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Old 12 August 2018, 05:08 PM   #1
DJ_Ambrose
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To restore, or not to restore.

Although I promise this post is about watches, I just want to make a quick point to buttress my later point. I restored furniture for years, and one of the ten-commandments of antique furniture is to never refinish it because it "destroys its value as an antique" Now I'll grant you, regarding antique furniture, for about five to ten percent of these antiques not refinishing/restoring them is absolutely true. But that leaves about ninety percent that will never rise above there current antique value.

Over the years I convinced many prospective buyers to in fact purchase and refinish furniture for the following reasons. For example, take a seventy-five year old bedroom set manufactured by a relatively no-name manufacturer. Let's say its sale price is four thousand dollars, but it is finished in a color darker than the potential buyers like. As I would explain to them (and this part really is one-hundred percent true) To match the fit, finish, wood quality, and overall quality of the antique bedroom set they would have to spend around twenty-thousand dollars to get something equal from a very high end modern manufacture.

Then I just did the math for them: four thousand for the furniture, thirty five hundred for a top quality refinish, and for less than eight thousand dollars they have a bedroom set in the color that they chose, with quality equal to twenty thousand dollar-plus furniture currently being manufactured, so where's the downside?

Now to watches. Like antique furniture, higher end antique or vintage watches carry with them the same, "don't ever, under any circumstances have them restored" as conventional wisdom. This goes so far in some posts I've read to saying polishing the case to remove many of the fine scratches is sacrilege.

Now, I've been collecting, buying, and selling primarily Rolex and Jaeger LeCoultre watches for forty years. And yes, I'll concede there are most definitely, "Holy Grail" watches that should never be refurbished or restored under any circumstances.

But recently I came upon a vintage watch that was in excellent mechanical shape, but the case and crystal were dinged and covered with mostly fine scratches. The scratches were so bad on the crystal you couldn't even see what the time was when the watch was in direct sun light. The dial was also pretty beat up. In essence, it was a watch I would never wear because of its condition.

However, I've since decided to buy the watch, have the case modestly polished, have the crystal replaced, and also (this part even concerns me a little) have the dial modestly restored (And no, not to the level where it looks like it just came off a brand new watch) My thought on the whole thing being: if I wear the watch semi-regularly for the next fifteen years, the case will again have lots of fine scratches, the crystal as well, and age and sunlight will cause the dial to fade somewhat again. So the watch won't look like a "restored" watch, it will look like a vintage watch that's still in pretty good shape. (Because places like eBay and Craigs List have done so much to damage both the hobby and professional reputation of horologists I feel the need to point out that, even if I sell the watch in fifteen years I will disclose things like the dial being restored to any potential buyer)

I have immense respect for a great deal of the members of this forum. I can't count how may times a piece of information I picked up here has led me to either buy, or not buy a particular watch. I Thank anyone who is still reading my post but it all comes down to this. Regarding everything I've said: am I nuts? Or should there be exceptions to what are now iron clad rules regarding restoring vintage watches? David
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Old 12 August 2018, 05:34 PM   #2
arcadelt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJA View Post
Regarding everything I've said: am I nuts? Or should there be exceptions to what are now iron clad rules regarding restoring vintage watches?

David, you are not nuts, and there are exceptions.

Unlike most, you understand the notion of authenticity, provenance and condition, which most (new/young/novice) collectors don't. You also have an appreciation of value, and more importantly the risk (or lack thereof) intervention has on that value. Factor those into your specific circumstance, and the watch and itís place in the market, and you will not go wrong.

I have seen some shocking refinishing jobs that round off angular facets and make a hash of a very nice but damaged (called patina these days) dial, but I have also seen some refinishing that is so good you wouldnít be able to tell that it didnít come out of the factory yesterday. Choose your watchmaker wisely and make sure he intervenes only so far as you are happy to go.

Best of luck with it.

PS, what is the watch?
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Old 12 August 2018, 06:00 PM   #3
DJ_Ambrose
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Thanks

It's always good to find out you're really not crazy. Like I've said I really love, and learn a lot from this forum. But like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, there are a few "watch Nazis" here as well.

The watch is a 1940s vintage Reverso. Nothing really special as far as Reversos go, I just like the really clean lines of the dial. What made me almost decide not to buy it was, as I said, in direct sunlight, you couldn't even see the dial for all the scratches.
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Old 12 August 2018, 07:01 PM   #4
joli160
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I think you did the right thing
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