How to repair or replace a broken Apple Watch

June 6, 2017

Just days after the wearable launched, heartbroken owners were posting images of broken Apple Watches online. Call it sod’s law or bad luck, but when you wear something every day there’s a decent chance it will get damaged before long. They’re sturdy devices but they’re not invincible.

But chin up: if your Apple Watch has got scratched, smashed or water-damaged, if its back plate has come off or any other form of damage has occurred, you’ve come to the right place. Whatever’s gone wrong with your Apple Watch, there’s hope for getting it repaired or replaced (you might even get a first-gen model replaced by a Series 1), and in this article we’ll try to help you through that process.

A separate issue that some owners have complained about is poor battery life. Happily we have another article to deal with that: How to make Apple Watch battery last longer. And for issues with unresponsive rather than physically damaged Apple Watches, you should read How to fix an Apple Watch that’s not working.

Apple Watch screen damage

The Apple Watch shouldn’t break easily. The glass is strengthened: in the case of the Apple Watch Sport the watch face is made from Ion-X glass, while the standard Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition feature a Sapphire crystal front – this is supposed to be the hardest glass known to man.

Sure enough, the Sapphire models seem to be coping better with the wear and tear of daily life as a high-end wearable, with slight scratching about the worst we’ve seen among normal usage scenarios. (That doesn’t mean your Apple Watch Edition won’t shatter tomorrow, of course, but the chances seem to be in your favour.) The Sports models, on the other hand, have been documented in quite a few cases as sustaining more visible damage: smashed glass and the like.

We mentioned normal usage scenarios just then, and you might be wondering what abnormal usage might look like. Well, how about the drop-tests run by TechRax on YouTube? They found that the Apple Watch “will smash if you throw it face-down at the floor”. Which answers that question if you were wondering.

Should you smash your Apple Watch screen, whether or not you were hurling it at the floor at the time, it seems in principle to be fairly easy to replace the screen – very shortly after the launch iFixIt took the watch apart and found that the screen was easy to remove and replace. See below for more information about iFixIt’s tests.

Mind you, it’s possible that it may not be as easily scratched as some reports have suggested. In a video (embedded below) Consumer Reports was only able to scratch the Apple Watch Sport screen after some pretty extreme efforts, and the site claimed they couldn’t scratch the Sapphire screen on the stainless steel Apple Watch at all.



If your watch has got damaged, you may wish to jump ahead to our section How to get Apple to replace a broken Apple Watch.

Strap damage

As well as damage to the all-important watch face, the stainless steel Milanese loop strap has been cited as a possible weak link: you’ll observe that it appears slightly scuffed up in the picture below. This isn’t all that surprising, because stainless steel can scratch quite easily. And at least the Apple Watch’s straps are easily replaceable. (See our roundup of the best Apple Watch straps for advice on that front.)

In any case, this YouTube video suggests that you can fix any scratches on the Milanese loop strap using a stainless steel polish you can pick up in a hardwarestore.

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