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I have been a member of the forum for many years and an enthusiast for many before. My question is, what do folks mean when they say polished or unpolished. Are we talking about machine polished, Scotch pad polished or a simple buff with Cape Cod?

This term is used all the time on this forum, why does it matter? As long as the structure of the case remains the same is it really a big deal?

Or has this become simply a sales tactic? Like only worn by a little old lady to church on Sunday.
 

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It means polished to remove scratches and marks to the extent that metal has actually been removed which then alters the shape and size of lugs, or reduces/removes the shape of a distinctive feature such as a machined angle or line. Polishing out a small scratch with a cape cod cloth isn’t the same thing.
 

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I agree that it is a good question. I've seen it used in all those contexts here on WUS and so to me, I would not make any assumptions because of this variability. If it were important to me (say, for a sale), I would definitely ask what 'kind' of polishing for clarification.
 

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I think I see people "misusing" it ... to me it means high polished ... shiny. Machine polish and cape cod can achieve this. The other finish you are referring to I call "brushed". You can rebrush a watch to original with a scotchbrite pad. I was NOT an English major in college so YMMV ;) .

Polished:

 

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In the Rolex vintage world polished generally means that RSC has polished/refurbished the case at a service to restore it back to the factory mark free shine. More often than not they remove a fairly substantial amount of metal that can lead to a noticeable loss of certain things. Thin lugs or the loss of the lugs angled chamfer are one sign of excess polishing that’s changed the appearance.

Liken it to a coin that’s highly collectible - the one with the Queen or Kings head that’s losing some of its features through decades of wear and handling won’t be as valuable as the coin that still looks like the day it was minted.
 

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I always have to read the correspondence to understand the intent of the word when posted. Some mean "I hit it with a cape cod cloth", while some mean it in the context that I initially envision (from my automotive background) meaning a metal finished with a smooth surface and somewhere between a light shine to a faint luster, achieved without any special coating such as plating, clear coat etc...
 

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I thought it meant shiny/chrome like so that you can see images reflected in the metal. Much more bling.

As opposed to brushed/matte/satin, which is more understated
 
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I always have to read the correspondence to understand the intent of the word when posted. Some mean "I hit it with a cape cod cloth", while some mean it in the context that I initially envision (from my automotive background) meaning a metal finished with a smooth surface and somewhere between a light shine to a faint luster, achieved without any special coating such as plating, clear coat etc...
No it’s absolutely got nothing to do with the original lustre of the metal.
 

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Zaratsu is THE polish technique. I do love a highly polished bracelet and case such as the ones on my Balls, Breitlings and Longines have owned/own but they are incredible scratch magnets.

Don't come close to Zaratsu with a Cape Cod...ever, or you will utterly trash it.

15649194
 

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This term is used all the time on this forum, why does it matter? As long as the structure of the case remains the same is it really a big deal?
Personal taste I guess. I prefer unpolished in order to have the original architecture, even if it's heavily scratched and with dings.
 

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I have been a member of the forum for many years and an enthusiast for many before. My question is, what do folks mean when they say polished or unpolished. Are we talking about machine polished, Scotch pad polished or a simple buff with Cape Cod?

This term is used all the time on this forum, why does it matter? As long as the structure of the case remains the same is it really a big deal?

Or has this become simply a sales tactic? Like only worn by a little old lady to church on Sunday.
Are you asking generally what the definition is, or specifically about why collectors are worried about whether a vintage watch has been polished?

The reason vintage collectors are concerned with it is because polishing removes material from the case. Heavy polishing, repeatedly, can take a noticeable amount off. Look at an old watch that has been repeatedly refurbished through heavy polishing. Edges that should be crisp are softened. Lugs may be measurably thinner.
 

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It really doesn't mean much at all because there's no standard in watchmaking I'm aware that defines what it means.

In other metalworking parlance, polishing is distinguished from buffing in the level of material that is removed and the method. Polishing generally involves the use of abrasive belts or pads while buffing uses cloth and compounds. In watchmaking generally speaking everything is done with cloth and compounds even when extensive material may be removed or altered.

With any watch case that has scratches, you can soften their appearance with a cloth and a mild compound. The scratches aren't removed, but they aren't as noticeable because the microscopic sharp edges have been rounded. Would this then mean the watch as been "polished"? I say no, but someone else might say yes and we would both be right or wrong depending on who else you asked.

What "polished" means to me is someone physically removed scratches, nicks, etc from a case by whatever method. The term gets a bit of a bum rap because you have watchmakers or an amateur performing polishing that can significantly alter the finish and case details. A watchmaker skilled in polishing can restore an even significantly damaged watch case to very similar to a like new condition.

The other issue is the current trend toward vintage watches that have the "patina" of decades of use. Many collectors want those defects to remain and to them they add value, especially since many vintage watches have had case work done at some point. They are looking for watches that have never been "polished" however you define that term.
 

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Its important to note that a watchmaker or a competent jeweler can take out scratches and polish your watch hand it will be just fine. The guy at the mall... Not so much.
 

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I think we're looking at two different terms really, as others have said.

New SS watches come from the factory with a certain type of finish- more often than not "polished" which is bright and shiny, or "brushed" which is more subtle and not shiny at all. These are commonly used descriptions in the watch world.

Polishing a watch with Scothbrite, Cape Cod, etc. is a whole different thing altogether. Not sure what the OP was getting at.
 

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I have been a member of the forum for many years and an enthusiast for many before. My question is, what do folks mean when they say polished or unpolished. Are we talking about machine polished, Scotch pad polished or a simple buff with Cape Cod?

This term is used all the time on this forum, why does it matter? As long as the structure of the case remains the same is it really a big deal?

Or has this become simply a sales tactic? Like only worn by a little old lady to church on Sunday.
A handful of fundies on here scream about it because they can't - well, won't - tell the difference between a professional refinishing, and a ham-fisted oik with a 4000 rpm angle grinder and metal paste to remove a good mm or two, following by an hour on the buffing wheel to really get rid of all those pesky angles.

If a watch has been "polished", therefore, it could mean anything. But it's easier not to try to tell the difference, so simply scream!

Also you don't "polish" a satin or brushed area; that'll make it shiny. The term is casually misused all around. But not a lot of people care.
 

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A professional “Refinishing” should maintain the look and lines of the watch whilst just repairing the dents and scratches.

A half arsed rub over with a dremil not so good.
 

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One of the first things I learned the hard way with my two tone date just (but got over it and still love the watch) is polishing can give the watch a softer look. The lines are no where near as distinct but the dealer I bought it from (online) did specify and looking back I missed it in the pictures. I consider it a good polish job because it has a factory finish and all of the lugs are the same. None more worn than the other. It wasn’t till I had an identical non polished datejust next to it I realized the extent that the metal was removed. It bothered me once I knew but I got over it because the watch was a good deal. Now that I know what to look for generally when you see a vintage watch especially Rolex with a great price look closely and it will be heavily polished. Some people care some people don’t. I spoke to one member a while back who liked that because he knew the way he as more than likely well serviced over the years. To each there own. I personally would avoid it in the future but don’t mind the one I have. I am also the only one who would ever notice.
 
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