How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

Thread: How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

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  1. #1
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    How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

    I have a growing interest in vintage watches, and have given some thought to keeping an eye out for good early watches that require some repairs or restoration. I've seen several companies that offer a remarkable ability to turn old discolored, dirty, sun faded or otherwise really bad looking dials new looking again. How do these companies do it? It looks to me like the work often goes beyond basic cleaning.

    Thanks in advance, Adrian

  2. #2
    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Re: How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

    The usual way is to strip it down to bare metal and repaint and reprint everything back on.

    The problem is, in order to do that you have to have a template exactly like the original. Sometime they do, sometime they only have a approximate. Things like logo and maker name's fonts often change subtly over the years, and having all the variations may be impossible. This will always lower the value of the watch.

    I would reprint a dial only if the old dial is completely unreadable, or an original is unavailable.
    familiaritas parit contemptum; raritate admiratione wins.- Lucius Apuleius
    est necessry, accurate ad secundo? - Lysander magna
    iustum est horologium - Obscurus Genius

  3. #3
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

    The dial refinishes I have seen all seem to lack the proper depth of color and fine finish of a factory paint joband markers are usually inaccurate. Watch repair shops and even professional redialers simply do not have the money to invest in the equipment, paint and a library of type fonts to create a credible redial. Factories like Omega can do a fine job but at a price.

    One thing to consider when redialing is that the resulting shiny new looking dial will look out of place with the rest of the watch which presumably has decades of wear. Just leave the watch as is and think of all that aging and decay as patina.

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  5. #4
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    Re: How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

    Some brands, notably the very high end manufactories such as JLC, will do redials of their own vintage models if they no longer have the correct dials in their parts inventory. At great cost of course. They will have the advantage of access to their archives as to the original. Still a redial, but some enthusiasts argue that a redial by the original company is more acceptable in a purist sense.

  6. #5
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    Re: How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

    Quote Originally Posted by John MS View Post
    The dial refinishes I have seen all seem to lack the proper depth of color and fine finish of a factory paint joband markers are usually inaccurate. Watch repair shops and even professional redialers simply do not have the money to invest in the equipment, paint and a library of type fonts to create a credible redial. Factories like Omega can do a fine job but at a price.

    One thing to consider when redialing is that the resulting shiny new looking dial will look out of place with the rest of the watch which presumably has decades of wear. Just leave the watch as is and think of all that aging and decay as patina.
    I concur. I think best to leave alone unless the dial is FUBAR.

  7. #6
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    Re: How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

    thanks for the great replies. I agree with the posters here. I'm an antique dealer and in that realm, what you all are saying is generally true. A complete redo of a piece is rarely as good as the original, and almost always takes away from value. Good stuff to know on the watch dial front. thanks again.

  8. #7
    Member Otto Phan's Avatar
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    Re: How do they do it? (Dial refinishing)

    I'm going to know very soon. I'm having a dial redone. The old one was pretty bad off, especially compared to the case which was in pretty good condition. Very uneven discoloration, fading, peeling paint; it was bad off. While I'm pretty curious to see how if looks when it comes back, I've still been on the lookout for an original to replace it with.

    My general feeling (and it certainly is not the norm in the watch collecting game) is that watches are like cars and a true restoration is almost always better than a piece of crap that is "original". A corvette roadster, however, with matching numbers in great shape is going to be worth more than the same car that was poorly restored. You have to weigh what you have and what should be replaced if it can't be fixed. IMO, Exceptions would be those really rare cases where the value in the product is "as is". I see those as watches that are not going to be worn, but enjoyed as is for their historical value or rarity.

    I have 2 watches "on deck" to be restored and I'm questioning what to do about the dials. They aren't too bad, but I would really like better dials as, to me, the dial is a critical part of the appearance of the watch. I am told that redials, however, can often produce less than stellar results so I would heavily weigh your options and consider what you can live with before doing it.... and also, really research the person or company that will be doing the work.
    Last edited by Otto Phan; December 4th, 2011 at 16:35.

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