Gold Plated, Gold Filled, Gold Cap, Solid Gold Watches | Difference and Which is Best

Gold, a term often loosely used in watches to describe a color. It is confusing to differentiate between plated, filled, capped and solid gold - each valued differently

Gold Plated Watches

Thin layer of gold is electro-chemically plated and bonded to the layer of the watch case. As with most things, there is a varying quality in which gold plating is done and also different amounts (Microns) of gold may be used. Therefore some gold plated watches may be longer lasting than others depending on the process and amount of gold used. Gold plated watches are least favored by collectors as they do not hold their luster over the years and depending on the amount of care, gold plating may peel or fall apart over time causing patches of the underlying metal to be exposed.

Gold Plated Watch Case - Gold Plating Peeling Over Time

Value of Gold Plated Watches:

Gold plated watches are less desired and due to the lower content of precious metals, it holds the least value.

How to identify gold plated watches:

Most gold plated watches do not have any symbols to demarcate that they are gold plated, and this is often the way to identify if a watch is gold plated. Gold plating will usually cover the entire case of the watch (sans case back) and should not be confused with gold capped watches (as these do not have any hallmarks indicating also).

Occasionally, for factory micron plating, they indicate by having a Au(10)K or a Micron symbol (μ) or H.G.E hallmark.

Gold Filled Watches

Gold filled watches are watch cases with a thin layer of gold bonded using heat and pressure to the base metal. They are legally required to contain a minimum gold content of 5% of the total weight of the item undergoing the gold filling process. They also technically contain 100% more gold than their gold plated counterparts. Due to this requirement, gold filled watches are longer lasting compared to gold plating and they rarely exhibit wear such as peeling and gold portions flaking, however they can still tarnish. Gold filling is a good compromise to give a watch a gold coloration without compromising much on the quality.

Value of Gold Filled Watches:

Gold filled watches tend to command a greater value than gold plated not because of the presence of more gold but due to the fact they do not exhibit the kind of peeling and are thus more lasting through the years. They are not incredibly popular as most high end watches make their watches out of solid gold rather than undergoing the gold filling process. Mid range watches like Longines, Hamilton etc tend to make their watches using gold filling.

How to Identify Gold Plated Watches:

Gold filled watches will have a hallmark to indicate the quantity of gold used followed by a G.F hallmark which symbolizes gold filled. Very often, the entire watch including the case back will be covered in gold, and the inside of the case back of the watch will also indicate that the watch is gold filled.

Gold Filled Hallmark - Gold Filled Watches

Gold Capped Watches

Gold capping is a process commonly used by Omega in their Constellation watches and Seiko in their vintage King Seikos and Grand Seikos. Gold capping essentially is the process of taking a solid piece of gold, molding it into the shape of the watch case and placing it atop (like a cap, hence the name). This means that compared to gold filled and gold plated watches, an entire gold chunk is used instead of the watch simply containing gold. This also results in a distinct trait, which gives the watch a "two-tone" look due to the underlying steel layer. They are also often called "gold on steel" watches.

Value of Gold Capped Watches:

Despite the amount of gold actually used in these watches, these watches do not command prices solid gold watches do and often are the same price as a pure stainless steel model of the same watch. Compared to gold filled and gold plated watches, gold capped watches are not usually a deal breaker for people in the market for a gold watch but do not want to pay the price for a solid gold watch.

How to Identify Gold Capped Watches

Gold capped watches do not have hallmarks on the case to indicate that they are gold capped, however they can be easily recognized by looking under the lugs of the watch. Very often you will be able to see a distinct layer of gold layered over steel. The caseback of the watch is also usually stainless steel.

How Does Gold Capped Watch Look - Gold Capped Omega Constellation Connie

Solid Gold Watches

Solid gold watches are essentially watches which have their cases made entirely out of gold. These are the most desirable due to the value of gold and are often the heaviest compared to other watches that contain gold. As gold is an extremely soft metal, they are not used alone and the amount of karats are used to indicate the gold content in the gold case, most often 18 karat and 14 karat gold are used to make the gold cases.

Value of Solid Gold Watches

Typically, solid gold watches are more expensive than their steel counterparts, however there are exceptions to the rule, especially in Patek Phillipe watches where steel watches which are made in smaller quantities sell for more in auctions. The value of solid gold watches also vary according to the color of gold.

How to Identify Solid Gold Watches

Most solid gold watches will have a hall mark that indicates the karats of gold used as well as the percentage. For example, it will say 18K , 750 or 0.75 to indicate 18 karats and 75% gold content (out of a maximum of 24K). These hallmarks are often found on the case back of the watch and a stamp can often be found on one of the watch lugs or somewhere on the case.

Solid Gold Stamp on Lug of Watch - Lemania Solid Gold Case

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