Condensation Problems and Removing Moisture from a watch

A typical example of moisture inside a watch case

This can be a real nuisance but condensation can build up inside a watch crystal whenever the watch is exposed to a lot of water, fog, or humidity in areas such as Florida where humidity in the summer is very high. This can be a greater problem with old designs which use a perspex / plexiglass crystal. If the watch is under guarantee most manufacturers recommend that the manufacturer removes the condensation assuming it was rated water resistant. Sometimes it might be impractical to return it or a non water resistant watch might have been for an accidental swim or the watch might be out of its guarantee, in this case there are ways to tackle it. And set out below is what you do.

Option 1:

Things You'll Need:

  • Some small tools
  • A Watch seal
  • An eye glass or magnifying glass
  • A piece of lint free cloth or leather
  • Cotton Buds
  • Glass cleaner
  • A good source of light or a desk lamp
  • Hair Dryer
  • A good source of heat such as hot sun or an airing cupboard
  • Carefully remove the back of the watch. Ideally you want to use the correct tools to either unscrew or pry the back off the watch. It it looks tricky a case opener is easy to find at a jewellry supply store or on the web.

Now check to see if the seal between the casing and caseback is intact. If it is damaged in any way it must be replaced to avoid the problem happening again. Keep in mind that not all watches have a seal so if you can't see one, just carry on to the next step.

You now need to look around and see whether water has built up inside the watches casing. Use the magnifying glass or eye glass in order to have a good look. If moisture is visible you will need to treat the glass and the watch movement to ensure it is removed.

To actually remove the condensation from the watch crystal wipe it clean with the lint-free cloth - if you are not sure what a lint fre cloth is use a spectacle cleaning cloth because it is 100% sure to be lint free. Now using the magnifying glass, look closely to make absolutely certain that you have not smudged or streaked the crystal because if you have you will have to start again once the watch is reassembled! If the glass is marked use some glass cleaner cleaner on a cotton swab to remove it and then check it carefully again.

The next satage is to hold the watch over the top of a hot lamp light bulb to drive out any residual moisturelurking inside the casing. Normally the heat from the bulb will remove any moisture within a few minutes without damaging the watch. If you see any plastic parts such as securing rings you will need to be a bit more carefull.

Now place both the watch crystal and casing out into direct sunlight or in a warm airing cupboard. Let it sit a while until you can be pretty certain it is bone dry and have had a good look using the eye or magnifying glass.

We now get to the final stages where you need to check that the watch is working properly. It recommend watching it for a day to make sure that it isn't losing or gaining time or suffering any other problems. If everything seems OK you are almost done if not, it may be necessary to take it to a watchmaker or jeweller to get it sorted out.

Assuming everything looked OK you can now replace the watches caseback, it is important to make certain that it fits correctly into place and you do not pinch the seal. If it does not look right your seal is probably not in the correct position. If this happens you will need to try again until the watch closes correctly.

We are now done but you need to do one final thing which is to make sure that the crystal stays clear over the next day and assuming it does everything should be fine.

A Shortcut which sometimes works and avoids the need to open the case

Option 2:

Firstly weigh up if the risk of damaging the watch justifies a DIY effort, secondly, is it under warranty? If the watch is under warranty, rare or valuable it might be better to get a professional to sort it out.

If you decide to proceed put the watch in sunlight or an airing cupboard and see if the moisture evaporates of its own accord. Pulling out the winder can help too because if provies an escape route. I recommend placing a piece of kitchen towel or a dishcloth beneath the watch. If the moisture inside the watch face is just minimal condensation it might well clear on its own after an hour or two, assuming it does you should be fine as long as you keep the water away from water in future.

The next angle you can try is to direct either a fan or a hair dryer at the watch on a cool setting to blast air at the the watch. Personally though I prefer the airing cupboard or a floor vent because it is more gentle.

If 3 above doesn't do the trick another solution is to place the watch in a plastic bag filled with sealed packets of silica gel which you often find in camera bags or medicines and supplements. My colleague swears you can also use dry rice instead of the silica gel which seems plausible but I would be inclined to try a camera store or drugstore to get the actual silica gel. All you do now is place the bag with the watch in it somewhere warm and dry for a few days. Hopefully the silica gel or rice will draw out the condensation from inside the watch.

If the shortcuts in option 2 don't resolve the problem you will have to either take the watch to a jeweller or watchmaker or try option 1 at the top of the page. Keep in mind the shortcut's in option 2 will not cure a damaged seal so the underlying problem is still likely to cause future problems but this solution can work if the watch is not likely to get damp in future.