How To Use Rodico for Detailing and Cleaning Small Mechanical Parts

Written by: Jon Woods
Updated on:
Bergeon Rodico 6033 Watchmakers Putty

The History of Watchmaking Putty and Rodico

Let’s start with a little history. Bergeon Rodico 6033 was first developed and used in 1966, before then bread was used to mop up oil, grease, and particles that were on the watch movement which worked very well and would still work well today.  We have come a long way since those days with the development of tools, oils, and greases.

The American Food Journal reported from January 1908 that in the Elgin National Watch Company, Elgin, Illinois more than 40 loaves of fresh bread were required every day.

“There is no secret regarding the use of bread in this factory, and I am willing to tell all I can concerning it.  From the earliest times in the history of watchmaking it has been the custom of watchmakers to reduce fresh bread to the form of dough. This is done by steaming and kneading.  They then use this dough for removing oil and chips that naturally adhere in course of manufacture to pieces as small as the parts of a watches.  There are many parts of a watch, by the way, that are so small as to be barely visible to the naked eye. The oil is absorbed by this dough, and the chips stick to it, and there is no other known substance which can be used as a wiper without leaving some of its particles attached to the thing wiped.  This accounts for the continued use of bread dough in the watchmaking industry.  The Elgin National Watch Case Company used something more than 42 pound loaves a day, or about 24,000 pounds a year.”

Superintendent George E. Hunter

Bergeon Rodico, or watchmaker’s putty as it is also known, is green, grey, or black and is in effect very much like Blu-Tak, but with less oil content.  Instead of leaving an oily residue like Blu Tak, it is designed to draw in oil.  There are three types of this watchmaker’s putty, which I will talk more about. The most common Rodico is Bergeon 6033 which is green and Bergeon 7033 which is grey.

FACT: The reason Rodico 6033 and 7033 have a one at the end (6033-1 and 7033-1) is because it is just one stick. Rodico 6033-30 and 7033-30 come in packs of 30 sticks.

The latest version of Rodico is 8033 ESD, which I’ll talk about towards the end of this article.

Where to Use Rodico

Bergeon Rodico cleaning compound is designed for cleaning balance pivots, and train wheel pivots, removing fingerprints and stains from watch mainplates and bridges, as well as dials and hands.  It can also be used for removing excess oil from watch jewels and taking out broken pivots from the jewel.

It is also used for picking up small parts, such as cap jewels and springs, as well as holding parts in place.  It can be put on the end of a stick of pegwood and used to keep a yoke spring in place while fitting or removing the spring, or while the yoke spring is held back with a sturdy pair of tweezers that helps pick up the yoke from its post.

In my experience, cleaning pivots, both balance staff and train wheel pivots are best done with Bergeon pith wood before they are cleaned with cleaning fluid and rinse, although Rodico can be used.  I find pith wood to be more effective.

Using Rodico with Shockproof Springs

Rodico can be used for ensuring a shockproof spring on a cap jewel doesn’t spring away, even if they are captive springs, which sometimes manage to unhook themselves.  The Rodico is placed lightly over the top of one end of the spring, whilst the two arms are unhooked and levered out of the way to remove the cap jewel from the chaton.

Using Rodico for Dirt Removal

Rodico is also used for picking up any unwanted particles of metal or lint off the watch movement in conjunction with using a hand-held rubber blower to keep the movement main plate, bridges, and parts free of contamination whilst assembling the watch movement.  It is always a good idea to intimately inspect every part before fitting them into the cleaned movement and to remove any lint or fluff with clean Rodico.

Using Rodico on the Train Wheel

Rolling train wheel teeth through Rodico before it is cleaned with cleaning fluid and rinse is an effective way to remove any debris, but pinion leaves are best cleaned with a sharpened piece of pegwood.

Where Not to Use Bergeon Rodico

Some big-name watchmaking manufacturers and service centers ban the use of Rodico because it can leave a slight residue on whatever it touches.

If a used piece of Rodico is used on dials and hands it can and will leave a residue and if that piece has oil from fingers, it will surely leave a residue that will etch into the part.

I have seen gold-plated watch hands with an etched mark in them due to Rodico being used to pick the hands up.  The same can affect dials.

It is best not to even use a new piece of Rodico on hands, dials, and the inside of crystals. 

Rodico is not to be used to clean cap jewels.  If a cap jewel is dirty it needs to be cleaned with watchmakers cleaning fluid and rinse, which will leave no residue, or use a lint-free cotton bud with pure isopropyl alcohol to remove any lint or dust once it has been thoroughly cleaned and rinsed.

It really shouldn’t be used to mop up oil or grease that has accidentally got onto the top of the train wheel jewels for the reasons I have already talked about.

What to Use to Clean Instead of Rodico

Bergeon 7007 Adhesive Cleaning Swabs

Bergeon makes a range of adhesive swabs (Bergon 7007) for cleaning and handling components instead of using Rodico which are much better to use when cleaning dials, hands, and crystals, or for picking up small parts.  The heads are made from polyurethane which is washable and reusable.  

They come in a range of adhesiveness from ‘one star’ to ‘six stars’, ‘six stars’ being the stickiest.  I use these adhesive swabs to clean watch dials, hands, and the inside of crystals, as well as pick up hands whilst fitting onto their respective arbors, which is much safer and more effective, rather than using tweezers, as the tweezers can damage or mark delicate hands.  I never use Rodico on hands and dials, or even on the inside of watch crystals.

How to Use Rodico

The best way to use Bergeon Rodico is by using a dabbing motion, rather than dragging it across the part that needs to be cleaned.  This is especially true when mopping up excess oil or grease from the keyless work or accidental oil on top of a train wheel jewel.  If you are using Rodico to mop up accidental oil or grease from the top of a jewel after it has been lubricated this is still going to leave a small amount of oil or grease on the top of the jewel which will draw the lubricant away from the oil-sink using capillary action and will leave the oil-sink and pivot dry after a relatively short space of time.  Using Rodico in this way is not recommended and might lead to the lubricant spreading over the bridge where it should not be.  In a worst-case scenario, the Rodico could draw the lubrication directly out of the oil sink and make a bigger mess than was anticipated.

If you find that oil is getting on the top of the jewel when lubricating the pivot in the oil sink, then it is best to hone your oiling technique rather than trying to mop up the excess.

One of the reasons certain oils and grease have a florescent attribute is to see if those accidental oils and greases have been mopped up from the top of a jewel in exam conditions.  There is no hiding from a fluorescent lamp if that has happened!  When using a dabbing motion, don’t use the same spot of Rodico over and over, but fold the Rodico, so a new place of contact is used, so the lubricant will be drawn in by the Rodico with greater efficacy.

How Not to Use Rodico

Rodico is not to be used on warm or hot parts, as this will turn the Rodico into an oily mess that will create a gooey slime that will be hard to remove.  It can’t be used to mop up solvents such as cleaning fluid, rinse, or alcohol, as this will also make the Rodico into a gooey mess as it starts to break down.

You may even find that using Rodico in a very hot environment makes it too pliable and sticky to mop up effectively.

Do not handle Rodico without finger protection. When using Rodico it is best to use finger cots or latex gloves because the oil from your fingers is going to be drawn into the Rodico and that oil is slightly acidic which will etch into a part that you are trying to clean or pick up.

How Long Does a Stick of Rodico Last and How to Store It

A 48 gram stick of Bergeon Rodico will last a very long time.  As a professional watchmaker, I get through a stick of Rodico every few years.

It will last much better if you keep it in an airtight container and rip off a small amount when needed.  That small chunk also needs to be stored in an airtight container.  Don’t put the used chunk back with your clean stick, as you will start to contaminate it.  Use finger cots or latex gloves when handling the Rodico.

The more you use a piece of Rodico the darker and dirtier it will become and the mopping up of oil and grease will be less effective.

What is the Difference Between Rodico 6033 Green and Rodico 7033 Grey

Rodico green vs grey is a question that most want to know and is very subjective.  The green is called ‘Rodico Original’ and the grey is called ‘Rodico Premium’.  The premium is about 25% more expensive than the original.  Rodico Premium is slightly drier and less sticky than the green, which is a little stickier to the touch.  

They both do the same job, but I find the premium is slightly better at mopping up than the original, and as a stick will last years, the price tag isn’t a consideration.  I’m surprised that Bergeon still makes the green 6033, as the 7033 was designed as a better formula.  Some may prefer green over grey, but as I’ve already said, they both do the same job, as long as you use them as intended.  The green is better for keeping your posters stuck to the wall!

Bergeon 6033 Rodico Traditional Putty

Bergeon 6033 Rodico Original Green Cleaning Putty The Bergeon 6033 Rodico, known for its distinctive aqua-green hue, stands as the go-to cleaner in the realm of horology. Renowned for its longevity and effectiveness, this original green putty is a staple among watchmakers.

Crafted to be soft and malleable, it is adept at lifting away impurities such as dust, grime, and smudges from the intricate components of timepieces.

Bergeon 7033 Rodico Premium Putty

Bergeon 7033 Rodico Premium Cleaning Putty The Rodico Premium represents an enhanced iteration of the classic Rodico cleaner. This premium variant distinguishes itself with a superior formula. It excels at purging unwanted substances like dirt, oily fingerprints, and various pollutants from the intricate components of watches.

This advanced version delivers an elevated cleaning performance, ensuring spotless outcomes with less residual matter. While the original Rodico is noted for its green color, the Rodico Premium is characterized by its gray hue and a less tacky consistency. Bergeon’s Rodico Premium provides watchmakers with a reliable solution for preserving the pristine condition of watch parts.

Bergeon 8033 Rodico – Newest Rodico on the Block

Bergeon 8033 ESD Rodico Premium Putty

This new Rodico is black and comes wrapped in an anti-static pack.  It is also in a 43 gram size, rather than 48 grams that the original and premium comes in.  It is the latest addition to the Rodico range.  

Designed to meet the needs of demanding professionals in the watch repair and servicing industry.  It offers an anti-static solution for cleaning components and optimum protection against potentially harmful electrostatic discharges.  So, this has been designed more for those working with electronics, circuit boards, and soldering chips and components onto printed circuit boards.

As it is black, you’re not going to get an idea how dirty it has become when it is used to mop up oil and grease, so it is more for those using it in the electronics industry, hence its anti-static properties.

It comes as a flat sheet that has been individually marked out into small squares which makes it easier to cut pieces off.  Rodico 8033 ESD is also twice the price of 6033 and 7033.

Hot to Use Rodico FAQ

Rodico putty is a soft, non-abrasive cleaning compound that can be used to remove dirt, dust, oil, and fingerprints from watch parts, clock movements, and other precision instruments. To use Rodico putty, simply cut off a small piece with scissors, knead it a little, and press it gently on the surface you want to clean. You can also use Rodico putty to pick up and handle small parts like screws and jewels. Rodico putty can be reused for a long time, as it has a high capacity for absorbing dirt.

Rodico putty is easy to store and maintain, as it does not require any special care or conditions. You can keep Rodico putty in its original box or in a plastic bag, and store it in a cool and dry place. You can also store Rodico putty in a watch parts storage box which has multiple compartments and a dust cover. To maintain Rodico putty, you should avoid exposure to direct sunlight, heat, moisture, or chemicals, as they may affect its quality and performance. You should also avoid mixing different pieces of Rodico putty, as they may contaminate each other.

Rodico putty can be used for a long time, as it has a high capacity for absorbing dirt. However, over time, Rodico putty may lose its effectiveness and become too dirty or sticky to use. You can tell when to replace Rodico putty by checking its color, texture, and smell. If Rodico putty becomes dark, hard, or foul-smelling, it is time to replace it with a new piece. You can also test Rodico putty by pressing it on a clean surface and seeing if it leaves any residue. If Rodico putty leaves any dirt or oil behind, it is time to replace it. You should always dispose of used Rodico putty responsibly, and avoid flushing it down the drain or throwing it in the trash.

If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.

AUTHOR

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I'm known as Jon the Watch. With a diverse engineering background spanning over three decades, I discovered my passion lies in the craft of watchmaking. Back in 1999 I started to teach complete beginners to watchmaking in a structured weekly evening class at the Epping Forest Horology Centre. I then went on to write and teach a second-year course, which is a linear progression from the first-year course, focussing on automatic and chronograph watches, as well as precision repairs, hints, tips, and techniques.

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