Table of Contents
A watch’s hands not only translate the movement’s ticking to time measurements we can understand but also plays a role in the overall aesthetic value of a watch.
Therefore, watch hand replacement proves an intricate endeavor that has to be done by the book as even a slight miscalculation can interfere with one of these purposes.
Without further ado, here’s the simple guide on how to replace watch hands:
Picking out the correct hand sizes
This is probably the first aspect that comes to mind when you decide it’s time to get your watch some new hands and it is the most important.
It can prove an uphill task because unlike most spare parts, hand sizes are not restricted to limited standards, therefore, you have to carry out exact measurement tests to know the right fit for your watch movement.
Hence, it’s important to know the differences between brands, such as a Vincero Kairos vs. MVMT’s watches.
There are two dimensions that you need to measure namely the hand’s length and the diameter of the hole at the head of the hand.
A pair of calipers is a good tool for this purpose as the measurements need to be accurate up to a tenth of a millimeter. When measuring length, start from the hand’s tip to the center of the hole in the head.
With regards to the distance between tip and markings, there is a general rule of thumb that you should abide by. For the minute hand, the tip should just touch the inside of the minute indicators while for the hour hand, it should just reach the inner edges of the hour markers.
Finally, for the second hand, the tip should brush the outside of a second marker. These space allowances make your watch easy to read instantaneously and also make it endearing.
Taking into account the above, you should be able to come up with the required length and diameter of your new hands so that you can place an order.
Removing the old hands
Before you do that, you need to cover the dial with a protective plastic film or, preferably, a special dial protector. Watch hand tools or the presto type tools are what you need for this part.
In the case of a Presto tool, the center guide should securely rest on the hand’s top while the index finger should be on the tool’s upper edge to improve steadiness.
Once in this position, press the bowed arms in while carefully maneuvering to the belly of the lowest hand and be sure to stay clear of the dial.
Gradually apply force until the hand is within the mouth of the tool after which you can carefully lift up the hand away from the face.
Hand levers prove a simpler tool in comparison as it works just as its name suggests: you place one edge below the arms until it rests against the center posts then gently exert a force on the other end to slowly lift the hand off the movement.
Installing the new hands
There is no one exact process to installation because the procedure varies depending on the movement of the watch although the technique is pretty much the same. You will need a bench top hand press and a handheld pressing tool for this part of proceedings.
The tip you go for should ideally be similar in size to the hub of the new hands and the material ought to be scratch-free and soft as well but not too soft to get in the way of leveling this piece. For some, actual hand pressing (using your fingers) is adequate.
However, it is advisable to place the dial on the bench press then use a pressing tool to hold the hand in position then lightly tap on the end of this tool until the hand gradually slides in. Much like how a hammer and nail work.
For the movement holder to use here, picking the right one is critical to avoid damaging your watch’s movement. Therefore, determine your particular movement and go for a holder that is specifically made for that movement.
At the very least, the holder you select must have a supporting base for the jewel which holds this part in place during the operation thereby preventing erratic time telling that would arise if the jewel’s parts fall out of alignment.
When pressing hands in place, ensure the hand is placed such that it sits flush with the mounted post.
Also, make sure the hands run on the same plane throughout the whole length so that the hands don’t brush against each other or the dial. For painted hands, the extra coating tends to add to the thickness so also remember to leave sufficient allowance for this to prevent scratching.
Primarily we discussed how to install hands for a regular dial but there are some watches with a curved dial which necessitates the need to provide proper clearance by curving down the tip. This allowance can be achieved by the use of polished flat-tipped tweezers or by using a small round bar to curve the hand by rolling it across the hand’s back.
Carry out a test run
Once the new hands are in place and the assembly of the watch is done and dusted, it is now time to see how the new hands you’ve installed fare.
Here’s a quick video on how it’s done
Give the hands a spin by turning the subdial clockwise while checking to see how they interact when they crossover.
They shouldn’t touch each other or the base of the crystal (i.e. the face) and if you got your measurements from step one right, it should be easy to straightaway see what unit each hand depicts.
For gauging height to ensure the hands don’t touch the face, you could employ the “toothpick test” whilst still at step 3. The procedure entails using a sharp toothpick to mark a set back line by rotating it around the vertical flange of the covering piece. The tip of the toothpick in reference to this line marker gives a clear estimate of the space allowance needed between the top-most hand and case.
That’s it folks, hand replacement can be a tad complicated especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with watch repair but if you follow this guide to the letter, it shouldn’t be too hard.
Remember to have all the tools you need ready and always exercise caution as the watch’s inner mechanisms- which consists of intricately balanced gears and whatnot- is quite delicate. Every watch is different so it’s important to know what style of watch you’re working with.
(Photos thanks to Pexels)