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Jet Jetski

watch case materials - telling the difference

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Hi,  I was wondering how to tell the difference between polished steel and chrome cases, not always easy, and some chromed 3133 cases can have the chrome taken right off and polished up - it's a white copper alloy. see:  https://forums.watchuseek.com/f10/restoring-early-model-poljot-cal-3133-chronograpah-case-694304.html  

 

In the absence of a sensible magnetic test for a watch case  (:yes:) , if there are no signs of wear, what do you think is the best way to tell?  Generally chrome is harder than stainless and resists swirling, but I have some new looking cases in what I believe are both materials and not easy to differentiate.  Anyway, I bought some scales (500g in 0.001g increments) and will do some weighing tests, but otherwise?

Edited by Jet Jetski

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49 minutes ago, scottswatches said:

One way, which isn't foolproof, is if the case back says stainless steel back it is a base metal case (often chromed)

thanks, all the 3133 chronos had a stainless steel back I believe - the miltary cases were stainless, and the civilian chromed, however it appears that later on, probably on the Volmax and Maktime eras, a) parts were mixed and matched to make 'special editions' like cars when they are closing out a model to make way for a new shap, and b) some traditionally cvilian offerings ended up in stainless cases, however, the rampant refurbishment and remanufacturing of these watches leads me to believe that this happens now the other way around, and I believe I have a civilian Poljot in a stainless case and a military sturmanskie in a chromed case.  As I have only recently had a decent percentage in removing and re-inserting the stems on these watches, I don't want to think about swapping them until I am 100%!

I have a 31659 (hacking version) in a stainless case - guaranteed - so i will use that as my benchmark.  It should be heaviest of all as it ought to have an extra mechanism to stop the balance while you set it!  I also have one watch that has signs of wear - ie definitely chromed - There is a massive difference between titanium and steel, so there may be a measurable difference between stainless and the famous Russian alloy.  I will have to take all the straps off.  Anyway, I am off work for 10 days so plenty of time!

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White copper alloy = cupronickel - unfortunately it tarnishes so constant polishing or an acceptance of the tarnish will be necessary!

Cupronickel isn't noticeably magnetic, while 316L stainless steel which many watch cases are made from is very slightly magnetic (might move the needle of a compass), some 3133 cases are chromed base metal (looks a bit like brass) rather than cupronickel.

As you rightly say, chrome plate is slightly harder than stainless steel but the thickness of the plate is a factor, from what I have seen of Poljots the plate is very thin so may not add much to the durability of the case.

 

 

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16 hours ago, JoT said:

the plate is very thin so may not add much to the durability of the case

I think this is true, they are easy to tell apart once aged, but I have a really new (I think) stainless cased watch out of Italy, and a very new looking watch that I thought was SS but is possibly chromed - that came from Spain.

There was a decent amount of Poljot retailing done in Italy, and I believe a lot of spares went that way too, so these are probably now being turned into watches and being sold as 'NOS' ....

So my old Russian watches - no problem identifying them :biggrin:

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2 minutes ago, JonnyOldBoy said:

Polished steel and chrome cases will feel different to the touch temperature wise ... Steel will feel colder.

will try that!

13 minutes ago, JonnyOldBoy said:

the touch temperature

I'll tell you a funny story about that - I was an architect, now I'm a project manager for construction projects, and an autoclave that our client fitted wasn't working, the finger was pointed at our pipework (low flow rate of chilled water).  I could see there was no condensation on the valves, so I guessed their water was not actually chilled, then I stuck my finger on the pipe under the insulation, grimaced, and said 'that's about 12 degrees'. Everybody laughed, but when they checked it, they found it was 13 degrees!  I had to send my finger off for calibration ... 

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well the heaviest case was 31659 - it has fewer holes - by a gram or so

 

to put that in perspective a pair of spring bars weighs about a third of a gram

however, interestingly it appears the 3133 stainless cases are a couple of grams lighter than the chrome ones

I have heard that the case dimensions are not identical, because the length of the rods on the pushers is slightly different, although I have never measured any - so that could be a factor too

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21 hours ago, Jet Jetski said:

will try that!

I'll tell you a funny story about that - I was an architect, now I'm a project manager for construction projects, and an autoclave that our client fitted wasn't working, the finger was pointed at our pipework (low flow rate of chilled water).  I could see there was no condensation on the valves, so I guessed their water was not actually chilled, then I stuck my finger on the pipe under the insulation, grimaced, and said 'that's about 12 degrees'. Everybody laughed, but when they checked it, they found it was 13 degrees!  I had to send my finger off for calibration ... 

Thats a proper Engineers Joke ... my wifey would love that ... :thumbsup:

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