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Old-fashioned Watches – How Resource efficiency, Restoration, Or Refurbishment Influences Values


Museum circles have an ongoing argument regarding the ethics of conservation and restoration of what is classified as Technological Heritage. Wrist watches fit into this category, and while organic beef scoffs at armchair school pronouncements on how we should begin maintaining our collections, it is worth more than a thought.

The particular vintage watch market tends to operate not so much on the integrity of conservation and restoration in addition to preservation of historical condition, but on the economics connected with supply and demand simply because it applies to conserved, restored, and refurbished technology. In many cases, they have an ‘opinion’ that informs picking out what to do with a vintage watch is costly. There are as many opinions as there are people, and some opinions take more weight financially than others.

Perhaps not so strangely, positive aspects end the market, generally represented by prices fetched at Antiquorum, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and others, reflect a determined bias toward conservation and restoration over refurbishment. About rarer high-end timepieces’ appearance attracts premium prices when refurbished high-end watches are less in demand.

So initially, let’s arrive at a working concept of conservation, restoration, and repairs to at least have a list of benchmarks upon which we may bottom part our restoration decisions.


A concept of conservation came forth about a decade and a half in the past concerning vintage engineering and is beginning to impact the serious horological markets. The idea argues that concentration should be placed on preservation associated with originality for the future and that creating vintage technology that appears perfect and never used is similar to vandalism.

The idea driving conservation is that all that becomes the object should be reversible. Get dials, for example: If one were to take the conservation collection when working on a vintage switch, refinishing the dial will be out of the question, but stabilizing the idea with a protective layer involving lacquer would, as long as typically, the lacquer could be removed another time.

The same logic applies to activities. The conservationist would believe parts should not be replaced since having the technology operating is usually far less important than keeping its originality.

Here’s an illustration that places technological efficiency into a broader context. Typically the Australian War Memorial features a collection of WW2 German army aircraft. When experts conducted their pre-conservation problem survey, they identified a gray-blue oxide coating within the aircraft’s aluminum. They conditionally identified the type and matters of the coating and developed a conservation strategy that ensured the original coating had not been destroyed.

On similar airplanes in the United States, however, preservation job resulted in the removal of the o2 coating, thus typically destroying the technology’s originality and giving cause for confusion throughout the scholarly investigation of the future. Many in the field of technological conservation would likely argue that removing an original layer to make the aircraft appear new is the same for watches and clocks of historical price.


Restoration is not similar to conservation. Restoration is a process that attempts to return a piece of technology, in our situation a timepiece, to an earlier state that a given restorer, including prejudices, assumptions, and views about what the object should symbolize, imagines being original. Repair is personal to the fixer, and that should never be forgotten.

But concerning technology, refurbishment is controversial since it generally involves irreversible changes to the leading technology to make it work and function as it was meant to.

With watches and timepieces, for example, worn parts are generally removed, rust is handled, damaged or faded knobs are replaced with genuine manufacturer dials, hands are possibly re-plated or replaced, instances are polished, crystals tend to be changed, seals are changed, etc ., etc. Prejudices, presumptions, and ‘shop practice’ get play here as the fixer applies both a cosmetic logic (visual appeal) plus a functional logic (keeping this timepiece going to a factory standard) when deciding what areas to replace during the restoration.

However, suppose the parts are factory chosen. In that case, the surfaces of elements are not changed (e.g., taking away some of the copper coatings with a 500 series Omega activity through improper use of solvents), and the work carried out about the watch is done according to plant recommendations. Many would likely say it is reasonable to base corrections on mass-produced watches. You would not have an ‘original’ defined by conservationists, but you would have preserved the piece’s particular ‘integrity’ by keeping it to specifications.

One more aspect of restoration practiced simply by some restorers is to give attention to functional rather than aesthetic recovery. An example of functional restoration is always to replace worn parts and stabilize the condition of a watch while keeping the patina of the part. This may include a very mild polishing of the watch and the use of treatment techniques to detain further deterioration of the call and other nonmechanical parts of this timepiece. This fully complies with those who argue recovery’s moral and monetary benefits over refurbishment.


Building work is choosing a complete piece, or element, of old technology and making it look brand-new. The refurbishment will involve removing an object’s recent belief that the new hunting is best or that completely new-looking sells.

We see considerable evidence of refurbishment wherever functioning. Old houses rebuilt to search faux grande with more artwork than displayed originally; pieces of furniture in the brassier antique merchants that appear as soft and new as the IKEA competitor’s product down the street; cars and trucks of the 50s and sixties chromed to the hilt and also modified to reflect modern-day concepts of a bygone time, and so on.

As mentioned previously, a refurbished watch quickly goes beyond the original factory. We see countless examples of Omegas, for example, with all traces of these former lives obliterated simply by excessive polishing; refinished knobs completed with varying degrees of expertise and unoriginal dial styles fresh from the overactive création of dial refinishers; supposed new-old stock beads connected with rice bracelets (as an alternative to originals that have been restored); distinct and shiny crowns swapping otherwise functional and worn ones; the looking nicely put together of some models to search deluxe rather than standard; drastically wrong movements (but, hey, so what? no-one buying a new-old observe will probably look under the bonnet) and numerous other touches that will compromise the integrity in the original model.


Why don’t we return to the earlier point in opinion and acknowledge that opinions simply express a private preference? Suppose we are to develop a reasoned argument that will favor one opinion above another concerning the resource efficiency, restoration, or refurbishment of mass-produced watches. In that case, we can choose to look at where opinion converges into a body of the knowledgeable train.

First, there is a market to get new-old in any stream connected with collectibles. Judging by the mountain of literature about the new-old segment of markets, it’s usually where curious amateurs or freshly produced neophytes land. Refurbished old binoculars are generally a seller’s sector rather than a buyer’s market, mainly because buyers do not make distinctions in addition to the visual appeal and notional purchase value of vintage collectibles, placing themselves at the mercy of vendors – the same thing with antique watches.

In reviewing a wide variety of books and publications on horological restoration and also analyzing academic pronouncements around the conservation of our technological customs, I believe the following points usually are worthy of consideration:

Conservation is preferred for crucial watches and clocks, which embody technological innovation. Recovery amounts to wanton devastation of heritage.

The more unusual the object, the greater the case regarding conservation over restoration.

Regarding mass-produced watches, the restoration will be favored by both the ‘expert’ and the knowledgeable ends in the market. Values are increased for working models that will fully meet a company’s specifications. In some cases, a watch that includes retained all of its unique factory-assembled parts, while regulated to compensate for having on, will fetch more than a renovated watch with auto parts.

As the vintage watch sector has grown both in size and breadth, there is a growing phase that values ‘functional’ rescue – replacement of worn mobility parts and conservation, stabilizing nonworking parts.

All usually prefer refurbishment of part, rather than the whole, of a watch comes to an end of the market except the particular new-old segment. Refurbishment is usually seen as an option when you can find no other options.

Refurbishment to make a new-old watch has an industry for newbies. The prices can be high, but re-selling values can be severely marked down.

So, where do I stand? Set me in the Functional Recovery group!

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