When working on watches you often have a selection of the best loupes and magnifiers for watch repair as the objects you are dealing with are so small. Most watchmakers have two magnifications in particular, 4x and 10x. While there are other magnifications, and many people have others, these are found on just about every watchmaker’s bench that I have seen.
Using the best loupes and magnifiers for watch repair makes sure what you see is not just larger, but clear enough to work with. Big and blurry doesn’t help anyone.
The vast majority of watch work is done at or around 4x. This allows you to see most of the components and work with them fairly easily. I would estimate that 95% of the time I am using a loupe (or eye loupe magnifier), it is 4x. Occasionally you need to see something a little closer up, like why that part just won’t fit where it is supposed to, and for that, you use something around 10x.
These are not hard and fast numbers and some people prefer 3.3x to 4x, or 7x to 10x, etc, however, starting out these numbers gives you somewhere to start that is within the norm.
The single most popular loupe to start with is the standard Bausch & Lomb 4x Inspection Loupe. It is cheap, light, and remarkably good for the price. These have been used for watch repair since at least my grandfather as it was his primary loupe.
There is nothing fancy here, magnification is good and visual quality is acceptable. The lower the strength of the magnification, the less issues you have with distortion and the wider field of view you have. That means that a 4x loupe doesn’t have to be that great to be perfectly serviceable, and that fits this loupe perfectly. This is absolutely one of the best loupes and magnifiers for watch repair out there.
For fine detail inspections, you need something like the Bausch & Lomb 10x Watchmaker Loupe. This is not what you will be using most of the time, and you would not want to. At this magnification, you have to be right on top of whatever you are trying to see and the only part of your view that will be clear is dead center. The jewelers loupe 10x has a working distance of about an inch, maybe a little more.
This is a perfectly serviceable 10x loupe but it can be very frustrating to get used to using it. It is comfortable enough to use for the few seconds I tend to use it. While not necessarily one of the best loupes and magnifiers for watch repair, it certainly is one that is needed and popular.
If you need to use a 10x loupe for more than a few seconds at a time, and you need to be able to see things a little clearer, you can try the Bausch & Lomb 10x Hastings Triplet Loupe. So what do you get for four times the price with the exact same magnification? Clarity.
The best way I can describe this is that with the standard loupe you have this tiny little circle in the middle of the viewing area that is in pretty good, sharp focus. With this Hastings triplet, that little tiny circle is a whole lot bigger making it far easier to see where you are. In addition, even the very center area is sharper in the triplet than the standard.
At 4x, it isn’t that big of a deal really, but at 10x this is a huge deal. If watchmaking is anything more than just a passing fancy for you, I highly recommend you to invest in this loupe instead of the basic 10x loupe. If however, you are just toying around with a few watches, the basic one may be all you need.
This is the best loupes and magnifiers for watch repair around 10x I have found.
Most people learning to repair watches all have the same problem, holding the loupe in their eye while they work. The solution for that is the Bergeon 5461 Watchmakers Head Band which holds the loupe over your eye as you work. Even if you have the best jewelers loupe, if you can’t hold it to your eye, it is useless. This is truly a lifesaver.
Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations here, the real thing is so very worth it. Yes, you can save $5 to $10 by buying a knockoff but you will regret it. The cheap ones are basically just a springy wire with a coiled loop at the end, this is thicker and made from actual spring steel. The difference is that this one will stay where it should and not flop around. You do not want to be fighting with your magnification device while you are trying to put in a tiny little screw.
These just slip over the loupe and as such can be used with virtually any loupe from any manufacturer and can be swapped out in seconds. No need to buy more than one of them no matter how many loupes you have. Regardless of which of the best loupes and magnifiers for watch repair you have, you need this to hold it in place.
The last magnification device here is my favorite, the Optivisor #10 Magnifying Visor. This is a head-mounted 3.5x magnifier that allows you to see with both eyes which can be very helpful. Another thing I really like is that you can tilt your head up a tad and look under the visor to see without obstruction or magnification. This is great for seeing your bench and grabbing a tool.
Not only is this amazingly convenient, but it is also a massive relief on the eyes over time because these are not just cheap plastic lenses like the knockoffs but ground optical glass. These will provide an excellently clear, wide, stereo video of anything you are working on.
Anyone who works on watches full time will have a pair of these, as will many modelers, electronic techs, and pretty much anyone who needs excellent magnification for long periods of time. These are worth every penny and then some.
In my opinion, for serious watch work, this is at the top of the best loupes and magnifiers for watch repair list.
If you want to use the Optivisor, and if you are serious about repairing watches you should, one issue that comes up is when you need more magnification for detail inspections. The Donegan LP1 OptiLOUPE Magnifier for OptiVISOR solves this issue by allowing you to have a swing-away 2.5x additional lens you can swing down in front of your Optivisor for close inspections, and then swing away when you are done. This makes an excellent addition to one of the best items on the best loupes and magnifiers list.
This combination of my Optivisor and the OptiLOUPE allows me to do all my work without ever having to actually use a loupe. Honestly, the only reason I use loupes anymore is that they are fast and easy to grab and use for fast inspections where putting on a visor would take more time than the actual inspection would.