Wouldn’t it be nice if there were just one hobby that didn’t require peripherals? One thing where you could have the main thing without needing other things. Alas, watches have to be stored and carried. Bracelets need sizing. Straps need swapping. Crystals need polishing. You’ll see a lot of guides about what you need for your watches, and most of them have a lot of fluff, unnecessarily expensive items as the best examples, and affiliate links.
This guide is a bit different. We wanted to give you the very basics of what you’ll need as your collection grows (and even then “need” is a strong word). It’s divided into two parts. The first three items are things we at The Watch Clicker feel are musts. They’ll get you set up to store and carry your watches and swap straps. The next three items are exceptionally useful, but are used for things that a reliable watchmaker can take care of for a nominal fee. As such, they’re a bit less critical. We’ve also included some “upgrade” options, which are certainly not necessary, but may be nice to have. And any links herein are just to the examples we’ve mentioned, and we won’t get anything if you make a purchase.
Not on the list? You probably don’t need it.
The Bare Necessities
Spring Bar Tool
If you buy only one thing on this list, make it a spring bar tool. I will say without hesitation or reservation that it is the single most important tool a watch owner can have, whether the collection be a single piece or a prized collection of dozens or more. The spring bar tool allows you to swap straps or bracelets and breathe new life into a watch. In effect, even a one watch collection (which is at once where everyone starts and where many aspire to end) can provide an ongoing source of variety and versatility.
A good spring bar tool features a forked end and a cylindrical end (which can be used on watches with drilled lugs and to size straps with microadjustments), replaceable tips, and solid construction with some sort of grip. A favorite of ours at The Watch Clicker—and recommended by watchmaker and Orion Watches brand owner Nick Harris—is the Bergeon 7767-F tool. It’s more expensive, but while I was skeptical to spend twice the price of cheaper models, I found that there is indeed a difference and the tool is simply better made and easier to use.
The Upgrade: Spring Bar Tweezers
Even with many smaller brands incorporating quick-release spring bars into their bracelets, standard bars are still the norm. And they’re also a pain to remove and replace. Enter the spring bar tweezers, which allow you to evenly apply pressure to both ends to remove and replace bracelets. As quick-release bracelets become more and more prevalent, the utility of the spring bar tweezer may diminish. But we aren’t there yet.
As your collection expands beyond 2 or 3 watches, you’ll need a reliable, safe place to store them. I won’t judge anyone for just laying out their watch if it’s just the one, or one of two or three. But beyond that, I feel there’s a need for proper storage. At this point in your collecting, you’ve probably also amassed a few straps. In both cases, look for a watch box with padded rolls and separate slots for each watch, some additional storage for straps, and room to grow. I have two Glenor Co. 12-watch boxes, which feature drawers perfectly sized (with some Xacto™ knife magic) for straps and my springbar tool.
There are lots of options out there and prices can get crazy pretty quickly, but keep in mind that the idea is to have a safe place where each watch is self-contained—you don’t need to spend a fortune. There are also modular and DIY solutions that are easy to find online, including this one from our friends at The Time Bum (for when your collection gets truly out of hand).
The Upgrade: Watch Winder
Watch winders do just that: keep your watch (or watches) wound while also providing a place to store them. They’re relatively cheap, though you do tend to get what you pay for. Look for a model that lets you choose the rotations per day and directionality. There’s debate about whether they are necessary and whether they cause more wear and tear, or whether it’s good to keep the watch moving, but from what I can gather from reliable sources, there’s no harm to be done and if you want to use a winder to keep your watches ready to grab and go at a moment’s notice, go for it.
An expanding collection and the straps that go with it usually leads to one wearing a different watch every day, or at least having some sort of rotation of timepieces to ensure that each watch is enjoyed. As a rule (that I rarely break), I don’t wear the same watch two days in a row, nor the same watch twice in a row on the same strap. It keeps my collection fresh even when I’m not adding new watches. But it also means I need a way to carry multiple watches when I travel.
I’ve got several watch rolls, pouches, and cases. I’d recommend a two-watch pouch for short trips and a separate roll with three or four slots (any more gets too bulky). Pouches and rolls should feature a rugged but thin exterior (to reduce bulk), a soft lining (to avoid scratches), a foldover flap, and some sort of closure mechanism. Two-watch pouches vary greatly, but I like the one I have from Worn and Wound; my favorite rolls are my roll from Hub City Vintage (pictured) and the one that came with a review sample from Rossling & Co. Again, prices can get out of hand quickly, but there’s really no need to spend an arm and a leg.
The Upgrade: Multiwatch Zip Case
A little sturdier, a little safer, and a little bit pricier. The zip case gives you a more secure closure than most pouches or rolls and fully encloses your watches. When I head to meetups, I take a cheapo 8-watch zip case I got on Amazon for about $36. I really don’t see the need for one beyond such circumstances, and as such, cannot in good conscience recommended spending too much money here.
For the Advanced Hobbyist
Block and Hammer
Eventually (or perhaps right away), you’ll get tired of going to the watch shop every time you get a new watch on a bracelet. Paying $15 or more to have it sized gets old after you do it for the fifth time. Enter the block and hammer. Nothing fancy here: just a plastic block, a long-handled hammer with steel and plastic heads, and a spike of sorts. Line the bracelet up in the block, set the spike, and hammer the pin through. Close up the bracelet with the plastic end. These often come in sets, though there are more expensive options out there. Another area where you don’t need to splurge.
PolyWatch is a lifesaving abrasive brought to the watch community by Bavarian company STARK Innovation GmbH. Especially if you get into vintage time pieces, or buy a Speedmaster with a hesalite crystal, you’ll be groaning at the amount of scratches that accumulate on the glass. While sapphire is nearly impervious to such blemishes, most other crystals are not. A small amount of PolyWatch rubbed vigorously into the crystal with a soft eyeglass cloth takes care of most scratches. It’s dirt cheap and worth every penny. If you don’t trust yourself, a competent watchmaker should be able to buff anything out for a reasonable fee.
A good set of screwdrivers will go a long way. First, screw pins are becoming more and more common for bracelet links, especially with microbrands. And then there are brands whose lugs or links require two screwdrivers, applied evenly and simultaneously to change the bracelet (this is known as torture and is a violation of the Geneva Conventions). Having a solid set of screwdrivers will help you avoid the worst of it. You can also change batteries on cases with screw down case backs. Most of the things that screwdrivers help with fall under the realm of “bracelet adjustments” at a watch shop and, frankly, spending money on a screwdriver set may not be worth it for you. If you have to get a set, Horotec and Bergeon are the go-to brands, but others will likely suffice. Like with the spring bar tool, you get what you pay for.
Just like with the watches we love, there seems to be an infinite number of options for the accessories that help us enjoy them. And similarly, an infinite price range. There are $30 spring bar tools (spend the money) and $1,150 8-watch zip cases (don’t even think about it). There are multitool watch sets for under $10 (be careful), but there’s also your local watchmaker–a great friend to make through regular patronage. As your collection grows, you’ll figure out what you need and what you don’t. Start with the first three items on the list and go from there. Happy collecting!
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