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Gold Plating. For Science!

Have you ever done something simply because you wanted to see what would happen? Me too! The latest instance of this involved 24k gold plating.

I bought a kit that would allow you 24k gold plate something that is stainless steel and roughly about the size of a 42mm Apple Watch. Funny thing, I have something that fits that criteria; a stainless steel Apple Watch! I have all the prerequisites, let's see what magic we can make happen!

After watching (ha! watch. ing.) the live stream of someone going through the entire process, my wife and I got everything prepped. For science!

Prep included the following steps

  • Thoroughly cleaning the watch with soap and water.
  • Wiping off the entire surface with alcohol.
  • Plugging the microphone hole with a small rubber stopper.
  • Inserting a thin piece of copper between the housing and the button to create a bridge.
  • Inserting a small twisted piece of copper wire between the housing and the crown, also to create a bridge.

Let the science'ing begin! We went through each step fully and double checked everything along the way. Everything looked like it was going perfectly through the chemical steps 1, 2, and 3. After finishing step 3, and rinsing off the watch, we found that the gold coating was very hit or miss. The coverage was very spotty and overall only about 30% of the watch surface was covered and some parts were flaking. Not good so far.

Gold Plated Apple Watch

To add a little more salt in the wound, somewhere between step 2 and 3 the small rubber stopper came out from the microphone hole. This didn't seem like an issue at the time, but, turns out this did kill the watch microphone.

After the initial failure of gold coating, we figured it couldn't get much worse, so we attempted to coat it again after re-cleaning. This didn't yield any more plating, but rather started removing what plating did take during the first round. Oh well.

Gold Plated Apple Watch

Since I had gold continuing to flake off in small pieces throughout the day, I decided to remove what was left of the gold. I opted to use a 280/320 grit pad and a Dremel to remove the gold patches. This worked really well and ended up giving my watch a matte brushed steel look, which actually looks really rad! Especially with the steel link bracelet.

Gold Plated Apple Watch

So, I am down a microphone, but up a cool new 'custom' matte Apple Watch. Overall I would call it a win.