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Case Openers

by J.Peter

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Today for Tuesday’s Tools I’ll focus on case tools. These are the tools we use to open and close watch cases.Case Tools There are many different kinds of case tools. They range from a simple knife to complex steering wheel devices.

First, these are the big guns. In the middle is the Rolex 1019, the best case opener/closer ever. Of course, it only works on Rolexes. The tool is a combination tool which both unscrews case backs and also is used for installing bezels on cases. It has about 50 different adapters for all of its wonderful uses and it is perfect! It could not be designed better.

To it’s right is the Baume & Mercier equivalent. It works okay, but it isn’t perfect like the Rolex tool, one major draw back is that to raise the die away from the case for inserting and removing you have to unscrew the set spacer the entire distance.

To the left of the Rolex tool is a generic bench top case opener. It is useful for cases with normal keyed backs that are really stuck on. I don’t use this one very often.

On the extreme left is a BB crystal press. It is for (as the name implies) pressing crystals on. It is also useful for snapping on snap backs. It has a set of square walled dies and beveld dies (interchangeable upper and lower). It is a fine press but not as nice as the large Bergeon crystal press.

case knivesThere is also a myriad of handheld casing tools. For snap-off backs a case knife is indispensable. My favorite knife is the one closest to you in the picture, it is made by Bergeon and branded with the “Crown.” it is in every other way identical to the $19 Bergeon foldable case knife. I like it because the blade has a good shape, it is sturdy but comes to a nice sharp edge and fits in my hand well. To it’s right is a German style case knife. It is extremely sturdy, straight & sharp. Useful for square cases, only if you have room to get that long straight blade in there. Next is a Maurice Lacroix branded knife. Very similar to the Rolex knife but the blade is a little thicker, sometimes you need that if you have a large gap and the handle is thicker. The thick handle is nice if you really need to press hard on a back (so it doesn’t dig into your hand.) Fourth, is a generic Gucci style case tool. This is for the style of case with a narrow gap between the lugs. Fifth, is a paring knife, about as useful as the German style. We’ll skip six for now. Seven, is a fixed blade Bergeon knife. This one has a very tight curve on it for small gaps. Sometimes when you can’t get a back off easily, you just have to find the knife that fits the back just right. Variety is important!

Not pictured is my Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. I modified the small blade to resemble the shape of the Rolex Knife. I keep it on me always (except when flying) in case I need it 🙂

For screw on backs that don’t require the bench top tools there are several handheld wrenches. Sixth from the left in the knife picture is a wrench specifically for Bulova Accutrons. On the right is an LG wrench similar to the JAXA style Swiss wrench, but I find this one to be a better wrench. I use this for most screwbacks (Tag Heuer, Swiss Army, Seiko, Citizen, Breitling, etc.) I also have the JAXA case wrench but it doesn’t operate as smoothly as this one. There are also a variety of two prong case wrenches (mostly useful only for very large backs that won’t fit in a 3-prong wrench.)

The one tool I haven’t tried yet, but I hear is very good is a mysterious sticky soft ball available on the internet which will open virtually any screw-on back they say. I haven’t tried it yet, but I am anxious to do so.

Have a favorite case tool? Let me know.

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  1. Yvonne
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 8:39 am | Permalink


    With regard to your comment about the soft ball opener, I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to try it yet? Do you think it could open a Breitling Superocean Chronograph or am I going to need to get a bench-top opener for that?

    I’d be grateful if you could also advise me with regard to the capabilities of the suction cup dies. Would they make a useful addition to my tool kit rather than having to buy separate adaptors for each different make?

    Thanking you in anticipation of your response.

  2. Posted March 4, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve ordered it and I should have it in a couple of days. I’ll post an update as soon as I try out.

  3. c.casper
    Posted December 10, 2008 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Where can one buy a Rolex 1019 press? C.

  4. J.Peter
    Posted December 10, 2008 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    C. Casper,
    The 1019 is available from Rolex to individuals who have an account with them.

  5. ryan5513
    Posted September 5, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Regarding the BB Crystal Press, I use one as well and always have issues with the Yellow Plastic Bits (as in your photo) getting stuck on the press. I use these bits to push out old crystals (not sure if that is their correct use).
    Do you have the same issue?
    I’ve broken two of the bits while trying to remove them, luckily they glue back together easily.
    Is there way to use these bits w/o them getting stuck?

    thanks for you help.

  6. J.Peter
    Posted September 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Mine has cracked and been glued back together. It doesn’t get stuck anymore. I would try boring out the inside just a hair so it isn’t such a tight fit.

  7. Terry Rowe
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Regarding the “gneric Gucci” opener: How, exactly is it used? What’s the purpose of the hook? I havew one and am mystifed . . . .

    Many thanks,


  8. J.Peter
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    This tool is for Gucci cases which have a cuff style bracelet which connects at a single point on each end of the round case. The way to open these cases is to pry up the back through the narrow slot where the bracelet attaches. The tool with the hook can fit inside that slot and used to lift the back off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s pretty much worthless for any other style of case.

  9. Posted March 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I really like it when people get together and share opinions. Great website, stick with it!

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] I could change a battery in a Baume & Mercier. I told him I could. We have the necessary case opening tool. He was ecstatic, apparently we were the 18th store he had called looking for somebody with the […]

  2. […] watchmaking Tags: case opener, Tuesday Tools, watchmaking A while ago I wrote about all of my case openers and I mentioned a little sticky ball available online fairly inexpensively which is supposed to be […]

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