Now that the stainless steel Apple Watch is becoming widely available, owners are beginning to post photos showing their shiny steel Watches have already developed scratches on the casing. Since Apple’s videos touted its steel as specially cold-forged to achieve superior hardness, people have been surprised to discover that the finish is easily scratched – many comparing it to the back of an iPod. While this isn’t shocking for 316L stainless steel, it is concerning to customers who just spent $549 or more on the mid-range Apple Watch. But don’t panic! As I’ll explain below, you can easily fix the scratches yourself for around $5…
First off, let’s get one thing straight: the fact that the steel Apple Watch can scratch is not a surprise or “scratchgate” scandal. Stainless steel is scratchable, and long-time Apple customers have plenty of experience with this: remember the backs of every full-sized iPod, up to and including the iPod classic? They were scratch magnets. So are other steel watches. Nearly every polished stainless steel watch made from 316L (commonly known as “surgical grade stainless”) or the 904L used on Rolex casings can be scratched, scuffed, and show normal signs of wear and tear.
There’s a simple solution. If your stainless steel watch gets scratched or scuffed, most of these issues can be fixed by just buffing out the scratches yourself — or take it to a jeweler or watch repair shop if you’re not comfortable with the DIY solution. All you need to do is pick up a $5 metal polish (here’s what I use), buff it out with a hand towel, and wash your hands afterwards. Simple. In the video below, I polish several surface scratches out from my Apple Watch, showing how the metal polish removes them completely.
If you’d like to learn how to remove scratches from Apple Watch, check out the video below:
Is it disappointing that the Apple Watch is scratchable, given the grade of materials and manufacturing process Apple used? Sure. But Science: stainless steel is not a super-hard material. The 316L grade used in Apple Watch is actually softer than the 7000 series aluminum used in Apple Watch Sport. If you’re curious as to where 316L is positioned within grades of stainless steel, check out this helpful chart. Apple could have chosen to go with more durable 904L stainless steel, but it’s much more expensive to manufacture and would raise Apple Watch’s price. With a polished finish, even 904L can still be scratched fairly easily. You won’t run into this issue with brushed stainless steel watches because that texture hides any accidental scuffs within the texture/finish.
I spoke with a handful of local watch repair shops and received different answers about polishing my Apple Watch. Some of them said it wouldn’t be a problem to buff the casing for between $20 and $40, while others didn’t want to risk touching the brand new Watch, because they were concerned about damaging other components. Even they were clear, though, that this type of stainless steel (316L) can easily be polished and buffed. You just have to be careful not to get the polishing cream into the Watch’s little holes, and shouldn’t polish so frequently or deeply that the steel gets worn down.
If this is your first steel Apple device, you might be surprised to find that your new Watch has been scratched, and that’s completely understandable. But it’s going to happen, and Apple Watch pricing does not reflect the durability of the materials being used — gold Editions certainly are going to be scratchable, too. In any case, minor surface and hairline scratches can easily be polished out of the casing using the compound mentioned in the video. DIY repairs might not be as great as a watch that never scratches, but that’s the reality of owning a polished stainless steel watch, no matter who makes it or what process is used.