I almost ruined my Apple Watch. Here's how to make sure you don't

Apple Watch Series 7 scratch
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

I felt it happen; it was an almost sickening sensation. My beloved Apple Watch Series 7, squeezed like a slice of salami between a block of wood and my wrist that was supporting a nearly 75-pound package, meeting with a bit of grit that was dragging across it.

My arms, suddenly taking on Herculean strength, quickly lifted the heavy package up to relieve the pressure, but it was too late. The sand or grit that was covering the wood frame had carved out a tiny, awful canyon across the once nearly pristine face of my Apple Watch Series 7.

I blame myself.

First of all, it's important to acknowledge that this is an aluminum Apple Watch Series 7. Not stainless steel or titanium. This matters because the crystal is not made of the sapphire you might find on a high-end Breitling watch. Instead, it has Ion-X glass, which is supposed to approximate some form of sturdy Gorilla Glass.

That watch glass, which is protecting the wearable's large, colorful, and wonderfully sharp Retina LTPO OLED display, is quite good at holding up to everyday bumps, drops, or a clumsy bang into a desk corner. It's not scratch-proof, though, and in the battle between pressurized grit and the glossy surface of my Apple Watch Series 7, it lost big time.

Take it off

My problem is that I've been wearing this watch almost every day since September. It's one of the first things I put on in the morning - even before I shower - because I workout six days a week; I really like how it tracks my curls, pushups, etc. I also wear it for walks - leisure, exercise, and commute. My Apple Watch doesn't leave my wrist until the end of the day. (To be fair, I do not shower or sleep with it.)

It's on my wrist so consistently, that I'm the guy you see taking calls and speaking to his wrist like a modern-day Dick Tracy. The watch is a wonderful companion and I will not apologize for using it as such.

So sue me if I was wearing it as I undertook the rather arduous project of clearing out one of my basement's crawl spaces. A little house history to help you understand the unique features of this space:

Almost forty years ago, someone dug out our basement and put all the dirt, gravel, and sand (four feet of it), behind a concrete retaining wall. They added a closet entry and some framing around it and then used the space on top of the still-exposed sand to store stuff. When I bought the house, I continued the tradition. Recently, though, I found that I needed to empty the space to access some faulty wiring. And since I happen to have a dumpster at my house for a major kitchen renovation, I thought this would be a perfect time to clean house.

The incident happened when I decided to dispose of a dismantled and bagged early 1990s computer desk. The slabs of pressboard were enormously heavy. I reached under the bag with my right hand (I'm the rare righty who wears their watch on their right), sliding it over the wood framing (part of the sand retaining wall), and prepared to hoist the whole thing out of the crawl space.

I did not hear the scratch, but I felt it in my wrist.

Apple Watch Series 7 scratch

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Hard to see

To be honest, I didn't look at my watch right away, hoping, like A Christmas Story's Ralphie and his BB-shot glasses, that while it felt bad, the damage was probably minimal, perhaps not even noticeable.

Soon after I got the bag out of my house, I glanced at the Apple Watch Series 7. To my horror, there was now a large, unsightly gash down the center of the watch screen. I ran my finger over it. It was deep, messy. Awful.

Crestfallen, I removed the watch and put it on the charging stand while I finished my work.

I can't say for certain that Sapphire Crystal would've held up better, but I suspect all I would've gotten is a scratch and not this half-inch-plus-long divot. 

My advice to you is, if you're doing heavy lifting or work with your hands and you own an aluminum Apple Watch, take it off before you start or at least invest in a decent Apple Watch screen protector or case. Your Apple Watch will thank you for it.

Next step

There isn't much to be done about the damage. I don't think it'll get worse and, fortunately, my Apple Watch Series 7 operates as if nothing's amiss, as though unaware of its disfigurement.

I could have it fixed. If it were in warranty or if I were an AppleCare+ member, it might not cost me anything. I'm not. I can still get it repaired, but it would, at $299, cost almost as much as a new Apple Watch.

I won't be fixing it but will continue wearing it. Every time I see the blemish, I curse myself and silently apologize to my Apple Watch Series 7. It deserved better than this.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.