Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

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.

Rich.

** 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.

Rich.

** 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.

Rich.

** 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.

Rich.

** 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.

Rich.

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


Roamer Stingray S (MST Cal. 471)…

I’ve written about a Roamer Stingray before on the blog and here’s another one, this time a Stingray S.

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Produced from 1967 until 1973, the Stingray S was Roamer’s first watch made specifically for diving, featuring a thicker crystal, an internal bezel to prevent accidental rotation and a depth rating of 660ft (200 metres).

The watch in this post is the first model which was made between 1967-68, recognisable by the blue cross-hair dial and silver baton hands. Later models took on a more striking appearance which could be argued would have been more legible when diving. The later watches all had matt black dials, contrasting hands, a more distinct inner bezel with bold red or white figures and a round lume dot in place of the non-lumed triangle on the earlier model.

The later models were also fitted with a 28 jewel movement rather than the 44 jewel movement used in the first model – signified by the ’44’ printed on the dial. The case was also upgraded late in the production run to include a crown guard for the exposed crown at 3 and the lug width was increased from 18 to 20mm so a more substantial bracelet or strap could be fitted.

Here’s an Australian advert from the period to show how the watch was originally marketed. (You’ll notice that this is one the late models too as it has the crown guard mentioned above.)

The watch in this post arrived in reasonable condition, running, but desperately needing a service.

Like other Stingrays that feature Roamer’s patented waterproof case design, the upper part of the case traps the crystal between the two case sections to ensure a water tight seal.

With the top half of the case removed, the crystal can be prised off and the bezel is simply lifted out to reveal the winding gear attached to the stem and crown positioned at 3 o’clock. The two piece stem and crown also needs to be separated before the watch can be removed from the case. The crown was an obvious (and ugly!) replacement so a genuine Roamer branded crown and stem was sourced to put things right.

In most examples of Roamer’s case design, the crystal holds the movement in place but as this watch has an internal bezel that needs clearance to rotate, that approach can’t be used here. Instead the movement is secured inside the case using two clamps and screws (the eagle eyed may have noticed that a securing screw was missing in the picture above.)

Out of the case the movement was something of a surprise, a 28 jewel MST cal. 471. Given that the dial has the ‘roto44date’ markings, I expected to see a 44 jewel version of the calibre rather than the 28.

Whether the movement has been exchanged at some time in its near 50 year history or the 28 jewel version has been installed from the start, who knows? Nevertheless it’s still a fine in-house calibre that needed no more than routine service to bring it back into line.

Although the original lume had deteriorated slightly, it was largely intact so there was no additional cosmetic work needed this time, aside from a well needed ultrasonic clean for the case and light re-brushing of the case top. Here’s the watch all finished up and looking great on its original NSA bracelet.

Finally, here’s a close up picture of the Stingray caseback. Like the Certina DS caseback I wrote about last month, it’s another classic vintage detail.

For more information on the various Stingray models and vintage Roamers in general, check out this excellent site dedicated to the brand: http://roamer-watches.info/

Rich.

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


Certina DS-2 (Certina Cal. 25-651)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich.


Seasons Greetings…

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

Merry Christmas one and all.

Rich.