Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

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  1. #1
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    I recently acquired this solid gold Benrus. It's in really nice shape, but the solid 14K gold case is rather "dull," and also shows the normal light scratches typical of 50 year-old watches.

    I have heard of "polishing" a solid gold case to a nice shine, but really know nothing about the technique. Anyone familiar with this process?

    Regards from Sunny San Diego..........Tom
    ____________________________________________________
    "There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend, those with loaded
    guns and those who dig!"................Blondie to Tuco in TGTB&TU (1966)


  2. #2
    Member 767Geoff's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Hi and nice benruys.

    You will find that the 14k gold is soft enough to polish by hand. It will not take much to have it shine to a high gloss. You will NOT need the dremel or any other high speed polishers.

    Questions and thoughts:
    1. what was the original finish; frosted, grained or gloss,
    2. remove the movement and crystal if you can, this enables you to remove the polish residue from the case, for example; the crystal-bezel interface by rinsing it in a weak solvent like rubbing alcohol. Any residual polish will ruin, after a time, the gaskets in the crown or snap back case. If you are careful, and maybe wipe with a cotton cloth damped with rubbing alcohol you will not have to remove the crystal or movement. The moral of the story is to remove as much of the compound as possible.
    3. You can use the metal polish to buff up the crystal also, works well if it is a fine polish. Tell your jeweller you are looking for a gold polish, extremely fine and not very abrasive.
    Hope this helps, I have a few solid gold cases and unless they have deep gouges, the light polish by hand works very well:




  3. #3
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for the advice. I will try it out and post the results (if I feel brave enough to make the attempt!). It looks like the original finish was polished (glossy).

    Tom
    Last edited by pacifichrono; March 30th, 2007 at 05:37.
    Regards from Sunny San Diego..........Tom
    ____________________________________________________
    "There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend, those with loaded
    guns and those who dig!"................Blondie to Tuco in TGTB&TU (1966)


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  5. #4
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Hi -

    I've talked to my watchmaker about this, and this is basically what he says:

    1) most watches should handle a simple cleaning with a micro-fibre cloth (he loooooves these), slightly moistened at the maximum (about as wet as a dry handtowel would be if you had washed your hands and then used it to dry them) to remove the daily grime. Of course if the watch is a real vintage and the case is there simply to hold the innards in and nothing else, then be real, real careful. But most grime (dried sweat, dead skin cells, etc) should come off very nicely and the micro-fibre is a great polisher. Usually there should be no need for any sort of polishing compound: if there is, go to point 4.

    2) stainless steel and solid gold watches *can* be polished with a dremel or similiar tool without disassembly, but only if you really know what you are doing/it's a practice watch. You do need to remove the strap (duh) and work with virtuallly no pressure, just high speed and soft buffing heads for the tool. Take your time.

    3) Chromed and gold-plated should NEVER be worked on with power tools, as lingering too long may leave you with a brassed section, especially with modern gold-plated watches, where gold-plating is done electrochemically and the thickness may be very, very, veeeeeeeeeeeery thin indeed. Especially true for older chromed watches as well, as the chemical connection between the chrome and the base metal may be rather weak and if you may find the chrome peeling off rapidly. Heavy gold plating (double and the like) *can* be buffed with a machine, but it's not usually a good idea, as the danger of screwing it up is too large.


    4) The *proper* way to clean any case is to disassemble the watch entirely, remove the crystal, clean the case off under water and a soap solution using an old toothbrush, run it then throuh an ultrasound - you'd be amazed what comes off in there - and then give it a cleaning fluid bath (I use lighter fluid). The latter uses the fact that water and oil don't mix to drive out the water from all the nooks and crannies of the battered watch (microscratches, etc) and replace it with cleaning fluid so as to avoid any trouble with residual water causing a base metal case to rust. At this point you've got a clean case, now you need to polish it: for solid gold, this is where also you can check on the integrity of the case, as gold is so much softer than steel, and the surface strength so much weaker. Here is where the watchmakers will fill out deep scratches, etc. with new gold so as to create a new smooth surface. At that point you can pull out the dremel or similiar tool to give the surface a right good polish/finish , but one has to be very, very careful not to use heavy pressure to polish anything out, as many gold cases can be quite thin and you may distort the case and spend lots and lots of time trying to figure out why you can't reassemble it.

    I've got two watches that I'll be polishing, etc., but don't have a dremel (yet: it's on the list of tools to acquire!), both stainless steel that are pretty battered, but no deep scratches...

    JohnF
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  6. #5
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnF View Post
    Hi -

    I've talked to my watchmaker about this, and this is basically what he says:

    1) most watches should handle a simple cleaning with a micro-fibre cloth (he loooooves these), slightly moistened at the maximum (about as wet as a dry handtowel would be if you had washed your hands and then used it to dry them) to remove the daily grime. Of course if the watch is a real vintage and the case is there simply to hold the innards in and nothing else, then be real, real careful. But most grime (dried sweat, dead skin cells, etc) should come off very nicely and the micro-fibre is a great polisher. Usually there should be no need for any sort of polishing compound: if there is, go to point 4.

    2) stainless steel and solid gold watches *can* be polished with a dremel or similiar tool without disassembly, but only if you really know what you are doing/it's a practice watch. You do need to remove the strap (duh) and work with virtuallly no pressure, just high speed and soft buffing heads for the tool. Take your time.

    3) Chromed and gold-plated should NEVER be worked on with power tools, as lingering too long may leave you with a brassed section, especially with modern gold-plated watches, where gold-plating is done electrochemically and the thickness may be very, very, veeeeeeeeeeeery thin indeed. Especially true for older chromed watches as well, as the chemical connection between the chrome and the base metal may be rather weak and if you may find the chrome peeling off rapidly. Heavy gold plating (double and the like) *can* be buffed with a machine, but it's not usually a good idea, as the danger of screwing it up is too large.


    4) The *proper* way to clean any case is to disassemble the watch entirely, remove the crystal, clean the case off under water and a soap solution using an old toothbrush, run it then throuh an ultrasound - you'd be amazed what comes off in there - and then give it a cleaning fluid bath (I use lighter fluid). The latter uses the fact that water and oil don't mix to drive out the water from all the nooks and crannies of the battered watch (microscratches, etc) and replace it with cleaning fluid so as to avoid any trouble with residual water causing a base metal case to rust. At this point you've got a clean case, now you need to polish it: for solid gold, this is where also you can check on the integrity of the case, as gold is so much softer than steel, and the surface strength so much weaker. Here is where the watchmakers will fill out deep scratches, etc. with new gold so as to create a new smooth surface. At that point you can pull out the dremel or similiar tool to give the surface a right good polish/finish , but one has to be very, very careful not to use heavy pressure to polish anything out, as many gold cases can be quite thin and you may distort the case and spend lots and lots of time trying to figure out why you can't reassemble it.

    I've got two watches that I'll be polishing, etc., but don't have a dremel (yet: it's on the list of tools to acquire!), both stainless steel that are pretty battered, but no deep scratches...

    JohnF
    Thanks, John. I think I might stop by Home Depot today to pick up a dremel. I have a $10 practice watch I can use to try out, then see if I'm brave enough to proceed to the 14K Benrus. If it was an Omega or some such, I wouldn't risk attempting it myself unless I had lots of experience and success. But then who can afford a solid gold Omega anyway!
    Regards from Sunny San Diego..........Tom
    ____________________________________________________
    "There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend, those with loaded
    guns and those who dig!"................Blondie to Tuco in TGTB&TU (1966)


  7. #6
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Do NOT use a dremel to polish this watch. It can be polished quite nicely by hand. This watch has sharp edges which can very easily be rounded off with aggressive polishing (especially on gold).

    The watch has a two-part case which is easily opened and the movement removed before polishing. The crystal looks like it also could use some polishing. I would recommend Polywatch for this.

    For polishing the gold you could use some red rouge on a cotton cloth (by the way, Polywatch will also polish metal). After polishing, thoroughly clean and dry the case before reassembly.

  8. #7
    Member 767Geoff's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    [quote=JimH;321958]Do NOT use a dremel to polish this watch. It can be polished quite nicely by hand. This watch has sharp edges which can very easily be rounded off with aggressive polishing (especially on gold)./quote]

    JohnH is absolutely correct, although these cases can withstand a dremel because you will never wear through the plating, ie solid gold, the gold is to soft to allow a control and the finesse required for an good finishing job.

    That is why I mentioned "by hand". I forgot to mention the clean crisp edges which is one reason for leaving the snap back and case as one piece (even with the movement removed) as this will prevent rounding of the edges between the case back and case.

    Polywatch is excellent as it is extremely fine and will in fact polish the case as well as the crystal. Any fine metal polish for soft metals will also work on the crystal as well.

    Cheers and post pictures!!!!

    Geoff

  9. #8
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Quote Originally Posted by 767Geoff View Post
    Cheers and post pictures!!!!

    Geoff
    Geoff, I decided to try a jewelers cloth as a conservative start and a little elbow grease produced the results below. I'm satisfied and will not risk a more aggressive regimen, at least not for this watch.





    Regards from Sunny San Diego..........Tom
    ____________________________________________________
    "There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend, those with loaded
    guns and those who dig!"................Blondie to Tuco in TGTB&TU (1966)


  10. #9
    Member 767Geoff's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Excellent, solid gold cases rarely require much muscle power. I love San Diego. Used to stay at Hotel adjacent to the LampLight district.

    Quite a few antique shops there, picked up a few watches in that area!

    Proposed to my wife at the Coronada Hotel in the Prince Albert room.

    Cheers, Geoff

  11. #10
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: Anybody tried "polishing" a solid gold case?

    Quote Originally Posted by 767Geoff View Post
    Excellent, solid gold cases rarely require much muscle power. I love San Diego. Used to stay at Hotel adjacent to the LampLight district.

    Quite a few antique shops there, picked up a few watches in that area!

    Proposed to my wife at the Coronada Hotel in the Prince Albert room.

    Cheers, Geoff
    I've never been to Vancouver but would love to visit some day. The photos I've seen make it look very inviting.

    Tom
    Regards from Sunny San Diego..........Tom
    ____________________________________________________
    "There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend, those with loaded
    guns and those who dig!"................Blondie to Tuco in TGTB&TU (1966)


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