Timex Marlin: Hand Bluing

The Timex Marlin is a stunningly faithful reissue of a vintage timepiece, but I think it deserves better hands.

Watch hands, in my personal and unimportant opinion), should be long enough for the hour hand to reach the hour markers, the minute hand long enough to reach the minute track and the sweep seconds hand long enough to reach to at least the middle of the minute track.

Hands should also be made of blued steel whenever possible (and aesthetically pleasing).

With those goals in mind, I set out to find a new set of hands for my watch. We have a decent selection of random vintage hands in our school's parts closet, and I found some baton hands that had the correct hole sizes (1.30 mm/0.80 mm/0.22 mm) for the movement, were long enough for my tastes and were made of steel.

The first step with steel hands is to polish them. These hands were flat, so they were lapped and flat-polished with diamond paste. Unlike screws, these are big enough to stay flat against the lap, and can be polished with just a cork.

Properly flat-polished hands will be completely free of scratches at low magnification.

The most important step for cosmetic bluing is cleaning. The steel must be perfectly clean—any oil, solvent or residue will leave a discolored imperfection on the final product. At that point, you have to polish off the blue, reclean and start all over again.

The hands' colors also have to be perfectly even and matched to one another. It took many tries, but I eventually got what I wanted. My best results came with flame-bluing the hands (mostly) to color, and socking them in a preheated kiln to equalize any slight variations.

It's a lot of work for a Timex, but it's good practice for vintage restorations in the future. Not pictured is the minute hand that I butchered while trying to trim and radius it to fit in the watch, which was later hammered back to flat and repolished. I have a much better sense, now, of how far I can repair a deformed hand before it totally fails.


Watchmaking student at the Lititz Watch Technicum, formerly a radio and TV newswriter in Chicago.