Polishing is the act of removing material from a surface to make it smoother, usually with a cutting compound and something to rub with, for example a cotton wool.
For watch crystal polishing there is an inexpensive and readily available product called Polywatch. In this blog post we will examine how well Polywatch works, but first a few words about watch crystals.
A 5g tube of Polywatch will only set you back a few pounds and will last a very long time, almost forever.
Most modern high-end watches have crystals made from sapphire, which is virtually impossible to scratch. Sapphire scores 9 out of 10 on the Mohs mineral hardness scale, just under diamond. Unless you rub it against your diamond ring, or another sapphire watch crystal (which won’t happen if you transport your watches in a watch roll) you probably won’t scratch it. But if you against all odds do scratch a sapphire crystal, you can’t polish out the scratch. The material is just that hard.
The slightly doomed sapphire crystal of this IWC has a blue anti-reflective coating.
Most vintage watches have acrylic crystals, aka Hesalite aka Plexiglas. They scratch easily and can also be polished easily as you will see if you continue reading this blog post. Plastic is less restrictive in the manufacturing process in terms of shaping, and acrylic crystals can have perfectly rounded corners around the edges.
The Seagull 1963 has an acrylic crystal, just like its predecessor, the Chinese Airforce Chronograph. The acrylic crystal contributes to the vintage vibe of this historically interesting timepiece. The light plays in the thick plastic and the distortive effect when viewing the dial at an angle is a real pleasure.
In between the two extremes we have mineral glass. It’s ordinary tempered glass made from silica. It’s harder, although not impossible to scratch and harder, although not impossible to polish. Mineral crystals are generally found on entry- to mid-level watches and they are not doomed.
So, should you polish your watch crystal or not?
Vintage military watches, the Moonwatch, or any tool watch that has been around for a while may not necessarily need their acrylic crystals polished. The battle scars may actually enhance their overall impression. After all, they have been around for a long time and they have been used and there is nothing wrong with that.
However, scratches may affect legibility, and on a refurbished vintage piece with a new acrylic crystal, that first scratch on an otherwise perfectly smooth crystal may bug you. Especially on an elegant, dressy timepiece. But then again. Is it worth polishing, i.e. removing material, from your watch? Or does the imperfection of a scratch actually enhance the natural beauty of the watch? Is it a memory worth keeping? As with most things watches, these are important considerations to make, but in the end it is a personal decision!
So, Does? It? Work?
Just look at the transformation of this scratchy old Timex Miltary style plexiglass crystal! Before:
The scratches in the crystal of this charming vintage military style Timex is starting to affect legibility, so it let's polish it!
And after applying the tiniest bit of Polywatch and rubbing with cotton wool in a circular motion for approx. 1 minute:
Voila! Most scratches are gone and legibility is greatly improved.
Most scratches are gone after only one minute, although some deeper ones remain. But the hard work we invested has definitely paid off!