Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Valjoux’

Zodiac Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 72C/723)…

Another Zodiac on the blog, this time a triple date chronograph.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Dating to sometime in the late 1960’s this Zodiac would have been near the top end of their model range. The watch arrived in running condition and things looked promising on opening the caseback, as the movement was relatively clean, and had no sign of corrosion or mishandling.

Although the calibre in this watch is labelled as a Zodiac Cal. 83, it is in fact a Valjoux 72C.  This calibre is known as a “triple date chronograph” as in addition to the 12 hour chronograph mechanism found in the Valjoux 72 on which this calibre is based, it also displays the date, day, and month on the dial.

This calibre was in production from 1946 until 1974, and was used in the watches of both large and small manufacturers in that time. Here are few more examples.

I’ve already covered most of the Valjoux chronograph calibres on the blog, but as this is the first 72C on blog, let’s have a closer look. This first picture shows the movement after the dial and hands have been removed.

While the day and month wheels are immediately recognisable, less so is the hour register at the bottom of the picture (or hour recording runner to give it it’s official name), which is powered directly from the mainspring barrel via a driving wheel when the chronograph is engaged. Also highlighted is the hammer mechanism which moves the hour register back to 12 when the reset pusher is pressed, and the date corrector which manually advances the date when the lower corrector on the left hand side of the watch case is pressed.

With the day and month wheels removed, you can see the components underneath.

The day and date driving wheels are powered by the hour wheel which sits underneath the date wheel, and their position is critical. If you look at them closely, you will see that both wheels have a pin protruding from them which advance the day and date forward as midnight approaches. If the wheels aren’t aligned correctly during re-assembly, the day and date won’t advance together.

The day, date and month jumpers with their associated springs are used to hold the wheels in place, and also provide the ‘flick’ of the registers when advanced.

You will notice that the month is not automatically advanced on this calibre. Given the differing number of days in the months, a fully automated calendar mechanism, or ‘perpetual calendar’, is definitely in high-end complication territory. In this calibre the month must be advanced manually using the upper corrector on the left hand side of the case.

The same corrector is used to manually advance both the day and month; pressing the corrector half way down advances the day, and pressing it fully in advances the month.

Cosmetically the watch was in decent condition, though the lume had fallen out of the hands, and blue paint was missing from the crescent on the date hand. After these minor problems had been sorted out, and the movement fully serviced, the case was cleaned and the crystal polished before reassembly. It does show some signs of age on close inspection, but overall it’s still a fine looking timepiece.


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

Heuer Temporada (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…

Still in the possession of the original owner who bought the watch in the early 1970’s, it’s safe to say that this Heuer Temporada had seen some action.

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First introduced in 1972, the Temporada (meaning ‘Season’ in Spanish) was a departure from the rest of the chronograph range as it was the only Heuer branded model to be housed a one-piece fibreglass case.

One advantage of using a fibreglass case is the watch is incredibly light, you hardly know it’s on your wrist – some people like that, while others prefer to feel the reassurance of a solid steel case – Camy Airport anyone?

Whether the fibreglass case was something of an experiment for Heuer, or it just proved unpopular I can’t say, but the model was discontinued in 1975 after a production run of just 3 years.

Here is a early catalogue shot showing the Temporada which also states that a second model was available with a gold plated bezel and a champagne dial. The watch was also available with red rather than grey subdials.

Source: OnTheDash (www.onthedash.com)

Like all one-piece case designs, to gain access to the movement, the outer bezel has to be removed, the split stem separated, and the glass removed before the watch can be lifted out of the case.

With the watch disassembled, the obvious thing would have been to replace the tired bezel, but despite exploring various avenues, I didn’t manage to track one down. For a watch that was produced for only 3 years, and 40 years ago, that wasn’t really a surprise, so the only option was to send the bezel off for re-plating. More on that later.

Once out of the case, the dial was still in decent condition, but the hands had seen better days. The paint on the chronograph hands had deteriorated and flaked off at the slightest touch, and the tips of the main hands had faded and would need repainting.

Things looked better for the movement, a Heuer branded Valjoux cal. 7733 which was still in great condition, and just needed a service to put things right.

When the bezel came back from re-plating, the results were mixed. The plating was flawless, which was good, but much of the original stepped profile had been removed as part of the process, probably when the remainder of the old plate was removed.

Rather than lose the effect altogether, I masked off what was left of the step and gave it a brushed finish. The brushing was only light as I didn’t want to go through the plate again on the upper lip. It’s not perfect, but it does go some way to restoring the original look.

With the worn pusher replaced and the hands re-painted, polishing the crystal was the last job before final assembly.


** Many thanks to John Hewitt for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Eterna Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 726)…

Another top quality vintage chronograph on the blog, this time from Eterna.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The movement inside this watch is a Valjoux Calibre 726 which is derived from one of Valjoux’s most recognised and respected calibres, the Calibre 72.

Changes were made the original Calibre 72 in 1974 to upgrade the escapement, namely decreasing the size of the balance and raising the beat rate from 18,000 to 21,600 bph. The higher beat rate increases accuracy, as a smaller, faster moving balance wheel is less affected by changes of position or knocks. Comparing the two movements you can see that the balance wheel is considerably smaller on the 726.

Although running on arrival, the watch was gaining around 5 minutes per hour, which immediately pointed to potential escapement problems.

With the caseback removed, the cause was immediately obvious. The whole movement was covered in a film of oil which had eventually found its way onto the hairspring, sticking two of the coils together. This drastically reduces the amplitude and causes a significant time gain.

Having spotted that problem I thought that it would be plain sailing from here on in… but no. On rebuilding the watch after cleaning, the wheel train was not running freely and had a noticeable tight spot. Further investigation revealed that the mainspring barrel had been damaged at some time in the past and was no longer running true – the teeth were visibly rising and falling as it rotated.

Rather than replacing the mainspring barrel when it was damaged, the previous watchmaker had tried to ‘work around’ the problem by bending the mainplate in several places to give the barrel more room – a big mistake!

As you can see in the picture below, the chronograph hour register and its reset hammer are located on the dial side of the movement opposite the barrel, so consequently, bending the mainplate had an effect on these parts too.

The tolerances for these parts is minimal even with a perfect mainplate, so it was no surprise that the reset hammer was dragging on the mainplate and the hour register was also binding. Not good.

After ordering a new mainspring barrel and mainspring, the required ‘adjustments’ could be made to the mainplate. Obviously, with the parts all in place it isn’t possible to make the required tweaks, so the watch had to be disassembled each time, making it a time consuming operation.

My patience paid off and the problems were resolved eventually, so with everything working again I could complete the rest of the rebuild.

From a cosmetic point of the view the watch was in pretty good shape, but the lume had deteriorated over the years. The dial also had a thin film of oil over it and several marks in the subdials. With careful cleaning and a relume things were much improved, but I couldn’t do anything about the scratches in the hour subdial.

The hands were relumed too and the case cleaned before reassembly. Quite a bit of effort to get this one back in order, but well worth it I’m sure you’ll agree.


** Many thanks to Simon Fox for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Roamer Stingray Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

Another vintage Roamer on the blog, this time a chronograph from the Stingray range.

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The Stingray has been a stalwart model in the Roamer line up, first introduced in 1967, the name is still in use today. Many brands associate a model name with a certain style of watch, but that wasn’t the case with the Stingray. A quick search will unearth a wide range of vintage models; dress watches, divers watches and chronographs.

The chronograph in this post was something of a technical high point in the range, and consequently is one of the most desirable/collectable vintage Roamers these days.

On the back of the watch is the distinctive logo found on the majority of Stingray models.

A few posts ago I wrote about another Roamer, a Mustang Indianapolis in which I described Roamer’s patented waterproof case (see that post here). As the watch in this post has the same style of case, I’ll describe it’s construction with the aid of a few pictures taken during disassembly.

In this first picture, you can see that the case top has been separated from the main body of the watch.

As the pressure from the case top around the crystal forms the waterproof seal on these watches, the fit has to be tight; then add in decades of grime and separating the two parts can be tricky.

There is a big temptation to support the case top from below and press on the centre of the crystal to force the sections apart – don’t do this! There is a good chance that the crystal will crack. If you don’t have the Roamer press made for the job, the best way to remove the case top is to use a case knife on the underside and work it into the gap between the two sections all the way around until they can finally be prised apart.

With the case top removed, the main body of the watch is now effectively a one piece case, and the split stem has to be separated to remove the watch from the case.

If you look closely at the picture above you can see that the crystal sits over a lip on the main body, acting as a lid. A thin blade or case knife can be used to lever the crystal up, and the watch can then be removed from the case.

With the watch out of the case and the dial and hands removed, the calibre inside is revealed, a Valjoux cal. 72.

As you can see the movement is in good clean condition and needed no more than a service to bring it back into line.

Cosmetically there were a few issues to address. As you may have noticed in the earlier pictures, the minute hand had a hole in the lume and the paint on the chronograph sweep hand was damaged. With these faults rectified, the only things left to do were re-brush the case top, and polish the crystal before re-assembling the watch.

While researching this post I came across a Swedish advert showing Björn Waldegård – two time winner of the famous Monte Carlo Rally (1969 & 1970) wearing a Stingray chronograph. I wonder if he was wearing one during the races?


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

Girard-Perregaux Olimpico (Valjoux Cal. 726)…

Here’s a great looking chronograph well worthy of some TLC, a Girard-Perregaux Olimpico.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Girard-Perregeaux introduced the Olimpico range to commemorate the Olympic games (Olimpico means Olympics in Spanish/Italian), adding new models to the range every 4 years. Based on the case style and the calibre inside, I would date the watch in this post to either 1972 or 1976.

Exactly when the first Olimpico model appeared is open to speculation, but judging by the style of the early models in this Olimpico group shot, I would guess some time in the late 1950’s?

The majority of the vintage models were built around Valjoux calibres, with the exception of the 1968 offerings which were powered by an Excelsior Park Cal. 40. Here’s one of them;

Curiously there were no models created for the 1980 and ’84 Olympics, but the model was back in the line-up for the 1988, powered by the ubiquitous Valjoux Cal. 7750. Subsequent models were added for the 1992 and ’96 Olympics, the latter being one of the Laureato chronographs, and the first to feature an in-house calibre, the cal. 3170.

Unfortunately, the 1996 model marked the end of the line for the Olimpico range, as the International Olympic Committee took a dim view of any unlicenced use of the term ‘Olympic’ …and no doubt demanded a hefty fee for any further use.

The watch in this post arrived in running condition, but the second and 12 hour registers on the chronograph weren’t resetting properly. I was hopeful that a movement service would fix the problems.

Opening the caseback revealed a Valjoux Cal. 726 in excellent condition, and sure enough, after a service, the movement was back up and running with all the chronograph functions working properly again.

Before re-assembly, the case was cleaned, the top of the case re-brushed, and the crystal polished to finish the job.

You can read more about Girard-Perregaux, and see their current models here.


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

Le Marc Chronomaster (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…

Though the brand is probably unfamiliar, regular readers may well recognise the model name and look of this watch.

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The watch is unmistakably a Nivada / Croton Chronomaster which has been re-branded (see here for an example). Looking at the dial print it is obvious that the model name and minute track were printed together, and a space was left for the brand – you can clearly see from the quality and clarity of the print that the “Le Marc 100” has been added later.

Aside from a few references to dress watches, and some dubious links to replica watches, there is very little to be found about Le Marc online. If anyone has any more information about Le Marc I’d be interested to hear from you.

It’s pure speculation on my part, but did Nivada/Croton agree to produce a number of watches for other brands when they were struggling financially in the 1970’s? It seems that Le Marc weren’t the only company involved as here is another example, this time a ‘Sussex’, another brand with no notable history.

The watch in this post arrived in running condition, but the chronograph wasn’t working at all. On opening the watch (and revealing a Croton branded Valjoux cal. 7733), the problem was immediately obvious, the screws for the operating and reset levers were both broken.

A similar thing had happened to a Breitling chronograph that I worked on recently (see here), and I can only assume that the buttons had been pressed so hard by the previous owner that the screw heads broke off…. yikes!

Thankfully, the fix is pretty straight forward once the watch has been disassembled. The broken shafts of the screws are removed using a broken screw extractor. I explained how that tool works in this post for anyone who is interested.

The watch also had a couple of other issues,  the lume in the hands had cracked and needed to be renewed, and the bezel was stuck. In most cases friction bezels are held in place by a thin wire underneath which clips over a lip on the top edge of the case. The wire has two main functions, it stops the bezel popping off, and it provides some tension to stop the bezel from turning too freely.

The only way to adjust the fit and function of the bezel is to bend the wire, which often involves a lot of trial and error. Too much adjustment and the bezel no longer snaps into place, or it fits, but is too tight (or loose). It can be time consuming to get it just right.

With all the problems ironed out and the movement serviced, the case was cleaned and the crystal polished to finish the job. The alignment of the ’30’ figure on the bezel is also curious on this watch, I’ve never seen that before.


** Many thanks to Richard Visser for letting me feature is his watch on the blog. **

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.


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

Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster (Valjoux Cal. 23)….

Arriving in a sorry looking state, this Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster certainly needed a bit of TLC.

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The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster is one of my favourite watches and I’ve written a couple of posts about them in the past, this one containing information about the company and the various Chronomaster models. I won’t miss another chance to include a link to this excellent post on the website Inventit Et Fecit too, which gives a comprehensive history on the model.

The movement inside the watch this time was one of the best found in Chronomasters, a Valjoux cal. 23. The movement was in good cosmetic shape and needed little more than a service.

Obviously the watch was missing some parts, namely the crown and stem and the main hands. These parts would have been hard to find, particularly the correct hands, but thankfully they were included in a zip-loc bag along with the watch. The hands were in poor shape though and needed to be completely repainted and re-lumed.

Here is the watch after the service and cosmetic work, and fitting a new crystal.

While this watch was in for repair, I also had two other Nivada chronographs to service, which gave me a rare chance to take this group shot.

The watch at the top of the picture is a Nivada Chronoking, which is rarer than the Chronomaster. Very similar in style and still powered by a Valjoux cal. 23, but in a slightly larger case.

The watch on the bottom left is one of the first models from the early 1960’s, distinguishable by its broad-arrow style hands. This watch is powered by a Valjoux cal. 92.

An interesting trio.


** Many thanks to Steve Gillman for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **