Removing Crystals from Vintage Timex Watches

WARNING: Do this at your own risk. Also beware of radioactive radium which was used for lume on dials and hands in pre 1960s watches.

You may need to remove the watch “glass” or crystal as its more commonly known for a number of reasons. From cleaning the case to servicing the watch, crystal removal is a handy thing to know. The good news is that there’s only one tool needed for the job, a Crystal Lift.

Vintage crystal wrench

Back when these vintage Timex watches were produced a crystal lift was a strange wrench like device giving it the name “crystal wrench”. These can be found infrequently on eBay and you will need a different sized one for the various different sized crystals used across the range.

modern crystal lifting tools

A modern crystal lift looks a bit like a torture device with a series of claws suspended from a cylinder with a screw top.

Choosing a crystal lift

It’s OK to start with a cheap crystal lift from eBay however you will find that these are difficult to use and require more muscle that the more expensive ones. They will also wear out in a few months with the brass construction developing groves making it unusable. Crystal lifts come in all shapes and sizes so make sure you pick one that’s suitable to your purpose.

I use a Bergeon No 4266 which seems to suit most men’s and boys watches produced between the 1950s and 1980s.

I can recommend spending a little bit more on a second hand Bergeon crystal lift which you can often find on eBay (always look for second hand tools). These are buttery smooth and require significantly less force. Moving from a cheap lift to a more expensive one i destroyed a lot of crystals by being too rough.

Using a crystal lift

Placing the crystal lift over the watch, you screw the top until it has a good purchase at the intersection of the crystal and case. Turn the screw top about 5 degrees at a time until you can rotate the crystal in the case. A few more tiny turns and some gentle upwards pressure and your crystal should pop off.

If the crystal is still in the lift then putting the crystal back on is just a matter of doing the above in reverse.

If you have taken the crystal out of the crystal lifting tool because you are changing crystals then you will need a crystal vice. These often come with the purchase of cheap crystal lifts and serve to hold the crystal in place and allow a gap for any retention lips before the claw grabs the crystal. Put the crystal in the vice. and slide the plate so the crystal is held securely. Twist the handle of the plate to secure it. Now position the crystal lift over the crystal and using tiny 5 degree turns, secure and compress the crystal. It should now lift off the vice and be attached to the crystal lifting tool. Position over the case and continue to use tiny turns to further compress the crystal. Push down and wait for the crystal to be compressed enough that you can pop it inside the case. Now unscrew the crystal lift and the crystal should remain in place within the watch case.