dirt stains on vintage watches dails

Thread: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

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  1. #1

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    Unhappy dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    this is a common issue with vintage watches, my question is- can something be done, can the stains (spots, dirt, whatever its being called) at some spots on a dail can be cleaned?

    some people like to have it this way, cause in this way the "years" the watch have seen are more obvious, but i would like to make the dail crisper, cleaner dail.

    does anyone knows how to get arround this?

    i don't want to demage the dail, nor my watchman want, but i want some expert advice from you guys, since i'm only a newbie.

    any help is welcomed!

    thanks,
    newbb

  2. #2
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    Quote Originally Posted by newbb View Post
    some people like to have it this way, cause in this way the "years" the watch have seen are more obvious...
    In the Marine Corps the badge of distinction to which you refer is called "T.I." which stands for "time in (the Marine Corps)." We always wanted the older style gear that had lots of wear, lest we look like a newb (not a word we used back then!).

    I would like to read some expert answers to your question myself, as we sometimes hear horror stories about redials gone bad.
    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)


  3. #3

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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    thanks for your info pacifichrono!

    actualy, i wont ever give any (even a legendery) watchman to try do a redail to my watch, cause even the most experienced, professional person can demage the dail.. it is not %100 sure when redailing ..

    i mean- cleaning the stain out of the dail.

    cause, i believe that these little stains at the edges of dails (on white dails they are the most anoying and noticable) came out from tiny micro bits of dirt that somehow got into the dails space and year after year had glued up together into a noticable stain that looks real ugly on white dails..

    but i believe maybe there is a way for a watchman to clean the stain off the dail, i dont mean stains all over the dail, but only on a few edges (like for an example- one little stain at 12 oclock, and another small one at 9 oclock, while all the rest of the dail is crisp and clean)

    does anybody knows if this can be securely done?

    any info/advice/tip will be much appreciated

    thanks alot!

    newbb

    p.s: here are the stains on a watch like i have, almost at same spots

    link:

    http://img.auctiva.com/imgdata/2/2/6...30967370_o.jpg
    Last edited by newbb; January 12th, 2007 at 17:07.

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  5. #4
    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    I had always heard the term "old Salt," you never want to be mistaken for a FNG.

    One of the reasons why it is best not to mess with old dials is the actual chemical compound used in the varnish, clear coating or even paint is not always known, and it is very easy to wash off, not only the dirt and grime, but the index lines, or even paint.

  6. #5
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    Hi -

    This is a difficult one to answer.

    Sure, we all want the perfect vintage dial. Not only is it worth more, but it also looks grand.

    The problem is reality. The number of NOS (New Old Stock) watches out there is very small, most vintage watches have wear and tear.

    Let's look at how a dial is actually made to understand what we can do here.

    First, the dial is a piece of dimensionally stable material, such as brass or steel, sometimes iron (great for shielding the watch from magnetic fields), or sometimes plastic for cheap watches.

    The dial has the usual holes in it for the spindles to which the hands are attached. It has what are called feet on the reverse of the face of the dial so that it can be accurately positioned on a watchworks.

    The dial face is usually polished to high polish in the manufacturing process as a first step. Many vintage watches have a complex structure to the face, with engraving or some sort of complex shape on the surface. This is done after the polishing.

    For dials that have a different finish, the dial is then plated, painted or otherwise transformed. I have a diver's watch, for instance, that is painted with a beautiful, thick enamel that was spun during the painting process to form a sunburst finish. Older vintage watches have a porceline face that requries firing the finished dial to a high temperature. Other faces are simply painted, are silkscreened or otherwise printed, and then you have watches where the numbers are applied to the face of the watch (raised numbers, etc).

    So a dial face can be made up of many, many elements, not all of which age gracefully or even consistently.

    There is, in addition, two kinds of wear on a watch dial face. The first is environmental effects, such as leaving the watch in a dealer's window for several years in the sunshine. The watch will be exposed to degradation of any sort of painted elements due to ultraviolet lighting and the effects of humidity and the like.

    The second kind of source of change is internal. The first is a negative effect due to the environment, such as a layer of evaporated oil that forms on the surface of the face because the watch was oiled too much (or the wrong oil was used!); the second is a change in the actual stuff itself, such as a layer of oxidation that forms a patina on the surface of the face.

    Now, you can clean the surface of the watch to remove things like the oil film and the dirt that collected on it, but you can't remove a patina, since it is an integral part of the surface of the face.

    Soooooo, the question now is: what is to be done? If the dirt and debris bothers you, then sure, have the face cleaned. I'd do that myself. If you want to restore the face to original status, either you have to find a new face never used (NOS), or you need to have the face professionally restored: this usually means that the restorer makes a mask of the face, removes the face down to the base metal and then rebuilds the face using the mask. The quality of the new face is then dependent on the abilities of the restorer in making a good mask of the old face and being able to properly recreate the face.

    If anything, I'd have the face cleaned, removing dust and dirt. This should be done by a qualified watchmaker, one who specializes in this kind of thing. The first level is a simple brushing off of dirt and debris with a soft brush, the next level is washing with soap and water (and a very, very soft brush at best), both are done AFTER the dial is removed from the watch (duh).

    Anything beyond these basic two steps requires a complete restoration.

    What can be cleaned up this way? Simple spots and stains (a bit of soap will remove oil stains very nicely!) can be removed, but patina, the actual change on the surface of the dial, cannot be removed this way.

    I'd avoid the washing as much as I could, since many faces are painted or otherwise processed in such a way that water could damage them. A professional restorer will know what to do if there is clearly damage to the face due to a tiny drop of oil; it's his job to know how the materials react. If a watchmaker says "I'll do what I can", don't let him do anything beyond a very simple soft-brush cleaning, since he is, in effect, saying that he doesn't know what he can do without destroying the face.

    JohnF

    PS: if it is a high-value, mainstream vintage (like Doxa, Omega, etc) then the original makers may well have original dials and the like that can be used to replace the face instead of trying to reconstruct one. That'd be the way to go!
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  7. #6
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    I think JohnF has given about as good a summary of the issue as you'll find anywhere.
    I'd just like to add my own personal bias here. Vintage watches are like antiques and any antiques dealer will tell you never to refinish anything. Original finish is always worth more. I would not even think about a redial unless the original dial cannot be read any longer.
    My watchmaker friend said once that he might use a bit of Rodico (watchmaker's cleaning gum) to take crap off the edges of a dial but that was as far as he would go.
    I don't look as good today as I did in 1965 and I don't expect my vintage watches to do so either.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  8. #7

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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    wow john! thank you for this incredible reply full of valuable information!

    to be honest, the dail on my watch is pretty much good looking, there is only one stain at 12 oclock that i could like to have it removed..

    i have given a link on last reply to a photo of a watch just like i have, with very similier stain at 12 oclock.

    could you tell wheter its an easy dirt that can be removed by a professional watchman or the stains that i should stay away from trying to remove?


    thanks,
    newbb

  9. #8

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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray MacDonald View Post
    I think JohnF has given about as good a summary of the issue as you'll find anywhere.
    I'd just like to add my own personal bias here. Vintage watches are like antiques and any antiques dealer will tell you never to refinish anything. Original finish is always worth more. I would not even think about a redial unless the original dial cannot be read any longer.
    My watchmaker friend said once that he might use a bit of Rodico (watchmaker's cleaning gum) to take crap off the edges of a dial but that was as far as he would go.
    I don't look as good today as I did in 1965 and I don't expect my vintage watches to do so either.

    hehe... :gold

  10. #9
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    John, you forgot to mention the Brillo pad for those hard to get out stains.
    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)


  11. #10
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: dirt stains on vintage watches dails

    Hi -

    Stop giving out your trade secrets for restoring watches!

    JohnF
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