A surgeon of metal
Electroplating is the art of using a continuous electric current to deposit a metal dissolved in a liquid onto the surface of a metal object. This is an electrochemical process based on the principles of electrolysis in an aqueous solution. Its ultimate aim may be to protect the electroplated component from oxidation, to change its appearance for embellishment purposes or to take its imprint. The metal layer is incredibly thin – for example, the plating may be between 0.01 mm and 0.20 mm thick. Electroplaters know how to execute this ultra-precise technique to perfection.
Their role is to prepare the components that are to be processed in this way – they clean them, degrease them, polish them if necessary and position them in the electroplating equipment. Electroplaters apply surface treatments to dials and other components of watches, as well as selecting and applying various colours. Once electroplating is complete, they methodically clean the components using ultrasound in a bath of soapy water, then rinse them with water and alcohol before covering them in sawdust in order to prevent condensation (which may occur if the components are left to dry in the open air). They usually work on new components but may also restore used ones.
Electroplaters analyse and maintain the baths, as well as checking and managing toxic chemical products according to the strictest safety standards. Their knowledge of chemistry, physics and metallurgy helps them to follow the applicable hygiene and environmental protection regulations to the letter. They can understand technical plans and may also be required to use specific software tools depending on where they work.
In the watchmaking industry, electroplaters can be found in workshops. They may also work in other industrial sectors, such as aeronautics, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals or the plastics industry, or even in a shipyard. Electroplaters tend to work in a team.
Skills required: discipline – precision – concentration – patience – manual dexterity – meticulousness – flexibility – team spirit – independence