Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Favre-Leuba’

Favre-Leuba Twin Power (FL Cal. 259)…

I’ve worked on quite a few of these watches over the years but never written about one, so let’s have a look at this Favre-Leuba Twin Power.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

With one of the longest histories in watchmaking, dating back to 1737, Favre-Leuba introduced some interesting technical innovations into their watches and especially so during the 1960’s. During that decade they produced the first watch with a built in altimeter, the Bivouac, a depth meter in their Bathy diver and they were among the first companies to produce in-house high-beat calibres for their Deep Blue divers and Sea Raider models. (I’ve written about the latter two watches in the past, click here and here respectively if you would like to read about them.)

The watch in this post, although quite plain compared to some of the recent watches on the blog has enough going on inside to deserve a mention.

Inside is a Favre-Leuba cal. 259, a 17 jewel, in-house, manually wound calibre with a beat rate of 18,000 bph. Derived from the FL cal. 251 which was first introduced in 1962, the cal. 259 featured some technical improvements and also added a date function.

What makes this calibre interesting and gives it its “Twin Power” moniker is that is has not one but two mainspring barrels. While two mainspring barrels isn’t that unusual these days, they are often placed in serial to significantly increase the power reserve of a manually wound watch. The Nomos Lambda is one such example that comes to mind, a manually wound watch with a power reserve of 84hrs (3.5 days).

What made the Favre-Leuba calibre unique in 1962 was that it placed the mainspring barrels in parallel, meaning that both barrels were wound simultaneously and both provided power to the centre wheel. With the winding bridge removed you can see that both barrels transfer their power to the centre wheel via an intermediate wheel mounted on the mainplate.

The benefit of this method is that drive is balanced between the two barrels, ironing out any power fluctuations which results in a more constant power delivery through to the escapement and a more stable rate.

A secondary benefit is that as each mainspring only needs to deliver half of the power required it is much thinner and can therefore be longer, resulting in a power reserve of 50hrs which was more than most watches were offering in the early 1960’s.

Here is a picture of the two barrels and springs when disassembled. Interestingly, the design of the barrel unifies the barrel arbor and ratchet wheel into one part so both parts reside underneath the winding bridge resulting in a thinner calibre (3.1mm) and an uncluttered aesthetic.

As the barrel design has no cover, additional care must be taken when greasing the mainsprings on these calibres as any excess could creep out and contaminate the rest of the movement.

The underside of the winding bridge has the click spring and three intermediate winding wheels mounted onto it to allow both barrels to be wound from the crown simultaneously.

Though the watch was in decent cosmetic condition on arrival it was a poor runner and had a problem with the date function. When looking over the movement I spotted that there were some marks on the train bridge and under the microscope this is what I found…

A service mark from February 1991. You often see service marks scratched into the caseback which is bad enough but why any watchmaker would do that directly onto a bridge I’ve got no idea…. if this was horological X-Factor it would get three “No’s” from three me’s!

The date issue was resolved with a new jumper spring and rest of the service was straight forward, so with the dial, hands and case cleaned and the crystal polished, the watch could be rebuilt.

Although not specifically branded in this case these watches can often be found with Twin Power engraved onto the movement and/or printed on the lower half of the dial. Twin power movements can often be found in Favre-Leuba’s Sea King and Sea Chief models too.

However, care must be taken when buying any of these models as they were made in significant numbers and now seem to be popular with sellers in India or SE Asia who reprint the dials (often in lurid colours) in an attempt to freshen up what are in truth tired examples. Sadly this practice has somewhat tarnished the reputation of the brand, but with care all original examples can still be found.

… and finally, since the rebirth of Favre-Leuba in 2006, an updated version of the Twin Power calibre has been developed, the cal. FL-401 which debuted in 2009. I use the term “updated” loosely in this case as the only thing it shares with the original is the parallel twin barrel concept. The new calibre runs at 36,000bph and has a power reserve of 8 days (192 hrs) which is quite an upgrade on the original.


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

Favre-Leuba Deep Blue (FL Cal. 1165)…

Another vintage diver on the blog, this time a ‘Deep Blue’ from Favre-Leuba.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Favre-Leuba created the ‘Deep Blue’ range of diver’s watches during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a rich seam for “visually striking” watches. Just like this Breitling Chrono-Matic from the same period, some of the models in Favre-Leuba’s Deep Blue range were certainly eye-catching, and though the subject of this post is one of the more sober models, get ready with your sun glasses as here are a few of the others…

The watch arrived in decent condition, though the stem was broken and the inner bezel (operated by the upper crown) wouldn’t turn. Opening the caseback revealed a Favre-Leuba cal. 1165 in very good condition.

The calibre FL1165 is the date only version of the FL1164 which I wrote about in this post concerning a Sea Raider model from the same period. Both of these calibres were based on the A.Schild Cal. 1687, the escapement being modified to make it “high-beat” (running at 36,000 bph rather than the standard 21,600 bph), and an automatic winding mechanism was also added – the product of a joint development between Zodiac, Doxa, Girard-Perregaux, Eberhard and Favre-Leuba.

Removing the bezel ring and crystal from the watch quickly revealed the source of the problem with the inner bezel – our old friend, emulsified gasket… always an unwelcome visitor!

The melted gasket was literally sticking the inner bezel to the crystal, and had to be very carefully removed to avoid it smearing all over the white inner bezel. I couldn’t risk using any kind of solvent for fear of damaging the print on the inner bezel, so it had to be wiped off a little at a time.

The other problem was that the stem was broken. It had broken off flush with the threads of the crown and there was nothing to grip to try and remove the old stem, so I had no alternative but to fit a new crown and stem. I couldn’t source a Favre-Leuba marked crown, so a generic screwdown crown of the same size and style had to be used instead.

With the movement serviced and the problems resolved, the case was cleaned and a new crystal gasket fitted before the watch was rebuilt. Here is the result.


** Many thanks to Kevin van der Zouwen of the watch collectors trade and information site Some Time Ago for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Favre-Leuba Sea Raider 36000 (FL Cal. 1164)…

Last summer I wrote a post about a Longines Ultra-Chron watch which had a high beat calibre (here if you missed it). Here is another high beat model from a different manufacturer, a Sea Raider 36000 from Favre-Leuba…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Although it arrived in reasonable cosmetic condition, it would tick for a few seconds which was encouraging, but wouldn’t run for long.

The calibre in this watch is Favre-Leuba’s own FL1164. As I mentioned in the Ultra-Chron post, high beat calibres were only made by a handful of manufacturers, Favre-Leuba being one of them releasing the cal. FL1164 in 1970.

In terms of general servicing there is little difference between this and any other automatic calibre, the only variation being a different grease used on the pallet stones, Moebius 9415 in place of 941 to cope with the higher rate. There was nothing wrong with the movement this time, just a lack of servicing, so with a clean and oil it was looking good again…

One interesting feature of this calibre is the fine adjustment mechanism on the escapement…

Called a “Triovis” system, it consists of a tangential micro screw which acts on teeth the regulator index. The components are made to very tight tolerances and allows very precise regulation, giving a maximum adjustment of +/- 3.5 minutes from the centre point.

With the movement up and running again, here’s the completed watch after a cosmetic tidy up and fitting a new bracelet…

Favre-Leuba have one of the longest histories in watchmaking, being first established in 1737. Although not one of the most widely recognised brands, the company brought a few interesting technical innovations to the market in the 1950’s and 60’s, namely their “Twin Power” movements which were the first to have two mainspring barrels, the “Bivouac” with a built in altimeter, and this Bathy diver which featured a built in depth meter…

Like many others, the company suffered financial difficulties management issues and the name eventually disappeared. However, the brand was relaunched in 2006 with a range of new models, including a re-issue of the Bathy diver.

More interesting, well to an ‘engines man’ like me anyway, is that they are about to release an all new manually wound high beat calibre, the cal. FL-401, which also features two mainspring barrels to give a running time of 8 days.

They are also releasing a new limited edition high beat automatic model later this year, not based not on the FL1164 from the Sea Raider, but on the A. Schild cal. 1962. It’s a fine looking watch…

For more information on the “all new” Favre-Leuba, check out their website here.