I am not a pro watch repairer so obviously doing this makes no sense at all and you really should pay the money and get it done by professionals……..Still here? Well then I guess you may as well read on (you can click on any image to see a close up).
The story so far……
Getting ready for bed one night saw me fumble with my watch and……..bang! Face down onto hard, hard ceramic tiles. The result was not pretty.
The watch glass or crystal to give it the proper name, was completely smashed. The date bubble or cyclops disintegrated; leaving only tiny fragments and a shadow where it used to be.
I cried, just a little bit, I loved this watch.
OK, toughen up man, it’s time to hit Google! After a little research I found that replacing a rolex crystal is not exactly a straightforward job. Because these watches are mechanical and not digital, obviously you wouldn’t want anything to get in amongst the workings, you know, something like bits of broken crystal!
Because of this broken ‘glass’ issue, any decent watch repairer and certainly any official Rolex dealer, will not touch any crystal replacement job without wanting to do a full service as well. This is of course the official line and indeed it makes perfect sense……unless you can’t afford the service cost when added to the replacement crystal cost (around £600 or $900). Someone like me.
So my poor old Rolex watch laid in a drawer for a year before I realised that to attempt to fix it myself would either work or not. Worst case scenio is that I end up with a busted watch and I already got one of those!!
Back to Google then. Aftermarket crystals were easily found on ebay (thanks wholesaleoutlet990) in exchange for a tiny sum. Three days later, I am in business, ready to repair my beloved Rolex. I even got an aftermarket clasp to repair the bracelet that had previously broken, (this watch has had a tough life… rolexforums.com/Africa wore out my Rolex)
The first job to do is to remove the old broken crystal. I used a very thin blade and pushed it underneath the retaining ring or bezel that holds the crystal in place. Then I worked and wiggled it all the way around the bezel, lifting it slightly each move.
This lifted up the bezel by enough to swap the thin blade for a thicker knife blade, again working, wiggling and slightly levering the bezel all the way around. After a few trips around, the bezel popped off and I had a bunch of broken crystal in my hand.
Looking at the Rolex watch face I realised that it was a very good fit in the case and that realistically any ‘glass’ would only find its way into the workings of the watch through the date window. So I carefully rotated the winder to turn the date wheel through a full month. Boy was I lucky, on the 16th, I spotted (with my trusty magnifying glass!), a sliver of broken crystal! I used a rolled up piece of tissue paper, dampened slightly at the tip to gently lift the tiny fragment away.
I then gently tipped the remaining broken bits of crystal off the watch face, away from the date hole. I have a small compressor, so I used some oil free, low pressure air to blow the face clean (at a distance I might add!) At no time did I ever touch the watch face or hands which is probably a ‘good thing’.
Right, lets have a look at the new crystal and little plastic gasket that came with it. At first I thought that the new gasket was a little deeper than the original one, but it fitted perfectly so my fears were unjustified.
Now I just needed the crystal press that I didn’t have! A quick root throught my ‘bits and bobs’ drawer soon found a hard plastic ring from a lamp fitting that was a tiny bit bigger than the crystal face. It is very important not to press the crystal in any way, only the metal bezel.
I didn’t fancy working in the workshop vice and figured that not too much pressure would be needed. So I made a temporary crystal press using a sash clamp, a hard rubber bung and the aforementioned plastic lamp fitting.
Gently winding the sash clamp up until it pinched the bezel. Deep breath and a little more pressure saw the bezel slide down the crystal and snap into place. Sucess!
Now, I’ll let you into a little secret here (but don’t tell anyone!) I figured that as the bezel was going to be so tight, a little lubrication wouldn’t hurt and so in true porn star fashion, I wiped a little saliva around the ring……
Big mistake. The bezel snapped on lovely, but seconds later the inside of the crystal fogged up completely. Duh! Off it came again. I dried everything with a hair dryer on low and second time around, perfectly dry, it snapped into place just fine. Oh, the mistakes us amateurs make!
It was no good putting it off, the time had come to press in the winder and see if the watch still worked. Pressed it in and bingo, the watch started up straight away, using the power that had been stored in the spring for over a year! Amazing.
Now I have no doubt that this page will outrage many Rolex purists out there and I certainly cannot condone working on such fine timepieces without proper training. Indeed I may have just as easily damaged the watch further. But in my defence, it had lain in a drawer for over a year, to all intent and purposes, scrap. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, (Oh, and I am a really, really handy bloke!).
The watch works just fine right now, but who knows what other damage the shock of the fall did. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. One day I promise I’ll get it serviced properly and replace the aftermarket parts.
In the meantime the watch is back where it always was and where it belongs; on my wrist in all weathers and in all conditions, telling me the time.
By Ian Anderson
REPAIR UPDATE: I just thought that I’d let you know that my watch is still ticking along nicely as I write this in mid May 2014, so that’s been: 1 year, 9 months and 21 days or 660 days or, 15,840 hours or 950,400 minutes or even 57,024,000 seconds! Phew, that’s a lot of ticking Not bad for a busted watch…..