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Basic watchmaking tips - cleaning

  1. UncleBuck understands the decision making hierarchy Aug 17, 2017

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    Quadrophenic-schizophrenia
     
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  2. Journeysintime Feb 22, 2018

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    this was excellent and really helpful. I am working now on setting up my shop so will be able to make some changes. Do you have a recommendation regarding L&R or Zenith solutions? I have a Mark V ultrasonic I will use. Thanks again.
     
  3. Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Feb 22, 2018

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    I personally use L&R. I've tried the Zenith solutions and while they smell much nicer than the L&R do, I don't think they clean quite as well, and I've found that the rinse didn't dry properly so parts came out of the drying cycle wet. I don't have this problem with the L&R.

    Cheers, Al
     
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  4. Seasow Sep 26, 2018

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    Hi Al,
    I really appreciate you posting your cleaning tips. I'm a watchmaking student (graduating this year) and mechanical engineer and I'm always looking for good ideas and different watchmaker's perspectives on subjects like cleaning. You've had good results cleaning dials and hands with the tacky swabs? I see they're available in a range of adhesion, but any suggestions you have on which level of adhesion works best would be great. And they're really reusable with the blue cleaning pad? The maker says the pad is "water washable", but I've also read that it can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol.

    I've heard Solvent H can be used for cleaning dials and hands, and my very limited experience with it was positive, though.

    Have you used any of the various polyurethane foam, polyester foam or similar swabs made by a popular supplier of such items?

    I'm also always trying new ways of quickly and cleanly spreading lubricants on barrel floors, barrel covers and similar larger surfaces. I've had good results with a modified polypropylene stick that was originally the stick for one of the popular swabs. I made a small spatula that spreads the lube well after several drops of lube are applied to the surface.

    For case and bracelet polishing cleanup, we've been using toothpicks to remove bits of compound before ultrasound cleaning with compound remover, but I think pegwood would work well too, as long as I'm careful not to break any off in the bracelet link gaps.

    Thanks,

    Seasow
     
  5. bd-chrono Sep 26, 2018

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    Fantastic information, thank you for sharing!
     
  6. Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Sep 27, 2018

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    Yes, unlike Rodico or similar products, the swabs do not leave residue behind. I sue the Bergeon 7007-22 - no mention made of the level of tackiness when I ordered them. The blue pad cleans them well, and I clean the pad just with water, and then use a blow dryer to dry it quickly.

    I don't use solvent H and I probably never will. IMO any dial cleaning done should be done in a very careful and minimally invasive way, and dipping a dial in solvent is something I would never do unless I was prepared to destroy the dial. Not long ago I received an email from a client of mine who had used another watchmaker to service a vintage Certina. The dial on the watch was in great shape when he sent it in, but it came back looking like this:

    [​IMG]

    Lots of text and logos missing, and the watchmaker (Swatch and CW21 certified by the way) had done his "routine" of dipping the dial in solvent H to "remove dust" and in taking that short cut, he ruined the dial. He didn't even tell the customer what had happened so he found out when he opened the parcel when the watch had been shipped back - needless to say he was pissed and rightly so. The watchmaker refused to take responsibility for it initially, but eventually refunded the service costs - the client is still left with a damaged watch though. All I can say is, proceed with caution as not all dials will react the same to different methods of cleaning (mechanical and solvents).

    Yes, but I don't use them regularly.

    In terms of barrel lubrication, my process is shown in detail here:

    https://omegaforums.net/threads/basic-watchmaking-tips-oiling-part-2-the-mainspring-barrel.71246/

    Cheers, Al
     
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  7. nttisch23 Oct 17, 2018

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    Great read! Thanks for the quality level of effort put in to typing this up
     
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  8. DManzaluni May 15, 2019

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    Thank you for this amazing thread Al, and I have a question: You mention dial cleaning. I had never thought that this was possible and that once a dial looked in any way dirty, what was dirty was always in the dial, and not on it. But recently I have come across references to people using some sort of blue tach to clean (something off) dials. Is this some process you have ever found successful?

    I have got a couple of dials which look a bit unusual in that the 'dirt' does look uneven enough that it might clean off slightly.

    20190515_182205.jpg

    On the Universal, something is creeping along the dial from lower right to the almost unmarked top left. The Tudor seems to scream out for rubbing in soapy water, prior to discovering that soapy water doesn't actually do much, while the Omega (are those curious flat hands upside down?) looks like the metal in the appliqué numbers are attacking the flat surface!

    Could you please show what sort of dirty looking dial may respond to cleaning please? And recommend anything for cleaning dials or, - more likely, - minimising the ugly look of the dial please? Obviously without losing anything on the dial, as you showed on that Certina!
     
    Edited May 15, 2019
  9. Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker May 16, 2019

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    The dial cleaning I am referring to is removing loose dirt from the dial. The substance you are referring top is likely called A*F Rub-off and it's a form putty similar to Rodico. I do not use this on dials or movements, as these substances leave a residue behind even when they are clean.

    As noted the method I use are the cleaning swabs shown in this thread.

    The type of cleaning you are referring to is cleaning off damaged lacquer. etc, which is a whole different things, and comes with great risks to the dial printing.
     
  10. DManzaluni May 16, 2019

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    Yes, that is what I figured, the substance I referred to is only really useful for Braille watches. Otherwise, what either is or looks dirty will almost never respond to cleaning, despite the manufacturer occasionally referring to it removing something they call "staining" on dials. It is actually designed for something else, namely cleaning things like fingerprints from metal parts and sometimes picking up things like broken pivots. and to prove this, there are no photos anywhere on the Internet of before and after showing anything like cleaning off staining!

    And whatever is on that Universal dial, I suppose if it made its way through the crystal, it is unlikely to clean off?
     
  11. micampe May 16, 2019

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    I don't know which type of staining you are referring to here, your Tudor and Omega look water damaged and I don’t think there’s anything that can be done there, but here are examples of the lacquer cleaning that Al was referring to: http://watchguy.co.uk/cleaning-and-preserving-original-finish-on-dials/
     
  12. Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker May 16, 2019

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    And a good illustration of why that process is quite dangerous, as text can go missing very easily. Like the Certina above, using solvents can give very different results, because the products used on the dials varied over time between manufacturers and also over time with a single brand, so you never know if the lacquer will come off and leave the test behind, or if the entire dial gets stripped.

    For me, I would leave the dial as is unless you are prepared to destroy the original printing and end up with a blank dial or are okay with getting the watch redialed.
     
  13. DManzaluni May 16, 2019

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    Yes, you are right, there is another category of watch dials that can be cleaned carefully: Dials that have a layer of varnish ON the dial which has itself gone dirty. But which may respond to stripping off and re-lacquering/varnishing. But as the lettering may always have been a bit iffy, this method may well strip lettering off.

    Question for the terminally neurotic who enjoy criticizing any dial that has ever been in any way restored: How would such critics (I hesitate to use the word collectors) regard an original dial that has been stripped and the lettering alone reapplied?
     
  14. WhiteThorn Jun 16, 2021

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    I can see why people like this guy. I can’t thank archer enough for spending the time writing this all down and sharing what I’m sure is a tiny bit of his knowledge!
     
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  15. alalalalongines Dec 11, 2022

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    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    I have some questions:
    If i clean the movement in something like lighter fluid or waschbenzin, can i put the balance and the pallet fork in it without damaging them? How do i rinse the balance and pallet fork without damaging the shellac? Or do i not need to rinse them?

    Does anybody have tips on where to buy and which cleaning and rinsing solutions to buy as a hobbyist in switzerland?

    Thank you very much!
     
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  16. Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Dec 11, 2022

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    Watch cleaning solvents generally do not harm shellac - I'm not familiar with waschbenzin, but lighter fluid is mineral spirits, and that won't harm shellac. The thing to avoid there is alcohol - it won't fully dissolve the shellac, but can soften it.

    The balance is typically mounted on the main plate during cleaning, and the pallet fork goes into a small basket when you clean it - they both get cleaned in the same solutions used for the rest of the movement.
     
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  17. alalalalongines Dec 12, 2022

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    Thank you very much!
    If i use lighter fluid or something similar i could rinse the parts in isopropylalcohol (except for the shellac containing parts). So what happens if i do not rinse the shellac containing parts after cleaning them in lighter fluid?
     
  18. Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Dec 12, 2022

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    The lighter fluid would be considered a rinse, so if you just dry the parts after putting them through the fluid you should be fine - warm moving air is recommended.
     
  19. Lancaster Mar 10, 2024

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    I just opened this 1970 watch today and found this tarry mess. I've tried using alcohol to get this goop off my hands but it didn't do much. Nor does soap. What would you do here? 001.jpg
     
  20. Archer Omega Qualified Watchmaker Mar 10, 2024

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    I typically use 99% alcohol, but acetone works as well.