What You Need To Know If Your Watch Glass Breaks

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Replacement Watch Glasses

A cracked or smashed watch glass is incredibly annoying and you wonder, with a sinking heart, if replacement watch glasses cost more than the watch itself cost. 

Watch parts can be expensive and some watch glasses can be difficult to get. 

Or maybe you have a scratch on the glass of your watch and you are unsure if it can be polished out, or will it mean a completely new watch crystal instead?

We’re here to help shed some light on these problems  – or at least as much as we can without seeing the watch (you can always send us an enquiry with a pic here)

We carry out our watch repairs in-house and have replaced the watch glasses, or watch crystals as they are more accurately called,  in hundreds of watches. 

We would love to share tips to help you when you find yourself with a cracked watch glass.  

Why Does A Watch Glass Suddenly Break?

Watch with broken glass
A watch waiting for a new glass replacement

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have a watch with a smashed glass but, sadly, these things happen, sometimes quite easily  

Watch glasses are strong, but if there is impact at a particular point, they can suddenly shatter. 

Catching a new watch that we’re not used to against something hard, or simply dropping it may be all it takes.

Scratched Watch Glasses

We often see watch crystals which have multiple scratches in roughly the same place.   We could be completely unaware that we repeatedly lean or rub our watch crystal against a surface. 

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

Some surface 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 even do this yourself with this paste.    

It does take a little patience and gentle polishing but we’ve had some great feedback from customers who have used the paste on their watch crystal. 

Alternatively, a new watch crystal is often inexpensive to replace, especially if it’s a round, flat watch crystal. 

Shaped watch glasses (anything other than a round shape) may be difficult to get, so it could be worth giving the polishing paste a try. 

Vintage fob watch being held
Photo by Gabriel Laroche on Unsplash

Chipped or Cracked Watch Glasses

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

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

It’s not unusual for a jeweller carrying out a replacement watch battery 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 vulnerable watch glasses to shatter.

A bit like a car windscreen that has suffered a chip or crack – slightly adverse conditions one day (such as temperature change) can cause the whole windscreen to shatter without warning.  

And so it can be with your watch glass.  Any stress can make the entire thing suddenly go. 

At Carathea and in our High Street shop, Jools, we always check the watch glass before we carry out a battery replacement and will warn customers that the glass is scratched or chipped. 

Sometimes hairline fractures are difficult to see, so it’s even more critical to remedy any imperfections promptly.

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. 

Tiny shards of glass that are barely visible, can get caught up in the hands as they sweep around the dial of your watch. Even one or two can result in quite a lot of damage, from marks on the dial to bent hands where they have become “hitched” on a piece of glass.

If the hands get caught in this way, it can drain the battery very quickly and, very often, a new battery is needed along with the new watch glass. Sometimes other watch parts are needed, like a replacement hand. 

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

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to stop a mechanical watch quickly.  We advise customers to place the watch in a little bag, box or bubble wrap and keeping it still, where it will gradually stop.

All this is a worst-case scenario and many watches don’t suffer too much after a smashed glass.

Once our repairer receives the watch, he will remove all the glass and check the watch over. 

We will take the measurements of the watch glass needed to ensure we select the right size glass, to replace the old one

Types of Watch Glasses

Mineral vs Sapphire Watch Crystals

A Mineral watch glass  is “normal” watch glass crystal, and found 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 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 uses sapphire crystal in their watches glasses as do some of our Storm watches. 

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

We used to stock both Skagen and Bering watch brands in our shops.  Both brands make a very similar-looking and crafted watch.  Both watches have a very slimline design and hence use thinner glass. 

Bering uses Sapphire glass in all of their watches whereas Skagen uses mineral glass. 

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

In writing this blog we tried to recall roughly how many Skagen vs Bering watch glass replacements we’d carried out, as a comparison in the durability of the different glass used.   We couldn’t recall ever having to replace a Bering glass!

Sapphire crystal glass remains strong, and cannot be scratched.  

You might replace your watch glass with a sapphire glass, even if it previously had mineral glass. 

We have done this for customers who desire the strength and durability that the sapphire crystal gives.  

Acrylic Watch "Glass"

Watch glasses 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 disadvantage is that this 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 it can be done by yourself at home.  

You can purchase a tube of polishing compound for approximately £4 a tube here. You put a drop of the compound on a cloth and rub firmly against the acrylic.

Some of our customers who have tried this have been really pleasantly surprised at how effective it is. es

How Much Does A New Watch Glass Cost?

A  standard, round watch glass will cost between £15 – £20  (2021 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 watch glasses for repairs, 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.  

We will advise if this is the case, before we carry out any work. 

Finally ...

We hope you have found this blog post helpful. 

If you have any comments or questions about watch glasses do use the comments box below.

If you want any advice on getting your watch repaired – you can always send us pictures so we can advise better – please 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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