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What You Need To Know If Your Watch Glass Breaks

by Carathea

Everything You Need to Know About Watch Glass Replacement?

If you’ve ever found yourself with a cracked watch glass you may have wondered if a replacement glass is going to cost more than the watch itself cost.

Maybe you have a scratch on the glass of your watch and you are wondering if you can get this polished out or if you will need a complete new glass in your watch?

Well, we’re here to help shed some light on these problems and try to answer these questions – or at least as much as we can without seeing the watch. 

We have replaced the glass, or watch crystal as they are more accurately called,  in hundreds of watches. 

We carry out our watch repairs in-house and would love to share tips here to help you when you find yourself with a broken watch glass.  

Why Would A Watch Glass Break Suddenly?

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have a watch with a smashed face but, sadly, these things happen.  

It’s easy to feel frustrated with yourself for being so careless if you find yourself with a broken watch crystal but sometimes nothing more than dropping your watch, or catching it against something at the wrong angle, can cause the glass to smash.  

A glass on a watch is strong, but if it suffers impact at a particular point, it can easily shatter. 

Another common problem is finding that you have accidentally scratched the glass. This happens particularly with a new watch.  It’s surprising how different a new watch can feel on your wrist from a style you are used to, particularly if it is a larger watch or one with a domed watch glass.

But, don’t despair, the situation may not be beyond repair.

Watch with broken glass
One of the many watch glass replacement repairs we received

A Scratched Watch Glass

So, lets try to deal with the problem of a scratched glass first.

Sometimes people can’t help but repeatedly lean against or knock the face of their watch, and end up with lots of scratch marks. We see this often in the shop.  It is noticeable where a person may be leaning or rubbing their wrist (and their watch) against a hard surface and this shows with repeated scratches in roughly the same place on their watch glass.

Scratches on the surface of the glass of your watch can obscure the glass considerably and make it very difficult to read the time.  

Scratches on the glass of your watch can be polished out, as long as the scratches aren’t too deep. 

Your local watch repairman or local jewellers should be able to do this or you can yourself with this special paste.  We’ve had some great feedback from customers who have used this.  

It does takes a lot of gentle polishing though and sometimes with a new glass being so reasonable in price to replace, it is probably more cost effective to have a complete new watch glass replacement.  

Sometimes a replacement glass isn’t an option (for instance, it is a shaped glass or the ‘glass’ is actually not glass but is plastic), so it could be well worth giving this paste a try. 

Chips or Cracks on Your Watch Glass

Fine cracks and chips on the watch crystal are also common and often get ignored when really they should be fixed.

Cracks and chips can make the glass more vulnerable to smashing – this is something to avoid as it can cause considerable damage to your watch.

Be aware of any chipped or deeply scratched glass when you take your watch in for a new battery.  It’s not unusual for a jeweller carrying out a watch battery replacement to need to use a clamp to get the back of the watch secure after the battery replacement. 

If there are any small nicks or chips in the glass or slight hair-line fractures on the glass, this makes it very susceptible to breaking completely with any amount of pressure.  Even slight pressure can cause a vulnerable glass to shatter – the final straw which broke the camel’s back, as it were.

Think of it like your car windscreen which has suffered a chip or crack – adverse conditions (such as temperature change) can cause the whole windscreen to suddenly shatter.  It’s a similar situation with your watch glass, any slight stress can make the whole thing suddenly go. 

At Carathea and in our High Street shop, Jools, we always check the glass before we carry out a watch replacement and will warn customers that the glass is scratched or chipped.  Sometimes these hairline fractures are difficult to see, so it’s even more critical to remedy any inperfections promptly. 

Sadly, we can’t take responsibility if the glass shatters when there were already cracks or fractures in the glass – it is a chance the customer has to take in getting the battery replaced. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred a watch will be fine, even when a back needs clamping on, but it’s a vulnerability that a customer needs to know and accept before proceeding.  

What To Do If Your Watch Glass Has Smashed?

If your watch crystal has smashed, it is very important to act quickly.  Pull out the crown on your watch immediately.  This prevents the hands from moving around. 

Just imagine all the glass, including such tiny shards of glass that can barely be seen, being caught up in the hands as they sweep around the face or dial of your watch. 

The damage can be severe, from marks on the dial to bent hands where they have become “hitched” on a piece of glass.

Sadly, we have seen irreparable damage caused to skeleton watches from leaving the crown in after the glass crystal has broken.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to stop a mechanical watch quickly.  Most customers have no idea that this could cause so much damage and are understandably very disappointed if they have, inadvertently, damaged their precious watch beyond repair for the sake of not pulling the button out to stop the movement.  

Pop the watch in some bubble wrap or a sealed plastic bag to protect it from further damage and take it to a watch repairer or send it to us. (Details here.)

Once all the glass is removed completely by the repairer he will check the watch over, take the measurements of the glass to ensure the right size glass is selected to replace the old one.

Types of Glass in Watches

Mineral vs Sapphire Glass

Mineral glass  is “normal” watch glass crystal, and is used in most watches.  It is not scratch resistant. It is relatively cheap and can be cut to fit many watch shapes.

Sapphire Crystal is scratch-resistant and much stronger. Sapphire watch crystal is actually not glass but actually sapphire crystal, grown in a lab. Sapphire glass is more expensive than mineral glass.  

Some good-quality watch brands, like Bering watches, use Sapphire crystal.  Our Accurist Signature range also have sapphire crystal as do some of our Storm watches. 

As an example of the difference in the durability in the glass, we have found it an interesting comparison between Bering Watches and Skagen Watches. 

We used to stock Skagen and Bering Watches in our shops.  Bering use Sapphire glass in all of their watches whereas Skagen use mineral glass.  Both brands make a very similar-looking and crafted watch.  Both watches have a very slimline design and hence use thinner glass. 

Whilst we don’t sell Skagen watches anymore, we regularly receive Skagen watches for our watch repairer to carry out glass replacements. 

We can’t recall ever having to replace a Bering glass!

Sapphire crystal glass remains strong, and cannot be scratched.  Indeed, when considering taking on the Bering watch range in our shops some years ago when they were first introduced into the UK, the Bering rep showed the qualities of the sapphire glass on the Bering watch he was wearing by trying to scratch his watch glass with his keys! 

We don’t recommend trying this at home!   

You may want to consider replacing your watch glass with a sapphire glass, even if it previously had a mineral glass in it, if you think you are prone to scratching or smashing your watch crystal.  We have done this for customers who desire the strength and durability that the sapphire crystal gives.

Acrylic Watch "Glass"

A watch glass made of acrylic can be used if there is already an acrylic glass on your watch.

The acrylic watch crystal has the advantage of being cheap, and flexible and can also be cut into different shapes. 

A disadvatage is that this type of watch crystal scratches easily.  However, as previously mentioned, if you find you have a scratched acrylic glass it may not need replacing – you can easily polish out scratches on this material, and can done by yourself at home.  

You can purchase a tube of polishing compound for approximately £10 a tube here. You put a drop of the compound on a cloth and rub firmly against the acrylic.

Some of our customer who have tried this have been really pleasantly suprised at how effective it is. 

tube of polish for a scratched acrylic watch glass
PolyWatch Acrylic Watch Glass Polish

How Much Does A New Watch Glass Cost?

You may be wondering how much it costs to replace the watch crystal? 

A standard, round watch glass will cost between £15 – £20 (2019 prices).  If the glass is domed it may cost a little more (approximately £5 more). 

A small Sapphire glass will cost around £28 but the price will rise exponentially with the size of the glass – we can give you a quote and won’t carry out any work until you tell us to proceed with the job.

If we can we will use the genuine manufacturer’s glass for the repair but this is normally more expensive (ie £45 and upwards compared to £20) and some parts are restrictive.  An alternative glass will barely be noticed, if at all.  The much thinner glass models (like Skagen) may be ever-so slightly noticeable because of the thinness of the glass (or it may be slightly more domed than before). 

We hope you have found this blog post helpful and would love to hear your comments or questions you may have – just leave your comments below.

If you want any advice on getting your watch repaired – you can always send us pictures so we can advise better – please don’t hesitate to contact us here.


*Do please carry out your own research and check with a jeweller and take their advice before you have any repairs carried out. We cannot be held responsible for any damage resulting for our opinions in this blog post.


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Dave Burt April 1, 2018 - 9:58 pm

Ok how much to replace a citizen night hawk watch glass?

Jools Jewellery April 2, 2018 - 12:10 pm


Thanks for your question. I have looked at your watch and it is larger than most, so would be £25 to £30, depending on the exact size and thickness of the glass. We can give you a definite cost if you bring/send the watch to us so that we can measure it exactly.

We hope this helps.


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