Thread: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

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  1. #1
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    Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    Hi everyone,


    This is my first post!


    I've been doing some research on watches and have some questions about materials used in watch making (in general)


    1) I've seen at least one Tag Heuer watches that's advertised as having a silver dial. Would that be actual silver or merely silvertone? Is actual silver generally used in watch-making?


    2) In looking at images of watch movements I've noticed a lot of yellow metal in there :). Is that gold? Is it common for luxury watch manufacturers to use gold in their movements in their lower end watches?


    If you work with watches and have an idea, let me know!

  2. #2
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    For dials, anything is possible; I've seen older watches with solid silver dials. Wouldn't think it to be a good idea though given the tendancy of silver to tarnish.

    For movements, I have seen some made out of gold, but it's rare and usually for show. Gruen had some, for example. And I think Waltham (the swiss one) made an entire watch out of gold at one point. Far more common is to have a layer of gold "flashed" onto the movement, which (amongst other things) helps prevent oxidization. Some of parts can be made of gold (timing screws in older watches, for instance).
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

  3. #3
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    Re: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    Hi sayamm,

    solid silver dials were and still are pretty common. For small production volume solid silver is even cheaper than plating brass dials, and even for high volume the additional cost are not worth to be mentioned.

    And even for gold this sometimes applies. Here is the 18K gold dial of a tiny ladies Omega:



    Its present material value is about $30, and substantially less when made. Compared with $200 for any Omega dial a ridiculous amount. Regarding that just few pieces of the according watch were made, it seems possible that this dial would have been more expensive if processed the usual way.

    In the movement gold is only used for its advantages. As advertizing junk for the rare exceptions Rob mentioned, as protection against corrosion, and sometimes because gold has a certain self-lubricating capability. Therefore occasionally wheels or escapement parts are made of gold. These parts are not actually expensive due to few milligramms weight, but because gold alloys are difficult to process. They must be cold rolled or hammered extensively to become hard enough to be cut precisely, and to reduce wear.

    Regards, Roland Ranfft
    Last edited by Roland Ranfft; February 8th, 2012 at 15:12.

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    Re: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    I believe most solid "silver" dials are actually what is sometimes known as german silver. It is an alloy that resists tarnishing. There are also some that appear silver but are actually a base metal that has been "silvered" (a solution of silver salt applied in a particular manner)... though I think that is much more common with clocks than watches. Some movement plates/bridges are also made of german silver. Some older pocket watch movements, and some newer high end watches (A. Lange & Söhne, for example) use gold for the jewel chatons as well (most modern movements do not have chatons at all, instead the jewels are friction fitted directly to the plates and bridges)

  5. #5
    NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    Gold dials were once fairly common on Swiss and English pocket watches. Often, they are elaborately engraved or engine turned, and sometimes have multicolor gold accents applied.

    Gold was occasionally used to make train wheels(although most "gold" train wheels are plated) in American watches. Gold was, at one time, a common material for uncut compensation balances. This is commonly seen on English and Swiss watches, although many very early high-grade(and even mid-grade) American watches also used gold balances.

    I have an Illinois Sangamo Special that has a gold safety dart on the pallet fork. This is not a typical application of gold, but none the less is a use that shows up occasionally.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, member NAWCC Ch. 149 Early American Watch Club

    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

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    Re: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    Quote Originally Posted by mars-red View Post
    I believe most solid "silver" dials are actually what is sometimes known as german silver. It is an alloy that resists tarnishing. There are also some that appear silver but are actually a base metal that has been "silvered" (a solution of silver salt applied in a particular manner)... though I think that is much more common with clocks than watches. Some movement plates/bridges are also made of german silver. Some older pocket watch movements, and some newer high end watches (A. Lange & Söhne, for example) use gold for the jewel chatons as well (most modern movements do not have chatons at all, instead the jewels are friction fitted directly to the plates and bridges)
    I have seen (and actually make one model) with a solid sterling silver (925) dial - not German silver. I think it's actually fairly common, so I would not say "most" silver dials are German silver.

    Cheers, Al

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    Re: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    Omega used to make solid silver dials in early 1900-s. They do tarnish after many years, but clean up beautifully.
    Need Advice - Vintage Omega Dial

    Much later, Omega used to fit 18K dials in their top grade Constellations.

  8. #8
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    Re: Silver dials and gold in watch movements?

    Quote Originally Posted by Archer View Post
    I have seen (and actually make one model) with a solid sterling silver (925) dial - not German silver. I think it's actually fairly common, so I would not say "most" silver dials are German silver.

    Cheers, Al
    Many early Gruen had solid silver dials - I agree with Al quite common.


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