Not so long ago, it was commonplace for people to wear wristwatches. Even kids could be seen sporting neon or Disney-themed watches. Now most of us have cellphones and other mobile devices always at hand, and they keep track of time for us. But if you still have an old wristwatch around, you may be wondering what to do with it. Here’s what you can do with no-longer-needed wristwatches and smartwatches.
- Where Can You Donate a Wristwatch?
- Why Is It Beneficial to Donate Wristwatches and Smartwatches?
- What Uses Are There for Donated Wristwatches?
- What Types of Wristwatches Should NOT Be Donated?
- If Watches Can Be Reused or Recycled, What About Clocks?
Where Can You Donate a Wristwatch?
Just because your watch is broken or out of style doesn’t mean it has reached the end of its lifespan. Here are some ideas on what you can do with your old time-keeping device.
Bring It to a Watchmaker
Time-keeping has become increasingly digital over the years, but some people still like their old-school wristwatches. However, if they encounter a problem with these devices, it may be difficult to find the necessary parts, should they need to be replaced.
Many people take their old watches to a watchmaker for repair, due to the delicate nature of the work. If you pass on your unwanted watches to a watchmaker, that individual can use the parts from them to make necessary repairs on timepieces that are almost obsolete.
Contact the Manufacturer
The last several years have seen individuals and businesses become more ecologically-minded. As people have become more conscious of what they throw away, they’re thinking outside the box when it comes to recycling. Now, this eco-friendly trend isn’t just limited to glass, metal, and paper. Watches can be recycled too.
Increasingly, watch manufacturers are taking on the task of refurbishing or disposing of old timepieces. When you send them your old watch, they’ll take it apart to salvage any still-functioning parts so they can be used again. If your old watch doesn’t have any components that can be repurposed, the manufacturer follows perceived protocols for disposal that align with environmental guidelines.
A note to owners of Apple watches: These are still relatively new, so if you have one, you probably aren’t ready to part with it yet. But when it’s time for an upgrade, you’ll be happy to know that the company will take many of its devices back, sometimes even giving the owner credit toward a new product. Their site has more details in case you may be interested in this option down the road.
Give It To a Non-Profit Organization
A number of charities accept donations of watches. Groups, such as Brownies and Scouts, recycle them or resell them to raise much-needed funds. They accept other donated jewelry for this purpose, too.
Watches that are still ticking can be given away or sold at a reduced price to those who otherwise couldn’t afford them. Charities can also sell the watches to raise money for their respective organizations. They might, for instance, sell them at auction or raffle them off.
Thrift stores will usually also accept watches, too. Contact your local Salvation Army or another resale shop to see what they’re looking for and what they’ll take.
If you want to use old watches for charitable causes, and can’t find a charity that will take them, or you want to support a cause that isn’t associated with the watch industry, you can always sell your time-keeping devices and then give the proceeds to a worthwhile cause.
You can connect with other watch-enthusiasts on social media to get started. Reddit, for instance, has a page just for people who want to sell or trade watches. If you sell your timepieces on eBay, they’ll give you the option to apply the profits to charity.
Disassemble It Yourself
If none of the above steps is practical, or you just want to do something off-the-beaten path, make disassembling your old watch a DIY endeavor and give the parts to a community group that recycles. You can collect plastic, glass, and metal watch components and have them picked up by a curbside recycling program.
You can turn in watch batteries along with any other batteries you need to get rid of, too. Although batteries aren’t normally picked up curbside, see if your locale has a program that allows you to throw them away properly. If not, with a little research, you’ll likely to able to find a battery-disposal program that accepts old batteries sent by mail.
An old, unwanted watch can help you tap into your creative side or help someone else cultivate theirs. Some people like to use these timepieces to make armbands, bracelets, and a host of other crafts.
Here are some fun things you can do with old watches. You can probably come up with ideas of your own, but here are some suggestions for inspiration.
If you have an analog watch that needs to be repurposed, you can use it as a bookmark. All you have to do is remove the hands and attach something that gives it some length — beads, ribbon, nylon strips — so you can place it between the pages of a book to keep your place.
This project works for both watches and clocks. If you can take the “innards” of the timepiece out, leaving only the crystal, you can place a small photo in the clock or watch face. You can wear the memento on your arm or display it somewhere to remind you of a special person or memory.
You can also “tweak” the idea above to construct a pin or plaque. For making pins, though, you’ll probably want to remove the watchband. For plaques, this step is optional. These make fun DIY tokens to give your friends.
What do watches have to do with scrapbooking? More than you might think. Hobbyists like to use the gears and faces to decorate pages pertaining to the passage of time or ringing in the new year.
Shadow Box Watch Collage
Use a shadow box picture frame to make a “watch collage,” which you can either mount on the wall or set up on a table. It’s unique and eye-catching.
If you’re not especially “crafty,” donate the watch to a local group of artists or artisans. If you go this route, you might want to find out if they’re looking for any other “one-person’s-junk-another-person’s-treasure items that you can get rid of.
Miscellaneous Watch-Oriented Crafts
Of course, you can go off the grid and do something entirely different. Some people like to decorate shirts with watch faces, or connect several watchbands to make a one-of-a-kind belt. There’s no limit to how creative you can get, especially if you have some time on your hands!
Why Is It Beneficial to Donate Wristwatches and Smartwatches?
Donated watches can be more useful than you might think. Here are some good reasons to give old watches away.
Old watches needlessly take up space in our homes, contributing to clutter. While it may be tempting to throw them away, donating them ensures that someone can get some remaining use out of them, if possible. It also gives us the opportunity to get rid of things we don’t want or need. Chances are, if we gather old watches to donate, we’ll discover other items that we can pass on to others, simplifying our lives in the process.
Support Disabled Veterans
Did you know that donated wristwatches have educational value? Esslinger.com wants watch-owners to know that the site has partnered with the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, a non-profit program that provides disabled veterans with training in the art of watchmaking.
They accept donations not only of wristwatches, but pocketwatches and other time-keeping devices too. The only trade school of its kind in the United States, the organization provides watchmaking training to honorably discharged veterans, focusing on those who are disabled. Donated watches are especially helpful for the hands-on aspect of timepiece repair, but they may also be used in other instructional materials designed to help people master watchmaking.
The program accepts watches of all types, in any condition. If your timepiece is no longer operable, the veterans’ organization may perform some minor repairs or send parts to the training school so students can begin working on them. Click here to learn more about how to donate.
What Uses Are There for Donated Wristwatches?
There are probably as many uses for old wristwatches as there are timepieces to donate.
Support a Non-Profit Organization
Old watches that still work can be given away, or sold at low cost, at thrift stores and charities. Some non-profits sell the watches to raise much-needed funds. For instance, a community group might use proceeds from the sales to pay for youth sporting events or tutoring programs.
Help Those Less Fortunate
Watches that still work can be turned it at charities so they can be given away or sold at steep discount to people who might not have the cash to buy them. People with limited means are less likely to have a smartphone or other mobile device with a built-in clock. Homeless people, for instance, may have no other way to keep track of time besides wearing a watch.
Charitable organizations often distribute items to the local community, but others send clothing and other goods to people throughout the world. If you donate a watch to one of these organizations, your contribution could, literally, have a far-reaching impact.
Think Outside the Box
Some watch parts can be used for other purposes. You can use hands, gears, and motors for other DIY projects. If you like crafting, or know someone who does, unwanted watches can be put to creative uses. They can be made into other kinds of jewelry, or glued onto T-shirts and jackets for added effect. Bands can be recycled into belts and bracelets.
Keep Vintage Watches in Good Working Order
Watch collectors and enthusiasts may still wear vintage timepieces. But when wrist or pocket watches eventually give out, it may be next-to-impossible to find replacement parts. If you have one of these old-school watches and you no longer want it, a watchmaker or repairer would probably be happy to take it off your hands, especially if it still works. But even if it stopped ticking long ago, there may still be parts that can be used to fix other watches.
What Types of Wristwatches Should NOT Be Donated?
Some organizations will take all types of watches, in any condition. Others, however, may not accept broken watches. Contact the organization to which you want to donate to see if it will take your old timepieces.
Another factor to consider is the age and condition of the watch. If your watch is a high-end one or relatively new, you may be able to sell it or trade it in. The manufacturer or a jewelry store may buy it back, albeit for less than you paid for it. Or you can trade in the watch to earn credit toward another purchase.
If Watches Can Be Reused or Recycled, What About Clocks?
Since we’re on the topic of time-keeping devices, let’s take a minute to discuss clocks. You can donate them or find other creative uses for them. With a few modifications, you can use some of the craft ideas listed above to put old clocks to unconventional uses. Some people reuse the motor, hands, and other components for other projects, so don’t think the only thing you can do with an old clock is throw it away.
Gadget geek, watch lover, fitness fan, walker, long-time tech writer/blogger and family man.