Dial restoration
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  1. #1
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    Dial restoration

    Recently there was a thread talking about vintage watches (here or the Omega Forum), and somebody asked about dial restoration versus refinishing. One member said there was a watchmaker who carefully stripped the clear coat off, took care of the mold spots and freckles while leaving the original paint, then recoated the dial. Does anyone know who does this and how to contact them?

  2. #2
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Dial restoration

    Not sure about the original thread, but it sounds like splitting hairs. I guess it would depend on the dial (how it was made) and what kind of damage is present. It's not <too> hard to remove the clear coat, but it depends on what was used and if the underlying paint seeped into it. As for removing spots and freckles, that's only possible if they're on the top layer (and if there's a clear coat on top, how'd mold get onto the paint?). If the discoloration is seeping up from the dial metal (a la oxidization) I can't see how you'd fix it without removing the paint and then reapplying.
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    Re: Dial restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by ulackfocus View Post
    Recently there was a thread talking about vintage watches (here or the Omega Forum), and somebody asked about dial restoration versus refinishing. One member said there was a watchmaker who carefully stripped the clear coat off, took care of the mold spots and freckles while leaving the original paint, then recoated the dial. Does anyone know who does this and how to contact them?
    Sorry, but I think this is nothing more than an urban legend. I speak as someone who has (and is) printing dials and knows a bit about printing or metal. I also know a bit about paint and ink chemistry. First off all, many dials DO NOT have a coat of lacquer on them. Secondly, when you lacquer over ink, a chemical transformation takes place.The lacquer does not sit on the surface of the ink, but instead penetrates into the top layers of the ink, otherwise it would not grasp hold of the ink. It's pretty close of inconceivable that you can remove a layer of lacquer from a dial layer, though it must be said that painting restorers, who restore oil paintings from the 16th Century onward often do so on a larger scale. But here they are dealing with oil paint which is very chemically different from ink.

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    Member Beau8's Avatar
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    Re: Dial restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by AbslomRob View Post
    Not sure about the original thread, but it sounds like splitting hairs. I can't see how you'd fix it without removing the paint and then reapplying.
    Quote Originally Posted by Somewhere else View Post
    Sorry, but I think this is nothing more than an urban legend. I speak as someone who has (and is) printing dials and knows a bit about printing or metal. I also know a bit about paint and ink chemistry. First off all, many dials DO NOT have a coat of lacquer on them. Secondly, when you lacquer over ink, a chemical transformation takes place.The lacquer does not sit on the surface of the ink, but instead penetrates into the top layers of the ink, otherwise it would not grasp hold of the ink.
    Both good points~Cheers!

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    Re: Dial restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Somewhere else View Post
    Sorry, but I think this is nothing more than an urban legend. I speak as someone who has (and is) printing dials and knows a bit about printing or metal. I also know a bit about paint and ink chemistry. First off all, many dials DO NOT have a coat of lacquer on them. Secondly, when you lacquer over ink, a chemical transformation takes place.The lacquer does not sit on the surface of the ink, but instead penetrates into the top layers of the ink, otherwise it would not grasp hold of the ink. It's pretty close of inconceivable that you can remove a layer of lacquer from a dial layer, though it must be said that painting restorers, who restore oil paintings from the 16th Century onward often do so on a larger scale. But here they are dealing with oil paint which is very chemically different from ink.
    Now I speak as someone who has trouble even getting their office printer to behave and the only bit I know about ink and paint chemistry is how to get a 3 year old's permanent ink pen drawings off of the living room furniture.

    Now you say that many do not have a coat of lacquer on them but that means that some do. I would guess that different manufacturers used different techniques and paints to finish the dials, especially comparing vintage to more recent. The more vintage a watch was would also allow for many more years for breakdown to occur.

    Now it has been suggested by someone who specializes in vintage JLCs that the clear coat oxidizing and decaying was the reason this 1963 dial looked like this,



    Now when I got the watch I initially thought perhaps it was a layer of film/grime that had seeped into the watch over the years. It had sat in a drawer for maybe 20 years. But there was no film on any other parts of the watch inside or outside including the movement, crystal, hands, underside of the dial etc.

    A closer inspection of the dial looked like this



    There is some film or something on the Indices and JL but nothing like the dial.


    A little light wiping of the dial with a sponge brush with some paint polish/cleaner reveals something coming off of the dial.



    The coating seems thicker uniformly across the center alarm dial compared to the outer ring of the dial and a little thicker at the edges. I'd guess that they were painted and printed the same but not necessarily at the same time. Perhaps the clear coat on the center dial was applied a little thicker?

    Notice the minute markers stay nice and sharp. (I wish I could say the same about the lumed hour marking dots.)







    Now that's just gross!

    But this is beautiful.







    When I look closely at the dial it looks like indeed the clear coat came off. It almost looks like you can see the texture where the beautiful bottom coat of paint was applied. I had to go back and clean off a little more twice after that but not since.

    Now you might think this case is unique but the same person who suggested it was clear coat oxidization told me they have had similar results with a light dipping of a dial in ultrasonic cleaner, and another collector with a little spittle on the end of a cotton swab. Granted, both of those were also vintage JLC's. It might be unique to the Manufacturer. However, the techniques were possibly quite similar between companies in the earlier years.

    Ulackfocus,
    What does your dial look like? The best case scenario is that the dial comes out beautiful. The worst case is it is destroyed and must be refinished (you know what that runs, though I must say, your JLC turned out awesome!).

    The problem I see would be finding someone good enough or crazy enough to tackle the attempt.

    Just a thought, and a thoroughly blatant chance to post some pics of one of my favorites!
    Last edited by DoctorC; January 28th, 2010 at 17:48.
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  7. #6
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    Re: Dial restoration

    Very, very impressive.

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    Re: Dial restoration

    That's a great job on the JLC dial!

    The general thought that I've seen accross multiple threads is that it's a crap shoot. Different people made their dials in different ways, and unless you're familiar with how the dial was made, you're taking a chance trying to clean it off. My Benrus experience was similar to your JLC, except that I think the paint used for the text and chapter marks was different, causing it to bond with the clear coat differently. Thus, when I took off the clear coat, some of the text came with it. On a different dial, you might find that the text comes off completly. You don't know until you try, and if you guess wrong, the dial is (effectively) ruined (at least as far as being able to claim "original" goes).
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    Re: Dial restoration

    Thanks Doc! I could look at that watch all day. While I am starting the hunt for a Memovox soon, this question was for general knowledge if I come across another brand that doesn't do as good work as JLC.

  10. #9
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    Re: Dial restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by AbslomRob View Post
    The general thought that I've seen accross multiple threads is that it's a crap shoot. Different people made their dials in different ways, and unless you're familiar with how the dial was made, you're taking a chance trying to clean it off. My Benrus experience was similar to your JLC, except that I think the paint used for the text and chapter marks was different, causing it to bond with the clear coat differently. Thus, when I took off the clear coat, some of the text came with it. On a different dial, you might find that the text comes off completly. You don't know until you try, and if you guess wrong, the dial is (effectively) ruined (at least as far as being able to claim "original" goes).
    I was warned diligently ahead of time and that's why I started at the very bottom of the dial where Swiss Made is printed. On this dial it was printed so low that it could not be seen when the dial was cased. I rubbed a bit there and when it stayed good I took a stiff drink and kept on going.
    The bottom of the ss in Swiss was already worn off before I started.
    "No matter where you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzai

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    Re: Dial restoration

    Hi Dennis

    Rather than being a fiction or urban legend, the name of the guy is Sunny Dewan and he has experimented with and created his own removal solution. Sothebys and Christies and other top auction houses use him for restoration.

    I was so impressed with his work that I did an essay on a seamaster he worked on here

    His details are here

    Ive seen him work wonders with a number of pieces, particularly 18k dials.

    A number of people I know use him including gatorcpa
    Cheers

    Desmond

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