How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?
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  1. #1
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    How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?

    Hi everybody. It has been a long, long time since I have been on this forum. When it comes to watches some have gone, some new ones came in, but all in all not much has changed. My signature is not accurate anymore, so I should change that.

    The 1971 Delvina Geneve 17 jewel handwind (FHF 974 movement) that belonged to my dad and sparked my interest in mechanical watches is still running strongly, and is the watch I wear the most. It just got a full service about 2 months ago, so it's good to go for yet another couple of years. The new sapphire I had put in makes it look like it was bought today, instead of 41 years ago by my mom.

    Anyway, my father-in-law gave me a 14kt gold automatic Bulova watch about a year ago. That actually sounds nicer then it is: You see, the watch was all sorts of broken. The crown didn't work (couldn't wind or set the time), and the hands actually didn't really move. If you'd shake the watch a little, it would actually run (it's an automatic), but it would run very erratically. It had one of those ugly "stretchy" bracelets on it, that was gold colored and looked really, really tacky.
    According to my father-in-law, the watch was 1930's (it's not...more on that later), the bracelet also was 14kt gold (it wasn't), and the watch was so broken it could never be repaired anymore (it wasn't either).

    He wanted to take the watch to a watch maker, have the original movement taken out and getting a generic Japanese quartz-movement installed, so he could wear the watch. Luckily I could stop him from doing that, saying that was the stupidest thing he could do, and so he gave the watch to me.

    At that time, I was still living in The Netherlands, and I had a very very good watch-maker (the same one that got the Delvina running perfectly again) over there. So after I got the watch when I was visiting my girl-friend in Alaska, I waited until I returned to The Netherlands and brought it in.

    Some interesting things: The Bulova watch does indeed sport a 14kt gold case, so scrap-metal wise it's worth a nice amount of money. Someone with no knowledge of mechanical watches had been screwing around with it before, and according to my watch maker broke a couple of teeth on the motion works cannon pinion. That explained why the hands were not lined up propertly and weren't moving the way they were supposed to. The crown didn't work because it wasn't the right one; presumably the person that had screwed with it before also inserted the wrong crown.
    The movement also was very, very dirty.

    So, all in all not such a good watch. The main problem when it came to restoring the movement was the fact this Bulova watch has the "10COAC" movement, and in Europe at least that is very rare to come by. Not that many Bulova watches to be found there.

    The watch has been at my watchmaker for about 2.5 months. Cleaning up the movement, getting it to run normally again and getting the right crown wasn't much of a problem. The problem was getting the exact right part for the motion works.
    This was something the two watchmakers my father-in-law went to could not accomplish, which lead him to believing it could never be restored again.
    I don't know how my watchmaker did it, but he found a part that, although not Bulova-original, had the exact same specifications as the original part. With that installed the watch runs beautifully again, although there is some slight, barely noticable play on the minute-hand. I can live with that.

    The Bulova 10COAC movement also dates this watch around the mid 1960's, instead of the 1930's my father-in-law claimed it to be. Judging by the style of the dial I never thought it could have been 1930's anyway.

    After the watch got repaired, I had the crystal replaced, and bought a dark-brown leather band for it with gold-colored clasp, to get rid of that tacky-looking bracelet thing.

    All in all it was quite an expensive repair, and to be fairly honest: I would have never bought this watch in the first place, as I still think it doesn't look all that special. It's also just a tad too small for my liking. But, seeing how this was somewhat of a gift, and it became a matter of principle to prove to my father-in-law any watch can get repaired, I'm happy it's working again.

    Truth be told: I barely wear it, because I'm too afraid of breaking it again. I slap it on maybe once, or twice a month. Also, since it got repaired I immigrated to the US to be with my future wife, and since we live in Fairbanks, Alaska, there are no real watch makers around here. If it breaks down, I wouldn't be able to get it repaired anymore.

    Anyway, here are some pictures I quickly made on the back of our pick-up truck (American style!):




    The glow-in-the-dark paint on the hands actually still works. Well, the parts that have not faded away, that is.


    Now, to get to the reason why I opened this topic:

    When you compare the Bulova to the gold-plated Caravelle (by Bulova) - which belonged to my uncle who sadly passed away two years ago and also is the only quartz-watch I own - you can tell the Caravelle is much more shiney. I'd like to get the Bulova about the same shiny color as the Caravelle, so that it stands out more a bit.




    I did some searching on the internet, and found all sorts of tips, ranging from brushing your gold with toothpaste and baking soda, to dunking it in all sorts of solutions.
    However, I would feel very uncomfortable rubbing tooth-paste on a delicate watch like this. Does anyone have any idea how I can make this watch more shiny again, without any risk of damaging or scratching it?

    Sorry for the long text, but for some reason I always have troubles writing short stories.
    Last edited by Ceristimo; June 7th, 2012 at 02:12.

  2. #2
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    Re: How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?

    It is a pity you did not ask your adutch watchmaker to polish it while it was taken apart.
    Do you know if the watch has some Water Resistancy?
    if yes, you can use a rotating tool type Dremel with a soft, fluffy end tool, and some ultra fin metal polish.
    If zero WR, I would leave it as it is.

  3. #3
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?

    A microfiber polishing cloth should provide a nice shine with little chance of damage. Depending on the exact alloy, the watches may not be identical yellows but they will both shine!

    Great story. The AWCI website lists the following watchmaker for Fairbanks:
    Eugene E. Augustin
    PO Box 82783
    Fairbanks, AK 99708-2783
    United States
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

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  5. #4
    Member Ceristimo's Avatar
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    Re: How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?

    @Janne
    Yes, I should have. But at the time I never realised how dull the watch was, so I never asked him to polish it. Now that I am wearing it and comparing it to the new gold-colored crown it has and the other gold-plated watch, you can really see how dull it is.
    As for the watch, it has absolutely zero water-resistance. I wouldn't wear it on a hot day, being afraid just simply sweating could make the inside moist.
    Then again, this being Alaska, we don't really have hot days...

    @Eeeb
    Thank you! That sounds like a helpful tip. Any idea were I could buy a microfiber polishing cloth?
    Last edited by Ceristimo; June 7th, 2012 at 03:17.

  6. #5
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceristimo View Post
    ...

    @Eeeb
    Thank you! That sounds like a helpful tip. Any idea were I could buy a microfiber polishing cloth?
    Lots of watch supply houses sell them but I bought a gross online from Costco for about what five or ten normally sell for. Costco labeled them for automotive use but they are the same
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

  7. #6
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    Re: How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?

    I'm confused: did your father-in-law know about your girlfriend when he gave you the watch?

  8. #7
    Member Ceristimo's Avatar
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    Re: How to make 1960's 14kt gold Bulova shine again?

    Quote Originally Posted by redcow View Post
    I'm confused: did your father-in-law know about your girlfriend when he gave you the watch?
    Sorry, I can see how that is confusing. He is my future father-in-law, as we're getting married in July. Me and my fiancée. Not me and my future father-in-law.

    I'm Dutch, and have lived in The Netherlands all my life. My girlfriend/fiancée/future-wife is American, and lives in Alaska, where her dad also lives.

    I met her in 2010 over the internet, and visited her as often as I could the last two years. I got the watch last summer when I stayed in Alaska on a tourist visa for three months.

    I came back here a month ago permanently, because I have officially immigrated.

    Enough about me, let's talk about watches!

    @Eeeb
    Thanks, I'll look around for those microfiber cloths and see how that works out.
    Last edited by Ceristimo; June 7th, 2012 at 13:41.
    redcow likes this.

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