Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Seiko 5740-8000 (Lord Marvel 36000)…

This Seiko Lord Marvel 36000 is the first red dialled watch to feature on the blog and if I think about it now I can’t recall working on more than two or three watches with red dials. I don’t know why they aren’t more popular as I think this watch looks great!

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The Lord Marvel 36000 is quite small by todays standards (35mm) but if you can live with that then there’s a lot to like here. The case lines are sharp and the overall design is crisp with the simple hour batons, dauphine hands and an unfussy dial script.

However, under the hood is where the real action is as inside is Seiko’s 23 jewel, manually wound, cal. 5740C.

As any Seiko enthusiast will know, the 4xxx and 5xxx series calibres are some of the best calibres that Seiko produced and can be found in the majority of the vintage Grand, King and Lord Matic models, watches well worth seeking out.

The cal. 5740C however is quite significant as it marked Seiko’s entry into the high-beat arena and is said to have been the “proving ground” for the cal. 4420 – the high-beat calibre used in subsequent chronometer rated, Grand and King Seiko models.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in an attempt to increase the accuracy of mechanical movements a small number of manufacturers, 12 to be precise, produced calibres with a beat rate of 36,000 beats per hour (10 beats per second), which became known as “high-beat” (or “hi-beat”) calibres.

Although many manufacturers had already started producing calibres with either 19,800 or 21,600 bph, the industry standard beat rate at the time was still 18,000 bph for watch calibres, so when high-beat calibres doubled the beat rate they were seen by many as the pinnacle of mechanical watchmaking used in mass production. Sadly however the quartz revolution curbed any further development in that area.

Rather than get side-tracked into the technical merits of high-beat calibres, I’ll point any interested readers to this post about the excellent Longines Ultra-Chron which I wrote a few years ago. I’ve written about several other high beat watches on blog in the past too including the Zenith El Primero A385, Favre-Leuba Sea Raider 36000 and the Zodiac Astrographic SST to name a few.

Getting back to the Lord Marvel 36000, it actually started life with more ‘low tech’ beginnings. Although the first Lord Marvel models were released in 1958, the first one with a cal. 5740 appeared in 1964 with the “low beat” version of the calibre inside, the cal. 5740A, which ran at 18,000 bph.

A revised version of the calibre, the 5740B, was introduced in 1966 increasing the beat rate to 19,800, and the final version of the calibre, the 5740C, was released in 1967 and featured exclusively in the 5740-8000 model seen here.

This third and last generation of the Lord Marvel 36000 was produced from 1967-1978 in both stainless steel and gold plated cases and with a range of dial colours. Later versions were also produced with linen patterned dials and arabic dial markers.

If you try and track down a Lord Marvel 36000 it’s worth noting that the earliest models had the seahorse embossed caseback found on some early vintage Seikos.

Finding one in good condition may be tricky however as these embossed casebacks wore away quickly when worn, so many are now either severely faded or polished smooth.

As the watch in this post was already in great condition, it needed no more than a routine movement service this time and a case clean to bring it back up to scratch so here it is all finished up. Perhaps I’m just smitten, but what’s not to like here? 😉


** Many thanks to Peter Owen for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Heuer Autavia 73663T ‘Villeneuve’ (Valjoux Cal. 7736)…

Still in the possession of the original owner, this Heuer Autavia was in need of a little freshening up.

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This particular model is known as the ‘Villeneuve’ among Heuer enthusiasts because it was the choice of Canadian Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve. The watch is clearly in view in this iconic picture of the man himself.

Villeneuve was among a group of Formula 1 drivers who were effectively brand ambassadors for Heuer before the term had even been invented. Heuer chronographs adorned the wrists of many famous drivers in the 1960’s and 70’s, names such as Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Derek Bell, Clay Regazzoni, Jochen Rindt and Jo Siffert to name but a few – I wrote about the popular and now highly sought after ‘Siffert’ Autavia in a previous post, see that post here.

Although Heuer did evolve into a full sponsor in Formula 1, in the early days, rather than being presented with the watches, the drivers purchased the watches simply because they liked them and they were regularly bought and sold in the paddock.

As well as an Autavia, Villeneuve is known to have worn other Heuer models too, namely a solid gold Carrera 1158 presented to him when he was a Ferrari driver in the late 70’s and an early quartz, the Heuer Chronosplit LCD.

Heuer enthusiasts and regular readers will have spotted that although the 73663 Autavia shares the same case as many of the other Autavia models, the crown is on the right hand side of the case between the pushers rather than the left and the watch has the hour register rather than a date in the bottom half  of the dial.

The reason is that inside this model is a Heuer Leonidas branded Valjoux cal. 7736, an 18,000 bph, manually wound, three register chronograph, rather than the Heuer cal. 11 and 12 automatic found in the majority of the Autavia range.

The movement was in decent shape but as the watch had been relegated to a drawer around 20 years ago, it was long overdue a service as the oils had completely dried out.

The more observant will have spotted that the chronograph start/stop pusher cap was also missing and being one of the Heuer specific ‘fluted’ pushers I was concerned that sourcing one would be a problem. However, just a couple of hours after placing a WTB ad on the excellent OnTheDash forum, a Heuer enthusiast in the US came to our aid and payment/shipping was quickly arranged.

While the pusher was en-route the movement was fully serviced and thankfully contained no hidden surprises. (I wrote a post several years ago showing how the hour register functions on the cal. 7736, click here if you would like to read it.)

The case was then disassembled and cleaned in the ultrasonic tank and the last job was to tackle the crazed crystal. As you can see clearly in the first picture, the original crystal had crazed quite badly but being of sufficient thickness it was possible to carefully sand out all the crazing and polish the crystal back up to a clear finish.

Here’s the watch all finished up and sporting a new strap.

As a final note, the ‘T’ at the end of the model number denotes that the watch has a Tachymeter bezel. It was also sold with a minute/hour bezel with the model reference 73663MH.


** Many thanks to Jill Sparks for letting me feature her watch on the blog and to David Bull for providing the pusher. **

Hamilton Odyssee 2001 (Hamilton Cal. 694)…

A Hamilton this time and one with something of a back story as I’m sure that the Odyssee 2001 name hasn’t gone unnoticed by any film buffs out there.

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In 1966, before filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey began, Stanley Kubrick (who incidentally always wore two watches, one on each wrist) approached Hamilton to produce a futuristic wristwatch to be worn by the astronauts in the movie. Designs were submitted and approved and when released to the press, potential customers were clamouring to buy the space-aged wonder.

As a result of the interest, Hamilton planned to release an identical model to the market in conjunction with the film release in 1968, but it quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t be cost effective, so the watch in this post was produced instead.

The name ‘Odyssee 2001’ was apparently chosen by Hamilton to avoid any potential copyright issues. It also transpired that although the prop watch was produced, delivered and used in promotional events, it never actually appeared in the movie.

Although nothing like the original design, the Odyssee 2001 had a futuristic appearance for the time with its circular, well… everything, and triangular hands. What isn’t apparent from the face-on shot is the shape of the case which has a ‘wedged’ profile and could well have been the inspiration for the 1970’s Camy Superautomatic Airport which I wrote about on the blog a few years ago (that post here).

The watch in this post was the first model, introduced in 1968, and a more reserved model followed with the same case but more mainstream dial markers and hands.

The watches also fit nicely into Hamilton’s quirky Fontainebleau range which were on sale at the time. Although not pictured here, the caseback on the Odyssee 2001 also bears the Fontainebleau name.

The fun began pretty early on with this one as due to the case design, it case proved very difficult to open. I’m sure Hamilton will have produced a specific case holder for the watch and I certainly could have used one here! Being completely round, having no external lugs and one hidden lug being higher than the other, it didn’t fit any of my case openers. Add the fact that it was rusted together too made it a real tough nut to crack.

I eventually got it open, and without damaging anything too which was a relief. Here’s a picture of the complete case and I’ll offer a little advice to anyone else attempting to open one of these.

Although the securing ring looks like a regular screwback, it isn’t. The ring has two tabs on the sides which slot into a lip in the upper case holding it all together. When the ring is turned anti-clockwise 90 degress (so that the tabs are in the lugs), the upper case, crystal and gaskets can be lifted off, leaving the watch in the inner mono-bloc case. The split stem is then separated like a traditional one-piece case and the watch can finally be removed.

Once inside, things didn’t look too bad. The movement is a Hamilton cal. 694, which is essentially just a rebranded ETA cal. 2472. It obviously hadn’t been serviced for quite some time, as evidenced by the amount of rust on the case too I guess.

A full movement service was all that was needed to get it back up and running so with all the rust removed and the case thoroughly cleaned, the watch could be rebuilt.

The watch still had its original Hamilton signed mesh bracelet too which is always nice to see.

All in all, an interesting and rare watch that you won’t see too often.

To round off this post it may be of interest to know that Hamilton did release a version of the original prop watch in 2006 as a 40 year anniversary model, the ODC X-01. The main watch is powered by a mechanical ETA cal. 2824-2 and each subdial is driven by a quartz movement. The watch was limited (somewhat predictably!) to 2001 pieces.


** Many thanks to Justin Swale for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Heuer Camaro 7220T (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

Another classic vintage Heuer chronograph, this time it’s a Camaro.

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It could be argued that the Camaro is something of a hidden gem among vintage Heuer chronographs. Though it is essentially the same watch as the eternally popular Carrera, the Camaro doesn’t seem to have the same appeal among enthusiasts. Surprising really as at 37mm it’s only 1mm larger than the Carrera and the cushion shaped case makes it ‘wear bigger’ which should appeal to many given the current affinity for larger watches.

In contrast to the majority of Heuer chronographs which were named after motor racing events or circuits ie. Monaco, Carrera, Silverstone, Monza, Jarama, the Camaro was named after the Chevrolet Camaro in an attempt to appeal to US motor racing fans – the Chevrolet Camaro was the pace car at the Indy 500 at the time.

First introduced in 1968, the Camaro was the last model released before Heuer brought automatic chronographs to market in 1969. Against stiff competition from within, sales of the Camaro would I suspect have suffered and as a consequence production stopped in 1972 after a run of just 4 years.

Given that it had such a short production run there were lots of Camaro variants. The early models were all fitted with the excellent Valjoux cal. 72 and there was also a two sub-dial model fitted with the Valjoux 92. As production moved into the 1970’s the calibres were switched to the Valjoux 77xx family – V7733, V7734 (date) and V7736 (12hr chronograph).

Most models were offered with black, white or panda dials and there were also both solid and gold plated models available. Later models also had the fluted pushers seen on the Autavia chronographs rather than traditional round heads, which can be used as a good indicator as to the age and calibre that may be inside.

Here are a few examples of other models:

Getting back to the subject of this post, you may have noticed in the first picture that the watch arrived without a crown and stem, so it wasn’t known if the watch was fully functional. Opening the watch was encouraging as the movement, a Valjoux Cal. 72, was complete and in good cosmetic order with no sign of rust or damage. However, under the microscope I could see that the oils had all turned to dust so the watch hadn’t been serviced in many years.

Inserting a suitable stem and crown into the movement from another V72 chronograph, the movement started ticking right away and all the chronograph functions worked which was a good start.

There weren’t any hidden surprises this time so once a crown and stem had been sourced and fitted, the watch only needed a movement service, a thorough clean and a new crystal to bring it back to full working order.

The case had picked up a few marks over the years, mostly on the case sides and chamfered section between the brushed case top and sides. Polishing this area by hand is tricky as it’s all too easy to remove case edge definition on the sides or chamfer, but patience prevailed and it was well worth the effort in the final result.


** Many thanks to Paul Denham for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Citizen Diamond Flake (Citizen Cal. 0700)…

Having already written about many vintage Seiko watches on the blog, it’s a watch from their compatriots this time, a Citizen Diamond Flake.

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Much like Seiko with their Goldfeather, Grand and King Seiko models, Citizen also had high-end models in their vintage line-up including the Jet and Diamond Flake series’ and the high-beat Leopard and Highness models.

First introduced in 1962 the Diamond Flake was Citizen’s entry into the competitive ultra-flat watch arena. As evidenced by the advertising at the time the cal. 0700 movement inside the Diamond Flake was the thinnest three hand calibre in the world. With a thickness of just 2.7mm it beat the current record holder, Seiko’s cal. 60M by 0.25mm.

Like Seiko’s Goldfeather (an example on the blog here), the resulting watch is a simple yet elegant affair. At just 7mm the watch is certainly thin and though it is only 37mm in diameter which is quite small by today’s standards, having a thin bezel and large dial it ‘wears larger’ and sits very comfortably on the wrist.

After the launch of the time-only Diamond Flake model, the series was expanded to include a model with a date, the Diamond Flake Date, and also later in the production run a slightly lower spec model called simply Flake. Though all the watches in this post are in stainless steel cases, gold plated models were also available.

(Picture:  Vintage Citizen Watches)

Opening the watch it’s obvious that this is of a higher quality than Citizen’s standard vintage fare as the movement is rhodium plated, has filled engraving and has 25 jewels which is a high jewel count for a time-only calibre (though the calibre was also available with an even higher 31 jewels.)

As you can see in the picture above the jewel count is boosted by all the train wheels being capped with the exception of the fourth wheel. On the dial side of the movement, the train jewels are capped too and there is also a jewel in the mainplate for the lower end of the mainspring barrel arbor, another sign of quality.

The movement was still in good order, needing no more than a routine service and as the watch has no lume or paint on the dial or hands, there was no cosmetic work needed at all this time. As you may have spotted in the first picture, the crystal was damaged so that needed to be replaced, so when the case had been given a thorough clean in the ultrasonic tank and light buff to restore the shine the watch could be rebuilt.

On a personal note, this blog post represents the 10 year anniversary of The Watch Spot blog. It’s been quite a journey in which I’ve covered a wide variety of vintage watches and I hope visitors have found it both useful and interesting.

I’d like to thank everyone for their on-going support and a special thanks to all the owners who have given me permission to write about their watches over the years.


** Many thanks to Mathieu R. for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Ernest Borel Cocktail (ETA Cal. 1311)…

Something a little unconventional this time, an Ernest Borel Cocktail watch.

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The Ernest Borel name has been gracing the dials of timepieces since 1899 when Ernest Borel took the reins of the family business following the death of his father, Jules Borel, who had founded the brand (as Borel & Courvoisier ) in 1856.

The Cocktail ‘kaleidoscopic’ models were patented in 1952 and introduced to the market in 1953. Being something of a niche product, initial interest was limited but sales increased dramatically during the 1960’s with the rise of psychedelic pop culture prompting Borel to produce a wider range of both gents and ladies models.

Though the company is still trading today, it is no longer a family run business. Like many others, Ernest Borel were hit hard by the quartz crisis and were eventually bought by Aubry Frere S.A. in 1975 and became part of the Synchron S.A. group along with Cyma and Doxa.

Sold again in 1997 to a group of Chinese investors who still own the brand, they continue to produce a range of both quartz and mechanical models under the Ernest Borel name. A “Cocktail Collection” still exists in their range and I’m pleased to see that the models all have mechanical rather than quartz movements as the mesmerizing kaleidoscopic effect would have been greatly reduced by a quartz ‘pulse’ rather than the smooth sweep of a mechanical movement.

Ok, back to the subject of this post. Turning the watch over, the movement is visible through a clear acrylic caseback, in this case it’s a manually wound ETA Cal. 1311 which looked to be in decent order.

Cosmetically the watch was pretty good too but as you may have noticed in the first picture, the paint on the hands had started to deteriorate and would need to be replaced, plus the whole watch was full of debris.

The case on this watch is opened by levering off the bezel and top crystal as a complete unit and the watch can then be lifted out of the lower case. The skeletonised chapter ring acts as a securing ring into which the movement is pressed.

Similar to the Zodiac Astrographic SST I wrote about a few years ago which has stacked discs rather than conventional hands, this watch has a standard hour hand, a painted brass disc as a minute hand and a patterned clear disc for the second hand.

What isn’t immediately obvious in the pictures above is that both crystals had aged quite badly and as you can see had turned opaque with age, robbing the watch of some of its colour.

The owner of this watch had also supplied a new dial to freshen the watch up, so when the hands had been repainted and the case and chapter ring had been cleaned things were starting to come together.

The movement needed no more than a routine service so once both crystals had been replaced and the watch pressed back into the chapter ring, it could finally be rebuilt.

Finally, here’s a short video showing some of the other models and the kaleidoscopic effect in action.


** Many thanks to Peter Dance for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Breitling Superocean Ref. 2005 (Valjoux Cal. 7731)…

Something of a rarity this time on the blog, a Breitling Superocean Ref. 2005.

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The name ‘Superocean’ will be recognised by any Breitling enthusiast as it has been a model in their line-up since 1957. Releasing a diver and a chronograph in that year, the new models proved popular and it’s not hard to see why… how cool are these two?

Fast forward a decade or so and Breitling released the first version of the watch in this post, the Superocean Ref. 2005, featuring a Venus cal. 188 which had been modified specifically for Breitling to incorporate a unique diving timer (more on that later). The main differences between the two versions are that the early model has no running seconds subdial and has a plain diving bezel rather than the yachting bezel found on the later model.

As you can see in the first picture, the watch in this post arrived in pretty poor condition. The watch didn’t run at all, the timer wouldn’t operate and the crystal was heavily crazed. Once out of the case, judging by the condition of the dial and the missing lume, it was clear that the watch had also had some moisture in it at some time.

Inside the watch is a Valjoux cal. 7731 which is based on the Valjoux cal. 7730 cam lever chronograph. Like the Venus 188 used in the early model, the caliber in this watch was again modified specifically for the Breitling Ref 2005.

Thankfully the movement was still in decent condition and showed no sign of rust, though it did have it’s fair share of issues. The hairspring was broken, a part of the diving timer was missing and the pusher tab on the operating lever had broken off. All of these items would need to be replaced.

What isn’t obvious in the first picture and certainly isn’t immediately recognisable when looking at the movement is that this watch doesn’t have a regular chronograph function but a unique diving timer – the main sweep second hand doesn’t rotate once per minute like a regular Valjoux 773x chronograph but once per hour, eliminating the need for a minute subdial. What also isn’t immediately obvious is that the watch also has a hole in the dial under the ‘Superocean’ script showing the current state of the timer.

Let’s have a closer look at the components which make this possible…

With the dial removed, you can see the modifications made to the dial side of the base calibre. A recessed area has been cut into the mainplate to incorporate the timer state indicator.

When the dial is in place the indicator underneath shows one of three states depending on the current operation of the timer; running, stopped or reset.

The indicator is moved back and forth between states by a modified chronograph hammer on the going side of the movement. The hammer has an extended pin that passes through a hole in the mainplate (again modified for this calibre) and moves the state indicator under the dial accordingly.

The final modification is to the driving mechanism which dispenses with the regular parts found in the base chronograph calibre. The third wheel is modified to extend the upper pivot onto which a driving wheel is mounted and the coupling clutch is replaced with a completely new part which incorporates two internal wheels geared to rotate the centre chronograph wheel just once per hour rather than once per minute.

Sadly the driving wheel was missing from the watch and I knew that sourcing a replacement would be very hard indeed. Although Breitling confirmed that they had the missing part in stock, they refused to supply the part unless the watch was sent to their service centre for assessment and a full restoration.

Six months of fruitless searching rolled by and not having the means to manufacture such a wheel, I decided to make a work-around ‘wheel’ comprising a slotted brass bush with a rubber gasket mounted on it to provide the friction needed to drive the timer. Perhaps not the most elegant solution, but it worked a treat and allowed me to continue with the rest of the work.

With all the movement problems solved, it was on to the cosmetic work. The dial was cleaned (as much as was possible), the hands were re-painted and the hands and timer state indicator were re-lumed. Finally, the case was cleaned and a new crystal and caseback gasket fitted before the watch was rebuilt.

The owner decided subsequently to send the watch to the vintage department at Breitling who inspected the watch and finally agreed to supply and fit the correct driving wheel after all.


** Many thanks to Bryce Clayton for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Zodiac Sea-Chron Chronograph (Valjoux cal. 726)…

Missing a crystal, this vintage chronograph from Zodiac arrived looking pretty sorry for itself.

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The Sea-Chron is something of a hidden gem among vintage Zodiacs as there is very little information about the watch online, most of the screen-inches being dominated by the more popular Sea Wolf and Astrographic models.

Digging around online I did find this vintage advert which shows the Sea-Chron nestled amongst a range of Sea Wolf divers. I’m guessing from the models available that this advert dates to the late seventies.

Priced at $160 the Sea-Chron was only $50 more than a ‘standard’ Sea Wolf diver at the time which offered incredible value for money, especially as its value these days could exceed the same Sea Wolf diver by up to a factor of ten… I really need to get started on building that time machine!

The Sea-Chron was available with a black bezel too which is a more traditional look, though personally I prefer the silver/grey bezel.

The watch in this post is still in the possession of the original owner, though it hadn’t been used for many years. The crystal was lost more than 30 years ago at which point the watch found its way into a drawer and was only discovered again last year.

Amazingly the dial and hands had survived more or less unscathed. As you can see above, the lume had fallen out of the minute hand and the sweep second hand was bent but the dial, although covered in debris, had survived with barely a mark on it which is rarely the case.

Inside the watch is a Valjoux cal. 726, a great quality movement and pretty much top of the line for production chronograph calibres in the 1970’s. Based on Valjoux’s cal. 72, the 726 is an upgraded version that was released in 1974, the improvements being a smaller balance wheel and an increased beat rate of 21,600 beat per hour (the cal. 72 being 18,000 bph).

After 30 years in a drawer it was no surprise that the movement needed a service as all the oils had completely dried out and the caseback gasket had been in there so long that it had emulsified and then solidified again into a hard plastic… nasty!

With the movement serviced it was on to the cosmetic issues. After chipping out the old caseback gasket, all the casing parts were given a few laps in the ultrasonic cleaner, after which the crystal aperture was measured and a new crystal ordered. The hands were re-lumed to match the hour markers and the sweep second hand bent back into shape before the watch was rebuilt.

I think this watch is great and represents everything that a vintage chronograph should be; it looks great, is a sensible size (39mm without the crown/pushers) and has a great calibre inside. I hope you agree.


** Many thanks to Christopher Bourke for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **