Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?
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  1. #1
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    Which is your preference?
    Are you a collector or do you wear the watch?

    Personally, I get why some collectors might want to be as “original” as possible. Avoid any Frankenwatch possibilities.

    I am a wearer. I view a good polished case and even cleaned dial as a good thing. Just as much as a good servicing.

    I guess I view it analogous to: if vintage cars were still capable every day vehicles, I would want the bumper polished up and maybe the leather refinished. Then drive that car around feeling good about it rather than have it all rusted and the seats all cracked leather and what not.

    I see a lot of the YouTube experts all hype up the worn look.

    I am interested to hear your opinions.

  2. #2
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    Re: Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?

    I believe that unpolished patina is a value adder only for the avid collector...a very small percentage of the market. Most people buying a watch want a nice shiny watch that they can be proud to show to their friends and colleagues, e.g. the unwashed masses.

  3. #3
    Member tinknocker's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?

    When they are polished to the extent where corners are not crisp but rounded, case backs have little more than a faded print, no, I don't want that. Dials are a personal thing. I don't mind a cleaning, but a re-dial never ever looks real.
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  5. #4
    Member Dan S's Avatar
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    This is primarily a forum for vintage collectors, so the preferences of a generic “watch wearer” is completely irrelevant to most of us.
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  6. #5
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    Re: Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?

    I'm not a connoisseur. I'm not buying vintage watches as investments. I do this because I'm fascinated by the machines themselves, by things from a bygone era and because it's fun. My budget is small and vintage watch purchases are less expensive and, usually, a little more beat up. I apply cape cod cloth to cases to make them look nice in my eyes and sandpaper/polywatch so I can see the handsome dials. I'm not using a machine where it's removing enough material to round off corners or remove the stamping on the case back.

    People have different views on "patina" and each person can do as they like. If I had a classic car, I'd want to restore it, not clear coat over the rust to admire the patina. If other people like them differently, that's okay with me.
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  7. #6
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    Thanks for the info

  8. #7
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    Re: Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?

    I'm not one to 'Ooo and Ahh' over patina. To me it's just dirt and corrosion. It's acceptable only because it's nearly impossible to get a 60+ year old watch without it.

    Dials can generally be cleaned so they're not as bad - sometimes polishing the markers makes a HUGE difference. Unreadable dials can often be reprinted professionally with the correct die, but it's usually obvious.

    Cases can be hand polished so they're not dull or tarnished.

    Crystals can be replaced, ideally with as close to the original as possible.

    Crowns wear out and if you can't wind it, what's the point?

    Straps wear out and even if not worn out they're full of the last owner's sweat and shed epithelial cells and skin bacteria.
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  9. #8
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    Re: Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?

    In many cases patina is just dirt.

    For example my vintage Zenith table alarm clock (ca 1930, caliber RLZ) before and after dial cleaning. I used warm soapy water.

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  10. #9
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    Re: Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?

    When I buy a vintage watch I look for one in the best possible all original condition. In part itís because I know that Iíll own it only for a time and the vintage watch market values all original pieces should I ever sell it. I also enjoy owning and wearing a watch with a story. Slight signs of wear are echoes of that story. I donít prefer a vintage piece with wear but neither does it deter me for the right piece. And aside from polishing an acrylic crystal, light cleaning and a mechanical overhaul when needed I donít ever modify or polish a vintage watch. For me to do so would be like erasing part of its history as well as possibly reducing its resell value. However, if a watch has funky lume that looks like mold, a deteriorating dial, rusted movement or aftermarket parts I just wonít buy it.
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  11. #10
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    Re: Vintage conditions: cleaned and polished vs patina and scruffiness?

    I never knock anyone else's choices, but I prefer my vintage pocket watches to look good. To me, that means a clean dial with no cracks, hairline or otherwise with no issues with the hands whatsoever. The case should be in reasonably good condition. It doesn't have to look brand new, but I don't want it looking dingy or beat up so if a polishing helps with that then I'm all for it. A very minor scuff or two on the crystal is ok but certainly no cracks. I wouldn't hesitate to replace a crystal if I thought it needed replacing.

    But I do value original parts, so like Blue Note above I make it a point to buy only vintage pocket watches that are in the best all around original condition. My collection is a veritable patina and scruffiness free zone, lol.

    This is somewhat analogous to vintage Gillette razors. I own a few, dating back to 1906. Some collectors insist on keeping the "patina," but to me they just look rusty. And frankly, the thought of using one on my face is kind of gross, much like wearing someone else's watch strap. So I always have my vintage razors professionally revamped (cleaned, stripped and replated) right away. I send them in looking like they're dead, and they come back looking brand new. Just like my watches, I buy them purely for my enjoyment so resale value isn't a factor.

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