Clean desk watchmaker

Clean Desk Policy for Watchmakers

The essentials for success are scrupulous cleanliness, a clear bench, and good light. A clear bench is contrary, perhaps, to the ideas of the majority of watch repairers, who seem to accumulate on the bench many tools, some in use, and others of no immediate use, together with a confused collection of litter consisting of old material, work in hand, oil pots and a host of other things.

Donald de Carle, Practical Watch Repairing, page 2

Watchmaking takes a lot of study and practice, but it all starts with a clean desk.

David de Carle mentions it on page 2 of his book and work cleanliness is the second lesson in the No BS Watchmaking Crash Course by Anthony L.

So, it’s clearly important, but why?

Why is it important?

  • It’s difficult to clean a messy workbench. It takes forever to clean around all the tools or to pick them all up, one by one, to clean under them. Obviously, cleaning a watch on a dirty or dusty workbench is a bad idea.
  • Clutter causes stress and makes it hard to concentrate. Your mind gets overwhelmed with stuff that’s not relevant or important at the moment. It draws away your attention from what you should be focussing on.

When one is engaged on a job demanding close, almost intense, mental and physical application, the immediate surroundings of the workbench are of prime importance. One finds watch repairers given very poor quarters in many establishments, accommodated at the rear of shops behind screens, or poked into dusty ill-lit corners with insufficient room, a prey to draughts and petty distractions that militate against the concentration and application necessary to such exacting work.

Donald de Carle, Practical Watch Repairing, page 2
  • If your workbench is a jumble, it’ll take you longer to find that specific part or tool you’re looking for and you’re more likely to damage something.
  • A mess causes anxiety and it drains energy because it constantly signals your brain that the work isn’t done.


On the other hand, a study at the University of Minnesota proves that working in a messy room stimulates creativity. A messy environment appears to encourage people to break away from traditional thinking which can lead to new and original insights.

So, if you’re stuck in a situation that needs a creative solution, it’s a good idea to take a walk or do something else to take a break and relax. A clean desk won’t help you in this case.

How do you keep your desk clean?

It’s not that hard. When you’re done for the day, empty your workbench and store all your tools and work in progress somewhere safe. I use a bookcase and an IKEA drawer cabinet for that, but you can use anything you want.

Just before you start working again, clean your entire workbench. Don’t forget to wipe your lamp. Somehow, lamps are dust magnets!

Only take out the essential tools. Everything else will be within short reach if you need it. You’ll be surprised at how few tools you actually need.

It might take you a while to get used to this approach, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.

For one, your bench will always be squeaky clean. You’ll also spend less time searching for your tools and you’ll be able to focus on the work at hand without getting distracted.

Over to you. Is it high time to tidy up your workbench? Let me know in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “Clean Desk Policy for Watchmakers”

  1. Harold Skelton

    Agree completely. Empty your bench at the end of every day. Clean it at the beginning. A place for everything (not on the back top) and everything in its place. Pause from time to time and stow tools not in immediate use. Good advice!

  2. Martin Heimbecker

    Yes, it’s time to claim the shame. I have multiple projects on the go and when a part goes “ping” I’ll never find it. Fortunately we plan to move and I will start with a clean sheet and plan my workshop after researching how others have organized theirs. In the meantime I have obtained some good project trays which are helping immensely.

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