Selling guides

How to clean antique watches

How to clean antique watches
This article covers:

By their very nature, antique watches are bound to have picked up a little dirt and wear and tear in their time. It’s one thing to have a vintage watch gathering dust in the attic; it’s another to look after the precious metals in an antique.

Should I clean my watches?

In some cases, it’s not always necessary to clean a vintage or antique watch. For example, at Vintage Cash Cow, we don’t recommend you clean old watches. We have specialist cleaning equipment and you may run the risk of damaging the metal if you use the wrong product.

Antique watch

However, if you’re after a quick sale or want to sell it privately online, complete with photos, then a gentle clean may be advised.

How can I clean my watch face?

Rather than reaching for the Marigolds, there’s one magic item we swear by for cleaning watches: the humble pencil eraser. Many older watches will have grease or fingerprints on the watch face. A gentle rub with an eraser will remove this without damaging the glass or metal.

Cleaning watches

If yours is an antique, it may be especially delicate. In this case, use a dry cloth for the watch face and the case.

How do you clean a vintage gold watches?

Before you go to clean your watch, ask yourself: are you 100% sure you know what kind of metal this is? Do you have a certificate of authenticity or other paperwork? If you have any doubts, always take your watch to a professional.Know your stuff? Then approach with caution. Use a gentle metal cleaner (check the instructions to ensure it’s designed for your watch’s metal) and target the areas where build-up is most common. Metal watches, in particular silver, gold, and stainless steel, will likely have tarnish showing up on the back of the watch and the watch head. An eraser can’t combat this, so do your research on your metal cleaner and use it very sparingly.

Metal watches 

Cleaning straps

Another word of caution when using metal cleaners is to remember your watch strap. If the strap is not made of metal, then cover it before you start. Leather and canvas will likely stain if they come into contact with metal cleaner.For fabric straps, apply a clean, wet sponge to any stained areas. Test with a small dab of water in an invisible place in the first instance. Some fabric straps are multi-coloured and could run if they’re touched by water.Use a professional leather cleaner on all leather straps. This will prevent patina (leather marks), but make sure you rub lightly.Leather cleaner

Benefits of cleaning an old watches

Perhaps you’re looking to sell the parts of an old watch, or want to restore a vintage classic. If your watch is still working, there may be a benefit to cleaning it, as it will improve its condition and increase the sale value.

How do you clean a vintage Rolex?

High prestige brands such as Rolex may have to have their inner parts replaced with only genuine branded parts. For that reason, you should only clean a Rolex dial if you’re 100% confident in your abilities. If not, ask the professionals, such as the team at Vintage Cash Cow.If you must clean the Rolex yourself, always make sure the crown is tightly screwed to the case. This will stop water from getting in. Use lukewarm water with a minute amount of ammonia-free soap. Use a tool such as a soft-bristled toothbrush to get into crevices.

How to clean a Rolex watch

Remember – every scratch tells a story

It’s better to present a dirty vintage watch to a dealer than it is a broken one. Dealers will expect a watch that has been worn to have some wear and tear – the battle scars of the wearer, if you will.We’d highly recommend staying away from the chemicals, especially if yours is an antique watch. If you’re not sure, send your watch off to the team at Vintage Cash Cow. Once we’ve offered you a price, we can professionally clean the watch, ready for selling.

Share article

Ask us anything, and we'll reply as soon as possible

Our friendly online customer support team will answer your questions seven days a week.

* Asterisk means this is a required field
Get your FREE postage pack