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Dial (face) cleaning?


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My dad's 30-ish year old Seiko has white crud at the 12:00 marker.  I think it is adhesive from an old repair (possibly a crystal repair with the dial still in the case?).  Any thoughts?  Would it be difficult to remove?  I'd like to clean it off, but as a newbie I also want to leave well enough alone.  I have cleaned the case and band ultra-sonically and have installed a new crystal, crown and cover gasket along with a new battery.

 

I'm tempted to put it back together as is and give it back to him for Christmas as he never mentioned the crud to me.

Thanks for your insight!

 

post-38-0-48318400-1386905012.jpg

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I would suggest extreme caution and would leave it alone as the lacquer could peel away making it a whole lot worse. It may be possible that you could find a dial for the watch - I have seen them come up on eBay from time to time. 

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I appreciate your input.  I think I will play it safe and leave it alone.  A quick internet search revealed a replacement dial is not an option.  I will still check with my local supplier but I suspect it's no longer available.  The dial doesn't look as bad as it does in the picture anyhow (given the close-up, hi res pic).

Thanks very much!

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  • 1 year later...

This is my first post to this forum. I have very rudimentary watch repair skills and only a modicum of knowledge about watch repair, so please have some forbearance. I have always heard that watch dials cannot be cleaned, but this watch has tempted me to try. I have attached a picture of the gold filled Elgin that I want to clean. I know that the picture is bad, but perhaps you can the black smudge around the numeral 1. Additionally, the gold numerals are dull and have a smug end appearance.

Here are my questions. Is it indeed always hopeless to try to clean a watch dial? Is there a way that I can brighten up the gold numerals?

Thanks in advance.

post-844-0-92951600-1428372190_thumb.jpg

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Hello Bill!

I see that you're another night owl. Coincidentally, as I write, there's an owl hooting away in the gardens behind my flat!

As another watch repair tyro I have thought about refurbing watch dials in my little collection. Someone else on here wrote about using, I believe, baby oil and a Q-tip. A search of the forums might find that post. If the grubbiness on your watch dial is simply an accumulation of grime then the baby oil method should work, perhaps with the aid of a fine artist's paintbrush to get into the angles. This is not anything that I have attempted myself (so far) so I'd recommend practising on an unwanted or scrap watch but, if you only use a bare minimum of oil and pressure, it sounds as though it'd work. The gold numerals would possibly benefit from the same technique.

If the problem is down to some corrosion of the dial then I think a complete refinish might be called for. Not for the fainthearted or unsteady of hand!

Whatever you do, wait until you've had the benefit of the advice of other more experienced forum members. They're a good bunch here and you'll get good advice.

Anyhow, welcome aboard!

John

Edited by clockwatcher
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It really does depend on the nature and severity of the dirt/corrosion.

My first tip is to always test any method you want to use on the edge of the dial where it's hidden behind the bezel/case when cased up, before committing to it, I make a habit of this.

This is because you never know what to expect with dials, most dials are in some way delicate, they're made of different materials and all are usually engineered in the sense that they weren't expected to be touching anything. Luckily this is usually more of a problem on modern watches that have cases that are well hermetically sealed, vintage watch dials are usually somewhat more robust as the makers knew to expect some ingress of dust or even moisture over time.

Sometimes it really isn't possible to clean a dial, save for the attention of a watchmaker who specializes in dial work and restoration.

I'd avoid any solvents, like I said, you never know what a dial is made of, and certain parts of the dial may chemically react to any number of solvents that you might otherwise assume 'gentle' and 'safe'.

Personally I almost never use anything other than soft, clean chamois cloth, a dial brush(a soft unused paint or makeup brush will serve), air blower and rodico (watchmakers cleaning clay, looks like blutac, but don't use blutac) 

Believe it or not I have scratched a dial with a cotton bud, don't take dials lightly. 

Edited by Ishima
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Good morning guys.

Dials can be freshened up with very gentle cleaning. Before I say what I do, I will tell you NEVER put a dial into a rotary watch cleaning machine, and in particular a ultrasonic cleaning machine as you will almost certainly incur damage. I know, I've done it.

Remember not all dials are the same, you have solid precious metal, ceramic and paint/transfer finishes, there probably are others but this will do just now. Please remember that this is how I have successfully cleaned these types in the past, I do this as a hobby and some of the professionals amongst us may disagree, although I hope not.

For old pocket watches with solid gold or silver dials, I very gently remove the tarnish and very gently polish with a silver or gold cleaning cloth. These cloths are impregnated with the correct very fine polishing media, and give a beautiful lustre finish. Be very careful as the numerals will be paint filled and may have deteriorated with age.

For porcelain enamel dials, I use a cotton bud with a little bleach on it. This will remove any oil staining and general age related muck easily, leaving the dial looking like new. Once you have it nice and clean, give it a good rinse in water to remove any bleach residue. Most dials of this type have the numbers fired into the enamel and are not delicate, but I still suggest you take care.

Most of my work involves restoring vintage wristwatches, and these dials are particularly vulnerable to damage when cleaning. If there is any flaking evident, leave the dial alone as cleaning will make it worse. To clean a dial, I use a cotton bud dipped in dilute ammoniated watch cleaner and gently swab the surface. Do not press hard and don't take any longer than need be to enhance the appearance. This solution will also brighten any metal markers on the dial which is an added bonus. Once done give the dial a good rinse in clean water to remove all traces of cleaner. Now blow off excess water with a puffer and leave to dry. (A small drop of washing up liquid can also be use if you do not have the ammoniated cleaner).

Once dry, and only if the dial is not meant to have a matt finish, give the dial a delicate polish by gently stroking it with a "gold polishing cloth" as previously mentioned for precious metal dials. This results in a lovely lustre.

NB. I am not recommending you do any of the above on the off chance you cause damage your dials, but it does work for me.

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Great advise Geo and Ishima. The baby oil part I added somewhere in the forum. I works on some dials. In any case, and as said here, a lot of care should be taken or the dial can be permanently ruined.

 

Cheers,

 

Bob

 

PS. Welcome to the forum Bill. Don't worry about your watchmaking level of knowledge. We are all learning here from each other. Please don't let that deter you from posting.

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There is some fantastic information you guys have shared here, while I have resigned myself for the time being to using only the lightest non invasive interpretation of cleaning, which is basically getting any loose debris or moisture removed, It's interesting to note there are some simple methods to restore certain dials under certain circumstances (you definitely have to use the loaf you keep atop your shoulders!) 

Dial work is one of my favorite types of work (as mentioned I do very light cleaning, but also all the reattaching of batons, markers, numerals and calender windows.)

I'll have to look through my scrapers and experiment. (I'd never monkey about on a customers/ or otherwise important watch)

Edited by Ishima
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Thank everyone who responded to my question about cleaning a watch dial. better What a treasure trove of useful information! I was doubly surprised to get so much good information, especially since the picture I attached was so miserable that it looked as if an incompetent had attached it.

The kind and helpful reception I got here was especially welcomed when it was contrasted to my reception to another watch repair forum that I posted one, and only one, question to. On that forum I was flamed for posting a "stupid" question and for not researched the question in advance in books that I had never heard of. I signed off that forum quickly, never to return.

I will search around for threads about how to make photos, but for now I have tried again to make a more decent picture of the watch dial in question.post-844-0-84995900-1428431414_thumb.jpg

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Folk on this forum enjoy helping others. There is such a huge range here from the beginner to the consummate professionals. No one is beyond learning, so do not be embarrassed or frightened to ask, you will get an answer. :)

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welcome bill all the above advice is good but i thought i would add my three pennies worth, i may be wrong but it looks like from your pic that the top right has started to flake in which case it will not clean, i always use tooth paste and a soft artist brush and wash under running water and rinse in distilled water. i never use anything apart from the brush to contact the dial especially if there is anything printed as even a cotton bud has rubbed out markings for me, as mentioned earlier you need to just do enough its slow but you should start seeing the markings get a little fainter then stop dont be tempted with just one more go. your numerals look proud of the dial easy peasy, 1200 wet and dry and  some magnification and gentle rub

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Welcome Bill3 , I'm a new guy on this forum too . I also belong to other forums and have seen rude remarks made to honest simple questions .  But lets not dwell on that . 

  I personally have ruined more dials than I have improved so heed any cautions you see here ...you can't undue  going to far on trying to clean the dials  .

I've learned quite a bit on this post already .  Good luck with your watches .

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Hello all.

 

I'm Mark L.  from the USA. I'm new to this forum, and  I'm not a watch expert just a hobbiest.   I admit I have ruined a few watches trying my hand at things.  In cleaning a watch dial, I have had  a little success using a small jar of Jelewlry cleaner made for gold and silver on both an old pocket watch enamled dial, and recently with a Seiko automatic watch dial. Mostly I just use a cotton swab with oridinary hand soap and warm water.  My bad experience was when I went a step farther in my cleaning on an old Timex wristwatch when I used a wood toothpick to try and pick off or rub off the green tarnish coloration on the silvered dial.  You guessed it, it flaked off the clear protective lacquer and ruined the dial.  Consequently I have had to recreat it in Autocad and then appy it back to the dial as a homemade decal.  Sorry I don't have camera access at the moment or I would post for all to see.

 

Anyway I just wanted to say I have enjoyed the friendship and support that I have observed so far on this site.  I have enjoyed Mark's videos immensely and appreciate all he does for the Horology community!

 

Mark

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Thanks Geo and Clockwatcher for the warm welcome! I have been in the hobby for about a year and a half.  It all started when I decided to take an inherited Illinois Pocket watch to a gold buying show.  I was shocked at how little they would give for such a beautiful work of art.  I was also ashamed of the nasty thought I had to salvage it.  I have always been mechanically inclined as my Father was an inventor and I had always tinkered with old cars and model R/C airplanes, so when they told me their offer, I took it home and decided I would find out how much it would cost to get it running again.  When the professional watch repairman spit the estimate out to repair it, his estimate far exceeded the value of the watch. Then the watch professional suggested maybe I could acquire used parts online to save some costs. Shazzam, it hit me!!!  Maybe I could get it running myself!  

 

Although I wouldn't recommend tackling your first project with an heirloom I managed to get it running with borrowed parts from another watch I acquired from E-bay.  I'm still in the process of acquiring the right parts to restore it properly.  But in the process I have acquired over 50 old used wristwatches from second hand stores and then resell them as good running watches.

 

I have thouroughly enjoyed this journey.  Checking out books from the library, watching every kind of video available to satisfy this insatiable appetite, and now finding such a great site!

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Aloha Mark L. , I am also interested how you did the autocad dial fix . I have read on other forums of using printable decal paper and somehow transferring a dial pic to it to apply to a bare dial face . 

  Oh yes , Welcome to the forum . I am a recent newbie to this forum and it is nice to get new , positive input from the members I am starting to get to know  here .

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Thanks Bob and Ricardo for the warm welcome! :thumbsu:

 

Well, I'm still in the process of trying to make it look more professional.  I have experimented using a pretty ametuer method of printing my cad recreation on paper, then using a clear packing tape, I tape over the print, burnish it with my fingernail, then rinse in warm water until all the paper is gone.  I'm left with a clear decal that I can then put over a smoothed piece of aluminum foil.  My original dial was silvered originally.  For as small as the watch face is, you have to really look to see that it isn't a real printing.  I'm sorry guys,  I currently don't have a digital camera to send you an example.  The camera I had been using from my workplace is no longer availalbe for me to use. 

 

But give a try.  The most time you invest is recreating it in Autocad.  If you don't have autocad you can do something similiar with a typical word processor program.  The only trick is getting the type set smaller.  I had to get it down to 2-3mm.  If I remember right, most word processors only go to 4mm.  It's pretty low tech.  Not sure it's really up to snuff for really nice watches, but for a cheap Timex I think it turned out okay.

 

In the interim, I was also trying my hand in engraving.  Boy do those guys (Engravers) have a talent!!!  I was going to attempt to try and ink print from my own plate.  :pulling-hair-out:

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hi guys, here are my two dabbles with the decal dial fix,the first dial i stripped and sprayed the finish is a lot better than seen in the picture then cleaned the raised numerals with a small piece of 1200 wet and dry looking thro a high mag and taking time not to catch dial again the finish is far better in real life and then made the decal if anyone is interested in the technique i used please respond to this post as it is a bit long winded and dont want to bore anyone not interestedpost-618-0-32960900-1429204578_thumb.jpgpost-618-0-36788000-1429204821_thumb.jpg

the second one was a bit similar i stripped the dial and polished it and painted in numerals applied same decal as i had printed off a dozen or so but saved the file for future use, as can be seen i had to cut around decal and under mag looks bad i will have to strip this dial and go again, i have bought a set of punches and will have a go this way unless some one has another idea, another learning curve, never stops in this gamepost-618-0-40397400-1429206426_thumb.jpgpost-618-0-64868100-1429206431_thumb.jpg

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I received a $6 Seiko 6602-8070 today from a seller in India . I originally bought the watch because I needed the crown and stem to finish off another 6602 project I had been working on . I also had ordered a 4 watch lot of donor 6602's that were delivered earlier so I got the stem and crown from one of them to finish my project .

  The $6 watch has a nice clean movement , a nice style case , and a very good crystal....but the dial is very much less then desirable looking , and is glued on because of broken dial feet .

  I decided to trade it out with one of the donor watch dials but they were all pretty much dirty , grimy , and moldy....so I chose one and decided I would try the baby oil cleaning technique mentioned in the earlier post ...no stress on messing it up because it was a donor and I still had 3 other dials I could use .

  It cleaned up really well with no damage and I was able to remove the oil and dirt with diluted dish washing soap and a ladies cosmetic brush .

Pardon the bad pics ...it actually looks better .

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