Question: Engraveable watch dials

Matthew Evans

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I see aftermarket engraving done on watches and am interested in expanding my scope. I’ve done some searching and have fallen short on watch dials good for engraving. I figure start with something desirable like a dial; that doesn’t void warranties and not such a big investment like a luxury watch purchased outright. Any horologists got some direction?

My other thought is just to have desirable work and then getting commissions for said items and pay out a jewelry store for their watchmaking as part of the job cost. Thank you for any insights, almost getting to the point where I can comfortably sell my work and want to diversify.
 

Andrew Biggs

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Voiding warranties………..This area is a complete minefield.

Depending on the watch manufacturer, if any unauthorised person opens the watch, engraves the watch or otherwise tinkers with the watch………all warranties are voided.

The higher end you go, the more likely this is to happen and the more expensive it becomes.

Some jewellery stores/watch repair places will not touch certain brands because they can’t get original parts and they are left holding the baby if anything goes wrong. Others may be willing to take the risk. It’s a crap shoot. Try replacing the back of a Rolex with an original part and see how much it “officially” costs. It can be eye watering.

You also have to be careful with something like a dive watch because they are pressure tested and peoples lives may depend on it. Again, some watch repair places may be willing to go down that road if they have the equipment but others won’t. Another crap shoot.

You have two choices with engraving………The first is to have it dismantled by a professional or do it yourself but if the watch doesn’t work properly when all put back together……..who is responsible and who pays?

You can get the client to have it disassembled and then reassembled…Then it is all on them for the watch working or not.

The second is to engrave the watch while it is still all together. This has its own dangers because all that vibration and banging away on the case can loosen screws etc….again, who fixes this and at what cost?

All of this is something that should be explained to clients with private commissions.

My best advise is do not even think about high end watches when starting out. Instead, go to Walmart and buy a cheap stainless steel battery watch and pull it to bits and have at it. It will give you a feel for the whole process and if you completely butcher it, then it doesn’t matter............. Then repeat the process a few times.

It’s a lot trickier than you think and there is a lot to learn. :)

Cheers
Andrew
 

Matthew Evans

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Voiding warranties………..This area is a complete minefield.

Depending on the watch manufacturer, if any unauthorised person opens the watch, engraves the watch or otherwise tinkers with the watch………all warranties are voided.

The higher end you go, the more likely this is to happen and the more expensive it becomes.

Some jewellery stores/watch repair places will not touch certain brands because they can’t get original parts and they are left holding the baby if anything goes wrong. Others may be willing to take the risk. It’s a crap shoot. Try replacing the back of a Rolex with an original part and see how much it “officially” costs. It can be eye watering.

You also have to be careful with something like a dive watch because they are pressure tested and peoples lives may depend on it. Again, some watch repair places may be willing to go down that road if they have the equipment but others won’t. Another crap shoot.

You have two choices with engraving………The first is to have it dismantled by a professional or do it yourself but if the watch doesn’t work properly when all put back together……..who is responsible and who pays?

You can get the client to have it disassembled and then reassembled…Then it is all on them for the watch working or not.

The second is to engrave the watch while it is still all together. This has its own dangers because all that vibration and banging away on the case can loosen screws etc….again, who fixes this and at what cost?

All of this is something that should be explained to clients with private commissions.

My best advise is do not even think about high end watches when starting out. Instead, go to Walmart and buy a cheap stainless steel battery watch and pull it to bits and have at it. It will give you a feel for the whole process and if you completely butcher it, then it doesn’t matter............. Then repeat the process a few times.

It’s a lot trickier than you think and there is a lot to learn. :)

Cheers
Andrew
Thank you for the insight, I don’t think that engraving while assembled would ever be a good idea for fine tuned watches, but I’m sure some have done it. At least it answers my question. I have done a little poking around and found that it’s all or nothing for most. I was hoping there was a place to dip the toes like a watch face that you could make on a lathe or water jet (hint hint) and have it interchanged at the customers request, but that is where the money comes in (Walmart it is for now).

On the high end watches, I can’t see someone dishing out the disassembly costs for less than full coverage, more costly than gunsmiths to be exact. But I myself will still try to raise the bar so that it can be something worthy of the commission. Thank you for your detailed response, I’ve looked through this forum long enough to know that persistence and practice does pay, so thank you for tolerating the novice questions.
-Cheers as well
 

Andrew Biggs

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Okay, a couple of things....

Yes, you can engrave the watch while it's fully assembled. I have engraved a lot of watches like this. But then again, I'm working directly with the watch maker so anything coming loose is easily fixed. So just do your homework.

"On the high end watches, I can’t see someone dishing out the disassembly costs for less than full coverage, more costly than gunsmiths to be exact."

And never, ever, ever, assume what the client will and will not pay for or what there budget is. There are a lot of people out there willing to pay for what they want................It is your job to tell them the options and let them make the decision about the money.......you may be pleasantly surprised :)
 

Sinterklaas

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For practice. Make your own dials or have them made. Laser or water cut from thin sheet.
Or and buy a replica watch or dial. Or buy a real dial with out the watch. On ebay you can find loose dials for Rolex etc.

I have no experience with engraving watchdials. But I think it is better to engrave a newly made (aftermarket) dial and keep the original dial in a box. Then you can always revert your (Expensive) watch back to original.
For cheap watches then it doesn't matter so much.
 

Sky

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Nov 15, 2018
Messages
68
Location
Nevada County Ca
These past few months I’ve been learning a lot about watches and have fallen in love with them. I engrave few jewelry items for jewelry store and they specialize in watches. After watching them go through a watch pressure testing and the whole works ect I was amazed. I was given a box a parts to play with and will be engraving them. thank you for the information Mr Biggs
 

Matthew Evans

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These past few months I’ve been learning a lot about watches and have fallen in love with them. I engrave few jewelry items for jewelry store and they specialize in watches. After watching them go through a watch pressure testing and the whole works ect I was amazed. I was given a box a parts to play with and will be engraving them. thank you for the information Mr Biggs
Good luck with the parts, keep us posted.
 

TFACARVING

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Joined
Aug 25, 2019
Messages
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Voiding warranties………..This area is a complete minefield.

Depending on the watch manufacturer, if any unauthorised person opens the watch, engraves the watch or otherwise tinkers with the watch………all warranties are voided.

The higher end you go, the more likely this is to happen and the more expensive it becomes.

Some jewellery stores/watch repair places will not touch certain brands because they can’t get original parts and they are left holding the baby if anything goes wrong. Others may be willing to take the risk. It’s a crap shoot. Try replacing the back of a Rolex with an original part and see how much it “officially” costs. It can be eye watering.

You also have to be careful with something like a dive watch because they are pressure tested and peoples lives may depend on it. Again, some watch repair places may be willing to go down that road if they have the equipment but others won’t. Another crap shoot.

You have two choices with engraving………The first is to have it dismantled by a professional or do it yourself but if the watch doesn’t work properly when all put back together……..who is responsible and who pays?

You can get the client to have it disassembled and then reassembled…Then it is all on them for the watch working or not.

The second is to engrave the watch while it is still all together. This has its own dangers because all that vibration and banging away on the case can loosen screws etc….again, who fixes this and at what cost?

All of this is something that should be explained to clients with private commissions.

My best advise is do not even think about high end watches when starting out. Instead, go to Walmart and buy a cheap stainless steel battery watch and pull it to bits and have at it. It will give you a feel for the whole process and if you completely butcher it, then it doesn’t matter............. Then repeat the process a few times.

It’s a lot trickier than you think and there is a lot to learn. :)

Cheers
Andrew
On the note about cheaper watches try to get something with solid links the rolled and folded links are much harder than those with solid links and are a nightmare to engrave especially starting out
 

Sam

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Watch dials are made of brass and are very easy to engrave.

The first thing you need to know is what kind movement is in the watch. Let's say it's an ETA 2824 or Sellita equivalent (Swiss clone of ETA). If so, find a dial on ebay or with a google search that fits ETA movements. The next thing to do is strip the paint off your new dial with acetone and you'll have a nice brass disc for engraving.

Watch dials have dial feet on the back side which fit into small holes in the movement and are secured with set screws or clamps. Rolex dials have dial feet in different locations than ETA dials, so the two are not interchangeable. Same with Seiko. That's why you need to know the movement specs before buying a dial.

NOTE: The newest Rolex dials no longer use dial feet. The back of the dial is milled to fit the top plate on the movement. This shouldn't concern you right now as there are no aftermarket dials made that I'm aware of.

Be extremely care of the dial feet. They are copper and bend and break very easily, and there's no simple way to repair them. I would suggest gluing the dial on a wooden block with the feet sticking into large holes so they don't get glued or damaged.

You will probably want a printed dial that has no raised indices. With one like that, you'll have a smooth flat disc. If it has raised indices, stripping off the paint and lume and polishing the top will be challenging. Perhaps impossible to get a perfect result. Indices can be removed and replaced. They are normally held in place by a couple of pins which can be driven from the back side of the dial. You're getting into tricky and risky work here so proceed with caution. Don't get acetone in the indices as it'll remove the lume.

PRO TIP: Before engraving, make damn sure the dial you have has feet in the correct location for the movement it's going to be mounted on. Don't take the seller's word for it. Dials have been mislabeled and manufactured incorrectly so verify before you cut.
 

Matthew Evans

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Watch dials are made of brass and are very easy to engrave.

The first thing you need to know is what kind movement is in the watch. Let's say it's an ETA 2824 or Sellita equivalent (Swiss clone of ETA). If so, find a dial on ebay or with a google search that fits ETA movements. The next thing to do is strip the paint off your new dial with acetone and you'll have a nice brass disc for engraving.

Watch dials have dial feet on the back side which fit into small holes in the movement and are secured with set screws or clamps. Rolex dials have dial feet in different locations than ETA dials, so the two are not interchangeable. Same with Seiko. That's why you need to know the movement specs before buying a dial.

NOTE: The newest Rolex dials no longer use dial feet. The back of the dial is milled to fit the top plate on the movement. This shouldn't concern you right now as there are no aftermarket dials made that I'm aware of.

Be extremely care of the dial feet. They are copper and bend and break very easily, and there's no simple way to repair them. I would suggest gluing the dial on a wooden block with the feet sticking into large holes so they don't get glued or damaged.

You will probably want a printed dial that has no raised indices. With one like that, you'll have a smooth flat disc. If it has raised indices, stripping off the paint and lume and polishing the top will be challenging. Perhaps impossible to get a perfect result. Indices can be removed and replaced. They are normally held in place by a couple of pins which can be driven from the back side of the dial. You're getting into tricky and risky work here so proceed with caution. Don't get acetone in the indices as it'll remove the lume.

PRO TIP: Before engraving, make damn sure the dial you have has feet in the correct location for the movement it's going to be mounted on. Don't take the seller's word for it. Dials have been mislabeled and manufactured incorrectly so verify before you cut.
Thank you for the direction. It is invaluable and hope others can use it as well. Have you ever thought about teaching? (jk, you are the best)
 

monk

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if one looks at the video by rolex, it becomes readily apparent why they are fussy as to whom they authorize to work on their products. sorry, no link. the rolex video is well worth watching.
 

pblack

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Rolex is fussy about who can even be an authorized Rolex dealer, let alone work on their watches and order parts! They also reserve the right to pull their watches out of a store on the spot if they feel it is in their best interest in maintaining their standards.
 

monk

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Rolex is fussy about who can even be an authorized Rolex dealer, let alone work on their watches and order parts! They also reserve the right to pull their watches out of a store on the spot if they feel it is in their best interest in maintaining their standards.
there was a nearly hi end jewelry store in our area that's now departed. my niece worked for this store for a time. during her tenure there, they applied for a rolex "dealership" (if that's the correct term), and were politely turned down. the reasoni given was that there was a rolex outlet x number of miles nearby. the idea was to limit the number of outlets in a given area.
 

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