Thursday, January 7, 2010

Guerrilla Watchmaking: Making a Bezel Pearl

As I have mentioned previously here; in my free time one my hobbies is amateur watchmaking. I am currently trying out the pretty popular TZ online watchmaking course [Level 1] and am enjoying it quite a bit. It's a hobby that helps if you have loads of patience [something I don't always have], but it's also a hobby that can breed patience if you allow it to.

One of the goals with The Escapement was to occasionally post articles about my trials with traditional watchmaking, along with other projects I get myself into

I am happy to welcome you to the first post in what I like to call the "Guerrilla Watchmaking" series.

I should first state that NOTHING compares to having a trained professional work on your best watches, and I highly recommend that if one of your prized pieces needs work, you should have it looked at by a qualified watchmaker. Then again...I'm not the boss of you, if you feel confident in your skill...go for it! You'll notice that every watch I work on is not a luxury piece, and probably has little to no value...except to its owner. Working on these types of watches really helps build confidence and proper tool function.

Over the Christmas holiday my brother handed me an old ESQ 3-hand quartz watch that was simply not working. He stated that the battery had been changed several times with no luck. I told him that I could try a movement swap if he wanted me to, he agreed. The movement swap was pretty standard the Ronda quartz movement was cheap to replace and the work went by without a hitch...and I'm happy to say it's running like a champ now.

The other thing I noticed on the watch was that the luminous bezel pearl was missing, and there was a gaping hole that just looked weird. After doing some searching around various watch forums [no, this is not a technique I developed] I was clued into a way to make a new bezel pearl for very little money using epoxy resin. I asked my brother and he gladly told me to go ahead and try it.

Here is a quick tutorial on what was done, and its results:

  • Clear drying epoxy resin [5 minute setting so you can work with it]
  • White acrylic paint [like model building paint]
  • Luminous powder [I got a small vile from for about $3]
  • Old bracelet pin tool, or a paper clip stretched out would work
  • Book of matches [my mini paint brush: optional, use what works for you]
  • Masking tape

- The first thing I did was tape off the area where I wanted to make the new pearl. My brother [his watch] agreed to let me fill in the entire hole rather than just the original round pearl.

- Here you can see the old circle pearl is missing, along with the surrounding material [I have NO idea what it was originally].

- I took a very small amount of the white paint and wanted to give the area a very light coat. I used the back end of a match as a brush, I ran the end over a file to give it more of a brush texture.

- Here you can see the paint in the hole. Since the epoxy dries clear [which you want to have the best glow] the white paint give the pearl a solid background. Make sure not to fill the hole in, give it just a thin coat of paint

- After I removed the tape I had to scrape some extra paint off of the outer part of the bezel hole. little housekeeping

- I used equal parts lume powder, and epoxy mixture...but I made an error here...can you tell what it is?

- Mixing the two on the brown cardboard was the can see here the brown specks in the lume mix..that's just unacceptable.

- Just for is what the mixture looked like when charged with the lights off. You can really see the dirt in this one

- Luckily on the flip side of the cardboard was a white side...Here is the mix I used for the watch. I also was more careful in how aggressively I mixed this time around.

- Sorry for the bad pic, this is how I took the mixture and applied it to the hole...thankfully this tool tip was cheap...because it's useless now. I just carefully picked up very little of the mixture with the bracelet pin tool and gently set it into the bezel spot filling it in.

- After about 5 minutes the epoxy starts to harden, below is the completed pearl in the watch. It's hard to see but the color of the new pearl matches the lume on the dial perfectly...The best part is that the epoxy dries with a gloss [it's essentially clear plastic] so it looks and feels great.

- A not so great pic of the lume after just a few seconds of can really see how that new bezel pearl pops.

This also works with traditional round pearls...It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. I would recommend that you give this a shot, I am rather proud of the results I garnered.

So there it is, it's not perfect but it is a quick and easy fix if you have an older watch missing its pearl that you still enjoy wearing. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

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