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Restoring a Vintage Omega Watch

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As a lover of classic Swiss timepieces designed for the American market from the 40's to the 70's, every time I come across one of these watches, my first impulse is to find a way to give it a new life. Sometimes the watches are too far gone, making a meaningful restoration impossible. Often times these watches, which were never design to be water resistant, have had their movements completely rusted out with water damage. Other times, the watch cases are made of gold filled or rolled gold plated brass which has worn through to the underlying metal from years of daily wear, making these impractical to repair. 

Luckily, there are watches like this vintage 14 karat white gold man's Omega watch with a beautiful, ultra-thin, hand wound movement that come across my desk from time to time. The case was scratched but in excellent condition, and the movement was pristine. But as you can see, the crystal and dial were in very poor condition. The acrylic crystal was dry and cracked, and the dial was badly discolored with the clear coat paint flaking off along the edges. The hands of the watch had been changed to a high contrast black to make reading the time easier. While they were size appropriate, aesthetically they were not very appealing. This was a perfect candidate for a full restoration. 

The first thing I did was disassemble the watch by removing the aftermarket stretch band, pulling the movement out of the case, discarding the old crystal and removing the dial and hands from the movement. The dial gave me a couple of options. With vintage watches, as with many vintage items, it is best to retain as much of the original finish as possible to keep it as close to original appearance as you can. After contemplating on the original silver color I opted for an update to the dial to really make it pop, so it was sent to a dial refinishing house to have the old paint stripped off, the dial repainted and the Omega name and logo re-stenciled. The movement went to our watchmaker's bench for a complete overhaul which includes a tear down, 4 step cleaning process, inspection and replacement of worn parts, re-assembly, oiling, timing and adjustment. 

The case was my part of the project. I lightly sanded out the surface scratches then went through a three step polishing routine and with each step brought back a higher and higher luster. The final step in the case refinish involved rhodium plating for that final mirror like shine. While waiting for the dial and movement to be finished, I ordered a new crystal and original Delphine hands. Once everything was back and ready, the watch was re-assembled and fitted with a new lizard leather strap. The resulting watch is one that pays homage to its original intent as a classic dress piece with a thoroughly modern look. I hope you enjoy the transformation.

If you are interested in a possible restoration of your own vintage timepiece drop us an email with a couple of pictures and what you know about the watch or pocket watch. We can discuss the possibilities.

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