How To Open A Pocket Watch

 We get a lot of questions about how to open pocket watches so we thought we'd share a quick blog for you today. At Vortic Watch Company, one of the most common things we do is convert family heirlooms and other antique American pocket watches into custom wristwatches.

The first thing we need to know before converting a pocket watch is where it came from and what specs it has. The only way to do this is by looking at the actual mechanism hidden behind the back cover.

If you're like most people, you probably haven't spent a lot of time around these antique pieces, and therefore probably wouldn't know where to start when it comes to opening one up.

We're here to help!

Step 1: Is it "Open Face" or "Hunting" style?

Open face - Open face pocket watches have a clear crystal (glass) on the front. The crown (winding knob) is almost always at 12 O'clock while the second hand is at 6 O'clock. The case front and back either thread or "pop" off using a thin metal tool (think butter knife or pocket knife).

Hunting - Hunting pocket watches were originally used by hunters. They needed a way to protect the crystal from cracks and scratches while they were active during hunting trips, so they created a case that had a metal cover on top of the crystal. These cases will almost always have a hinge and pop open on the front and back. Sometimes the back will have a secondary cover that operates the same as the outer cover. Additionally, the front will usually pop open automatically when you press the crown like a button. These watches' crown is at 3 O'clock and the seconds at 9 O'clock, so the watch is oriented correctly when you press the crown with your thumb while the watch is in the palm of your right hand.


Step 2: Is it a "pop off" or "threaded" case?

Pop Off - Pop off cases should do precisely that; the cover should "pop" off. There are two types of these. Some have hinges and others separate from the case completely. A thin metal tool is needed to get these covers off, and you can usually find a tab or gap in the seam to insert that tool. You will see a great example of this in the video below.

Threaded - Threaded pocket watch cases are pretty self-explanatory. The cover simply threads off. When these cases have not been opened for a while, it can be quite difficult to get the covers off. We recommend using a rubber jar opening grip or exercise band to get a better grip on those covers while you press and twist the case between both palms.


Step 3: Open up that case and take a look


Step 4: Send us your photos!

Send us photos of your pocket watch and we'll tell you more about it or help you convert it into an awesome Vortic wristwatch!


To learn more about how to open your pocket watch, check out the video below!


Don't forget that if you're ever looking for a way to bring your family heirloom pocket watch with you into the future while honoring the past, Vortic Watch Company is the place to start.

While we covered the most common types of pocket watch cases today, there are others. If you have questions about your case, feel free to reach out to us for help!

Thanks for reading, and we appreciate any questions and feedback you may have.


  • I have a hunter case style watch, it has a steam train design on it and parts of it are cut out where the glass behind it is visible. the watch face is labelled Japan Movt and includes military time labelling from 13 to 24 on the outer edge, a few years ago it stopped operating and now i cant figure out how to open it or wind it. none of the methods above seem to work.

  • Mark,
    You may have a swing-out case. If there’s a small hinge at the top near the crown, you’ll need to pull the crown out a bit (to where time-setting position would be), then gently lever the case out of the movement from the opposite side of the crown. There’s probably a small divot to assist with this. If you try to swing the movement out without pulling the crown up first, you’ll bend something.

  • Hi -

    I have a Hamilton open face watch with a crown at 12 o’clock and the second hand at 6 o’clock.

    I was able to screw off the crystal. Then there was what looked like a small hinge, but I felt some resistance when I tried to pop out the mechanism.

    Is there any trick to getting the mechanism out?

    Hoping to view the mechanism back in order to get serial numbers, pictures, etc.

    Thanks for your help,


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Buy Now, Pay Later with

0% APR for 6 Months