Watch restoration advice


New User
Apr 28, 2013
Baton Rouge, La
I have a technical question about the restoration of a watch movement. I am in the market for a vintage wristwatch, but nothing I've found is quite what I want. My idea is to find a movement, either vintage or new, to fit my case and then have them assembled.
I have been doing jewelry work for some time, and I want to put a special blue gold plating on my eventual movement. My thoughts would be to plate only the movement plate and bridges, would the function of the movement be impaired by the thin deposit of gold? If not, my thoughts would be to have what ever movement I decide on disassembled and have to parts to be plated returned to me. After plating them I would return the the plated parts to to a watchmaker and have to movement reassembled and installed in my case. Would that be possible? Or would it be prohibitively exspensive?
My knowledge of watch repair is quite limited so any input/advice would be much appreciated.

doug sinclair

Registered User
Aug 27, 2000
Calgary, Alberta

Your knowledge of what would be involved in plating metal is likely greater than mine. But I can say that what would likely be involved in plating a particular watch movement depends on what metal it is made of, or what it was plated with at the factory. And watch components are made of a variety of different metals. I believe that in some instances, it is not possible to gold plate directly onto some metals. There must be an initial plating of a compatible metal before gold plating takes place. Were this necessary, the fine tolerances found in watch movements would be interfered with to the extent there would be problems assembling the watch. And I think I can say without fear of contradiction that if you try to plate ANYTHING other than just the plates (the main frame components) of the movement, the watch will be ruined. Speaking as someone who repairs watches for a living, if you brought a watch to me for dis-assembly prior to plating, or re-assembly after plating, I would turn you down. The problem being that you would expect a satisfactory result or you likely would feel you shouldn't have to pay, and when I feel I would be unable to give a satisfactory result, I am not prepared to work for free! If you succeed in your endeavour, please get back to us with pictures. It sounds like an interesting project.


NAWCC Member
Feb 5, 2007
The endshakes ***may*** all need to be adjusted which can be a hassle depending upon the movement you select. If you took a 21 jeweled watch with friction jewels it would minimize the problems. It will depend on how much endshake is currently in the arbors and how the plating builds up on the mating surfaces; particularly on the pallet bridge/pillar plate and balance bridge/pillar plate.

You would need a careful watchmaker who knows how to treat highly finished surfaces so that your work is not blemished. Have you though of decorating the plates if you are going to go through this much effort?

Sounds like a cool project.


New User
Apr 28, 2013
Baton Rouge, La
Mr Doug, there are very few solid objects that cannot be electroplated, though some things would be rediculous. Some metals require multiple steps in plating, ie stainless steel needs to be plated in copper or nickle first for the gold to adhere properly. Even plastics can be plated, they coat them in a metalizing agent first, they make care parts that way.
Mr Dewey, I have been doing some engraving work for a little while and that was an option but watch movements are rather hard to engrave, you need a stereo microscope to see the details.
There is a process in electroplating refered to as brush or pen plating, which is just selective plating a localized area with out have to submerge the parts in a bath; you can plate moldings on cars while they are still attached. The problem with pen plating parts of the movement is that you'd have patchy coverage and I doubt it would look very nice.

I guess my idea was more of a fantasy type situation, I think I'll just stick to plating the case and crown for the time being. Thanks for the help.
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