Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Gruen Precision Diver (Gruen Cal. 560 RSS)…

Like the Philip Caribbean 1500 I wrote about a couple of months ago, this Gruen Precision is another diver that you won’t see very often.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Capitalising on a patent granted for an improved safety pinion, Dietrich Gruen founded the Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company in Ohio, USA in 1876. Using movements imported from Switzerland, Gruen produced good quality pocket watches for the American market, and went on to introduce the first stem-wind pocket watch into the USA. His watches proved popular, and in less than a decade he decided to take on new partners and move to larger facilities, after which the company quickly grew to 150 employees and were producing 300 watches per day.

However, all was not well behind the scenes and after a series of disagreements with the other partners, Gruen and his son (Fred) left the company in 1894 and formed the partnership “D. Gruen & Son”.

After a successful period creating watches for the US military, in 1917 the company moved to a new custom built factory in Cincinnati named “Time Hill”. Between 1921 and 1958 they produced the majority of the watches that Gruen are famous for; the Veri-thin range of pocket and wristwatches, the rectangular Quadron range, and undoubtedly their biggest success, the Curvex.

Introduced in the 1935, the Curvex was the first watch with a curved movement to better match the profile of the wrist.

After the death of Fred Gruen in 1945, the company began to lose focus and despite achieving its highest sales figures to date, it was sold by the family in 1953. The company then entered a turbulent 5 year period which saw high level mismanagement, and the legal battles between the board members and stock holders often made newspaper headlines. The company changed ownership several times in quick succession and was slowly stripped of its assets, the huge debts eventually forced the company to lay off employees and close down manufacturing facilities – incredibly, all the factory records prior to 1958 were considered ‘no longer of any use’ and were destroyed.

The company eventually found a new owner based in New York and mechanical watches were manufactured again under the Gruen name. As well as ‘Precision’ dress watches, several diver’s watches also were produced. Here are a few more examples.

Unfortunately, Gruen’s ‘phoenix from the ashes’ story ends before it really got started as the company was swept aside by the quartz revolution and was forced to close its doors for the final time in 1976.

The calibre inside the watch in this post is a Gruen cal. 560 RSS. Although Gruen did produce their own calibres, by the time this watch was produced all the manufacturing facilities had been sold off and Gruen were sourcing calibres from other manufacturers and re-branding them as their own. The base caliber of the 560 RSS is a 17 jewel Bidlingmaier ebauche, with an added automatic winding mechanism (a 23 jewel version was also available).

Although running on arrival it wasn’t possible to set the time, and cosmetically it was in pretty rough shape with poor lume throughout. Though it’s not immediately obvious from the pictures above, the lugs had also been bent inwards at some point – in all likelihood by some ‘genius’ with a pair of pliers as the case still had deep gouges on the outside of the lugs… correctly sized spring bars must have been in short supply that day. :(

As the damage was pretty bad, the case was sent out for restoration while I completed the rest of the work.

During the movement service the problem with the keyless works was quickly uncovered; a click spring had been fitted which was way too big, preventing the stem from being pulled all the way out to set the time.

A click spring of the right size quickly put things right and the rest of the service was straight forward, so it was on to the cosmetic work.

As is clear in the first picture, the lume had fallen out of the hands and had deteriorated badly on the 3, 6 ,9 and 12 hour markers (the other hour markers are painted triangles). Ordinarily all traces of the old lume would be removed first before re-luming, which was no problem with the hands, but on the dial the lume on the hour markers was rock hard. So, rather than risk damaging the dial or the painted markers underneath the lume, a new layer of vintage cream lume was applied on top of the old. Not ideal, but given the situation (ie. the chances of finding a replacement dial being zero!), it was the right choice.

With both the servicing and cosmetic work completed, and the case back from the restorer, the watch could finally be rebuilt. However, that isn’t the end of the story as an unexpected problem occurred during testing.

As part of the post-service checks, every automatic watch is tested on a winding machine to ensure that the winding and calendar mechanisms are working correctly. During this testing, the Gruen kept stopping at irregular intervals, and on opening the watch I found that the winding rotor was jammed. It only took the slightest nudge to get it started again, but it hinted at a bigger problem with the automatic winding mechanism.

It’s not uncommon to see some wear in an automatic winding mechanism, especially after decades of daily use, but in this case the wear was not obvious without magnification. The picture below shows one of the transfer wheels at 30 times magnification and as you can see, the tops of the teeth in the top right quadrant have worn away.

At 90 times magnification, you can see that some teeth were in particularly poor shape, and some even had grooves worn into them which were causing the rotor to jam.

As parts for this calibre are long discontinued, I tried to reshape the worst of the teeth with a cutting broach to at least get the watch up and running until a donor mechanism could be found. Despite several attempts it didn’t work as the wheel was just too worn, and the rotor continued to jam while on the winding machine.

Thankfully a donor movement was quickly found in the US and arrived after a couple of weeks. The winding mechanism on the donor proved to be in better condition than the original, so the whole mechanism was stripped, cleaned, lubricated and installed to finally finish the job.


** Many thanks to Daniel Spiegel for letting me feature his watch on the blog, and to Paul McRae for his work on the case. **

Zenith El Primero A385 (Zenith Cal. 3019PHC)…

A classic chronograph this time on the blog, a vintage Zenith El Primero A385.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The story of the El Primero is legendary in the watch world. Development started on the El Primero (meaning ‘the first’ in Esperanto) in 1962, with Zenith hoping to unveil the first automatic chronograph just in time for their centennial in 1965. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and it wasn’t until late 1968 that the first working prototypes were finished. With other manufacturers nearing completion of their own automatic chronograph calibers, Zenith stole a march on their competitors by holding a low-key press conference in January 1969 showing two working prototypes and claiming the title.

However, as production models were not available to the public until October 1969, making them the third manufacturer to market after Seiko and Heuer et al. (in the spring and summer of 1969 respectively), who was actually the first? The debate still goes on, and the whole story is covered in more detail by Jeff Stein’s excellent article, Project 99.

The watch in this post was one of the first models to be released in 1969, along with two other models, the A384 and the A386.

More models were to follow in the early 1970′s, as well as models from their sister company Movado which also used the El Primero movement (I wrote about one such Movado here).

Although still in production today, the El Primero came very close to being “just another discontinued calibre” in 1975, when as a result of the quartz revolution, the Zenith Radio Corporation (the owners of the company at the time) decided that quartz watches were the future and the tooling for all mechanical calibres was to be sold for scrap, by the ton, to the highest bidder.

Needless to say, after a century of producing quality mechanical calibres this decision wasn’t well received by the work force, especially not by manufacturing foreman Charles Vermot who had been involved with the El Primero since its preliminary sketches. Despite his protestations the sale was to go ahead as planned, but in a move that undoubtedly saved the El Primero, Vermot defied the orders from above and evening after evening, began hiding the tooling and presses for the El Primero (numbering 150 in total, many weighing over a ton) in unused recesses of the factory, all the while keeping a record in a ring binder which he hid in the attic.

Ebel bought Zenith in 1978 and were keen to restart production of the El Primero, but how would they do that without the necessary tooling? It was at this point that Charles Vermot stepped forward and admitted to his insubordination – unsurprisingly, he was congratulated rather than punished; the tooling was re-instated, and with Ebel’s help full production of the El Primero started again in 1984.

Charles Vermot

From a technical perspective, the El Primero calibre can be seen as “having it all”; automatic winding, a high beat rate of 36,000 bph (10 ticks per second) making for an incredibly smooth sweep and chronograph accuracy to 1/10th second, an integrated design allowing the watches to be slimmer than competing modular chronographs, and a date with independent quickset via the crown.

Cramming in all that good stuff does make it relatively complicated however – the going side of the movement is pretty ‘busy’, and a peek under the dial uncovers a plethora of parts.

As you may have spotted in the first picture, the watch in this post arrived missing the reset pusher, and there was no sign of life from the movement with the chronograph either engaged or disengaged which was a concern.

On closer inspection, it was immediately obvious that things weren’t right as a number of the components weren’t located properly underneath the chronograph bridge. I can only assume that a previous watchmaker had taken the watch apart, considered the job too difficult and simply screwed the bridge back on again. Miraculously, none of the parts were damaged and all the pivots were still intact. However, my initial relief was short lived when I discovered that the chronograph bridge was now bent. By not locating all the components correctly first, the bridge had been bent upwards when the screws were fully tightened down.

You might imagine that simply bending the bridge back down again would be an easy solution, but once a piece of metal has been bent, the material stretches and it’s very difficult to return it to its former state – try it with a paper clip and you’ll see what I mean. In the world of horology where tolerances are measured in fractions of millimetres, this can have a dramatic effect, and especially so on this calibre where the tolerances are particularly tight.

The good news was that with the winding components removed and the chronograph disengaged, the base movement actually started ticking which was one less concern, but with the chronograph bridge bent back down again and all the components in place, there were still problems with the running of the chronograph and the reset mechanism, plus the automatic winding rotor dragging on the outer edge of the movement.

Making an adjustment to solve one problem had a knock on effect elsewhere, so it took quite some time and patience to get everything working properly. However, my patience paid off and after a full service the movement was fully operational again and looking good.

From a cosmetic perspective, the watch wasn’t too bad. The lume had deteriorated on the dial and had fallen out of the hands completely, so that needed to be replaced. The hour markers had tarnished too over the years, which could be improved but not removed completely.

With the movement and cosmetic work completed, both pushers were replaced with new items to ensure a perfect match, the case was cleaned and the crystal was polished to finish the job.

Finding vintage El Primeros in good condition is not easy these days, so it may interest readers to know that Zenith released a modern re-issue in 2009 under the banner ‘The Originals’, albeit in a limited release of just 500 per model.


** Many thanks to Prashant James for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Philip Watch Caribbean 1500 (ETA Cal. 2724)…

It may be winter but this yellow dialled Philip Watch Caribbean 1500 reminds me of warm seas and sandy beaches.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Philip Watch company have a history dating all the way back to 1858. They were founded in Naples by François Philippe, a Swiss expatriate who worked with numerous members of the Swiss community to create watches using the skills they had learned in the Jura mountains. The trademark “Philippe Watch” was first registered with the Naples office in 1923 and the company followed the path taken by many watch companies, specialising first in pocket watches and subsequently producing wristwatches.

I’m sure it won’t have escaped your notice that the “Philippe” name is very similar to another famous Swiss watch brand with an equally long history, though the two companies are not connected. In order to avoid any confusion, an agreement was made with Patek Philippe in 1947, and the company name was changed from “Philippe Watch” to “Philip Watch”.

Philip Watch are still trading today and they are now based in Milan. They produce mainly quartz watches these days (including a Caribbean diver), though they do have a small number of automatic models in their line up. You can see the current range on their website here.

The watch in this blog dates to the late 1960′s or early 1970′s when Philip had a number of models in their Caribbean range; the 500, 1000, 1500 and 2000, all available in a variety of dial designs/colours.

The watch is housed in a one-piece case (yes, another one!), so the outer bezel has to be levered off and the split stem/crown unscrewed and separated to allow access to a crystal retaining ring which is screwed into the case. Once this ring has been removed, the crystal can be lifted out and the watch removed from the case.

The name ‘Caribbean’ comes from the construction of the case which was developed and patented by a company called Jenny in 1963. Similar to Squale who I wrote about a few months ago (here if you missed it), Jenny was another company who produced high quality watch cases and sold them under licence to other manufacturers. Consequently, in addition to Philip and Jenny themselves, you’ll see the Caribbean case used by Aquadive, Ollech & Wajs (O&W), Eisenhardt, Jaquet Droz, Perona and Fortis to name but a few.

On the back of all 1000m Caribbean cases is the name, the Jenny ‘fish’ logo and also the words ‘Triple-Safe’.

In order to survive at such great depths, the watch has an extra thick acrylic crystal and three case gaskets – hence the ‘Triple-Safe’ branding. The gaskets can be seen on this disassembled Jenny case.

The large step on the watch crystal is effectively sandwiched between two gaskets, one around the movement in the case and one on the inside of the crystal securing ring (highlighted by the blue arrows). The case also has additional gasket on the upper edge, i.e. under the outer edge of the securing ring. All Caribbean cases are fitted with a screwdown crown for extra security.

With the watch out of the case it’s worth having a closer look at the dial. You could be forgiven for thinking that it is covered in dust, but on closer inspection you can see that the dial paint has reflective elements in it – an effect I’m going to call ‘yellow crackle’. Very nice!

The movement inside this watch is an ETA cal. 2724, a 25 jewel automatic which was made between 1969-1972 – a significant calibre for ETA as it was their first with a beat rate of 28,800 bph. Although several other manufacturers were already producing calibers with beat rates of 36,000 bph, at that time 28,800 bph was still considered ‘high beat’, so the dial on this watch has ‘Hi-Swing’ printed on it to recognise the fact.

Aside from needing a service, the watch arrived with a few other minor issues; the date changeover wasn’t working correctly, it wouldn’t wind manually, and it had problems with the action of the crown.

On closer inspection it was found that the crown was damaged and needed to be replaced, and that the stem was a fraction too short. You can see in the picture below that the original stem assembly on the left has a stem extender fitted (the box section in the middle of the stem). The stem, crown and case tube were all replaced to put things right.

The movement was looking much better after a service with just a hint of wear on the winding rotor due to the watch not being properly secured in the case. You can see in the movement picture above that the spacer is encased in a ring of what Jenny called ‘Pneulastic’ – a kind of soft plastic which acts as a shock absorber. However, as is often the case with aged plastic, it has a tendency to shrink and so the watch becomes loose inside the case. A simple shim was all that was needed during reassembly to secure it.

With no cosmetic work to do on this one, all that remained was to clean the case and rebuild.

Anyone attracted to this kind of watch may be interested to know that Jenny was relaunched in 2012 and is now producing a re-edition of one their vintage models. Although the watch doesn’t have a true Caribbean case (the company opting for a regular screwed caseback instead), it is certainly reminiscent of the original, and is available in five different designs – sadly no yellow crackle!

More information can be found on their website : http://www.jennywatches.com/


** Many thanks to Ed Boyce for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Scubapro 500 (ETA Cal. 2784)…

Kicking off 2014 is a new name on the blog – Scubapro.

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Scubapro are a company famous for providing professional diving equipment. Founded in the USA in 1963 by diving legend Gustav Dalla Valle and Dick Bonin, an ex UDT/Navy SEAL team member, the SCUBAPRO name was bought from the bankrupt company Healthways for the princely sum of $1.

Building on previous endeavours, Gustav and Dick released their first product, the Scubair 300 regulator almost immediately, and followed it in 1965 with the Jet Fin, one of their biggest successes which is still in production today. All of their products were branded with the Scubapro name and the now legendary ‘S’ logo.

As the company grew, they also made significant developments in the diving mask arena, using their own rubber plant to refine the production of silicone masks which minimised the chance of allergic reaction. The popularity of the silicone mask was given a major boost when Jacqueline Bisset wore a Scubapro mask in the 1977 movie “The Deep” – the clear silicone provided better light on the actresses face.

Built on a reputation for quality, their range of products steadily increased and Scubapro became the world’s leading supplier of professional diving equipment. The company is still trading today, and they celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. (www.scubapro.com)

One important piece of equipment for any diver is of course a watch, and Scubapro collaborated with several companies over the years to provide accurate, reliable wristwatches able to withstand the rigours of the sport. There have been quite a few examples over the years, some of which were co-branded, or re-branded versions of existing production watches.

The watch in this post dates to somewhere around 1980 and as this page from the 1978 Scubapro catalogue shows, the watch was also available with a black bezel insert, and also with an upgraded chronometer graded movement and a solid gold case and bracelet – is this the ultimate ‘bling’ diver? (There is some debate as to whether the gold model was ever made, so anyone if has one, please let me know.)

By 1983 a quartz version and an analogue/digital model had also been added to the line up, the watch being very similar to the Breitling Pluton 2100 and the Chronosport UDT. There are other less commonly seen examples too, like this Pierce – it’s quite likely that the same company made all these watches.

Getting back to the subject of this post, the watch arrived in poor running condition, with a hazy crystal, and with the screw down crown jammed solid. Removing the caseback revealed an ETA cal. 2784 in decent condition and our old friend, emulsified gasket.

A jammed crown is never a good thing, and I was worried that the crown had been cross threaded or worse, had rusted into the case tube. Given the poor state of the caseback gasket, rather than risk damaging the crown by trying to force it free, I opted to heat it first to see if it was just the crown gasket that had also emulsified.

Sure enough, my assumption proved correct, so once the watch was out of the case and the gasket mess had been cleaned up, things were already looking better. The movement was in decent condition and only needed a routine service, so once the case was cleaned and a layer of dust cleaned from the inside of the crystal, the job was complete.

It’s not clear exactly who made the Scubapro 500. The watch is often compared to the Aquastar Benthos 500, citing that many of the casing parts are shared between the two models. However, putting the two watches side by side, it’s obvious that the cases are completely different.

Whoever made it, it’s undoubtedly a great watch.


** Many thanks to Dominic Goodbarn for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Seasons Greetings…

Another year of highlights and hurdles at the bench…

(Click picture to enlarge)

Have a happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous start to 2014 all you watch addicts out there!


Benrus DTU-2A/P (Benrus Cal. DR 2F2)

The majority of military watches on the blog so far were issued to British service personnel, but this time it’s an American Benrus DTU-2A/P.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

One of several US watch companies to help the war effort, Benrus produced wristwatches for WWII service personnel as well as timing devices for bombs and other weaponry. Although seen as a burden to most, the war years were particularly good for Benrus.

As all the other contributing US watch companies (Waltham, Elgin and Hamilton) had manufacturing bases in the US, they were required to produce additional items, often unrelated to their core business which required modifications to their production facilities. As Benrus didn’t have a manufacturing base in the US, they avoided these ‘distractions’ and continued to import movements for their own watches from Switzerland. This allowed them to steal a march on their competitors and increase their share of the civilian market both during and after the war.

In 1962 the Department of Defence revised the existing MIL-W-3818A standard for military wristwatches with the aim of increasing quality, removing the need to re-test all watches every year, and to introduce a new case design. As a result of the changes a number of companies submitted watches to the DoD for testing, namely; Longines-Wittnauer, Mathey-Tissot, Bulova, Benrus and Clinton. Of all the models submitted, the Benrus DTU-2A/P was the only watch to meet their strict requirements and was subsequently supplied to military personnel between 1964 and 1969.

Turning the watch over, you’re confronted with an array of information; the Federal Stock, Mil. Spec., and Manufacturing Part numbers around the bevelled section, the Contract and Serial numbers in the centre along with the issue date, March 1969 in this case. (According to the current owner, this watch was bought from a house sale in Minneapolis from a Vietnam veteran who had photographs of his time serving in Vietnam war – all good provenance.)

You’ll notice that the case has regular spring bars rather than the fixed spring bars seen on the majority of military watch, and that the caseback shows signs of ‘Nato rash’ – a wear pattern often seen running up the centre of the caseback on any watch that has been worn for a long time on a Nato strap.

Much like the Hamilton W10 issued to British service personnel, the Benrus is housed in a one-piece case. The split stem has be separated first, followed by the removal of the crystal to gain access to the movement which sits in a spacer inside the case to ensure a secure fit.

The movement inside is a Benrus cal. DR 2F2, a manually wound 17 jewel calibre based on the ETA cal. 2370. Benrus modified the base calibre to add a ‘hacking’ mechanism which was required to adhere to the military specification.

A hacking mechanism is a means of temporarily stopping the watch – when the crown is pulled out to set the time, the second hand stops so the watch can be synchronised with another timepiece. The mechanism in the Benrus calibre is shown below, and like many others is a pretty simple affair.

The mechanism is little more than a spring loaded lever with a pin mounted on it. When the crown is pushed all the way in, the end of the stem presses on the hacking lever and moves the pin away from the balance wheel. When the stem is pulled out, the lever swings across under the tension from the spring on the right and the pin arrests the balance. Simple, but effective.

The movement was in good condition and needed no more than a routine service, and the rest of the watch was in good cosmetic condition too with the original lume still intact on the hour markers and hands. The only problem was the second hand which had tarnished and the lume (which would originally have been along the length of the hand with an orange tip) had deteriorated into dust and had to be removed.

Here’s the watch back in service.


** Many thanks to Joel Uden for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Aquastar Seatime (A. Schild Cal. 1902)…

As regular visitors will know, I’m a big fan of Aquastar’s vintage watches. Here’s another of their excellent divers, the Seatime.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Seatime first appeared around 1970 and at 40mm (excluding crown), it sits comfortably in the model range between the smaller 60 and 63, and the larger cased Benthos 500. Like the earlier ’63′, it was available in both mens and ladies sizes – here’s an advert from 1970 showing some of the models that were available.

The case is almost identical to the Atoll diver except that it features an internal rather than an external bezel. In Aquastar’s own words an inner bezel is preferable as an external bezel “collects debris. And it sometimes gets knocked off or damaged.” That may be true for the ‘lighter’ models, but it certainly doesn’t apply to the Benthos 500 which would need a direct hit from a u-boat to knock the bezel off!

The watch was available in a choice of blue or silver dial, both with a blue inner bezel, and also in all gold – certainly one for the bling lovers and as far as I’m aware, the only gold plated model that Aquastar ever produced. Ladies models were available in exactly the same colour schemes, and all watches were supplied with a matching NSA bracelet.

A day/date version with a black dial and inner bezel was produced later in the production run. The dial design was different as all the hour markers were applied, and the hand design changed too. Again, the movement was supplied by A. Schild, a cal. 1906.

As you can see in the picture above, the subject of this post arrived in a pretty sorry state. No sign of life from the movement, scruffy, and the internal bezel was stuck solid. Things were no cleaner inside as the caseback gasket had degenerated into the now familiar ‘goop’, though someone had at least been kind enough to remove most of it. The good news was that the movement, an A. Schild cal. 1902, didn’t look too bad.

The problem with the inner bezel was quickly diagnosed as the stem and the gear for the inner bezel had rusted together. Separating them proved to be difficult, and when they did finally part I initially thought that the gear would need to be replaced – a real blow as they can be difficult to find without buying a complete donor watch.

In extreme cases of corrosion, the hole through the inner gear loses its squared profile and no longer slides onto the second squared section of the stem. When this happens, a replacement gear is the only option and they can be very hard to find. Even in donor watches it’s not uncommon for the gear to be missing as there is nothing holding it in place once the stem has been removed, and can easily be lost.

Thankfully, on closer inspection the parts only had surface rust and the square profile was salvageable, so once cleaned and refinished both parts could be re-used and the bezel was up and running again. (I’ve described how the inner bezel on an Aquastar works in the past when I wrote about the Aquastar 63 – see that post here.)

Once the stem problem had been solved, I could remove the watch from the case and I was encouraged by the condition of the dial and hands. Apart from a little debris, they were in excellent condition with all the original lume intact.

Based on the condition of the case it’s hardly surprising that the movement hadn’t been serviced for many years and the oils had solidified. A service was all that was needed to put things right before turning my attention to the cosmetic work.

The case, although scruffy, was still in reasonable condition and needed no more than a thorough cleaning and a new caseback gasket. The crystal too, despite having a few deep scratches, polished up nicely. As all the lume was still intact there was nothing else to do but rebuild, so here’s the watch back in one piece.


Lemania Chronograph (Lemania Cal. 1872)…

I’ve written about a number of British Military chronographs already on the blog, but this one is something of a rarity, a two pusher chronograph from Lemania.

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Lemania produced chronographs for the British Military from the 1940′s onwards, the majority of them having just a single pusher; subsequent presses of the pusher start, stop and reset the chronograph and there is no way to restart the timer without resetting. The earliest watches were built around the Lemania cal. 15CHT and later models, introduced in the 1960′s, were powered by Lemania’s excellent cal. 2220. I’ve written about both models in the past, see the 15CHT here, and the 2220 here.

In the early 1970′s the Ministry of Defence made a significant change to the defence standardisation document relating to wrist chronographs (DEF STAN 66-4), subsequently allowing a chronograph to have either ‘one or two pushpieces’.

This opened the door for the use of more commercially viable (read: cheaper) movements, namely the Valjoux cal. 7733. For the next decade the majority of mechanical chronographs were supplied by four companies; Hamilton, Precista, Newmark and CWC  (see an example here), until the introduction of the quartz chronograph rendered them obsolete.

Lemania weren’t completely sidelined during this period as they also produced a limited number of two pusher chronographs. However, the watches were only issued in 1975 and 1976, making them one of the rarer military watches.

Looking at the caseback, you can see the military markings; the ’0552′ denotes that the watch was issued to a member of the Royal Navy, and the year of issue as you can see is 1975.

Inside the watch is a Lemania cal. 1872, a calibre that will be recognised by many vintage chronograph enthusiasts as it was used in many good quality civilian chronographs.

As well as being issued to British Military personnel, a small number of 1872 powered watches were also produced by Lemania for the Swedish and South African Air Forces. Although the movements may have been the same, the cases, dials and hands were different and as these watches were produced in low volumes, they are now very collectible.

The watch in this post arrived in running order and the movement was in very good condition, thanks in part to an inner dust cover which in addition to a regular caseback gasket, further protects the movement from the elements.

Though the movement needed no more than a routine service to bring it back to its best, the watch did have a few cosmetic issues. The lume in the hands had cracked, almost to the point of falling out, and the centre bosses of the hour and minute hand had lost most of their paint.

The dial had a number of stains too, all of which would need to be addressed…

Tackling stained dials is a tricky business as there is always a risk that in attempting to remove the stain, a section of paint can lift from the dial surface, or the paint can be tarnished under the stain – thankfully neither of those things happened here. The stains appeared to be patches of oil which were removed successfully, albeit very carefully, with rodico.

The old lume was removed from the hands and the centre bosses were re-painted, the paint being colour matched to the original so as not to be too obvious, and finally the hands were re-lumed, the colour of the lume being matched to the hour markers.

As a final step, the case was cleaned and the crystal polished before the watch could be rebuilt. Here it is all back in one piece.


** Many thanks to Nick Burridge for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **