You say you want your watch to look like it was dredged from a sunken relic? It's "cool," you say? Well, you're not alone. The use of bronze as a watchmaking material was once considered trendy but is now firmly established, part of the bronze's appeal being its tendency to form a patina over time. Over months of wear it'll naturally take on a worn, distressed look that's unique to the wearer, his or her lifestyle and climate.
But what if you're impatient? What if you want to post it on Instagram now? There are a number of methods for achieving instant patina gratification. Unfortunately, most of them are somewhat smelly, involving anything from eggs or vinegar to ammonia or other substances that speed the oxidation (patina) process. There are even specialized products for this purpose like Cool Tools Patina Gel ($14).
The various methods and substances involved can have different effects, too. Interestingly, bronze reacts with a wide range of substances and chemicals, and the oxidation process can even bring out unexpected colors and patterns. You can find home tinkerers who have posted experiments and results online from dipping their watches in coffee or wine or various other approaches.
Before getting started, however, some words of caution: Many forced patina methods should probably only be applied to watches with reasonable water resistance. Since dive watches are popular subjects for bronze executions, these should be perfectly appropriate and have a rugged character that'll match the look you're after. However, there always remains the possibility of damaging your watch when messing with substances it wasn't designed to interact with or by causing excessive oxidation. Proceed at your (and your watch's) own risk.
We're introducing one of the simplest, most common methods here, and it only requires a few basic and inexpensive items:
What You'll Need
Step 1: Prepare Your Watch
Remove the strap and make sure any screw-down crowns are fully screwed in. Place the watch head in a ziplock bag.
Step 2: Prepare Your Eggs
One or two should be sufficient. Make sure your hardboiled eggs are thoroughly boiled and the yolk is solid (we'll assume you can do this part). Crush them up to expose as much yolk as possible. Put it all in the plastic bag with your watch head.
Step 3: Wait
This isn't the fastest patina method, but it tends to look natural — like the patina that commonly forms with time and use. If the eggs are freshly boiled and warm, the heat will help speed the process. This method tends to have only a rather subtle effect after an hour or so, so simply wait longer — perhaps several hours, but as many as eight for a significant, noticeable change — for more prominent patina. Times and results can vary, though, so keep an eye on the experiment.
Step 4: Enjoy
Remove the watch head from its eggy interim home, and clean it thoroughly. You can repeat the process for more patina.
Enough patina, you say, and now you want your watch to be shiny again? Soaking in acidic substances like lemon juice or vinegar helps remove unwanted patina. Subsequently polishing with a Cape Cod Cloth ($6) is further useful in returning a like-new look to your watch, and you can follow this process up with a buff from a microfiber cloth ($6).