Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Valjoux’

Aero Neuchatel Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…

Another vintage chronograph and new brand on the blog, an Aero Neuchatel.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The brand name ‘Aero Neuchatel’ is owned by the company Aerowatch S.A. and was first registered in 1973. With the introduction of quartz watches in the early 1970’s, I can only speculate that Aerowatch S.A. set up this sub-brand to focus solely on contemporary wristwatches given that the parent company had built a reputation for creating more classical timepieces.

Aerowatch S.A. has been in existence since 1910 and has produced mainly high quality pocket watches for sale in international markets. The company was owned and run by the Crevoisier family before being sold to the Denis Bolzli in 2001. The change of ownership proved to be something of a new beginning for the brand and by 2005 a new range of wristwatches had been developed, drawing heavily on the classical styling of previous Aerowatch timepieces.

Production was moved from Neuchatel to Signelegier in 2008 and since then the company has continued to create mainly mechanical watches in the classical style. Here is an example from their current collection.

You can see the rest of their current range on the website: www.aerowatch.com.

The watch in this post arrived running but the chronograph wouldn’t start, stop or reset so something was obviously amiss.

Opening the watch revealed a Valjoux cal. 7733 in decent order but the caseback gasket had turned to mush and the two chronograph operating levers were both loose on the movement – Sherlock Holmes wasn’t needed this time to help figure out why the chronograph wasn’t working anyway!

The previous owner must have really forced the pushers as the heads of both retaining screws had been broken off and were rattling around inside the case, one is highlighted in the picture above and the second was trapped deeper inside the movement.

Once out of the case, I noticed that the entire movement and the inside of the case were covered in a film of oil. Close inspection of the dial and hands revealed that they too were covered in oil. Not good.

After prolonged exposure it’s possible that the dial print or paint could lift from the dial during cleaning, but on this occasion I had no choice but to ‘bite the bullet’ and remove the oil as the coverage was too heavy to leave it as it was.

Here is a picture of the dial half way through cleaning – you can see the difference between the original matt finish on the left and the oil covered shine on the right.

The case was stripped down and cleaned too, and all traces of the oil were also removed from the hands and the inside of the crystal.

Once the movement had been fully disassembled, the cause of the oil slick was pretty obvious…

I can only assume that oil must have been “pumped” into the barrel the last time the watch was serviced as it was still half full even though a good percentage of it had already seeped out.

With the movement serviced, the operating lever screws replaced and everything cleaned up, the watch could be rebuilt. The last thing to do was to fit a new caseback gasket and the job was complete.

Regular readers may have noticed that the watch bears a resemblance to another vintage chronograph which I’ve written about several times on the blog, the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster (an example here).

Side by side, while almost identical in terms of case size, the Aero has a larger diameter dial and slimmer bezel which makes it wear larger on the wrist.

They are both great chronographs and well worth adding to your collection if you get the chance.


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

Sinn 103 Flieger (Valjoux Cal. 7750)…

An iconic pilot’s chronograph on the blog this time, a Sinn 103 Flieger. Although this is the first Sinn to feature on the blog, I’m sure the name will be recognised by many watch enthusiasts.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The company ‘Helmut Sinn Spezialuhren’ was founded in Frankfurt in 1961 by flight instructor and pilot Helmut Sinn. Specialising in navigation cockpit clocks and pilot chronographs, the timepieces were manufactured in Switzerland and were offered to customers directly rather than via a dealer network which saved on costs, resulting in a lower retail price. The business model worked well and the company grew steadily over subsequent decades.

In 1994 Helmut Sinn (then aged 78) sold the company to certified engineer and former IWC employee Lothar Schmidt who re-structured the entire company, expanded the model range, introduced a dealer network, and moved a lot of the manufacturing in-house. The company achieved many technological firsts based mainly around material hardening for the watch cases and magnetic resistance. Pictured below are a few of their other models; the U1, EZM4, 142, and the T1.

The 103 is a stalwart of the Sinn line-up and has been in production since the early 1980’s. Exact records detailing specific model changes weren’t kept before Lothar Schmidt took over so it’s hard to be sure, but the watch in this post is most likely one of the earlier models.

It arrived in a reasonably sorry looking state, the lume had deteriorated throughout and the watch showed signs of water ingress which is never an encouraging start. With the caseback removed, the cause of the problem was immediately apparent… the caseback gasket had a big gap in it!

Perhaps the last watchmaker didn’t have the right size in stock and cut the largest gasket he had with a “Well, it will be 15/16th’s more waterproof then with no gasket at all” idea? –  not recommended.

Even though the moisture had taken its toll on the lume, the movement was surprisingly unaffected. The only parts showing tarnish were the steel parts of the bearing race in the winding rotor which was cleaned to preserve the Sinn branded rotor, and the cannon pinion which was replaced.

The calibre in this watch is the Valjoux cal. 7750 and though I’ve serviced many, this is the first cal. 7750 powered watch that I’ve written about on the blog.

Having been in constant production since 1974 the cal. 7750 is still the automatic chronograph calibre of choice for many brands. Many manufacturers enhance and/or decorate the calibre and then give it their own model number (i.e., Breitling cal. 13, IWC cal. 79350) but the base calibre is often recognisable by the subdial layout; running seconds at 9, minute counter at 12 and hour counter at 6.

There is an alternative version of the calibre, the cal. 7753, with the subdials placed in the 3,6 and 9 positions. Despite being a more traditional layout the 7753 seems to be used much less than the 7750 for some reason, production numbers perhaps? An example of a cal. 7753 powered watch that springs to my mind is the Montblanc Timewalker Chronograph.

Ok, back on topic…. With the movement serviced it was on to the cosmetic part of the job – obviously the most pressing issue being the lume. Re-luming numerals directly onto the surface of a dial is a tricky business and best left to a lume specialist, so on this occasion the dial and hands were sent out for the work to be completed while I was servicing the movement.

When the dial and hands returned, the case was cleaned and the crystal polished, the watch was rebuilt and a new caseback gasket fitted – without the gap this time. 😉

The Sinn 103 is still in production in a range of case materials, and the full range of Sinn models can be seen on their website: http://www.sinn.de/en/


** Many thanks to David Lloyd for letting me feature his watch on the blog and to James Hyman for his excellent re-luming work. **

Le Cheminant Master Mariner (Valjoux Cal. 92)…

Here’s a great vintage chronograph and another new name on the blog, a Le Cheminant Master Mariner from the 1960’s.

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Le Cheminant (French for ‘The Wanderer’) were founded in 1822 and have been in constant production, though there is very little information to be found on the origins or early years of the company. In the late 1950’s Gordon and Iris Betts bought the Le Cheminant brand name along with a chain of jewellery shops, and from that point, Gordon – who sounded like a bit of a character – began to promote Le Cheminant wristwatches with vigour and did all he could to increase awareness of the brand.

Using his contacts in the industry in Switzerland, watches were produced under the Le Cheminant name and distributed in the UK through a number of outlets based mainly in the south, the flagship store being in Wigmore Street, London. Production continued throughout the 1960’s and 70’s under the stewardship of Mr Betts until he sold the company to Mappin & Webb in the late 1970’s, after which the story goes quiet once more.

Looking at the watches that Le Cheminant produced during this period they had no trademark style or allegiance to any particular movement manufacturer; almost as though the watches were created from any case/movement combination that was available at the time. The result is an eclectic back catalogue with some of their watches being very similar to other manufacturers – the watch in this post is almost identical to models made by Lator and Rotary. ( Here is a similar Rotary chronograph that I restored last year).

Another model that caught my eye was this diver which is almost identical to the now very collectible Heuer Monnin.

The watch in this post is from the Master Mariner range, not used as the name would suggest just for diver’s watches, but also for dress and chronograph models too. Here is an advertisement showing the watch from 1967, when it could be bought for the princely sum of £22 – for reference, the average weekly wage in 1967 was £10.

For more information about Le Cheminant and to see many more of their vintage models, check out this excellent site.

The watch in this post is still in the possession of the original owner who purchased it new in 1965 and used it as a daily wearer for almost 30 years. The watch was serviced routinely to keep it in good order, but was damaged by a watch repairer who attempted to replace the crown. Rather than send the watch elsewhere for repair, it was ‘retired’ to a drawer where it remained for the next 19 years.

The owner contacted me earlier this year to enquire whether his watch could be repaired, and when the watch arrived I could see that there was something seriously wrong with upper pusher as it was completely loose in the case. Once removed it was obvious that the case tube for the pusher had been snapped off and the pusher screwed back into the hole – not good.

With no exposed metal to grip it proved quite difficult to extract the broken shaft from the case, the only option being to drill out the remaining metal until it was thin enough to fold out of the case threads. Once that was done, new pushers were ordered and the rest of the work could continue.

Having serviced several similar watches now, I fully expected the movement inside to be a Landeron calibre, but was pleasantly surprised to see a Valjoux cal. 92.

Although in a reasonably scruffy state, the movement needed no more than a good clean and a new mainspring to bring it back to life, so then it was on to the cosmetic issues.

One area that definitely needed to be addressed was the lume which had deteriorated throughout, especially on the dial where the lume was almost black. With the dial cleaned and all the old lume removed from the dial markings ready for re-luming, things were already looking promising as all the original dial print was still intact.

With the movement serviced and re-luming completed, the case was cleaned and buffed, a new crystal and gaskets fitted, and the bezel markings repainted. Here’s the watch all back in one piece and ready for new adventures.


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


Jardur Bezelmeter 960 (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

Vying for the title of oldest watch on the blog is this Jardur Bezelmeter chronograph from the 1940’s.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Jardur Watch Company dates back to 1937 when it was initially founded by Samuel Klepper as the Jardur Import Company. The company specialised in navigational equipment and watches mainly for military use. Their products were distributed exclusively through post exchanges and ships stores, meaning that almost all Jardur watches will have seen military action.

The Bezelmeter 960 was designed for use by pilots and had two unique features, the first being the rotating outer bezel which can be used as a countdown timer. By aligning the total expected flight time with the hour hand immediately after takeoff, the hour hand points to the number of hours remaining on the bezel as the flight progresses.

The second feature is the red degreemeter scale on the dial, which is graduated from 0 to 180 in steps of 15 degrees. Aircraft have control settings to produce a standard turn rate of 3 degrees per second, meaning that the chronograph function can be used to measure the amount of turn. For example, if the pilot wishes to turn his aircraft 75 degrees, the chronograph is started at the initial point of turning, and for each second that passes the aircraft will have turned 3 degrees. So after 25 seconds, when the sweep second hand is pointing at 75 on the degreemeter scale, the turn is complete.

The watch in this post arrived in a non-running state and in pretty poor cosmetic condition as you can see. Buying watches in this condition is always a gamble as there may be parts missing, or worse, rust. The owner was lucky this time as the Valjoux cal. 72 inside was complete and in relatively good condition, and was just needing a service to bring it back up to scratch.

Under the dial things weren’t so promising, the lume had degraded to the point where it had fallen out of the hands, and was in poor condition on the dial too. The picture below shows the dial during early cleaning with most of the old lume removed.

Thankfully the lume hadn’t burned into the dial, and the painted numbers underneath had aged in line with the rest of the dial. Being such a good match a decision was made to leave them as they were rather than re-lume them. The painted hands had aged to a perfect cream colour so they were left untouched too, with just a vintage lume filling applied. The rest of the dial was cleaned and the degreemeter scale and triangle in the minute register carefully repaired.

With the movement serviced and the case cleaned, the final task was to repaint the bezel markings and install a new crystal to finish the job.

If you like this watch then you’re in good company as Robert De Niro wore a Bezelmeter in the 1998 movie, Ronin. The story goes that he needed a watch when filming started in France, and a Bezelmeter was supplied for the movie by a Parisian watchmaker / dealer.

(Click for more movie pics)

Apparently, De Niro was so impressed with the watch during filming that he kept it as a souvenir – like many watch/movie stories this is largely unsubstantiated, but hey, I’ll believe it if you will. 😉

Studying the pictures it would appear to be the earliest Bezelmeter model, the 950, recognisable by the oval pushers and cathedral hands.

Finding a vintage Bezelmeter isn’t that easy these days, but if the style and history of the watch appeals to you then you may be interested to know that the Jardur name has recently been resurrected. A modern interpretation of the Bezelmeter (now called the Degreemeter) has been created, based on the Valjoux cal. 7750, and was produced in a limited run of just 66.

More details on the watch and its history can be found on the Jardur website – www.jardur.com.


** Many thanks to Wessel de Graaf 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.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

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.


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

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. **

Heuer Autavia 2446C (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

Kicking off 2013 is this Heuer Autavia 2446C from 1969.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The name Autavia is short for ‘Auto-Aviation’ which combined Heuer’s two main markets at the time; timing devices for motorsports, and cockpit instruments for civil and military aircraft. Released in 1962, the Autavia was the first Heuer chronograph with the model name printed on the dial. Many more were to follow, the Monaco, Carrera and Silverstone, to name just a few.

The watch in this post is the third execution of the 2446, and in many ways was a re-design, as the earlier versions had lumed rather than applied dial markers, dauphine hands, and the chronograph subdials were much larger. The case too was different, as it had much thinner lugs.

(Picture: OnTheDash)

The ‘C’ in the 2446C model number denotes that the case has a snap back or compression caseback  as opposed to the screwed back seen on many of the earlier versions. The caseback on this watch wasn’t too bad as the Autavia name and Heuer shield were still legible. It isn’t uncommon to see these watches with a caseback that has worn completely smooth – or is hideously scratched as these cases aren’t easy to open, even with the right tools.

Though the watch was in reasonable cosmetic condition, there were several issues to address. The outer bezel was in poor shape, with obvious wear to the outer edge, all the way down to the markings in places. The lume had also deteriorated significantly over the years, and would all need to be renewed.

Things inside looked much better, as the movement, a Valjoux cal. 72, was in good shape and with no obvious signs of mishandling or corrosion.

With the watch out of the case the deterioration of the lume on the hour markers and hands was clear to see. All of the old lume would need to be carefully removed before the new lume could be applied.

There was one issue with the movement as watch would only tick for a few seconds when shaken and wouldn’t wind, so there was definitely a problem with the winding mechanism which would need further investigation.

With the movement stripped for servicing, the problem was very quickly uncovered as several teeth were missing from the ratchet wheel. A new wheel was the only solution here.

Thankfully there were no other issues, so with the ratchet wheel replaced and the rest of the movement cleaned and oiled, everything was looking good, and working perfectly again.

As bezels for the 2446C are much in demand these days, I knew that finding a ‘new old stock’ bezel to replace the current one would be hard (and expensive!) The one I found was much better condition than the original, it still has some wear around the edges, but is in-keeping with the rest of the watch.

After reassembling the watch, the case was cleaned, a new crystal installed, and a new strap finished the job.


Hamilton Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7730)…

Another Hamilton on the blog, this time one of their chronographs from the late 1960’s/early 70’s.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Before 1970’s styling really kicked in and the design departs were ‘let off the leash’, chronographs from many of the major manufacturers shared the same styling cues as this Hamilton – a simple round case, an uncluttered dial, and standard round head pushers. The resulting watch being functional and stylish.

Automatic chronographs had only been introduced in 1969, so the majority of chronograph calibres were still manually wound, the calibre inside this Hamilton being no exception. Although marked ‘Hamilton 643’ on the chronograph bridge, it is actually a re-branded Valjoux cal. 7730, as can be seen under the balance wheel.

The Valjoux cal. 7730 is almost identical to Venus’ cal. 188, produced from 1948 until 1966.  Venus was bought by Valjoux in 1966, and the design for the cal. 188 was used again as the cal. 7730, with only minor changes. Production continued until 1973 by which time, a total of 175,000 units had been made.

Valjoux re-designed the 7730 in the early 1970’s, adding a number of technical improvements, the resulting calibre being the cal. 7733. Here’s a shot of the two calibres side by side with the major differences highlighted.

1. The reset hammer was re-designed and now included an eccentric screw in the centre, allowing the distance between the hammer arms to be increased or decreased, ensuring that correct contact is being made with the reset hearts.

2. A brake mechanism was added to hold the sweep second hand steady after the chronograph has been disengaged. In calibres without a brake mechanism, if the watch is subjected to a shock after stopping the chronograph, it is possible that the sweep second hand may move and the timing result will be be lost.

3. The chronograph operating lever design was changed to make it one unified part rather than two separate arms, and a joining screw.

4. The minute recording jumper spring design was changed to allow correctional adjustment back and forth using an eccentric screw.

As well as developing the 7733, Valjoux also introduced additional calibres to form a series; namely the 7734, adding a date complication, the 7736 with a 12 hour register for the chronograph, and the 7737 which added a sailing timer function. (Click the highlighted calibre numbers for examples of these watches on the blog).

Later in the production run, the design of the reset hammer was changed again. The eccentric screw was removed and replaced with a ‘rocker’ which allowed a small amount of movement and removed any need for correction/adjustment during servicing.

The 773x calibre series proved very popular and were widely used in chronographs of many brands during the 1970’s.  The total number of 773x calibres produced is thought to be around 2 million.

Ok, getting back to the Hamilton, it arrived in reasonable cosmetic condition, not running. The watch seemed to be fully wound, but showed no sign of life, which often means that either the oils have congealed, or a part is broken.

As the movement was stripped for servicing, none of the usual causes were found (i.e. a bent/broken pivot or tooth) and it was only when the mainspring barrel was opened that the problem was revealed. The ‘eye’ on the innermost coil of the mainspring had unhooked from the winding arbor, which in turn had jammed inside the mainspring barrel, stopping it dead. So, it was an easy fix this time.

With the movement serviced and back up and running, a little cosmetic work was needed. The dial showed some signs of age which couldn’t be removed, but the appearance was improved by reluming the hands and dial markers. The minor damage on the subdial hands was also repaired, and finally, the case was cleaned and the crystal polished to finish the job.


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