Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Archive for the ‘Diver’ Category

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. **


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

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

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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. **


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.


Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster 1000 (ETA Cal. 2472)…

I thought I’d round out 2015 by revisiting a somewhat quirky diver, the Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster 1000.

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Long time readers may recognise this model as I wrote about a very similar restoration four years ago. I’ve worked on several of these watches since then so I thought I’d write a second post with a little more information about the model and its history.

Following the successful launch of the Depthomatic in 1964 (the first watch with a built in depth gauge), Nivada Grenchen introduced the Depthmaster the following year with advertisements claiming that it was “tested deeper than any other underwater watch” and it was “Probably the world’s most waterproof watch”.

Watches with high depth ratings were still in their infancy in the early 1960’s and manufacturers were just starting to introduce “extreme diver’s watches” into their model ranges. I’m sure Nivada Grenchen would have liked to have claimed the first 1000m rated watch but that title is thought to have gone to Sandoz who debuted a 1000m watch – using exactly the same case as the Depthmaster – in June 1963.

Sandoz wasn’t the only company to share the same case with the Depthmaster. While the manufacturer of the case is unknown it was used far and wide during the 1960 and 70’s with many companies producing very similar models; Jaquet-Droz, Alpha, Le Phare, Orient, Sylvana, Festina and Vetta to name but a few.

You’ll often see these watches referred to as ‘Baby Panerai’ due to the smaller, yet similar, cushion shaped case.

As you can see in the first picture, time hadn’t been kind to the watch in this post as moisture had found its way into the case at some point and corroded the lume in the hands, some of which had already fallen out. The majority of the bezel markings had worn away and the crystal had crazed as they have a tendency to do after several decades of use.

Inside the case things didn’t look too bad. The movement, an ETA cal. 2472, was complete and although running, obviously hadn’t been serviced for quite some time.

The movement service presented no significant issues so it was straight on to the cosmetic work. The hands were re-lumed to match the numerals on the dial and the remaining paint (and dirt!) was removed from the bezel markings which were then re-applied, a red enamel for the triangle at the top and black enamel for the rest.

With the movement serviced and the majority of the watch rebuilt, the last thing to do was clean the case and bracelet, and replace the crystal. As I mentioned in the previous Depthmaster post, the crystal on this watch is held in place by a threaded ring, screwed into the case from the inside. This has to be unscrewed first before the crystal can be removed (more details here).

It’s rare to find a Depthmaster with an original crystal that hasn’t crazed and as genuine replacements were discontinued years ago, I’ve seen all kinds of mis-matched crystals fitted to these watches to keep them up and running. As you can see below, the crystal has a specific side profile which makes finding a direct replacement near impossible these days.

However, I think it’s well worth making the effort to modify a suitable crystal to replicate the original as the extreme ‘top hat’ profile is one of the defining features of this watch. With the new crystal cut and installed things were already looking better…

… and here’s the watch all finished up.

While this watch was in for restoration, another Depthmaster arrived which gave me a rare chance to take this picture of the two dial designs together.

The ‘art deco’ style is a little more subtle and seems to be rarer in my experience. Two great watches.

Rich.

** Many thanks to John Telling and Keith Johnson for the opportunity to write about their watches on the blog. **


Seiko 6105-8110…

There’s always room for another Seiko diver on the blog, even when it looks like this…

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Although I’ve written about this model before on the blog, as you’ve probably already guessed, this watch needed a little more work than usual to get it back up and running.

Time hadn’t been kind to this watch and neither had the water that had found its way inside. As you can see from the picture above, the moisture had caused some serious deterioration to the lume and also the hour frames and hands. Opening the watch too revealed something of a grim picture.

The automatic winding mechanism had broken off, probably due to the ball bearings rusting solid, and although the winding rotor and upper half of the mechanism were present, it was well beyond repair and would need to be replaced. In addition to being scored by the winding rotor, the balance cock too was incorrect for this calibre as it had the orange painted markings usually found on a 6106 or 6119 calibre, so that too would need to be replaced.

The case was still in reasonable condition although it had been polished by a previous owner and so had the crystal which is notoriously difficult to get right. In most cases, the crystal surface is left with scored lines or is slightly opaque which was the case here, so a replacement was ordered. The bezel insert although marked and missing its lume pip was original to the watch and deserved to stay.

Out of the case the true extent of the water damage to the dial and hands was clear. The lume was totally shot throughout and the dial surface had ‘bleached out’ due to the moisture sitting on it for what must have been at least couple of decades.

The ideal solution would have been to source a replacement dial but being one of the early models with the ‘water 150m proof’ text that would be no easy task. Watches from later in the production run were marked ‘water 150m resist’ due to a change in the US law regarding the water resistance markings for watches. In 1968 it was deemed that all watches sold in the US should be marked ‘water resistant’ rather than ‘water proof’.

Seiko responded quickly to this change and made the necessary corrections for all watches destined for the US in 1969 but they took their time with watches bound for other markets, most of the changes being made during 1970 and 1971.

It’s for this reason that you’ll often see early Seiko divers being referred to as ‘Proof/Proof’, meaning that both the caseback and dial are marked water proof rather than water resistant… and being less in number the collectability (and price!) goes up accordingly.

With no option for a replacement dial, the first job was to remove all the old lume from the dial markers and hands followed by as much cleaning as was possible. As I’ve written about before on the blog, the chrome plating on the markers and hands get tarnished and can’t be restored and while the dial marker frames can be repainted silver, it’s often better just to leave them as they are, this is a vintage watch after all.

With a cream lume applied across the board things were much improved but the bleached out dial remained a problem and would have spoiled the overall look of the watch, so it was decided to oil the dial to restore the colour.

This involves putting an very thin layer of oil across the dial surface so that the bleaching effect is removed. It’s very important to do this carefully as you don’t want to apply excessive oil or it may pool or worse, seep off the dial edge over time. This restoration technique will remain something of a last resort for me, but the results are surprisingly good when correctly applied. Here’s a before and after…

With all the cosmetic work taken care of, the movement was cleaned, serviced and the necessary parts replaced. The case was then cleaned and a new set of gaskets and crystal installed and the watch could be rebuilt. Although it’s not perfect, it’s always good to give a second chance to a watch that could easily have become a parts donor.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Dieter Deschacht for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Zenith Sub-Sea Diver (Zenith Cal. 48.5)…

I still keep a speculative eye on eBay and was tempted by this collection of vintage Zenith Sub-Sea oddments, all listed separately by the same seller.

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Mention the word Sub-Sea to any Zenith enthusiast and the watch that comes to mind is likely to be this gents model which is one of the most desirable vintage Zenith watches. Unmistakably a 1970’s watch from the design alone, both the diver and chronograph models are now highly prized by collectors and can be difficult to find in good condition.

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The ladies Sub-Sea diver in this post is more of an enigma. While ladies watches don’t get the coverage of their male counterparts, there is usually information to be unearthed about them. Not in this case however, as there was no information to be found anywhere about this model – pretty rare then I’d say. 😉

Competition for such a parts jumble is always less than for a complete watch (and especially so for ladies watches), so I was pleased to win all the lots without too much of a battle. Buying a collection like this is always a gamble as nine times out of ten you’ll find that parts are either damaged or missing in every movement and you still need additional parts to finish the project.

As the date is displayed between the 4 and 5 markers on this model it was essential that I won the gold dialled parts movement to ensure that I had at least one movement with the correct date ring. The majority of watches have the date aperture at 3 o’clock which means that date rings aren’t generally interchangeable as they would be out of alignment for a 4.5 date display.

When the parts arrived I was pretty pleased with my haul as the case and bracelet were in near perfect condition and I had almost three complete movements, albeit in varying states of repair. I was still missing a winding stem, second hand and crown, but all in all, not too bad.

I was also pleased to find that the casing ring was still inside the case. Without this the movement can’t be properly secured and I would probably have had to make one as sourcing an original would have been difficult.

The movement in this watch is a Zenith cal. 48.5, a 17 jewel automatic with a beat rate of 28,800 bph. The majority of vintage Zenith movements were developed in-house but this one is based on the ETA cal. 2671, a Swiss high-beat calibre that was first produced in 1971 and is still in production today. The only differences appear to be the mainplate which is stamped ‘48.5’ and the winding rotor which is Zenith branded.

The movement above was the worst of the three which was encouraging as, apart from the broken stem and the tarnished weight on the winding rotor, the rest of the movement looked to be ok. The first job was to disassemble all three movements and select the best parts from what was available. The resulting parts were then cleaned and the rest of the build was handled just like a regular service job.

I rustled up a suitable second hand from my parts stock and a Zenith branded crown in the right size was quickly sourced too, so everything was starting to take shape.

Being an ETA based movement that is still in production, the winding stem was easy to source too so the rest of the job was plain sailing from there, Here’s the result – not bad at all from a collection of parts.

Just after completing the project I was surprised to find another identical NOS (New/Old Stock) dial, hands and case set for sale on eBay, this time in Italy. I was confident that I could still make another good movement from the remaining parts, so I put in my bid again and was pleased to be the only bidder.

As with the first one I was missing a winding crown and stem, but at least I knew where to source them so they were  duly ordered and I started the whole service and rebuild process again… a case of horological déjà vu!

Here they are together.

Rich.


Zenith Defy Automatic (Zenith Cal. 2552 PC)…

Another Zenith on the blog, this time a vintage Defy.

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The Defy is a long serving model in the Zenith range (the name being an anglicization of the French word “Defi” meaning “Challenge”) and the subject of this post is the first Defy model which was introduced in 1968 at a time when Zenith were looking to break into the sports watch market.

With a screw down crown, hardened mineral crystal, water resistance to 300 metres and built-in shock absorption, it’s clear that the watch pulled no punches in terms of toughness… a terrible segue into this advert there, apologies!

The first model was introduced with a choice of dial colours and additional Defy models were produced during the 1970’s in a variety of case designs.

Opening the watch reveals a Zenith cal. 2552 PC, an in-house 23 jewel automatic calibre with a beat rate of 21,600 bph. (Notice that around the movement is a rubber spacer which acts as the aforementioned shock absorber.)

Only the early watches were fitted with this calibre as from 1971 onwards it was replaced by the cal. 2562 PC and 2572 PC both of which had an increased beat rate of 28,800 bph. You may see “28 800” printed on the dial of some models to reflect this.

The watch arrived in running condition, but the gaskets had deteriorated into a black paste and judging by the condition of the oils, the movement hadn’t been serviced for quite some time.

While the movement showed no sign of corrosion, the gaskets had obviously been in poor shape for a long time as the dial and hands did show some deterioration due to moisture ingress; the lume had discoloured slightly (albeit not in an unpleasant way) and the hands were tarnished.

You’ll often see the word ‘tarnished’ associated with hands and dial markers on vintage watches and it generally refers to the plated surfaces having corroded. Under the microscope you can see that the top layer of the chrome plating has become pitted due to tiny droplets of water sitting on the hands for an extended period – effectively “eating away” the plated surface over time.

There isn’t really much that can be done to improve the finish once this has occurred as most hands are either chrome or gold plated and any attempt to polish out the pitting simply wears through what is left of the plating to the base metal underneath. The only solution is to have the hands re-plated, but that means losing the original luminous filling. In most cases it’s often best just accept the tarnish and polish the remaining plate as much as possible, and that was the preferred option here.

The movement was in good condition and it needed no more than a routine service, and the case too was still in good order and only needed an ultrasonic clean and light buff to restore the shine. The crystal however had a few scratches and chips around the edge which isn’t uncommon for this model as the crystal sits a long way above the bezel and even though hardened, is still susceptible to knocks and scrapes.

As the watch is long discontinued, finding original mineral crystals can be very difficult and often an acrylic aftermarket replacement is the only alternative, but even they can be difficult to source. Thankfully the owner of this watch tracked down a replacement crystal which made my job a little easier this time.

With the movement serviced and the new crystal and gaskets fitted, the watch could be rebuilt.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Francois Canters for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **