Polishing Chrome-Plated Watches...(some HOPE!).

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artphotodude
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Polishing Chrome-Plated Watches...(some HOPE!).

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So this is a rather perennial topic of frustration. A lot of vintage watches have Chrome (or sometimes Nickel) plating over brass, and when that plate gets scratched or hazy, there are NOT a lot of great options. I collect old Soviet watches and while the gold-plated ones often do well (gold being soft enough to buff, without removing material, and where missing brass and gold being close in color), the chrome ones can often look pretty rough. While most of my collection is pretty nice, and clean looking, one of my favorites (a Raketa 24-hour Submarine service-watch), has seen some action. Now this is not a bother. There are lot of good reasons to buy watches with history (and patina), and while a few scratches are part of the charm/story, haze and light-swirling is a kinda' lame thing that doesn't add anything attractive (or historical I.M.O.).

While there is no "Polywatch" for this, there is something close, I'm happy to report. Recently picked up a bar of Jeweler's rouge made for hard, white metals (see link https://www.ebay.com/itm/Jewelers-Green ... 3949589403 ). I only wish I'd taken before/after pics! This stuff is legendary! :D

I didn't want to lose anymore of the plating than necessary, and so didn't use any buffer or machine, but instead put a bit on a soft felt rag, from a CD/DVD-buffing kit. I masked off an anodized part of the bezel with masking tape and then began working each of the effected areas lightly and with even, medium pressure. It only took a couple of minutes to see a serious improvement. When the rag started to look dark (from chrome removed), I did a second application and then a third, working it a few minutes each time. JUST EXACTLY what I'd hoped for! Still character there, but also a real shine that had been missing before. It takes patience, but will prove very rewarding.
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Re: Polishing Chrome-Plated Watches...(some HOPE!).

Post by Kip »

While I am happy you had success I would not have chosen the green rouge.

Polishing is a minefield and researching will drive you in circles. It is an acquired skill that is best done using one makers products as the inconsistences of grit size between and even within a brand can be great.

For your purpose I would have chosen a white rouge or possibly Simichrome polish and still used a light touch as you did.

You were correct to not use a buffing wheel as this would quickly remove the plating. Even a skilled polishers will generally refuse to work on plated materials.

I am glad it worked out for you, but be extremely careful. Most plating on cases are only about 5-10 microns.
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artphotodude
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Re: Polishing Chrome-Plated Watches...(some HOPE!).

Post by artphotodude »

Kip wrote: Sun Mar 28, 2021 12:11 pm While I am happy you had success I would not have chosen the green rouge.

Polishing is a minefield and researching will drive you in circles. It is an acquired skill that is best done using one makers products as the inconsistences of grit size between and even within a brand can be great.

For your purpose I would have chosen a white rouge or possibly Simichrome polish and still used a light touch as you did.

You were correct to not use a buffing wheel as this would quickly remove the plating. Even a skilled polishers will generally refuse to work on plated materials.

I am glad it worked out for you, but be extremely careful. Most plating on cases are only about 5-10 microns.
Agreed. My watch maker in Saint Petersburg didn't think it was even possible. The only reason I've tried it is because I have a big DVD collection and years of experience with hand polishing those, so have a bit of a 'feel' for this. Also, watched a few Youtube Videos showing it being done, and honestly it really wasn't hard/difficult to do. If I had brass-showing through, is hard to say how much it might have helped, but with a loop I could clearly see how deep the scratches where, and none of them came close to reaching the brass, so gave me some confidence to proceed. Also, touched up my 3133 Chronograph (round 'bald' case-style), that was in really nice shape accept for haze in a few spots. Worked just as well in just a couple of minutes.

I see what you mean about possibly using the white, but honestly, this was really controllable. I'd advise anyone interested to try it first on an expendable watch (like maybe a Timex or old Komindirskie) and see for yourself. This isn't like polishing shoes. It needs to be done SPARINGLY, but like a 'chemical peal' taking 10 years off is just exactly what most people need and want.

The key with vintage items is to pick your battles. Two of these watches have just been overhauled and RUN LIKE CHAMPIONS (my Raketa 24 Hr and my Poljot Signal Alarm), and both ALREADY have a couple of tiny little specs of dust/debris on the Dial/Inside of the Crystal. THIS IS NOT A BATTLE I WANT TO FIGHT! Since I need my loop to see them, they ARE NOT THERE!!! :lol:
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