials

Besides old, broken watches, As promised in the title, only three tools are needed for watch disassembly:

  • a sharp knife (for prying off the back of the watch case, and turning any screws with grooves thinner than what your screwdriver can handle)
    • small screwdriver (preferably 1/16" or 1/32" or smaller; for removing screws; you can get cheap ones from a general store for glasses repair. I saw an old idea once in which someone simply flattened the tip of a paper clip to get a small diameter screwdriver so possibly try that if you don't have screwdrivers on hand)
  • tweezers (for holding small components in tiny places -- honestly not very necessary, but undoubtedly handy to have)

However, three tools might not be enough for all watches, as some are more complex and secured compared to others. I had relatively cheap watches with simple movements, so these three sufficed. Another thing to note is that more advanced tools would be needed to *properly* take a watch apart (properly as in the watch could be put back together with full function without any damage). For example, if you have a waterproof watch, the case will be extra tight to prevent water damage, and thus opening it will be much harder -- I had an old Guess watch that I really wanted to open, but it's supposedly waterproof and thus that much more difficult to open. Another example is with the hands: the hands should be removed with a hand pulling tool to avoid scratching the dial or damaging the hands.

You'll also want some sort of organizer to separate all of your parts. I just used a cheap pill box container.

Don't forget any extra things you might want for making things with these watch parts! The main thing would be glue: regular superglue like Loctite works all right, but for permanence you'll probably want a metal epoxy (but so messy D:) or E6000, which is usually the go-to glue for jewelry-type metal-to-metal bonding. Because I recently got my ears pierced (went from zero to five holes in my ears in within the first month of 2017... I can tell that this year is going to be interesting already), I wanted to build some gear-earrings and thus got E6000 and earring posts (courtesy of Valentines' Day sales..).

<p>Great Instructable! Makes me want to take apart a few watches just for fun! Can't you enter this in the jewelry making contest? Seems like a great one for that.</p>
<p>Thanks for your kind comment! I actually posted this too early for that jewelry contest; I appreciate you suggesting that though. :) </p>
<p>Thanks for step by step instructions</p><p>he tasted so good </p>
<p>Something sounds fishy... I think this is the wrong instructable? ;)</p>
<p>your heart would make and incredible pendant.</p>
<p>Indeed. ;)</p>
<p>hello people</p>
<p>some watch dials require you to back out tiny screws that are accessible from the sides. Also, removing the hands first with a hand pulling tool would help if you were actually repairing the watch. Nothing too difficult about watch repair, just getting parts is a hassle as most of the parts are not available to be purchased by third parties.</p>
<p>Oh, thank you for the tip on the tiny screws. </p><p>I did try to put together one movement after cleaning some parts with hopes that it would start working again, but it never started ticking. None of the parts looked obviously damaged to me, so I didn't know what to make of it... :( </p>
On those old women's watches the balance staff is easily damaged or the hair spring could become easily bent. Other than that there are enough of them made that you could probably still buy a few and scavenge parts until you get it working. Problem with those watches was they had no shock resistance and the cases were barely made to keep dust out.
<p>Small screws.</p><p>Almost needed a microscope to replace a battery in a Timex Ironman. Thanks .for </p>
<p>Small screws indeed! That's why the flat head screwdriver had to be ~sixteenth inch. </p>
<p>How cool - When I was in Houston, I asked a jeweler what he did with broken watches - he gave me a whole bag full - free Neat stuff inside. I'm using parts for steampunk.</p>
<p>Oh steampunk; I'd love to see pictures if you have any. :)</p>
Generally, automatic watches will have a weighted gear on one side that spins as you move it, winding the movement for you. Solar watches are considered automatic as well, but those are more modern. <br><br>Just FYI, if you are willing to wait a month for shipping, you can get a full set of tools on ebay for less than ten bucks.
<p>I see, good to know. Thanks for the info on ebay watch repair kits! </p>
You can use a pair of needle nose pliers to open a screw off case back like this. You have to pinch the opposite notches and unscrew it. Figured this would be a useful tip to add.
<p>Ah thank you for your input!</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands
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