Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Aquastar’

Aquastar Seatime (A. Schild Cal. 1902)…

As regular visitors will know, I’m a big fan of Aquastar’s vintage watches. Here’s another of their excellent divers, the Seatime.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Seatime first appeared around 1970 and at 40mm (excluding crown), it sits comfortably in the model range between the smaller 60 and 63, and the larger cased Benthos 500. Like the earlier ’63’, it was available in both mens and ladies sizes – here’s an advert from 1970 showing some of the models that were available.

The case is almost identical to the Atoll diver except that it features an internal rather than an external bezel. In Aquastar’s own words an inner bezel is preferable as an external bezel “collects debris. And it sometimes gets knocked off or damaged.” That may be true for the ‘lighter’ models, but it certainly doesn’t apply to the Benthos 500 which would need a direct hit from a u-boat to knock the bezel off!

The watch was available in a choice of blue or silver dial, both with a blue inner bezel, and also in all gold – certainly one for the bling lovers and as far as I’m aware, the only gold plated model that Aquastar ever produced. Ladies models were available in exactly the same colour schemes, and all watches were supplied with a matching NSA bracelet.

A day/date version with a black dial and inner bezel was produced later in the production run. The dial design was different as all the hour markers were applied, and the hand design changed too. Again, the movement was supplied by A. Schild, a cal. 1906.

As you can see in the picture above, the subject of this post arrived in a pretty sorry state. No sign of life from the movement, scruffy, and the internal bezel was stuck solid. Things were no cleaner inside as the caseback gasket had degenerated into the now familiar ‘goop’, though someone had at least been kind enough to remove most of it. The good news was that the movement, an A. Schild cal. 1902, didn’t look too bad.

The problem with the inner bezel was quickly diagnosed as the stem and the gear for the inner bezel had rusted together. Separating them proved to be difficult, and when they did finally part I initially thought that the gear would need to be replaced – a real blow as they can be difficult to find without buying a complete donor watch.

In extreme cases of corrosion, the hole through the inner gear loses its squared profile and no longer slides onto the second squared section of the stem. When this happens, a replacement gear is the only option and they can be very hard to find. Even in donor watches it’s not uncommon for the gear to be missing as there is nothing holding it in place once the stem has been removed, and can easily be lost.

Thankfully, on closer inspection the parts only had surface rust and the square profile was salvageable, so once cleaned and refinished both parts could be re-used and the bezel was up and running again. (I’ve described how the inner bezel on an Aquastar works in the past when I wrote about the Aquastar 63 – see that post here.)

Once the stem problem had been solved, I could remove the watch from the case and I was encouraged by the condition of the dial and hands. Apart from a little debris, they were in excellent condition with all the original lume intact.

Based on the condition of the case it’s hardly surprising that the movement hadn’t been serviced for many years and the oils had solidified. A service was all that was needed to put things right before turning my attention to the cosmetic work.

The case, although scruffy, was still in reasonable condition and needed no more than a thorough cleaning and a new caseback gasket. The crystal too, despite having a few deep scratches, polished up nicely. As all the lume was still intact there was nothing else to do but rebuild, so here’s the watch back in one piece.


Aquastar 60 (A. Schild Cal. 1701)…

I’ve already covered quite a few Aquastars on the blog, this time it’s one of the lesser known models, the Aquastar ‘60′.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The watch is similar in style to another model from the same period, the ‘63’, the major difference being that rather than an external bezel, the 63 has an internal rather which is rotated using the crown. Both watches have the same depth rating, 20 ATM / 200 meters.

I wrote about the Aquastar 63 pictured above last year on the blog, if you would like to read that post, you can do so here.

Here is a picture of both watches together in a vintage Aquastar catalogue.

Like the majority of Aquastar divers, opening the caseback revealed a calibre from the A. Schild stable, this time a 17 jewel cal. 1701.

The movement was running which is always a good start, but as you can see in the picture above it was in a pretty oily state.

Cosmetically the watch was still in good condition, but the sharp eyed among you will have spotted that the bezel markings had lost the majority of their paint over the years, so would need to be refreshed as part of the restoration.

You will also have noticed that the lume in the hands is noticeably different in colour to the lume on the dial. I immediately assumed that the hands had been relumed at some point, but on closer inspection that didn’t appear to be the case as they showed all the traits of genuine Aquastar lume – wafer thin and liable to crack at the slightest provocation!

It was only while writing this post that I realised in the catalogue shot above, the watch has completely different hands. The hands on that watch, are still lumed but much thinner, and this picture in a different Aquastar catalogue adds to the confusion as it shows different hands again, this time they appear to simple stick hands without lume.

Being quite a rare model, I can’t find any more information online, so the jury is still out as to which hands are correct. (If anyone has more information on this model, it would be good to hear from you). My guess would be that the watch in this post has been fitted with hands from a 63 model at some time.

With the movement serviced, the case was cleaned, the bezel markings repainted, and the crystal polished before the watch was reassembled. Here is the watch all cleaned up and fitted with a tropic strap, just as it would have been originally.


** Many thanks to Mark Tucker for letting me feature his watch on the blog. Mark inherited this watch from his father in-law, Creighton Leonard, who passed away recently, so this post is dedicated to him. **

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. **

Aquastar 63 (A. Schild Cal. 1713)…

Another Aquastar model on the blog, this one is known as the Aquastar 63.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Compared to some of the other watches available from Aquastar, this is one of the smaller models, but still has the majority of features you would expect in a divers watch, a thick crystal, a rotating bezel and a decent water resistance (200 metres). The only missing element is a screw-down crown.

I don’t really know why it’s called the ‘63’, perhaps it was introduced in 1963, but here is a picture of it labelled as such on a French advert from that period.

This model has an internal bezel which is rotated using the crown. Like some of the Seiko models I’ve written about in the past, the interface between the stem/crown and the bezel is a winding gear through which the stem passes. The stem has a second square section for the bezel winding gear adjacent to the threaded section so when the crown is pulled out to set the time, the bezel does not turn along with the hands (see inset below) .

Personally I find this arrangement curious. Wouldn’t it have been better to have the inner bezel disabled when the crown is pressed in rather than pulled out? This would have prevented the inner bezel being moved accidentally, especially as there is no way of securing the crown.

Opening the watch revealed a nice looking A. Schild cal. 1713 movement which, though not running, had no signs of corrosion which is always a good start.

When I opened the watch I was puzzled by the presence of an unusual spring that had worked loose and was rattling around inside the case (see picture above, on the left). I’ve already restored a few of these watches and I’ve never seen that spring before.

It was only when I was re-casing the watch that I realised what it is for; maintaining pressure on the bezel winding gear to ensure that is slots back onto the square section on the stem. The spring must have been lost in all the watches that I’d restored in the past.

This particular watch is still in the possession of the original owner, who bought it in 1968. As the watch had been ‘resting’ for some time, all the movement needed was servicing, and after that, the case was cleaned and given a light buff, and a new crystal was fitted to finish the job.


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

Aquastar Atoll (A. Schild Cal. 1903)…

Another watch from one of my favourite vintage manufacturers, an Aquastar Atoll from the 1970’s.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Probably best known for their Regate sailing timers and “bomb-proof” Benthos divers watches, Aquastar also had a range of regular divers watches including the Atoll (which was also available in a quartz version), the Seatime with an rotating internal bezel, and the 63. Here is an advertisement from the 1970’s which features some of their models.

Still in the possession of the original owner who bought it in the 1970’s and used it while Scuba diving throughout the 70’s and 80’s, this watch found it’s way into a drawer after developing a problem, where it lay ‘resting’ for some years. After stumbling across my blog, Michael thought it was time to dig out his watch and get it restored…. yet another vintage gem rescued from the back of a drawer! 🙂

On opening the watch it wasn’t difficult to see the cause of the problem, the winding rotor was completely free and rattling around inside the case. Further investigation showed that the axle on which the winding rotor mounts had broken off, probably as the result of a heavy knock.

Finding a replacement wasn’t too difficult this time as the same winding mechanism is used on quite a few A. Schild calibres.

With the obvious problem fixed and the rest of the movement serviced, it was on to the cosmetic issues. Looking at the first picture you’ll notice that the paint on sweep second hand was damaged/faded and the original lume in the hands had been replaced with white paint at some point which had subsequently cracked.

It wasn’t really a surprise to see that the lume in the hands wasn’t original, as this is the case in the majority of Aquastar watches that I’ve seen. For some reason Aquastar chose to use an incredibly thin layer of lume in their hands and on their hour markers, which after 30+ years has often cracked, or fallen out completely.

With the movement serviced and the cosmetic issues addressed, a new crystal and strap finished the job.

The strap is a copy of the Isofrane strap that would have been originally fitted to the watch. It’s great to see that these are available again as they were fitted to many dive watches during the 1960’s and 70’s. If you need one for your watch, you can buy them from http://www.isofrane.com/


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

Aquastar Benthos 500 (A. Schild Cal. 2162)…

I don’t get much time for my own restoration projects these days, but an opportunity came along to buy a watch that I couldn’t miss, this 1970’s Aquastar Benthos 500 with rare decompression bezel.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

I agreed to buy the watch in August last year, but rather than posting it, the seller who lives in Texas, arranged for the watch to be carried into the UK by a friend later in the year.

A few months passed quickly by and the watch arrived in the middle of December. Overall it was in reasonable condition, but needed a movement service, some minor lume work and ideally a new crystal.

Removing the caseback showed a nice clean movement, but the gasket had broken down into black slime. This seems to happen after many years of being left untouched. This stuff is difficult to remove and unfortunately the rest of the gaskets were all exactly the same (see crystal gasket inset).

I serviced the movement over Christmas but as it had problems with the internal timer (as many of these watches do), I didn’t have time to finish it off. I wrote in the past about another Benthos 500 in which I explained how the timer works. If you would like to read that post you can do so here.

Finding a new crystal was also problematic as the crystal on this model is 4mm thick mineral glass, and has a shaped side profile which means that it can’t be cut easily. Consequently, crystals are hard to find and can be expensive when you do.

However, a fellow watch enthusiast, James Hyman, came to my rescue and made a great job of polishing the original crystal for me. With that problem solved the end of the project was now in sight.

After replacing the lume in the timer hand and investing some more time in the timer issues and rebuilding the watch, the job was complete. Here is the end result.

Also included in the sale was the original box and all the paperwork, including hang-tag, full instructions for the bezel, and a funky chart with a sliding scale for something to do with repetitive diving – to be honest I haven’t worked it all out yet! The only thing missing is the original isofrane strap (which wore out).

I’ve only seen one other Benthos 500 with a decompression bezel, so needless to say, I’m very happy with it.


** Many thanks to Oscar for selling me the watch, and to James for his sterling work on the crystal. **

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. **