FAQ Watch Plating
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that we believe will help provide a basic understanding regarding the plating and refinishing of vintage watches and clocks.
If you are interested in a more detailed explanation on vintage watch plating, please refer to Seven Factors of Highly Effective Watch Replating technical paper.
What is the difference between a “gold plated” watch and “gold filled” watch?
A gold filled watch has a thin layer of karat gold “fused” to the outer layer of the brass watch case. Gold filled processes are usually reserved for “die stamped” watch cases with simple design shapes. They are normally marked with a designation of “G.F.” In contrast a gold plated watch has a layer of gold “electrolytically” deposited onto the watch casing. Goldplated watches usually have complex watch case designs which need a layer of gold deposited in tight recessed areas and contours. Gold filled processes are unsuitable for watch cases with complex design contours. For more information on goldfilled processes, refer to “an overview of goldfilled processes and their legal classifications” located in the articles section.
Why is watch replating so difficult?
The technical requirements for replating vintage watches with the proper layer of gold is probably one of the most difficult types of decorative electroplating being done today. Replating a vintage watch back to the original manufacturer’s specifications requires that the thickness of the gold plated layer (5-10 microns) be much heavier than normal goldplated jewelry (1-2.5 microns).
This seemingly simple requirement involves the usage of relatively complex plating equipment, plating chemicals and processes. In addition to this, all surface scratches and blemishes must be “filled” or removed from the watch case. Finally the gold layer deposited on to the watch must have the proper surface hardness (measured in knoop), wear characteristics and correct gold color.
What is the typical thickness of gold on a high quality plated watch?
The thickness range should be between 7- 10 microns. In some Swiss watch products a high karat gold plated layer of 10-30 microns are sometimes utilized.
Typically, how long should the gold finish last on a replated watch?
When properly replated, the gold finish on new electroplated watch should last as long as the original manufacturers specifications. For most watches that would be at least 5 years or more. For watches with exceptional quality, a gold plated finish can last 10 years and longer. We have seen gold plated watches well over 50 years old that still look great!
Will plating my watch with a new layer of gold conceal the existing scratches and dents?
No, as a rule the electroplating process does not hide surface imperfections. In fact, due to the diffusive reflection of incidental light rays, pre-existing cosmetic imperfections are even more noticeable on a brightly plated surface! For best results the watch must be polished to the desired level of brightness prior to gold plating.
How scratch resistant will a newly plated watch be?
Gold plated finishes for watches can be made very hard and highly resistant to surface abrasion and “denting”. In fact, a layer of gold deposited using the correct electroplating process is actually much tougher and more wear resistant than 12kt or 14kt gold watch cases! Surface hardness can be modified easily by changing the plating formula of the gold or by changing the waveform of the electrical current during the plating process.
Will the new plating of gold on my vintage watch match the original color?
We can match any color or tint of gold found on vintage watches. Restoring the watch case finish back to it’s original factory specifications is what we do best. In addition, unusual gold plated colors such as rose gold, green gold, and even an exotic purple gold finish is available.
What does the term “Hamilton Gold” mean?
This term seems to have a lot of different definitions depending on who you talk to. You probably could write a whole book on this topic. However, in general the term refers to the colors of gold used by the Hamilton Watch Co. on their popular watches from the 40’s 50’s’ and 60’s. Different from the “brassy” yellow American standard gold colors used on jewelry of the day, a typical Hamilton watch utilized a “pale” yellow gold finish that had an understated but distinctive warm character.
Can my jewelry store plate my watch?
Yes and No! With rare exception most jewelry stores and watch repair shops do not have the special equipment or correct plating processes that are required to plate your watch properly. They are able to “flash” plate your watch with about .5 -1.0 microns of gold, but this thickness is inadequate for good long term wear. In addition, it is doubtful that the jewelry store could match the correct gold color of your watch case.
Can metal watch bands be plated to match the watch case?
Yes, most base metal or damaged gold filled watch bands can be plated to match the watch case. Usually we will plate the watch case and the metal band at the same time to ensure a perfect color match.
I have a stainless steel watch that I would like to have plated with gold. Is that possible?
Yes, we can replate any stainless steel watch with a gold plated finish. As an alternative, we can also replate your watch with a bright “chrome-like” metal called “Rhodium”. Similar in color to stainless, rhodium is a precious metal finish that virtually never tarnishes and is extremely durable. For an even more exotic look we can even replate your watch in platinum!
How expensive is it to have a watch plated?
It varies based on the style of watch and what type of gold finish that you need. Generally, the cost can range from as little as $55 to as much as $175 or more for a cosmetically perfect “factory spec” restoration. In many cases, the cost of the replating process is more than offset by the increased market value of the vintage watch.
How long does it take to have a watch plated?
For most watches it does not take very long. However, you should allow about 4-6 weeks from the time we receive it for completion.
At Metal Arts Specialties, we offer high quality gold, platinum and rhodium electroplated finishes for vintage watches and other fine timepieces. All decorative finishes are color matched perfectly to original manufacturers specifications.
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Metal Arts Specialties
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