rusty Watch Movements

It happens to almost everyone at some point.  Your watch gets damaged because of water.  So, how do we get the rust out of and off of all the watch parts so that it will work again?  Let’s explain.

First things first.  You have to know how the watch got damaged in the first place so that you can fix that problem.  Is the watch water proof or water resistant?  Did a gasket fail, or perhaps someone forgot to tighten up the crown?  More common than that, is that water gets into an older, vintage or antique watch and rusts quickly.

Removing the rust is vital to getting the watch repaired.

I’ve covered servicing watches, and you can click here to see a watch service if you like.  Rust removal is different.  You have to remove the rust after you’ve taken the movement apart, but before you clean it.

Watch the video here

In the video, I’ll show you just how I do it…

You will need some tools

There are several tools you will need to have.  None of them are very expensive, and keeping them at hand near your bench will be a god-send when you need them.


Click on the links below to purchase these items if you need them. (affiliate links)


Rodico is a putty like material that jewelers and watchmakers use to help clean off debris and other material from jewelry and watch parts.  Because it leaves no traces or oils on the item it is used with, it is the perfect sticky putty for working with watches!

Fiberglass Pen Brushes:

These brushes can remove quite a bit of rust from a watch movement.  They will break down as you use them, and leave little bits of fibers on the watch movement, but, keep in mind they work fantastic.  Each pen has about 3 inches of fiberglass strands in it, and can be twisted to extend the fibers.  These will also leave little micro scratches on some surfaces, so be careful.

A Set of Pen Brushes:

The one I’m interested in here, is the nylon pen brush.  It is the best to remove as much rust as possible without doing any damage or leaving scratches.  It comes in a set of four different brushes, (brass, steel, fiberglass and nylon).  The Nylon is the one you want to use.  If you have heavy rust, you may have to switch to the fiberglass pen brush.

Watch Screw Extractors:

Sometimes, rush can break off a screw head.  If that happens, you may want a set of these.  These are small screw extractors for little screws.  The can poke into a broken screw and you manually turn it.  In some cases, you may have to remove debris, or pre-oil the screw to loosen it up.

Marvel Mystery Oil:

What more can I say.  If you haven’t used this before, you will find that you will some day.  A drop of this on an old rusty watch screw, and it will slowly break down the debris and hopefully allow you to remove a screw or rusty part easily without damage.

After you've removed the rush

Once you’ve gone through the parts, and removed the rust, I would recommend that the effected parts be given a bath in Mineral Spirits.

Once that is done,  you can follow the procedures for cleaning all the watch parts as normal.  Using good watch cleaner, an ultrasonic cleaner and then rinsing all the parts with watch rinse or at least 99% IPA.

Dry and sort your parts and re-assemble your watch.


Listen, not every watch that has gotten rusty can be fixed.  If you see parts are corroded and pitted, then those parts will have to be replaced if they are available.

When you are cleaning off the rust on a watch part, using a metal brush is going to scuff it up.  I don’t recommend doing that, but sometimes it is necessary.  If so, you will have to polish the part when done.

Nylon pen brushes are great, but they wont get all the debris off.  Keep that in mind.  While the nylon will not leave any marks, it will remove most of the rust.  For stubborn rushy spots, you will need to move to the fiberglass brush.

Remember that the fiberglass brush is going to leave a lot of fibers on the watch.  This is where the Rodico comes in handy, because you can pick up most of those fibers with it, and then just throw away the small piece of rodico you used.

Sometimes, you may bet fibers in your fingers.  It can hurt, so I recommend using gloves. 

After you have gotten the rust off, make sure you clean the parts completely.  The smallest of debris can stop a watch from running at any moment.

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