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Thread: Why the urge to restore an old watch.

  1. #1
    Master
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    Why the urge to restore an old watch.

    This concerns all watches that are old and reasonably collectable such as Longines and Omega etc.

    A watch came up on the Antiques roadshow yesterday that was fairly old and looked like it had been dragged through a hedgerow backwards and was scratched up to high heaven. The plastic lens was really scratched and this would make it damn difficult for some people to read.

    The valuer fell in love with it purely because it was 100% original and was genuinely relived that it had never been spruced up. The commercial value would have been seriously reduced if it was ever to be sent to the maker and came returned looking like new.

    I can see the reason for keeping an old watch totally original but surely when it looks like a wreck you just can't wear it without looking like a tramp. For some reason Pateks get restored without any of the hooha that other makes attract.

    I have an old hammer gun that I had professionally restored and the gun club almost expelled me from membership for doing it. I didn't dare to show my face at the monthly meetings ever again, such was the low esteem in which I was held, so it's just not watches.

    So why the fuss?

  2. #2
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    It depends on whether one wants to use it or save it for the next generation. Again, it depends on the item and how much money one has. The less money one has the more important these things are. Unless one specifically wants to wear an old watch, why bother restoring it and also perhaps losing money in the process.

  3. #3
    Grand Master Neil.C's Avatar
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    The crystal could easily be polished up a bit for easy reading and it wouldn't devalue the watch.

    I collect mainly vintage watches and I always buy good condition originals. I've been offered a lot of watches with repainted dials etc but I'm not interested.

    It's only original once.
    Cheers,
    Neil.

    My Speedmaster website:

    http://www.freewebs.com/neil271052

  4. #4
    Grand Master
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    Much as I like vintage watches (currently own 17) I donít see the appeal of battered examples even though they may be Ďoriginalí. I aim to get them looking as they were intended to look, run like they were originally intended to, and keep the water out if designed to do so. If that means replacing a battered crystal and fitting a new crown thatís fine, although I always try to keep an original crown by fitting a new seal if possible. Original dials are a big plus and the same applies to hands, but I see no appeal in tarnished water- damaged items that look a mess.

    I think the concept of originality has become distorted and is often taken out of context, an original crystal with cracks in it belongs in the bin, same applies to a crown thatís battered and contains a perished seal, the fact that they havenít been replaced indicates a neglect and lack of care by previous owners.

    A movement thatís original to the watch us a big plus, but that can be hard to prove depending where the serial numbers are stamped. Swap the train wheel and auto- winding bridges and a 60s Omega can be any age you wish it to be, and a humble non- chronometer version can be Ďupratedí to the more desirable chronometer version!

  5. #5

  6. #6
    ^^^ I had you as being younger than that, C.

    R
    Ignorance breeds Fear. Fear breeds Hatred. Hatred breeds Ignorance. Break the chain.

  7. #7
    Master mycroft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    So Iím guessing youíre suggesting that attempting to refurbish an old watch by injecting it with Botox doesnít work, C?

    A useful tip for you there, Paul .

    Simon

  8. #8
    Master
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    I have a Panerai 88 from 2007. Iím the second owner and it also looks like it has been dragged through a hedge backwards. For that reason itís probably my favourite watch - I love all of its imperfections. It was bought and used as intended and not shoved in a box to glance at occasionally.

  9. #9
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    Not quite the response I was expecting.

  10. #10
    Master Tetlee's Avatar
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    I can respect people for wanting to keep things as they are, especially when they have known interesting history. As for random watches that have no significant collectability and just bashed up, where their history is unknown then I'd rather have them restored to their former glory. Why would I care of somebody like a mechanic/gardener/farmer etc. had been wearing it to work before my ownership? I often feel people dream up their own fantasies of watches with story's to tell, if those stories are completely unknown then they're just empty pages imo. If I plan to keep a watch the scratches under my own ownership will be the only stories I'm bothered about.

    I don't like things such as repainted dials etc. Professional restorations though I'm all for it if I can afford to do it.

  11. #11
    Grand Master
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    I'm absolutely content to buy - and wear - anything that has arrived at where it is through use. While I don't care what the outside looks like, I like the movement to be doing its job properly. Personally I think there is something truly glorious about a well loved, well maintained watch which you can see has been well loved for decades and often carries a selection of hieroglyphics to attest to the love put into it.

  12. #12
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    I'm absolutely content to buy - and wear - anything that has arrived at where it is through use. While I don't care what the outside looks like, I like the movement to be doing its job properly. Personally I think there is something truly glorious about a well loved, well maintained watch which you can see has been well loved for decades and often carries a selection of hieroglyphics to attest to the love put into it.
    Totally agree.

  13. #13
    Grand Master Onelasttime's Avatar
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    I always think of Lee Majors when these threads come up Ö


  14. #14
    Master Papa Hotel's Avatar
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    The gun club just wanted an excuse.

  15. #15
    Master
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    Thanks for the replies but I have to state that I see nothing sensible about wearing a knackered looking old watch, it does not make sense. Can you imagine how the actual men who made the watch would feel having a good quality watch that they took pride in manufacturing looking like it's on its last legs, it just does not make sense.

    I can understand keeping an old unrestored watch in a safe for posterity but that's it.

  16. #16
    Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mick P View Post
    Not quite the response I was expecting.
    No, but it makes the point that not all restoration is good restoration.

    Neither are old/scruffy looking watches on their last legs if their movements are in good order.

    The plus side of all this really Mick is that nobody is making you wear any kind of watch if you dont want to.

  17. #17
    Craftsman
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    I have no idea, but please let me know as I just bought this for this purpose:


    I have the same watch a few times over.

  18. #18
    Craftsman Idontgram's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mick P View Post
    Thanks for the replies but I have to state that I see nothing sensible about wearing a knackered looking old watch, it does not make sense. Can you imagine how the actual men who made the watch would feel having a good quality watch that they took pride in manufacturing looking like it's on its last legs, it just does not make sense.

    I can understand keeping an old unrestored watch in a safe for posterity but that's it.
    Who knows? They might feel pride that the watch has been through a hell of a beating and is still ticking away, treasured by its current owner. A testament to its durability and lasting appeal.

    Or they might feel what a shame all their skill wasnít admired and the watch was treated really badly.

    Overall, Iím with you, though. I think a sensitively restored watch is the way forward but one personís sensitive is anotherís heavy-handed.

  19. #19
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    No, but it makes the point that not all restoration is good restoration.

    Neither are old/scruffy looking watches on their last legs if their movements are in good order.

    The plus side of all this really Mick is that nobody is making you wear any kind of watch if you dont want to.
    True but when I took a 1980s watch for a service (I no longer mention the R word due to too much hassle) the AD spent about 10 minutes persuading me not to replace the bezel where the black markings had faded into non existence and that I would devalue the watch by destroying the originality. He obviously had my interests at heart but everyone now knows that restoring a watch is out of fashion and too my mind it doesn't make sense.

  20. #20
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    Agree with (part of) Micks last comment, restoring watches has gone out of fashion somewhat and thatís a trend thatís been influenced by social media. Anyone new to the old watch scene us now conditioned to deride refinishing and restoration per se. There has been a lot of poor restoration and bad case- polishing and thatís influenced the current trend. From a commercial repairers standpoint there isnít much incentive to discourage this thinking, the guys who make a living fixing watches can make more money focussing on movement work rather than spending laborious hours on refinishing.

    I very rarely do refinishing work thesedays, it takes too long and I donít enjoy it, but Iím currently doing a full case and bracelet refinish on a late 60s Seiko for the guy who fitted my bathroom recently. The watch is a family heirloom in poor condition and not running, Iíve made it clear that refinishing will make it look almost new and heís v. enthusiastic to get it back to how it originally looked. Heís not a watch enthusiast as such, he simply wants his grandadís old watch to look nice and work properly again and he sees no appeal in it looking scruffy. I agree 100%, even though the time Iíll spend getting it looking nice far exceeds the time thatís gone into the movement work. He did a great job on my bathroom so Iím doing the watch at an extremely fair price, it allows me to keep my hand in at refinishing but when itís done I wonít be rushing to do another.

  21. #21
    Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mick P View Post
    True but when I took a 1980s watch for a service (I no longer mention the R word due to too much hassle) the AD spent about 10 minutes persuading me not to replace the bezel where the black markings had faded into non existence and that I would devalue the watch by destroying the originality. He obviously had my interests at heart but everyone now knows that restoring a watch is out of fashion and too my mind it doesn't make sense.
    And to others destroying the originality of a watch to try and make it look new doesn't make sense.

  22. #22
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    And to others destroying the originality of a watch to try and make it look new doesn't make sense.
    You are in the trade, can you make a rough guess what percentage of customers are against restoration of the case etc. It would be interesting to know if it is a WIS thing.

  23. #23
    Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mick P View Post
    You are in the trade, can you make a rough guess what percentage of customers are against restoration of the case etc. It would be interesting to know if it is a WIS thing.
    50/50 tbh, some buyers particularly when buying modern want "as new" even if that includes polishing to remove small hairlines from a 2021 watch, others prefer unpolished untouched.
    It largely depends on what watch, people buying steel are more likely to request no polish than people buying precious metal.
    Vintage buyers most of the time want the cases left "as is"

    Personally, I would much rather wear a marked and hairlined steel watch than one thats never been polished but I know its not for everyone.

  24. #24
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    50/50 tbh, some buyers particularly when buying modern want "as new" even if that includes polishing to remove small hairlines from a 2021 watch, others prefer unpolished untouched.
    It largely depends on what watch, people buying steel are more likely to request no polish than people buying precious metal.
    Vintage buyers most of the time want the cases left "as is"

    Personally, I would much rather wear a marked and hairlined steel watch than one thats never been polished but I know its not for everyone.
    Thanks for the reply. I suppose common sense says leave "as is" and if a buyer at some future point in times decides to restore it, he can do it himself in the knowledge that there is more metal left on it.

  25. #25
    Master Sinnlover's Avatar
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    There is no right or wrong on this, I am firmly in the camp of leave as is, especially if an unusual or rare watch, or if the watch has a unique history. A polish of the crystal so it can be read is always a good idea though. I find most watches more aesthetically pleasing with discoloured tritium, faded bezel etc, they have a warmer look and feel to them compared to a crisp clean restored watch, it’s part of the charm that can easily be lost.
    I don’t wear my watches for anyone else, so do I really care if ‘I look like a tramp’ to someone who would be so quick to judge me purely on a object I own? Nope, It says more about them than the wearer of said watch.
    I understand the other argument though. I think the example of the grandfathers watch being restored to original condition is totally understandable and I am sure it will look fantastic when finished. People are entitled to do as they wish with their possessions and opinions are like sphincters, we all have one.

  26. #26
    To me, a watch is a machine... like a car, or a plane, or even an electric drill.

    If someone asked me if I wanted my car to be good as new after a service Id say "yes" - especially if I chose it for its looks and styling.

    If it was vintage, then also "yes" - provided the new parts were like for like - bonus if sourced originals - again, especially if chosen for its looks and styling.

    I dont mind the odd scratch on a watch - its going to happen - and if it can be removed without too much fuss at service then great.

    I understand the mentality behind the "leave it as it is" view, but dont often agree with it. Mostly financial which, if we're honest, is an artificially created environment.

    Now... if I had an original piece of classic art... then the line blurs for me a little - that said, classic art IS restored because theres little point in letting a masterpiece rot away to nothing.

    One thing I will say. If you buy a vintage piece and its battered up - comex or not - and if you can genuinely afford it then, unless its going to fall apart on contact with air, WEAR IT!!! Dont insult its reason to exist - its already battered - and, if thats REALLY - such a good thing then youre doing it a favour!

    My parting shot is do what you want with it - its a lump of metal you bought and totally own - and, in a million years, it wont exist - regardless of whether you polished it or not! :)

  27. #27
    Grand Master
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    The Ďleave it originalí philosophy is even more tempting when the cost of high quality restoration work is taken into consideration. The fashion for treating Ďoriginalityí as sacrosanct has gone too far in my view, but my taste will always steer towards making things look as they were intended to look, be it a classic car or a watch.

    What disappoints me is the dismissive attitude towards refinishing/ restoration in the watch world over the past few years. These characters who write reviews and articles on line extolling the virtues of Ďoriginalityí lack the skill or ability to restore a watch and for that reason I find it v. easy to despise them, itís far easier to write critical flannel on the internet than actually do hands- on work.

    Thereís a lot of satisfaction in making a watch look nice and sharp again, its like rolling the clock back to the era when the watch was new thus replicating the ownership experience of the original buyer. I like that, I find it appealing, but thesedays I lack the patience to spend several hours achieving the end result. The skill level required isnít that great, itís more about patience and attention to detail.

    The Seiko Iím working on needs its final polish, the hard work has been done, but having spent the afternoon refitting guttering and climbing up and down a ladder Iím putting my feet up, the watch can wait till Iím in the mood to finish it.

    When folks see refinished/ restored watches they should remember that they donít do themselves.......and the tooth fairy doesnít do the work either!

  28. #28
    Grand Master magirus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sinnlover View Post
    There is no right or wrong on this, I am firmly in the camp of leave as is, especially if an unusual or rare watch, or if the watch has a unique history. A polish of the crystal so it can be read is always a good idea though. I find most watches more aesthetically pleasing with discoloured tritium, faded bezel etc, they have a warmer look and feel to them compared to a crisp clean restored watch, itís part of the charm that can easily be lost.
    I donít wear my watches for anyone else, so do I really care if ĎI look like a trampí to someone who would be so quick to judge me purely on a object I own? Nope, It says more about them than the wearer of said watch.
    I understand the other argument though. I think the example of the grandfathers watch being restored to original condition is totally understandable and I am sure it will look fantastic when finished. People are entitled to do as they wish with their possessions and opinions are like sphincters, we all have one.
    That's what this pastime should be in a nutshell.

  29. #29
    Grand Master Chris_in_the_UK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magirus View Post
    That's what this pastime should be in a nutshell.
    Amen Bob.
    When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks long into you.........

  30. #30
    Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by walkerwek1958 View Post
    What disappoints me is the dismissive attitude towards refinishing/ restoration in the watch world over the past few years. These characters who write reviews and articles on line extolling the virtues of Ďoriginalityí lack the skill or ability to restore a watch and for that reason I find it v. easy to despise them, itís far easier to write critical flannel on the internet than actually do hands- on work.
    I think when you get to the point of despising people on the internet for not sharing your opinion on refinishing its probably a good idea to switch off and go outside.

  31. #31
    Master sweets's Avatar
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    There is very little black and white in this issue. Most of the examples we can cite will be somewhere in the greys.

    Lord Love him, Webwatchmaker once proudly posted photos of a chronograph dial restoration that he had commissioned (via a specialist dial restorer) for a customer. Can't find the post now, and I have tried.
    True, the stains were gone, but that is the only positive thing you could say about it. The brand font had been changed, so had the numeric fonts, and the dial had completely lost its cohesive design, as the sub-dials had merely been cut and pasted from whatever sub-dial cliches the printer had already produced.
    To me it looked awful.
    But, the customer was very pleased.

    90%+ of us would agree that a mashed and crazed crystal needs replacing.
    Less than 10% of us might agree that a totally original crown needs replacing to keep the WR on an old Sub.
    Most collectors here that like vintage would leave a dial as close to original as can be, provided it is legible.
    And many wouldn't begrudge a case a light buff.

    And the judgements change with the watch. The older and rarer it is, the more the tedency to leave it as it is. And rightly so.
    I have undertaken differing levels of restoration on my own watches, and many might disagree, but I hope I have been sympathetic.

    This is how my own Snowflake dial arrived.



    And this is it after restoration



    99% of the dial colour is the same, a few holes have been filled, and the spots have been darkened. But, every index has been replaced.

    I wish I didn't need to do it, but the 1, 8 and 11 indices were ruined, and the 10 had only just dropped off, so further damage was likely if I ever wore it.
    And I perfectly understand that not everyone would have done what I did.

    Not all restoration is good, not all originality is good. Both are sliding scales that we all make (largely similar) judgements about.
    Making sweeping statements that put either decision into the hero or villain category make no sense.

    D

  32. #32
    Master PreacherCain's Avatar
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    Sweets is spot-on IMHO. I think there is a value to originality, patina can be really attractive and for some brands seems to carry a financial value in itself. Having said that, practical use is important and a crystal you canít see through, a dial you canít read or hands dropping lume into the movement are all deal-breakers for me.

    I had my dadís Seamaster Cosmic 2000 restored by STS after he died, it was in a poor state and a non runner and now it looks really smart and is a very usable everyday watch. Obviously originality value (whatever it might have been) is now zero, but it works and I love it.

    Iíve got a 1969 moon watch which has lovey case and dial patina and has also had replacement hands recently. Again, not great for originality but the vendor included the original hands and with the best will in the world I think theyíre done - paint flaking everywhere, lume gone black, a bit of corrosion. At least this way I can use it, read it clearly and not worry about debris.

    Of course, both these examples are in the ďnever selling, everĒ category so I suppose I can afford to be cavalier about originality, but if a watch canít be used then what on earth is the point in having itÖ?

  33. #33
    Grand Master snowman's Avatar
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    I see a lot of old watches that I would consider knackered proudly displayed as having 'patina'.

    Bezels faded to illegibility, dials flaking, crystals scratched, hands corroded, etc.

    I wouldn't want a watch in such condition, but clearly, some actually LIKE them like that.

    If I could have a 1970s watch that I liked in mint condition, that would be perfect for me.

    If it's been over-polished to the point where the case back is rendered unreadable or the case shape has been changed, then that's a negative (I do have a couple of watches that fit that category, luckily both were cheap for what they were).

    If a watch can be restored to truly 'as-new' condition, I don't see that as being a bad thing, if someone wants that.

    I don't like wearing watches that look abused, but equally, I'm not overly precious about the odd mark.

    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    I think when you get to the point of despising people on the internet for not sharing your opinion on refinishing its probably a good idea to switch off and go outside.
    True, but there's a lot of truth in the rest of Walkerwek's post.

    M
    Last edited by snowman; 12th May 2022 at 11:45.
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  34. #34
    Master Tetlee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowman View Post
    I see a lot of old watches that I would consider knackered proudly displayed as having 'patina'.

    Bezels faded to illegibility, dials flaking, crystals scratched, hands corroded, etc.

    I wouldn't want a watch in such condition, but clearly, some actually LIKE them like that.

    If I could have a 1970s watch that I liked in mint condition, that would be perfect for me.

    If it's been over-polished to the point where the case back is rendered unreadable or the case shape has been changed, then that's a negative (I do have a couple of watches that fit that category, luckily both were cheap for what they were).

    If a watch can be restored to truly 'as-new' condition, I don't see that as being a bad thing, if someone wants that.

    I don't like wearing watches that look abused, but equally, I'm not overly precious about the odd mark.
    Agree with pretty much all of that(again with exceptions historic or valuable watches that would be adversely affected by being restored). I have a 70s issued pilots chrono that I wouldn't wish to mess with for instance.

    As for mint 70's watches. Now you're talking my language! I've had a couple of those restored already and have another away being done as we speak, not a valuable one and I'll be spending more having it done then the value of the watch but isn't the first time I've done that, I like what I like so worth it to me.

    The Megaquartz from this thread being a classic example, still love wearing it btw.......

    https://forum.tz-uk.com/showthread.p...look-away-now)

    Had the Mk2 Speedmaster refinished in the end too, was a tough choice that one but the grain in most lights couldn't be seen and those lovely polished edges never looked as great as they should either. They do now.
    Last edited by Tetlee; 12th May 2022 at 13:10.

  35. #35
    Grand Master
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    for me i don't mind case dings so much, refinishing is fine if it can be done to the original standard (hi paul!) but i'm not keen on refinished dials, if the dial is decayed there is a good chance there has been ingress so it's a no from me. i'll buy vintage with decent dials and factor a service into the costs. not worried either about original crystals, not usually a problem if it's a sapphire but acrylics are better changed if they are badly marked for me. a few pics below of some of my vintage pieces.






    and a couple that need some love

    ktmog6uk
    marchingontogether!



  36. #36
    Grand Master Foxy100's Avatar
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    I'm all for leaving a watch original, with battle scars. If something's been refinished already and not been done precisely, as in an original lapped finish redone by hand, it's a massive no from me. I've had a few watches previously refinished that way and I've had them properly lapped. But I'm also not a massive fan of cases restored that way simply because no matter how carefully you look after them, the first mark you pick out stands out like a sore thumb and makes it look rubbish. I don't have too many watches like that but the ones I have I didn't pay much for. Today I'm wearing the 'Puck', a watch that must have been owned by a miner, or lived in a cement mixer. Someone's certainly tried to pop off the (screw) case back with a chisel. But it's a wonderful watch, never polished (especially not by hand), with lovely age to the dial and hands. Rich Askham did an amazing job restoring it and I suspect never wants to see it ever again. Preservation, not restoration. But... restoration where originality has gone. The Puck as found:





    And as it looks now:



    Here's an example of a previously incorrectly finished (i.e. by hand) case that's been properly lapped by Rocco. No, it's still not exactly as original but significantly better than the imperfections you see where a hand polished surface meets a hand brushed surface:



    Here's some detail of the bezel on one of my old 1960s Autavias:



    Perfect!
    "A man of little significance"

  37. #37
    Grand Master
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    Some designs of case are v. difficult to hand- finish, the Heuer featured above is a good example and these really have to be done with a lapping machine. There are 2 problems; the heavy grained finish is difficult to replicate and will never look quite right, the second problem is the angle where the grained and polished meet. 90 degree sharp angles are fine, I can refinish such a case and the boundary where the finishes meet will be v. sharp, not easy but it can be done. However, if the angle is around 45 degrees itís much harder. All too easy to end up with traces of the grained finish overlapping into the polished and thatís not a good look. I like watches with contrasting polished and grained/ brushed finishes, but with age the contrast is lost as the brushed finish ends up too shiny and the polished bits get scratched, the watch then looks nothing like it originally did but the purists will defend its originality.........go figure!

    Lapping machines and laser welding kits are expensive, few people have this capability and its no surprise that the folks who have them find their services in demand. Despite the Ďfashioní for shabby scruffy unrestored watches there are still plenty of people who like their watches to look nice and sharp.

    One mistake is to restore a watch case excessively when the dial and hands are significantly aged, the contrast between an as- new case finish becomes stark and the watch looks odd. I only advise refinishing a case if the dial and hands are good, the watch has to be considered as a whole. A replacement crystal is usually beneficial ( essential if its cracked) but it can highlight faults with the dial and hands........you canít win sometimes!

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowman View Post
    I see a lot of old watches that I would consider knackered proudly displayed as having 'patina'.

    Bezels faded to illegibility, dials flaking, crystals scratched, hands corroded, etc.

    I wouldn't want a watch in such condition, but clearly, some actually LIKE them like that.

    If I could have a 1970s watch that I liked in mint condition, that would be perfect for me.

    If it's been over-polished to the point where the case back is rendered unreadable or the case shape has been changed, then that's a negative (I do have a couple of watches that fit that category, luckily both were cheap for what they were).

    If a watch can be restored to truly 'as-new' condition, I don't see that as being a bad thing, if someone wants that.

    I don't like wearing watches that look abused, but equally, I'm not overly precious about the odd mark.



    True, but there's a lot of truth in the rest of Walkerwek's post.

    M
    I do understand what's being said about restoration.

    I dont agree with Paul when he implies that people are anti restoration because it costs.
    It also costs to get hold of unmolested original examples, more so than relumed polished and restored so pretending that people dont restore because they're cheap just comes over as a bit biley.

    The below Rolex are all what many would consider "knackered", there's bezel fading, dial corrosion, and the dial on the once blue Datejust has changed colour completely to purple with corrosion around the markers. Would I restore them? God no, they're beautiful imo.

    Personally, I find the flaws far more interesting.





    post image facebook

    When discussing poor restoration, I tend to think of stuff like this below. Ruined for the sake of a clean dial.








    Ultimately its a matter of personal choice and personal taste. Some restoration can be brilliant, some can look like a dogs dinner.

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