Five things you don’t know about plating the Apple Watch
Getting an Apple Watch gold-plated is an inexpensive way to have the look of the pricey Apple Edition watches—but there are several factors that, if not considered, can end up costing you more.
The Apple Watch is now finally yours. You’ve waited a long time—you’ve earned it. But you want more. You decide to go further than most people—you’re bold, in control, and you want your Apple watch to be gold.
5 prime questions you should consider
Since there is so much misinformation on the Apple blogs with regard to gold plated Apple watches; we thought we would provide a customer primer to assist you. So, before sending your beloved Apple Watch to a company for gold plating, it’s imperative to understand these five important things.
1. How long is the warranty for the gold-plated Apple Watch?
Never mind the hype and social media buzz, the warranty is reflective of the electroplater’s skill and willingness to stand by their work. If you’re paying hundreds of dollars for Apple Watch gold plating that’s only guaranteed for a brief 30 days, this should viewed with suspicion and from a plating standard perspective, is totally unacceptable.
Even more insulting is that some electroplaters of Apple watches are offering to re-plate your watch after their short warranty ends for an additional couple hundred dollars. High quality Apple Watch plating does not require frequent “re-plates” due to gold wearing off and/or flaking. Keep in mind that wearing the watch while working out, or getting the watch damp around a hot tub will not cause the gold plating to come off.
A properly gold-plated Apple watch should last the technical life of the watch itself which is 3-5 years, sometimes even longer. To expect anything less is a poor value and is unacceptable. Don’t believe the excuses from the electroplater—that’s just a red herring for poor plating skills.
2. How many years has this company been plating watches?
This is another factor you should pay attention to. Since the Apple Watch gold rush started April 24th, just about any enterprise in the U.S with a gold plating tank has jumped onboard to gold plate your new watch.
Car part chrome platers, craft hobbyists, and baby shoe bronzers to name a few have all set up web sites to entice you to gold plate your watch. Price wars, false claims of gold thickness, cobalt-hardened gold hype, pictures poached from Apple and media articles passed off as examples of their plating work plague the internet space.
Anyone with enough money can dominate search with Google ads and a few nice social media ads they built on Canva. Separating the real gold plating professionals from the rest can be difficult for the new Apple watch owner. The consumer articles that have been written and covered on the popular Apple sites are not helpful or very accurate. Frankly, many of the pundit’s opinions have been tainted by ignorance or perhaps by the free gold plating they received for their Apple watch in exchange for media exposure.
Consider this, a really qualified electroplater should have several years of experience in gold plating stainless steel watches. Take your time and use good due diligence to seek out the most qualified gold plating services that have the longevity and proven track record. Make contact and ask questions—don’t just rely on blogs and trade articles.
As mentioned there are thousands of skilled electroplating shops in the US but their operations are geared for plating objects on a mass production scale or they are focused on electroplating applications for other segments of industry. Furthermore, a plating operation can be highly skilled at plating car parts, bronze shoes, or musical parts, but that does not mean that they have the necessary technical expertise or focus to successfully gold plate individual Apple watches. Your Apple Watch is a precision instrument; it is not a baby shoe. Treat it as such.
3. What is the plating process?
This is a tough one for the average consumer so here is a brief overview. From a durability and wear standpoint, high quality gold-plated Apple Watches rely on a heavier layer of gold than electroplated jewelry. This requires exceptional knowledge of electrochemical principles, specialized plating equipment, and rigid compliance to proper technical processes, combined with meticulous quality control during each step of the plating process (see our article in Wired magazine).
There are different methods for gold plating an Apple Watch. However, the least reliable plating method is “Pen Plating”. The gold is electrically “painted” on the watchcase with a plating wand. This plating process produces uneven thicknesses throughout the surfaces of the Apple watch and band. (especially the Milanese edition watch band) In addition, the chemistry used in pen plating process produces a yellowish colored gold and will not correctly match the Apple Gold Edition. If you’re making the effort of having your Apple stainless steel watch plated, it should at least match the real Apple edition.
A qualified electroplater knows this. Most of the gold plated watches being done in the U.S use this inferior method. Aside from a poor surface appearance and durability issues, the gold plating appears almost counterfeit to the casual observer. Side by side with a real Apple edition watch they just look plain cheap.
4. Will I get a rash or allergic reaction from nickel in the plating?
Stainless steel watches hate being electroplated due to the high chrome content in the steel alloy. Most plating companies plating the Apple Watch use a nickel activator that deposits a nickel-plated layer over the stainless steel to improve gold adhesion. It is quite common for people to have skin allergies to nickel.
Allergy issues aside, it is important to choose a plating shop that does not use nickel on your Apple Watch. You do not want to wear a watch that will expose you to a nickel coating—especially if you are wearing it for long periods of time. Once the gold plating wears off or peels, your skin will be exposed to nickel. Watches with thin gold plating and with only 30-day warranties will be a problem. We have been inundated with requests to re-plate Apple watches that have been ruined by unqualified gold platers.
5. What thickness can I expect on my Apple Watch?
Unfortunately, many companies gold plating the Apple Watch are incorrectly overstating the thickness of the gold that they are plating onto the surface. That is an attempt to convince you that your gold plated watch will last a long time. That is misleading, unless it is for an aerospace application there is no decorative electroplater in the U.S that is plating gold beyond 8-10 microns (a human hair is 100 microns).
Some Apple Watch plating services claim 35 microns all the way up to 80 microns. These fraudulent claims made will eventually be challenged by the watch trade organizations and the operators will be subject to fines and penalties.
Our company has measured and benchmarked all of them. In the examples we have evaluated using x-ray fluorescent methods, none are using more than 1.1-2.2 microns of gold plating. This is costume jewelry thickness and way too thin for a luxury watch. In comparison, a watch plated in 35 microns of gold would last 30 years not 30 days! The only thick layer we measured was a thick layer of nickel under the gold that was peeling away from the Apple watchcase or metal band.
As a rule, Apple watches plated with 5 microns of gold, using the Swiss ISO standard for luxury watches, should last from 3-5 years of daily wear in all kinds of conditions.
It is not normal for your Apple watch to need plating after only 30 days.
If you’re only looking at price and not taking into account these five prime factors, then you’re needlessly putting your Apple Watch at risk and wasting time and money. You’ve worked too hard to be disappointed by having gold wear and flake off your new Apple Watch after only a few weeks or months. It is not normal, we repeat not normal for your gold plated Apple watch or metal band to last only 30 days! You should not have to pay additional money to have it re-plated; that is not a fair value.
We provide you a 2-year warranty with a zero deductible on all gold-plated Apple watches. Period. Beware of electroplaters who charge a deductible with their warranty. A true warranty does not have to hide small print indicating additional charges for craftsmanship that should be already guaranteed. Since April 24th, we have plated more Apple watches and metal watchbands than anyone in the U.S. We have been plating stainless steel luxury watches of all types since 1973. Our joint venture partnership with The Time Preserve will always stand by the work we perform for your Apple watch products.
For more information on nickel-free, gold-plated Apple watches and a complete portfolio of our work, visit us at: The Time Preserve.
*Apple Watch® is a registered trademark of Apple incorporated. Our company’s information is not sponsored by, endorsed or affiliated with Apple Incorporated. All images contained in this article are property of Metal Arts Specialties LLC and The Time Preserve LLC.