How To Fit A New Crystal to a Vintage Swiss Watch

There is one tweak that almost any watch enthusiast can do which adds value, and enjoyment, to their vintage Swiss watch; get rid of scratched or damaged crystals and fit a new one. It improves the appearance instantly and you’re learning stuff that saves a long wait at most UK jewellers or independent watch repair workshops.

It is relatively easy to do this job – even a novice can do it in 30 mins – although you will need the correct tools, as well as some expertise. I suggest you start with a bit of practice on some old scrap watches that don’t work before graduating to more precious family heirlooms.

If you want to learn watch repairs then I strongly suggest you invest in at least £300 worth of tools and equipment. You can’t do this work with a £5 mini-screwdriver set from a car boot, a case knife from Guandong and some WD40.

You can see the clear cement glue in the top left of this pic – this one was a 310, but the correct fitment was a 314 size crystal. That’s why the old one was glued in.

So here is what you need;

Workbench or table, good lighting, dust-free white paper or board to place things on.

Bergeon or similar crystal lift, plus base. These cost about £80-£90 on ebay.

Fine tweezers and cocktail sticks for teasing dirt out of the bezel.

Air blower or soft artists type brush

Head loupe or magnifying glass.

Replacement crystals – preferably high-dome acrylic, as these are easy to fit and you can buy job lots on ebay.

Polywatch or similar cleaning product, plus soft jewellers cloth

Red thread near the cannon pinion, plus glue at 6pm – not exactly George Daniels standard repair in the past on this Audax.

Here’s how I did this Audax earlier, which had an incorrect crystal glued into position by some heathen, who also managed to trap dust, glue residue and a red cotton thread fragment in there.

  1. Check the lift has gripped the edge of the crystal evenly, so it won’t slip off – then gently lift it away.
  2. Use the blower and brush to clean the dial – DO NOT use solvents to clean the dial, the paint will come off.
  3. Place the new crystal on the old one, do the rims match exactly? Use a micrometer to check your measurements ideally, but if not gently place the new one on the watch and feel how well it sits there. Is it a near perfect, but slightly too large fit? Good.
  4. Place your new crystal onto the sliding metal base plate and lock it securely, then ease the claws of the crystal lift onto the end of the dome, where it meets the rim. Screw in a little bit to compress the crystal – not too much. Check it sits evenly all the way around.
  5. Use the blower to clean the inside of the new crystal and the watch dial face again – you don’t want to lock in hairs or dust.
  6. Press the new one down firmly onto the bezel. It should pop in, overcoming resistance – you should feel this. Unscrew the lift claws.
  7. Check the new crystal doesn’t rotate or fall out if the watch is turned upside down.
  8. Clean it with Polywatch and a soft jewellers cloth.

That’s it, job done. Looks a whole lot better – now I can read the Swiss Made text at 6 o’clock, where previously a big dollop of glue obscured the view.

Happy watch fettling 😉

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