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cduke

to refinish a dial or not to refinish a dial?

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Hello all,

I wanted to get some opinions about when a dial should be refinished.  As refinishing a dial often devalues a vintage watch of value/collectability, I assume it is a judgement call based on the degree of paint loss and the value of the watch to a collector.  I have been told that collectors often would rather have a watch with a damaged original face than one that has been refinished.

Any experience with vintage dials or opinions are appreciated.

Thank you

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me personally i dont refinish vintage dials, esp those that served as military watches or purpose watches, like pre-moon speedmaster for example, some spend $2000+ to get theirs refinished from omega and i think thats a sin. Same as rolex, how many 1675 Gmts have sold for 5 figures with faded bezels no one would dare replace them even if it was NOS. I collect vintage war watches, ww1, ww2, vietnam. when i buy i want them too look like they survived a war. I have a friend who collects them as well and he refinished them with all original parts and sells them for $700 plus, they look like they are brand new. Some people like that i dont, it takes away from the watches history and it loses its character and uniqueness. I have ww1 waltham that belonged to a Captain who was a doctor in the 331st machine gune battalion. His name, rank, and unit is engraved on the back, its beat up and doesnt run, i dont care i left it the way it is, and i still paid $480 for it at an auction.

however cleaning a dial i feel is a nice middle ground, clean it up wipe the dirt off, cool. but then again it is preference, ask yourself are you a collector or an admirer. If you are a collector leave it as is, if you are an admirer refinish it.

Edited by saswatch88

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I have half a dozen vintage military watches. All were my late father's and most were issued to him during WW2. All are unrestored original condition as issued.

One of these is a Cyma WWW which he wore almost everyday for 45 years and while working as a carpenter/builder. As you can imagine the front of the case is well scratched. I would not dream of having this cosmetically restored because I know its history.

In its present condition, not even the most knowledgeable collector could question its originality but the minute you alter that somebody will say '' that is restored, not original''.

How that affects its value I don't know, don't care, its not for sale. My thoughts are if you want something that looks new then buy a replica, there are plenty to choose from.

One of my pet dislikes though is to see deep gouges on screw down case backs where they have been hacked with sharp objects rather than the proper tool. Once they are there though, they are there to stay.

24 P9 watch.jpg

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8 hours ago, saswatch88 said:

me personally i dont refinish vintage dials, esp those that served as military watches or purpose watches, like pre-moon speedmaster for example, some spend $2000+ to get theirs refinished from omega and i think thats a sin. Same as rolex, how many 1675 Gmts have sold for 5 figures with faded bezels no one would dare replace them even if it was NOS. I collect vintage war watches, ww1, ww2, vietnam. when i buy i want them too look like they survived a war. I have a friend who collects them as well and he refinished them with all original parts and sells them for $700 plus, they look like they are brand new. Some people like that i dont, it takes away from the watches history and it loses its character and uniqueness. I have ww1 waltham that belonged to a Captain who was a doctor in the 331st machine gune battalion. His name, rank, and unit is engraved on the back, its beat up and doesnt run, i dont care i left it the way it is, and i still paid $480 for it at an auction.

however cleaning a dial i feel is a nice middle ground, clean it up wipe the dirt off, cool. but then again it is preference, ask yourself are you a collector or an admirer. If you are a collector leave it as is, if you are an admirer refinish it.

Thanks for your reply. I know this is thought to be a subjective issue but in every issue there is some level of objectivity. I appreciate your opinion.

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3 hours ago, cduke said:

Thanks for your reply. I know this is thought to be a subjective issue but in every issue there is some level of objectivity. I appreciate your opinion.

boosting value can also be subjective because it all depends on who is buying. a completely refinished watch may bring in big money because there is someone out there who will pay the big bucks to get it. But most collectors like original. Original meaning the same parts on the watch from the day it was manufactured. I have seen some original watches that were not restored but remained in excellent condition, in some cases vintage watches being sold NOS, those watches bring in the big bucks. i guess all original in the best possible condition is what collectors look for.

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On the other hand what might be called normal watches at all sorts of price ranges are bought and sold based on condition. An auction house for instance might describe marks as being visible to the eye or only visible with a 4x loupe or not even visible then. The degree of the marks or what ever will set it's price when it's sold. So in many cases a correctly restored watch will fetch more than one that isn't. Generally a watch will need to be functional - keeping it like that is likely to need what is really restoration rather than conservation as parts may need replacing.

Conservation vs restoration crops up with antiques as well. Some items can be past the stage where conservation is an option so have to be restored. Originality of materials and techniques matter then. Same applies to paintings. Many need cleaning at some point. A high value one may be done in a way that retains the original brush strokes. A lower value one may not but in that case they might leave the signature area exactly as it was. A painting may be damaged - fixed with a brush and paint etc if it's worth doing.

I don't see watches as being any different really. In the case of WW watches condition relates to them being genuine but even that can be faked. A fake can also be the same as an original especially on something like a watch.

John

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