How Much Does Watch Cleaning Cost?

Last Updated on May 20, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

For discerning watch collectors and everyday timepiece owners alike, keeping watches in optimal functioning order requires periodic professional cleaning and maintenance.

Whether performed annually for basic wristwatches or every 3-5 years for prized mechanical timepieces, professional watch cleaning provides substantial benefits well worth the service investment.

Not only does expert cleaning remove accumulated dirt, body oils, and debris that can compromise performance, it ensures continued accuracy, reduces wear, and extends your watch’s reliable lifespan.

How Much Does Watch Cleaning Cost?

Watch cleaning costs vary from $75 to $150 for a basic external cleaning, while a comprehensive overhaul can cost $500 or more.

Basic External Cleaning – A basic cleaning includes the watch case, bezel, and bracelet cleaning along with replacing seals, battery replacement in quartz models, testing water resistance, and overall functioning check for around $75-$150 depending on the watchmaker.

Detailing with Ultrasonic Cleaning – For $200-$500, a more thorough detailing service involves internal disassembly, complete ultrasonic cleaning of components, repairs to hands, dials, or date wheels if needed, full polishing and refinishing of the case and bracelet, water resistance testing, resealing, and precision timing calibration and adjustments.

Complete Overhaul – A comprehensive $500-$1000+ overhaul includes fully disassembling the entire watch including the movement, ultrasonic cleaning and treatment of each component, replacement of any worn gaskets, seals, or internal parts as needed, re-lubricating moving parts, meticulous reassembly, water pressure testing for guaranteed water resistance, and extensive calibration for perfectly precise timekeeping. This returns the watch to like-new functioning status.

Additional Repairs or Refinishing – Other repairs like replacing scratched crystals, dent removal, or touch-ups to worn portions of the case or bracelet may be performed during cleaning for an additional fee. Any replacement vintage parts often increase costs significantly.

A user from WatchUSeek Forum inquired about the cost of cleaning and servicing a vintage Caravelle mechanical watch purchased for $15. The user mentioned the US Postal Service’s option to transport the watch for service prices as low as $7 or $8.

Reddit users discussed the cost of cleaning, regulating, and leak testing mechanical watches at reputable places. Prices mentioned ranged from $150 to $250 for basic services, with luxury brands costing $350 to $450. Comprehensive services for Rolex models were quoted at $375, and Omega NYC service for a Seamaster was $450.

TAG Heuer provides a price list for watch services in the USA, with costs varying based on the type of watch and service needed. Prices range from $140 for partial maintenance to $695 for specific services on mechanical watches.

Factors Impacting the Cost

Watch Brand, Age, and Model – Luxury Swiss watch brands like Rolex, Omega, and Breitling command higher cleaning fees, averaging $500 or more, compared to $100-200 for everyday brands like Seiko, Citizen, or Timex. Vintage watches also cost more to service properly. The specific watch model and complexity of features like chronographs, perpetual calendars, and moonphase displays further influence service costs.

Frequency of Cleaning – The frequency of necessary cleaning for optimal performance also affects cumulative costs over a watch’s lifetime. Delicate mechanical watches require professional servicing every 3-5 years for maintenance, while rugged, modern quartz watches may only need periodic cleaning every 5-10 years. The more often a watch needs servicing, the higher the long-term costs.

Extent of Servicing – Basic exterior cleaning can cost as little as $50 for quartz watches, while complete disassembly, overhaul, and refurbishment of a luxury mechanical watch averages $500-$1000+. Thorough ultrasonic cleaning, repairs, adjustment, and polishing falls in the $150-$500 range. The depth of servicing impacts costs.

Service Provider – Independent, experienced watchmakers often offer significant savings over manufacturer-authorized service centers that exclusively work on specific high-end brands. However, authorized facilities may provide needed expertise and original parts for very complex luxury brands. Shop around for the best value.

Watch Cleaning Service Cost Breakdown

Basic External Cleaning

  • Case/Bezel Polishing – $10-$20
  • Bracelet Cleaning – $10-$20
  • Winding Mechanism Inspection – $10-$20
  • Battery Replacement (Quartz) – $10-$20
  • Water Resistance Testing – $10-$20
  • Timing Calibration – $15-$30
  • Gaskets/Seals Replacement – $10-$20
  • Total Cost – $75-$150

Ultrasonic Cleaning and Detailing

  • Disassembly – $20-$50
  • Ultrasonic Component Cleaning – $30-$75
  • Hand, Dial, Date Repairs – $20-$100
  • Case and Bracelet Polishing – $40-$150
  • Water Resistance Testing – $10-$20
  • Timing Calibration and Regulation – $15-$30
  • Gasket and Seal Replacement – $20-$75
  • Total Cost – $200-$500

Complete Overhaul

  • Full Disassembly – $50-$150
  • Ultrasonic Treatment – $50-$150
  • Replacement of Worn Parts – $100-$500+
  • Lubrication and Assembly – $100-$300
  • Case Refinishing – $50-$250
  • Pressure Testing – $20-$50
  • Timing Calibration – $20-$50
  • Total Cost – $500-$1000+

Additional Repairs or Refinishing

  • New Mineral Glass Crystal – $20-$50
  • Sapphire Crystal Replacement – $100-$500
  • Case Dent Removal – $50-$150
  • Case Refinishing – $50-$250
  • Bracelet Refinishing – $50-$150
  • Vintage Component Replacement – $50-$500+

DIY vs Professional Cleaning

You might also like our articles about the cost of watch battery replacement, watch crystal replacement, and the price of an apple watch.

DIY Watch Cleaning

  • Lower Cost – $20-$50 for supplies
  • Very Time Consuming – 2+ hours
  • Higher Risk of Internal Damage – Without proper tools and training
  • Limited to External Cleaning – Cannot safely disassemble

Professional Watch Cleaning

  • Higher Cost – $75-$1000+
  • Speedy Turnaround – Often within days
  • Lower Risk to Watch – Experts with specialized equipment
  • Thorough Internal Cleaning – Ultrasonic treatment
  • Warranties Against Issues or Damage
  • Oftentimes Includes Minor Repairs and Refurbishing

For valuable vintage or luxury watches, professional servicing provides the safest, most effective cleaning method. However, DIY cleaning can save money for affordable, modern watches if done carefully and limited to external components only.

Securing Quality Services

Watch CleaningManufacturer Service Centers – Brands like Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer, and Breitling have a global network of dedicated service facilities with certified technicians and original factory parts to service those brands exclusively. This provides unmatched expertise for complicated designs.

Authorized Independent Watchmakers – Certain highly experienced watchmakers undergo extensive training through top brands to become authorized for servicing those watches independently. Also, a safe bet for precision cleaning.

Factory Service Warranties – Some high-end watch companies offer factory service warranties for periodic cleanings to keep them within factory specifications. This guarantees proper care throughout the warranty.

Appraisals Before Servicing – For valuable vintage timepieces being cleaned for the first time, a professional appraisal provides documentation that influences servicing and insurance needs.

Insurance Upgrade for Cleaning and Transit – Luxury watch owners often add riders to existing policies for full replacement value when sending in for cleaning, adding insurance against loss or damage during transit and servicing.

Maintaining Your Watch

Ask About the Recommended Service Interval – Follow your watchmaker’s advice to maintain periodic cleaning per the watch’s requirements for optimal longevity and performance.

Perform Between-Cleaning Care – Wipe the crystal and case regularly with a soft cloth to keep exterior surfaces dirt-free. Avoid soaps, chemicals, or submerging the watch.

Have Gaskets Checked Annually – Return for annual water resistance testing and gasket replacement to avoid moisture damage between cleanings.

Check Accuracy Periodically – Monitor your timepiece’s accuracy monthly. Sudden inaccurate operation can indicate the need for an earlier service.

Avoid Impacts and Damage – Protect your watch from dings, dents, and harsh chemicals. Damage between cleanings can void warranties. Handle and store with care.

Final Words

While watch cleaning costs vary widely based on the brand, age, construction, and service extent required, investing in periodic maintenance pays dividends by keeping your timepiece running accurately for decades beyond its expected lifespan.

For prized mechanical watches especially, proper ultrasonic cleaning and lubrication every few years reduces internal friction and wear on small, intricate components that are prone to seizing up without consistent care.

By budgeting affordable cleaning costs into your ownership plan, utilizing insured watchmakers, asking proper questions, and safeguarding your investment between cleanings, you can pass down your cherished wristwatch heirlooms for generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should watches be cleaned?

Everyday quartz watches need cleaning every 5-10 years. Mechanical watches should be cleaned every 3-5 years, or whenever they become inaccurate. Vintage watches may need servicing every 2-3 years. Luxury watches like Rolex should be cleaned by a certified technician every 4-6 years regardless of performance to prevent wear.

What’s the best way to clean your watch?

The best method is to have your watch professionally cleaned by a qualified watchmaker. They use specialized equipment like ultrasonic cleaners to deep clean components and properly lubricate and seal the watch without risk of damage. DIY watch cleaning is possible but risks harming fragile inner mechanisms if not done meticulously.

Should you get your watch cleaned?

Yes, regular professional watch cleaning extends the lifespan of your timepiece, keeps the movement performing accurately, and provides cosmetic polishing that makes it look like new. While the service costs vary by watch value, investing in cleanings every few years is recommended to protect your watch and maximize its longevity.

Can you soak a watch to clean it?

It’s not recommended to soak your entire watch in water or cleaning solutions. This risks moisture damage to the intricate movement. While professional ultrasonic cleaners can safely clean disassembled watch components, the watch should never be submersed fully intact. Gentle wipe-downs keep the case and crystal clean between professional servicing. Don’t attempt to soak a watch.

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