How to age steel on your most beloved watches

It’s fair to say the following tutorial is not for the light hearted, you have to be prepared to write off your watch if it all goes badly wrong

I accept no responsibility if things go wrong for you – it’s your choice if you choose to try this

And Read this article about properties and the effects of heat

Watches cases come with polished surfaces, brushed surfaces, PVD finishes and now a days even print wrapped can bring on some great effects.

I have had success in the past with ageing effects on bronze cases, but I really wanted an aged effect on steel.

After a bit of research I discovered I needed the following items

  • Coffee grounds
  • A very good heat source (I used a MAP gas torch)
  • Water and a water container
  • Various grades of emery cloth 2000 / 4000 / up to 12000 grade
  • Watch cases parts


Step one is to remove everything from the case parts that could incinerate, rubber seals inside crowns and crown tubes, remove bezels and bezel seals and so on.

Step two came from trial and error.

I discovered that the ageing effect does not quite look right on a polished surface, and looks far superior if you brush all the surfaces. So brush those surfaces

This is an example of a polished aged finish

And an example of the same surface brushed and done. (With a crown that was polished before treated in the foreground)

Next stage

Add water to the coffee ground container, the not too much to drown it, just enough to cool the hot metal and allow the coffee to stain the steel

Out of interest the effect produced here is a very stable effect and will not easily wear off – it will only improve over time


I discovered a few things about heating the steel

  • Heating to a red colour aids the finish
  • The process can be repeated many times to make the finish stronger
  • Using a good torch helps
  • This bit makes you really nervous

Repeat until happy

Basically keep doing it until your happy, beating in mind of course that you will be taking the finish back a bit with emery cloth around the edges and the finish to achieve the desired look

And so it seems only fair to show two projects

My Tockr D-Day with a dial made from reclaimed metal from the C47 known as That’s all Brother” that dropped the first troops in DDay

And a German FL23883 I have built (even the hands were treated the same way with vintage lume reapplied)

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