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Tuesday Tools – Hand Removers

by Jordan Ficklin

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A while ago I posted about hand pushers, but how do you get those hands off? Tonight I post about hand removers.

Removing hands can be one of the hardest parts of a repair. The dial and hands are the most visible part of a watch to the customer and the easiest to damage. One slip can mean you damage the dial. Hopefully you can get a new one, sometimes you cannot and sometimes they are very expensive. The least expensive Rolex dial will set you back $200, specialty dials will cost you thousands and the entire watch would have to go to a Rolex Service Center to get the replacement. There is no room for error when it comes to the dial.

The basic rule with dials is Don’t touch them! It can be impossible to get even the slightest smudge off of them and scratches are deadly. If you do need to touch a dial you should protect it by wearing latex finger cots or covering it with some kind of dial protector.

Hand PushersThere are two basic types of hand removers. The first are levers. Hand levers are the traditional way to remove hands. To use them you place one lever under each side of the collar of the hand and pry against the dial to lift the hand up. In order to protect the dial and hands all surfaces of the hand pushers should be polished smooth and the dial should be covered with a thin plastic sheet. There are three sets of levers in the picture. On the left are a set of black plastic Bergeon levers with metal tips. My opinion: they are junk. I don’t like them, I don’t like they way the feel or work. In the middle are actually hairspring collet removers but ocassionally they work for small sub-dial hands with very tight clearances. On the right are very nice Bergeon hand levers. They work well, they are well finished they have a good feel to them. Bergeon also makes some other hand levers with a sharper bend to them for removing hands when you cannot place the pry point as far away because of markers or sub-dials.

prestotool.pngThe second type of hand remover are the Presto type hand pullers on the right. They close in on both sides when you squeeze them and then two plastic tips lower to push against the dial but this is NOT how you should use them. I use the Presto tool almost always but this is how you should use it. First, polish the tips of the of the tool so that they come to a point and are smooth. Second, instead of pushing in on the springs, push in while holding on to the two tips so that they do not lower. While holding the watch vertically in one hand close the hand puller tool on the hand and pull away without touching the dial. It takes a little practice but this is a fantastic way to remove hands. The risk of damaging the dial or even getting a smudge on it is greatly reduced when you use this method.

Although I prefer the Presto tool, occasionally it fails and you need the added force you can get with the levers. Just protect that dial!

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  1. youdontneedmyname
    Posted April 2, 2008 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    One more thing you’re trash talking Bergeon one of the most respected makers of tools

  2. J.Peter
    Posted April 3, 2008 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    First, Bergeon doesn’t make tools, they distribute them. Second, their tools are hit or miss. Many of the tools they distribute are fantastic, like the pair of hand levers I use all the time, others are pretty poor. They are constantly changing suppliers and their quality is up and down. You sometimes get lucky, sometimes you don’t. One thing is for sure they offer a wider supply of watchmaking tools than anybody else I am aware of. I think you’ll find lots of watchmakers who agree with me.

  3. Kevin
    Posted June 4, 2008 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    I’ve just discovered your blog, and it makes great reading.

    I wondered if you had any tips for putting the hands back on the watch? I’m starting to get better at removing them (I’ve been using a presto as well), but I find it can be quite tricky to put them back, and get very nervous about marking the dial.

  4. J.Peter
    Posted June 4, 2008 at 6:39 am | Permalink


    Two things, practice lots and be careful not to slip. Although a hand press does make things a lot easier.

  5. Alex
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Removing hands seems to be the hardest part of taking a watch apart. Looking at my Benrus GG-W-113 which needs a service this is going to be a very delicate operation which I would not even attempt without some very fine hand levers. The Bergeon 30018 look like they could probably do the job although I’m not going to pay $160 – $200 for a set, seems criminal.

  6. J.Peter
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Removing hands can be one of the most nerve-wrecking parts of a watch repair because there is so much potential for catastrophic failure. A good pair of levers is nice, but I use my Presto hand remover 95% of the time. As for the cost for hand removers. How long would it take you to make a pair? Days? Would it be worth it, remember that they have to be perfectly tempered so they are not too brittle and not too flexible. I bet you could find some used levers for much less than $200, but maybe not. I do have some broken ones around the shop so they are expendable, not like some tools which last forever.

  7. Alex
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Yes you are probably right J.Peter, I will most likely end up lashing out for a pair in the end. The problem I have with the Benrus is that there is almost no room between the hour hand and the dial. I may be able to use the dial to push the hands up a bit. That’s the plan so far.

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