How to Remove a Stubborn Watch Back?

A wristwatch is more than a device for telling time; it’s an intricate piece of craftsmanship, with each component playing a vital role. One such crucial part is the watch back. The watch back secures the delicate inner workings of the watch, guarding them against the environment and potential damage. Yet, there are times when you need to remove this protective shell, such as when changing a battery or performing a repair.

The ability to safely and successfully remove a stubborn watch back can save you time and possibly a trip to the jeweler. This skill requires a basic understanding of watches, the right tools, and a little patience. The next sections delve into the detailed steps to achieve this, also covering the various types of watch backs, necessary precautions, and common challenges you might encounter along the way.

What is a Watch Back?

The watch back, or case back, is the rear cover of the watch. It encloses the watch’s inner mechanics and provides protection against dust, moisture, and other potential damages. Different watches feature different types of backs, including snap-off backs, screw-down backs, and screw-off backs. Each of these types requires a specific approach when it comes to removal.

Why Might You Need to Remove a Watch Back?

There are various reasons why you might need to remove a watch back. The most common reason is to replace the battery, a task that needs to be performed every one to five years, depending on your watch type. Other reasons include accessing the watch’s internal parts for repair, cleaning, or other customization options like engraving.

Understanding the Types of Watch Backs

To remove a watch back safely, it’s crucial to understand the different types of watch backs.

Snap-Off Watch Backs

These are common in budget and some mid-range watches. As the name suggests, they ‘snap’ into place and can be quite tricky to remove without the right tools or technique.

Screw-Down Watch Backs

This type of watch back is often found on diving watches due to its excellent water resistance. The back is secured by a series of small screws around the perimeter.

Screw-Off Watch Backs

Found in many higher-end watches, these backs are threaded and screw into place. A specialized tool, often called a case wrench, is needed to remove them.

What Tools Do You Need to Remove a Watch Back?

Removing a watch back safely requires the right tools. These include:

  1. Watch Case Opener: This tool comes in different varieties, depending on the type of watch back you’re dealing with.
  2. Soft Cloth: To protect the watch face from getting scratched during the process.
  3. Small Screwdriver: For watches with a screw-down back.
  4. Case Holder: To securely hold the watch while you work on it.

How to Prepare Before Removing a Watch Back?

Before you start, ensure you have a clean and well-lit workspace. Lay your watch on a soft cloth to protect it from scratches. Arrange your tools within easy reach, and make sure you handle the watch carefully throughout the process.

How to Remove a Stubborn Snap-Off Watch Back?

  1. Place your watch in the case holder.
  2. Position the blade of your watch case opener in the small gap between the watch back and the watch case.
  3. Apply gentle but firm pressure to pry off the watch back.

How to Remove a Stubborn Screw-Down Watch Back?

  1. Position your watch in the case holder.
  2. Using your small screw driver, carefully unscrew the screws securing the watch back.
  3. 3. Once the screws are loose, use your fingers or a watch case opener to carefully unscrew and remove the watch back.

How to Remove a Stubborn Screw-Off Watch Back?

  1. Place your watch in the case holder.
  2. Select the appropriately sized case wrench for your watch back.
  3. Insert the prongs of the case wrench into the notches on the watch back.
  4. Firmly but gently turn the case wrench counterclockwise to unscrew the watch back.
  5. Once the watch back is loosened, use your fingers to unscrew and remove it completely.

Common Challenges in Removing a Watch Back and How to Overcome Them

Removing a stubborn watch back can sometimes present challenges. Here are some common difficulties you may encounter and tips to overcome them:

  1. Tight screws: If the screws securing the watch back are tightly screwed, try using a quality screwdriver with a good grip. Apply steady pressure while turning to loosen them.
  2. Stuck snap-off backs: If a snap-off watch back refuses to budge, use a case knife or case back removal tool to gently pry it open. Be cautious not to apply excessive force to avoid damaging the watch.
  3. Stripped screws or threads: If the screw heads are stripped or the threads are damaged, it’s best to seek professional help. An expert watchmaker can assess the situation and provide the necessary repairs.

When to Seek Professional Help?

While removing a watch back can be a rewarding DIY task, there are instances where professional assistance is advisable:

  1. Complex watch mechanisms: If you’re dealing with a high-end or complicated watch, such as a chronograph or tourbillons, it’s best to let a trained professional handle the removal to avoid any mishaps.
  2. Lack of experience: If you’re new to watch maintenance and don’t feel confident in your abilities, it’s safer to entrust the removal to an expert to prevent accidental damage.
  3. Valuable or sentimental watches: If the watch holds significant sentimental or monetary value, it’s wise to consult a professional to ensure its integrity remains intact.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should a watch back be removed?

The watch back doesn’t require frequent removal unless necessary, such as for battery replacement or repairs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or consult a professional watchmaker for specific recommendations.

Can removing a watch back damage the watch?

When done correctly and using the appropriate tools, removing a watch back shouldn’t damage the watch. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution and seek professional help if you’re unsure or dealing with a valuable timepiece.


Knowing how to remove a stubborn watch back is a valuable skill for watch enthusiasts and owners. Whether you need to replace a battery, perform repairs, or customize your timepiece, following the proper techniques and using the right tools will help you achieve success. Remember to approach each type of watch back with the appropriate method, and if unsure, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance to protect your valuable watches. With practice and care, you’ll gain confidence in maintaining your watches and preserving their longevity.

Sherry's editorial journey seamlessly merges with her passion for horology at WatchReflect. As a seasoned editor and watch enthusiast, she curates insightful guides that cater to novices and connoisseurs alike. With a penchant for research and a flair for storytelling, Sherry transforms horological complexities into engaging narratives. Her mission is to illuminate the path for those navigating the multifaceted realm of timekeeping.

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