MINUS4PLUS6

Maintaining Rolex Watch Cases & Bracelets

Wipedown Bracelet Removal Bracelet Scratch Case Scratches CapeCod  

  Rolex Watch GMTII 116710

Unless your Rolex is a safe queen, all watches get the typical scratches that come with average everyday use. Hairline scratches from hitting walls and clasp scratches from desk diving and desk flying accumulate over the months. Some Rolex wearers allow the scratches to pile up and have the watch refinished when serviced. Others meticulously polish each scratch moments after noticing it. I initially was the latter, and am now the former. In my mind, scratches are physical reminders of the story the watch tells; the greater the scratches the better the story. Nonetheless, there are some known tricks listed below to keep your watch looking good, but be very careful and use some of these methods sparingly.

Weekly Wipedown

Scrubbling Bubbles

Perhaps the biggest question asked by the Internet digerati on Internet boards pertains to how people clean their watches. The ritual I use is to use Scrubbing Bubbles wipes and a Googalie cloth. I use half of a Scrubbing Bubble wipe. I wipe the bracelet and the case sides, being careful not to have too much of the cleaner getting into seems; it does not take very much cleaner to get the original shine returned. I let the watch sit for 30 seconds, rinse, then wipe with a Googalie cloth. Scrubbing Bubbles can be found at any drug store or marketand Goggalie cloths can be found at www.googalies.com.

Keeping the bracelet clean helps prevent "bracelet stretch," mentioned below.

As this image shows, it is possible for a Rolex to get pitting between the caseback and the case if not rinsed after use in saltwater and other vigorous activity (and one of the reasons why Rolex utilizes 904L stainless steel.) Pitted Rolex
   
Scrubbling Bubbles on a Rolex

Over the bathroom sink, get the watch wet with tapwater. Take 1/2 of a scrubbling bubble wipe the bracelet and clasp and the side of the watch case. Be careful not to get any Scrubbing Bubble soap around the seals. I allow the soap to sit for a minute or two. Once the soap has settled in, I rinse with tap water and dry with a Googalie cloth.

This is a quick and easy way to keep your watch clean without worrying about soap seeping into the watch seals.

There has been much discussion whether soap deteriorates the seals. Although strong soap and rubber might not necessarily mix, I have not seen any deteriorated seals as a result of soap, or heard stories/images from the Internet. Nonetheless, common sense says that it would be smart to keep soap away from the seems.

Googalie cloths were not initially designed for watches. Nonetheless, Googalies are a thick, soft microsoft cloths that are great for wiping down the gick that collects over the week.

Googalie Cloth

 

 

Update

 

After learning about Veraet WristClean, this is hand-down the best cleaner. It is sold in the National Association of Watch and Clock Collector's museum store, as well as been advertised on Antiquorum's Timezone.com.

Veraet's President, Don Rothrauff, explained that the watch spray is safe because it is water-based, contains no abrasives, no glycerin (the gunk that causes film buildup), no ammonia or acid that could potentially cause rubber seals to deterioriate. Veraet also produces a series of cloths that are either sold separately, or bundled with the WirstClean spray product.

Read a review of Veraet's WristClean here.

Veraet Watch Spray
Cloth Kit

Veraet distributes microsuede cloths that are used for wiping down the watch after cleaning with WristClean spray, microsilk cloths for cleaning gunk off without WristClean, and a larger and thicker microsilk cloth used for cleaning gold. Don explained that watch collectors prefer having cleaning cloths of different types and thicknesses.

Before using the Veraet WristClean cloths, I used a Googalie cloth that worked well, but did not soak up water like the blue suede cloth does. The blue cloth is perhaps my favorite. The black microsilk cloth I keep around to wipe down my watches after daily use.

   

Bracelet Removal

Required Tools

About once or twice a year, the bracelet requires removal for cleaning and light refinishing. The tools required are a Bergeon springbar tool, a roll of masking or electrical tape, and an optional case pad.

According to Rolex wearer, structural engineer, and fellow cyclist, Colnago, on the Rolex Forums, Rolex bracelets do not stretch, but rather "elongate from wear caused when grit/grime/dust etc get in between the links of the bracelet... as the bracelet flexes during normal wear the grit/grime/dust act as cutting compounds and wear the pins and the links themselves resulting in a looser fit." For a long lasting bracelet, it is worth cleaning removing and cleaning the bracelet in an ultrasonic cleaner at least once a year.

   
Bergeon Springbar Tool 6111

The Bergeon Springbar tool 6111 has a small fork on one end for sliding the springbar inward to release it from the case. The small and sharper the tool, the better. Do not use an inexpensive springbar tool as the fork on them tend to be too dull or too large.

This is also a great tool if you have traditional Rolex pierced lugs. Pierced lugs were on most Rolex watch cases up until the late 90's and early 2000's whereby the springbar holes visable and accessible on the outside of the case.

   
Tape Lugs

Prior to using the springbar tool to release the bracelet from the case, separate the bracelet from the clasp using a small pin such that the bracelet can lay flat on the workbench.

After separating the bracelet from the clasp, mask off the lug with either masking tape, or (better yet) Kapton tape available from Amazon. Line up the straight edge of the tape with the edge of the lug. The masking tape or electrical tape will help prevent tell-tale springbar scratches.

   
slide springbar

Using the Bergeon 6111, carefully slide the springbar shoulder inward while slightly pushing down on the springbar. Slight downward pressure will keep the tool onto the springbar and allow the springbar to drop into the case and not slide back into the hole.

* If the springbar does not want to slide easily, spray a little dry silicon spray onto the sprinbar. I find that a little dry silicon spray makes sliding the springbar much easier.

   
slide springbar

Be careful while sliding the springbar shoulder inward. After releasing the springbar from the case, repeat the same procedure on the other springbar.

There is definately a trick to releasing the springbar from both sides. Sometimes, while sliding the springbar on one side of the case, the other side slips back in. Slight downward pressure on the springbar while sliding it out will help prevent what I call the "see-saw" effect.

   
What has become my absolute favorite tool for removing Rolex bracelets is the Bergeon 6825. This tool slides both sides of the springbar simultaneously such that you are not playing see-saw with the springbar. The standard tips that are included with the tool are a little too wide. I ground them down slightly to fit inside a Rolex solid end link (SEL). Otto Frei indicates that this tool will now work with Rolex bracelets, but be sure to order the Fine Forks (6825 Fine Forks - FF). If the forks are still too wide, a simple filing of the tips makes this the preferred tool for removing SEL bracelets.
   
Be Careful This tool is pricey, but if you are going to be removing Rolex bracelets, it is well worth the cost for Swiss precision and less cursing at yourself for creating scratches from removing or reinstalling the bracelet.
   
Adjust Tool

Before using the tool, be sure to adjust the set screws such that the tongs are just wider than the solid end link. Doing so will prevent the tongs from scratching the case in the event that the tongs slip from the springbar shoulders.

[This image was taken after the bracelet was removed. Nonetheless, adjust the set screw while the band is installed on the watch head.]

   
Start

Turn the watch over, and insert the tool around the narrow part of the clasp hinge on the 6:00 o'clock side of the watch. Starting at the 12:00 o'clock side is cumbersome as the tool has to navigate around the wider part of the clasp hinge, and thus start on the 6:00 o'clock side.

Squeeze both sides equally insuring that the springbar is fully compressed together. Once compressed, back the watch head away from the solid end link (SEL). Keep the end link stationary while sliding the watch head away from the band.

   
SqueezeBothSidesEqually

To reinstall, start wiht the 12:00 o'clock side if the bracelet. Squeeze both sides equally insuring that the springbar is fully compressed, and keep the solid end link stationary on the work surface and slide the watch head into the solid end link (not the other way around).

Carefully back the watch head into the solid end link.

*I have discovered that a little dry silicon spray makes removing / reinstalling the springbar much easier. Just spray a little into the springbar before removing and just prior to reinstallation.

   
SlideBackIN

Once the 12:00 o'clock side watch head is backed into the solid end link, release the tool and move the end link so that the springbars fully seat into the holes.

Essentially, keep the solid end link (SEL) stationary, and back the watch head into SEL.

   
Move Case

Slide the end link around such that the springbars snap into the holes. You should hear it snap into place.

Follow the same steps for the 6:00 o'clock side. I found that installing the 6 o'clock side last is MUCH easier as there is more room to maneuver with the skinnier part of the bracelet clasp hinge.

   
Rolex Tin Be sure to keep a Rolex tin or a safe collection area for the springbars. Rolex springbars are designed for each style of watch head and finding genuine replacements is harder than one would think.
Rolex Tin
   
Burgeon 6825 This is an image from the Bergeon catalog with information on the 6825 tool. Be sure to order the Fine Forks. Unfortunately, the page does not indicate whether to file down the tips to fit Rolex. Nevertheless, there is good information on this page about the tool. Click image for larger photo.

Reinstalling the bracelets is the same procedure, but in reverse. The reinstallation process is much easier using the Bergeon 6825.


Update II

 

I was able to obtain separately a Rolex 3200 springbar removal tool found in the complete bracelet sizing tool kit that is available to Rolex Authorized Dealers. A review of the bracelet sizing kit is available here.

Some have reported in Rolex Forums that the Rolex 3200 tool are available through Rolex Authorized Dealers, but you might have to take a picture in to show the sales people.

 

Rolex 3200 Tool
This tool is very similar to the Bergeon 7825 tool. Bergeon is known for being an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for Rolex and the similarities between the two tools are striking. Bergeon 7825 Rolex Bracelet Removal Tool

The Rolex bracelet tool includes removable tips, covers, and a small handout showing that this tool is designed for Rolex cases without springbar piercings that are trademark of older Rolex watches.

The tips are designed to be removable such that they can be replaced, although I have not seen replacement tips sold. The tips are hardened and sharp to grip the springbar. The covers are to prevent errant scratches on anyting the tips touch, as well as potentially saving the tip's sharpness.

Rolex 3200 Tool
The Rolex 3200 springbar tool is simple to use. Because of the triangle shape, it is easier to push the tips down onto the springbar shoulders than the V-shaped Bergeon 6825 tool. Steps for using the Rolex 3200 tool are the same as the Bergeon 6825 noted above. Rolex 3200 Tool

With the bracelet removed, be sure to inspect the springbars. These sprinbars held a jubilee bracelet. The watchmaker who supplied this photo indicated that worn springbars like these are quite common. Be sure to replace your Rolex springbars with Rolex springbars from an Rolex Service Center (RSC) or from an Authorized Dealer (AD). Sprinbars can also be found on eBay, but make sure that they are genuine (ask to see the Rolex packing envelope.)

A schematic of bezel inserts, bezel part numbers, and springbar part numbers is posted here (right click and save the .pdf to your desktop).

Worn Rolex springbars

Bracelet Scratch Maintenance

A Rolex bracelet is vulnerable to scratches and dings, especially bracelets with polished center links. A scratched bracelet tells a good story, but also can be very distracting when looking at the watch. Below are steps for refinishing a Rolex bracelet, but the use the steps below very sparingly (e.g. 1 time every few years) as these steps do remove metal and can prevent Rolex or your watchmaker from returning the finish to original at service.

For the periodic scratches, I use three types of satin bars. I use the Bergeon 5444 fine (top left), the Bergeon 5444 medium (top right), and a very fine satin bar (bottom) purchased from a knife shop. Although others have used brillo pads and scotchbrite pads, I like to use these bars as they give me greater control on the grain direction, as well as the type of finish.

For all brushed bracelets, I start with a medium satin bar, then finish with the fine satin bar. The 116710 (GMT-C), has a finer satin finish. Subsequently, I use first the medium bar, then finish up with the fine satin bar.

   
Lay the Bracelet Flat For best results, remove the bracelet and lay it flat on a hard counter top, preferably over paper as the satin bar will shed grit.
   
Pull the SatinBar

First use the medium satin bar and pull the bar in one continuous direction.

Once completed with the medium satin bar, repeat the procedure with the fine grit satin bar.

If the grain is a little too deep and grainy, smooth it out by lightly brushing 0000 (very fine) grade steel wool over the bracelet.

   
Satinbar

The idea with a satin bar is to restore the satin grain in the same direction, not just simple scratching of the steel. Rolex satin finishes all go in the same direction and the grain runs consistently from one link to the other link, similar to wood grain running down a plank.

A tell-tale sign of a bad refinish job is that the satin grain goes sideways and is not parallel with the edge of the link.

In this image, I am holding the satin block while moving the link. It is better to remove the bracelet flat and lay it flat as in the images above.

   
Satinbar For mirrored finished bracelets, I use the center link to use a guide for insuring that the grain is consistent from link to link. You do not want the grain going sideways.
Satinbar

To prevent scratches on the mirrored center, I tape the center section with masking or Kapton tape (available on Amazon) as a guide. Slide the bar in one consistent motion with even pressure.

I recently learned that by fully removing the bracelet, covering the center links with electrical tape, and running the entire block over both the tape and links over the entire bracelet in one stroke give a much better finish. It is worth fully removing the bracelet and the clasp, lying the bracelet flat on the bench, then using the sanding bar over the entire (covered) center link and bracelet on once full stroke.

   
Grain in same direction

Here's a completed re-touch. Notice the grain is consistent from the solid end link, to the clasp.

If the grain is a little too deep and grainy, smooth it out by lightly brushing 0000 (very fine) grade steel wool over the bracelet.

 
For rubbing out and slightly polishing the mirrored center link, or the side links on a brushed finished GMT 16710 or SeaDweller, I use a Cape Cod cloth that can be found at any hardware store or from Cape Cod directly.

Tape off the brushed portions of the links and wipe the cloth gently over the mirrored sections. This procedure can also be done with the case, but be sure to tape off the brushed lugs.

The cloths smell like vanilla, but the chemicals in them do remove metal. The cloth will get slowly black with use. As the cloth dries, you have add a drop of water to reconstitute it.

The chemical does stick to the watch. After polishing, rinse off the chemical using warm water or a Scrubbling Bubbles wipe (mentioned above) to remove the gunk, rinse and dry with a Googalie cloth.

If you push too hard, the cloth will leave microswirls in the metal. One trick is to wipe the band with the cloth so that the chemical is on the band, then continue with watch or lens cleaning paper.

 

Lastly, once the bracelet is touched up, I throw it in the ultrasonic cleaner. An ultrasonic bath cleans the gunk that builds-up inside the links, especially problematic on Jubilee and traditional Oyster bracelets. Keeping the inside of the links clean helps prevent premature bracelet stretch from undue wear on the bars holding the links together. I throw the bracelet into the ultrasonic every 6 -12 months. This ultransonic is an eBay $40 special and the cleaner is Jules Borel generic for about $15/bottle. For this type of cleaning, a setup like this setup works fine.

After cleaning in the ultrasonic. I spray a little silicon spray into the solid end link (SEL) as well as on the clasp hinge to prevent squeaking.


Dealing with case scratches

For deeper scratches than what a Cape Cod cloth can rub out, I use a cloths from WatchBrandNew and larger versions of these cloths are available at jewelry supply outlets. These cloths come in various grades, starting from a rough as a fine satin bar, to the feeling of very fine paper. Each of these cloths is measured in microns of abrasiveness.

The yellow scratch pen pictured I rarely use, but I have found is good for restoring the brush finish on the underside of the lugs after bothing a bracelet removal or re-installation.

   

The WatchBrandNew cloths are good for stainless watch cases and the polished sides of a GMT or Sea Dweller band. The idea is to start with a coarse grade, then work towards a finer grade cloth. The directions indicate rubbing the cloths by hand, but I use two buff-sticks. One skinny buff stick that is leather lined. and larger, softer buff-stick. Using buff sticks is much easier on the fingers.

Wrap the cloth around the buff stick and rub in on the watch case in one direction.

I typically stick to using the one or two micron cloth. Although these cloths are sold as a set, I have purchased one and two micron cloths separately.

   
Watch Brand New

It is much easier to complete this task with the band removed. Use a circular motion using 1 micron paper.

   
Crown Side

I use the smaller buff stick for the mirrored Oyster link sides, as well as around the winding crown on the watch head.

I have also found that laying the 1 micron paper on a mousepad, and moving the watch head over the cloth works well.

   
Grain in same direction

WatchBrandNew cloths will not return the case to a factory finish, but it is close. On a Rolex 904L case, there are still some swirls when finished, but the finish is better than before. The only thing that will get a factory finish is a high speed buffing wheel using the correct buffing compounds, and a skilled hand.

Another source for these papers is Jantz Supply Inc (click for their website) as these papers are used in knifemaking as well. Look for 3M Polishing Paper 1 & 2 Micron.

 

Check the bracelet screws

Rolex LocTite

Lastly, using a Bergeon 160 - 180mm screwdriver, or the Rolex screwdriver that is included with a SeaDweller tool kit, check the screws in the bracelet to make sure they are not loose. If a screw is chronically loose, use LocTite 221 or 222 (red bottle with blue LocTite fluid) on the screw threads to insure that screws are secure. Rolex even recommends LocTite 221 in their directions on using the DeepSea Glidelock buckle.

Scan used with permission


Horotec Hollow Ground Screwdriver

Horotec Hollow Tip
The Horotec 1.6mm screwdriver with hollow ground blade is also a great tool available at Otto Frei as well as other tool suppliers.
Hollow Tip
The screwdrivers all have scalloped, 1.6mm hollow ground blades that fit the Rolex bracelet screw precisely. A blade that has a chisel point will not work well and result is gummed-up screw heads.
The screwdriver is part number MSA 01.201-160, and be sure to order the correct hollow ground blade with is part number MSA 01.202-T160

Rolex SeaDweller toolkit screwdriver

Sea Dweller Screwdriver

My favorite tool for removing oyster bracelet screws is the screw driver provided in the SeaDweller tool kits. These tool kits can be found on eBay.

Inside the screwdriver is a spare oyster link screw.

   
Fits Screw Heads Perfectly

The screwdriver is the only tool that I have found that fits the oyster screws exactly.

Standard Bergeon 1.6mm (160) screwdrivers accommodates the screw width, but has a chiseled point at the end. The notable difference with the SD screwdriver is that it is not chiseled, but rather is flattened at the end which makes it sit flush to the bottom of the screw. Subsequently, there is no slop which is important when torque is required to loosen the screw.

Be careful when AD counter help offer to remove a link, they very well might use the wrong tool.

According to MRDI on the Rolex Forums, machine screws are very sensitive to temperature change and experience expansion and contraction. The Rolex Watchfitter Guide recommends 2.75 ft lbs of torque. This torque value changes according to ambient temperature and the torque should be adjusted in accordance with the absolute expansion and contraction of the metal. It is recommended that you carry your DRSD [or SD] screwdriver when you travel and adjust all screws after landing in an environment where the ambient temperature varies by 54 degrees from the environment from which you have come. Simple attention to basic maintenance detail will ensure the integrity of your Rolex.
   
SD Tool in Bracelet The SD screwdriver has a tip that works well inside the new clasps to make microadjustments.
   
Little Loc Tite I scoop a little LocTite onto a .8mm screwdriver, or a toothpick...
   

Threads Only

The intent for using LocTite is to insure the screw threads do not become loose during normal wear. The trick to using LocTite is to only get the liquid on the threads, and not the screw shaft. Just use a little LocTite as you do not want any liquid to get into the link hole when the screw is reinstalled. LocTite in the link hole will make the link become stiff.

... and a drop of LocTite into the threads on the link. This way, there is less of a chance of getting LocTite inside the link hole.

Reinstall the oyster screws only to the point to when the screw stops. There is no need to torque down on the screw.

[Note: This is LocTite 222 that is in a red bottle, with blue/purple fluid. The image does not capture the blue-ish fluid]


Although each of these procedures will not bring back the Rolex factory or service center finish, they do help make the watch look like it is not worn by a careless Neanderthal. There is some security in knowing that some day-to-day scratches can be easily repaired with a little skill and the correct tools, but be very careful performing these steps and perform them very sparingly.