how to clean a steel watch

How to clean a steel watch (without damaging it)

Returning your watch to pristine condition needn’t be complicated

You love your watch. And rightly so – it is a shining symbol of your accomplishments. Perhaps you bought it with your first proper wages. Perhaps it was a gift on a landmark birthday. Or maybe you just treated yourself after a particularly big bonus. Whatever the reason, the truth is you can’t bear to be parted from it – but being worn day in, day out is beginning to show.

And, while we would always recommend regular professional servicing to keep your mechanical timepiece ticking for the long term (the experts say this should be done at least every five years), cleaning your stainless steel watch at home isn’t as complicated as you might think. Here’s our guide to keeping your watch in tip top condition.

You don’t need expensive products

watch cleaning soap

Here’s the good news. Most modern watches are designed to be hardy enough for every day use and this is especially true of stainless steel watches so, when it comes to cleaning the strap, you don’t need anything fancier than good old soap. “The metal (gold and steel) straps are specially adapted for use in aquatic environments,” say the experts over at Chopard. “Rinse your watch frequently in fresh soapy water, especially if you use it in salt water.”

The even better news? It is the work of mere seconds to get that steel bracelet shiny and new again. Simply fill a bowl with warm soapy water and dip your steel watch strap in for 20 seconds. Take it out, scrub gently with a clean toothbrush between the links and rinse with clean water. Et voila!

A quick wipe down will go a long way

watch cleaning cloth

Like most things in life, little and often is a good rule to live by when it comes to cleaning your watch. This is especially true if you’re wearing your watch all day, every day and are also a fan of the gym, hand creams or are particularly spill prone with your morning coffee. Over time sweat and liquids can rust even treated stainless steel straps and cases so, when you take your watch off each evening, just give it a quick wipe with a soft cloth to remove any residue. It’ll be worth the effort in the long term.

Don’t panic if you see condensation


As anyone who’s ever dropped their phone in the sink knows, moisture is the enemy of pretty much everything mechanical or technological. However, if you happen to see a few drops on condensation on the inside of your watch case, this isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. “When the temperature changes suddenly, slight condensation may appear under the glass,” explain Chopard’s gurus. “This usually disappears of its own accord, without affecting the watch’s performance.”

However, while a little fogging on a warm day or just after cleaning isn’t an issue, if they persist in the long term it is advisable to get your watch checked over by a professional.

Keep an eye on that water resistance

watch back

The reason a stainless steel watch is so easy to clean is because pretty much every modern model comes with some form of water resistance but giving your watch a full clean is the perfect time to check the resistance in full working order. “A so-called “water resistant” watch is built to withstand daily use in everyday situations (showers, baths, swimming pools etc),” says the team at Chopard. “However, the gaskets that make the watch water resistant deteriorate when they come in contact with cosmetic products (perfume, nail varnish, etc.), chlorine, perspiration, sunlight, temperature changes and weather.”

In order to protect the movement in your watch, the experts recommend you check its water resistance every year or before each period of intensive use in water. Unfortunately since this test involves opening up your watch’s case, this isn’t something you can do yourself. But think of your annual clean as a reminder to get your watch booked in with a professional tester recommended by the manufacturer.

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