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Let’s be honest: most of us are wearing our tool watches at the office. We so-called “desk-divers” have one thing in common, our steel bracelets are scratched to hell from being rubbed on the desk while we type.
Over time, these scratches and swirls start to build up and make our once pristine watch appear used and tattered. While there is a certain charm to the dings and dents you earn out in the field, desk-diving marks aren’t exactly battle-scars.
Luckily, there is a very easy method for restoring your brushed stainless steel clasps and bracelets using cheap materials from the grocery store.
In this article I’ll show you how, including a step-by-step video of the entire process.
Tools you’ll need:
Let’s get started.
First of all, a disclaimer: even though this is a fairly straight-forward procedure, if your watch is highly valued to you as an heirloom or collector piece, you may want to consider having this done professionally. At the very least, practice on one of your cheaper watches to make sure you are happy with the results.
If your watch has any polished (bright and shiny) components, please mask them off with tape. A scouring pad has the ability to turn a polished surface into a brushed one very quickly, and getting it back to polished takes a different set of tools.
Another thing to consider: over-polishing a watch can have detrimental effects. Every time you polish a watch you are shaving a few microns of steel from the surface layer. Even though this is microscopic, if you do it too often you run the risk of smoothing out sharp edges or polishing out details like embossed logos.
If you’re working on a vintage piece, keep in mind that polishing out the natural patina can actually have a negative effect on it’s market value. A lot of collectors are looking for pieces that are completely original, including all of the scratches, dings and dents the piece has acquired over it’s lifetime. Consider leaving your vintage pieces unmolested, the next owner will thank you for it.
Preparing the Scotch-Brite Pad
First things first, we need to prepare our Scotch-Brite pad. Out of the box, these are going to be a bit too large to work with effectively. Using a scissors cut a small square out of the sponge. The size of the square should be a little bit larger than the area of the surface you are working with. These can be reused many times, so feel free to keep the square for later use when you are complete.
Some people dampen the sponge before using it on the steel. I personally haven’t noticed a difference between the two methods, and I would recommend just leaving it dry.
Apply to Remove Desk Diving Marks
Using the Scotch-Brite pad, apply moderate pressure to the surface and move in a perfectly linear motion along the grain of the existing finish. Try moving the sponge one-way across the surface. You don’t need to press very hard to get the desired effect. Every few strokes, take a look at your finish and see how you’re doing. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes for all of the swirls and imperfections to completely melt away. If you make a mistake or go across the grain, you should be able to correct it easily with another stroke.
This is what my clasp looked like after approximately 3 minutes of polishing:
If you have small or hard-to-reach areas on your bracelet clasp that need attention, consider using a fiberglass touch-up pen. These can be had for cheap and are highly effective at polishing out scratches in hard to reach places. These tools can be had for around $10 and are a great addition to any DIYer’s toolbox.
Brushing your own bracelets and clasps is a fairly simple way to make your gently used watches look like new again. As a bonus, the same technique we demonstrated on the clasp can be used to restore the finish of brushed link bracelets as well. Just remember, if you have any doubts, consider bringing it in to a professional. There is always a chance you could just make it worse, and they will have higher quality tools for the job.
If you have any tips or tricks for improving this process, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.