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Filling in the numerals on a gold dial

Mary Rohs

Registered User
Jun 15, 2017
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Hi everyone,

I have an old repeater circa 1850s with gold foil 20k dial. The numerals lost their black fill years ago.

It's been a long time since I looked at it and I happened to locate it and so I needed to edit my original post. I originally thought the dial was engraved to hold wax for the numerals, but it looks like they were stamped on or written on with ink.

What was the process that would have been done to stamp the numerals on and are there kits available to somehow reapply ink roman numerals? im guessing there was some process of transferring because im not sure how it would be done but any advice would be appreciated. Although, if the ink is applied in some way, i wonder how the ink doesn't run and smear on the gold.

Thanks
 
Last edited:

Mary Rohs

Registered User
Jun 15, 2017
18
4
3
Just a follow up to my question, I suppose the application of the numbers is similar to the dial making of a porcelain dial of the same period. The roman numerals are painted on.

So what exactly is the technique of that? What type of instrument was used to draw the lines so straight and so that the ink did not run? It would be nice if there is some product to apply new numbers via a heat transfer of some sort.
 

Ethan Lipsig

NAWCC Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
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Mary, you are asking a question that few who frequent this message board likely can answer. Please don't think that the paucity of responses is due to indifference. It is much more likely due to paucity of knowledge.

The only experience I have in restoring dials is by sending them to refinishers or jewelers to work on. That experience generally has been unhappy because refinished dials look . . . refinished, but you should at least explore having a refinisher restore the dial. The last one I worked with was terrible and has gone out of business. Because my experience with refinishers has been poor, I am loath to recommend one.

It is my understanding that prior to some time in the 1860-80s, dials were hand painted. Dial painters were able to paint numbers so expertly that they look almost perfect. Thereafter, a transfer process was developed for "printing" numbers and signatures on dials. If your dial was made in the 1850s, the numerals presumably were hand painted. Dial painting hasn't survived as a lucrative occupation. I expect you'll find it hard to find someone who could repaint your dial in a satisfactory way, but if such specialists exist, a dial refinisher likely would know of them.

Best wishes in restoring your dial.
 

gmorse

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Jan 7, 2011
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Hi Mary,
I think if I had the proper tools and correct ink substitute, I could replicate.
I think if you're able to replicate the work of the original, highly skilled painters with sufficient precision, you'd be able to charge others here a good premium for your work! The average artists' supplies shop doesn't normally stock the extremely fine brushes and pens necessary, and pad printing, the offset transfer process mentioned above, requires a highly accurate jig system.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Incroyable

NAWCC Member
Jun 26, 2022
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Hi Mary,


I think if you're able to replicate the work of the original, highly skilled painters with sufficient precision, you'd be able to charge others here a good premium for your work! The average artists' supplies shop doesn't normally stock the extremely fine brushes and pens necessary, and pad printing, the offset transfer process mentioned above, requires a highly accurate jig system.

Regards,

Graham
Has anyone rewaxed the numerals on gold or metal pocket watch dials?

What's the best process for this?

I recall coming across an old thread on here where someone shaved tiny bits of black crayon to fill in the missing areas and then heated it with a lighter.
 

gmorse

NAWCC Member
Jan 7, 2011
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Hi Jeffery,
I recall coming across an old thread on here where someone shaved tiny bits of black crayon to fill in the missing areas and then heated it with a lighter.
I have never done this because owners usually prefer to leave these very old dials with their history on view, but the original wax was probably very similar to the engravers 'Black Elephant' wax used in longcase dial refurbishment, (still obtainable), which is quite hard when cooled, certainly harder than crayons. I believe this contains some shellac as well as a wax, which results in a harder finish.

Regards,

Graham
 

Mary Rohs

Registered User
Jun 15, 2017
18
4
3
Does anyone know exactly what instrument is used to write the numbers on a porcelain dial (and probably the same for a gold dial)? Where to locate such instruments? Was it some type of quill with a very very VERY fine nib?
 

gmorse

NAWCC Member
Jan 7, 2011
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Breamore, Hampshire, UK
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Hi Mary,

I believe very fine pens were involved, (BTW, these dials aren't porcelain, they're vitreous enamel on a copper or gold substrate), but a dial restorer now would probably use a pad printer to do this. There's a very interesting little booklet written and published by David Penney on the subject of dial making. On enamel dials all the numerals and lines were fired into the surface.

Regards,

Graham
 

Ethan Lipsig

NAWCC Gold Member
Jan 8, 2006
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Mary, I applaud your enthusiasm for restoring your dial, but sometimes it's better to accept a dial as is. Please post a photo of the dial you want to restore, along with photos of the watch it is on, which you said was an old, presumably keywound, repeater. If the watch is in good working order and good cosmetic condition, it is at least fairly valuable. A badly restored dial might reduce its value, especially if the unrestored dial would be acceptable to most collectors.

You should be able to find a similar unrestored dial for your watch. Replacing your watch's dial with an unrestored dial of an appropriate design might be a better approach that restoring the current dial, though finding one that will fit your watch may take time. For example, a decent looking gold dial recently sold for $20 on eBay, with the underlying movement included. #w67n Circa ? Size 20 Swiss WATCH Movement w/ Beautiful Scene On Dial - NO HANDS | eBay.
 
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Incroyable

NAWCC Member
Jun 26, 2022
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There was a Dutch dial restorer that Derek Pratt used for his H4 replica who may be able to provide more insight. I remember he had a website

I don't remember the name but I'm sure one of the members here recalls.
 

karlmansson

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Apr 20, 2013
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I once tried painting a pretty beat up dial in a very run of the mill 1940s tank style ladies watch. As a layman (albeit a layman with a stereo microscope) I can tell you that it was VERY hard to get consistent results and make it look anything close to professional. I used enamel paint but the combination of having it liquid enough to brush on evenly but still holding enough pigment to create sharp lines was infuriating. I think maybe mixing in very finely ground, additional pigment to a modeling paint after thinning it sligtly. I think it's the binding agents that makes it too viscous to be practically useable with brushes or instruments as fine as those used with dials. I also think that the dial I attempted to refinish was pad printed. So it was an uphill battle from the start.

Regards
Karl
 

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