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When Patina becomes something more... tatty


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I should like to be open with the group - I have a bit of a problem when it comes to watches; I seem to keep buying them. 

Some are nice shiny, modern ones, which are lovely. But some are rather tired old ones. I like to think they have patina; which is good, right? But sometimes I get one which tests even my ability to look for the good. And I do like a bargain.

If they are broken, or just ugly, they go in the drawer and I'll worry about them when I have time (or more likely, my heirs can shovel them into the skip).

But this one, has got under my skin, and I don't really know what to do for the best, so I thought I'd ask the group. It is a Helvetia from, I believe, 1950. The vendor claimed it had only had one owner from new, her Great Uncle, who was a farmer from North of Inverness, overlooking the Moray Firth.

large._N8Y7487.JPG.abbc32380763cb6b096f5255aed4b105.JPG

The dial is why I bought it, I thought it was lovely. I've never seen a Helvetia quite like it (but I'm quietly confident @Carlos Fandango will have!). Here is a closer look at it:

large._N8Y7493.JPG.d5031da4d5521e28ec6d94c7d71c98e5.JPG

So, there are obviously some age spots, but that doesn't bother me. And the hour hand has rubbed in the past at one and five o'clock, but I can't see any problem now.

Then there is brassing of the gold plating on the lugs, as shown below. Again, that doesn't bother me, the plate and the brass are so similar in tone.

large._N8Y7489.JPG.8ba63cd9282ba5d99cebecc35a7312e3.JPG

But then we turn it over. Oh! A third of the plating has rubbed off exposing a nasty alloy back. I reckon this farmer had skin like sandpaper. Now, I must be honest, the vendor clearly showed a picture of the back, but I may have been a bit optimistic about it!

large._N8Y7494.JPG.7b4630070eec6d12f303b81e63229654.JPG

So what would the group do? Live with it (after a clean up, obviously)? Pop it into the drawer for the heirs? Get the case sandblasted and re-plated? Or something else?

My inclination at the moment is to get it serviced and a new crown fitted, because it is a pig to wind as there is so little grip on the crown, and then live with it.

Also, whilst I have your attention (and thank you for sticking with me so far):
      What is the name for this dial decoration? I thought before I received the watch it might be guilloche, but it seems to be some applied ripple effect. Sorry the photos don't really show it properly.
      What would you call these hands? I've looked up various references, but nothing quite like them. They seem to be between Leaf and Syringe, or perhaps a bit Spade like?

 

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Pretty cool watch, a movement shot would have been of interest too.

It's not guilloche (which is under a thin layer of enamel which this doesn't seem to have) this is almost like an applied fish scale pattern, whatever it's called its quite nice.

 

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The word "Patina" cover a multitude of conditions, many are just out-and-out degradation ... deflation can eatery look stylish or tatty.... That where is gets a bit soupy. If a watch is sentimental then tatty is stylish, if its not its not.

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1 minute ago, Daveyboyz said:

a movement shot would have been of interest too.

Yes, sorry, I don't want to take the back off until I clean it up a bit. I have rushed it in the past and got a load of debris into the movement.

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OXFAM or Sue Ryder ?
:tongue:

 

Firstly, the hands are what I recognise as Obelisque style.

The dial decoration appears to have been pressed with applied printing & indices.

Depending on the type & condition of the movement (?) it may be worthwhile considering re-plating the case back?
Or just simply applying a case back sticker, trimmed to cover the wear?
 

Looks like the previous owner/wearer has worn it on a nato style one piece strap, IMO.

Your call.

:thumbsup:

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1 hour ago, Boots said:


  What is the name for this dial decoration? ....

Seem to recall this being described as Honeycomb.

There was a raft of embossed dial designs introduced in the 1950's by many brands, usually sourced from a limited number of dial makers.

This has always been the preferred way (mostly) of obtaining dials, even with high end timepieces.

Couple of my 50's timepieces with stamped dial decoration...

qcsfubH.jpg

2ixVYNv.jpg

See if I can locate my reference book on Swiss dial decoration.

 

My 40's ATO with Obelisque hands...

kuaeELE.jpg

Have spare sets somewhere :hmmm9uh:

:wheelchair:

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Thanks for all the helpful comments. 

Apologies for the delay, I have struggled to get the caseback off. I detest press fit casebacks with a vengeance, and this one seemed especially reluctant to come off. Will I ever get it back on!

Here is the movement shot, calibre 830 which fits with the description of it being 1950.

large._N8Y7499.JPG.f2c5618d7dd44f78f4e50d54bc7de522.JPG

You can see some of the marks from removal of the caseback - but I don't believe many of them were mine, especially those up on the shoulder of the case. Although I struggled, I tried very hard to be careful.

Then we have the caseback itself, a few surprises there for me:

i) it was rolled gold, not plated - but I don't know enough to know it there is any significance behind that to explain the wear, or change any repair options (though I am leaning towards the consensus view of not doing any restoration)

ii) it was 20 micron, which I would have expected to have stood up a bit better

iii) so many service marks. I can count 9 separate groups, which I have tried to highlight in the second picture. There is one (marked "1" below) who put two different dates in '68, but since he seemed unsure in one of them if it was '68 or '58, I'm assuming it went back for a second go. Most of course are not dated, and are just codes. It does look like it went to a repairer "W.B.W." three times, so the owner must have liked that service. 

large._N8Y7496.JPG.a673be59ff41021ea7e4991bf93b4f75.JPG

 

large._N8Y7496-Edit.JPG.1917a84dd781d4b1ec8c165fdc8ccf6b.JPG

Finally, the serial number ties up with 1950 on the excellent Helvetia History website.

A watch that is also a fascinating little snapshot of history.

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On 11/09/2020 at 20:16, WRENCH said:

New crown, clean up and service, then wear it. You won't notice the back as it'll be next to your wrist.

I second this, except I would consider pricing up replating the back as you know it would bug you.

Absolutely stunning watch, sadly I can't wear watches like this as they always look too small on my big old wrist.

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Hey, your post made me take my automatic Helvetia for a Sunday stroll. Thanks very much for that.

As for your watch, I would leave it in its original condition. After some essential service that is. Beautiful watch. 

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On 11/09/2020 at 16:25, Boots said:

I should like to be open with the group - I have a bit of a problem when it comes to watches; I seem to keep buying them. 

Some are nice shiny, modern ones, which are lovely. But some are rather tired old ones. I like to think they have patina; which is good, right? But sometimes I get one which tests even my ability to look for the good. And I do like a bargain.

If they are broken, or just ugly, they go in the drawer and I'll worry about them when I have time (or more likely, my heirs can shovel them into the skip).

But this one, has got under my skin, and I don't really know what to do for the best, so I thought I'd ask the group. It is a Helvetia from, I believe, 1950. The vendor claimed it had only had one owner from new, her Great Uncle, who was a farmer from North of Inverness, overlooking the Moray Firth.

large._N8Y7487.JPG.abbc32380763cb6b096f5255aed4b105.JPG

The dial is why I bought it, I thought it was lovely. I've never seen a Helvetia quite like it (but I'm quietly confident @Carlos Fandango will have!). Here is a closer look at it:

large._N8Y7493.JPG.d5031da4d5521e28ec6d94c7d71c98e5.JPG

So, there are obviously some age spots, but that doesn't bother me. And the hour hand has rubbed in the past at one and five o'clock, but I can't see any problem now.

Then there is brassing of the gold plating on the lugs, as shown below. Again, that doesn't bother me, the plate and the brass are so similar in tone.

large._N8Y7489.JPG.8ba63cd9282ba5d99cebecc35a7312e3.JPG

But then we turn it over. Oh! A third of the plating has rubbed off exposing a nasty alloy back. I reckon this farmer had skin like sandpaper. Now, I must be honest, the vendor clearly showed a picture of the back, but I may have been a bit optimistic about it!

large._N8Y7494.JPG.7b4630070eec6d12f303b81e63229654.JPG

So what would the group do? Live with it (after a clean up, obviously)? Pop it into the drawer for the heirs? Get the case sandblasted and re-plated? Or something else?

My inclination at the moment is to get it serviced and a new crown fitted, because it is a pig to wind as there is so little grip on the crown, and then live with it.

Also, whilst I have your attention (and thank you for sticking with me so far):
      What is the name for this dial decoration? I thought before I received the watch it might be guilloche, but it seems to be some applied ripple effect. Sorry the photos don't really show it properly.
      What would you call these hands? I've looked up various references, but nothing quite like them. They seem to be between Leaf and Syringe, or perhaps a bit Spade like?

 

Hi, I haven't seen one exactly the same but in this period, 1950s, Helvetia did have quite a few 'different' looking watches before becoming a bit more mainstream in the 60s. Lots of textured dials and unusual markers, I've a couple of interesting ones from this time including one with worn gold plating which I have just sent of to be replated. I'll post some picture when it's back if you want.

IKaDOahl.jpg

Here's another interesting one of mine from 1955.

qV1XsxAl.jpg

Thanks for the plug for the site as well!

Carl

Edited by Carlos Fandango
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