Thursday, November 5, 2020



Before we go any further, let's consult a Cambridge dictionary:

Restoration: the act or process of returning something to its earlier good condition.

Hardly any room for misinterpretation: fixing a broken watch and returning it to an 'earlier good condition' is essentially a restoration. What is not defined as a restoration is regular maintenance: ensuring that a watch which is already in good working order continues to perform for another period of time - until it's due for next scheduled maintenance. We call this kind of work regular servicing.

The recent YouTube video opened a floodgate of comments: "Oh, that video is not a Rolex restoration, it is just a video showing a lots of parts being replaced, not restored." Those comments unfortunately come from ignorant viewers who simply lack the basic understanding of the restoration process.

Was the watch broken at the beginning of the restoration process? Yes. Actually, it was at the point of a total write-off. Has it been returned in working order? Yes. The end of the story.

However, what may confuse some viewers is the misplaced hope that almost all 100 of the rusted out parts will be restored themselves, individually, one by one. Well, if that was the case, the video would be titled: "restoration of winding stem" or "restoration of barrel arbour" and would have taken 6 months.

But the end result of such lengthy 'restoration' would be a total disaster. Finely machined then rusted out watch parts are not designed to be restored. A rusted escape wheel cannot be restored. Ditto to the rest of them. Except for some bridges and in some rare cases, the base plate which holds all components together. We call that part the 'mainplate'. Due to the fact that it is made of brass which is non-ferrous (not containing iron, therefore no rust) metal, the mainplate can be restored. Since the mainplate contains pressed in steel pins, jewels, and internally and externally threaded steel posts, which are not meant to be removed because they are factory set and adjusted, restoration of the mainplate is time consuming and has to be undertaken with great care. This is a very difficult job and could take days - if not weeks.

The mainplate is the only part which has been restored in the video. So the video should be titled: "Restoration of rusted Rolex and restoration of Rolex 3185 mainplate". Not one, but two restorations.

Read the comments - and you can easily spot the difference between viewers who clearly get it (and appreciate it) and those who are unfortunately clueless about watchmaking. 

Again, nothing personal, but if we want to call ourselves students of horology, then we should be able to tell the difference between restoration and servicing. As well to understand why watch parts like gears, pallets, springs, and levers could not and should not be restored - they won't work, the watch won't perform reliably and most likely it won't keep time at all. 

I strongly recommend that you do watch our rusted Rolex restoration video, especially now knowing what to expect. Yes, almost all parts are replaced, the main plate is restored, and the delicacy comes from the fact that the mainplate was restored so precisely that the watch was returned to it's almost like new working condition, with correct amplitude, beat error, and daily timekeeping rate. Again, not bad for a complete write-off. 

Want to have some fun? For a brief moment, there is a shot of our 'freedom mug'. The tenth viewer to email us the timestamp of its appearance will receive our freedom shirt. We will list the first 10 names in the next newsletter.
The photo of the restored Rolex calibre 3185 mainplate. Made out of brass, finished with perlage and rhodium plated bearing the Rolex serial number.

Watch the video here:

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