How To Remove A Watch Stem

How do you remove a watch stem? There are two methods that watch makers use to retain the stem in a watch movement. The first uses a screw retention system, and the second uses a push in stem. Both methods of how to remove a watch stem will be described here for you.

Tools which may be needed to remove a watch stem.

  • Case back wrench
  • Screwdrivers
  • Case knife
  • Spring bar tool
  • Pointy end tweezers
  • Case holder
  • Soft cloth
  1. Position watch. Place the watch in the case holder if you have one. If you do not, place it on a soft clean cloth to protect the crystal.
  2. Prepare watch. In some cases the watch will have a bracelet which does not allow for the removal of the case back while in place. It may interfere with the case back removal process. Use the appropriate method, either the spring bar tool or a screw driver and remove the bracelet.
  3. Determine case back removal method.  The case back will be one of three types, screw down, press fit, or screwed in place. Each type requires a different removal tool. If the watch has a series of regularly spaced slots on the case back, it is a screw down and will require the case back wrench. If the watch has a small slot along the edge gap where the case back and case meet, it is a press fit and  you will use the case knife to remove it. If there are a series of small screws, it is screwed in place and will need a perfectly fitting screw driver. Make sure it fits well or it can wreck screw heads.
  4. Remove case back.  Use the appropriate tool and remove the case back. Take care not to damage any case back gasket. If it gets damaged be sure to replace it as the watch will no longer be water resistant. When using the case knife, use it in a manner similar to opening an oyster. In all three methods take great care not to slip and damage the case or case back.
  5. Determine stem retention system. Look carefully for a screw or a dimple where the stem is inserted into the movement. If you cannot see the dimple, wiggle the crown gently and you will see it move slightly.
  6. Remove stem.  If the stem is a screw down stem, turn it counter clock wise and unscrew it until it pops free. Use the appropriate tool and remove the stem from the watch movement. If it has a dimple use the pointy tweezers and gently press the dimple and at the same time gently pull the stem out of the movement. Some watches will first need to be in the watch setting position, meaning the stem pulled out one or two clicks depending upon the watch.  If it is a screw use a screw driver which fits perfectly into the slot and turn the screw counter clockwise three or four times. The screw does not need to be removed usually. Gently pull the stem out of the watch movement.

That is how you remove the stem from a watch. It is not a hard operation but must be done gently and use the right tools. If you damage the threads or retention system it will have to go in to a watch maker, who may or may not be able to fix it without replacing the movement. It is reinstalled in the reverse order. Remember to replace any damaged gaskets to retain water resistance.

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