How to Remove a Stubborn or Stuck Watch Back (DIY Guide)

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Opening a watch back can be tricky enough on its own. You need to have the right tools, and just the appropriate amount of patience to see it through without causing any damage. That said, when you’ve done everything right and it still won’t come off, what should you do?

If you’ve got a watch back that just won’t come off, we’ve got you covered. In the following sections we will review the basics of watch-back removal and what to do if your watch back just won’t come off. We’ll also review how to open different types of watch backs, as they can easily be confused with one another if you’re new to opening up watches. 

The Tools Needed to Remove a Stuck Watch Back 

Before we jump into our step by step guide, let’s first review what tools you will need to successfully remove a stubborn or stuck watch back. It’s important that you have the right tool so you don’t accidentally damage your watch in the process of opening it up. 

If your watch back is stubborn and won’t turn, you can carefully super glue a nut to it, and use a wrench to twist it off. When you’re done, you should apply some nail polish to remove the nut and the leftover glue. If that doesn’t work, ensure your tools are for the right type of watch. 

While there are multiple types of watch back, the ones that tend to get stuck are the screw-on watch backs. Coincidentally, they’re also the most common type of watch back. Below we will break down what tools you typically need to remove a screw-down, as well as what tools you’ll need to get it unstuck. 

Tools for a Screw-Down Back 

To get this back off you will simply need a watch back remover tool (also known as a watch case wrench). These tools are designed with prongs that can be inserted into the notches on the back of the watch.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a watch case holder to keep the watch still during the process of removal. You can improvise and use something else to hold the watch still, but be careful because it’s easy to accidentally scratch the watch back if you aren’t using the appropriate tools. 

Additional Tools

When you’re not just trying to get the watch back off, but you’re also trying to get it unstuck, you’ll need some additional tools. 

The following tools will help you unstick your stubborn watch back:

  • Wrench
  • A nut that will comfortably fit on your watch back
  • Superglue 
  • Nail polish remover 

You probably already have all of these lying around your house somewhere. Just make sure you have them all ready and accessible when you begin.

Removing a Stuck Screw-Down Watch Back 

Now that you know what tools you need to both remove your watch back and possibly get it unstuck, let’s see how you put them into action. We’ll go ahead and start with screw-down watches because they are the most common. If you have a different type, you can go ahead and skip to its section to find what you need. 

Below, we will start by describing how to ideally remove a watch back, then we will let you know what else to add to the process when it’s stuck. 

How to Remove a Screw-Down Watch Back 

Before you remove the back of any type of watch case, you should always start by unclasping the watch so you have full access to where the battery sits. Once you’ve got your watch opened up and ready to go, you can begin.

Below, we’ve outlined the basic steps involved in removing most screw-down watch backs: 

  • Secure the watch case in the watch holder: To do this, you simply need to make sure the watch holder is loosened enough for the watch case to fit in the center of it. As you tighten it, prongs will close in on the case and hold it in one spot. If you’re using an alternative to a watch holder, just make sure it’s secure and won’t move before starting.
  • Fit the watch back remover to the watch: Loosen the watch back remover so that it can fit all the way around the watch back. Put the remover over the watch so that your watch case is between the prongs. Tip one prong into one of the notches and tighten the remover till the other prong is in the opposite notch.
  • Unscrew the case: Turn the remover to the left and unscrew the back of the case until you can pull it off of the watch. 

What to Do When a Screw-Down Watch Back is Stuck

With a screwdown watch back, the problems usually arrive in the third step, where you unscrew the case. Generally, it’s that the case just won’t turn no matter how hard you try, even if you followed every step correctly. 

If your screw-down watch back won’t turn, follow these steps to get it working again: 

  • Put a small amount of super glue on the nut: It doesn’t take a huge amount, so be sure and use the superglue sparingly. When you’ve applied the glue, press the nut onto the watch back.
  • Allow the superglue to dry: Give it a little time because you’ll want the nut to be securely in place. 
  • Use your wrench to turn the nut and lift the back: As the nut turns, so too should the watch back. Once it’s unscrewed you can lift it.
  • Remove the glue by applying nail polish remover: Put some in the space between the nut and the back. Once the nut is removed, continue gently applying nail polish to remove the remaining glue. You can gently scrub it off with a soft rag or a paper towel. If some of it still won’t come off, feel free to carefully scrape it off with a credit card.

Now when you put it back on, it should be loose enough to where you can just open it the standard way next time. That’s why it’s good to have the tools to open it up properly, even if the first time you had to do it in a more improvised way.

What if Your Watch Back Still Won’t Come Off? 

If your watch back still won’t come off, you may want to double check that yours is in fact a screw on the watch back. As we mentioned previously, there are two other types of watch backs that require a completely different set of tools. 

Below we will tell you how to identify which type of watch back you have, and what tools it will need instead, as well as how to use them.  

Removing a Stuck Snap-Off Watch Back

A snap-off watch back (also known as a press-on) is easy to confuse with a screw-on because they often have notches as well. When they have notches however, they are flatter and thinner. They won’t really fit the tool you would use for a screw-on. 

Tools for a Press On Back 

For a press on back you will simply need a watch back cover opener. This is a small tool with a thin tip on the end of it, perfect for taking off a press-on back.

You can use a thin knife in place of the official tool, however if you do you should work very carefully so you don’t slip and scratch the back. 

You may also need a small screw-driver, as some press on watch backs have them to stay together more securely. There are plenty of good flat screwdriver sets on amazon, specifically for watches, that are affordable and decent quality. 

How to Remove a Snap-Off Watch Back 

So if you think your watch-back was really a snap on, it’s no wonder why it wouldn’t unscrew–it’s not really meant to. Instead of trying to unscrew it follow these steps and you should have your snap-off watch back off in no time:

  • Find leverage on the watch back: Snap-off watch backs sometimes have small thin notches, while other times they  just have a spot somewhere around the seal where there is a tiny bit more space to wedge your tool into. Look for that spot. 
  • Slide the your watch back cover opener into the space: Whether it’s a small thin notch, or just a place where the seal between the watch back and the the rest of the watch is a little more open, work your cover opener into the space. 
  • Carefully pry the watch back towards yourself: Begin trying to pry the watch back off with the cover opener. Be really careful, if you slip too hard it is still possible to damage the watch back even though the tool is designed to minimize that risk. 

It should eventually loosen up and pop off after prying for a few seconds. If it takes you longer the first time you try it, don’t worry. If you practice it just a little bit it will become a muscle memory. 

Removing a Stuck Unibody Watch Back 

This is perhaps the most intimidating of watch cases to open up. If your watch back wouldn’t budge and it didn’t have notches, there’s a decent chance it was one of these. The reason you’d have trouble trying to open one of these from the back, is because they actually open from the front. 

Tools for a Unibody 

All you need is a tool called a crystal lift. It essentially grips onto the crystal on the top of your watch and allows you to lift it off and get inside the watch that way. 

How to Remove a Unibody Watch Back 

While unibody backs (also known as monocoque backs) come apart differently than any of the other types,  it’s still a relatively simple process. If your watch appears be a unibody, follow these steps to open up the case: 

  • Loosen the crystal lift to fit the watch case: You can loosen the crystal lift by turning the top half of it counter clockwise. You want it to fit around the crystal (or face) of the watch with plenty of space.
  • Tighten the crystal life over the face of the watch: With the watch laying flat on your work space, begin to tighten the crystal lift over the watch’s crystal by turning the top piece clockwise. Make sure it gets nice and secure around the face of the watch.  
  • Carefully pull off the crystal to open the watch: This part works best if you use one hand to hold down the watch band and steady the watch, while the other hand carefully, but firmly pulls on the crystal lift and opens up the watch.

This is a bit tricker than opening the other types of watches. If you don’t get it on your first try, just know that is completely normal and double check that you have the crystal lift tight enough. Be careful each time you retighten the grip of the crystal lift, as you don’t want to accidentally scratch your watch. 

So Really, How Do You Remove a Stubborn Watch Case?

If your watch case seems to be on too tight, and you can’t turn it to get it off, you need something that will give you more leverage. A great way to do this is to put a little superglue on a nut, attach it to the watch back and then use a wrench to turn it and in turn unscrew the watch back.

It’s important to note that you also might just have a less common type of watch case. While most people have screw-on backs, there are also snap-off backs and unibody backs. If you have a snap on, you will need a cover opener to pry the back open. If you have a unibody back you will need to take it apart from the top with a crystal lift.