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.

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 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.

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 20 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! Before plating the watch will be refinished. Refinishing includes filling deep scratches or missing contours with the appropriate metal, and then polishing to the desired level of brightness prior to gold plating. Brushed finishes are restored prior to plating as well.

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, platinum, rhodium, palladium, and ruthenium are available. See the available finishes page.

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 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". Rhodium is a precious metal finish that virtually never tarnishes and is extremely durable. See the Available Finishes page for more information.

How long does it take to have a watch plated?

For most watches it does not take very long. However, you should allow about 2-4 weeks from the time we receive it for completion.

At The Time Preserve, we offer high quality gold, rose gold, platinum, rhodium, palladium, and rhuthenium electroplated finishes for vintage watches and other fine timepieces. All decorative finishes are color matched perfectly to original manufacturers specifications or the customer's wishes.

This article copyright 2011 by The Time Preserve. All rights reserved. This material may not be duplicated or copied without expressed written permission. Thank-you

Share by: