Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Seiko 5246-6000 (King Seiko Special Chronometer)…

At the top of the King Seiko food chain and with enough dial text to rival a modern Rolex, Seiko made it obvious that they were ticking all the boxes with this 5246-6000 Special Chronometer.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

As many enthusiasts will know, Seiko’s vintage watches were produced by two wholly owned subsidiaries; Daini Seikosha Co. and Suwa Seikosha Co. During the 1960’s and early 70’s the two companies were competing to produce Seiko’s flagship models and although both companies produced watches for all segments of the market, the competition was most evident at the ‘prestige’ end of the market where technological development and accuracy were key factors.

In December 1960 the Suwa factory released the first Grand Seiko model, realising their long held ambition to produce a chronometer rated timepiece that exceeded the recognised standards of the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC).

In response the Daini factory released the first King Seiko model in 1963, but without a chronometer rating it was deemed inferior to the Suwa Grand Seiko.

What it did do however was spark a rivalry between the two companies which would see the development of some outstanding high-beat manual and automatic calibres which were undoubtedly the pinnacle of their output prior to the quartz revolution.

For a more in-depth overview of the Grand and King Seiko models, check out this excellent two part series written by Evan Yeung for the online watch magazine Monochrome.

The subject of this post is arguably the best watch that the Daini factory produced, but before getting into what’s inside, let’s have a closer look at the case. Turning the watch over you immediately know this is an unusual model as it is completely smooth; no caseback or medallion, just a simple KS logo, model number and opening instructions.

Between the lower lugs is a screw to allow for fine regulation but more on that later…

To open the watch the bezel has to be levered off and the crystal and gasket removed. The mineral crystal is mounted in a stainless steel ring which slots into the gasket and the bezel compresses the two to form a waterproof seal.

When removed, a pin or small screwdriver is then used to press down the lever opposite the 4 marker on the dial and the stem and crown can be pulled out.

A casing spring holds the movement securely in the case which has to be rotated before the watch can be from the case.

Inside is the Seiko cal. 5246A, a chronometer rated 25 jewel automatic movement with a beat rate of 28,800 bph. The calibre can also be hand wound and has quickset functions for both the day and date via the crown.

The architecture is unique to the 52xx family, it shares no parts with other lines. The automatic winding mechanism is typical of the higher end Daini calibres using a roller system rather than the magic lever used on lower quality calibres and there are also diafix installations on the escape and third wheel pivots to prevent oil contamination and promote a more stable rate.

Like all other 5 series calibres, under the dial is a raft of parts making up the calendar mechanism and keyless works. Over-engineered? Possibly.

One last thing to cover is the micro-adjuster mechanism which I alluded to earlier. On the outer edge of the movement is a regulating lever and a screw with an eccentric centre section used to provide fine regulation without having to remove the watch from the case.

The screw between the lugs is removed from the case and a small screwdriver can then be used to rotate the regulating screw, sliding the connected lever either left or right to increase or decrease the rate of the watch. A very useful feature.

Having worked on the majority of Seiko’s vintage calibres I can say that this one is certainly on a par with any of the Grand Seiko calibres and this watch would be a worthy addition to any vintage Seiko collection. The hard part may be finding one as they rarely come up for sale these days.

The movement needed no more than a new mainspring and a routine service this time, so with the case cleaned and the watch rebuilt it was soon back in full working order.

Rich.


Zodiac Automatic Chronograph (Zodiac Cal. 90)…

Following on from the Hamilton Chrono-Matic last month, it’s another Calibre 12 powered automatic chronograph, this time from Zodiac.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

I wrote about this model back in 2010 and at the end of the post I expressed an interest in owning one some day (that post here). I was contacted through the blog by a seller in Germany who was looking to move the same watch on and had found my post when researching the model. A deal was quickly done and the watch was soon inbound.

On arrival I was pleased as the watch was running, the chronograph worked and it was in good overall cosmetic condition. It had a few marks and scrapes from its 40 years of life and was long overdue a service, but all-in-all it was an honest example.

As regular readers and vintage chronograph enthusiasts will know, these chronographs along with models from Hamilton, Clebar, Tradition and Le Jour are known as “Poor Man’s Heuers” because even though they were produced by Heuer, they can usually be bought for less than their Heuer branded counterparts.

Other models in the Zodiac range during the 1970’s were identical to their Heuer siblings in all but the dial print, a few examples being the Zodiac Autavia, Carrera, GMT and they also offered a model reminiscent of Hamilton’s Fontainebleau chronograph.

Though the model in this post was exclusive to Zodiac, it does share the case and movement with the Heuer Jarama (…thankfully the gold coin-edge bezel was omitted from the Zodiac!)

This Zodiac was also produced with two subtly different dial designs; one with red highlights in the left sub-dial and one without. They were also produced with both round and fluted pushers at different times during the production run.

As the watch arrived in relatively good condition, it needed little more than a good clean, a movement service, a crystal polish and some light work on the case to bring it back up to scratch.

Also included in the sale were the original bracelet, box and owners manuals which are always a bonus for any vintage watch enthusiast.

Rich.


Hamilton Chrono-Matic Ref. 11002-3 (Hamilton Cal. 11)…

Another Chrono-Matic on the blog, this time from Hamilton.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The ‘Chrono-Matic’ name will be recognised by many vintage watch enthusiasts and collectors as it is synonymous with the early automatic chronographs produced by Hamilton, Breitling and Heuer. Although all Chrono-Matic chronographs are collectible these days, the Heuer models in particular are highly prized as the Chrono-Matic name was dropped from the dial on all but the earliest examples.

Hamilton acquired Buren in 1966 to become Hamilton-Buren and subsequently played a role in the development of the world’s first automatic chronograph calibre, working with Heuer, Breitling and the renowned chronograph specialists Dubois-Dépraz. Without the input from Hamilton-Buren who provided the base calibre, the project would never have got off the ground. The history of the first automatic calibre and the race to market is an interesting one but rather than cover old ground I’ll direct any interested parties to Jeff Stein’s excellent article ‘Project 99’ for further details.

Hamilton produced Chrono-Matic models in limited numbers during the early 1970’s, the watch in this post being one of just four models they released. Along with the same watch in a white/black (Panda dial) configuration, Hamilton also produced the quirky Fontainebleau Chrono-Matic with its futuristic tonneau shaped case, the Pan-Europ chronograph and the extremely rare Chrono-Matic Count-Down.

The Count-Down model is particularly interesting as it reversed the ‘traditional’ layout used in all other calibre 11/12/14/15 powered watches, positioning the crown on the right and the pushers on the left. You’ll notice too in the picture above that as the calibre has been rotated 180 degrees inside the case the watch has the hour register on the right hand side of the dial and the minute counter on the left. The watch is powered by a cal. 14 movement (or Calibre 141 as Hamilton re-branded it) so it also has a GMT hand and two additional crowns on the right used to rotate not one but two internal bezels – one for the GMT hour and one for the city.

Getting back to the subject of this post the watch arrived in decent cosmetic condition and opening it up revealed the expected Hamilton Calibre 11. Although the watch was running it did have a couple of mechanical issues; the chronograph wouldn’t reset cleanly to zero and the automatic winding mechanism wasn’t building up any power reserve.

Problems with these automatic winding mechanisms are often caused by the rotor scraping on the chronograph bridge or mainplate but that wasn’t the case here, it was much more obvious on disassembly; one of the reduction wheels was missing altogether and the second had a broken top pivot. I’m guessing that the last watchmaker to work on this watch couldn’t source the parts, so just re-assembled with manual winding only – relegating it to a “Chrono-Manual” if you will!

After making a few enquiries replacement reduction wheels were sourced and purchased from Italy which solved the problem in short order.

The rest of the service on the base movement was straight forward and things were already starting to look better…

Unfortunately the aforementioned watchmaker struck again when it came to the chronograph module as all the eccentric screws and jumpers had been moved in an effort to get the chronograph working correctly. A lot of time must have been spent trying to get it right as one of the eccentric screw had been moved so much that it was now loose in the plate and moved fractionally with every reset, plus the sliding gear had been glued together and so could no longer be adjusted. Not good.

Thankfully both problems were repairable without parts, the sliding gear was separated, cleaned and staked to make it a solid friction fit once more and the hole for the eccentric screw in the bridge closed slightly with a convex punch to make it a tighter fit.

After that the chronograph had to be rebuilt and set up again from scratch which is no mean feat on the cal. 11 as it has a combination of six eccentric screws and jumpers. (This was simplified to four on the re-designed cal. 12.)

With the movement problems ironed out, the case cleaned and crystal polished the watch could finally be rebuilt.

What isn’t obvious from a dial-on shot is how thick this watch is. As the design of this calibre is modular an increase in movement height is inevitable but it is well hidden in watches with more substantial cases like the Heuer Autavia or Breitling Cosmonaute. With a case diameter of just 37mm the Hamilton is quite small and with no external bezel to bulk out the case the resulting watch is surprisingly thick at 14mm. Not that it should put anyone off buying one as it’s still a great watch.

Finally, it may also be of interest to know that Hamilton is due to release a re-issue the Chrono-Matic later this year called the “Intramatic 68”.

With Hamilton’s H-31 automatic chronograph calibre inside the layout is more traditional with the pushers and crown all on the right. The size has been increased to 42mm too making it quite a substantial watch which may wear even larger as it has no external bezel.

If you are slow out of the blocks, tracking one of these down may be just as hard as finding an original as the Intramatic 68 will only be produced in a limited edition run of just 1,968.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Mike Causer for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Certina DS PH200M (Certina Cal. 25-651)…

Here’s another great vintage diver, a Certina DS PH200M from 1967.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Vintage Certina divers are popular with collectors these days and with good reason as they are great watches. The “Double Security” (DS) line was first introduced in 1959, aiming to surpass the water and shock resistance of any watch on the market at the time. (For more information about the DS concept and the history of Certina, check out this post that I wrote last year about a popular DS-2 model.)

The DS concept was perfectly suited to the specific requirements of a divers watch and the first DS diver was added to the range just a year later in 1960. More DS divers followed between 1960 and 1967 but the introduction of the improved DS-2 range in 1968 saw Certina ‘up their game’ when it came to deep diving watches.

Although Certina continued to produce the 200 metre rated PH200M in an improved DS-2 case they also introduced a new model in 1968, the DS-2 Super PH500M which was rated to 500 metres. This was followed in 1974 by an even more substantial watch, the 1000 metre rated DS-2 Super PH1000M. These models solidified Certina’s position in the deep diving watch arena and were used by NASA and the U.S. Navy in various experiments.  The near identical DS-3 Super 1000M, released in 1976, was also used by the Royal Australian Navy.

The watch in this post was the last DS divers model produced before the introduction of the new DS-2 range. As you can see in the first picture, from a cosmetic perspective the watch wasn’t in the best of shape and had been subject to moisture damage at some time in the past. It was running though which was encouraging.

Turning the watch over it has the Certina DS ‘turtle’ caseback which is always a pleasure to see…

… and inside is Certina’s stalwart movement, the cal. 25-651. Used extensively in their automatic watches during the 1960’s and 70’s, the cal. 25-651 is a good quality, 27 jewel, in-house calibre with a beat rate of 19,800 bph.

As you can see the winding rotor had suffered some pitting from the moisture ingress and the yellow rubber ‘shock absorber’ had discoloured somewhat, but thankfully there wasn’t extensive rust damage so the movement service was relatively straight forward this time.

While the case was being disassembled for cleaning I found that a new crystal was required as the current one was a very poor fit for the case and had been crudely glued in (you can see the old/yellowed glue between the 8 and 10 hour markers in the first picture) and although it did screw down onto the case tube, the winding crown fitted was a mismatch and needed to be replaced with a Certina branded crown to put things right. As you can imagine, finding new crowns for 50 year old watches can be challenging at the best of times, so it was appreciated when the owner of the watch managed to track one down.

As I’m sure you noticed the hands had lost all their luminous filling, again due to the moisture ingress. The lume on the dial markers however, although showing signs of age and no longer glowing, was all intact so the owner asked to have the hands re-lumed with non-glowing lume, after which I artificially aged them to match the dial markers.

Here’s the watch all back together. Although it still shows some marks from previous battles, it’s ready to fight another day.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Eugene Tay for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Le Cheminant Master Mariner (Valjoux Cal. 92)…

This Le Cheminant Master Mariner was certainly in need of some attention.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Regular readers may recognise this model as I restored one around three years ago. I’m always impressed by how well this style of watch responds to some TLC so I thought it couldn’t hurt to write a post about another one.

In the previous article I covered the history of Le Cheminant and similar models from other manufacturers (that post here) so let’s get right down to business…

As you can see above the watch had its fair share of issues. The lume had deteriorated throughout, the crystal was cracked around the top edge, the bezel had lost most of its paint and the watch had a poor fitting crown and stem. Added to that, the watch was not running and would wind forever, a sure sign that the mainspring was broken.

Opening the watch revealed a Valjoux Cal. 92, the highest quality calibre that is found in this style of watch and it was in decent cosmetic condition too with just a hint of tarnish here and there. A good start.

It wasn’t long however before the problems started to arise, the first being the set lever spring which had snapped off meaning that the watch would not click out securely into the time setting position. Thankfully the majority of parts can still be sourced for the Valjoux 92 so this one was an easy fix.

The next problem however was a bit more serious. The last watchmaker to work on the watch had obviously snapped off the head of the click screw on the dial side of the movement (the click stops the mainspring from unwinding). In an attempt to remove the broken shaft, which can be troublesome at the best of times even with the right tool, he had drilled through the mainplate from the train side in an effort to drive out the broken shaft.

This had obviously been unsuccessful as the shaft was largely still in place and doing so had trashed the threads in the mainplate. To make matters worse, rather than repair the damage properly, as a workaround, the replacement click screw had been superglued into the hole. A nasty surprise for the next watchmaker… ie. me!

In cases like this the correct way to repair this kind of damage is to drill out the entire damaged section of the plate and insert a brass bush of the same thickness as the mainplate, giving a stable platform in which to drill and tap a new hole for the screw.

With limited material left to work with this proved to be quite difficult as the position of the click screw has to be exact or the click will jam in the teeth of the ratchet wheel. Thankfully it all worked out successfully so with the movement serviced and back up and running properly it was on to the cosmetic work.

It was decided that the dial, hands and bezel pip should be re-lumed with a green lume as they would have been originally and the case was fully stripped down, cleaned, and given a light buff to restore the shine. The crystal and gaskets were replaced and a new crown and stem were ordered after which the watch could be rebuilt.

The last thing to do was to remove the old paint and refresh the bezel markings. There was some discussion with the owner regarding the choice of colour scheme. On close inspection of the remaining paint fragments it appeared that originally the numbers were black and the minute track was red all the way around, so we went with that.

Here is the watch all finished up. Another great transformation from a pretty rough starting point.

 

Rich.

** Many thanks to Richard Whittaker for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Heuer Chronograph Ref. 3641 (Valjoux Cal. 92)…

An early candidate for this year’s “ugly duckling” award was this Heuer ref. 3641 which had obviously seen its fair share of action…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Heuer ref. 3641 was first produced in the early 1960’s and pre-dates the similarly styled Carrera models. When Heuer introduced the Carrera models in 1963 they also designated some of the existing models as their “economy line”. The main differences being that the Carrera models were all housed in solid stainless steel rather than plated cases and some were fitted with the higher quality, 3 register, Valjoux cal. 72 – the benefits of a solid stainless steel case are evident from the condition of the watch in this post, with extended use and exposure to the elements the plating eventually wears away exposing the base-metal case underneath.

The ref. 3641 underwent a number of design changes during its production run as shown in the comparison picture below. The early models had dauphine hands and the case had small diameter pushers whereas the hands were changed to baton hands and larger diameter pushers were fitted to the later models.

(Picture: OnTheDash)

As evidenced by the picture above the watch in this post is one of the earlier models and was probably made around 1964-65. The dial on this watch is different to all the others I’ve seen however as the minute track print is slightly different and the dial has shorter applied batons for all but the 6 and 12 hour markers.

The owner of this watch had initially approached Tag Heuer to restore the watch but they refused due to a lack of available parts so I was asked if I would consider taking it on. On one hand I can see why they refused – when a watch is presented in this kind of cosmetic condition, you never know what you’re going to find inside.

Thankfully in this case the movement, a Valjoux Cal. 92, wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. The loss of plating was even more obvious on the rear of the watch case but once inside, aside from a little tarnish on a few of the parts the movement was in decent shape. The watch was still ticking, albeit weakly and the chronograph functions were all working, but the oils had all dried to dust so the movement was long overdue a service.

Out of the case the condition of the dial and hands was a concern. You can see in the first picture that the acrylic crystal had a number of cracks around the edge which had let water seep into the case over time, damaging the minute track on the outer edge of the dial and degrading the lume throughout. Curiously, the lume in the hands was two different colours which suggests that one of them must have been re-lumed or replaced at some time in the past.

One option would have been to send the dial out for refinishing i.e. stripping back to bare metal and re-printing, but I’m not a fan of that process as it’s rarely possible to replicate the original dial layout and fonts exactly. It also removes the history of the watch and often decreases its value so refinishing will remain a last resort for me.

Removing the debris and as many marks as possible was the chosen course of action this time as well as re-luming the hour markers and hands with a vintage cream lume. Given the starting point the result was never going to be perfect but I think it was the right thing to do in this case. (You can judge for yourself in the pictures below!)

As you have already seen the case was in very poor condition so while the service and cosmetic work was under way I placed a ‘Want To Buy’ ad for a replacement case on the OnTheDash forum – it was a long shot but worth a try. The Heuer community came through for me once again and within 24 hours an enthusiast in Italy had offered a complete early 3641 case in near perfect condition. Payment and postage was swiftly arranged and the case was soon en-route.

With the movement serviced and the cosmetic work complete, the watch was ready to be rebuilt as soon as the case arrived. Here’s the result.

Rich.

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


Longines Admiral Ref. 8557 (Longines Cal. 508)…

This Longines Admiral diver is certainly a colourful start to the new year.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Much of the vintage output from Longines had a very classical feel but for brief period between 1968-75 a range of colourful divers and chronographs crept into the model line up, this Admiral diver being one of them. The blue dial and bright orange bezel certainly make a statement but given how few of them are around these days compared with other models in the range, I wonder if the large oval case and contrasting design may have been a step too far, even for the early 1970’s.

Before becoming part of the Swatch group and switching to ETA based calibres, Longines produced some excellent quality in-house calibres. Like the 30L and Ultra-Chron models I’ve written about in the past, the movement in this Admiral diver is another fine example of their work, the cal. 508 – a 21 jewel, bi-directional winding automatic with a beat rate of 21,600 bph and a micrometer regulator. The watch also has a quickset for the date activated by depressing the crown.

As you can see from the pictures above, the case was in decent shape but pretty scruffy and the mineral crystal had picked up a few scratches from daily use. The movement inside was running and relatively clean but looking at the condition of the oils under the microscope I could see that it hadn’t had a full service for quite some time.

The case was fully disassembled and cleaned in the ultrasonic tank and a new crystal and gaskets were ordered to replace the tired originals – it’s worth noting that care should always be taken when levering off the friction fit bezels on all these colourful diver’s watches as the bezel insert is made from acrylic (or bakelite maybe?) and can crack if flexed too much.

The movement service was straight forward with no hidden surprises so the only thing left to do was refresh the tired lume in the hands with a vintage cream lume before the watch could be rebuilt.

With a case size of 44 x 49mm and a lug width of 24mm, strap choices are limited but the Rodania strap found by the owner was a good match and is a similar design to the Longines strap that would have been originally fitted. The watch was also available originally with a full stainless steel bracelet which is near impossible to find these days.

To finish off this post, here is the watch with a couple of the other colourful stable mates from the same period.

On the left is an early 1970’s Ultronic diver (ref. 8484), powered by a pre-quartz, electronic tuning fork or ‘hummer’ calibre, the cal. 6312, and on the right is another popular vintage diver, the Ultra-Chron “Super Compressor” (ref. 8221-2) powered by Longines’ high beat cal. 431 . It may be of interest to any fans of this watch that Longines re-issued a modern version of this model (along with its chronograph sibling) in 2014, albeit with red rather than orange accents.

Rich.

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


Seasons Greetings…

Here we are again! Another year has rolled by and it’s time to wish all readers a Happy Christmas and a successful 2017.

Have fun out there!

Rich.