What You Need To Know If Your Watch Glass Breaks

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Watch Glass Replacement

A cracked or smashed watch glass is very annoying and you may kick yourself for being so careless.

You may wonder, with a sinking heart, if a replacement glass will cost more than the watch itself cost.

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 fresh glass instead?

Well, 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 glass, or watch crystal as they are more accurately called,  in hundreds of watches. 

We would love to share tips here to help you when you find yourself with a broken 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 face but, sadly, these things happen.  

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

It can happen easily, particularly with a new watch when we may catch it if we are not used to the size or new shape, or dropping it may be all it takes.

A Scratched Watch Glass

We often see watch glasses which have multiple scratches in roughly the same place.   It’s easy to be unaware that we may habitually lean or rub our wrist (and their watch glass) 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.  

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 special paste.    

It does take a little patience and gentle polishing but we’ve had some great feedback from customers who have used this.

Alternatively, a new glass crystal is often inexpensive to replace, that it often is more cost-effective to have a completely new watch glass replacement.  

If you have a shaped glass or the ‘glass’ is actually not glass but is plastic, it may be difficult to get a new glass so it could be well worth giving this paste a try. 

Vintage fob watch being held
Photo by Gabriel Laroche on Unsplash

A Chipped or Cracked Watch Glass

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 a vulnerable glass to shatter.  

Think of it like your car windscreen which has suffered a chip or crack – a slightly adverse condition (such as temperature change) can cause the whole windscreen to shatter without warning. 

It’s a similar situation 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 glass before we carry out a watch 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. 

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 tiny shards of glass that are barely visible, being caught up in the hands as they sweep around the 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.

If the hands get caught in this way, it can drain the battery very quickly. 

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 letting it gradually stop by not moving it around, until you can get it to a repairer.

Most customers are unaware that the movement of the hands with the broken glass could cause so much damage. 

They 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.  

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

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

Types of Watch Glass

Mineral vs Sapphire Glass

Mineral 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, 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 both Skagen and Bering watch brands in our shops. 

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

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 can’t recall ever having to replace a Bering glass which uses sapphire crystal!

Sapphire crystal glass remains strong, and cannot be scratched.  

Indeed, when we were considering taking on the Bering watch range in our shops some years ago, the Bering rep demonstrated 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, though!).   

You might replace 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 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. 

How Much Does A New Watch Glass Cost?

A  standard, round watch glass will cost between £15 – £20  (2020 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 may be slightly more domed than before. 


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 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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