Wednesday, October 27, 2021

DIY Watch Battery Replacement: Pros & Cons


When DIY goes sideways. | Submitted Photo


1) Saves a little bit of money.

2) A learning experience.

3) The joy and satisfaction of completing the task by yourself.

4) Even if you fail miserably, the watch will be correct twice a day.


1) If you have no clue as to what you are doing (most folks don’t), you will most certainly destroy the watch, a fact that will become apparent when you figure out you don’t have the proper tools to open the back of the watch, change the battery and replace the back cover (See below).

Expensive tools that jewelers must have on hand include: watch back case removal knife, adjustable case back removal wrench, miniature screwdrivers (standard and Phillips or star), non-metallic tweezers, electrical connection spray, replacement waterproof or sealing gaskets (for when you damage them from improperly removing the watch back), minuscule spare screws for when you lose them in the process of changing your watch battery (not available at your local hardware store), and a metal watch case back press with accommodating case press pieces for various sizes to snap the watch back on. Oh, and you used your fingers to add pressure to replace the back, and crunch! You broke the watch crystal (glass), and you now need a new replacement crystal and another long list of tools and equipment to perform that unexpected watch crystal replacement mishap.

2) The tiny spring-loaded battery holding strap and screw just flew across the kitchen (or whatever room you decided to massacre your watch in). Those minuscule items will be nearly impossible to locate without the help of a Collier County C.S.I. detachment. And by the way, the watch won’t run without them.

3) You just crushed the inner movement and battery seating compartment by forcing the wrong size battery in your now defunct wrist watch. Oh? There are different size batteries and voltage degrees, you ask?

4) You scratched the watch’s sensitive and thinner-than-a-human-hair inner copper electrical coil rendering the watch damaged, and now your DIY watch battery change just became an expensive watch repair. Congratulations! The operation was a success, but the patient is la morte.

5) Your numerous failed attempts to remove and replace the watch back had rendered it bent or so distorted it will now never snap on again, plus the fact it’s now so gouged up it looks like it took a short spin in a garbage disposal. Not exactly the end result you expected to save $3, is it?

6) This pertains to those of you dudes who own hugely complicated “Iron Man” or bullet-proof Seal Team Bravo tactical wrist module screen monstrosities that can monitor all Seven Seas tide changes, the various times in the universe’s planetary time zones, or better yet, calculate your pet iguana’s calorie intake. These watches can be a virtual living nightmare once you remove the back of one of those bad boys. I know of an MIT engineering grad who threw the watch in the circular file after a trying twelve hours of micro-surgery that resulted in failure replacing the three various sized batteries, but also the springs, levers, buttons, gaskets and unknown thingamajigs that fell out on the multi-layered computer boards inside his interplanetary wrist apparatus or “watch.”

Rarely does a day go by that someone wants to purchase “Just the battery please!” I oblige and sell them just the battery; I do mention it will only cost them three dollars more for me to do it correctly. Fifty-percent of folks heed my suggestion, 30% I never hear back from again, and the remaining 20% often return with numerous parts of their defunct watch in a zip lock sandwich bag expecting me to put their humpty dumpty lame attempt at watchmaking back together again. An unnecessary and hopeless task I politely decline to accept.

Years ago I informed a gentleman that it would be a charge of a paltry five dollars to change a battery in a complicated watch back held on with tiny screws. Needless to say, the change required great skill and was also time consuming. He ranted and raved about my “outrageous price,” claiming that up north his regular jeweler did it for nothing. Yet he finally relented and said, “Ok… do it. I can’t believe you charge people for such a simple thing!” I’m eight minutes into the battery change, and he decided to change his mind, yelled to me to stop, he will bring it home in a month to get it for free. Meanwhile, I was a second away from putting in a fresh battery. I’m now so irritated with this clown I said, “How about if I change it for free?” His attitude changed immediately, I was now his new best friend. I replaced the battery, closed up the patient, so to say, and handed him the watch. He looked at it a moment and said, “Hey, the watch isn’t running. I thought you replaced the battery!” I said, “I did. I replaced it with the last paying customer’s dead battery. You want a new fresh one – it’s still five bucks.” He grabbed the dead watch and stormed out like a wet rooster. Perfect case of the customer is usually right, until he messes with a 64-year-old ex-Dorchester, Massachusetts goldsmith with a misspent youth.

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith/watch battery replacement technician and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith located at the newly renovated Island Plaza and welcomes your questions and comments about All That Glitters. Visit or call 239-394-9275.

One response to “DIY Watch Battery Replacement: Pros & Cons”

  1. Mary says:

    It costs 10 to 15 for a. Ew battery where I live & for a $6 or $10 watch it isnt worth it. You can buy batteries on Ebay very cheap. The watch backs that screw on are not so easy. Take them in to get replaced

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