Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Baume & Mercier Baumatic (B&M Cal. 12820)…

Something a little different this time, a gold dress watch from Baume & Mercier.

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Judging by its cosmetic condition this watch must only have been used sparingly. Cases made from 18kt gold are very soft and the inevitable knocks and scrapes of daily use are normally evident after 30+ years, but the case on this watch was still in near perfect condition.

Inside the watch is a Baume & Mercier branded calibre, the B&M cal. 12820. A suitably high quality calibre decorated with perlage under the balance wheel and winding rotor, côtes de genève stripes across the bridges, and a sprinkling of blued screws. This is also the 30 jewel version of the calibre too, rather than the standard 21 jewel unit.

The perlage decoration is also applied to the calendar plate on the dial side of the movement, another sign of quality which is only normally seen and appreciated by the watchmaker.

Regular readers with a sharp eye may have noticed the similarity between this calibre and another which has appeared several times on the blog, the automatic chronograph produced by Breitling/Heuer/Buren/Dubois Dépraz (an example here).  With the chronograph module removed, it’s obvious that the two watches are derived from the same base calibre, the Buren cal. 1280.

In both cases the use of micro-rotor acts as a space saver, allowing the automatic winding mechanism to be integrated into the calibre rather than sitting on top and in the case of the Baume & Mercier ensuring that the overall thickness of the watch is kept to a minimum.

The Baume & Mercier cal. 12820 has an overall thickness of 3.25mm and the cased watch is 6.7mm which compares favourably with Piaget’s renowned Ultra-Thin Automatic. The movement in the Ultra-Thin, the Piaget cal. 1205 also features a micro-rotor design and is currently the thinnest automatic calibre in the world at just 2.35mm. (The cased watch is 6.35mm.)

Having sat around unused for a couple of decades, the watch in this post needed no more than a routine service, after which and a light polish for the case it could be rebuilt.


Seasons Greetings…

Another year has rolled on by…. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone out there, and best wishes for 2015.


Lip Galaxie (Durowé Cal. 7525/2)…

Something contemporary on the blog for a change, a Lip Galaxie.

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Ok, maybe not – although this watch has something of a modern ‘Swatch’ look about it, it was actually made in 1975. I’ve written about quite a few whacky designs from the 1970’s, some of which wouldn’t grace many wrists these days, but the Lip Galaxie certainly isn’t one of them and is an excellent example of how some designs age better than others.

Lip have an interesting history dating back to 1867. Their horological achievements include working with Pierre and Marie Curie to develop the first phosphorescent dials in 1904 (the birth of lume!) and developing the first electronic wristwatch movement, the cal. R27 in 1958.

Like many others, Lip suffered during the quartz revolution and things came to a head in April 1973. On discovering the management’s plans to restructure the business and make a third of the workforce redundant, the workers took matters into their own hands, taking three hostages and barricading themselves inside the factory.

Riot police stormed the building on the very first night, freeing the hostages, but the workers didn’t stop there as they seized 65,000 watches along with the manufacturing plans and started day and night occupation of the factory.

The whole incident was reported in the national press which lead to public outrage at the treatment of the workers, followed by a 12,000 strong demonstration in the town of Besançon. Buoyed by the popular support, the workers decided to move the business forward under worker control, resuming production and selling the seized 65,000 watches at cost price to raise capital.

The government attempted to calm the situation and restore order, but the workers refused to cooperate. Consequently, the workers were forcefully expelled from the factory by the Mobile Gendarmerie (military unit) in September 1973, and despite a second protest – this time numbering 100,000 – the Mobile Gendarmerie remained in the building until February 1974.

Collective enthusiasm bears fruit (Illustration: Dargaud)

After much political wrangling behind the scenes, a buyer was finally found for the company, the European Clockwork Company, who agreed to hire 850 of the former employees in March 1974 and the remainder of the workforce in December, finally laying the whole incident to rest. However, after all the trouble the company was still crippled by previous debts and survived for just three more years, closing it’s doors in Besançon for the last time in 1977.

Ok, after that historical detour, let’s get back to the watches… 😉

In early 1970’s Lip commissioned a number respected designers to develop a series of avant garde wristwatches, a couple of which I’ve written about before on the blog. The De Baschmakoff which started the ball rolling in 1971, and arguably the most collectible model, the Mach 2000 developed by Roger Tallon.

The Galaxie was developed by the Swiss designer Rudolph (Rudi) Meyer, known for his work on commercial posters, trademarks and company logos.

Meyer designed the Galaxie in 1974 and the watch was made in four base versions (and variations thereof); the one in this post, a model with spherical hour markers, one with recessed chrome discs and a model with arabic numerals and a plastic coated case.

Inside the watch is a Durowé cal. 7525/2, a 25 jewel, automatic calibre with beat rate of 21,600 bph which needed no more than a regular service this time. The crystal was also cracked and needed to be replaced, but with no major hurdles, the watch was soon back in service.

The watch also needed a new strap which was more difficult to find than I imagined due to shape of the case. Genuine Lip straps are long discontinued and all the curved straps that I could find were shaped to fit between extended lugs, so were quickly ruled out. Several regular straps that I tried were too thick to be bent around the case without buckling, but I eventually found a thin leather strap with a contrasting stitch which worked well and proved to be a good match for the watch. All in all, not a bad result.


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

Seasons Greetings…

Another year of highlights and hurdles at the bench…

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Have a happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous start to 2014 all you watch addicts out there!


Smiths Braille Watch (Smiths Cal. 12.15)…

Here’s another first on the blog, a vintage mechanical braille watch.

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Designed for the blind or visually impaired, the history of braille watches dates back to around 1800 when legendary watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet produced the first watches that could be felt rather than read to determine the time – “montre a tact” as they were called at the time. They were marketed not as watches for the blind, but as “night watches” that could be read in the dark – the only option prior to this being minute repeaters which sounded out the hours and minutes on gongs at the push of a button.

As well as being more discreet, montre a tact would undoubtedly have been easier to produce as minute repeaters were (and still are) very complicated and expensive watches to design and manufacture. However, watches for personal use were still the height of luxury in the early 1800’s and few people, blind or sighted, would have been able to afford a watch by Breguet.

The following picture shows a ‘montre a tact’ with a single (hour) hand and 12 diamonds mounted as hour markers around the edge of the case.

It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that watches were made specifically for the blind, namely pocket watches with thick gauge hands. These watches were often made in half hunter cases with the watch glass removed so that the hands could be felt through the top of the case without needing to open it. Wristwatches gradually replaced pocket watches but the principle remained the same, the watch hands were felt in relation to raised markers on the dial.

With the advent of quartz and LCD watches in the 1970’s a new era of ‘talking watches’ was introduced and is still widely used today. Here is a short video of a typical (Seiko) talking watch from the 1980’s.

The watch in this post dates to the 1960’s and is typical of a braille watch from that period. At the bottom of the case is a button which when pressed, flips open the top of the watch case so the wearer can determine the time.

As you’ll see in the picture below, the hands are made from a much heavier gauge metal than regular hands so as not to be easily damaged and the hands are also a much tighter fit so they are not easily displaced. You’ll also notice that the hour markers are raised from the face of the dial.

Inside this watch is a Smiths cal. 12.15, a 15 jewel, 18,000bph manual calibre very similar in design to the cal. 60466E in the Smiths W10 military watches – see here for a post I wrote about a W10.

The watch arrived running but obviously hadn’t been serviced for some time and the hands were misaligned. When disassembling the watch for servicing I noticed that the dial washer was missing from the watch which was undoubtedly the cause of the hand alignment problem.

A dial washer is a thin brass washer placed over the hour wheel so that when the dial is in place the hour wheel is pressed down slightly and stays in constant contact with the minute wheel. Without this the hour wheel can easily rise up and skip a tooth.

With the watch serviced and a new dial washer fitted, the only thing left to do was clean the case, dial and hands to complete the job.

As a final note it’s worth mentioning that just as in other areas of watchmaking, development is still ongoing in the world of braille watches with two of the most interesting projects in the last few years being the Haptica and the Bradley.

The Haptica is an award winning concept and represents the time much like a digital watch ie. in four separate digits. The numbers 0 to 9 are represented by a combination of raised dots in standard braille format, and the wearer reads/feels the dots from left to right to read the time – see this link for a demonstration.

The Bradley concept is formed around two captive ball bearings for the hour and minute – the inner bearing represents the minute and the outer bearing the hour. I find this quite a curious design quirk as it goes against convention and surely with a larger diameter it would be easier to determine the minute accurately if it was on the outside? Anyway, that didn’t put too many people off as the watch recently raised almost US$600,000 on Kickstarter, smashing its funding target of $40,000 – see here for more details.


** Many thanks to Olivia Brown for letting me feature her watch on the blog. **

Seasons Greetings…

It’s that time again folks. I hope you all have a great Christmas, and a good start to 2013…. eat, drink, and be merry!


Eterna Automatic (Eterna Cal. 1076H)…

Cutting quite a dash on the blog is this dress watch from Eterna.

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Time has certainly been kind to this watch as an inscription on the caseback dates it to 1947, making it a sprightly 65 years old.  Removing the caseback and taking a look inside revealed an Eterna Cal. 1076H – a style of movement that I’ve yet to talk about on the blog, a ‘bumper automatic’.

Bumper automatics were the first self-winding wristwatches, and were initially developed by John Harwood, a watch repairer from Bolton, who patented his invention in 1923. Harwood’s system uses a pivoting weight which swings back and forth as the wearer moves, transferring power to the mainspring.

The motion of the winding rotor is restricted to an arc of around 300 degress, at which point the rotor bumps against one of two stops, each protected by a spring. This abrupt halt can be felt when wearing (or holding) the watch, hence the name ‘bumper automatic’.

Another feature of bumper automatics is that they only wind the mainspring in one rotor direction. In the return direction, the mechanism simply ‘freewheels’ back to the starting position.

Below is an image showing the two extremes of the winding action. At the heart of the mechanism is a ratchet and pawl. If you look at the (gold coloured) ratchet lever you will see that it moves back and forth with the movement of the rotor. It’s this action that transfers power to the mainspring barrel.

Although something of a breakthrough in its day, it was a relatively inefficient mechanism and the design was soon surpassed by ‘full rotor automatics’ in which the winding rotor is free to rotate 360 degrees left or right. Depending on the design, power can be transferred to the mainspring as the rotor rotates in either one or both directions. Rolex pioneered full rotor automatics, releasing their first Oyster Perpetual model in 1931 – the ‘Perpetual’ part of the model name denoting the perpetual movement of the winding rotor.

Ok, back to business. The watch arrived in running order but was loose inside the case. In the first movement picture you may have noticed an ugly piece of bent metal sticking up from the centre. As the winding rotor occupies almost all the space inside the case there is no room for a traditional ring/spacer to hold the movement in place. To overcome this problem, a casing spring is attached to the top of the movement and as the caseback is tightened, the spring is compressed, securing the movement inside the case.

The original spring had obviously been lost or broken during the last service, and the watchmaker attempted to make a replacement spring from any old piece of metal that was handy – it looks like part of an old train bridge to me. It didn’t work, and it was not the most aesthetically pleasing solution anyway, I’m sure you’ll agree.

To put things right I made a new casing spring from a thin piece of steel which I shaped to fit and then drilled at one end to secure it in place. With that problem solved, the movement was then given a full service to bring it back up to scratch.

The owner asked me if I thought the dial had been re-finished as its condition is near perfect – something you don’t often see in a watch of this age. Inspecting the dial and hands with a microscope it is clear to see that the hands and dial markers have been re-lumed at some point, but whether the dial has been re-finished too I couldn’t say for sure – given its condition it would be easy to assume that is has, but if so then it was extremely well done.

Re-finished dial or not, the watch is certainly attractive, and I’m sure it could find a place in anyone’s collection.


** Many thanks to Neil Clarke for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Camy Superautomatic Airport (ETA Cal. 2780)…

Brace yourselves, things are about to get ugly around here! This visual delight is a Camy Superautomatic Airport.

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The owner of this watch said “I’m sending you the ugliest watch in the world” and well, it’s certainly a candidate. Not only is the case 45mm wide, but it is also 16mm deep with a wedge shaped profile, so you couldn’t hide it under your shirt cuff, even if you wanted to.

Made from a solid lump of stainless steel, the case is a one-piece design which means that the stem has to be separated, and the bezel and crystal removed before the watch can be taken out of the case from the front – I wrote a post last year with more information about opening one-piece cases, click here if you would like to read it.

Out of the case, the movement is one of ETA’s mid-range calibres used in many vintage watches, a 17 jewel ETA Cal. 2780 with a Camy branded winding rotor.

Though Camy were founded in Grenchen in 1913, the company seems to be something of an enigma as despite producing watches for over 60 years, there is very little information on their history. Their major claim to fame seems to be that Raymond Weil worked there for 26 years before leaving to start his own company in 1976.

There are however lots of Camy watches still around, and like a lot of watch companies, they produced their most interesting models during the 1970’s. As well as the Airport in this post, which was also available with a blue and black dial…

… other highlights include this Rallyking model with an internal bezel….

… a range of mechanical chronographs, mostly powered by the ubiquitous Valjoux Cal. 7733/4, and several eye catching diver’s watches.

Ok, back to the Airport. The movement obviously hadn’t been serviced for some time, so a full service was the first job, and while the case was still in decent condition, it did benefit from a clean and a light brush.

With the watch back inside the case, the bezel was polished to restore the shine, and a new crystal fitted. The original crystal was mineral glass and had a strange profile. I couldn’t find a suitable mineral replacement so I had to use an acrylic crystal instead, which is no bad thing as it will be much easier to polish out the scratches when the inevitable ‘biffing’ against a door jamb occurs.

So here she is in all her splendour sporting a vintage mesh strap. Ain’t she a beaut? Sometimes things are so bad, they’re good. 😉


** Many thanks to Phil Johnson for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **