Professional Jeweler Archive: Removing the Stem

July 2000

Timepieces/Education & Repair


Removing the Stem

It's part of adding value to your store's watch service


You can enhance the value of your customer service and raise the image of your watch service counter with two simple procedures while replacing the battery in a quartz watch:

  • Remove the stem or the winding assembly that includes the crown and then remove the movement.
  • Clean the inside of the case once the movement is removed.

These steps allow you to clean away lint, dust or corrosion lodged inside the case back and case tube, dramatically reducing the likelihood the watch will stop. Aside from dead batteries, contamination is the main reason a quartz watch ceases to function, so customers will appreciate your effort to save their watches from the need for extensive repairs. Here’s how to proceed.

Releasing the Stem

Push on the stem release and remove the stem and crown assembly. The release is usually at the edge of the movement near the stem. Look for a steel lever with a dimple or slot near its end. If you don’t see it, pull out the stem and push it back – do this several times. Watch for a lever with a dimple that seems to appear and disappear into the movement as the stem is pulled in and out.

Sometimes the stem and crown need to be in the “wind” position (all the way in) or the setting position (all the way out) to locate the dimpled lever. In either case, when the lever appears, press it to release the stem.

Once the stem and crown are removed, tip the watch over on the bench and the movement will fall out into your hand. You might have to tap the watch gently against the bench top to loosen the movement. Or check the movement retaining ring. You may have to pull it out to release the movement.

When the movement drops out, sit it on the benchtop with the hands-side facing up. Don’t disturb the hands once the movement is outside its case.

Clean the Case

With the movement removed, clean the edge of the case back and the opening of the case rim with a brass brush. Blow out the loosened dirt with a bench air blower or canned air. With external dirt, clean the case and its metal band (remove leather) in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.

Rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly with a hot hair dryer. Be sure no water is trapped in any recesses.

Clean the Gasket

The stem gasket on most quartz watches is easy to see. Some have a gasket inside the crown. If you don’t see an exposed gasket and the watch has a case tube, the gasket is inside the crown. Watches without case tubes and exposed gaskets have no stem gasket or crown gasket.

For an exposed stem/crown gasket, use a sharpened pegwood stick to wipe dirt from the edges and wipe with a tissue. Wipe silicon lubricant around the outside of the case tube before replacing the stem/crown assembly.

For a hidden gasket, use a pegwood stick to wipe out the inner recesses of the crown and blow out the loosened dirt with a bench blower or canned air. With the gaskets and the case opening clean, lubricate the case tube with a silicon gasket sealant. The sealant will be pulled into the hidden gasket when the stem and crown are reinserted.

Similar operations apply to case back gaskets. We’ll look at replacing these in future columns.

– by David Christianson, Certified Master Watchmaker

David Christianson owns Christianson Jewelry, Kendallville, IN. In addition to serving as AWI president, he is a certified master watchmaker and a fellow of the British Horological Society. Send questions to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102; timepieces@professionaljeweler.com.


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