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Watch Back Removal Tool

Old 08-28-17, 11:59 PM
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Watch Back Removal Tool

Can anyone who has worked on watches suggest a tool to unscrew the back of watches that are meant to be seriously water proof? They don't pry off, they unscrew and need a special tool. I don't think these cheap two prong plastic things will do the job. There are 3 prong tools that look more like socket wrenches. Is that what I should be looking at? Just have to change out a battery. I figure I can buy the tool and a battery for the price of taking the watch to a jeweler.
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Old 08-29-17, 02:42 AM
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Old 08-29-17, 07:35 PM
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Yep, thats what I was looking at on Amazon. Have you actually used that tool to open a watch?
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Old 08-29-17, 08:19 PM
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The tool shown is a Chinese copy of the famed Swiss made Jaxa case wrench. The pins interchange to fit different sizes of Notches on the case back. Unfortunately, the Chinese haven't figured out how to properly harden the pins so the don't bend and then mar the case back. The originals are excessively expensive, in the hundreds of dollars.
There is an American version of the tool called the LG Master case wrench. These are about $90 and have properly hardened pins for the case back. I cannot endorse the Chinese tool. They are unreliable. Depending on the movement you might have in your watch, there might be a battery,"strap" or hold down that is under tension. When released, they tend to shoot across the room. You might want to rethink trying to replace the battery yourself and take it to a jeweler. The price runs anywhere from 5 to 75 dollars. The more expensive version is usually called "factory seal" and includes a pressure test to guarantee the water/pressure resistance to a measured standard. If you do not replace the gaskets on the case back, crown and stem and under the crystal, during this factory seal, the watch may not actually be pressure/ waterproof. That's okay if you don't intend to dive with it or submerge it greater than 15 feet, but depending on the initial outlay on the watch, it might be a risky proposition. The pressure testers cost in the $3000 to $5000 price range.
If you buy your battery from an electronic store or a drug store, how long has that cell been sitting in the store? If you buy them off the internet, you don't know the quality of the battery. Have you ever seen the mess when a cell leaks or corrodes the movement? I have- not a pretty sight. I only use Renata cells, no Everyreadys, no no-names , etc., because I know they won't leak.
I am trying to explain that changing your own batteries may actually be false economy, if you value the watch. Not unlike certain bike repairs, like retapping crank threads or rethreading a bottom bracket or straightening a bent frame or drop out, it might just be a job for the pros.......
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Old 08-29-17, 08:28 PM
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By the way, the photo of the tool with the watch shows the wrong set of pins installed in the tool for the watch back shown. The round pins are sure to slip out of the square notches....
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Old 08-30-17, 01:34 PM
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I just pushed a notch with a tiny screwdriver until it came open, but my vintage seiko 5 was less than $20 off fleabay, so no big risk if I mess something up. Bigger risk to my hand, as I poked myself a couple times when the screwdriver slipped. (I do the same thing with bottom-bracket lockrings, I tap them open/tight with a screwdriver and mallet -- if I'm worried about damaging the lockring, I'll wrap the screwdriver head in a scrap of cloth)

I'm also intrigued by friction ball openers, although I would think that a truly waterproof watch might be closed tighter than one of those could handle.
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Old 08-30-17, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by elcraft View Post
Unfortunately, the Chinese haven't figured out how to properly harden the pins so the don't bend and then mar the case back. The originals are excessively expensive, in the hundreds of dollars.
I'm sure the Chinese understand metallurgy -- they're just creating a lower-quality/lower-cost product to serve a different (and much larger) market niche. For a professional jeweler, it's a no-brainer to get the multi-hundreds swiss tool, because the cost will be amortized over an entire career, thousands of uses -- and he also needs insurance against potentially damaging very expensive customer watches. For a dude that just wants to open a watch, and will only ever use the tool a few times, and whose watch is not an insanely expensive work of art or irreplaceable heirloom, a cheap chinese copy is a better value. Probably 50% of the quality at 5-10% of the price.
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Old 08-30-17, 04:09 PM
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I got mine off of Amazon, maybe eBay, don't remember. It's been a while. Chinese, cheap. Used it on a lot lot of watches. 4 sets of pins and yes you need to figure out which ones to use.

Timewheel is the brand.

Have you actually asked the mall jeweler how much?
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Old 08-30-17, 05:25 PM
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The watch is a common Rolex Mariner styled watch by So & Co. Screw down crown. Japanese movement. Rated 10 ATM or 100 meters water proof. I doubt I paid more than $100 for it. I'll risk the Chinese case tool, see how well it works. I got it specifically for use at the shore and wear it in the ocean. So far so good.
elcraft mentioned Renata batteries. I use those in my watches too. They are a swiss battery if I recall, and the packs have manufacture date. If you can find them they are a good choice. I've been able to find them on Amazon.
Thanks for all the input.

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Old 08-30-17, 06:04 PM
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What's 'So & Co'? Now I'm all curious about your watch.

Waterproof watches usually have fidgety little rubber (or wax?) seals, right? I wouldn't trust myself to get that back in properly.
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Old 08-30-17, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
I'm sure the Chinese understand metallurgy -- they're just creating a lower-quality/lower-cost product to serve a different (and much larger) market niche. For a professional jeweler, it's a no-brainer to get the multi-hundreds swiss tool, because the cost will be amortized over an entire career, thousands of uses -- and he also needs insurance against potentially damaging very expensive customer watches. For a dude that just wants to open a watch, and will only ever use the tool a few times, and whose watch is not an insanely expensive work of art or irreplaceable heirloom, a cheap chinese copy is a better value. Probably 50% of the quality at 5-10% of the price.
I was just offering the Caveat for those who have valuable watches or situations where water proofing is a real issue. The LG Master wrench is what we use. The Bergeron made Jaxa isn't worth the price. I still stand by my warning about no name internet batteries, though- avoid them as they do leak often enough that the extra for a name brand is worth it.
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Old 08-31-17, 05:05 AM
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Originally Posted by elcraft View Post
There is an American version of the tool called the LG Master case wrench. These are about $90 and have properly hardened pins for the case back.
Hey I've got one of those. So old when it was made the LG patent was still pending. A ex-Navy family friend of my dads did watch repair for various pawn shops around Camp Lejeune NC back in the 60's-70's till his health got too bad. We were pretty much his family at the time of his death and his watch repair toolbox got passed down to me. Good to know some history....and good to know about leaking batteries. I'm gonna have to use this tool on my old Seiko that I don't wear anymore to take the battery out. I didn't think watch batteries would leak.
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Old 09-01-17, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
What's 'So & Co'? Now I'm all curious about your watch.
So & Co is a fashion watch company out of New York. Prices range from about $35 to $600 and up.

Wanted something to wear in the ocean that wouldn't leak just body surfing, etc. and would stay on my wrist. Also, it has a huge face, so I read it without my reading glasses. On Amazon sells for $59. Called "yacht timer 5042" The case back says waterproof to 100 meters, Miyota movement (Japanese movement made and used by Citizen) quarts 2115 model, +- 20 seconds/month accuracy. Nothing fancy.
The case and band are very heavy. The band links are solid SS, not hollow. The latch on the band is such that it will probably never come undone by accident or rough treatment. Its a Triple latch system. The rotating dive timer bezel has a rather coarse ratchet mechanism, not the fine pawl like more expensive watches use. I don't dive, so that was not a concern when I got the watch. Primary were hardened crystal lens, high grade stainless case and strap, screw down back with a screw down stem.

I like how they emulate the Rolex shape and colors, and even the face hands are a near rip off of the Rolex. Make no mistake, there are dozens of watch companies that make their version of the Rolex Mariner. This is not a Rolex Fake. Rolex just set the standard for dive watches. Everyone copies their style.


Last edited by Mark42; 09-01-17 at 05:56 PM.
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Old 09-01-17, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Deal4Fuji View Post
Hey I've got one of those. So old when it was made the LG patent was still pending. A ex-Navy family friend of my dads did watch repair for various pawn shops around Camp Lejeune NC back in the 60's-70's till his health got too bad. We were pretty much his family at the time of his death and his watch repair toolbox got passed down to me. Good to know some history....and good to know about leaking batteries. I'm gonna have to use this tool on my old Seiko that I don't wear anymore to take the battery out. I didn't think watch batteries would leak.
Thank you for sharing those pics of the old tool. Probably made to much closer tolerances than the new Chinese tools. Keep it, maybe put it in a display box. You could sell it, but sometimes the value of having relatives belongings are worth more than their face value.
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Old 09-02-17, 06:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark42 View Post
Thank you for sharing those pics of the old tool. Probably made to much closer tolerances than the new Chinese tools. Keep it, maybe put it in a display box. You could sell it, but sometimes the value of having relatives belongings are worth more than their face value.
No plans on getting rid of it, my hoarder tendencies are at war with early onset dementia for top billing as I head toward geezerhood
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Old 09-04-17, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Deal4Fuji View Post
Hey I've got one of those. So old when it was made the LG patent was still pending. A ex-Navy family friend of my dads did watch repair for various pawn shops around Camp Lejeune NC back in the 60's-70's till his health got too bad. We were pretty much his family at the time of his death and his watch repair toolbox got passed down to me. Good to know some history....and good to know about leaking batteries. I'm gonna have to use this tool on my old Seiko that I don't wear anymore to take the battery out. I didn't think watch batteries would leak.
Yep, that is the tool! The design is unchanged. I would suggest that you might want to obtain a new set of pins in case these are worn. If you feel up to it, the existing pins could be dressed up with a Dremel tool loaded with a grinding wheel or cut off disc. The pins just pull out of their round bases. Dress them if their edges appear rounded or uneven. The tips can be ordered on line. These pins are not interchangeable with the pins from a Jaxa style tool.
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Old 09-06-17, 12:05 PM
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I ordered one off Amazon that came with a watch holding tool. The first thing I did was disassemble, clean out any machine burrs, filings, etc, lube and reassemble reversing the screws so the big acorn nuts are on the top side. Wire brushed all threaded parts so they were smooth. Pins moved a lot nicer after that. Tool worked well. Square pins fit watch, and snugging the tool down and an easy twist took the back right off. Getting the back on again was a little trickier. Had to rotate the back counter clockwise (unscrewing) until it dropped into the threads of the bezel. Then I could spin it on snug by hand and use the tool to tighten it down.
The tool is not the highest precision tool I've ever used, but it is perfectly good enough for the job at hand. And it was all metal. No plastic in the watch back removing tool. Price was $15 with Prime shipping.

Also ordered a swiss Renata Silver Oxide battery for the watch. It was barely bigger than some hearing aid batteries. Read where the life expectancy is two to 3 years in this watch, so I'll be using the tool again. It will outlast the Alkaline batteries, and probably the Lithium Ion batteries too. I hope.

Thanks for all the advice!


Last edited by Mark42; 09-06-17 at 12:26 PM.
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