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Dials – Adding Resin

Step-by-Step Instructions: The following information will show step-by-step images and instructions on how to successfully add resin to a dial. Some people have had difficult doing this type of work so I will show how easy it can be whilst avoiding mistakes.

History (Why Add Resin?): Its believed that when the Italian Navy ordered watches from Panerai they insisted that the Lume be encased or sealed inside the Dial. The Lume they used in those days was Radium (which of course is radioactive). Panerai achieved this by applying Resin to the dial numbers (to seal the dial front), then they added the Lume to a Plexi Holder that was inserted into the center of the dial and finally they sealed the dial with a Backing Plate. Thus the Lume was completed sealed inside the dial.

Which Resin is Best? First decide which resin you want, Clear or Amber. Use clear if you want a super clear glass-like finish. The correct type of resin is IMPORTANT. The type I will use above has "working time" of about 3 hours, it takes 24 hours to dry and 36 hours to become fully hard (very hard). The finish is superb and a lot better than the standard resins normally used in the glass-fiber industry (I do not use this type they can be too dense). Use the very best resin you can, this is important when working is very small areas.

Amber Resin: The image above shows the Amber version. You would expect the resin when applied to make the Dial Indices (numbers) really amber, even on a white background. This is NOT true. The Amber will add a small "amber tint" and will not be very visible. This is why its often used on the 6152 Dial that normally has very white indices (numbers). It will "not" make a white dial numbers amber or yellow, it will only make them a little less white. It is perfect for the 6152 and will keep the numbers looking white with no signs of yellowing.

3646: Amber is used on the 3646 but to get the yellow or orange type indices (numbers) then the user must add colour to the Luminous pigment (Lume) that is applied behind the Resin.

Getting Started: Measure out Two Parts of Resin to One Part Hardener

You only need a little: Above we can see 2 X Parts Resin and 1 X Part Hardener. Do NOT use too much (do not use all the bottle). A little Resin goes a Long Way! The cup above contains enough resin to make about 7 to 10 dials.

Oh Those Bubbles! Mix the resin well and then wait. Allow 30 minutes and the bubbles will clear on their own. The Resin has a "working-time"of 3 hours so there is no hurry.

The 30 Minute Wait or Coffee time: After waiting only 30 minutes the Resin now has very few bubbles.

How Long Should I Wait Before I add Resin to the Dial? Its better if you can allow the resin to sit for 2 hours. Its tempting to start work right away but if you wait for a couple of hours the resin will thicken a little and also become tacky. This makes it easier to apply but also it makes the Resin Flow and LEVEL much better.

The Magic Applicator: Well its not magic but it will make a big difference in helping make the perfect resin dial. This applicator allows controlled amounts of resin to be applied to the dial. Its probably the secret to making a good resin dial. I have tried many various applicators, brushes, tools etc but none work as well as this applicator bottle.

Remember not to use all your Resin: Only use some of your Resin, save the rest for later in case you want to make more dials or make a correction. There is enough in the bottle above to make about 5 dials.

Hot Tip: I sometimes file the tip of the applicator tube, it just makes the application a little neater but you dont need to do this, the standard applicator works just fine.

Keep it upside down: Standing the bottle upside down in a container will help prevent air mixing with the resin.

Lets get started: Above I will start with a 3646 Three Piece Dial (2mm thick). But you can use any type of dial, later in this article I will apply resin to a thin Two Piece Dial (about 0.8 thick).

How to apply, this is the part you need to get right: First clean the tip of the metal applicator (you do NOT want any excess resin). Next start by squeezing the applicator bottle so that a tiny amount of resin becomes visible at the end of the tip. Apply a tiny amount of resin into the Number, the DRAG the resin back to the other side of the number so that the number is filled. You may need to practice this a few times so be prepared to clean off any errors and start again. (Use paint thinner to clean). DO NOT USE TOO MUCH RESIN....KEEP IT THIN. Numbers "3", "6", "9" and "2" are the most difficult so take your time. Dont expect it to be perfect first time, it may take a little practice but once you achieve good results then it becomes quite easy.

Disaster! Above you can see I have added too much resin to the dial. If you do this then the Plexi that holds the Lume may not fit. Also the resin will probably run to the edge of the dial and drain the number making the number look concave. (too little resin). Clean off any excess Resin with Paint thinners and start again. Dont waste time trying to correct it, its quicker to remove and start again.

That looks better! Above the dial has had the excess resin removed (cleaned) and new resin applied.

Do not fall into this trap! Note the two red lines. Never let your resin run into this area. If you do the resin will run around the inside edge of your dial and your number will end up almost empty of resin. Its ok to have a little excess on the sides of the number (but NOT too much).

What is the suction bottle for? Sometimes you can add a little too much resin to the number and the resin will look convex. This suction bottle when squeezed will suck up small amounts of resin. However, its NOT suitable for cleaning up excess resin, if you have excess resin then use paint thinners, clean and start again.

Less is best: It better to add too little resin rather than too much because you can always add a tiny drop more later. Allow the resin time to flow and settle. If you add too much then your numbers will be convex ie the resin will act like a "lens" (not good).

You can add resin to any type of dial: Above I am adding Resin to a 2mm thick Dial and also a 0.8mm thick Dial. Both dials will look better for the resin.

5 Minute Resin: After mixing etc it took probably less than 5 minutes to add the Resin. This was without making any mistakes. Dont expect to achieve this if this is your first attempt. I always suggest starting by practicing on an old dial.

Surely the Dial above is an Error, theres NOT enough Resin! True, there isn't enough Resin but Panerai did do this. I believe it was a factory error but quite a few dials were issued like this. The owner of this dial requested I make it with too little resin to form the "concave" resin indices you see above. However most Vintage Panerai Dials had resin that was flat.

Adding Stem Tube Threads to a 3646 or California Dial Case

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This section will deal with how to upgrade the Crown on your 3646 Case. To do this I will drill the Case and add threads to accept a new Stem Tube and "Onion" Type 3646 Crown.

The Stem Tube I will use is 4mm and the thread pitch is 0.35mm

First start by drilling the case. The recommended size is 3.4mm but I am using a 3.6mm drill bit (slightly larger). This will make the threading process a little easier. Using a 3.6 drill bit is adequate, the threads may not be quite as deep but they are perfectly strong. The stem I am about to fit is not heavy duty so it does not require any real strength other than to hold itself in place. I will later Tap (thread) the 3646 Case using an M4 (4mm) Tap with a 0.35mm thread pitch.

Tapping the Case: Its important that the "thread pitch" you make in the case is the same as the thread pitch on the stem tube. The hole in the case is now 3.6mm and I will start the threading process using a M4 Tap with a 0.35mm Thread Pitch (easy to buy on the internet).

To make the threads I will use a set of Three Taps. Tap 1 is the Starter (a fine weak thread). Tap 2 is an intermediate thread (a little deeper) and Tap 3 is a Full Depth Thread.

  1. Use the "Starter" Tap 1 the make the first few "light threads". I prefer to make a few starter threads to "at least" half way into the hole in the case. Make sure you apply pressure to the Tap so that the threads dont slip, the Tap needs to constantly cut new threads. Remove the Tap from the case
  2. Next take Tap 2 (Intermediate Tap) This will re-cut the previous threads you have made with Tap 1 (starter tap). Once this Tap is half way through the Case there is usually enough strength to proceed with this Tap so that it goes right through the Case.
  3. If you look at Tap 2 the threads start light and continue to full deep threads. Therefore there is no need to finish the case off using Tap 3 once Tap 2 has gone through the Case.
Set of 3 Taps but I only used Tap 1 and Tap 2

Now its time to try the Stem Tube and see how it fits.

The next stage is to Solder the Stem into the Case. The Authentic 3646 Cases were soldered in the same way. This wasn't to make the Stem strong, it was instead to make it water-tight when diving under pressure and also to stop it turning when you unscrew the Crown.

Before we start to Solder, REMEMBER to remove the small rubber o'ring from inside the Stem Tube. If you dont it will melt when you start to solder.

Type of Flux & Solder: To do this I would strongly advise using the very best flux and solder (there is a kit available on the Vintage Watch Parts website). The correct flux makes a big difference between the work being fairly easy and difficult. Dont try doing this work with cheap flux, and always us "fine" solder. You do NOT want to get solder on the Stem Tube Threads.

First apply the Flux around the Stem Tube (inside of the Case). Next use a "Flame" (Gas Blowtorch - NOT electric) and heat the flux, the flux will go black, next, try and touch the solder to the case it should melt on contact. As soon as you have some solder on the case add a little flux to the solder, the solder should easily flow. In fact the solder should "Sweat" inside the case and into the threads, sometimes it can be visible on the outside of the Case (stem tube area) this means the solder has fully sweated through the case. Its not always possible to do this so dont worry if you cannot.

Tip: What does it mean if you add solder to the case and it doesn't flow but stays in a large ball or blob of molten solder. Often it means your Case is TOO HOT. Cool with flux and it should flow like water.

Next, run solder around the top edge of the Stem Tube to form a nice seal. Be careful not to get solder on the threads. This is why I say you must use fine solder and good flux.

Once Soldered you should clean the Case by polishing. Remember to put the rubber o'ring back inside the Stem Tube

Below is a comparison between Crowns. The Old Crown is larger and more common on modern Panerai Watches. The 3646 Onion Crown is just like the Vintage Crown. Its not always important to have the correct 3646 Crown because during the late 1940's (and early 1950's) there was a parts shortage and it is very common to see authentic 3646 Watches with Rolex Crowns fitted.

One final upgrade - The owner of this watch wanted Lead O'rings fitted under the Bezel and to the Case Back. Lead o'rings were used as seals on the authentic watches but many didn't survive over the years or were lost.

Making the 6152 Water-Tight

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There are three areas to seal A) The Case Back B) The Stem Tube and Crown C) The Plexi

How it was done
The threaded Stem Tube was soldered to the case and cleaned (many authentic cases were soldered as the stem-tube threads would leak under pressure).

Below: Make sure all your parts clean before soldering. Once you have screwed the stem tube into the case heat the area up and run a little solder around the threads or between Case and Stem Tube. Make sure you use the best quality flux you can find it makes soldering so much easier.

Below: Clean the excess solder and try to make it look like its part of the case (its better not to have too much solder).

Below: After cleaning the Stem Tube is aged in a little acid (you can also do this by placing the case in a bag with a "boiled egg" it will age the brass or bronze (yes it works!)

Plexi: The Plexi was sealed using a rubberized adhesive (I am told authentic Vintage Panerai's used a glue to seal and didn't use an o'ring)

Case Back: Case Back is sealed with an o'ring
The Crown applies a good amount of pressure to the Crown O'ring (important at depth)
There is no Two Piece Bezel with this case so there is nothing else to seal.

Building the Modern Vintage MV #2

What is a Modern Vintage? The modern vintage (MV) is a watch that is built using old techniques that are uncommon nowadays. Often this includes case shaping by hand, soldering joints, the type of processes that are not usually found on watches today.

This section shows how to personalize a 3646 type watch and build a Modern Vintage with a lot of attention on how to build a very personalized dial.

This build will start by using the 3646 California Dial Case. This type of case is very sleek about 47mm in diameter and very comfortable to wear.

You can add any picture to a watch dial: Below I have used an image from an artist friend of mine, but it could have been almost any image, even a photograph of a son, daughter, car, building, dog, drawing or painting....anything

Case Shaping: This process is already documented on this website so if you haven't seen or are not sure how to shape and solder a 3646 Case then click on the following link How to Shape and Solder the 3646 Case

Dial: The focal point of this watch will be the dial and below you will see how to take the artwork, then print using a standard computer and finally to place the transparent print onto a dial.

Materials:
All that is required is a simple computer printer, normal white paper, clear acrylic varnish (spray) and some clear resin.

To begin:
Lets start by making the dial. Below is a 37mm diameter Brass Plate thats 1mm thick. The centre hole has been drilled for the Hour and Minute Hands and also a second hole has been drilled that will sit below 12 o'clock and act as a marker.

The Dial Feet: The holes for the dial feet were made by placing the Brass Backing Plate onto the movement the marking and drilling 1mm holes, these must be precise.

Copper Dial Feet: 1mm copper wire was used to make the dial feet, push through the hole then solder and file to shape. Finally test the fit if you look at the last image there is a small gap between the Brass Dial Plate and the Bezel. This gap is important as the thickness of the dial is about to increase.

 

Polish the Brass backing Plate: I want a gold coloured dial finish so below I have polished the Brass Backing Plate to a high shine, most of this plate will be visible on the finished dial.

How to get your image onto the Dial

  • Find an image on your PC, (any image you like)
  • Use a standard printer and print the image onto standard paper
  • Spray the image with 5 or 6 coats of clear acryilic varnish and leave to dry
  • Cut the image to size
  • Soak the image in warm water
  • Rub the back of the image (paper) with your finger
  • Keep rubbing until all the paper is removed (it takes time)
  • You should be left with a clear printed sheet of acrylic

How to fix the image onto your dial:
Lay the clear image you have made onto the surface of the dial (brass plate)

  • Smooth Finish: For a smooth finish "lightly" spray the dial with acrylic spray and lay the image you have made. This will leave a nice flat image
  • Textured Finish: Brush acrylic varnish and apply "plenty so that its thickly covered". Then add the image you have made. Thick acrylic will cause the image transfer to wrinkle, it will texture the surface as it drys. Only do this if you want a textured finish.

Adding the Lume Marker: Below I have mixed some luminous powder with 2 part epoxy glue, then added a little colour. This mixture is placed in the hole that I drilled so that it will be below 12 o'clock.

 

Textured Dial: Here we see that the surface of the dial is textured which is caused by too much acrylic varnish being applied to the dial (this is what I want).

  • Heavy Texturing: Leave the wrinkles as they are
  • Light Texturing: Pop the wrinkles with a pin and allow the air to escape then  press the wrinkles flat. I will use this method on the dial I am making.

Adding The Resin: add a small amount of thin tape to the edge of the dial so that when the resin is poured onto the dial it doesn't run off and instead leaves a thick coat about 1mm thick. Mix good quality clear acrylic resin (available online) and pour.

   

The Meniscus Problem: This is the curved upper surface that forms around the edge of the resin. It means the dial surface isn't totally flat. Below you can see the edges shown in the red arrows curve upwards.

  • Method A) Rub the dial on a flat sheet of P400 wet and dry paper until flat, then pour another coat of resin on the dial without any tape around the sides or edges
  • Method B) Rub the dial on a flat sheet of P400 wet and dry paper until flat, then polish the dial using "Displex" (google it, its available online) this is the method I used .

 

What your dial should now look like:

Adding the Hands: I have used Blue hands and applied a Beige Lume so that it blends with the dial (white lume was too bold).

Close-up of the dial: Below you can see the textured surface of the dial. If you look very carefully I have left behind a very small amount of paper when I made the acrylic transfer on the dial. This has created another unique texture, its very fine (almost totally transparent) and its a lovely texture to add. But remember it needs to be super fine to work properly. To do this you need to check to see if any paper is left on your transfer, fine amounts of paper are only visible when the transfer is dry and may not be visible when wet.

Also I haven't tried to make the dial flawless, artwork often has some of the artist's own flaws within, its what makes his/her work personal. I didn't want to make this dial appear to be a factory dial. Sometimes flaws can add to the overall finish of the work. The best way to leave any flaws are on the transfer, the resin should always be flawless.

Another feature that I left was the small copper dial feet, I decided not to hide these tiny dots by covering them with the transfer and instead to leave them visible on the dial, they are not easy to see but there are two 1mm copper dots at 1 o'clock  and 7 o'clock.

The movement: I used the reliable fast beat 6497

The finished watch:

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