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A sign of minimal to no wear on the outside of some casebacks is the presence of the "brushed" lines or machined finish. Did all cases which the 992B were cased in have this brushed look, or were some absolutely glossy and mirror like when they came from the factory. I'm pretty sure it's the latter, but were some models always brushed or were for instance some Model 2's brushed and some glossy. I'm pretty sure also that the Model 15's always came with a circular brushed finish, but how about the others?
Given that the Model 17 I recently bought from Lindell is glossy enough for me to see my homely mug in it, I know that at least some of them came that way, but were they consistently so?
I don't know the answer to your question, Tref. But I do know that it is very easy to "fake" those lines on a watch back. So, I'd be very careful about relying upon their presence alone in determining that a case is brand-new.
I can report on New-Old-Stock examples of the Star-Hamilton 17 case. Apparently some of the last ones had circular finish, but most of them, particularly earlier ones had vertical butler finish. The one you bought in our Chapter 185 Auctions recently is a very nice example but that case-back has been gently polished by hand. Originally it would have had a vertical butler finish.
The best NOS Model 16 that I have is from the mid-1950s and has its original vertical butler finish.
All the Stainless Steel Model 15 Cases had a circular finish.
My bet is all others in the 992B time period had a vertical butler finish. That includes the Model 3 Two-Tone Stainless Steel Case-Back. The point of this finish was to avoid handling scratches, often called a "shopworn look" from showing up prior to retail sale. I do not believe any of these cases started out with a highly polished finish. That is simply my belief based upon seeing the cases in question, some of them New-Old-Stock and numerous others with remnants of the original butler finish.
As Peter pointed out there are ways of replicating something similar to the butler finish so that in and of itself is not sufficient proof of an unused example.
Hope this helps,
Peter and Lindell,
Thanks so much for the great info, that I'm coming to rely on more and more.
Lindell can you explain to me why they blamed the butler for the vertical finish as opposed to just saying it had a vertical finish ? But seriously, is the Butler Vertical Finish the one that looks like a light, vertical machining of the caseback? I think it is, but want to be sure before I try to commit this to memory. And it must have been done with the caseback screwed on in order to make sure it was vertical right? Or at least the caseback must have been marked somehow to ensure the same.
Another question comes out of this (as is par the course with me), and that is what is the best material to use polishing a watch after handling it? I've been using a very high grade microfiber cloth, but I'm not sure if I'm doing more harm than good with it. I've heard of people handling their watches with cotton gloves, but I'm sure if I tried that I'd end up dropping one. But would it be wiser to use an old t-shirt to remove the oil and sweat left behind by my handling of them instead of a microfiber cloth before putting them away? Or are kid gloves really a watch collector's required tool?
And finally, what is used to "lightly polish" a case back. I'm sure a very light touch is needed to avoid causing brassing, but is it done by hand or machine, and with what material?
I did tell that answers to my questions most always begets more questions, right?
Oh, one more thing. Was the Butler finish the first to wear? It would seem possible that one might detect wear elsewhere that would give away the fact that the finish on the caseback was reapplied?
To add to Lindell's comments.... both the vertical and circular finish can be faked.
I use a Selvyt Cloth to hand-clean my cases. it is a special 100% cotton weave which is about the least damaging. It has absolutely no abrasives or solvents.
Polishing a case is very controversial. Many say that it is damaging to the case or... a form of "faking." It is widely done. I don't believe that it has to be either and I personally like my cases to be shiny and attractive. I hesitate to mention my methods of polishing for fear that I may be giving bad advice or that someone will act upon my advice to their detriment.
One bit of advice that I can give with 100% certainty. Alway remove the movement from the case before doing any polishing. If any abrasive, or any kind, is used, the watch must be thoroughly cleaned of all materials and then properly dried. Moisture will work it's way into the stem parts and ruin them. Abrasives are very, very fine and will work their way into the movement. They might not even be visible but they will be wearing your movement.
Tref... you made a statement that you'd like to learn to service your watches externally but not work on the movements. My suggestion (unsolicited) is.... if you want to do anything to your watches, you should learn about watchmaking comprehensively. I've personally had as many problems in casing a watch as in working on the movements. It can be very complex and frustrating. And... everything works together. Either don't touch them or learn every d*mn thing that you can. Just my 2 cents.
I have never heard of a Selvyt Cloth. Can you tell me more about them and where one might find one?
By polishing, I'm not really speaking of changing the appearance so much as cleaning it. That being said, my goal is not to make the watch prettier for sale (I do not intend to sell my watches unless forced by a severe financial hardship, or possibly when my small children get ready for college). My intent is primarily to clean the outside in order to protect them from the effects of my handling them, and keep them pretty for my own satisfaction. But I certainly not be averse to removing some of the light scratching that pocket carry can bring. Perhaps I should experiment with redeveloping my old spit-shining skills, learned in the military in my youth, case back off the watch of course
If only I could find a good watchmaker around me who would like to teach me what he could of his craft. I have an acquaintance in Ontario, Canada who met and was befriended by just such a watchmaker, a man that had been plying his trade for more than 50 years, and is now teaching my friend. Barring that I would still like to do the relatively simple things, and being good with my hands I think I could learn, even if self-taught. But in the spirit of your advice, perhaps I should find some otherwise unwanted examples to learn on! In that way I would be risking little and learning much. Though I'm fairly certain I will never be anywhere remotely close to being trained as a watch repairman, I have to believe that if nothing ventured, nothing is gained. And not to worry, I won't be risking anything close to being valuable to me or anyone, before I'm confident I can do what I'm intending to do, and do it right.
"Selvyt" is a name-brand of a 100% cotton cloth. I'm not sure about the science of how it works but it has a certain, soft texture that is very good for polishing off fingerprints and light soiling and tarnish.
The important thing is that the Selvyt Cloth contains no chemicals or abrasives. My feeling is.... if you don't need, why have 'em. They cost about $10.00 more or less. They will not take off everything and won't polish a watch to near-new brightness but they are a good start and something to have around the collection.
I did a Yahoo-Search on them and came up with quite a few retailers. If you can't find them, I'll give you some links. Be sure to buy the 100% cotton. I think they have other polishing cloths too.
Try this link.... I've never bought from this place but I'll supply it just so you can see what you're looking for.....
And they don't wear out.... when they get soiled, you CAN simply wash them.
I mostly use a chamios cloth the wipe the prints off and give a gentle mellow polish.
For heavier work, I use Simichrome and an old tee shirt, but this needs to be done with the movement out, and followed with soap & water bath. The soap & warm water is not a bad way to clean a case either.
I use a soft tooth brush to get in the small places like the crown etc where dirt accumulates.
Not to get into an argument but I was told never to use Semichrome on a watch case. I was told that Semichrome is very abrasive and will damage and wear cases very fast. I AM very aware that they are selling Semichrome at the Marts and I have bought a case that had brassing disguised by Semichrome (and learned how to tell the difference).
In washing cases, the most important thing is to dry them to the max. Water will work its way into the stem and cause havoc. We have a "case-drier" and we heat the cases to a point where they cannot be touched and keep them there for 20 minutes.
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