While we love a good, high-quality, store-bought watch, we recognize there are times something more homemade is preferable. Whether you just don’t have the money to buy an expensive wooden watch, you’d rather have a personalized wood watch, or you want to test your woodworking skills, they’re all valid reasons for creating your own wooden watch from scratch. How exactly should you go about that, though? Read further for our handy step-by-step guide that’ll help you along the journey.
Step 1: Take Apart One of Your Watches
Unless you’re a master watchmaker (and the odds are slim if you’re reading this guide), you’re going to need to an already-made quartz movement, or the main watch mechanics, for your project. An easy way to do this? Just take a watch you don’t like too much and use the movement from it. You’ll start by using either a knife or a flat-head screwdriver to open up the back and remove the crown. Press on the dimple near the crown's shaft with a sharp tool and simultaneously pull at the crown. The movement bit can then be taken care of afterward by using your tool to separate it from the case. All of this can be tricky, however, so feel free to pull on some other resources to see how it is done. YouTube has plenty of tutorials if you want some quick and easy help.
Step 2: Start Measuring and Planning
Once you’ve dissembled an old watch and taken out all the bits you’ll need, drafting plans are next. After all, you won’t want to go into a big woodworking project blind. This starts by measuring the thickness of all parts: the movement, casing, and cover. Use this info to draw out a few diagrams for what this will all look like assembled, not forgetting to label each part and its thickness. Including a side-view and top-view of the movement is a must, in addition to specific plans for the bezel, watch case, etc. Don’t forget to plan little space between the glass and the watch hands in your designs.
Step 3: Create and Sand the Watch Bezel
If you’re a bit bored by the planning and salvaging stage, don’t worry. Now we’re getting into the good stuff. In this step, you’ll actually start forming the watch itself. The bezel will come first. For this stage, you’ll need to grab the hardwood of your choice (we recommend some kind of reclaimed wood!) and drill a hole in the center. This will be used to screw the wood piece to a plank, which allows your bezel piece to rotate and be shaped smoothly. Now you can start drilling away! Once all the excess wood is off, and you’re happy with your result, drill a ¾ inch hole in the center and sand little by little. You don’t want to take too much wood off, so go about this step very slowly. You just want everything sanded enough that your glass cover fits snug in the center of your new bezel. Afterward, create your barrier layer, much like you did your bezel, taking care to make it slightly smaller.
Step 4: Craft Your Wooden Watch Case
Now that your watch is starting to take shape, it’s time to move onto the case. You’ll make this by starting similar to the other steps. Attach your plans to the wood, cut out the general shape you want, and sand it all down until it is sleek and smooth. Pay attention to the curves, however. We don’t want this entirely flat. It should instead have a gentle curve, so it naturally follows the shape of the wrist. Got your perfect shape? Finish off the case by chiseling out space for the crown, drilling a hole for the crown, and gluing all your bits together. Remember: wood glue is your friend. No skimping here. Apply a decent amount, clamp it together, and let it dry for a day. Also, don’t worry about any excess. You can always sand that down.
Step 5: Work on Your Watch Links
Take this moment to draw in a nice deep breath. Creating your own wooden watches can be a stressful and challenging project, but you’ve come a long way. To keep moving forward, start working on the center and edge links that will comprise the band. For each center link, drill a hole straight through the entire piece. For each edge link, only go about halfway if you want to keep your watch pins hidden from view. Sand any hard edges away once done and always make more links than what you think you need.
Step 6: Stick It All Together and Make Your Back
With all the links now made, double-check your work. Are all your watch pins where they should be? Are the links nice and sturdy? Any sharp or jagged edges left? Once everything checks out okay, glue your band to the case. After that sets overnight, you should be ready to finish up your watch. While that’s setting up, though, use the opportunity to make your back. You can use a variety of materials for this, but metal plating or straight wood will work the best.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
It has been a long road, but we’re finally at the end. Now all that’s left is to seal your watch, screw holes for the back, and put all the remaining pieces together. For the sealing, apply a coat of oil but avoid varnish, lacquer, or the like. Using them will run the risk of gluing your links together, and that’s not what we’re going for. Sealing complete? It’s time to assemble. Start by placing the face back onto the movement and attaching the hands. This can then be followed up by placing the movement into the case, inserting your old watch’s spacer, screwing on the back, and finally, attaching the latch.
Step 8: Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor
Congratulations, with all these steps complete, you’ve also completed your brand-new wood watch! It likely hasn’t been an easy process, especially if you’ve never completed something like this before, so don’t be shy to give yourself a big pat on the back. You deserve it. Now all that’s left to do is enjoy your wood watch, show it off, and talk about the process whenever you can. After all, it’s not every day that you create your own favorite accessory.