Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Wakmann Regate (Lemania Cal. 1341)…

For the second month in a row there’s a new brand on the blog, this time it’s Wakmann.

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After creating a successful watch company in Portugal, Icko Wakmann travelled to New York in 1943 with the ambition of establishing a presence in the US market. He founded the Wakmann Watch Company in 1946 and listed the company on the US Stock Exchange in 1947.

At the end of WWII in an effort to protect US watch manufacturers, the government was imposing heavy duties on any Swiss watches imported for sale within the United States. The only way to avoid these duties was to have watches assembled and/or finished in the US. So, in October 1947 a joint venture between Breitling SA in Switzerland and the Wakmann Watch Company was established (called the Breitling Watch Company of America) which allowed Breitling to send watches to Wakmann in New York for ‘final finishing’ and distribution throughout the US under the Wakmann name – consequently, you’ll see many Wakmann watches for sale where the seller is claiming that it is a “Breitling in disguise” even if it has no link to Breitling whatsoever.

The same legislation didn’t apply to other aviation instruments so the bond between the companies was more evident and both company names were displayed prominently on the dials of cockpit clocks and other timers.

Wakmann didn’t have full watch production facilities and instead contracted their watches out to a number of European manufacturers over the years. As a result, their watches often resembled watches from other producers but they all had good quality Swiss calibres inside from respected manufacturers such as ETA, Valjoux, Lemania, Venus and Landeron.

The Regate (or Regatta) model featured in this post is one of the more popular Wakmann models and an interesting feature of the watch is the multi-functional inner bezel, which I believe is unique to this watch – though I’m happy to be corrected on that.

On the outer edge are two scales to be used in conjunction with the chronograph, a Tachymetre scale that is commonly seen on chronographs (used to time speed in km/h or miles/h when measured over a distance of 1km/1 mile) and also a Regate scale used in competitive sailing. As the minute register is mounted on a separate hand rather than in a subdial on this calibre it makes it ideal for use as a sailing timer where the first fifteen minutes can easily be measured against an external Regate scale (see this post for an explanation of how sailing timers are used).

The inner track of the bezel is printed with the days of the week in five coloured sections and is used as a month planner. The numerical days of the month are printed on the outer edge of the dial and the idea is to rotate the inner bezel using the crown on the left hand side of the watch until the correct day of the week is aligned with ‘1’ on the dial. It is then very easy to see at-a-glance what day a certain date will fall on in the coming month ie. in the picture below, the 8th will be on a Sunday this month, and so on – I suppose in this day and age you’d probably just ask ‘Siri’ but back in the 1970’s when this watch was made it would save you breaking out the calendar. 😉

Despite being something of an eye catcher already with the coloured inner bezel, the watch was also available with a white dial in the stainless steel case, and also a gold dial/hands in a gold plated case for those requiring that bit extra bling.

The watch in this post was sent in primarily because condensation was forming on the inside of the crystal when worn. As you may have seen in previous posts, when left unchecked rust quickly forms and with steel pivots on the train wheels being little thicker than a human hair, it can do a lot of damage in a short space of time (here is one example).

Opening the case it was immediately obvious that the gasket inside the caseback was at fault as it hadn’t been changed for many years and was now more like plastic than rubber. You can see in the picture below that rust had started to form on the inside of the caseback too.

Although there was some pitting evident on the case, the movement, a Lemania cal. 1341, was quite dirty but showed no immediate signs of corrosion, though the chronograph wouldn’t reset to zero and the hands had lost some of their paint due to moisture settling on them.

The Lemania cal. 1341 is a calibre that I’ve covered before on the blog, so rather than repeat the description of how it works, I’ll redirect any interested parties to this post about a Tissot Navigator that I wrote a few years ago.

The owner of this watch had sent it in just in time as rust was starting to form on some of the movement parts, but it was only surface rust at this stage and easy to remove. The chronograph reset problem was only due to a lack of recent servicing.

Once the movement had been serviced, the case was ultrasonically cleaned and the crystal polished, the paint on the hands repaired, new gaskets fitted, and the watch was re-assembled.

Finally, if you think this watch is cool you’re in good company as Clint Eastwood wore the same watch in the 1995 movie The Bridges of Madison County.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Chris Jones for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Aero Neuchatel Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…

Another vintage chronograph and new brand on the blog, an Aero Neuchatel.

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The brand name ‘Aero Neuchatel’ is owned by the company Aerowatch S.A. and was first registered in 1973. With the introduction of quartz watches in the early 1970’s, I can only speculate that Aerowatch S.A. set up this sub-brand to focus solely on contemporary wristwatches given that the parent company had built a reputation for creating more classical timepieces.

Aerowatch S.A. has been in existence since 1910 and has produced mainly high quality pocket watches for sale in international markets. The company was owned and run by the Crevoisier family before being sold to the Denis Bolzli in 2001. The change of ownership proved to be something of a new beginning for the brand and by 2005 a new range of wristwatches had been developed, drawing heavily on the classical styling of previous Aerowatch timepieces.

Production was moved from Neuchatel to Signelegier in 2008 and since then the company has continued to create mainly mechanical watches in the classical style. Here is an example from their current collection.

You can see the rest of their current range on the website: www.aerowatch.com.

The watch in this post arrived running but the chronograph wouldn’t start, stop or reset so something was obviously amiss.

Opening the watch revealed a Valjoux cal. 7733 in decent order but the caseback gasket had turned to mush and the two chronograph operating levers were both loose on the movement – Sherlock Holmes wasn’t needed this time to help figure out why the chronograph wasn’t working anyway!

The previous owner must have really forced the pushers as the heads of both retaining screws had been broken off and were rattling around inside the case, one is highlighted in the picture above and the second was trapped deeper inside the movement.

Once out of the case, I noticed that the entire movement and the inside of the case were covered in a film of oil. Close inspection of the dial and hands revealed that they too were covered in oil. Not good.

After prolonged exposure it’s possible that the dial print or paint could lift from the dial during cleaning, but on this occasion I had no choice but to ‘bite the bullet’ and remove the oil as the coverage was too heavy to leave it as it was.

Here is a picture of the dial half way through cleaning – you can see the difference between the original matt finish on the left and the oil covered shine on the right.

The case was stripped down and cleaned too, and all traces of the oil were also removed from the hands and the inside of the crystal.

Once the movement had been fully disassembled, the cause of the oil slick was pretty obvious…

I can only assume that oil must have been “pumped” into the barrel the last time the watch was serviced as it was still half full even though a good percentage of it had already seeped out.

With the movement serviced, the operating lever screws replaced and everything cleaned up, the watch could be rebuilt. The last thing to do was to fit a new caseback gasket and the job was complete.

Regular readers may have noticed that the watch bears a resemblance to another vintage chronograph which I’ve written about several times on the blog, the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster (an example here).

Side by side, while almost identical in terms of case size, the Aero has a larger diameter dial and slimmer bezel which makes it wear larger on the wrist.

They are both great chronographs and well worth adding to your collection if you get the chance.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Phil Johnson for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Jaquet-Droz Chronograph (Landeron Cal. 149)…

Another rather tired looking vintage chronograph on the blog, this time from Jaquet-Droz.

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Regular readers may have a sense of déjà-vu here as the case on this watch is one that was supplied to a number of manufacturers over the years and I’ve written about two such examples before on the blog, a Rotary and a Le Cheminant Master Mariner. Here are a few more examples of watches which share the same case; values vary and some are easier to find than others.

This is however the first time I’ve seen such a chronograph from Jaquet-Droz. The history of Jaquet-Droz is very interesting but rather than repeat myself, I’ll direct any interested parties to this blog post about another J-D chronograph in which I covered their background.

The watch in this post is still in the possession of the original owner who had it bought for him as a 21st birthday gift in 1968. At that time the brand was enjoying the early years of its first rise from the ashes before the quartz revolution came along and wiped them out, along with many others. Watches from this period are easy to recognise as they all have the ‘arrow’ logo on the dial.

Inside the watch is a Landeron cal. 149, a cam-lever chronograph and one of the few Landeron calibres with a traditional operation ie. the top pusher starts and stops the chronograph and the lower pusher performs the reset. The more commonly used 48, 51, 148 and 248 calibres were designed such that the top pusher starts that chronograph and the lower pusher is used for both the stop and reset functions.

Although the movement was in decent condition, you may have noticed in the first picture that the hand for the chronograph minute register had fallen off and was rattling around at the bottom of the dial.

Once the movement had been disassembled the cause was immediately obvious, the lower pivot for the chronograph minute runner had been broken off. Though the hand may have stayed in place initially, with no clearance above the dial it wouldn’t have taken long to work its way off the shaft in daily wear.

Being the 45 minute rather than the 30 minute version of the chronograph I expected to have some difficulty in finding a new part, but that wasn’t the case (which made a pleasant change .. and even more pleasant, the owner found it for me!), so a replacement was ordered from overseas while I serviced the rest of the movement.

From a cosmetic perspective, despite having had many years of use, the case was still in decent condition but the bezel had lost some most of its markings and the crystal was cracked. The bezel pip was missing too and so was the filling in the minute sub-dial hand, both of which would need to be re-lumed to match the rest of the (original) lume.

Once the replacement minute runner arrived, the movement could finally be rebuilt and regulated/tested. In the meantime, the bezel pip and hand had been re-lumed, the case cleaned and given a light buff to restore the shine, a new crystal fitted and the bezel markings re-painted.

I’ve restored quite a few of these watches now and I’m always impressed with how well they clean up, this one being no exception. With a case diameter of 38mm (40mm including the crown) they may be considered quite small by today’s standards, but with prices still being relatively modest on most models, they are a good entry into the world of vintage chronographs.

Rich.

** Many thanks to John Dawes for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Heuer Monnin (FE Cal. 4611A)…

An iconic diver to kick off the New Year, a Heuer Monnin.

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The Monnin is something of an enigma in the Heuer back catalogue, as the time-line of its production history hasn’t been fully determined.

What is known is that in the mid-late 1970’s Heuer were being approached regularly by diving enthusiasts asking why there was no Heuer diver? Recognising a potential gap in the market, Heuer approached the French manufacturer G. Monnin to re-brand one their existing diver’s watches so they could test the market. Monnin agreed as they were already doing the same for other manufacturers (you’ll see almost identical watches from other brands such as Alfex, Bessa and Le Cheminant) which suited Heuer perfectly as it gave them an entry into the diver arena without the pre-production cost of tooling.

To say the watch was a success is an understatement. At a time when Heuer was struggling to stay afloat during the quartz revolution, the sales of the Monnin saved the company. To quote Jack Heuer from a recent interview “…and would you believe it, these watches started selling like crazy. The company came out of trouble because of these watches. You know, Bo Derek wore one; we have it now in the museum”.

The earliest printed record of the Monnin is this Heuer catalogue from 1979 which featured the watch on the cover.

(Picture: OnTheDash)

Much of the confusion around the Monnin exists because the dial, hand and bezel insert designs were changed during the brief production cycle, resulting in a variety of combinations being used in the watches sold.

Comparing the watch in this post to the picture above it has all the hallmarks of an early model. A ‘cathedral’ hour hand, the early style bezel insert and the ‘professionel’ text is in lower case letters on the dial.

Curiously, the subject of this post also has a second hand with a large lume ‘lollipop’ whereas most of the automatic Monnins have a much smaller one like in the picture above. The owner says that this second hand has been fitted since new – he had the watch bought for him as an 18th birthday present by his father in the late 1970’s (from Harrods no less!).

For comparison, here is a picture of a later model with the Rolex Submariner style bezel insert, a ‘Mercedes’ hour hand and a dial with capitalised text and “Made in France” printed at the bottom.

(Picture: Heuerville)

The watch in this post received regular maintenance throughout its life, but due to the caseback not being fully screwed down after a movement service, the watch suffered an ingress of sea water during a dive several years ago. On returning to the surface the owner immediately unscrewed the caseback by hand and rinsed the watch out with fresh water in an attempt to minimise the damage.

Fast forward to the current day and after hearing the story I was still expecting to see a significant amount of rust. With the caseback removed, some rust was evident but I was expecting it to be worse.

The calibre in this watch is the French Ebauche (FE) cal. 4611A. A Swiss mid-level 17 jewel automatic with a beat rate of 21,000 bph. This calibre was only used in the Monnin as the calibre was replaced by the ETA cal. 2872 when production moved to Switzerland and the watch became an ‘official’ Heuer model, the 844.

With the automatic winding mechanism removed, the signs of rust were increasing; several of the screwheads were rusty and the balance cock / regulator showed signs of corrosion. Seeing this, I was already concerned about the condition of the pivots on the train wheels and other delicate steel parts…

Sure enough, with the train bridge removed I could see that all the train wheel pivots were corroded, along with the balance staff pivots, the mainspring, the barrel arbor, and several parts in the automatic winding mechanism. Here are some of the parts that we beyond salvation.

Thankfully, parts for the FE 4611A are still available, so the majority could be replaced without a lengthy search this time. Some effort was still required to remove rust from other parts, but the movement could then be cleaned and rebuilt.

From a cosmetic perspective the lume on the dial and hands were largely unaffected by the salt water, but the dial did have some staining where water had dried on the surface.

Deciding what to do in these situations is never easy as attempting to remove any staining can make it worse, or damage the dial print or paint. After consulting the owner we decided to re-wet the stain and try to remove it. As the dial dried I was pleased to see that the staining was disappearing before my eyes… phew!

With the movement back up and running, the case was cleaned and the watch rebuilt. Finally a new caseback gasket was fitted… and the caseback secured properly this time.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Nigel Glen for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Seasons Greetings…

Another year has rolled on by…. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone out there, and best wishes for 2015.

Rich.


Sinn 103 Flieger (Valjoux Cal. 7750)…

An iconic pilot’s chronograph on the blog this time, a Sinn 103 Flieger. Although this is the first Sinn to feature on the blog, I’m sure the name will be recognised by many watch enthusiasts.

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The company ‘Helmut Sinn Spezialuhren’ was founded in Frankfurt in 1961 by flight instructor and pilot Helmut Sinn. Specialising in navigation cockpit clocks and pilot chronographs, the timepieces were manufactured in Switzerland and were offered to customers directly rather than via a dealer network which saved on costs, resulting in a lower retail price. The business model worked well and the company grew steadily over subsequent decades.

In 1994 Helmut Sinn (then aged 78) sold the company to certified engineer and former IWC employee Lothar Schmidt who re-structured the entire company, expanded the model range, introduced a dealer network, and moved a lot of the manufacturing in-house. The company achieved many technological firsts based mainly around material hardening for the watch cases and magnetic resistance. Pictured below are a few of their other models; the U1, EZM4, 142, and the T1.

The 103 is a stalwart of the Sinn line-up and has been in production since the early 1980’s. Exact records detailing specific model changes weren’t kept before Lothar Schmidt took over so it’s hard to be sure, but the watch in this post is most likely one of the earlier models.

It arrived in a reasonably sorry looking state, the lume had deteriorated throughout and the watch showed signs of water ingress which is never an encouraging start. With the caseback removed, the cause of the problem was immediately apparent… the caseback gasket had a big gap in it!

Perhaps the last watchmaker didn’t have the right size in stock and cut the largest gasket he had with a “Well, it will be 15/16th’s more waterproof then with no gasket at all” idea? –  not recommended.

Even though the moisture had taken its toll on the lume, the movement was surprisingly unaffected. The only parts showing tarnish were the steel parts of the bearing race in the winding rotor which was cleaned to preserve the Sinn branded rotor, and the cannon pinion which was replaced.

The calibre in this watch is the Valjoux cal. 7750 and though I’ve serviced many, this is the first cal. 7750 powered watch that I’ve written about on the blog.

Having been in constant production since 1974 the cal. 7750 is still the automatic chronograph calibre of choice for many brands. Many manufacturers enhance and/or decorate the calibre and then give it their own model number (i.e., Breitling cal. 13, IWC cal. 79350) but the base calibre is often recognisable by the subdial layout; running seconds at 9, minute counter at 12 and hour counter at 6.

There is an alternative version of the calibre, the cal. 7753, with the subdials placed in the 3,6 and 9 positions. Despite being a more traditional layout the 7753 seems to be used much less than the 7750 for some reason, production numbers perhaps? An example of a cal. 7753 powered watch that springs to my mind is the Montblanc Timewalker Chronograph.

Ok, back on topic…. With the movement serviced it was on to the cosmetic part of the job – obviously the most pressing issue being the lume. Re-luming numerals directly onto the surface of a dial is a tricky business and best left to a lume specialist, so on this occasion the dial and hands were sent out for the work to be completed while I was servicing the movement.

When the dial and hands returned, the case was cleaned and the crystal polished, the watch was rebuilt and a new caseback gasket fitted – without the gap this time. 😉

The Sinn 103 is still in production in a range of case materials, and the full range of Sinn models can be seen on their website: https://www.sinn.de/en/Sinn-Spezialuhren.htm

Rich.

** Many thanks to David Lloyd for letting me feature his watch on the blog and to James Hyman for his excellent re-luming work. **


Seiko 6105-8119…

It’s been almost three years since I’ve written about a Seiko on the blog, so let’s have a look at this vintage 6105 diver.

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Replacing the 62MAS, Seiko’s first ever diver, the 6105 was produced from 1968 until 1977 and has become something of a Seiko legend. Having seen a rise in popularity over the last few years, values have steadily increased and all original examples in good condition are now highly prized by Seiko enthusiasts.

The watch was produced in two flavours, the cushion cased 6105-8110/8119 seen here, and also a slimmer cased model, the 6105-8000/8009.

You may see the cushion cased model referred to as the ‘Captain Willard’, so named because Martin Sheen wore the same model in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.

Unfortunately time hadn’t been kind to the subject of this post and it arrived in poor cosmetic condition. Still in the possession of the original owner who logged hundreds of hours of diving whilst wearing the watch, it was finally replaced in the late 1980’s and has been resting in a drawer since then.

Although the case was in decent shape, the crystal was heavily scratched and as is common to many 6105’s, the lume had deteriorated and the resulting ‘rot’ had eaten away the plating on the hands and frames of the hour markers. You’ll notice too that the SEIKO logo is also heavily tarnished.

With the caseback removed I was pleased to see that the movement was still in good condition with no sign of rust or heavy wear, just a few patches of light tarnish on the winding rotor. The movement in this watch is the cal. 6105A, a 17 jewel automatic which runs at 21,600 bph.

The movement required no more than a routine service, so the majority of the work on this watch was cosmetic.

As can be seen in the dial shot above, the tarnish on the hands and dial markers was extensive, so much so that the chrome plating on the hands had been completely eaten away. Consequently, the owner opted to replace them with a set of 6105 aftermarket hands on this occasion.

The hour markers had suffered too but not to the same extent, so with the old lume carefully removed and a little work done to clean up the tarnish, the new hands, dial markers and bezel pip could all be re-lumed to match. The last job on the dial was to replace the tarnished logo.

The case was then stripped down, cleaned and rebuilt with new gaskets for the crystal, bezel and caseback, but the crown gasket proved to be problematic.

The crown gasket on the 6105 is a known issue as the original crowns were never designed to be serviceable and Seiko never supplied replacement gaskets for them (the whole crown would have been replaced as part of a service). When the crown is made, the gasket is inserted first, a thick metal washer is then pressed over the gasket and the edge of the crown is then crimped/folded over to seal the gasket and washer inside.

The only way to fit a new gasket is to prise out the washer, replace the gasket and try and re-insert the washer – I’ve never attempted the manoeuvre myself, opting to either stick with the original crown, or fit an aftermarket replacement. Here’s a picture of a crown that has had the ‘operation’ and while it worked, the result isn’t pretty.

Genuine NOS (New Old Stock) crowns can still be found for the 6105 and one was included with this watch, but as the gasket inside is already 30+ years old it is known for them to have hardened in storage, and unfortunately that was the case here.

In the picture below the crown on the left is the original crown in which the old gasket is barely visible after decades of being stretched around the case tube. In the NOS crown on the right, the gasket is clearly visible and, with some silicon lube and moderate pressure, it should slide over the case tube making a tight seal. However, on this occasion the gasket was as hard as rock, rendering the crown useless.

Thankfully the seller of the NOS crown had some more in stock and the gasket in the replacement crown was still soft, so the watch could finally be rebuilt and fitted with a new Seiko strap to finish the job.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Paul Stevenson for letting me feature his watch on the blog, and also to Paul Briggs for his sterling work as the middle man. 😉 **


Cyma W.W.W. (Cyma Cal. 234)…

This time it’s a Cyma W.W.W., another of the watches produced for the British Military.

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The abbreviation “W.W.W” stands for “Watch Wristlet Waterproof” which is used specifically to identify this style of watch. In the early 1940’s the British Ministry Of Defence issued a new specification for wristwatches for use by military personnel and Cyma were one of twelve manufacturers who submitted watches that were accepted for military use, the others being; Vertex, IWC, JLC, Grana, Timor, Longines, Omega, Buren, Eterna, Lemania and Record.

Together these watches are known as the “Dirty Dozen” by military watch enthusiasts and collecting an example of all twelve is difficult as some were only made in small numbers. Here is one such set belonging to a military watch collector in the US.

Picture: Roger Glickman (Click to enlarge)

The Cyma, as you can see in the picture above, is the largest of the set at 38mm and is one of the models with a solid steel case. Most of the watches had plated cases which makes finding a full set all in good condition more difficult.

As you can see in the first picture, the watch arrived in a pretty scruffy state with the lume scattered all over the dial. The watch did tick, albeit weakly, and judging by the condition of the sub-second hand which had obviously been very clumsily removed in the past, I was curious about the condition of the movement.

As is common to many military watches, the movement is protected by an anti-magnetic dust cover and the military markings are engraved on both sides of the caseback.

Once inside, I was quite relieved to find that the movement, a 15 jewel Cyma cal. 234 was intact and in relatively good order. It obviously hadn’t been serviced for a long time but everything was present and correct.

Many of the calibres used in military watches are good quality and this one is no exception. The edges of the plates are bevelled, the train wheel and anchor jewels are all mounted in chatons and the movement plates are decorated with broad geneva stripes. (The dial side of the main plate is also decorated with perlage.)

As you can also see in the first picture, the case was very dirty and a lot of dirt had built up between the crystal and case. The crystal would need to be removed before the case could be cleaned in the ultrasonic tank.

Similar to the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster which I wrote about a couple of years ago, the crystal in this watch is held in place by a securing ring screwed into the inside of the case. As these rings are rarely removed, typically only when the crystal gets damaged, the securing ring can be very difficult to remove – a bench mounted case opener is the best way to tackle the job.

The lume on the dial and hands was in particularly poor shape and there was no option but to remove it all and renew it, this time in a vintage beige/brown similar to the original.

With the case cleaned and crystal polished, the movement serviced and the re-luming work done, the final job was to repair the sub-second hand before the watch could be rebuilt. Here is it all back in one piece.

One final point to note about the calibre in this Cyma is that it has an unusual fine regulating mechanism mounted on the balance cock.

Rather than moving the regulator arm back and forth as in most micro-adjusters, this system moves the pinning point back and forth, effectively moving the hairspring between the curb pin and boot of the regulator, increasing or decreasing its effective length.

The mechanism pivots around the small screw in the centre with the hairspring pinning point on the left hand side. The large screw on the right (the screw next to the ‘F’) is eccentric and turning it moves the pinning point in and out. Once the timekeeping has been regulated successfully, the small screw of the side of the balance cock locks the eccentric screw in place.

It is certainly an unconventional mechanism and I believe it is unique to this calibre.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Kai Chew for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **