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Hi~ I buy and resell used watches on eBay. Many times I come across watches that are in bad shape cosmetically but still function properly internally. Usually the cystals are all scratched up, the steel case and bracelet is heavily scratched and scuffed... In general it is a mess. I would like to be able to clean these watches up, but I don't want to spend much on a cheap watch (most of these watches I buy for under $50). So far I have used toothpaste to clean the bracelet and dial, but I am thinking there has to be a better way. What tools should I buy to get into this? Do I need a dremel/bench grinder with a polishing wheel? Ultra Sonic cleaner?

What tools do I need to clean up watches? How can I get a mirror shine on stainless steel parts?

I have attached a picture of a picture I found of what I want to do. Thank you :)

before and after restoration.JPG
 

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Mild dish-soapy warm water and baby toothbrush on the case, followed by cape cod cloth on the shiny bits, followed by microfiber cloth, and same for the bracelet... polywatch on the crystal and that's it. I wouldn't use any polishing wheel...


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Refinishing cases and bracelets on stainless steel watches is a specific watchmakers skill. You might want to wander over to the watchmakers sub forum and do a search there.
 

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Be warned: you will take value off most collectable watches by machine polishing them. Ericherz has just about the right idea for the market that this forum addresses. Clean them, don't polish them, do yourself a favour. That's the way folks roll around here.

To speed up your cleaning, though, I would recommend using a cleaner such as L&R Jewellery Cleaner. I dilute it as recommended into an old jam jar and then put that in turn into a common ultrasonic cleaner which itself has plain water in it; sort of a Bain Marie for watches. I sometimes do a few passes. You'll never get the muck out of a stainless bracelet otherwise. The bracelet and case will be a lot better looking.

I then give it a plain water rinse, dry it with a clean, soft cloth and possibly think about using a Cape Cod cloth, depending on the case/bracelet.

Refinishing cases and bracelets on stainless steel watches is a specific watchmakers skill. You might want to wander over to the watchmakers sub forum and do a search there.
 

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I love getting an old watch cleaned up. Honestly if you are just going for cosmetics I would get Cape Cod cloths, Polywatch, and vinegar to soak the bracelets in. That should do fine.
 

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TJ, here's a few thoughts pertaining to your inquiry:

To remove exterior grime I recommend a chlorinated or ammonia based solution. Amateur ultrasonic baths are much to weak too attack really serious mineralized material. Hence the active ion solutions. An automated agitator/ultrasonic would be best -alternatively, an industrial ultrasonic machine.

Don't waste your time or money on a dremel style toy. If you require small detail power get a Foredom or Grobet flex shaft unit. They are infinitely more controllable and hence the product is more precise. 95% of your polish work should be performed on 5" plus diameter buffs. I use 7". You will need one of these for each compound that you will use. If you are using Polinox or similar "dry" compunds you will have to have dust collection.

Every once in a while you'll burn a plastic crystal or the buff will grab it out of the case or wrench the case from your hands and be swallowed by the machine. And you need to remove the compound from the creases between the crystal and case - so maybe you want to remove most crystals. A steamer really helps in the post polish cleanup as does an aircompressor. Some crystals need adhesive - some need a gasket. There are are various styles of mounting so you'll need the tools/systems to accomplish each. Plastic cylinder crystals are cheap so I'd buy an assortment of them.

Knowledge is hard to obtain. Finding out what fails is the easiest part. SS is tough and hard to cut. Deep gouges are removed starting with coarse files and abrasives before you ever consider utilising compound.

What steps are you taking to protect the hygene of the movement. Have you considered a precision vacuum for cleaning it? Are you changing batteries?

Do you have a pressure tester? Are you going to replace gaskets? Tubes? Crowns?

Your will have more satisified customers if you explain in the detail the scope of your work on their purchase.
 

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