Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Glycine Airman SST “Pumpkin” (A.Schild Cal. 1903)…

Every watch collection should have a splash of colour, and this watch certainly ticks that box: a Glycine Airman SST.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The history of the Glycine Airman dates back to 1953, and although I’ve written about one of the later models before on the blog (see here), I thought this one deserved a mention as it’s a watch you won’t see every day. Made between 1967-71, this Airman is one of the rarer SST models and is nicknamed the “Pumpkin” among collectors.

As you may have noticed in the picture above, this is a 24hr watch (the hour hand only travels once around the dial every 24 hours rather than twice) and the dial is divided into lighter and darker sections for the the AM/PM hours.

The watch also has a rotating internal bezel which can be used to track a second time zone, not only useful for airmen, but for any international traveller. The inner bezel is rotated left or right to denote the number of hours that the second time zone is +/- the current time zone. The hour hand then points to the time in both zones simultaneously.

The inner bezel is rotated using the upper crown which is slotted rather than formed to prevent it being moved accidentally. According to the owners manual it should be operated with either a fingernail or a coin. Also, the bright orange colour of the inner bezel is no fashion statement, but proved to be the most legible colour combination when tested under night-flying conditions.

The SST branding stands for “Super Sonic Transportation” and commemorates the early attempts to create the worlds first passenger jet that would travel faster than the speed of sound. The SST project started in the 1960′s when Boeing won the contract to produce a flagship aircraft for the US market. Codenamed 2707, the aircraft was designed with a ‘swing wing’ which would split for take off and low speed manoeuvres and would pivot backwards at high speeds to form one solid wing, allowing for a theoretical top speed of Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound).

However, Boeing only got as far as building a prototype before the project was abandoned due to design and environmental concerns. More  significantly Boeing had already been beaten to the SST punch by the Russian Tupolev Tu-144 which first went supersonic in June 1968, and government funding was finally withdrawn from the US SST project in 1971.

In keeping with SST branding, the caseback of this watch features an embossed picture of the ill-fated Boeing 2707.

Inside the watch is an A. Schild calibre, the 1903 which runs at 21,600 bph and has a limited quickset (the hands must be moved back and forth between 8pm and midnight to advance the date). In the later versions of the watch produced from 1971-76, the movement was upgraded twice; first to the cal. 2063, and in the final version to the cal. 2163 which increased the beat rate to 28,800 bph and added a quickset for the date via the crown.

Not much of a restoration story this time as the watch only needed a routine movement service, so here it is back in one piece.

Finally, it is interesting to note that although the watch in this post is quite rare, it is trumped in the rarity stakes not once but twice in the same series by two chronograph versions of the Airman SST, both of which were made in 1968-69.

The case design is reminiscent of the chronographs being produced by Longines around the same time, and the watches too are powered by the same base calibre, the Valjoux cal. 72. The inner bezel on both watches is rotated by the crown on the lower left hand side of the case.

It is thought that only around 100 of these watches were sold worldwide and given the disappointing sales they were withdrawn from the market after just 2 years making them a real catch…  if can find one.


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

Lemania Tg 195 Chronograph (Lemania Cal. 2225)…

This Lemania Tg 195 chronograph arrived in a pretty sorry looking state.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Made in the 1950′s this watch was issued to Swedish military personnel, as evidenced by three large crowns which can be found on the caseback of all Swedish military watches. There are two versions of the Tg 195 caseback; the earlier models have three small crowns (inset) and the later models have the three large crowns seen here (this watch was issued in 1957).

The watch can be found with four different dials too, all identical apart from the Tg 195 markings. The earliest watches had no Tg 195 at all, and subsequent watches were marked either “tg 195″, “Tg 195″ or “TG 195″.

The meaning of the Tg 195 isn’t clear and there is little confirmed information to be found online, but the watch is often described as a ‘bomb timer’ and is said to have been issued exclusively to the Swedish Army bomb squad. The Tg part is thought to mean Tid Givare (“Giving Time” in Swedish) but the exact meaning of 195 is unknown. There may well be more information to be found through Swedish sources, but my Swedish isn’t all that it could be. ;)

Underneath the caseback is a dust cover which when lifted uncovers a 16 jewel Lemania cal. 2225, derived from the Lemania cal. 2220 single pusher chronograph which I’ve described before (see here).

The calibre 2225 has a unique hacking mechanism added specifically for Swedish military requirements. When the pusher is pressed, the sweep second hand is reset instantly to 12 o’clock, the crown pops out to the time setting position, and the watch hacks.

Let’s have a closer look at how that works…

With the balance assembly removed you can see that under the balance wheel is a hacking lever with a thin wire on the end. When the pusher is pressed, the operating lever moves clockwise around the large pivot screw, moving the hacking lever backwards so that the wire arrests the balance. At the same time, the reset hammer moves across and disengages the intermediate driving wheel from the centre chronograph wheel. Under power from the large click spring, the reset hammer moves further across and contacts the heart on the centre chronograph wheel, resetting the second hand to zero.

There is a second screw on the operating lever (marked secondary set lever screw in the picture above) which passes through the entire calibre and into the keyless works section on the dial side of the movement, emerging in a hole in the setting lever.

When the pusher is pressed this screw also moves the setting lever forward, forcing the stem and crown to pop out into the time setting position. The watch is now hacked and ready to be synchronised.

When the crown is pressed back in, the watch is restarted; the operating lever and reset hammer are returned to their starting positions on the train side of the movement, the hacking lever moves forwards releasing the balance, and the chronograph is re-engaged.

The watch was in pretty poor shape from a cosmetic perspective and out of the case it was clear to see that the dial and hands were in poor shape. The dial was covered in a layer of dirt, the lume on the numerals had crumbled to dust, and the hands were tarnished.

From such a rough starting point the results were never going to be perfect, but with all the old lume removed, the dial cleaned and the tarnish removed from the hands, things were much improved. As the numerals on the dial now matched the patina of the rest of the dial markings, a decision was made to leave them and just the re-lume the hands.

Another problem with the watch was the crown and stem. Although the original crown was included with the watch, the stem had sheared off flush with the crown, leaving a section of the stem still inside the crown. Soaking the crown in an alum solution for a week or so to ‘eat away’ the stem inside saved the original crown, but finding a replacement stem proved difficult as the stem is unique to this calibre.

While I could have made a new stem, it was more time/cost effective to modify a stem extender to increase the length of the stem by the required amount. The steel section just below the crown is the extender and an unmodified extender is included in the picture below for reference.

Aside from the problems with the crown and stem, the movement was in reasonable condition and just needed a service and some of the tarnished parts refinishing /polishing. Here’s the watch watch all back in one piece.

If anyone has any more information about the history of the Tg 195, it would be great to hear from you.


** Many thanks to Dave Charlton for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Sterile 6BB ‘Lost’ Navigator (A. Schild Cal. 2160)…

Another British Military watch on the blog this time, and something of an enigma.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

I’ve written about several of the watches that were issued to British Military personnel from well known makers such as Lemania, Hamilton and CWC, but the origins of the watch in this post are unknown – who made it? And why?

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking it is a modern watch made in a ‘military style’, quartz powered and dare I say cheaply made, but that certainly isn’t the case.

The watch is very similar in style and size to the W10 made by Hamilton from 1973-76 and subsequently by CWC from 1976-80 and it shares all of the attributes required to adhere to the strict standards for military use.

The dial is missing a makers mark or brand name which is why this watch is known as the ‘Sterile’ Navigator, but it still adheres to military standards; the dial has the Broad Arrow symbol, arabic numerals inside a clear minute track, a luminous triangle at 12 and the hands and hour markers are all lumed – in this case with a Tritium based lume as evidenced by the circled ‘T’ on the dial.

I’ve serviced several of these watches now and in all cases the dial print was still crisp and the lume retained its original bright green colour, suggesting that they age better than the Hamilton/CWC watches, particularly the lume which has often deteriorated/darkened on the W10′s after several decades of use.

Turning the watch over, the military markings are clear; the Broad Arrow symbol, ’6BB’ denotes that this watch was issued to a member of the RAF, the next 13 digits are the NSN (NATO Stock Number) and underneath issue number and year.

The case is opened by removing the crystal and splitting the two-piece stem, and inside is a 17 jewel, manually wound calibre made by A. Schild, the cal. 2160.

The cal. 2160 is a step up in quality over the ETA cal. 2750 found in the Hamilton and CWC. It has a higher beat rate, 28,800 bph as opposed to 21,600 bph, and also has a micro-adjustment mechanism mounted on the balance cock for more accurate regulation.

The inclusion of the micro-adjuster isn’t standard across the whole 21xx range. I’ve had identical calibres with and without the micro-adjuster over the years, and I suspect it was added later in the production run. As the 21xx’s were pretty much the top of the line for A. Schild calibres during the 1970′s, they probably deserved a few functional enhancements. Here is a picture of a cal. 2162 from an Aquastar Benthos 500 which also has the micro-adjuster.

The cal. 2160 also has a hacking mechanism which was another MOD requirement to allow all wristwatches to be quickly and efficiently synchronised. I’ve serviced most of A. Schild’s 21xx calibres now and I’ve never seen a hacking mechanism on any calibre except the 2160, which suggests that it was added specifically for use in this watch.

Looking at the hacking mechanism you can see that it was designed into the calibre, rather than being something of an afterthought (as would appear to be the case with the Benrus DTU-2A/P!)

In the picture above, the stem is pushed all the way in – in the winding position – and so the stem presses on hacking lever, it pivots around the fixed axis (just above the castle wheel) and the lower arm of the lever releases the balance allowing it to rotate freely.

When the stem is pulled out – to the time setting position – the winding stem is withdrawn, the upper arm of the hacking lever provides the tension necessary to press the lower arm into contact with the balance wheel, arresting its rotation and ‘hacking’ the watch.

The watch arrived in decent condition and needed no more than a movement service, a crystal polish and an ultrasonic clean for the case, so here it is all back in one piece.

So, who made these watches? With no markings on the dial, movement or inside the case, the jury is still out.

It is thought that around 2000 were made, all of which were issued in 1976. This is around the time that the contract with Hamilton ended, and the new contract with CWC began, so could it be that this watch was a potential replacement for the Hamilton W10? Was an order for 2000 pieces placed as a trial before the contract was finally awarded to CWC? If so, why was it completely unbranded?

If anyone has any information about the history of these watches, it would be great to hear from you.


** Many thanks to Lee Curtis for letting me feature his watch on the blog, and to Terry Andrews whose article on the same subject provided valuable information for this post. **

Universal Genève Space-Compax (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

This Universal Genève Space-Compax is undoubtedly one of the best looking vintage chronographs to appear on the blog so far.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Founded as “Universal Watch” by Ulysse Georges Perret and Numa-Emile Descombes in 1894, the company only really established themselves as a watch manufacturer after the recruitment of Louis Edouard Berthoud as a co-manufacturer of complications in 1897. The company relocated from Le Locle to Geneva in 1919, and registered the name “Universal Genève” in 1937.

Universal Genève are recognised for their chronographs and are said to have produced the first ever chronograph wristwatch in 1917. The term “Compax” too, although often used to describe any chronograph with one or more subdials, can be attributed to Universal Genève as it was the cornerstone of their range.

The Compax range comprised five models, the most complicated being the Tri-Compax which featured running seconds, a 12 hour chronograph, perpetual calendar, and moon phase.

The other models were, in ascending order of complexity; the Uni-Compax (single minute-recording subdial), Compax (12 hr chronograph), Dato-Compax (12 hr chronograph and date subdial) and Aero-Compax (12 hr chronograph and second time zone subdial)

Another watch that UG are famous for is the Polerouter. First introduced in 1954 and designed by the legendary watch designer Gerald Genta, the Polerouter started life with a bumper automatic calibre, the 138SS, before being updated in 1955 with a calibre that UG has become renowned for, the cal. 215 ‘Microtor”. The micro-rotor design integrates the winding mechanism into the calibre resulting in a much thinner watch.

Though the majority of Polerouters manufactured during the 15 year production run were dress watches, two diver’s models were also produced, both branded “Polerouter Sub”; one featuring a super-compressor case with and internal bezel, and another similar in style to the chronograph in this post.

Despite an almost unbroken track record of success, the ‘wheels came off’ for UG as a company due to a number of ill judged management decisions. In the late 1960′s with electronic watches on the horizon, UG made the bold decision of going all-in and replaced the majority of the mechanical models in their line-up with electronic equivalents which were much cheaper to produce; initially with tuning fork calibres (the Unisonic range) and later with quartz calibres.

As UG was owned by the company at the forefront of electronic developments at the time, Bulova, the decision was not unsurprising but it proved disastrous for UG as their reputation for quality (often being cited as the “poor man’s Patek Philippe”) was very quickly lost.

The company did survive, but it never really recovered its reputation and consequently the vintage UG watches are now much more popular with collectors.


The subject of this post, the Space-Compax, was a later edition to the Compax range and despite the somewhat confusing ‘Space’ moniker, was designed primarily as a diver’s chronograph as it incorporated a rotating external bezel, a screw down crown, and rubber capped pushers for additional water resistance.

The model in this post is referred to as the second generation Space-Compax, the first having a different dial design featuring a much more prominent ’12′ marker and contrasting subdials.

Both versions were introduced in what was arguably the most interesting period of the Compax story, the 1960′s, when the whole range was redesigned, resulting in much bolder dial designs and more imposing hands. All the Compax models were revised accordingly, but the Uni-Compax in particular became a real eye-catcher.

(Picture: Paul Gavin at Heuerworld.com)

Inside the Space-Compax is a calibre that I’ve written about several times on the blog, the excellent Valjoux cal. 72, which just needed a regular service this time. From a cosmetic perspective the watch was in excellent condition too, the only negatives being slight deterioration of the lume in the subdial hands and a greasy residue covering the hands which just needed to be carefully removed.

Here’s the watch all finished up… another watch on my ever expanding wish list! :)


** Many thanks to Ben Molyneux for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

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.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

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. **