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Old 24 November 2021, 03:20 AM   #1
doublj70
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Worn away serial number. Has anyone used a service like Dye penetrant or x-ray?

Hello,
I recently picked up what I believe is a 1959 5512. It’s got a 1970’s service dial and insert but has the pointed crown guards. I opened it up and the moment is a 1530, and the case back is stamped 5512 and III 59. I removed the bracelet and both ends of the case are quite worn. On the top I can make out most of the registered design engraving, but the on other end with the serial, I can’t see anything using a 10x loop.
I have heard of tests used to recover ground away serial numbers on guns and cars. Has anyone successfully used like a non destructive testing service like dye penetrant or x-ray to recover a worn away serial number on a Rolex? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks! John
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Old 24 November 2021, 06:40 AM   #2
Nickn
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Try ferric oxide
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Old 24 November 2021, 07:51 AM   #3
Goochy
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Can you post a photo.
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Old 24 November 2021, 09:10 AM   #4
CTech
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There are a number of acidic etches that might work on 306L stainless steel to reveal a stamped serial number, but I don't know if they would be effective on an engraved serial number. I've never used them on a watch case but I have some experience with them in an industrial setting to look at discrepancies in the structure of various metals.

The big downside of all of them is the surface preparation required before the application of the etch, and a lot of them will not reveal anything unless the surface has been polished to a mirror finish.

There are many proprietary etches such as Fry's reagent, Turner's reagent, Davis reagent, etc. and a lot of these contain ferric chloride in dilute hydrochloric or phosphoric acid. There are also many recipes for similar etches published on the web so you could in theory mix your own.

Some experimentation is usually required to get good results and it is very rare that the first etch used gives good results.

Of the other techniques available, it might be worth trying some of the magnetic particle crack detection materials such as Magnaflux or Mi-Glow, but I don't think 306L stainless steel is magnetic enough to allow these to work effectively.

The best technique for revealing obliterated (stamped) serial numbers on weapons is backscatter diffraction electron microscopy but this is prohibitively expensive and I doubt if there is any information about using it on engraved numbers.

If you want to take this further and talk to professional metallurgists about it you need to tell them that you are interested in revealing engraved numbers in 306L stainless steel as they might only have previous experience with stamped ID marks, and the techniques used will be different.

In short, I might investigate some of the magnetic particle materials a little bit, mostly because they are cheap, non-destructive and relatively easy, and if that didn't work I would then probably ask for help from a professional or academic metallurgist before going further.
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Old 24 November 2021, 09:19 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CTech View Post
There are a number of acidic etches that might work on 306L stainless steel to reveal a stamped serial number, but I don't know if they would be effective on an engraved serial number. I've never used them on a watch case but I have some experience with them in an industrial setting to look at discrepancies in the structure of various metals.

The big downside of all of them is the surface preparation required before the application of the etch, and a lot of them will not reveal anything unless the surface has been polished to a mirror finish.

There are many proprietary etches such as Fry's reagent, Turner's reagent, Davis reagent, etc. and a lot of these contain ferric chloride in dilute hydrochloric or phosphoric acid. There are also many recipes for similar etches published on the web so you could in theory mix your own.

Some experimentation is usually required to get good results and it is very rare that the first etch used gives good results.

Of the other techniques available, it might be worth trying some of the magnetic particle crack detection materials such as Magnaflux or Mi-Glow, but I don't think 306L stainless steel is magnetic enough to allow these to work effectively.

The best technique for revealing obliterated (stamped) serial numbers on weapons is backscatter diffraction electron microscopy but this is prohibitively expensive and I doubt if there is any information about using it on engraved numbers.

If you want to take this further and talk to professional metallurgists about it you need to tell them that you are interested in revealing engraved numbers in 306L stainless steel as they might only have previous experience with stamped ID marks, and the techniques used will be different.

In short, I might investigate some of the magnetic particle materials a little bit, mostly because they are cheap, non-destructive and relatively easy, and if that didn't work I would then probably ask for help from a professional or academic metallurgist before going further.
What a brilliant response on possibly the most niche area of expertise ever . That's why this forum is awesome.
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Old 24 November 2021, 10:08 AM   #6
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Or …. Just take it to an RSC and ask them for the serial number. You might need to ask for a service estimate, or maybe agree to a full service, but they keep records of serial numbers on cases through the movement serial number.

I did this about a decade ago at the RSC in NYC with an early ‘70s 5512 that had its serial number partially worn away by a loose bracelet. They had a record of the serial number and put it on the paperwork when I had the watch serviced.
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Old 24 November 2021, 08:14 PM   #7
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The legendary Henry Hudson, former General Manager of Rolex UK, gave me a tip that has helped on occasion.

Turn the watch through 180 degrees and look at the number upside down. Sometimes this reveals detail that was not visible when the right way up and one's brain does not try to "join the dots" so misleadingly when the numbers are upside down.
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Old 24 November 2021, 11:37 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by swish77 View Post
Or …. Just take it to an RSC and ask them for the serial number. You might need to ask for a service estimate, or maybe agree to a full service, but they keep records of serial numbers on cases through the movement serial number.

^^^^ this is the best idea to avoid a more costly and potentially inaccurate result.


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Old 25 November 2021, 12:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swish77 View Post
Or …. Just take it to an RSC and ask them for the serial number. You might need to ask for a service estimate, or maybe agree to a full service, but they keep records of serial numbers on cases through the movement serial number.

I did this about a decade ago at the RSC in NYC with an early ‘70s 5512 that had its serial number partially worn away by a loose bracelet. They had a record of the serial number and put it on the paperwork when I had the watch serviced.
Exactly from the movement number they could get the case serial number.
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Old 25 November 2021, 05:36 PM   #10
doublj70
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Thanks for all the great replies and info! It seems like the RSC route is worth a shot. Any tips from the folks who have done it? Like is it possible to contact the RSC directly? On the Rolex site it says just to bring it to any AD, but I would prefer to contact the service center directly by phone or email to make sure they know I want the serial number checked out with the movement serial.
Thanks, John
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Old 25 November 2021, 09:10 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the great replies and info! It seems like the RSC route is worth a shot. Any tips from the folks who have done it? Like is it possible to contact the RSC directly?
Thanks, John
You're right to deal with the RSC directly if you can.

Going through an AD creates an extra node that might result in miscommunication and problems. Shouldn't be too difficult to find the RSC contact info online...
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Old 26 November 2021, 01:05 AM   #12
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Here’s a thread about my (former) 5512 I mentioned previously. It’s been more than a decade, but I assume an RSC could still help with these issues.

https://www.rolexforums.com/showthread.php?t=124670
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Old 26 November 2021, 01:53 AM   #13
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You're right to deal with the RSC directly if you can.

Going through an AD creates an extra node that might result in miscommunication and problems. Shouldn't be too difficult to find the RSC contact info online...

Agree totally. Especially in the case of skipping the AD for vintage verifications.

TBH, Rolex could take a cue from Patek in the matter of checking a watch’s pedigree.

I was able to accomplish more from my home office desk with Patek for my Calatrava without physically submitting the watch.

As an example of what I mean…
In the OP’s case, he knows the movement number and should be able to send in a form to discover the case’s serial number.


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Old 26 November 2021, 09:47 AM   #14
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We’ve been down this road many years ago , culminating in a mil watch going to a forensics lab that specialised in such things … up shot was that stamped numbers can be done engraved no …
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Old 26 November 2021, 03:05 PM   #15
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...stamped numbers can be done engraved no …
I guess you mean stamped numbers can be forensically recovered, but engraved numbers can't. Good info.
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