Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Breitling’

Breitling Superocean Ref. 2005 (Valjoux Cal. 7731)…

Something of a rarity this time on the blog, a Breitling Superocean Ref. 2005.

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The name ‘Superocean’ will be recognised by any Breitling enthusiast as it has been a model in their line-up since 1957. Releasing a diver and a chronograph in that year, the new models proved popular and it’s not hard to see why… how cool are these two?

Fast forward a decade or so and Breitling released the first version of the watch in this post, the Superocean Ref. 2005, featuring a Venus cal. 188 which had been modified specifically for Breitling to incorporate a unique diving timer (more on that later). The main differences between the two versions are that the early model has no running seconds subdial and has a plain diving bezel rather than the yachting bezel found on the later model.

As you can see in the first picture, the watch in this post arrived in pretty poor condition. The watch didn’t run at all, the timer wouldn’t operate and the crystal was heavily crazed. Once out of the case, judging by the condition of the dial and the missing lume, it was clear that the watch had also had some moisture in it at some time.

Inside the watch is a Valjoux cal. 7731 which is based on the Valjoux cal. 7730 cam lever chronograph. Like the Venus 188 used in the early model, the caliber in this watch was again modified specifically for the Breitling Ref 2005.

Thankfully the movement was still in decent condition and showed no sign of rust, though it did have it’s fair share of issues. The hairspring was broken, a part of the diving timer was missing and the pusher tab on the operating lever had broken off. All of these items would need to be replaced.

What isn’t obvious in the first picture and certainly isn’t immediately recognisable when looking at the movement is that this watch doesn’t have a regular chronograph function but a unique diving timer – the main sweep second hand doesn’t rotate once per minute like a regular Valjoux 773x chronograph but once per hour, eliminating the need for a minute subdial. What also isn’t immediately obvious is that the watch also has a hole in the dial under the ‘Superocean’ script showing the current state of the timer.

Let’s have a closer look at the components which make this possible…

With the dial removed, you can see the modifications made to the dial side of the base calibre. A recessed area has been cut into the mainplate to incorporate the timer state indicator.

When the dial is in place the indicator underneath shows one of three states depending on the current operation of the timer; running, stopped or reset.

The indicator is moved back and forth between states by a modified chronograph hammer on the going side of the movement. The hammer has an extended pin that passes through a hole in the mainplate (again modified for this calibre) and moves the state indicator under the dial accordingly.

The final modification is to the driving mechanism which dispenses with the regular parts found in the base chronograph calibre. The third wheel is modified to extend the upper pivot onto which a driving wheel is mounted and the coupling clutch is replaced with a completely new part which incorporates two internal wheels geared to rotate the centre chronograph wheel just once per hour rather than once per minute.

Sadly the driving wheel was missing from the watch and I knew that sourcing a replacement would be very hard indeed. Although Breitling confirmed that they had the missing part in stock, they refused to supply the part unless the watch was sent to their service centre for assessment and a full restoration.

Six months of fruitless searching rolled by and not having the means to manufacture such a wheel, I decided to make a work-around ‘wheel’ comprising a slotted brass bush with a rubber gasket mounted on it to provide the friction needed to drive the timer. Perhaps not the most elegant solution, but it worked a treat and allowed me to continue with the rest of the work.

With all the movement problems solved, it was on to the cosmetic work. The dial was cleaned (as much as was possible), the hands were re-painted and the hands and timer state indicator were re-lumed. Finally, the case was cleaned and a new crystal and caseback gasket fitted before the watch was rebuilt.

The owner decided subsequently to send the watch to the vintage department at Breitling who inspected the watch and finally agreed to supply and fit the correct driving wheel after all.

Rich.

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


Breitling Cosmonaute Chrono-Matic Ref 1809 (Breitling Cal. 14)…

There have been quite a few aviation watches on the blog, but we’re going even higher this time with a Breitling Cosmonaute Chrono-Matic.

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The Cosmonaute along with the Navitimer, are stalwarts in Breitling’s model line-up. In 1958, NASA astronaut Lt Cmdr Scott Carpenter contacted Breitling to suggest that they make a 24 hour version of their already popular (regular 12 hour) Navitimer chronograph. In 1961 Breitling did just that and registered the name “Cosmonaute” with the Swiss Office of Intellectual Property later in the same year.

Breitling also supplied Lt Cmdr Carpenter with his own Cosmonaute in 1962 for use in NASA’s Mercury program and he wore the watch during the Mercury 7 mission in May of that year, orbiting the earth 3 times during a 5 hour space flight. This short film shows details of the mission along with a re-issued model released in 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

However, the Mercury 7 mission was to be the Cosmonaute’s only trip into space as after being submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during the splash-down recovery, the watch failed. It was subsequently returned to Breitling by NASA for examination but was never returned, and its current whereabouts is unknown.

Despite this, the success of the mission cemented the Cosmonaute’s place in the model range and the achievement was used in Breitling’s promotional activities throughout the 1960’s. More models were to follow in stainless steel, gold capped and 18kt gold cases, most powered by the tried and trusted Venus cal. 178.

By 1968 a new version of the Cosmonaute was in the pipeline, this time in a more robust case. It was to be produced in both automatic and manual versions; the automatic featuring the new to market Breitling cal. 14 (developed in association with Heuer, Buren and Dubois Dépraz) and the manual continuing with the Venus cal. 178 as before.

The sharp-eyed may have noticed that the crown is on the left hand side of the case for the automatic, and on the right hand side for the manual. To avoid having to manufacture two different cases, the cases were all drilled on both sides and a black plastic plug inserted into either one side of the case or the other (you can just see the plug on the right hand side of the case in the picture below).

The watch in this post arrived in non-running condition and the chronograph wouldn’t start, stop or reset – not the best of starts. However, on opening the watch things were more encouraging…

The reason that the chronograph wasn’t working was down to one of the case clamps having fallen out, the watch was sitting too deep in the case, and so the pushers were no longer in line with the operating levers.

Inspecting the condition of the oils under the microscope it was obvious that the watch hadn’t been serviced for many years. However, when applying a little pressure to the wheel train the watch would tick weakly which was a good sign that there were no major problems ie. broken pivots.

Sure enough, after a full service the movement started right up and all functions operated as expected. I even found the missing clamp and securing screw rattling around inside the movement which was an added bonus.

Regular readers will undoubtedly have seen this before but the automatic winding mechanism on this calibre is ‘hidden’ in the centre of the calibre under the chronograph module. Here is a picture of the movement with and without the module in place, as you can see it’s in great shape after a full service.

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One interesting technical detail of this calibre is the way that the 24 hr hand is implemented. A secondary pinion is mounted on top of the normal minute wheel, geared to rotate the 24hr wheel once per day.

In watches with a both an hour hand and a 24hr hand, like this Seiko Navigator Timer, the 24hr wheel has less height than the hour wheel to allow both hands to be mounted. In the Cosmonaute, as there is no regular hour hand, the 24hr wheel is the same height as the hour wheel – the hour wheel only drives the calendar in this watch.

With the movement serviced, the case cleaned and the crystal polished, the watch was ready for re-assembly.

Finally, what isn’t clear from the pictures is the size of this watch. With a case diameter of 47mm and a huge crystal, it makes these two WIS favourites look like ladies watches. Well, not quite but you get the idea… it’s a bruiser alright!

Rich.

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


Breitling Top Time Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…

Under the loupe this time is this Breitling Top Time chronograph.

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Introduced in 1964 to appeal to the ‘youth market’, the Top Time was an entry level chronograph offered at a much lower price point than their Navitimer and Chronomat models. The watch in this post is one of the cushion cased models from the 1970’s, which was also available with several different dial colours, and in a gold plated case with either matching or contrasting subdials.

A quick search reveals a variety of styles ranging from simple round cased models reminiscent of the Heuer Carrera, to the more elaborate later models with external bezels. Here are several options, including one featuring an additional 12hr register, very similar in style to watches from Breitlings own ‘LP’ (Long Playing) range.

Famous for wearing Rolex, and more recently Omega watches, a Top Time can be spotted on the wrist of James Bond in the 1965 movie Thunderball. Although clearly visible several times during the film, you’d be very hard pressed to find the same model today, as the watch in the film was transferred into an appropriate case made by the props department. You’ll notice in the pictures below that the watch doesn’t even have a crown or pushers (and possibly the most ill-fitting strap ever!)… but it did have a rather handy Geiger counter ‘complication’ – pretty good those props guys. 😉

The Top Time range proved very popular, remaining in production until the late 1970’s. Despite the introduction of automatic chronographs in the late 1960’s, the Top Time range remained all manually wound, powered by either Valjoux (7730 / 7733 / 7736), or Venus (188 / 178/ 179) calibres.

The watch in this post has a Valjoux 7733 inside which was in running condition, but the chronograph didn’t function at all. Removing the caseback revealed the possible cause of the problem right away, the chronograph operating lever was cracked and just flexed when the pusher was pressed.

However, further investigation revealed more serious problems. With the watch removed from the case, it quickly became apparent that  an unsuccessful attempt had been made to repair the pushers at some time in the past.

As you can see, one of the mounting plates for the pushers had broken loose from the case, and the one still in position had been soldered into the case in the incorrect position, so didn’t even make contact with the reset lever.

Finding replacement pushers for this case without buying a complete donor watch proved very difficult, so I had little choice but to remove them altogether and start again; modifying the pushers and making new mounting plates, before attaching them in exactly the right positions this time.

With the pushers repaired, it was on to the rest of the job. Once the broken operating lever had been replaced, the rest of movement service was straight forward, and from a cosmetic perspective there was little to do except clean the case and polish the crystal. The dial and hands were still in excellent condition, and the case too was still in great shape – which isn’t always the case with vintage chrome plated cases.

Rich.

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


Breitling Chrono-Matic Ref. 2110-15 (Breitling Cal. 15)…

Here’s a watch that stands out from the crowd, an early 1970’s Breitling Chrono-Matic.

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For a brief period in the 1970’s the design department at Breitling “let it all hang out” and came up some visually striking models in the Chrono-Matic and Datora ranges. You can see some of the Datora models in this post, and here are a few examples of the Chrono-Matic models – none of which could be described as shrinking violets…

.. but the absolute winner in terms of “out there” styling has to be this bullhead model with light blue dial and hands, and a sideways date, wow!

The model name “Chrono-Matic” is a reference to the calibre inside the watch, one of the first automatic chronograph calibres developed by Heuer-Leonidas, Breitling, Hamilton-Buren, and Dubois Dépraz.

Production started in March 1969 with the Cal. 11, which was modified shortly afterwards to become the Cal. 12, both models featuring a 12 hour chronograph. A GMT hand was subsequently added to produce the Cal. 14, and finally a simplified version of the calibre was developed, the Cal. 15, removing the 12 hour register from the chronograph, and fine adjustment for the regulator, in an effort to reduce production costs.

It would be easy to assume that all these calibres were manually wound, but with the chronograph module removed you can see that they have a micro-rotor winding mechanism inside.

The starting point for the Chrono-Matic calibre was the Buren cal. 1281, and the plan was to add a chronograph module on top of the existing calibre. However, due to technical complications, the main plate for the calibre had to be rotated 180 degrees, which gives the resulting watches their distinctive ‘crown on the left, pushers on the right’ layout.

Opening the watch in this post revealed a Breitling Cal. 15 in good overall condition – no marred screw heads, or signs of clumsy handling in the past.

The watch arrived running, but with a thin film of oil over everything and some stiffness in the winding and time setting functions, most likely due to a lack of servicing.

Sure enough, after a full service the winding/setting problems disappeared, and with the oil removed, things were looking much better.

Before rebuilding the watch I took a picture of the dial side of the calibre. As this watch has an off-axis date (positioned at 31 minutes in this case), the printing of the numbers on the date ring all have to be angled so they all line up correctly in the date aperture on the dial. I was pleased to see that the date ring was still  in perfect condition as finding a replacement would have been very difficult these days.

With the movement serviced there was little else to do aside from some case work and a polish for the crystal.

Rich.


Breitling Datora (Valjoux Cal. 7734)…

Here’s a watch with a real 1970’s flavour, a Breitling Datora.

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During the 1970’s Breitling released a range of watches with very striking designs, including some of the Chrono-Matic models and several models in the Datora line.  All of the Datora models were fitted with a calibre widely used in this period, the Valjoux cal. 7734 cam lever chronograph – one thing I’ve noticed is that they used the version with the 45 minute register on all Datoras, rather than the more commonly seen 30 minute version. Pictured below are some of the other Datora models.

The watch was running on arrival and the chronograph would start and stop but couldn’t be reset. A cursory look at the movement quickly revealed the problem: the screw holding the reset lever in place had broken off, probably as a result of being pressed too hard.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed in the first picture that two of the hour markers were missing from the dial. Thankfully they were still rattling around the dial, and closer inspection revealed that they had both been unsuccessfully glued in the past (see inset).

Apart from the broken screw, there was nothing else wrong with the movement, so after servicing, the hour markers were re-attached, the case was cleaned, and a new crystal fitted.

As the paint on the minute register hand was also damaged, the centre sweep second and minute register hands were repainted to match the red highlights in the dial. Here is the result.

Rich.

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


Breitling Premier (Venus Cal. 175)…

Here’s a great looking vintage Breitling that deserved some attention. These Premier chronographs are becoming quite collectible these days.

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‘Premier’ models were introduced during the 1930’s and were a long standing name in the Breitling lineup. Apart from two register chronographs, the lineup also included three register chronographs and elegant sub-second dress watches.  The name was retired in the 1960’s, but was re-introduced by Breitling between 1996 and 1999 in a limited edition production run of around 5000 watches. The re-issued model was fitted with Breitling’s own Cal. B40, based on an ETA Cal. 2892 with a Kelek chronograph module added.

Dating the one in this post proved to be quite easy as the engraved caseback gave a heavy hint as to its age. Quite a nice prize for winning the Class “B” league, I’m sure you’ll agree… I wonder what the Class “A” Champs got?. Using the serial number dated it precisely to 1946. (If you are interested in dating your own vintage Breitling, you can do so here.)

Over its production span, the Premier was fitted with a variety of chronograph calibres. Removing the caseback on this one revealed a quite tired looking, but complete Venus Cal. 175…

Most calibres are marked under the balance wheel with the manufacturer’s trademark and calibre number, but that wasn’t the case here. The dial and hands had to be removed first before the identity of the calibre was revealed.

The watch wasn’t running on arrival and obviously hadn’t been serviced for quite some time. Just to add to the fun, the hairspring had also been damaged, which proved even more entertaining as it was a Breguet overcoil rather than a flat hairspring (I wrote about the difference between the two types in this post).  After spending some time on it with the fine tweezers, everything was back in order again and the rest of the movement just needed a regular service.

Here is the watch after a clean and light buff for the case, and fitting a new crystal…

Rich.

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