To polish or not to polish is a tough decision that is not made lightly. Proper case work is a delicate and time-consuming process that can enhance the appearance of a watch and bring a neglected or battered watch back to life. Unfortunately a generation of unscrupulous jewelers and watchmakers decided that force plus a polishing wheel equaled a polish job. The problem with this approach is that it removes too much material and deforms the original lines and case patterns. It also produces a horrific surface that is flat and shiny but reflects light in several different directions creating the dreaded “over polished” look. This most recent piece was an example of a watch that suffered bad polishing and then a rough wearer. The Seamaster logo and “waterproof” had been mostly polished out of the caseback, while the front was clearly the victim of years of abusive wear. Even with this history, its rose gold dial and hands remained very well intact and stand out as a great contrast to the life outside the case.
After a great deal of thought I came to the conclusion that there are two kinds of vintage watches: collector pieces and wearer pieces. When buying and servicing collector pieces, the goal is to absolutely minimize your impact and preserve the originality of the piece inside and out. With wearer pieces the goal is to restore a watch to the best of your ability to its original beauty. While I am a strong believer that reluming and redialing ruin a watch, case work can go a huge way in really bringing a piece back to life for a wearer. I made the decision to let this one be until it goes to a new owner. That new owner can make the decision that makes them happy.
This Omega 471 is a great example of one of the first automatic calibers that Omega produced. It is a fantastic piece of history that deserved a new lease on life. Unfortunately the last person to attempt this believed that Omega parts are more interchangeable than Omega lets on. This led to a slightly more costly restoration, but it was entirely worth it.
After a full disassembly, cleaning, reassembling, and oiling the movement was running crazy fast (+180-230 seconds per day.) My first instinct was to start at the power source, the mainspring. I replaced the mainspring, but still the rate was incredibly high. Then I took a long hard look at the balance and just felt that something wasn’t right. I took out a Caliber 500 movement I had and found the hairsprings to be identical. It was then I realized that this wrong heart so to speak was the cause of the problem. After getting the proper balance and installing it I regulated the watch to +/-3 seconds per day in all positions.
Back together; it is stunning even in its unpolished state. The rose gold dial and hands are unique and are a beautiful contrast to the stainless case. Although small by today’s standards, it is a great piece from the early days of Omega automatics.