Watch polishing is a fairly important subject for the modern watch collector. Not surprisingly, few like the idea of a beat up expensive watch. The problem with such restorative measures is that you are actually shaving metal off to do so. To illustrate how quickly this can become a problem, Audemars Piguet limits bezel polishing on certain models to three times. Any additional work means a new bezel because the shape has changed too much.
Imagine this multiplied by a few decades and you can even change the profile of the caseback and lugs. This is most apparent in vintage Rolex Subs sold by dealers. Sometimes, what at first glance appears to be an amazing like new in box watch is really nothing more than a sad beater that’s been polished to within an inch of its life. Incidentally, this is why it is so important to learn what these watches looked like new before venturing forth onto the secondhand market.
This is not to say that you should never polish a watch – just be mindful of doing it repeatedly, which isn’t that uncommon. Remember, the watch you own today may become a highly coveted collectible tomorrow*!
*Well actually, it probably won’t, but someone will still be wearing it