What To Do When My Watch Crystal Breaks

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Accidents happen all the time. It might just be a simple drop, or you swinging your hand out a little too far- either way, you’ve just heard your watch crack, and now there’s a jagged split running down the crystal that doesn’t exactly add to the aesthetic of your favorite timepiece. But before you start to throw away the watch for a new one, learn more about what you need to do when you have a broken watch crystal.

What Is a Watch Crystal Made Out Of?

The term “watch crystal” is actually rather misleading. The crystal of a watch isn’t usually made from crystal; it can be either plastic, glass, or synthetic sapphire. The function for all three types remains the same, however- it’s the clear portion of your watch that covers the watch face.

watch-crystal-replacement

A vintage pocket watch before and after crystal replacement.

Each material has its own pros and cons. Plastic is more shatter-resistant, but scratches easily. Glass is in the mid-range, being less scratch-prone but more likely to shatter. At the far (and expensive) end, synthetic sapphire is highly scratch-resistant despite its tendency for breaking.

What Should I Do If My Crystal Is Broken?

If you’ve noticed that you have a broken watch crystal, take it to the watch repairman or the jeweler. The first thing they’ll do is assess the piece for the type of damage and provide you with some solutions.

  • The watch crystal is scratched: The jeweler will examine the watch crystal and take note of the scratches, as well as the crystal material. Shallow scratches are easy to buff out, especially if the watch crystal is made from plastic or sapphire. Deeper scratches, however, are more difficult and may not be fully removed. In that case, the jeweler will have to source a watch crystal replacement.
  • The watch crystal is broken: There’s no salvaging the watch crystal in this situation! The jeweler can replace the watch crystal for you, and this is a good opportunity to switch the crystal to a material of your choice if you were unhappy with the original. Consider an upgrade to a sapphire crystal, or move down to a plastic one if you’re looking for something more shatter-resistant.

How Does the Jeweler Replace My Watch Crystal?
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There are several ways the jeweler can replace your broken watch crystal. All of them are dependent on how the original crystal was set into your watch.

  • Glue: For cheaper watches, the crystal is often glued into the bezel. However, the jeweler won’t be using Elmer’s glue to stick your new crystal back in! There are several industry-grade adhesives the jeweler may use to place the crystal, such as crystal cement, UV glue, or jeweler’s epoxy. These types of glue are designed to be strong and fairly water-resistant, making it a secure way to set your watch crystal.
  • Tension: Long story short, the crystal is squeezed down between a ring of plastic and metal. This kind of setting is common in diver’s watches, and requires a special press or lift to remove and set the crystal. The jeweler must use the press at a particular angle to ensure that the crystal is set evenly.

How Long Does It Take and How Much Does It Cost?

Watch crystal replacement depends on two things;  the crystal replacement type, and the crystal setting. Prices will vary depending on the watch style and the crystal being sourced, with plastic and glass ones on the cheaper side and sapphires at the higher end. Our watch crystal replacement service, for instance, starts at $50 but may scale up based on the watch and replacement needed.
Turnaround time is affected by how long it takes for the jeweler to get a crystal that matches the watch face diameter, as well as the setting process. On average, it takes about three to five days for a watch crystal to get replaced.

With this information you’re well-prepared to replace your broken watch crystal! Check out our repair service below to get started today.

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