Recently, we overhauled a vintage Rolex Day-Date President for a customer who had accidentally reached a bit too close to an active grinding wheel while working in his tool shed. As you can see in the photograph that was taken before service, the top, left lug of the watch received a substantial gouge in the metal that required a significant amount of gold to be resupplied.
The enlarged photo below shows the extent of the damage, and just how much metal had been ground away from the upper left lug on the case of the watch.
Rolex is unique among the various luxury watch manufacturers, in that they produce their own proprietary gold and platinum alloys from within their in-house foundry, located at their Plan-les-Ouates site in Geneva, Switzerland.
As an element, pure gold is a relatively soft and malleable metal. While these traits make gold very useful and allow it to be worked into a variety of breathtaking shapes, they also severely limit its functionality in applications where hardness and durability are of significant importance. Additionally, pure gold is a yellow-colored metal by nature. In order to produce white or rose-colored gold (like Rolex’s trademark Everose pink gold), other elements must be added to the alloy to tint the hue of the otherwise yellow-colored metal.
Most jewelry is manufactured out of a gold alloy rather than pure gold itself. Pure gold is too soft for the majority of applications, and turning it into an alloy allows the manufacturer to produce an item that is far stronger and more durable than what would otherwise be possible through the use of pure gold alone. By manufacturing their own proprietary 18-karat gold alloys, Rolex is able to have complete control over both the color and durability of their metals.
Watches receive a fair amount of wear and tear through regular, day-to-day use. Consequently, it is rather common for them to accrue small marks, scratches, and scuffs in the surfaces of the metal of their external components, such as the bezel, case, and bracelet.
Much of the time, these minor blemishes can be remedied through our normal polishing and refinishing process. However in certain instances, when the damage is extensive or exceedingly deep in the metal, the dent or scratch must first have metal re-supplied and the damage filled in, before the part can then be polished and refinished.
While Rolex’s proprietary blend of 18-karat gold is quite a bit more durable than traditional 18-karat gold, it is also unique in its color. That means that when severe damage occurs to a gold Rolex watch, traditional methods of re-supplying metal to the affected areas will not yield satisfactory results, since the color of the gold that was added will not match the color of the gold of the rest of the case of the watch.
In order to properly repair extensive damage to a gold Rolex timepiece, the gold that will ultimately be re-supplied to the watch and used for the repair must first be color matched to the rest of the watch’s components. Even the slightest miscalculation will result in an imperfect match that will leave obvious signs of the attempted repair, and ultimately make for an overall poor aesthetic appearance.
In regards to the repair of this vintage Rolex Day-Date, the affected area was rather large and in a very prominent location on the watch. Consequently, it was absolutely imperative that the color match of the gold be as close to perfect as possible. Even a minor discrepancy between the two hues of gold would have resulted in a discolored patch of metal on a large and very visible component of the watch.
From the photographs of the watch that were taken after service, it is apparent that the color match of the gold was spot-on, and work to reshape the lug of the case was carried out with expert-level precision. Even a trained set of eyes with the help of high-powered magnification would be hard pressed to identify what part of the watch previously had incurred significant metal damage.
Properly color matching a proprietary gold alloy, and significant repairs to the case of a watch can be a tedious and time-consuming process. However, much like any aspect of Rolex repair, it is imperative that it not be attempted by an inexperienced polisher or watchmaker. When properly carried out, top-notch case work can repair unimaginable cosmetic damage, and restore a watch to near-perfect cosmetic condition.