How To Open The Back Of A Pocket Watch


Tools Needed

Opening the back of a pocket watch requires a few essential tools to ensure a safe and successful process. Before you begin, gather the following tools:

  • A case opener: This tool is specially designed to remove the back cover of a pocket watch without damaging the case or movement. There are various types of case openers available, including wrench-style and knife-style openers. Choose one that suits your needs and the type of watch you have.
  • A pair of tweezers: Tweezers are handy for holding small parts and maneuvering them carefully during the process of opening the pocket watch.
  • A clean, soft cloth: This is necessary for handling the watch and keeping it free from dirt, fingerprints, or any potential damage.
  • A magnifying glass: Although not mandatory, a magnifying glass can be useful for inspecting the intricate details of the watch movement and identifying any issues or repairs needed.

Make sure you have these tools ready before attempting to open the back of your pocket watch. Using the right tools will not only make the process easier but also reduce the risk of causing any accidental damage to the watch.

Step 1: Determine the Type of Pocket Watch

Before you can open the back of a pocket watch, it’s essential to identify the type of watch you have. Different pocket watches have varying methods of opening, so understanding the type will guide you in the next steps. Here are a few common types of pocket watches:

  • Screw-Back: These pocket watches have a back cover that is secured with tiny screws. To open this type of watch, you will need a case opener with adjustable prongs or a screwdriver attachment to remove the screws.
  • Hinged Back: Hinged-back pocket watches have a back cover that is connected to the case by a hinge. To open this type, you will need to locate the hinge and use a case opener to gently pry it open.
  • Snap-Back: Snap-back pocket watches have a back cover that “snaps” into place. You can typically identify this type by a small notch on the side or bottom of the case. To open a snap-back watch, you will need a case opener with a small, pointed blade or a knife-style opener.

Take a close look at your pocket watch and determine which type it belongs to. If you’re unsure, consult the watch’s manual if you have one, or do some research online to identify the specific model or brand.

By identifying the type of pocket watch you have, you’ll be better equipped to proceed with the correct method of opening the back cover. This step is crucial to ensure you use the appropriate tools and techniques, minimizing the risk of damaging the watch during the process.

Step 2: Remove the Stem

Before attempting to open the back of a pocket watch, it’s important to remove the stem. The stem is the small button or knob located on the side of the watch, used to wind and set the time. Follow these steps to remove the stem:

  1. Locate the crown: The crown is the part of the stem that sticks out from the watch case. It is usually found at the 3 o’clock or 12 o’clock position, depending on the design of the watch.
  2. Gently pull out the crown: To remove the stem, grasp the crown firmly and pull it outwards. This action should disengage the stem from the watch mechanism.
  3. Continue pulling until the stem is fully extended: Keep pulling the crown until the stem is fully extended from the watch case. Be careful not to exert excessive force or twist the stem, as this can cause damage.
  4. Preserve the stem: Once the stem is fully extended, take care to keep it in a safe place. Wrapping it in a soft cloth or placing it in a designated container will help prevent it from getting lost or accidentally damaged.

Removing the stem is essential, as it allows for easier access to the watch movement and prevents any potential damage to the delicate components when opening the back cover. Ensure that the stem is completely detached before proceeding to the next steps of opening the pocket watch.

Step 3: Locate the Notch or Hinge

Once you have removed the stem from your pocket watch, the next step is to locate the notch or hinge on the case. The notch or hinge is the point at which the back cover is connected to the rest of the watch. Here’s how to find it:

  1. Inspect the sides of the watch case: Look closely at the edges of the case for any visible notches or gaps. Some pocket watches have a small, discrete notch that can be difficult to spot.
  2. Examine the back cover: If you don’t see any notches on the sides, check the back cover of the watch itself. Some hinged-back watches have hinges that are hidden within the design, requiring you to open the back cover partially to reveal the hinge.
  3. Feel for slight movement: Gently press on different parts of the back cover while holding the rest of the watch securely. If you feel any slight movement or flexing, it indicates the presence of a hinge or a snap-back cover.
  4. Use a magnifying glass if needed: If you’re having difficulty locating the notch or hinge, use a magnifying glass to inspect the case more closely. This can help you identify any subtle details that may have gone unnoticed.

Once you have located the notch or hinge, you will have a better understanding of how to proceed with the next steps of opening the pocket watch. This information is crucial in determining the appropriate method and tool to use for safely opening the back cover without causing any damage to the watch.

Step 4: Use a Case Opener

Now that you have identified the notch or hinge on your pocket watch, it’s time to use a case opener. A case opener is a specialized tool designed to safely pry open the back cover of a pocket watch without causing any damage. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Select the right case opener: Depending on the type of pocket watch you have (screw-back, hinged back, or snap-back), choose the appropriate case opener. Make sure it is compatible with your watch’s design and size.
  2. Position the case opener: Hold the pocket watch securely in one hand and position the case opener against the notch, hinge, or snap-back point on the case. The prongs or blade of the case opener should align with the opening mechanism of the watch.
  3. Apply gentle pressure: With a steady hand, apply gentle pressure with the case opener. Be sure to press in the correct direction to avoid slipping and damaging the watch or injuring yourself. If it’s a screw-back watch, use the case opener’s prongs to unscrew the small screws holding the back cover in place.
  4. Gradually pry open the back cover: Slowly and carefully pry open the back cover. If it’s a hinge or snap-back, the cover should start to separate from the rest of the watch. Take your time and apply even pressure, ensuring you don’t force or break anything.

Using a case opener is a critical step in opening the back of a pocket watch. This tool allows you to exert controlled force and avoid any accidental damage to the case or inner workings of the watch. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully and take your time, ensuring a successful opening while maintaining the integrity of your timepiece.

Step 5: Gently Pry Open the Back Cover

After using the case opener to position and prepare the pocket watch, it’s time to gently pry open the back cover. This step requires caution and finesse to avoid damaging the watch or its delicate components. Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Apply even pressure: With the case opener in place, apply steady but gentle pressure to the appropriate notch, hinge, or snap-back point. Use the case opener as a leverage tool to gradually separate the back cover from the rest of the watch.
  2. Work your way around: If the back cover doesn’t come off immediately, don’t force it. Instead, continue applying gentle pressure and work your way around the watch, moving incrementally to different points on the notch or hinge. This even pressure distribution will avoid excessive strain on any one area.
  3. Utilize a twisting motion if needed: In some cases, a slight twisting motion while applying pressure can help loosen the back cover. However, exercise extreme caution to prevent any unintentional damage to the watch or its internal mechanism.
  4. Expect resistance: Depending on the watch’s design and how tightly the back cover is sealed, you may encounter some resistance during this process. Be patient and careful, adjusting your technique as needed to safely pry open the cover.
  5. Keep the watch steady: As you work on prying open the back cover, ensure that the rest of the watch is held securely. This minimizes the risk of any accidental slips or drops that could cause damage to the timepiece.

Remember, opening the back cover of a pocket watch should be done with utmost care and precision. Take your time, apply even pressure, and be patient throughout the process to safely separate the back cover without causing any harm to the watch or its delicate components.

Step 6: Inspect the Movement

After successfully prying open the back cover of your pocket watch, it’s time to inspect the movement. The movement refers to the intricate inner workings of the watch, including the gears, springs, and other components. Here’s how to examine the movement:

  1. Use a magnifying glass: To get a closer look at the details of the movement, use a magnifying glass. This will allow you to inspect the small intricacies and identify any visible issues or signs of wear.
  2. Look for damaged or missing parts: Examine the movement closely and check for any damaged or missing parts. Look for broken gears, bent springs, loose or disconnected components, or any signs of corrosion.
  3. Check for dirt or debris: Inspect the movement for any accumulation of dirt, dust, or debris. This can affect the watch’s accuracy and performance, so it’s important to clean it if necessary.
  4. Observe the balance wheel: Pay attention to the balance wheel, which regulates the watch’s timekeeping. Ensure that it is oscillating freely and smoothly. Any irregular movements or an inconsistent beat may indicate a problem.
  5. Take note of the condition: Assess the overall condition of the movement. Look for any signs of previous repairs, modifications, or adjustments. Note any peculiarities or issues that may require further attention or professional assistance.

Inspecting the movement of your pocket watch is an important step to assess its condition and determine if any repairs or maintenance are needed. By closely examining the movement, you can gain insights into the watch’s functionality and make informed decisions on how to proceed.

Step 7: Close the Back Cover Properly

After inspecting the movement of your pocket watch, it’s time to close the back cover securely. Properly closing the back cover is essential to ensure the watch remains protected and functions smoothly. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Align the back cover: Carefully align the back cover with the case, ensuring that it fits snugly and lines up properly with the watch’s body. Take your time to ensure a precise alignment before proceeding.
  2. Apply even pressure: Once the back cover is aligned, apply even pressure using your fingers or the palm of your hand to gently push it back into place. Make sure to apply pressure evenly across the entire surface to ensure a proper seal.
  3. Listen for a click: As you press down, you may hear a satisfying click or feel a slight resistance. This indicates that the back cover has engaged with the case firmly and securely.
  4. Check for any gaps: After closing the back cover, visually inspect the watch to check for any noticeable gaps between the case and the cover. The back cover should be flush with the case, leaving no visible openings.
  5. Ensure a tight seal: To ensure a tight seal, you can also gently press around the edges of the back cover to verify that it is securely in place without any loose sections.

Properly closing the back cover of your pocket watch is crucial for maintaining its integrity and protecting the delicate components inside. By following these steps, you can ensure a secure closure that not only keeps the watch safe but also maintains its aesthetics.

Step 8: Reattach the Stem

Once you have closed the back cover of your pocket watch, it’s time to reattach the stem. Reattaching the stem is crucial to ensure the watch can be properly wound and set. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Inspect the stem hole: Take a moment to examine the stem hole on the watch movement. Ensure that it is clean and free from any debris or obstructions.
  2. Orient the stem: Align the stem with the stem hole, making sure the grooves on the stem correspond with the mechanism inside the watch.
  3. Gently insert the stem: With a steady hand, carefully insert the stem back into the stem hole. Apply slight pressure to guide the stem in, but be cautious not to force it or misalign it.
  4. Push the stem inward: Once the stem is correctly inserted, push it inward until it is fully seated in its original position. You may feel a slight click as it locks into place.
  5. Verify functionality: Test the functionality of the stem by gently pulling it out to the winding or setting position. If it moves smoothly and engages with the watch’s mechanisms, it is reattached correctly.

Reattaching the stem properly is crucial to ensure the pocket watch functions as intended. By following these steps, you can securely reattach the stem and ensure that the watch can be wound and set accurately.

Step 9: Test the Watch

After completing the previous steps, it’s time to test the functionality of your pocket watch. Testing the watch ensures that it is running accurately and functioning as expected. Here’s how to test your pocket watch:

  1. Ensure the stem is in the correct position: Make sure the stem is in the appropriate position for winding or setting the time.
  2. Wind the watch: If your pocket watch is a mechanical or manual-wind model, gently turn the crown in a clockwise direction to wind the mainspring. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the recommended number of turns.
  3. Observe the watch hands: As you wind the watch, observe the movement of the watch hands. They should move smoothly and accurately without any hesitation or skipping.
  4. Set the time: If necessary, use the stem to set the correct time on the watch. Ensure the hands align properly with the hour markers or numerals.
  5. Monitor the watch’s accuracy: Let the watch run for a while and monitor its accuracy. Compare the time on the pocket watch with a reliable time source, such as an atomic clock or another accurate timepiece. Note any discrepancies or significant variations.
  6. Check for any issues: During the testing process, pay attention to any irregularities, such as excessive ticking noise, inconsistent timekeeping, or any other abnormalities. These may indicate possible issues that require professional attention.

Testing the watch allows you to ensure that it is functioning correctly and keeping time accurately. By following these steps, you can assess the performance of your pocket watch and address any potential issues that may arise.