Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Jardur Bezelmeter 960 (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

Vying for the title of oldest watch on the blog is this Jardur Bezelmeter chronograph from the 1940’s.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Jardur Watch Company dates back to 1937 when it was initially founded by Samuel Klepper as the Jardur Import Company. The company specialised in navigational equipment and watches mainly for military use. Their products were distributed exclusively through post exchanges and ships stores, meaning that almost all Jardur watches will have seen military action.

The Bezelmeter 960 was designed for use by pilots and had two unique features, the first being the rotating outer bezel which can be used as a countdown timer. By aligning the total expected flight time with the hour hand immediately after takeoff, the hour hand points to the number of hours remaining on the bezel as the flight progresses.

The second feature is the red degreemeter scale on the dial, which is graduated from 0 to 180 in steps of 15 degrees. Aircraft have control settings to produce a standard turn rate of 3 degrees per second, meaning that the chronograph function can be used to measure the amount of turn. For example, if the pilot wishes to turn his aircraft 75 degrees, the chronograph is started at the initial point of turning, and for each second that passes the aircraft will have turned 3 degrees. So after 25 seconds, when the sweep second hand is pointing at 75 on the degreemeter scale, the turn is complete.

The watch in this post arrived in a non-running state and in pretty poor cosmetic condition as you can see. Buying watches in this condition is always a gamble as there may be parts missing, or worse, rust. The owner was lucky this time as the Valjoux cal. 72 inside was complete and in relatively good condition, and was just needing a service to bring it back up to scratch.

Under the dial things weren’t so promising, the lume had degraded to the point where it had fallen out of the hands, and was in poor condition on the dial too. The picture below shows the dial during early cleaning with most of the old lume removed.

Thankfully the lume hadn’t burned into the dial, and the painted numbers underneath had aged in line with the rest of the dial. Being such a good match a decision was made to leave them as they were rather than re-lume them. The painted hands had aged to a perfect cream colour so they were left untouched too, with just a vintage lume filling applied. The rest of the dial was cleaned and the degreemeter scale and triangle in the minute register carefully repaired.

With the movement serviced and the case cleaned, the final task was to repaint the bezel markings and install a new crystal to finish the job.

If you like this watch then you’re in good company as Robert De Niro wore a Bezelmeter in the 1998 movie, Ronin. The story goes that he needed a watch when filming started in France, and a Bezelmeter was supplied for the movie by a Parisian watchmaker / dealer.

(Click for more movie pics)

Apparently, De Niro was so impressed with the watch during filming that he kept it as a souvenir – like many watch/movie stories this is largely unsubstantiated, but hey, I’ll believe it if you will. 😉

Studying the pictures it would appear to be the earliest Bezelmeter model, the 950, recognisable by the oval pushers and cathedral hands.

Finding a vintage Bezelmeter isn’t that easy these days, but if the style and history of the watch appeals to you then you may be interested to know that the Jardur name has recently been resurrected. A modern interpretation of the Bezelmeter (now called the Degreemeter) has been created, based on the Valjoux cal. 7750, and was produced in a limited run of just 66.

More details on the watch and its history can be found on the Jardur website – www.jardur.com.


** Many thanks to Wessel de Graaf for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Hamilton W10 (Hamilton Cal. 649)…

I wrote about a Hamilton military watch earlier this year, the 6B, and here’s another one – it does actually say “Hamilton” somewhere under there I promise!

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Hamilton produced wristwatches for the British military between 1965 and 1976, and this particular model was issued to military personnel from 1973 until 1976. From 1976 onwards, manufacturing transferred from Hamilton to the Cabot Watch Company (CWC) who produced an equivalent CWC branded version of the watch. That model continued to be issued until 1980 when it was replaced by a quartz version, the G10.

Turning the watch over, the military markings will now be familiar to regular readers; the ‘6BB’ denotes that this watch was issued to a member of the RAF and the next 13 digits are the NSN (NATO Stock Number), followed underneath by the Broad Arrow symbol, and the the issue number and year at the bottom.

This model is referred to as the ‘Hamilton W10’ as the watch was also issued to Army personnel, and in much greater numbers than the RAF; over 30,000 for the Army, compared to around 7,000 for the RAF. Any watch issued to Army personnel was marked ‘W10’ rather than ‘6BB’ as you can see here.

There have been quite a few watches on the blog lately housed in one piece cases, and this is another example. To remove the watch from the case, the first step is to split the two part stem, after which the crystal wrench comes into play…

A suitable aluminium ring is chosen from the set provided that is just larger than the diameter of the crystal. The wrench is then placed over the ring and squeezed, compressing the crystal from all directions until it is smaller than the inner diameter of the case. The crystal can then be lifted out, and the watch can now be removed from the case.

The dial and hands were still in decent order with all their original lume still intact. The only negative was some tarnish on the surface of the hands, which seems to be a common problem with these watches.

The movement in this watch is a Hamilton cal. 649; a 17 jewel, hand wound movement with a hacking function for accurate time setting. These calibres were actually made by ETA and numbered cal. 2750, but Hamilton removed the ETA branding from under the balance wheel and engraved the train bridge with their own branding and calibre number.

The movement was in good condition and just needed a routine service, so that was straight forward, but as you no doubt noticed in the first picture, the crystal was heavily scratched – I can only hazard a guess as to how it ended up like that!

Thankfully it wasn’t cracked, so all the scratches could be polished out before final re-assembled.


** Many thanks to Lee Curtis for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Omega ’53 (Omega Cal. 283)…

Another military watch on the blog, this time an Omega ’53.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Omega were one of a number of watch manufacturers that produced timepieces for the British Military. According to official records, Omega supplied around 110,000 watches to the British Military during their partnership, the watch in this post being one of the models supplied to the RAF (Royal Air Force).

This model is best known as the “Omega ’53”, so named because it was only issued for one year – 1953,  making it one of the more collectible military watches. Turning the watch over, the now familiar military designation numbers are on the caseback, and the bottom line shows the serial number and year of issue.

You will also see these watches referred to as either a ’53 TA, or a ’53 FA, the two letters standing for “Thin Arrow” and “Fat Arrow” respectively. These watches were originally produced with radium filled figures and hands, and the Broad Arrow symbol was printed on the dial in a thin script, hence the name “Thin Arrow”.

In the early 1960’s the MoD started to withdraw from service all timepieces with radium hands and dial markers to replace the radium with non-radioactive tritium lume. As part of this process the dials were all stripped and repainted, and this time the Broad Arrow symbol was printed in a much heavier script, or “Fat Arrow”. (Comparing the two watches you will see that the subject of this post is obviously a ’53 FA.)

The watch arrived in running condition, but had seen better days as the dial was barely visible through the stained crystal. Opening the watch and removing the protective anti-magnetic/dust cover, revealed the movement, a manually wound Omega cal. 283.

A crystal that was too small had been fitted at some time in the past which had failed to make a watertight seal, and over the years water had seeped past the crystal and into the watch.

With the watch removed from the case, looking inside revealed the extent of the damage; the whole area around the crystal had rusted, and the dust/residue had worked its way onto the inside of the crystal – I can only conclude that the old steel tension ring had completely disintegrated here, as there was a lot of rust and very little damage to the case itself.

Aside from a little staining to the lume, the dial was largely unaffected, but when removed there was significant staining on the dial side of the movement. Thankfully, none of this was permanent and just needed careful cleaning.

Thankfully, the rust damage hadn’t penetrated any further, and the rest of the movement was in pretty good shape. It obviously hadn’t been serviced for quite some time, so after a routine service things were looking much better.

The remainder of the rust was removed from inside the case, the dial cleaned, and the correct sized tension ring crystal was fitted to complete the job.


** Many thanks to Stephen Brown for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Lemania Chronograph (Lemania Cal. 15 CHT)…

Another military watch, this time an early single pusher chronograph from Lemania.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Single pusher chronographs were issued to British military personnel from the mid 1940’s until the mid 1970’s. Two versions of the round cased model, known as Series 1 and 2, were issued from the mid 1940’s before being superceded by the Series 3 which is easily recognised by its asymmetric case.

As with all military timepieces, turning the watch over you will find the issue markings engraved into the caseback.

A few things to notice about the markings on this watch; The letters “H.S” stand for “Hydrographic Service” which shows that the watch was issued for Naval use, the Broad Arrow symbol follows, and then the number 9 denotes that it is a chronograph wristwatch. Below that is the serial number for this particular watch.

You will also see that the original designation number has been crossed out and a new number engraved above it. When Britain joined NATO in 1949, all equipment had to be reclassified in accordance with NATO’s National Stock Number (NSN) system, and that is what you can see above the original markings, 0552 denotes Naval use, and the 924-3305 identifies this particular type of watch.

The watch was running on arrival, though not very well, and on opening the caseback it was pretty obvious that the movement hadn’t been serviced for quite some time.

The calibre inside is a Lemania cal. 15 CHT which was derived from a pocket watch movement, and serves as the base calibre for the Lemania cal. 2220 used in the later Series 3 chronographs – see an example here.

If you compare the two movements you notice that the bridges on the cal. 15 CHT are gilt plated, and that the earlier movement has no Incabloc shock system to protect the balance staff pivots. A version of the 15 CHT was also available as a traditional two pusher chronograph, the cal. 15 TL

The watch had been fitted with the wrong crystal which was literally rattling around inside the case. As you can see in the first picture, quite a lot of dust had made its way past the crystal, but thankfully no moisture, so the dial and lume were still in good condition.

With the movement serviced, the dial and case cleaned, and the correct crystal fitted, things were looking much better. Just a small amount of pitting on the plated bridges remained, but all in all, a good result.

This watch was also made with a black dial, and as I had both versions of the watch in for servicing at the same time, here is a picture of the two models together.


** Many thanks to Lee Curtis for letting me feature his watches on the blog. **

Hamilton 6B (Hamilton Cal. S75 S)…

More military watch action on the blog, this time from Hamilton.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Hamilton was founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1892 by a group of entrepreneurs whose aim was to only build watches of the highest quality. Located on a 13 acre site, they produced high quality pocket watches, specialising in railroad watches where accuracy was important. Their involvement with military watches began in World War I, when they were producing wristwatches for servicemen using calibres from women’s pendant watches.

During World War II, production of consumer watches was halted and they produced nothing but military timepieces; wristwatches, marine chronometers and deck watches for use by US Navy and other Allied Forces. More than 1 million wristwatches were sent overseas.

Hamilton supplied watches to the British Military from 1965 until 1976. As well as the 6B featured in this post, other models included the W10, a time only manually wound watch in a one piece tonneau case, and a Valjoux 7733 powered chronograph in an asymmetric case.

You may also see the 6B referred to as the “Mark XI” as it was made in the same style, and to the same specifications, as the IWC and Jaeger Le Coultre Mark XI watches also issued by the British military.

(More information here)

The caseback has the familiar military markings; the Broad Arrow symbol, the designation number, the date of issue (1967), and the serial number. The 6B at the start of the designation number denotes that this watch was issued to a member of the Royal Air Force. The watch has fixed springbars to provide better security when in use, and notice too that the caseback has a shallow ‘waffle’ pattern worn into it. This is caused by extended use of a NATO strap – a one piece strap originally fitted to the majority of military wristwatches.

The caseback on this watch was extremely tight and obviously hadn’t been opened for a long time, but once opened, underneath the protective dust cover was a Hamilton S75 S in good condition.

The 6B was fitted with one of two calibres, the earlier watches were fitted with the cal. 75, the latter the cal. S75 S – a new version upgraded to include a hacking function. The base for these calibres was supplied by ETA, the cal. 2390, but was extensively reworked by Hamilton to become the cal. 75.

The watch arrived in running condition, but hadn’t been serviced for many years. Only the screw for the ratchet wheel showed signs of corrosion, and on closer inspection was an incorrect size and was replaced.

Cosmetically the watch was in decent condition, though the crystal was cracked and needed to be replace. Judging by the difference in colour between the dial and hand lume, the hand lume had been replaced at some time, though this isn’t uncommon for military watches, as the original lume tends to dry out and crack, eventually falling out of the hands altogether.

With the movement serviced, the case cleaned and a new crystal fitted, everything was back in order.


** Many thanks to Stephen Brown for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Smiths W10 (Smiths Cal. 60466E)…

Here is a watch that will be familiar to military watch enthusiasts, a Smiths W10.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

With roots going back to 1851, Smiths, or S. Smith & Sons (London) Ltd to give them their full title, are a well known and respected name in English watchmaking. Based in Cheltenham, Smiths were one of the few companies who manufactured every component for their products on-site, right down to the hairsprings.

Contracted to supply watches and aviation equipment to the British Military from the Second World War onwards, the W10 is one of their best known models, even though it was only issued to servicemen for four years (1967-70). The watch in this post was issued in 1968 as can be determined from the caseback markings.

The watch arrived in complete but non-running condition. Opening the caseback and removing the dust cover revealed a Smiths cal. 60466E, which has a few notable features; the plates and bridges have a frosted gilding, typical of English watchmaking, the centre second is an indirect design, powered by the large wheel on top of the movement, and the tear drop shape of the balance cock with its two securing screws is a nice touch.

A requirement of any military watch is a feature called “hacking seconds” which means that when the crown is pulled out to set the time, the second hand stops. This allows the watch to be synchronised with another timepiece. In the Smiths W10 this is implemented by a hack lever which sits under the train wheels.

The lever is spring loaded and pivots around the screw highlighted in the picture above. When the stem is pulled out the lever pivots around the screw under tension until the thin wire section comes into contact with and arrests the balance wheel. When the stem is pushed in, the spring pushes the lever back to its original position, lifting the wire from the balance wheel, and the watch restarts.

Here is the watch after a movement service, and a clean and polish for the case and crystal. Though the original lume in the hands may be discoloured, it was still intact and while it may not be at its best, originality is important to many collectors, so a decision was made not to renew it. Doing so may even detract from the value of the watch in some cases. (The sharp eyed may also have spotted that the crown was incorrect in the first picture so this too was replaced.)

If finding a vintage model in good condition proves difficult, Timefactors (who now own the Smiths brand name) have produced a homage to the W10 in two versions, both fitted with a modern manually wound ETA cal. 2801 movement. The PRS-29A is as close to the original as possible in terms of size and style, and the PRS-29B has a slightly larger case and a sapphire crystal. More pictures and details can be found at http://www.timefactors.com/smiths.htm.


** Many thanks to Lee Curtis for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Lemania Chronograph (Lemania Cal. 2220)…

Another military watch on the blog, this time from Lemania. In a scruffy state and missing its pusher, stem and crown, the watch looked like it had seen a few battles of its own.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The caseback has the markings seen on all British military timepieces, the Broad Arrow symbol, a designation number, and a serial number.

I wrote a post earlier this year about another military watch, a CWC chronograph, in which I described the different caseback markings. To avoid repeating myself, interested parties can read that post here.

The movement in this watch is a Lemania cal. 2220, a very elegant column wheel chronograph calibre. The arrangement of the wheels, the Breguet overcoil, and the delicate form of the return springs make this one of the most aesthetically pleasing vintage chronograph calibres in my opinion.

The majority of chronograph calibres have two pushers, one for starting and stopping the chronograph mechanism and one for resetting. This calibre is a mono-pusher chronograph in which a single pusher is used for all three functions. Subsequent presses of the pusher, start, stop and then reset the mechanism. Once the chronograph has been stopped, it is not possible to restart it from the same point as the next press of the pusher will reset it automatically to zero.

The operation of the minute register is also different in this calibre. In most calibres the chronograph runner has a finger mounted on it which advances the minute register by one marking as it passes. In the cal. 2220, the minute register sweeps around the dial in a constant motion rather than moving in discrete steps.

Much like the Valjoux cal. 92, the mechanism is controlled by an oscillating pinion (inset) which is constantly driven by the centre wheel. Only when the chronograph is engaged does the coupling clutch move across and the pinion is then in contact with the minute recording runner, moving it forward.

Generally speaking, the movement in this watch was in good condition, apart from a few rusty screw heads which needed to be polished. The majority of the work involved in this watch was cosmetic.

You may have noticed in the first picture that the luminous filling in the hands had darkened significantly. In watches from this period (early 1960s), the hands were filled with a tritium based paste which after many decades darkens and dries out.

While every effort is made to keep the original filling intact, in some cases it is so brittle that no matter how carefully the hands are removed, the slightest application of pressure flexes the hands and the luminous filling falls out, often falling as dust onto the dial.

That happened with this watch, so there was no alternative but to remove all remaining traces of the original paste (powder!) and apply new lume. That also gave me the opportunity to re-paint the hands which had been chipped at some time in the past.

With the movement serviced and the missing pusher, stem and crown sourced, a new crystal was fitted and the case cleaned up to finish the job.


** Many thanks to Lee Curtis for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Poljot ‘Strela’ Chronograph (Poljot Cal. 3017)…

There haven’t been many Russian watches on the blog, but this Poljot chronograph is something of a classic.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Known as the ‘Strela’ (which is Russian for ‘Arrow’) these watches were originally developed for Russian Air Force Officers and were constructed to strict military specifications. They were only available to Senior Military, Government and Party officials, and were not for sale to the general public.

They were also used by several Russian Cosmonauts in the early days of Russian space exploration, the most notable of which has to be Aleksej Leonov who was wearing a Strela during the first ever space walk on 18th March 1965.

The Strela in this post is one of the early models which is fitted with a Poljot cal. 3017 column wheel chronograph, based on the Swiss Venus cal. 150. Around 100,000 of the cal. 3017 powered Strelas were manufactured over a period of 20 years before the movement was switched to a cam lever chronograph, the Poljot cal. 3133 (based on the Valjoux cal. 7733) in 1979.

You will see these watches branded either Poljot or Sekonda and they were produced with either a black or a white dial. (Sekonda is actually a British company that was set up in 1966 to distribute Russian watches in the West).

This watch arrived in a non-running condition as the result of a fall, the crystal was broken and the watch would no longer wind or run. A watch hitting the floor is never a good thing, but with this watch, like many vintage watches, it has no built in shock protection for the pivots on the balance staff.  Being the thinnest pivots in the watch, a heavy impact can easily snap off one (or both) of the staff pivots resulting in a much more complicated repair.

However, that wasn’t the case this time as the only parts damaged, apart from the crystal, were a screw securing one of the case clamps (the broken head and clamp had fallen into the movement stopping the watch), and the setting lever spring on the dial side.

After sourcing replacement parts, the rest of the movement was serviced, the case cleaned, and a new crystal fitted. The last thing to do was to remove the corrosion from the hands (you may have noticed in the first picture that the hands had corroded – not surprising really as this watch has no gaskets.)

It wasn’t possible to fully restore them as the corrosion had eaten right through the chrome plating, but they are much improved.


** Many thanks to Jeroen Regouw for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

You will see these watches branded either Poljot or Sekonda and were made with either a black or a white dial. (Sekonda is actually a British company that was set up in 1966 to distribute Russian watches in the west).