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How to Store Watches

example of how to store watches in a closet island display case

Watches are more than just a way to tell time. They are an outward indication of who you are… conscientious, organized, emotionally stable, and maybe just a bit introverted. If you like watches and wear one on a regular basis, chances are you own several. Your collection might include a smart watch for everyday use and exercising, colorful pieces that you wear as a fashion accessory, an heirloom watch inherited from a parent or grandparent, and more. Basically, a different watch for every occasion. Some collectors buy them as an investment, put them away, and wait for their value to grow. However, to ensure the mechanism remains in good working order, you need to learn how to store watches so that they last.

Maybe you're a watch fashion enthusiast who wears watches like bracelets — a different one for every outfit. Likewise, you may be an investor who knows the value of a quality timepiece. Or you may simply like wristwatches. Many people collect watches. You might have inherited a few along the way, bought some yourself, or received them as gifts. But no matter how you got them, you can't wear them all at once. Learn how to store your watch collection when it's not being used so that your timepieces remain in good working order for years to come. The good news is there are a lot of options when it comes to storage for watches. There are just a few rules of thumb to remember.

Important Storage Considerations for Watches

  1. Pick a Dry Location and Control Humidity: Keep your watches safe and dry. Moisture is the number one enemy of all watches no matter whether it's a smartwatch or a traditional windup timepiece. There are a couple of ways to tackle moisture concerns. A popular choice is to keep your favorite watches in a cigar humidor. Use this option if you only have a small number of watches. Another way to eliminate condensation and moisture is to store them with a packet of silica gel. These packets arrive with nearly all electronic gear among other products and are cheap and easy to come by. Recycle the packets you receive rather than throwing them away. But silica gel does lose its effectiveness over time as it absorbs more and more moisture. Make sure the packets you place with your watches are changed periodically or else dry them in the oven occasionally, to release the accumulated moisture. Some people find color changing packets of silica are helpful because the color change indicates when the silica needs to be changed or dried out.
  2. Clean Your Watch: Clean your watch before putting it away. Dust is almost as bad as humidity when it comes to damaging watches. Skin oil and lotions can also wreak havoc on your delicate timepiece. Wipe off every part of the wristwatch, including the crystal and band, with a chamois cloth before putting it away.
  3. Remove Batteries: Not all watches have batteries, but if they do, it's important to remove the battery before putting the timepiece away. This will eliminate corrosion and leakage that can ruin the watch.
  4. Use a Watch Winder Box: Self-winding watches like Rolexes should be kept in a watch winder because they perform best when kept running all the time. The watch winder box, in turn needs to be placed in a secure, low humidity environment to prevent other problems.
    Three watches stored in watch winder box in closet
    These three watches are stored in a watch winder box on top of the built-in dresser in a closet.
  5. Buy a Safe: Like all valuable jewelry, expensive watches are a magnet for burglars. Don't invite trouble. Keep yours hidden in a closet safe. The safe can hold a watch winder box or other storage box for your delicate timepieces. And don't forget to throw in a few packets of silica gel.
    closet safe
    A closet safe can accept home valuables like watches.
  6. Be Mindful of Scratches: The watch face can scratch rather easily as can any gemstones or jewelry-like embellishments. Many watch faces are made of delicate crystal. For this reason, watches should be kept singly in their own container. If using a larger box, drawer, or case that holds multiple timepieces, choose one with separate compartmentalized openings that ensure nothing will rub or scratch. And don't pack them too tightly. Leave a little breathing space between watches stored together. About 1/2-inch works well. There are special watch boxes similar to jewelry boxes that accomplish this. Drawer organizers used for organizing lingerie also work well. A soft lining in your boxes like brushed suede or velvet is also imperative to maintain the timepieces in their best condition.
  7. Store Watches Face Up: Always store the watch so that the crystal is face up. Even soft velvet can leave tiny scratches on a delicate watch face if left face down for too long a time.
    Apple smartwatch stored in a velvet lined drawer
    This Apple smartwatch is stored face up in the velvet lined drawer of a closet island in this custom walk-in closet.
  8. Use a Watch Roll When Traveling: A watch roll is made of soft leather or fabric. It's like a sleeping bag for your watches or jewelry pieces. When open, it offers several pouches that you can slip a watch or other piece of jewelry into for packing in a suitcase. Just lay the watch roll flat and place one watch in each pouch. Then gently roll the fabric like a sleeping bag and tie the roll together so that each piece is cushioned by the fabric and nothing rubs against anything else.
  9. Don't Forget the Paperwork: You may eventually wish to sell your watch. Having the original box and paperwork will increase the value quite a bit. You'll be glad you saved it. You might keep the watch in its original box when you're not wearing it and file the receipt, warranty card, instruction manual, appraisal, and other paperwork that came with it separately. Or store the watch in a separate display case and keep the box with the paperwork. Just be sure to keep track of which box/papers goes with which watch. No matter which you choose, however, the papers for each watch should be kept organized and dry. Use a Ziplock bag along with a silica gel packet to keep the materials safely together. Moldy papers will not increase the value of anything.
  10. Insurance: If your watches are valuable, make sure they are listed on your homeowner's insurance policy even if you keep them in a safe. Depending on your collection and the allowances on your policy, you may need to purchase extra insurance in the form of a rider. A rider is an insurance policy provision that amends the terms of a basic insurance policy to provide additional coverage. The insurance company will require a professional, written appraisal on the item being insured by the rider. This appraisal must be done by an expert. You can get an appraisal from your local jeweler but if it is worth a substantial amount, you should seek the assistance of a watch specialist. Expect to pay $50-$150 per hour for the watch appraisers time, although some appraisers may offer a flat fee.

How to Safely Display a Watch Collection at Home

Now that you understand the best practices on how to store watches, you can consider various ways to safely display your collection. After all, what is the purpose of having a collection if you never get to see it? Except for those locked away in a safe, it is possible to keep your watches both accessible and visible while maintaining proper storage. Make sure to implement all moisture control, cleaning, and battery removal recommendations when displaying your collection. And keep associated paperwork in a safe place where you won't lose it.

  • Use a watch box A watch box is a kind of jewelry box designed specifically for watches. They feature a soft interior to prevent scratching while properly storing multiple timepieces face upright, each in a separate compartment the proper distance apart. The box usually has a hinged lid with a glass insert so that you can see what's inside. This is an excellent way to keep a small collection of watches on display on top of a dresser, desk, or countertop. Some are designed to hang on a wall like a piece of art.
    Watches stored in a watch box
    Watches stored in a watch box.
  • Use jewelry organizers Jewelry drawer organizers can often be adapted for watch use. Many feature individual, soft, velvet-lined compartments that work just as well for watches as necklaces or bracelets. Some even pull out like drawers for added convenience. But you will need to clean your timepieces periodically if you choose one of these. Most don't offer a top to prevent dust from accumulating even if you haven't worn them.
    Closet jewelry organizer used for watches
    This closet jewelry organizer is able to store watches safely. Each watch is separated by it's own velvet-lined compartment. The organizer is mounted to a pull-out tray that slides in and out of a closet section.
  • Place them under a glass topped jewelry case or countertop One of the most impressive ways to store your watch collection at home is in a glass topped display case. High-end closets are often adapted to provide a boutique-like experience for the owner. More like a luxury dressing room than a closet, features can include glass-topped closet islands with interior lighting that cover velvet-lined drawers. These drawers make a perfect display space for watches. Custom jewelry tables for closets provide a similar experience.
    Closet Island with watch and jewelry display
    A glass topped closet island displays a collection of watches in compartmentalized velvet lined drawers.

No matter how you choose to store your watches, if you follow these tips, you're sure to have a timepiece that you can enjoy for years to come.