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Discussion Starter #1
This is my grandfather's Omega. Movement made in 1915 according to the serial number, and is running great considering its age. I took it to my watchmaker for service (wasn't serviced in many years), and trying to figure out what to do with the dial and hands (blued steel).

1. Dial is silvered, with lacquered numbers. Due to its age, the dial is oxidized. Unfortunately, this patina doesn't look great and makes it difficult to tell the time. I would prefer, if possible, to avoid re-dialing, so I am wondering if there is an alternative way of cleaning it. Silver cleaning solution? Baking soda?

2. Blued steel second minute hands show some discoloration and possibly rusting. What is the best way of cleaning them? Is it possible to custom-make these, or get them refinished?

Any suggestions would be highly appreciated! This watch has a lot of sentimental value for me, so I'd like to be very careful.
 

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Hi there,

Its funny (Not LOL) that the text looks in very good condition. I have cleaned a few dials off using rodico to remove grime.... but your looks tarnished? As joe says, I have also used cotton buds/baby buds dipped in warm soapy water (testing in a corner).... but you have to be very careful and would not suggest you start with this...

The hands can be refinished.... the second hand may be hard to do, as it is very small... but it looks pretty standard and could be matched with a replacement if needed.

I would forget trying to refinish/clean the dial yourself..... If I owned my grandfathers watch..... I would want to make sure it was looked after properly!! I would pay the extra (if it means saving up) and send it to a professional!

Just my honest opinion!

Others will probably be able to advise better than me.... good luck and keep us informed of the progress!!

Marc
 

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Be careful. I tried cleaning a dial from that era with water and soap and the numbers came off or faded. I think the paint was not as strong as later dials. Keep it "as is" and maybe one day you might come across a better dial. On the other hand if you don't have the patient and think this is a keeper, and think you might wear it more if the dial was nicer. Go for it, have it re-finished. This is not a re-sell value, its more a sentamental value.
Re-finished on your wrist or "as is" in a box ?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
My watchmaker had the same concern about the numbers, that they may come off if the dial is cleaned. It looks like the numbers are pressed into the dial, and then filled with some kind of paint (lacquer?). The numbers are in great shape, it's the textured silvered dial itself that has tarnished. If there was a way to "dip" the dial in some kind of gentle tarnish removal solution that could remove oxidation without damaging the numbers... I think the biggest risk to numbers would be soaking the dial, or rubbing it. I think if it was dipped in a cleaning solution, then quickly rinsed without much agitation and dried with a hair dryer, there may be a chance that the numbers would remain intact.

I absolutely wouldn't mind to pay a premium for a nice dial restoration job. I have absolutely no interest in the resale value of the watch - it only has sentimental value for me and my family. I was seriously considering sending it to Omega (Bienne) for restoration, but don't want to risk the loss in transit.

Marc - do you know of a good specialist in the US to refinish/replace the hands? And also, if I end up sending the dial for restoration/refinishing, who is the best firm (nevermind the price)?
 

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Marc - do you know of a good specialist in the US to refinish/replace the hands? And also, if I end up sending the dial for restoration/refinishing, who is the best firm (nevermind the price)?
Hi there,

I have recently sent my a dial to be repainted in the US, as I have heard good things.... Its not been completed yet, but the price is very fair!! You could send them some pics and ask what they could do... as you say... you dont need a refinish.... just a clean! They do hands also....

International Dial Co. Inc.

But im sure there are plenty others out there!

Marc
 

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I hope you decide against the refinish. There is so much good character in that dial.

I have used a solution of about 50% Mr. Clean and distilled water with mixed results. I dip the dial in the solution and then in clean water. Just in and out, no soaking. Even as gentle as this is chapter marks and logos can fade. Typically the heavy grime comes off in the first one or two dunks. I don't dry them with anything just let them dry on their own. The pure water keep spots from forming.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I hope you decide against the refinish. There is so much good character in that dial.

I have used a solution of about 50% Mr. Clean and distilled water with mixed results. I dip the dial in the solution and then in clean water. Just in and out, no soaking. Even as gentle as this is chapter marks and logos can fade. Typically the heavy grime comes off in the first one or two dunks. I don't dry them with anything just let them dry on their own. The pure water keep spots from forming.
I would certainly prefer not to refinish, but it's reached the point when it's hard to read the time... So some form of cleaning would be great. There is absolutely no clear coat on the dial, it's basically silver-plated with matte finish. It's not "dirty", but oxidized/tarnished. This is why I was hoping that dipping into some gentle solution for cleaning silver would help to "brighten" it up without dissolving or otherwise destroying the numbers, which are in good condition.
 

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You can try silver dip - I have had good successes, and complete disasters. I don't recommend it, unless you can test it on a scrap dial of the same type. In general, the more modern the dial, the worse they last - but oldies can be bad too.

Basically, If I cared about a watch - I wouldn't try it.
 

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Before you try any cleaning I would check with International Dial on how detailed a picture they need to duplicate the dial. I would then make sure I had a picture that meets the requirements.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Before you try any cleaning I would check with International Dial on how detailed a picture they need to duplicate the dial. I would then make sure I had a picture that meets the requirements.
This is a good idea.

So I inquired on another forum, and some watchmaker said that the numbers are enamel, and shouldn't come off as a result of gently rubbing the tarnish off with a light ammonia solution. I am thinking of dipping a q-tip in silver cleaning solution and gently rubbing a number to see if it dissolves it, and also trying the same on the dial corner to check the effect.

Having read all suggestions here, I am leaning towards not refinishing. I think if I could either replace or refurbish the hands, they will have more contrast and it will be easier to read the time.
 

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The hands can be re-blued. I have never used it but I understand that "cold blue" for touching up firearms does a fair job. It can be can be bought at sporting goods stores. The original method involves heating.
 

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I have a couple of things to say about the dial and the watch;

First of all regarding the dial; The good news is that this is probably what we call in the industry a 'hard enamel' dial. I already had the chance to write a few times about those dials and you can search my earlier posts.
Those dials were very popular in the pre 30s Swiss higher end brands and are always made of lower grade silver (normally continental 800). That is because hard silver melts at a higher temperature than the brass composition used for regular dials and such temperature is required to bake the enamel. Once the enamel is baked on top of the silver dial, it is as hard as glass. Not only you can clean the dial, you can even sand it with 400 grit paper, the dial will get a brushed texture and nothing will happen to the enamel, as I mentioned it is as hard as glass and actually very difficult to damage, assuming it is indeed made of enamel.

To find out if it is indeed hard enamel you can follow a few simple guidelines:
1. The dial will have to be made of silver and will probably tarnish, as in your case.
2. Despite the 'damage' (actually tarnish is not damage such as rust but rather a PROTECTIVE later, see my earlier posts re this issue on a GRUEN PW movement) there will be nothing missing on the 'print' in enamel, same sign in your case.
3. Most likely the dial will not be lacquered in transparent as done later on (and that is also one reason why it tarnishes).
4. The hard enamel will have a shiny glossy look as opposed to a print which has a satin finish.

In my opinion this dial was indeed produced in the hard enamel technique; Thus said, you can easily clean it with any tarnish removal solution and it will look as new.

The bad news is that in my opinion this is not a 1915 watch as a whole, but rather an OMEGA movement with adapted dial and case.
I encountered two different EXACT designs, both made by some 'over gifted' Ukrainians, using indeed a legit correct era OMEGA movement cased in a fake allegedly "gold" case with the exact same design and lugs.
Soviets were experts in enamel treatment, especially cloisonne type but not limited to, mostly because the regime had to medal any stupid thing you did or did not do and all these medals were normally enameled.
So surely such a rather 'primitive' (Yet extremely artistic) technique was known to many in the Soviet Union and implemented in such ways as well. You can find some grotesque examples on ebay as well.
Another reason for my suspicion concrens both the quality and design of the logo, as well as the sub seconds register, both done in a very amateur way. You will also notice the silhouette of the numerals also does not follow correctly the curvature of the case sides; Such issues - I doubt if they would come out of an Omega factory before leaving a few Swiss horologists without wings.

If you can post some photos of the inside and back case, as well as the dial alone with both sides, I can probably give a better estimate on this rather disappointing assumption.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have a couple of things to say about the dial and the watch;

First of all regarding the dial; The good news is that this is probably what we call in the industry a 'hard enamel' dial. I already had the chance to write a few times about those dials and you can search my earlier posts.
Those dials were very popular in the pre 30s Swiss higher end brands and are always made of lower grade silver (normally continental 800). That is because hard silver melts at a higher temperature than the brass composition used for regular dials and such temperature is required to bake the enamel. Once the enamel is baked on top of the silver dial, it is as hard as glass. Not only you can clean the dial, you can even sand it with 400 grit paper, the dial will get a brushed texture and nothing will happen to the enamel, as I mentioned it is as hard as glass and actually very difficult to damage, assuming it is indeed made of enamel.

To find out if it is indeed hard enamel you can follow a few simple guidelines:
1. The dial will have to be made of silver and will probably tarnish, as in your case.
2. Despite the 'damage' (actually tarnish is not damage such as rust but rather a PROTECTIVE later, see my earlier posts re this issue on a GRUEN PW movement) there will be nothing missing on the 'print' in enamel, same sign in your case.
3. Most likely the dial will not be lacquered in transparent as done later on (and that is also one reason why it tarnishes).
4. The hard enamel will have a shiny glossy look as opposed to a print which has a satin finish.

In my opinion this dial was indeed produced in the hard enamel technique; Thus said, you can easily clean it with any tarnish removal solution and it will look as new.

The bad news is that in my opinion this is not a 1915 watch as a whole, but rather an OMEGA movement with adapted dial and case.
I encountered two different EXACT designs, both made by some 'over gifted' Ukrainians, using indeed a legit correct era OMEGA movement cased in a fake allegedly "gold" case with the exact same design and lugs.
Soviets were experts in enamel treatment, especially cloisonne type but not limited to, mostly because the regime had to medal any stupid thing you did or did not do and all these medals were normally enameled.
So surely such a rather 'primitive' (Yet extremely artistic) technique was known to many in the Soviet Union and implemented in such ways as well. You can find some grotesque examples on ebay as well.
Another reason for my suspicion concrens both the quality and design of the logo, as well as the sub seconds register, both done in a very amateur way. You will also notice the silhouette of the numerals also does not follow correctly the curvature of the case sides; Such issues - I doubt if they would come out of an Omega factory before leaving a few Swiss horologists without wings.

If you can post some photos of the inside and back case, as well as the dial alone with both sides, I can probably give a better estimate on this rather disappointing assumption.
Dear eldarinn,

Fist of all, thank you for your detailed post. I know what you mean regarding modern Ukrainian re-casing. My watch was not recased, it is the original Petrograd watch. It was in the family since early 1900s and was my late grandfather's watch. This model was remade by Omega for their Museum collection: Omega Petrograd 1915 | watches - omega
There were a couple of variations of the numbering on the dial, and 2 versions of mine can be found on page 109 of Omega:A Journey Through Time.

The watch is currently at my watchmaker's, undergoing its first movement service in more than at least 55 years. I don't have pictures of the back of the dial. I do have pictures of the movement inside the case. There are hallmarks on the case (585 - for 14K gold, and some unidentified hallmark "83A").

The dial has "sandy" texture. I am not sure if it is silvered, or brushed silver. I will talk to my watchmaker next week to find out what's on the back of the dial. There is no enamel on the dial itself, except for numbering and minute/second tracks (if it is, as I hope, enamel).

Now, regarding the logo design. It is actually quite well executed, but can't be seen properly because of adjacent tarnishing, and my rather poor photographic skills. Here is the movement picture:
 

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Very nice watch , full of memories , my favorite ones. Your dial is still visible , the look is full of patina but acceptable IMHO.
I've prepared an article about dial making and controlling but in Italian , I'm sorry , always the same problem , ..........Longinespassion
There is no method of restoring of a dial like yours , even if it's an hard enameling numbers and graphics it's required the original "cliché" in order to restore the losses that the brushing is creating (this kind of restoring is done by Stern Creations SA exclusively for companies like Patek , Vacheron , Audemars etc.). My suggestion is to find a similar watch on ebay and to buy it. The dial will be restored and assembled on your watch and you'll keep the original dial with care in a dry box........a job requiring a lot of patience and time !!!
Have a nice day
Adriano
 

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Yes I am familiar with the model but note the photo showed in the link you gave is actually the Museum reproduction and notice the lines of the numerals as far as the curvature goes in reference to the case.

Thanks for the photos of the movement, the casing does seem much more professional than the 'Ukrainian version' of this watch but that does not resolve the rather poor execution of the dial in my opinion. Very strange.

ADRIANO: We refinished tens of hard enamel dials and they look as new.
As long as you don't have parts of the enamel missing, there is no need for the 'decal', it will refinish beautifully with the right powders.

I loved your article by the way. Grazie 1000!
 

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why don't you sent it back to omega, they might have a spare dial, or redial it. i would not mind a redial as long as the redial is made by the same company who gave birth to it in the first place. just my two cent
 

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Discussion Starter #18
why don't you sent it back to omega, they might have a spare dial, or redial it. i would not mind a redial as long as the redial is made by the same company who gave birth to it in the first place. just my two cent
I considered sending the watch to Omega, but was concerned that it might get "lost" in transit. It is irreplaceable due to sentimental (not monetary) value. I just didn't want to risk it.
 

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Yes I am familiar with the model but note the photo showed in the link you gave is actually the Museum reproduction and notice the lines of the numerals as far as the curvature goes in reference to the case.

Thanks for the photos of the movement, the casing does seem much more professional than the 'Ukrainian version' of this watch but that does not resolve the rather poor execution of the dial in my opinion. Very strange.

ADRIANO: We refinished tens of hard enamel dials and they look as new.
As long as you don't have parts of the enamel missing, there is no need for the 'decal', it will refinish beautifully with the right powders.

I loved your article by the way. Grazie 1000!
I believe you! Thanks for appreciating my work on articles. I spent time in Geneva with Stern Technical director and he explained and showed me the restoring technique. But you do this art by yourself and this is different. Can you show us some of your works? I'll be delighted and it will be very interesting......
Thanks a lot Tal ( I hope this is correct)
Next time I'll come to Israel I'll get you informed ;=)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
The hands can be re-blued. I have never used it but I understand that "cold blue" for touching up firearms does a fair job. It can be can be bought at sporting goods stores. The original method involves heating.
I looked into cold bluing, and it appears to accelerate rusting in many cases. :(
 
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