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It’s not all fun

by J.Peter

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I love watchmaking! I very rarely have a day where I don’t enjoy what I do. Don’t get me wrong however, it’s not all fun.

Today I write about one of the less appealing aspects of my career, in case you were thinking about becoming a watchmaker.

Body Cheese is what we call it. I don’t know where that name came from but it is appropriate. Not everyone has perfect hygiene, I’m sure I don’t but I clean my watch on a regular basis. Here is what it looks like if you don’t.


I see this on a daily basis, not always this bad but to some extent. I keep hand sanitizer around for exactly this purpose. This isn’t the worse I’ve seen, just the worse this week. If you don’t think you can handle this, watchmaking may not be for you.

To the consumer: Bracelet cleaning options:.

    If your watch is waterproof (like this Rolex):

  1. Take it to the sink get an old toothbrush and some hand soap and go at it under running water about once a month or so to prevent it getting this bad.
  2. Take it to a reputable jeweler or watchmaker and have them ultrasonically clean the bracelet.
  3. If it’s not waterproof:

  4. Take it to a reputable jeweler or watchmaker and have it cleaned (if you’re a good customer they’ll most likely do it for free) If you’re not they may charge you a little bit.
  5. If you feel comfortable doing so: Remove the bracelet and clean it with soap and water and a toothbrush as described above.
  6. Clean the case (and/or bracelet) with a dry toothbrush.

Never put your watch case in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. Never use an ammonia based cleaner to clean your Rolex bezel (it will fade!). Never use harsh chemicals on your watch case (like Acetone, alchohol, Benzene, Naptha, etc) they will damage gaskets.

Keep your watches clean. It keeps your watchmaker happy, it keeps you healthy, and it helps your watches & especially watch bracelets last longer.

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  1. Posted March 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    So THAT’S what it’s called! I recently looked at my old watch and noticed this grime… I assumed it was bits of old skin mixed ith sweat and skin oils. But “Body Cheese” is much more accurate a term.

    Though I don’t think I’d like to try it on a cracker.

  2. Amy
    Posted December 15, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I use Veraet Watch Spray and it keeps it sparkling daily! I have never had to use anything else!

  3. Andrew
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    I find that the phrase “will last forever” is tossed around quite casually, but I want to find what I call an “Apocalypse Watch”–a watch that will last 100 years minimum without opening the case for any reason! A watch that will survive in a post-apocalyptic world where batteries and precision tools are no longer available.

  4. J.Peter
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I agree that the phrase “will last forever” is a bit generic. It requires a service network for it to be true. What are you going to need to know the time for in your post-apocalyptic world? I think what you want is a sundial.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I simply remove my bracelet from the watch and soak it in hot water laced with dish soap. I notice, especially during hot humid days, that my skin mixes with my sweat and oil and makes a black putty that gets between the links.

    Plus while the bracelet is separated, it allows access to cleaning nooks and crannies of the case back that can’t otherwise be reached with fingers.

6 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I love my job because it is a lot of fun. I spend my day solving problems. Probably the best part is I can usually see having accomplished a complete task from start to finish at the end of every day. I love that sense of accomplishment. There isn’t a whole lot to hate about my job. Some people might find the repetition somewhat monotonous but I think that is one of the things I actually like. If there were something to really dislike it would be body cheese. […]

  2. […] others are totally covered in scratches. Some watches are nice and clean and others are covered in body cheese. One thing is certain, a clean watch lasts forever. This week I’ve seen a lot of broken […]

  3. […] Today, thanks to the Tick Talk Blog, I learned that watchmakers refer to the dark gunk that collects on your watch band and case as “Body Cheese”. […]

  4. […] – great for cleaning the body cheese away from a case back before opening […]

  5. […] nearly every day. You should really keep your watches clean. Besides, the fact that a watch full of body cheese is disgusting, it also causes your watch bracelet to wear out prematurely (I touched on this in A […]

  6. […] I didn’t have the luxury of a vacuum or ionized air system throughout my years in watchmaking school, but there really wasn’t much to justify having one there. The environment was controlled, the workspaces were kept clean, we didn’t deal with ‘real life’ watches, and we spent less than 40 hours out of nearly 3000 on the casing of watches. One day in the real world, though, is all it took to realize the value of having a mini vacuum at your fingertips. Soft bristle vacuum heads are fantastic for picking up small fibres and bits of dust from dials and crystals – why blow the dust away only to have it show up again somewhere else? A designated, dirty vacuum head, wetted with naphtha, is great for precleaning barrels to help keep your precleaning and rinsing solutions lasting longer. Lastly, and most importantly, watches that come in for service from the real world are rarely clean; a standard vacuum head is indispensable for keeping your bench top in pristine condition, especially after dealing with a particularly filthy watch. […]

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