A review of watch restoration techniques available.
When considering restoring an old watch, perhaps a family heirloom or a vintage piece, it’s important to think about how much you want spend. Some restoration processes are complex and even near impossible, however a vintage watch with a high monetary or sentimental value could be worth the investment. It is always best to research restoration work thoroughly, find out what your watch needs and who has the experience and expertise to carry out the work to a high standard.
Considering the value of the model of watch you own, it is always best to determine if it’s just the aesthetics of the watch that are important, for example, leaving the watch built up and buffing scratches out of the case and bracelet to give it a general re-finish, or if you would like a complete overhaul. If you want a complete overhaul, where the watch is stripped down completely, the costs and risks are significantly more. It is worth remembering that many original parts for vintage watches such as crown and stems, water tight seals, buttons and glass are either unavailable or very expensive. If parts are unavailable, then achieving a watertight watch is not going to be possible. Hence, before any internal work begins, we will need to know if the watch is currently water proof and if it isn’t, if water proofing work is important to you. This involves extensive pressure testing and possibly replacing seals to ensure no moisture damage can occur.
The most obvious way a watch can be transformed is by dial restoration. When removing and replacing scratched and highly abraded glass, the condition of the dial can be fully assessed. Some watch dials degrade and change colour over time naturally. These changes are accelerated if the watch has been subjected to water ingress. Some people prefer the dial to look original and old, some prefer it to look new. Re-finishing and painting a vintage dial is an intricate art form that does take some time but definitely pays off. We work tirelessly to ensure the dial is as close to the original design as possible.
Extensive high-end watch case restoration is time consuming and can be expensive as so much intricate work is involved. Keeping the sharp edges on your watch case can be difficult to achieve but a stark difference in appearance is easily visible using high end professional polishing and linished finishes. Most low-end watch case restoration results in polishing any sharp edges smooth and the watch case ends up looking rounded off. We are able to restore and re-work most watch cases depending on your preference. Radial linishing as pictured, although a high cost process, gives a breath taking, precise result. A brushed mop effect is also available which comes at a much lower cost yet is slightly less distinct.
Watches produced in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s often had brass cases which were highly vulnerable to corrosion over the years, resulting from many things such as the wearer’s perspiration or general wear and tear. Even luxury watch brands such as Brietling have produced watches with such cases but luckily there is a solution. To restore a worn and eroded case, the process involves re-filling the small holes created, soldering these and finally linishing to ensure smooth end results. This can be done on stainless steel watch cases as well as gold and silver. Gold plated watches are also notoriously difficult to restore as any imperfections are easily highlighted once more gold plating is applied. Restoring gold is possible however to achieve the original finish is extremely time consuming.
Bracelet and clasp restoration can be difficult and is usually the most scratched and worn part of the watch, especially when working on multiple finishes such as a part brushed part polished bracelet. Achieving the same finish on a bracelet as the manufacturers during assembly is difficult but we endeavour to get as close to the original as possible.
When restoring a watch, it really is up to you, your preferences and also your intentions. In terms of re-sale, vintage watch collectors will only consider the highest end restoration work, or some, prefer the watch to be completely untouched. If the watch is for you or a family member to enjoy, there are many techniques that can be performed by our horologists to give your timepiece a new lease of life and offer you many more years of wear.