Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Archive for the ‘Sailing Timer’ Category

Heuer Skipper Ref. 15640 (Heuer Cal. 15)…

It’s been a few years since I’ve written about a sailing timer on the blog, so let’s have a look at this Heuer Skipper.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Heuer’s first Skipper model was released in 1968 and is now known as the ‘Skipperera’ among Heuer collectors due to be it housed in a Carrera chronograph case. The Skipperera is an incredibly rare watch as it was only produced for a year or so and there are only thought to be around 20 known examples in collections today.

The second iteration was introduced just year later in 1969 and was based on the popular Autavia ref. 2446C. The watch featured an oversized 15 minute subdial and the calibre inside was a modified Valjoux cal. 7730.

From 1971 onwards production moved on to the Autavia case, the earliest models based on the then current Valjoux 7734 powered chronographs (recognisable by the crown and pushers all being on the right) and the later iterations were built around the Heuer cal. 15 automatic. The watch in this post is one of the earlier cal. 15 models, known as the 1st generation ref. 15640, recognisable by the blue dial and glossy blue bezel insert.

The other Autavia cased iterations are pictured below, clockwise from the top left; the Valjoux 7734 powered ref. 73463; the earliest cal. 15 based Skipper, the ref. 1564, fitted with an acrylic rather than mineral crystal and slightly different case details; the early black ref. 15640 made between 1978 and 82 and finally the late black ref. 15640 made from 1983 until 1985/6.

For a complete history of the Skipper and Heuer’s other sailing timers, check out Henrik’s excellent site HeuerChrono.com.

According to the owner, the subject of this post had spent a good few years in a drawer – sliding around face down by the looks of things as the mineral crystal was completely scratched up. (Thank goodness that the crystal protrudes above the bezel insert on these models or that too would have suffered the same fate and wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to replace.)

Under the damaged crystal everything was in good original condition. The watch was running which is always a good start but as the subdial hand was off and floating around the dial, it was hard to say if the sailing timer was fully functional.

The owner and I were hopeful that the hand had just come away from its post but on disassembling the watch the reason the hand was loose was immediately obvious. The shaft of the minute recording runner had broken clean off at the base.

The good news is that the minute recording runner is shared among all the Heuer 12, 14 and 15 calibres but that isn’t the case for the wheel onto which the sweep second hand is mounted, the central chronograph runner, which is unique to the cal. 15 Skipper movement.

As you can see when you look at any Skipper the minute subdial only has 15 minute graduations opposed to the 30 seen in a traditional Heuer Autavia chronograph.

This is of course required specifically for the 15 minute countdown at the start of a yacht race and to implement this Heuer adopted the same system as the Valjoux cal. 7737 used predominantly by Memosail (an example here), namely two fingers on the chronograph runner instead of one.

In operation this effectively moves the minute recording runner forward every 30 seconds rather than every minute, very simply transforming the mechanism (and subdial) from a 30 minute to a 15 minute counter.

Thankfully the centre chronograph runner was in good condition as I’m told that it’s now an incredibly difficult part to source. Even though the minute runner should have been a relatively common part, as Heuer parts are getting harder to source these days I needed to call out to the Heuer community to help me find one. Needless to say they came through for me once again and things were quickly back on track.

With the minute runner replaced and the base movement serviced, the rest of the build was straight forward. The chronograph module and the rest of the watch was rebuilt, the case cleaned and a new crystal fitted returning the watch to full working order.


** Many thanks to Richard Perry for letting me feature his watch on the blog and to James and Gianluca for helping me out with the minute runner. **

Memosail Skipper (Valjoux Cal. 7757)…

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written about a sailing timer on the blog. This time it’s a Memosail Skipper.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Skipper model differs from the other Memosail timers I’ve written about in the past, as inside is a Valjoux cal. 7757; a sailing timer based on their ubiquitous cal. 7750 automatic chronograph.

There are various sources online claiming that the cal. 7757 was produced between 1985 and 1993, but ETA suggest that the calibre was discontinued in 1988, which probably explains the lack of production watches using this calibre. Apart from the Memosail Skipper, the only other watch I can find that uses the cal. 7757 is the Atlantic Skipper.

According to Juerg K. Bohne, managing director of Atlantic Watch AG, this watch was produced in conjunction with Memotime (the company who produce Memosail watches) and Dubois-Dépraz, the renowned chronograph specialists. He also suggested that in a short production run, just 300 of the Atlantic Skippers were made. I don’t know the number of Memosail Skippers that were produced, but given their rarity, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a similarly low number.

Let’s have a closer look at the cal. 7757, starting with the components under the dial.

Removing the dial reveals the countdown disc, painted with the white, red, and blue sections that are visible through the holes in dial. The wheel takes 15 minutes to make one complete revolution, and like the cal. 7737 used in the other Memosail timers, it rotates continuously until the timer mechanism is disengaged (for a description of the cal. 7737, see here).

With the countdown disk and timer top plate removed, the heart of the mechanism is uncovered.

Here’s how it works. The driving wheel is mounted on the extended axle of the third wheel in the going train, and provides the power to the countdown disc via the two intermediate wheels. When the timer is started using the start/stop pusher, the detent rotates and simultaneously releases the brake from the gear mounted on the underside of the countdown disc, and using the actuating lever, engages the intermediate wheel with the same gear, and the countdown disc starts to rotate clockwise.

When the timer is stopped the reverse happens, the intermediate wheel is disengaged, and the brake applied to hold the countdown disc steady in it’s current position.

On the train side of the movement, just like a standard cal. 7750, the centre chronograph wheel is engaged when the timer is started, and the centre second hand sweeps around the dial.

There are subtle differences from the standard cal. 7750 though, namely that the minute recording wheel in the 7757 is used solely to perform the reset function, and so has no teeth (see inset). This timer in this calibre doesn’t ‘tick’ forward in 30 second intervals like the cal. 7737, as the timer is driven directly from the wheel train, it is in constant motion when engaged.

When the reset button is pressed, just like a regular 7750, the reset lever moves across to return the reset hammers back to their starting positions. On the dial side of the movement, as the reset wheel is mounted onto the axle of the minute recording wheel, it also returns the countdown disc back to it’s starting position – showing 5 white dots on the dial.

The watch in this post arrived in running condition, but would stop immediately as soon as the timer was engaged. Further investigation revealed that the oil on the timer mechanism had thickened over the years and the increased friction was enough to stop the movement altogether. A full service for the movement immediately put things right.

If anyone has any further information about the cal. 7757, or other examples of watches using the calibre, it would be great to hear from you.


** Many thanks to Stephen Giles for letting me feature his watch on the blog, and to Mark Reichardt for additional background information about the cal. 7757. **

More Tissot/Aquastar Models…

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the restoration of this Tissot/Aquastar Regate.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

In that post I mentioned the collaboration between Tissot and Aquastar, and included this picture of a co-branded Benthos model along with a request for anyone with details about it to get in touch – see the full post here.

In the subsequent weeks I received mails from several people, not just with details on the Benthos above, but with examples of other Tissot/Aquastar branded models that I didn’t know about. So rather than amend the Regate post, I thought I’d write this follow-up post.

In answer to my original question, the “Benthos I” above is indeed a genuine model, and here is a working example pictured with its original manual, isofrane strap, and bracelet. The watch is still in the possession of the original owner who bought it in Sydney in the 1980’s.

(Picture: Des Palamberis)

I’ve done quite a bit of research on the first generation Aquastar Benthos for previous blog posts, so I was surprised to learn that it too had been produced with a co-branded dial…

(Picture: Mike Riley)

… and even more surprised to be contacted again a few days later about a second one!

(Picture: Chris at The Watch Gallery)

Chris also had another Tissot/Aquastar model listed on eBay, this Newport Regate which I’d never seen before – thanks to Jon Wallis at Desk Divers for the heads up on this one.

(Picture: Chris at The Watch Gallery)

It was only when writing this post that I realised all of the respondents (and watches) were located in Australia. Is that just a coincidence, or could it be that the co-branded models were only sold in Australia? Perhaps the Aquastar brand wasn’t strong enough on its own down under and needed Tissot on the dial to boost sales… who knows.

If anyone has any more information about these, or any other Tissot/Aquastar branded models, it would be great to hear from you.



Tissot/Aquastar Regate (Lemania Cal. 1345)…

Another sailing timer on the blog, this time from Tissot… well, kind of.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

An interesting period in Tissot’s history began in 1930 when they joined forces with Omega to form the Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère (SSIH). They were joined two years later by the movement manufacturer Lemania, making the SSIH the second largest holding company in Switzerland at the time. This union resulted in parts being shared across the group, and many of the same models appeared in the product lines of all three companies, often built around Lemania’s high quality calibres.

The Regate was one such model and as well as the Tissot/Aquastar version, there was also Omega, Lemania, Heuer and Elvström versions of the watch, all in different cases, but fitted with the same Lemania calibre.

So as you can see, there was no shortage of models for the discerning yachtsman to choose from (for a description of how the watch would have been used in competition, see this post). Of the four, the Lemania is something of a rare sight these days, but the Omega is by far the rarest and is seldom seen on the open market.

The collaboration between Tissot and Aquastar is more curious, as Aquastar were never part of the SSIH group. I had assumed for a long time that the Tissot/Aquastar Regate was the only model they produced together – you will see the same watch with a silver dial, and also in a case with a ‘lobster’ bracelet (both pictures courtesy of JonW @ www.deskdivers.com).

However, I was recently offered an Aquastar Benthos project watch with a co-branded dial, so maybe they collaborated on more models? This is the only Tissot/Aquastar Benthos that I have ever seen, so if anyone has any evidence that this may be genuine, I’d be interested to hear from you.

Getting back to the subject of this post, opening the caseback revealed the now familiar Lemania Cal. 1345, and the thankfully less common emulsified gasket gunk which was working its way into the movement… Yuk!

Apart from the various cosmetic issues, the watch was running, but had a problem with the sailing timer which wouldn’t stay engaged when the pusher was pressed. A full service is always a good place to start to ensure that everything is in order, and after some extra time spent on it, the timer was working properly again.

Under the crystal the dial and hands were still in good condition, so after some case work and fitting a new crystal, the transformation was complete.

It is also worth noting that the Tissot branded Regate has a different caseback than the Aquastar models, featuring the galleon as seen on the caseback of many of the Tissot T12 models from the same period.

The owner of this watch, Mark Reichardt, has a keen interest in sailing timers. If you have any questions or information about them, especially the vintage mechanical models, I’m sure he’d like to hear from you. You can contact him at the following email address; j.m.reichardt@planet.nl

When Mark bought this watch, it also came complete with its original Tissot bracelet, but had mismatched end-pieces. If anyone can help Mark out with the correct end pieces for this model, or a potential source for them, please contact him directly via the email address above.


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

Heuer Regatta (Lemania Cal. 1345)…

To say this Heuer Regatta had had a tough life would be an understatement.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

From the mid 1970’s until the mid 1980’s Heuer released a range of Regatta timers similar to the Aquastar models I’ve written about in the past. Heuer used the same calibre as Aquastar, the Lemania cal. 1345 which is a modified version of their cal. 1341 cam lever chronograph. A detailed description of how the calibre 1345 works can be found in a previous post, here.

The following picture is from a 1980 Heuer brochure which shows the Regatta models that were available at the time.

You will notice that some of the watch cases and bracelets in the picture above are dark in colour, rather than the steel or gold normally seen. The cases and bracelets on these models are PVD coated. PVD stands for “Physical Vapour Deposition” which is a process used to produce a metal vapour that can be deposited on any electrically conductive material. The resulting finish is well suited to watch cases and bracelets as it is very hard wearing, though not indestructible. For more details on the PVD process, see here.

At some time a previous owner of the watch in this post either got tired of the PVD coating, or it partially wore off and so he tried to sand it off…. with less than successful results.

Unfortunately, the movement hadn’t been treated with much respect either. Though the timekeeping part of the watch was working, the sailing timer showed no signs of life, and pressing the timer button did nothing at all.

With the hands, dial and timer disc removed it was not hard to see why, 90% of the parts for the sailing timer were missing, and the timing disc was just stuck onto the back of the dial with double sided tape!

Finding parts for these watches can be difficult these days, and often a second watch has to be sourced to use as a parts donor. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here as a watchmaker based in France was able to supply all the missing parts for the timer, as well as a new sweep second hand.

The movement still needed quite a bit of work as many of the existing parts had been bent, and even filed down in the past in an attempt to repair the timer mechanism, probably by a watchmaker who didn’t fully understand how it should work.

Cosmetically, little could be done to restore the PVD coating on the case apart from having it completely re-coated, but fortunately, the same watchmaker who supplied the parts also had a near NOS (new old stock) case and bracelet too. Here is the end result.

The owner of this watch, Mark Reichardt, has a keen interest in sailing timers. If you have any questions or information about them, especially the vintage mechanical models, I’m sure he’d like to hear from you. You can contact him at the following email address; j.m.reichardt@planet.nl


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

V.I.P. Memosail (Valjoux Cal. 7737)…

Still in use by a regular sailor this Memosail had one taken one wave too many.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The owner first noticed condensation appearing inside the watch in May and the watch found its way to me in October. Opening the caseback I was amazed how much rust had developed in such a short amount of time.

The movement inside this watch is a Valjoux cal. 7737 which is modified version of the Valjoux cal. 7733/34. I explained the modifications to the base calibre in a previous post, interested parties can read that post here.

Close inspection of the dial also revealed that the water had got under the edges of the dial paint too.

In some cases, like the Zenith Surf that I wrote about recently, you can get lucky and only the outer parts of the movement are affected, but when the dial is damaged that is a sign that water has made its way right through the watch, and sure enough, digging further into the movement wasn’t a pretty sight.

In cases like this it would be best to order a new part, but specific parts for the cal. 7737 aren’t so easy to find these days, so the only option was to clean up and polish the chronograph heart as much as possible, and repair the pivot using a Jacot tool.

A Jacot tool is used to repair and refinish pivots in clocks and watches. It would be much too long a post to include a detailed description of how it works, but here is a picture of it.

The wheel with the damaged pivot is mounted in the tool and the bow on the left is used to spin the wheel back and forth by hand while working on the pivot with a pivot file or burnisher.

With the rust removed and the rest of the movement serviced, it was back up and running again. The last thing to do was some repair work on the dial. Without a compete repaint it will never be perfect, but the repair isn’t noticeable in daily use.


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

Aquastar Regate (Lemania Cal. 1345)…

A rarer version of the Regate this time, and one with a black rather than a silver dial.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

What makes this Aquastar different to the other Regate models on the blog is the design of the case and bracelet. It has what is called a ‘Lobster Tail’ or ‘Armadillo’ bracelet which consists of overlapping sections of metal, rather than being made up of independent links like a traditional bracelet.

While it sounds like more like an instrument of torture than a watch bracelet, it is surprisingly comfortable as the bracelet forms a natural band around the wrist.

The same case and bracelet was also used by Tissot who released a dual Tissot/Aquastar branded version of the Regate, and also a similarly styled chronograph fitted with a Lemania cal. 1341.

The calibre in the Regate is the Lemania cal. 1345 which is a modified version of the cal. 1341 chronograph. Rather than repeating how the timer mechanism works, I’ll direct interested parties to this post for more details.

The watch arrived in running condition, but it hadn’t been serviced for many years. It was almost impossible to set the time or wind the watch manually, and the power reserve was minimal.

When disassembling the watch I noticed something odd about the dial. Underneath the “REGATE Automatic” lettering on the dial, it had once said “REGATTA Automatic”, the name of the Heuer variant of this watch. The deleted lettering was just legible using a microscope.

I presume that the dials for all models will have been produced in the same factory, but whether the Aquastar models were to be branded “REGATTA” rather than “REGATE” at some time, or they just had some Heuer dials left over and re-used them, who knows?

A movement service cured the winding and setting problems, so after a clean up, the watch was back to its best.

The owner of this watch, Mark Reichardt, has a keen interest in sailing timers. If you have any questions or information about them, especially the vintage mechanical models, I’m sure he’d like to hear from you. You can contact him at the following email address; j.m.reichardt@planet.nl


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

V.I.P. Memosail (Valjoux Cal. 7737)…

Another sailing timer on the blog, this time from the company Memosail.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Produced throughout the 1970’s, you can still find a good number of these Memosail timers for sale on the auction sites and forums, which is a testament to their durability and popularity. They were produced in a number of case shapes and styles over the years, a selection of which you can see below.

You may have noticed that some of the dials were marked “Memosail” while others were marked “V.I.P. Memosail”. The significance of the V.I.P. I couldn’t say (apart from the obvious) as mechanically all the watches are identical, and a search on the internet didn’t uncover anything specific.

The Memosail timers are slightly different in operation than the Aquastar sailing timers which I’ve written about in the past. In the Aquastar timers the countdown is signified by a number of coloured dots on the dial which change colour as the countdown progresses. In the Memosail timers a separate disc rotates underneath the dial, counting down from 10 minutes to the start of the race, and rather than being in constant motion like the Aquastars, the disc is only advanced every 30 seconds. The centre second hand rotates constantly around the dial on both watches during the countdown as you would expect.

The Aquastar timers have just one button on the side of the case which is used to start the timer whereas the Memosail is more like a traditional chronograph and has two buttons; the upper button starts and stops the timer, and the lower button performs the reset.

The movement inside the Memosail is a Valjoux Cal. 7737 which is a modified version of the Cal. 7733/4 cam lever chronograph used in many popular chronographs during the 1970’s. While the timer function does it’s job admirably, its design is somewhat simple compared to the mechanics of the Lemania cal. 1345 used in the Aquastar timers (see this post for more details).

With the dial removed you can see the timer ring, the numbers are printed onto the outer edge of a transparent plastic ring which is mounted on a gear that slips over the hour wheel.

Underneath the timer ring you can see the large gear attached to axle of the chronograph minute runner. In a regular 7733/4 movement this axle would extend out onto the dial and the minute sub-register hand would be mounted on it. In a regular 7733/4 a running second subdial is also provided, but as the disc for the sailing timer disc covers the majority of the dial side of the movement that isn’t possible on the cal. 7737.

On the going side of the calibre all the parts are exactly the same as the cal. 7733/4 with the exception of the centre chronograph wheel. Instead of having one chronograph finger to move the register forward every minute, in the 7737 the wheel has two fingers directly opposite each other to move the register forward every 30 seconds.

There was little wrong with the watch in this post except that the timer had been set up incorrectly and didn’t reset to the 10 minute mark. The dial had lost a little of it’s gold ‘sparkle’ too over the years but unfortunately I couldn’t do anything about that. I did however relume the hands while I had it apart which freshened up the cosmetics a little.

Memosail are still produced sailing timers, but just like Aquastar, the mechanical versions of the watches are no longer produced so you’ll have to ‘make do’ with a quartz timer.  If you would like to see their latest offerings you can do that here.

The owner of this watch, Mark Reichardt, has a keen interest in sailing timers. If you have any questions or information about them, especially the vintage mechanical models, I’m sure he’d be interested in hearing from you. You can contact him at the following email address; j.m.reichardt@planet.nl


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