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Guide to vintage watches: Materials

If you are looking to purchase your first vintage watch, finding the right material might be a bit of a jungle. This guide will teach you all you need to know about vintage watch materials.


Gold plated
Gold-plated vintage watches consist of a base material with a thin layer of gold applied. On most Omega watches from the 50s, 60s and 70s, the gold coating is 40-80 microns (0.004-0.008 cm) and thus far thinner than a human hair. Often, the coating is applied on top of a relatively soft metal such as brass. Some vintage Omega watches have a front case that is gold plated, while the back case is in stainless steel. This means that the part which lies against the wrist is made of a more durable material.

Gold filled
Gold-filled vintage watches might look like gold-plated to the naked eye. The difference, however, is that where gold-plated vintage watches have a very thin outer layer of gold, gold-filled watches have a slightly thicker gold coating that covers a base material that usually consists of another metal such as brass or steel.

Gold capped
Gold-capped vintage watches consist of a base material with a piece of solid gold laid on top as a cap. It is therefore a significantly thicker and more real piece of gold than on vintage watches with gold coating and gold filling. On vintage watches from Omega, the bottom material is typically stainless steel with a solid piece of 14-carat gold applied. You can often tell gold capped from other materials by looking at the back of the horns on a vintage watch and comparing it to the front. Where the front will appear as gold, the back will be steel.
Stainless steel
This material pretty much speaks for itself. Many vintage Omega watches are made of stainless steel, which is a strong material that can last for many years. With steel Omega watches from the 50s, 60s and 70s, you must pay attention to whether they have been polished or not. Polished in this context does not mean that they have been given a soft cloth to puff up the shine, but whether they have been machine polished so that the case has lost its definition. On most vintage Omega watches, the horns and case should have relatively sharp edges, but these can become soft if polished excessively.


Solid gold
Vintage watches made in solid gold consist of both a front and back case made entirely in gold. Gold is a soft material, which is why vintage watches are typically not made of pure gold (also called 24-carat). Vintage watches from Omega are typically made of either 14-carat (58.5% pure gold) or 18-carat (75% pure gold).



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