There are those who state that once a dial has discoloured nothing can be done to restore it to its former glory. Send it to the refinishers they cry!
The refurb. brigade is sizeable and loud, and it is largely either out of ignorance of the options or unwillingness to invest the time and patience in restorative methods that prompt the calls for refurbishment over restoration.
Many professional watchmakers, and indeed Omega in Bienne, often take the line that a dial that has a flaking, powdered or discoloured protective lacquer should be refinished, irrespective of the state of the surface underneath the lacquer. But, over the years we have encountered true artisans who have, through experimentation and dedication to their craft, perfected methods of restoring rather than refinishing original dials. One such example was Sonny Dewan, featured in this article.
There are many enthusiastic amateurs who swear by their home grown methods of cleaning dials, the most bizarre of which was the practice of spitting on degraded dials in the belief that the enzymes contained in human spit would act against the cellulose lacquers of yesteryear and clean the dial.
One of the most effective home-grown methods I have encountered is the use of diluted lemon juice perfected by collector Ronnie Shroff, which produces quite amazing results. I call it Ronnie’s Lemon Aid for Degraded Dials, and if you would like to view the recipe, click here