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German Military Products WW2

  1. 1. ==== ====WW2 Reenactment! ====Theres an ongoing debate in museum circles about the ethics of conservation and restoration ofwhat is categorised as Technological Heritage. Watches fit into this category, and while we mayscoff at armchair academic pronouncements on how we should go about maintaining ourcollections, its worth more than a thought.The vintage watch market seems to operate not so much on the ethics of conservation, restorationand preservation of historical integrity, but on the economics of supply and demand as it applies toconserved, restored and indeed refurbished technology. In many cases its opinion that informsthe choice of what to do with a vintage watch and while there are as many opinions as there arepeople, some opinions carry more weight financially than others.Perhaps not so strangely, the high end of the market, often represented by prices fetched atAntiquorum, Christies, Sothebys and others, reflects a decided bias towards conservation andrestoration over refurbishment. On rarer high-end timepieces originality attracts premium prices,while refurbished high-end watches are much less in demand.So first lets arrive at a working definition of conservation, restoration and refurbishment so as to atleast have a set of benchmarks upon which we may base our restoration decisions.CONSERVATIONA concept of conservation emerged about a decade and a half ago in respect to vintagetechnology and is beginning to have an impact on the serious horological markets. It basicallyargues that emphasis should be placed on preservation of originality for the future and that makingvintage technology appear pristine and never used is analogous to vandalism.The idea behind conservation is that all changes to the object should be reversible. Take dials forexample: If one was to take the conservation line when working on a vintage dial, refinishing thedial would be out of the question, but stabilising it with a protective layer of lacquer would, as longas the lacquer could be removed at a later time.The same logic applies to movements. The conservationist would argue that parts should not bereplaced because having the technology operating is far less important than preserving itsoriginality.Heres an example that places technological conservation into a broader context. The AustralianWar Memorial has a collection of WW2 German military aircraft, and when experts conducted theirpre conservation condition survey they identified a grey blue oxide coating on the aircraftsaluminium. They conditionally identified the type and constituents of the coating and devised a
  2. 2. conservation strategy that ensured the original coating was not destroyed.On similar aircraft in the United States, however, preservation work resulted in the removal of theoxide coating, thus destroying the originality of the technology and giving cause for confusion inscholarly investigation of the future. Many in the field of technological conservation would arguethat removing an original coating in order to make the aircraft look new is unethical - same thingfor watches and clocks of historical value.RESTORATIONRestoration is not identical to conservation. Restoration is a process that attempts to return apiece of technology, in our case a timepiece, to a previous state that a given restorer, completewith prejudices, assumptions and opinions about what the object should represent, imagines to beoriginal. Restoration is personal to the restorer and that should never be forgotten.However, in respect to technology, restoration is controversial, since it often involves irreversiblechanges to the original technology in order to make it work and function as it was meant tofunction.With watches and clocks, for example, worn parts are removed, rust is treated, damaged or fadeddials are replaced with genuine factory dials, hands are either re-plated or replaced, cases arepolished, crystals are changed, seals are replaced etc., etc. Prejudices, assumptions and shoppractice come into play here as the restorer applies both an aesthetic logic (visual appeal) and afunctional logic (keeping the watch going to a factory standard) when deciding what parts toreplace during the restoration.But if the parts are factory specified, the surfaces of materials are not changed (eg removing someof the copper coating on a 500 series Omega movement through improper use of solvents) andthe work carried out on the watch is done according to factory recommendations, then manypeople would say that is a reasonable standard on which to base restorations of mass-producedwatches. Clearly, you would not have an original as defined by conservationists, but you wouldhave preserved the integrity of the piece by keeping it to specifications.Another aspect of restoration practiced by some restorers is to focus on functional rather thanaesthetic restoration. An example of functional restoration is to replace worn parts and stabilisethe condition of a watch while maintaining the patina of the piece. This may include a very lightpolishing of the watch and the use of treatment techniques to arrest further deterioration of the dialand other non-mechanical parts of the watch. This more fully complies with those who argue theethical and monetary benefits of restoration over refurbishment.REFURBISHMENTRefurbishment is the practice of taking a complete piece, or part, of old technology and making itlook brand spanking new again. Refurbishment involves removing an objects past in the belief thenew looking is best or that new looking sells.We see much evidence of refurbishment wherever we look. Old houses rebuilt to look faux grandewith more ornamentation than displayed originally; furniture in the brassier antique shops that
  3. 3. appears as smooth and new as the IKEA competitors product down the street; cars of the 50s and60s chromed to the hilt and modified to reflect modern concepts of a bygone era, and so on.Like the examples above, a refurbished watch often goes beyond the original factory brief. We seecountless examples of Omegas, for example, with all traces of their former lives obliterated byexcessive polishing; refinished dials completed with varying degrees of competence and unoriginaldial patterns fresh from the overactive imaginations of dial refinishers; so-called new-old stockbeads of rice bracelets (as opposed to originals that have been restored); sharp and shiny crownsreplacing otherwise functional and nicely worn ones; the dressing up of some models to lookdeluxe rather than standard; wrong movements (but, hey, who cares no-one buying a new-oldwatch will probably look under the bonnet) and numerous other touches that compromise theintegrity of the original model.SO WHAT IS THE STANDARD FOR WATCHESLets return to the earlier point on opinion and acknowledge that opinions are simply an expressionof personal preference. If we are to build up a reasoned argument that favours one opinion overanother in respect to the conservation, restoration or refurbishment of mass-produced watches,then we can choose to look at where opinion converges into a body of knowledgeable practice.First, there is a market for new-old in any stream of collectibles, and, judging by the mountain ofliterature written about the new-old segment of various markets, its usually where intriguedamateurs or freshly minted neophytes land. Refurbished collectibles are generally a sellers marketrather than a buyers market, because buyers do not make distinctions other than visual appealand mythical investment value of vintage collectibles, thus placing themselves at the mercy ofsellers - same thing with vintage watches.In reviewing a large range of books and magazines on horological restoration and analysingacademic pronouncements on the conservation of our technological heritage, I believe thefollowing points are worthy of consideration:Conservation is the preferred option for important watches and clocks, particularly those thatembody technological innovation. Restoration amounts to wanton destruction of heritage.The more rare the object, the greater the case for conservation over restoration.In the case of mass-produced watches, restoration is favoured by both the expert and theknowledgeable ends of the market. Values are higher for working models that meet fully amanufacturers specifications. In some cases, a watch that has retained all of its original factoryassembled parts, even though regulated to compensate for wear, will fetch more than a restoredwatch that has had replacement parts.As the vintage watch market has grown both in size and breadth, there is a growing segment thatvalues functional restoration - replacement of worn movement parts and conservation thatstabilises non-working parts of a watch.Refurbishment of part, as opposed to the whole, of a watch is generally preferred by all ends ofthe market except the new-old segment. Refurbishment is generally seen as an option when there
  4. 4. are no other options.Refurbishment to create a new-old watch has a market for newbies. The prices paid can be highbut re-selling values can be severely discounted.So where do I stand? Put me in the Functional Restoration group!(c) 2006 Desmond GuilfoyleDesmond Guilfoyle in an award winning commentator on influence, persuasion and charisma. Hehas written three books on those subjects and his book The Charisma Effect has been publishedin seven languages around the globe. For further articles, tips and information visit his blog at He also collects vintage Omega Constellations to remain sane,and his comprehensive blog on Constellations can be found at Source: