Restoration of a Radioactive WW2 Military Watch - German Wehrmacht - Helma AS1130

roadwarrior

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Restoration of a Radioactive WW2 Military Watch - German Wehrmacht - Helma AS1130

Jul 16, 2021

Red Dead Restoration
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This time I´m restoring an old military watch from the 2nd world war.
It´s a Helma with an AS 1130 movement (also known as "Wehrmachts-Uhrwerk").
Based on its engraving on the caseback it´s an official military service watch worn by the german armed forces (Wehrmacht) during the war.
The missing "H" (Heer / Army) after the serial number indicates that it could have been a watch of the german air-force.

The watch is in a really bad condition. The chrome-plating of the case is heavy damaged, the glass is scratched the movement is full of dirt and broken.

I need to get rid of the old chrome-plating, this time i´m using a sandblaster for the job. After sanding and polishing the case, it´s ready for a new chrome-plating. But i need to add a layer of nickel before.

I´m using the nickel and chrome electrolyte of @TifooTech
The products are available at:
(Note: The nickel electrolyte is only available to commercial customers)

The glass will be polished and the movement cleaned.
I also need to remove the old radium of the hands and re-lume them with super-luminova. I will add some coffee to it to make it more "vintage-looking".

After everything is cleaned, polished and re-plated, I can re-assemble the movement with some fresh oil. After that, this watch is in a good beat (+0 seconds per day) again.

I hope you liked this restoration ;)

 

ScottyB

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that is worth remembering on vintage hunts...radium is radioactive even if it no longer glows and you can't see it
 

roadwarrior

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Tests have shown that a radium dial emits approx. 10uSv / hr. That means that you’ll have been exposed to a full day’s worth of background radiation in about 20 minutes. This is almost exclusively gamma radiation because the alpha particles will have been blocked.

Decasing, removing the hands and dial, and vice versa shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. That means you’ll have been exposed to approx. a day and a half worth of background radiation as a watchmaker. While that’s not entirely safe, it’s also not an immediate cause for concern.

What you might not have realized is that you’re exposed to the same level of radiation when you’re wearing the watch because gamma radiation requires a massive shield (a thick layer of lead, for example) to be absorbed. You’ll be more exposed because you’ll likely wear a watch for more than 30 minutes at a time.

So, it’s not only the watchmaker who’s affected by the gamma rays but also the wearer.

Dial with radium of a Tiega watch

Safety​

As you can see, radium isn’t completely safe. That’s why the use of radium was discontinued in the 1960s.

But it’s also not as life-threatening as many claim it to be. Not a single factory worker got sick after they started wearing protective gear and stopped licking their paintbrush.

The biggest risk is inhalation or ingestion of radium because alpha particles are harmful inside the body. Aged lume has often dried out and turned brittle, so that’s certainly a risk when you want to relume the hands, for example.






 

sbmutz

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Yep. Radium being an alpha emitter, you just gotta keep it out of your lungs. Eating it wouldn't be as bad as breathing it, since its passage through your body is short compared to its half-life (1600 yrs). There will be some (20%) uptake into the bloodstream, leaving it deposited in the bones.

But breathing it in, it will just sit in your lungs, with no dead skin layer to protect your lung tissue, and decay.

Then there's the Radon decay product which is also an alpha emitter...



Dial with radium of a Tiega watch

Safety​

As you can see, radium isn’t completely safe. That’s why the use of radium was discontinued in the 1960s.

But it’s also not as life-threatening as many claim it to be. Not a single factory worker got sick after they started wearing protective gear and stopped licking their paintbrush.

The biggest risk is inhalation or ingestion of radium because alpha particles are harmful inside the body. Aged lume has often dried out and turned brittle, so that’s certainly a risk when you want to relume the hands, for example.






 
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ScottyB

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Yep. Radium being an alpha emitter, you just gotta keep it out of your lungs. Eating it wouldn't be as bad as breathing it, since its passage through your body is short compared to its half-life (1600 yrs). There will be some (20%) uptake into the bloodstream, leaving it deposited in the bones.

But breathing it in, it will just sit in your lungs, with no dead skin layer to protect your lung tissue, and decay.

Then there's the Radon decay product which is also an alpha emitter...
takeaways: don't inhale


don't lick the brush ( referring to unfortunate practice of radium girls encouraged by shop supervisor to lick the brush and get a finer point on the paint brush )

the jobs to paint the dials were in demand and only the prettiest young women were accepted
 

ScottyB

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I wonder if there are any vintage photos of radium painted watch dials when they were new and fresh, glowing in the dark?
well i read about the "pretty green glass " in the desert USA test site proximity ....trinitite...gathered as a token... yeah...radioactive problems still and since in tribal people ...
 

sbmutz

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Licking the brushes allowed the radium to be absorbed in their bones (especially their facial bones, yikes!), since it looks chemically similar to calcium to your body.
 
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