Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Tissot’

Tissot Seastar Chronograph (Lemania Cal. 1281)…

Another great vintage chronograph on the blog, this time from Tissot.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

During the late 1960’s and 1970’s Tissot produced many attractive chronographs in the Seastar and Seastar Navigator ranges. The watch in this post is from the Seastar range, and is one of the more complicated models featuring a 12 hour chronograph.

Here’s an advertisement from 1969 showing the gold plated version of the watch, along with other watches from the same series – note that prices started at just $39.95, which sounds like a bargain, even for 1969.

Opening the caseback it was immediately obvious that the movement hadn’t been serviced for a long time, the caseback gasket was missing, and dirt had found its way into the case, and distributed itself around the movement.

The movement in this watch is the Lemania cal. 1281, produced at a time when movements and casing parts were being shared between Omega, Tissot and Lemania. Although the movements were all produced by Lemania, they were re-branded for Omega and Tissot watches, in this case the movement was re-branded as the Tissot cal. 871.

The cal. 1281 was developed further to become the Lemania cal. 1873, a calibre which was subsequently used in many popular vintage chronographs, one of the most well known being Omega’s ‘Moon Watch’, the Speedmaster Professional. The movement was re-branded as the Omega cal. 861, but the lineage back to the 1281 is clearly apparent if you compare the two calibres.

A few years ago, I wrote about another watch in the advertisement above, the model with a single chronograph subregister, powered by the Lemania cal. 1277 (see that post here). As the watch in this post has the additional hour register, let’s have a look at the extra components, all of which are located under the dial.

Towards the bottom of the picture is the hour recording runner which, like in many chronograph designs, is powered directly from the mainspring barrel when engaged.

When the start/stop pusher is pressed to start the chronograph, the actuating lever raises the chronograph brake from the hour recording runner and it starts to rotate along with the mainspring barrel. When the chronograph is stopped, the brake is re-applied, and the runner is held in its current position.

When the reset button is pressed, the reset hammer moves across, raising the brake temporarily from the hour recording runner and the reset hammer moves all the way across, contacting the chronograph heart on the underside of the runner, resetting it to zero.

With the movement serviced it was on to the cosmetic work, of which there wasn’t too much to do this time.  The luminous filling in the hands had deteriorated, and needed to be replaced, but little else, so here’s the watch after a clean for the case, and a crystal polish.

Having mentioned the Omega Speedmaster Professional above, here’s a picture of the two watches together, which again highlights the diminutive proportions of the Tissot – the size of the movement in both watches is exactly the same, 27mm.

At 41mm, the Omega is seen as a ‘regular’ sized watch these days, so with a case size of just 34mm excluding the crown, the Tissot is what you might call ‘a little cracker’. 🙂


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


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.

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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. **

Tissot Seastar Chronograph (Lemania Cal. 1277)…

Another vintage Tissot chronograph, this time a Seastar model from the late 1960’s.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

This watch arrived in running condition, but had problems with the chronograph mechanism. It would stop as soon as the minute register started to advance, suggesting a problem with the depthing of the wheels in the chronograph mechanism.

The movement in this watch is quite interesting as it is one of the rarer Lemania calibres, the cal. 1277.

What makes it interesting is that it was only produced in 1969 and was used almost exclusively in a handful of Tissot chronograph models from that year. After 1969, the cal. 1277 was modified slightly and renamed as the Tissot cal. 872.

My initial suspicions about the chronograph problem proved to be unfounded as disassembling the watch revealed that it had been seriously over-oiled in the past.

This had obviously been done many years ago as the oil had thickened to a paste and the problem with the minute register was immediately apparent. The chronograph heart was literally stuck to the underside of the bridge with old oil.

After a thorough cleaning the movement was back up and running again and after polishing the crystal and cleaning the case, here is the result.

Though the pictures don’t really show it, at 36mm wide (including crown), this watch is quite small for a chronograph. Here is a picture of it with a couple of its stablemates from the same era to give you an idea of its size.


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

Tissot Seastar Electronic (ESA Cal. 9154)…

To quote Monty Python…. “And now for something completely different”. A Tissot Seastar Electronic.

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From the front there is little to distinguish this Tissot Seastar from many of its 1970’s stablemates. The word ‘Electronic’ on the dial is a clue that there is something different going on here, and opening the caseback reveals an electronic or transistorised calibre, the ESA cal. 9154 Dynotron.

Transistorised watches form an interesting chapter in wristwatch history. They were first introduced between the true electric watches of the 1950’s, such as the Hamilton 500, and the earliest quartz watches which appeared on the market in 1967.

They can be thought of as hybrid calibres in that they have a balance, hairspring and regulator just like a mechanical calibre, but the mainspring is replaced by a battery and an electronic module. The obvious advantage is that being battery powered they never need to be wound, but also the power from the battery remains constant unlike the torque from a mainspring which varies depending on the state of wind.

To say that the watch has a traditional balance assembly isn’t exactly true, here is a picture of the balance suspended on a balance tack.

The balance wheel consists of two discs which pass above and below the induction coil on the electronic module as the balance rotates. On each disc are two magnets which are used to convert the electric charge from the induction coil into electromagnetic energy. You can see the magnets on the lower disc in the picture above, the upper disc has two identical magnets on the underside.

To compensate for the weight of these four magnets, the lower disk also has a counterweight (see inset). As the balance wheel has to be poised to minimise positional errors, just like a traditional balance wheel, several holes are drilled into the counterweight to achieve this.

At the heart of the calibre is the electronic module, which consists of a stop contact, a transistor, two capacitors, a resistor, and two induction coils. Although it looks like a single induction coil it is actually two coils wound together, one is connected to the base contact of the transistor and the second to the emitter.

Here is how it works. The key to the circuit is the transistor which acts as a switch. As the first pair of magnets on the balance wheel pass over the induction coils and a positive current is induced in the coil connected to the base of the transistor. This current effectively ‘opens’ the transistor and allows a larger flow oc current from the capacitor/battery through the transistor and down through the second induction coil.

While this is happening the balance rotates further and the second pair of magnets are over the coils just as the second coil is charged which repels the magnets, giving an electromagnetic push to the balance wheel. When the balance returns in the opposite direction, the first pair of magnets induce a negative current in the coil which ‘closes’ the transistor, cutting the power from the battery.

The system is undoubtedly ingenious and it is a shame that this invention, along with many others, was effectively “kicked into the long grass” with the introduction of quartz watches. You still see a few of these watches around, but they aren’t really that collectible due to the lack of available spare parts and difficulty of repair.

I bought the Tissot in a non-running state which was a bit of a gamble, but I did have another watch with the same calibre which I could use as a donor, so I was confident that I would be able to make one good watch out of the two.

The original hands were pretty tired so I found some suitable replacements, and after cleaning the case, fitting a new crystal and battery, the restoration was complete.


Tissot Navigator (Lemania Cal. 1341)…

Another Tissot on the blog, and another chronograph, this time a Navigator from the 1970’s…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

During the late 1960’s and 70’s, Tissot had a range of chronograph models with the titles Seastar or Navigator (or both) featuring a variety of calibres, some hand wound (Lemania 873, Valjoux 7733/4) and some automatic (Lemania cal. 134x, cal. 5012).

The movement in this watch is a Lemania cal. 1341, an automatic, three register, cam lever chronograph. What makes this calibre interesting, both technically and visually, is that the minute register for the chronograph is not presented in a subdial, but as a separate minute hand that sweeps around the dial. The subdials in this calibre are an hour recorder at six, and running seconds at nine ‘o clock.

The cal. 1341 is a simplified version of the cal. 1340 which was first introduced in 1972. The main difference between the two is that the cal. 1341 has 17 rather than 22 jewels, and has no facility for adding a 24 hr function. The 1340/1 calibres are often linked with the Omega calibres 1040/1 and for good reason as they are almost the same, apart from a few technical improvements and an Omega rather than a Lemania branding.

In the 1930’s Tissot, Omega and Lemania formed a working group called La Societe Suisse pour l’industrie Horlogere (SSIH) which was the predecessor of Swatch Group of today. Therefore,  it is not a really surprising to see Lemania based calibres appearing in the watches of all three brands.

Removing the winding rotor from the movement reveals the heart of the cam lever mechanism…

Power for the mechanism is provided by the driving and coupling wheels, just like a traditional chronograph calibre. When starting and stopping the chronograph the position of the cam controls the raising and lowering of the coupling wheel onto the centre second wheel. When resetting, the coupling wheel is disengaged from the centre second wheel and the reset hammer moves across to return the centre second wheel back to the zero position. Also attached to the cam is the coupling yoke which provides the link to the hour and minute registers on the dial side of the movement.

Turning the movement over and removing the calendar plate and mechanism bridge, you can see that the rest of the chronograph functions…

In the picture above the mechanism is in”stopped” condition. You can see that the minute recorder clamps are in contact with the minute recording wheel holding it in position, and the hour recorder stop lever is arresting the hour recording wheel.

When the chronograph is started, the hour recorder stop lever pivots around it’s securing screw pulling back the valet which prises the minute recorder clamps open. The minute recording wheel then turns along with the cannon pinion on which it sits. The hour recording wheel is also released and turns along with the mainspring barrel.

As the watch was already in good cosmetic condition, it needed no more than a service to ensure it was as good inside as outside. Here it is all back together again.


Tissot Visodate (Tissot Cal. 782-1)…

Another Tissot Visodate, this one slightly younger than the last one, dating to the late 60’s or early 70’s and rather than an automatic movement, this one was fitted with a manually wound cal. 782-1…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The problem with this watch was pretty easy to figure out as it would wind a little and then you would hear a ‘buzzzzzzz’ from inside and the watch would stop… all the hallmarks of a broken mainspring. In hand wound watches the spring is hooked onto the inside of the barrel wall and if too much force is applied to the crown when fully wound, the spring can break.

To prevent this from happening it’s advisable to stop winding a manually wound watch as soon as you start to feel resistance, rather than winding it until it won’t wind any more.

With a new mainspring fitted, the rest of the movement was brought up to scratch with a clean and oil…

One other area letting this watch down was the hands which had been badly treated in the past and were so bent out of shape that they had been rubbing together. At some time in the past I bought a batch of vintage Tissot hands which as luck would have it were exactly the right size and length. Though they were a different shape, they suited the watch nicely.

After sorting out the hands, all that was left to do was fit a new crystal. Although it’s not a visually exciting model, the watch has a great caseback and still has it’s original crown and bracelet which is always a bonus…


Tissot Visodate (Tissot Cal. 28.5R-621)…

Arriving in a scruffy state, this 1950’s Tissot Visodate looked like it had potential under the scuffed up crystal…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Inside this watch is one of Tissot’s earliest automatic calibres, the 17 jewel Cal. 28.5R-621. Though not running the movement was in pretty good condition, but some of the screwheads needed extra attention as they were tarnished…

Polishing screwheads by hand is a tricky business as it’s almost impossible to keep the edges sharp. The best way to do it is to use a screwhead polishing frog…

Don’t ask me why they call it a ‘frog’, but here’s how it works. The screw is clamped into the underside of the frog and the two knurled screws at the opposite end are raised or lowered accordingly to ensure that the screwhead is perfectly flat for polishing.

Depending on how bad the head is, the polishing starts with emery paper and then moves through finer grades of polishing paper to restore a mirror finish. Here’s a before and after shot…

With the screwheads polished, the rest of the movement just needed a clean and oil to bring it back to life, so with a new crystal and a good clean for the case, the job was complete.