Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Certina DS-2 (Certina Cal. 25-651)…

Kicking off the New Year is a watch from another long-standing manufacturer yet to feature on the blog, Certina.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Established in 1888 and still in business today, Certina was founded in Grenchen, Switzerland by Adolf and Alfred Kurth. Trading initially as Kurth Frères they made movement parts and supplies for the wider watchmaking industry, but by 1906 the brothers were already making complete timepieces with in-house movements and were one of the first manufacturers to offer wristwatches to the general public.

With a view to expanding into international markets, the brand was re-named Certina in 1939 (taken from the Latin ‘certus’ meaning ‘assured) and success continued unabated. By 1955 the number of employees had grown to 500 and the company was making 1000 timepieces per day and at their peak production in 1972, the company employed 900 people and had an overall output of 600,000 watches per year.

Like many companies, Certina was hit hard by the quartz revolution and in the early 1970’s joined forces with other struggling companies such as Tissot and Omega to form the ASUAG (Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG) – the holding company that went on to become the Swatch Group we know today.

The watch in this post is from Certina’s most famous range the DS or ‘Double Security’ line. The DS concept was first introduced in 1959 aiming to surpass the water and shock resistance of any watch on the market at the time.

To achieve this goal, as well as being housed in a substantial solid stainless steel case, water resistance was increased by adding an extra thick acrylic crystal and more substantial gaskets and shock absorption was improved by encasing the entire movement in a thick elastic ring (as shown below). An air gap between the dial and case allowed travel in all directions, effectively isolating the movement entirely from the case.

After the initial concept proved a success (over 300,000 units were sold) the second generation DS-2, was released in 1968 adding a number of technical improvements to the original case design, namely; a second seal on the winding crown and more substantial casing screws.

This short video from Certina contains a section showing the public marketing/testing of the new DS-2 watches by dropping them from a height of 6 metres without incident. (The industry standard shock resistance test at that time was from a height of 2.2 metres)

By 1979, Certina had sold more then 20 million DS watches making them by far the most successful range in the company’s history. Although DS models are still being sold by Certina today, it’s the vintage models from the 1960’s and 70’s that are the most desirable among watch collectors, the diver’s and chronographs in particular. Here are a few examples:

Ok, back to the subject of this post. Having serviced quite a few of these watches over the years and being impressed by them I was tempted by this graduated blue dialled model. The watch arrived in running condition but with the caseback removed I could see that it hadn’t been serviced for quite some time and the caseback gasket had turned into a familiar foe, ‘the black goo’.

The movement inside this watch is the Certina cal. 25-651, an excellent quality in-house automatic calibre with 28 jewels and a beat rate of 19,800 bph. This version is date only, though a day/date option was also available.

Although the case was still in excellent condition, there were a couple of minor cosmetic issues to address; the lume in the hands had deteriorated and would need to be refreshed and the crystal had ‘crazed’ – an effect where an acrylic crystal shrinks after decades of use (or exposure to UV light perhaps?) resulting in small cracks within the body of the crystal. Crazing is not always obvious as when viewed ‘head on’ the effect is minimal, but when viewed from an oblique angle the cracks are clear to see.

With regular acrylic crystals there is little that can be done as the cracks often penetrate too deep into the surface meaning replacement is the only option. However, as the original crystal on this watch is around 4 times thicker than a standard crystal, this one could be saved by sanding off the crazing and then buffing it back to an unblemished finish.

With the movement serviced, hands re-lumed, crystal polished and the case cleaned, the watch could finally be rebuilt.

Finally, here’s a picture of the turtle caseback for which the Certina DS is famous (the vintage ones are especially cool!)…

… and this watch also has its original DS branded solid link bracelet which is a bonus.

For more information about vintage Certinas and the DS watches in particular, check out this excellent site: www.vintagecertinas.ch.

Rich.


Seasons Greetings…

It’s that time again, so be sure to pile on the pounds over the festive season and give yourselves an instant goal for 2016… I know I will. 😉

Merry Christmas one and all.

Rich.


Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster 1000 (ETA Cal. 2472)…

I thought I’d round out 2015 by revisiting a somewhat quirky diver, the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster 1000.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Long time readers may recognise this model as I wrote about a very similar restoration four years ago. I’ve worked on several of these watches since then so I thought I’d write a second post with a little more information about the model and its history.

Following the successful launch of the Depthomatic in 1964 (the first watch with a built in depth gauge), Nivada Grenchen introduced the Depthmaster the following year with advertisements claiming that it was “tested deeper than any other underwater watch” and it was “Probably the world’s most waterproof watch”.

Watches with high depth ratings were still in their infancy in the early 1960’s and manufacturers were just starting to introduce “extreme diver’s watches” into their model ranges. I’m sure Nivada Grenchen would have liked to have claimed the first 1000m rated watch but that title is thought to have gone to Sandoz who debuted a 1000m watch – using exactly the same case as the Depthmaster – in June 1963.

Sandoz wasn’t the only company to share the same case with the Depthmaster. While the manufacturer of the case is unknown it was used far and wide during the 1960 and 70’s with many companies producing very similar models; Jaquet-Droz, Alpha, Le Phare, Orient, Sylvana, Festina and Vetta to name but a few.

You’ll often see these watches referred to as ‘Baby Panerai’ due to the smaller, yet similar, cushion shaped case.

As you can see in the first picture, time hadn’t been kind to the watch in this post as moisture had found its way into the case at some point and corroded the lume in the hands, some of which had already fallen out. The majority of the bezel markings had worn away and the crystal had crazed as they have a tendency to do after several decades of use.

Inside the case things didn’t look too bad. The movement, an ETA cal. 2472, was complete and although running, obviously hadn’t been serviced for quite some time.

The movement service presented no significant issues so it was straight on to the cosmetic work. The hands were re-lumed to match the numerals on the dial and the remaining paint (and dirt!) was removed from the bezel markings which were then re-applied, a red enamel for the triangle at the top and black enamel for the rest.

With the movement serviced and the majority of the watch rebuilt, the last thing to do was clean the case and bracelet, and replace the crystal. As I mentioned in the previous Depthmaster post, the crystal on this watch is held in place by a threaded ring, screwed into the case from the inside. This has to be unscrewed first before the crystal can be removed (more details here).

It’s rare to find a Depthmaster with an original crystal that hasn’t crazed and as genuine replacements were discontinued years ago, I’ve seen all kinds of mis-matched crystals fitted to these watches to keep them up and running. As you can see below, the crystal has a specific side profile which makes finding a direct replacement near impossible these days.

However, I think it’s well worth making the effort to modify a suitable crystal to replicate the original as the extreme ‘top hat’ profile is one of the defining features of this watch. With the new crystal cut and installed things were already looking better…

… and here’s the watch all finished up.

While this watch was in for restoration, another Depthmaster arrived which gave me a rare chance to take this picture of the two dial designs together.

The ‘art deco’ style is a little more subtle and seems to be rarer in my experience. Two great watches.

Rich.

** Many thanks to John Telling and Keith Johnson for the opportunity to write about their watches on the blog. **


Seiko 6105-8110…

There’s always room for another Seiko diver on the blog, even when it looks like this…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Although I’ve written about this model before on the blog, as you’ve probably already guessed, this watch needed a little more work than usual to get it back up and running.

Time hadn’t been kind to this watch and neither had the water that had found its way inside. As you can see from the picture above, the moisture had caused some serious deterioration to the lume and also the hour frames and hands. Opening the watch too revealed something of a grim picture.

The automatic winding mechanism had broken off, probably due to the ball bearings rusting solid, and although the winding rotor and upper half of the mechanism were present, it was well beyond repair and would need to be replaced. In addition to being scored by the winding rotor, the balance cock too was incorrect for this calibre as it had the orange painted markings usually found on a 6106 or 6119 calibre, so that too would need to be replaced.

The case was still in reasonable condition although it had been polished by a previous owner and so had the crystal which is notoriously difficult to get right. In most cases, the crystal surface is left with scored lines or is slightly opaque which was the case here, so a replacement was ordered. The bezel insert although marked and missing its lume pip was original to the watch and deserved to stay.

Out of the case the true extent of the water damage to the dial and hands was clear. The lume was totally shot throughout and the dial surface had ‘bleached out’ due to the moisture sitting on it for what must have been at least couple of decades.

The ideal solution would have been to source a replacement dial but being one of the early models with the ‘water 150m proof’ text that would be no easy task. Watches from later in the production run were marked ‘water 150m resist’ due to a change in the US law regarding the water resistance markings for watches. In 1968 it was deemed that all watches sold in the US should be marked ‘water resistant’ rather than ‘water proof’.

Seiko responded quickly to this change and made the necessary corrections for all watches destined for the US in 1969 but they took their time with watches bound for other markets, most of the changes being made during 1970 and 1971.

It’s for this reason that you’ll often see early Seiko divers being referred to as ‘Proof/Proof’, meaning that both the caseback and dial are marked water proof rather than water resistant… and being less in number the collectability (and price!) goes up accordingly.

With no option for a replacement dial, the first job was to remove all the old lume from the dial markers and hands followed by as much cleaning as was possible. As I’ve written about before on the blog, the chrome plating on the markers and hands get tarnished and can’t be restored and while the dial marker frames can be repainted silver, it’s often better just to leave them as they are, this is a vintage watch after all.

With a cream lume applied across the board things were much improved but the bleached out dial remained a problem and would have spoiled the overall look of the watch, so it was decided to oil the dial to restore the colour.

This involves putting an very thin layer of oil across the dial surface so that the bleaching effect is removed. It’s very important to do this carefully as you don’t want to apply excessive oil or it may pool or worse, seep off the dial edge over time. This restoration technique will remain something of a last resort for me, but the results are surprisingly good when correctly applied. Here’s a before and after…

With all the cosmetic work taken care of, the movement was cleaned, serviced and the necessary parts replaced. The case was then cleaned and a new set of gaskets and crystal installed and the watch could be rebuilt. Although it’s not perfect, it’s always good to give a second chance to a watch that could easily have become a parts donor.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Dieter Deschacht for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Baume & Mercier Baumatic (B&M Cal. 12820)…

Something a little different this time, a gold dress watch from Baume & Mercier.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Judging by its cosmetic condition this watch must only have been used sparingly. Cases made from 18kt gold are very soft and the inevitable knocks and scrapes of daily use are normally evident after 30+ years, but the case on this watch was still in near perfect condition.

Inside the watch is a Baume & Mercier branded calibre, the B&M cal. 12820. A suitably high quality calibre decorated with perlage under the balance wheel and winding rotor, côtes de genève stripes across the bridges, and a sprinkling of blued screws. This is also the 30 jewel version of the calibre too, rather than the standard 21 jewel unit.

The perlage decoration is also applied to the calendar plate on the dial side of the movement, another sign of quality which is only normally seen and appreciated by the watchmaker.

Regular readers with a sharp eye may have noticed the similarity between this calibre and another which has appeared several times on the blog, the automatic chronograph produced by Breitling/Heuer/Buren/Dubois Dépraz (an example here).  With the chronograph module removed, it’s obvious that the two watches are derived from the same base calibre, the Buren cal. 1280.

In both cases the use of micro-rotor acts as a space saver, allowing the automatic winding mechanism to be integrated into the calibre rather than sitting on top and in the case of the Baume & Mercier ensuring that the overall thickness of the watch is kept to a minimum.

The Baume & Mercier cal. 12820 has an overall thickness of 3.25mm and the cased watch is 6.7mm which compares favourably with Piaget’s renowned Ultra-Thin Automatic. The movement in the Ultra-Thin, the Piaget cal. 1205 also features a micro-rotor design and is currently the thinnest automatic calibre in the world at just 2.35mm. (The cased watch is 6.35mm.)

Having sat around unused for a couple of decades, the watch in this post needed no more than a routine service, after which and a light polish for the case it could be rebuilt.

Rich.


Dodane Type 21 Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 235)…

Another military watch on the blog and another new brand, this time it’s Dodane.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Dodane is a French watchmaking company with a rich history. Founded in 1857, five generations of the family have been involved with the development of the Dodane brand which is still in business today. Originally opened as a watchmaking and ebauche workshop in the Doubs region of France, the company has relocated twice, first to Morteau in 1905 and later to Besançon where the company is still located today.

Well known for their links with the armed forces and aviation in particular, Dodane has been supplying chronographs and instruments to military personnel for decades, making them one of the longest standing suppliers to NATO.

The watch in this post, the Type 21, is something of a classic and was developed in response to a request from the French military for a flyback chronograph. The predecessor to this watch, the Type 20 was the first model to meet the specifications in the 1950’s and the Type 21 followed in the 1960’s after a request for improved readability and easier maintenance. The new brief was met by six manufacturers; Breguet, Dodane, Auricoste, Vixa, Airain and Boullier so you’ll see vintage Type 21 models from all these brands, the Breguet being arguably the most collectible.

The watch in this post is a model from the 1970’s which arrived running and in reasonable cosmetic condition. Inside the case is a Valjoux cal. 235 which is effectively a Valjoux cal. 23, modified to increase the beat rate from 18,000 to 21,600 bph and to include a flyback lever.

A flyback lever (highlighted below) allows the chronograph to be reset without having to stop the chronograph first, which is particularly useful when timing operations in quick succession.

When the reset button is pressed the flyback lever pivots and lifts the coupling clutch away from the chronograph runner and the reset hammer moves across its normal arc, resetting both the chronograph runner and minute register to zero. When the reset button is released, the reset hammer returns and the coupling clutch is lowered once more onto the chronograph runner and timing restarts.

As you can see from the picture above, the movement was in good condition and needed no more than a routine service and a new mainspring to bring it back to its best.

From a cosmetic point of view the watch wasn’t in bad shape either, although there were a few areas that needed to be addressed. The first two were straight forward; the pushers had tarnished and were brought back up to spec. by carefully removing the discolouration with a scratch brush, and the triangle on the bezel had been filled in with paint at some point which was not right. On this model the bezel markings should all be unfilled, so the paint was removed.

The final issue was a little more involved as there were patches of rust visible under the crystal.

A little rust had formed under the bezel so I assumed that rusty water had seeped into the gap between the crystal and case and it would be an easy clean-up job once the crystal had been pressed out. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. When the crystal was removed from the case, I found that the discolouration was actually inside the body of the crystal itself.

Being an original crystal, after 40 or so years the acrylic becomes brittle and shrinks. Small cracks had formed towards the lower edge of the crystal allowing the rusty water to seep into the body of the crystal over time. I like to keep things original wherever possible, but with no way of removing these stains, the only option was to fit a new crystal.

With the movement service and the cosmetic issues resolved the watch could be rebuilt, here’s the result.

Rich.

** Many thanks to David Budd for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Marathon GG-W-113 (ETA Cal. 2801-2)…

Made by the Marathon Watch Co. for the US forces, this military watch is something of a rarity.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Since the Vietnam war, mechanical watches were produced for US military personnel under the specification “GG-W-113” mainly by three US based manufacturers, Benrus, Hamilton and to a lesser extent, Waltham.

Produced for a period of just one year, between 1984-5, the watch in this post is somewhat unusual as although produced by the Marathon Watch Co. under the same specification, it varies significantly from the near identical watches produced by the other manufacturers.

The most noticeable difference is the dial text which is plentiful on the Marathon. As well as the brand name and jewel count, it also states that the watch was produced for the US Government along with a H3 and radiation symbol (used on US military watches to denote that tritium is used in the luminous compound).

In comparison, the Hamilton is ‘sterile’ with nothing more than the hour markings.

The case on the Marathon is also a different design to the Hamilton and Benrus watches and is thought to be a modified version of the case used on the CWC G10 quartz watch issued to British Military personnel during the same period. The most noticeable modification being the lug width which is reduced to just 16mm on the Marathon.

Rather being a one piece case design where the watch is removed from the case via the crystal, like the CWC G10, the Marathon case has a very secure snap-back case on which the military markings are engraved. As well as the model and federal stock numbers, the issue date of March 1985 can be clearly seen on the last line.

Inside the Marathon is a Gallet branded ETA cal. 2801-2, a 17 jewel manual wind calibre with a beat rate of 28,800 bph.

This too is something of a diversion from the other manufacturers who all used the ETA cal. 2750, still a fine calibre but with a lower beat rate of 21,600 bph. In both cases the calibres were fitted with hacking levers to conform to the military specification.

The watch needed no more than a routine service and a small tweak to the hacking lever which was reluctant to release its grip on the balance when the crown was returned to the winding position. So, a straight forward job this time but not a watch you’ll see every day.

Here it is after a clean for the case, crystal polish and rebuild.

Finding an original version of one of these watches may be tricky, so it’s worth noting that Marathon released an re-issue of the watch last year in a limited edition run of just 600. You can pick one up via their website here.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Stephen Brown for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Zenith Sub-Sea Diver (Zenith Cal. 48.5)…

I still keep a speculative eye on eBay and was tempted by this collection of vintage Zenith Sub-Sea oddments, all listed separately by the same seller.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Mention the word Sub-Sea to any Zenith enthusiast and the watch that comes to mind is likely to be this gents model which is one of the most desirable vintage Zenith watches. Unmistakably a 1970’s watch from the design alone, both the diver and chronograph models are now highly prized by collectors and can be difficult to find in good condition.

(Click picture to enlarge)

The ladies Sub-Sea diver in this post is more of an enigma. While ladies watches don’t get the coverage of their male counterparts, there is usually information to be unearthed about them. Not in this case however, as there was no information to be found anywhere about this model – pretty rare then I’d say. 😉

Competition for such a parts jumble is always less than for a complete watch (and especially so for ladies watches), so I was pleased to win all the lots without too much of a battle. Buying a collection like this is always a gamble as nine times out of ten you’ll find that parts are either damaged or missing in every movement and you still need additional parts to finish the project.

As the date is displayed between the 4 and 5 markers on this model it was essential that I won the gold dialled parts movement to ensure that I had at least one movement with the correct date ring. The majority of watches have the date aperture at 3 o’clock which means that date rings aren’t generally interchangeable as they would be out of alignment for a 4.5 date display.

When the parts arrived I was pretty pleased with my haul as the case and bracelet were in near perfect condition and I had almost three complete movements, albeit in varying states of repair. I was still missing a winding stem, second hand and crown, but all in all, not too bad.

I was also pleased to find that the casing ring was still inside the case. Without this the movement can’t be properly secured and I would probably have had to make one as sourcing an original would have been difficult.

The movement in this watch is a Zenith cal. 48.5, a 17 jewel automatic with a beat rate of 28,800 bph. The majority of vintage Zenith movements were developed in-house but this one is based on the ETA cal. 2671, a Swiss high-beat calibre that was first produced in 1971 and is still in production today. The only differences appear to be the mainplate which is stamped ‘48.5’ and the winding rotor which is Zenith branded.

The movement above was the worst of the three which was encouraging as, apart from the broken stem and the tarnished weight on the winding rotor, the rest of the movement looked to be ok. The first job was to disassemble all three movements and select the best parts from what was available. The resulting parts were then cleaned and the rest of the build was handled just like a regular service job.

I rustled up a suitable second hand from my parts stock and a Zenith branded crown in the right size was quickly sourced too, so everything was starting to take shape.

Being an ETA based movement that is still in production, the winding stem was easy to source too so the rest of the job was plain sailing from there, Here’s the result – not bad at all from a collection of parts.

Just after completing the project I was surprised to find another identical NOS (New/Old Stock) dial, hands and case set for sale on eBay, this time in Italy. I was confident that I could still make another good movement from the remaining parts, so I put in my bid again and was pleased to be the only bidder.

As with the first one I was missing a winding crown and stem, but at least I knew where to source them so they were  duly ordered and I started the whole service and rebuild process again… a case of horological déjà vu!

Here they are together.

Rich.