Although stainless steel is an extremely hard metal, it is still possible to scratch it with enough force, consistent blows or abrasive contact. Removing scratches from your stainless-steel watch is absolutely a do-it-yourself project. Depending on how much time and money you are willing to invest in the process, you can save yourself the cost of professional polishing.
Scratches on Scratch-Resistant Material
Stainless steel's ability to hold a shine and its scratch resistance make it an attractive option for jewelry such as bracelets and watches that endure repeated impact trauma. Unfortunately, the term “scratch resistant” is somewhat misleading. Scratch resistance means that the stainless steel scratches only under extreme force or repeated trauma in the same area. For example, the majority of watches or bracelets develop scratches on the wrist because it comes into contact with hard surfaces while you are typing and writing.
Elbow Grease Versus Machine Oil
It is possible to remove the scratches from your stainless-steel watch by hand. However, it will take time and pressure to return the watch to its original shine. Consider how long it took for the scratches to develop and what caused the scratches. If you work construction or another type of job where your watch experiences constant trauma, it may be worth your time and money to invest in either a handheld rotary tool or a table-mounted buffing machine. The speed of the machine as well as the pressure exerted will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend removing scratches and will also remove deep scratches.
Polishing your stainless-steel watch nightly or weekly will maintain the metallic shine and remove delicate scratches that may evolve into deeper scratches later. A two-sided jeweler’s cloth will buff out scratches and shine the watchband without harsh abrasives or cleaners. A jeweler’s brush or baby toothbrush will scrub away accumulations of dirt or lotion, particularly between the links, without adding to the scratches. Always work in the direction of the stainless-steel grain. On highly polished stainless steel, the direction of the grain may not be visible to the naked eye. A jeweler’s loupe will not only allow you to identify the grain of the metal, but will also help you identify developing deeper scratches.
If you decide to polish your stainless-steel watch mechanically, you will want to purchase polishing bars. These bars come in various grit formulations for use on specific metals. A stainless-steel buffing compound is strong enough to remove deep scratches from stainless steel. However, it will remove a fine layer of metal. You should use it all over the watch instead of only in one location or you will see a noticeably sunken spot. A white rouge bar will bring a shine to the steel and remove fine scratches. To remove swirl marks from mechanical polishing or just as a touch-up for mild clouding, coat the metal in talcum powder or baking soda.
Intricate Designs and Composite Metals
Other than the regular use of a polishing cloth, do not attempt scratch removal on intricately designed watches or watches containing other metals like gold or silver. The harsh abrasives used to polish silver will scratch or otherwise disintegrate softer metals. Buffing intricate designs with a polishing compound will blur or remove any carved or raised metal designs, even if they do consist of stainless steel.