How to Recycle Old Watches

By Maureen Wise ; Updated March 16, 2018
You may have to do some homework to recycle your old watch.

Whether broken or fallen out of fashion -- and whether digital, analog, plastic, high-tech or name-brand -- old watches are waste items that are not easily recycled with your average curbside pickup service. With some legwork, however, you can find a way to give your timepiece a second life.

Contact the Manufacturer

There is a growing trend of manufacturers taking responsibility for their products' end of life. Contact the manufacturer of your watch. The company may accept the product back to use the individual parts in new watches. At the very least, the manufacturer can add the timepiece to its own waste stream, which will include items that are the norm for the company but not for the average citizen. The manufacturer may be able to recycle more of the parts than you can.

Find a Watchmaker

While watches are becoming more and more high tech, watchmakers and those who repair the timepieces sometimes have a hard time obtaining the "old-fashioned" parts they require. Contact local jewelry stores and watchmakers to see if they can use your old watch for parts. Find a repair shop online that will accept your watch through the mail if you cannot find one locally.

Disassemble for Recycling

At the very least, you can disassemble your watch and recycle some of the parts through your own community recycling program. Recycle plastic, metal and glass parts can with your curbside or drop-off recycling. Watch batteries can usually be turned in with alkaline batteries for recycling. Find out if this is the case in your area by contacting your city government or your solid waste district. If watch button batteries are not accepted locally, consider mail-in battery recycling programs.

Create Something New

Use your imagination and come up with something new your watch could be. You don't have to be a master crafter to make your old watch into a doll house clock for your favorite little girl. Depending on the band of your watch, perhaps you could upcycle it -- which means you turn it into an improved product -- by making a new bracelet. If you have many watch bands, they could be put together to become a belt. Watches can be formed into perfect accessories for the "steampunk look."

If All Else Fails, Donate

If you've done your best to recycle your watch and have come up empty, donate it to charity. If it's still working, surely someone else will wear it and value its time-keeping worth. Broken, the watch could be used by crafters and artists. Seek out your local arts collaborative, which can take your watch and make it pretty once again. More than likely, there are other "junk" items that the arts collaborative could use in your home as well, so fill a box before you make the trek.

About the Author

Maureen Wise has been writing in the environmental field since 2003. Wise currently writes sustainability articles for a number of websites including Tom's of Maine, Piccolo Universe, EcoWatch and Care.com. She has worked in stream restoration and currently works in higher education sustainability. Wise graduated from the University of Mount Union.