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Watch Movement Mods: How To Make It Look Even Better...or Worse?

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I am new to watchmaking, ok, but I am not new to working with metals as copper, brass, alluminium, stainless steel, and even gold (rarely though...).


So when it comes to metal, there's always the question that pops in my mind: how can I make it look better?


The answer is almost always to polish it to a mirror finish, of course! Well, at least for me...


All of you come across with beautiful time pieces that show the signs of time, or worst case scenario, they present signs of incompetent metal workers in their past. So usually you take out your lathe, you polish, you buff, you fix.


But what if a moovement part, or the whoe movement, was born to be... well.. dull? What if nobody really cared of how it looked, until now? I am that kind of guy: I want things to look better, even if they will be hidden away for the rest of my life (or its life, whichever ends first...).


To make the story short, I was fiddling with this Landeron 248 spare movement I bought months ago to, obviously, use as spare donor. The movement would work just fine, if it had all the pieces. But that's another story. I was fiddling with it, as as said, since I took from it a spring to complete my other Landeron 248 based HEMA chronograph, which I showed you in another thread. Well there it was, in pieces, inside a small plastic box. I was about to put it away in the spares drawer, when a ray of light literally made it shine back at me. That woke up the "modder" in me... So armed of my dremel, some buffing pads, and paste, I did a very quick pass on top of the chrono bridge, just to see how it looked... well, you be the judge:




The polish is really rough, not still to a mirrir finish, but for 5 minute's work, I am really pleased with the result! I knew it was brass underneath the chrome plating, so I knew I could polish it... Now the question is: is it "aesthetically" worth it?


This is a spare movement, with missing parts, so I really don't care what happens to the bridges (the small mechanical parts as springs and wheels I will leave aone, of course). I only wonder if this new "shiny goldish" look is worth the effort. I really think yes.


Btw, I would love to achieve a result as the Lange&Sohne movements.... but I am realistic, that will never happen...


What is your opinion?

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Some other pics from different angles, to appreciate the real color of the brass:




I love the contrast between the red jewels and the "goldish" bridge...It really makes the jewels pop out!




Another "shiny" pic:




Last one, I promise... a little blurry, too:



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Hi George, please don't take this the wrong way, but for this type of finishing a Dremel is not really the way to go.

Can I suggest that you purchase some sheets of wet or dry carborundum paper that is used by car painters. The grades to get are 600, 800 and 1200 grit. You should also purchase a small square of plate glass 150mm x 150mm about 6 to 8mm thick. You will also need a good quality metal polish and I recommend Solvol Autosol and a silver polishing cloth which you can buy through eBay if required.

What you are after is a really flat finish on the the bridge. To get this take a piece of 600 grit wet and place it on the piece of plate glass and now rub the bridge on the paper in a straight back and forward motion with firm downward pressure. Keep doing this until any scores and scratches are removed and you are left with straight line graining. This finish itself can look very pleasing. Continue this process with the 800 and 1200 grit to the point where the brass is starting to take on a dull shine with this process. Before going onto polishing, take a well worn piece of 1200 paper and rub it with another piece of 1200 paper to reduce the sharpness. Now rub the bridge back and forth on that and it will start to shine.

The final black polish is achieved by taking a piece of A4 White printing paper and place that on top of the plate glass, and smear some metal polish on it. Now continue to rub the bridge back and forth until you obtain the shine that you want. Finish off by placing the silver polishing cloth on the glass and rub the bridge on it to get the final lustre.

This takes a bit of time but the results are well worth the effort!

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Geo, please don't worry to give me advices, they are always very welcome!

One thing was probably not clear, though:I used the dremel to achieve a fast and cheap result, this is only a test. I very well know the polishing technique you described, having used it myself for years to polish to a mirror finish CPUs and heatsink bases, both of air and liquid coolers for computers. I do have the grit paper you mention, what I lack is, at this particular stage, the time and a smaller bit for the dremel, so to be able to polish the smaller edges. I know proper watchmakers use smaller dremels for the edges of the part, to achieve that beveled look, but I am still so far away from mastering the basic techniques of watchmaking that the surface embellishment will come along far away in the future, I fear...

Edited by GeorgeClarkson
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That's good to know George, it's not easy to tell what depth of knowledge folk have, I was only trying to give some friendly advice. Hopefully it will help some others. The main thing is that you are enjoying what you are doing! :)

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Sure I totally got your point, and I am with you in sharing the knowledge, so please continue giving advices!

As for the spare movement object of the polishing test as of he pictures above, I will continue experimenting, to see what level of finishing I am able to achieve. I polished already a couple of Seiko cases, a 5606 and a 7009 to almost a mirror finish, but I didn't want to get that far to still preserve some history of those watches... But that is for the usually visible part of a wristwatch. The movement is usually hidden from view... So that's another story!

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I personally think your shinny parts look much better, and certainly I think it would give you more pleasure to own, knowing you had done work inside. Most people reading this forum will get a fast heart beat when they first take off the cover of a watch to reveal what they find inside, so it is important it looks the best it can. I still remember Mark's video on the IWC FA Jones, in fact, I think I will watch it again! It was a really nice movement 

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I think if the part has already lost its plating it comes down to personal preference, being brass it will patina fast but again the look is something personal taste likes or dislikes. Just remember to keep finger prints away from it ! :D

Lapping cpus to get extra few celcius off the temps, wow bring back memories :)


Geos method is almost like for like with mine except i use a flat polished zinc or tin sheet in place of glass sometimes, really adds depth to steel black polish.

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