Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Valjoux’

V.I.P. Memosail (Valjoux Cal. 7737)…

Still in use by a regular sailor this Memosail had one taken one wave too many.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The owner first noticed condensation appearing inside the watch in May and the watch found its way to me in October. Opening the caseback I was amazed how much rust had developed in such a short amount of time.

The movement inside this watch is a Valjoux cal. 7737 which is modified version of the Valjoux cal. 7733/34. I explained the modifications to the base calibre in a previous post, interested parties can read that post here.

Close inspection of the dial also revealed that the water had got under the edges of the dial paint too.

In some cases, like the Zenith Surf that I wrote about recently, you can get lucky and only the outer parts of the movement are affected, but when the dial is damaged that is a sign that water has made its way right through the watch, and sure enough, digging further into the movement wasn’t a pretty sight.

In cases like this it would be best to order a new part, but specific parts for the cal. 7737 aren’t so easy to find these days, so the only option was to clean up and polish the chronograph heart as much as possible, and repair the pivot using a Jacot tool.

A Jacot tool is used to repair and refinish pivots in clocks and watches. It would be much too long a post to include a detailed description of how it works, but here is a picture of it.

The wheel with the damaged pivot is mounted in the tool and the bow on the left is used to spin the wheel back and forth by hand while working on the pivot with a pivot file or burnisher.

With the rust removed and the rest of the movement serviced, it was back up and running again. The last thing to do was some repair work on the dial. Without a compete repaint it will never be perfect, but the repair isn’t noticeable in daily use.

Rich.

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


Dugena Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…

There has been quite a few Valjoux powered chronographs on the blog, and here is another one, this time from Dugena.

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Dugena are a German watch company with over a 100 year history. They were originally part of the ‘Union Horlogere’, a watchmakers guild founded in Switzerland in 1900, but after merging with the company Glashütten Alpina in 1917 they traded under the name Alpina as part of the ‘Deutsche Uhrmachergenossenschaft’ (German Watchmakers Guild).

The company changed their name back to Dugena in 1942, and during the 1970’s they produced a number of good quality divers watches, one of the most interesting being this Watertrip model with a mechanical depth meter.

The company is still trading today, but like many other well respected brands from the past, the mechanical part of the range has gone and the company only produces quartz watches these days. You can visit their website here.

When disassembling this watch I discovered an unexpected problem, the crystal was cracked all around the base. Though this isn’t ordinarily a problem and is quickly solved by fitting a new crystal, on this watch it was a potential problem as the crystal has a step on the outside to hold the bezel in place.

Generally these friction bezels are pressed over a lip on the upper edge of the case and a thin wire underneath provides tension to stop them from turning unintentionally. I was prepared for a long search for a replacement crystal as this isn’t a model seen regularly, but I was lucky to find one in a relatively short time.

Mechanically the movement was in good condition but the chronograph didn’t work and would stop working as soon as the minute counter was due to advance. On closer inspection I could see that someone had moved all the eccentric screws and the meshing depths were all wrong for the chronograph wheels. Aside from making minor adjustments there should be little need to alter the position of the eccentric screws during a regular service.

After a full service for the movement and setting up the chronograph mechanism properly again it was on to the cosmetic issues. The hands and dial markers were repainted and the bezel dot was repainted and lacquered. After cleaning the case, fitting the new crystal and re-assembling, here is the result.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Menno van Rij for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Welsbro Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7736)…

Continuing to ride my ‘blurry eBay picture’ luck, I was tempted by this Welsbro chronograph.

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Though not a recognised brand name, I had restored another Welsbro chronograph in the past (see that post here), so I knew that there was a good chance that the movement inside would be of decent quality. When it arrived I wasn’t disappointed, the crystal was damaged and the case had some scratches, but the dial and hands underneath were in perfect condition.

… and the good news continued as opening the caseback revealed a nice clean Valjoux cal. 7736.

You’ll notice in the picture above that the case threads are covered in a black tar-like ‘goo’ which, believe it or not, used to be the caseback gasket. You see this quite often on vintage watches, it is caused by the sealant used on the caseback gasket. After a couple of decades the rubber seems to break down due to a chemical reaction between the two. If you’ve ever experienced this stuff you’ll know just how horrible it is, it seems to get everywhere and is impossible to remove without using solvent. Thankfully it hadn’t found its way onto the movement this time.

The Valjoux cal. 7736 is the big brother of the Valjoux 7733/4 calibres which appear quite regularly on the blog. The difference between the calibres is that the 7736 has an additional hour register which allows the timing of events up to 12hrs.

Comparing the cal. 7736 to a cal. 7734 they are visually very similar, with just an additional lever underneath the cam. Like many other chronograph calibres, the parts for the 12hr register are on the dial side of the movement.

The picture above shows the fully assembled mechanism, and highlighted is the reset hammer which moves across and sets the subdial back to zero when the reset button is pressed. The following picture shows the mechanism with the cover plate removed.

You can see that the hour recording runner is powered directly from the mainspring barrel, and also pictured is the stop lever which is lifted from the runner when the chronograph is engaged, allowing it to turn along with the mainspring barrel. When disengaged, the stop lever arrests the runner and under the gear on the mainspring barrel arbor is a friction washer so the barrel can continue to rotate unimpeded.

The watch needed little more than a service and a clean up this time, so here’s the finished product after fitting a new crystal and doing some refinishing work on the case.

Rich.


Wittnauer Chrono-Date (Valjoux Cal. 7734)…

As regular readers will know, I don’t mind taking a gamble on a ‘blurry’ eBay item now and then. I took a chance this time on a Wittnauer Professional Chrono-Date from the 1970’s.

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In the eBay listing the seller’s description was worded ‘economically’ to say the least, here it is in its entirety: “Does not run but the movement looks great.” The second picture wasn’t much better than the first but I still thought it was worth the risk.

Albert Wittnauer created the Wittnauer brand in 1880 after spotting a gap in market for an affordable Swiss watch designed specifically for US buyers. The watches were designed and produced in Geneve, and as he was already working for a watch importer, getting his watches into the US was no problem. Priced lower than Swiss competitors at that time, the brand was an instant success.

The popularity of the brand continued to grow over the following decades and when Wittnauer timepieces were fitted to the aeroplanes using during World War I it began a strong link with aviation, their timepieces being used in later historic flights such as Amelia Earhart’s solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1932, and Howard Hughes’ coast to coast speed crossing of the US in 1937.

In terms of notable wristwatches, Wittnauer released the world’s first waterproof, shockproof, anti-magnetic wristwatch, the “All-Proof”, in 1918…

… and the first Swiss made electric watch available in the US, and still a candidate for the watch with the coolest hands ever, the Electro-Chron in 1957.

Wittnauer are still producing watches but they are now owned by Bulova who took over the company in 2001. If you would like to read more about the history of the Wittnauer brand, you can do that here.

When my watch arrived I was pleased that the risk had paid off, the case, dial and hands were in great condition and the seller had been true to his word, the movement did indeed look great.

All the watch needed was a full movement service and a thorough cleaning of the case. Here’s the watch after fitting a new crystal and strap….. “Retro!”

Rich.


CWC Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7733)…

This chronograph from CWC is the first British military watch to feature on the blog.

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The brand name “CWC” stands for Cabot Watch Company, who were established in 1972 and have been providing equipment to the British military for over 30 years.

As you would imagine, a wristwatch is an important piece of equipment for any defence force and performance specifications have to be met before any timepiece is deemed fit for military use.

Every country has its own specifications (and suppliers) which have evolved as technology has advanced. The British forces have been supplied by several companies over the years, namely Lemania, Rolex, Hamilton, CWC, Jaeger Lecoultre, Tudor, Newmark, Precista, Seiko and Pulsar.

Any watch issued to a member of the armed forces is marked with a designation number and a serial number which includes the year of issue. In addition to this, equipment issued to British personnel is marked with the “Broad Arrow” symbol. As you can see, the watch is marked with the Broad Arrow symbol on both the dial and caseback in this case.

The Broad Arrow symbol is used to denote British Government property or more specifically Ordnance; weapons, ammunition, combat vehicles and equipment. The history of the symbol dates back to 1553 when Sir Thomas Gresham, the founder of the Royal Exchange, smuggled gunpowder into England in barrels marked with the symbol “(/\)”. In 1633 it became the universal marking for Ordnance when it was used on all small arms and ammunition, and the symbol has developed over the years into the Broad Arrow symbol used today.

The watch in this post arrived in a pretty sorry looking state, it did run, but the chronograph didn’t work or reset. Opening the caseback revealed a relatively clean Valjoux Cal. 7733…

As you can see the caseback gasket had deteriorated into black gunge but it had managed to keep the moisture out.  Mechanically the movement was sound with no damage or signs of  corrosion, so a regular service restored it to fully working condition.

The case needed two cycles through the ultrasonic to remove the build up of dirt and the pushers had to be taken out and relubricated, but after that, all that was left to do was install a new crystal and the job was complete.

It is still possible to find these watches on auction sites and sales forums in a variety of conditions, but you may need to open your wallet wider than you think as most military watches are extremely collectible.

It is also possible to buy a modern interpretation of this watch (fitted with a ETA cal. 7760) directly from CWC… but go for the original I say!

Rich.

** Many thanks to Lee Curtis for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster (Valjoux Cal. 23)…

This Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver from Nivada Grenchen arrived in pretty much the same condition as the last one (that post here).

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The Chronomaster was first introduced in 1963 and remained in the Nivada lineup until 1978. During that time it changed significantly both in terms of styling and the calibres used inside. The main changes being that the broad arrow hands were eventually replaced by baton style hands, and the column wheel chronograph calibres were replaced by cam-lever chronograph calibres which were significantly cheaper to produce.  (For a detailed history of the Chronomaster check out this excellent post on the website Inventit Et Fecit).

I bought this watch as a restoration project based on a few pictures and an email discussion with the seller. Overall the condition looked to be relatively good, but the calibre inside remained a mystery until the watch arrived. While there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ Chronomaster (in my opinion!), I knew based on the style of dial and hands that this watch was one of the earlier models which gave me hope that one of the better column wheel chronograph calibres would be inside.

Opening the caseback I was pleased to see a Valjoux cal. 23, still in excellent condition and with no sign of abuse or corrosion… always a bonus.

In terms of the cosmetic condition, things looked good too. The case had a few marks, but no major dents, and the bezel insert was still in decent condition which is not always the case on these watches. I’ve yet to see a Chronomaster with a perfect original bezel insert as the bezel insert sits slightly above the level of the bezel it is subject to wear, especially on the outer edge.

The dial was still in near perfect condition, the lume on the hour markers had darkened but was still intact. The lume in the hands was well past its sell by date and had deteriorated to the point of falling out.  You may have noticed in the first picture that the hand for the minute register was missing. When a hand is floating around the dial there is always a chance that the tip of an axle has been broken off, but thankfully that wasn’t the case here, the hand was just loose.

While the watch did run and the chronograph was working, looking at the condition of the oil under the microscope I could see that it had completely dried out, a sure sign that the movement hadn’t been serviced for quite some time. A full service followed and the movement was looking good again.

All that was left to do was to tidy up the cosmetic issues. The hands were relumed, the case cleaned and the crystal polished, here is the result.

To finish off this post, here is a 1960’s advertisement I found for the Chronomaster… a watch for all time.

Rich.


V.I.P. Memosail (Valjoux Cal. 7737)…

Another sailing timer on the blog, this time from the company Memosail.

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Produced throughout the 1970’s, you can still find a good number of these Memosail timers for sale on the auction sites and forums, which is a testament to their durability and popularity. They were produced in a number of case shapes and styles over the years, a selection of which you can see below.

You may have noticed that some of the dials were marked “Memosail” while others were marked “V.I.P. Memosail”. The significance of the V.I.P. I couldn’t say (apart from the obvious) as mechanically all the watches are identical, and a search on the internet didn’t uncover anything specific.

The Memosail timers are slightly different in operation than the Aquastar sailing timers which I’ve written about in the past. In the Aquastar timers the countdown is signified by a number of coloured dots on the dial which change colour as the countdown progresses. In the Memosail timers a separate disc rotates underneath the dial, counting down from 10 minutes to the start of the race, and rather than being in constant motion like the Aquastars, the disc is only advanced every 30 seconds. The centre second hand rotates constantly around the dial on both watches during the countdown as you would expect.

The Aquastar timers have just one button on the side of the case which is used to start the timer whereas the Memosail is more like a traditional chronograph and has two buttons; the upper button starts and stops the timer, and the lower button performs the reset.

The movement inside the Memosail is a Valjoux Cal. 7737 which is a modified version of the Cal. 7733/4 cam lever chronograph used in many popular chronographs during the 1970’s. While the timer function does it’s job admirably, its design is somewhat simple compared to the mechanics of the Lemania cal. 1345 used in the Aquastar timers (see this post for more details).

With the dial removed you can see the timer ring, the numbers are printed onto the outer edge of a transparent plastic ring which is mounted on a gear that slips over the hour wheel.

Underneath the timer ring you can see the large gear attached to axle of the chronograph minute runner. In a regular 7733/4 movement this axle would extend out onto the dial and the minute sub-register hand would be mounted on it. In a regular 7733/4 a running second subdial is also provided, but as the disc for the sailing timer disc covers the majority of the dial side of the movement that isn’t possible on the cal. 7737.

On the going side of the calibre all the parts are exactly the same as the cal. 7733/4 with the exception of the centre chronograph wheel. Instead of having one chronograph finger to move the register forward every minute, in the 7737 the wheel has two fingers directly opposite each other to move the register forward every 30 seconds.

There was little wrong with the watch in this post except that the timer had been set up incorrectly and didn’t reset to the 10 minute mark. The dial had lost a little of it’s gold ‘sparkle’ too over the years but unfortunately I couldn’t do anything about that. I did however relume the hands while I had it apart which freshened up the cosmetics a little.

Memosail are still produced sailing timers, but just like Aquastar, the mechanical versions of the watches are no longer produced so you’ll have to ‘make do’ with a quartz timer.  If you would like to see their latest offerings you can do that here.

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 be interested in hearing from you. You can contact him at the following email address; j.m.reichardt@planet.nl

Rich.

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


Lip Mach 2000 (Valjoux Cal. 7734)…

Designed in 1973, this Mach 2000 “Dark Master” chronograph became an iconic watch for the French company Lip.

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During the 1960’s and 70’s Lip commissioned a number of architectural, interior and graphic designers to create some of the most original wristwatches ever produced. Roger Tallon was the real stand-out from the seven designers chosen both in terms of his work for Lip and his career as a whole, during which he designed the high speed TGV train, the worlds first portable TV (the ‘Teleavia’), the 8mm camera, and the Helecoidal staircase.

Roger designed no less than 24 different models for Lip, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the Mach 2000. With it’s D-shaped asymmetric case and quirky multi-coloured pushers it quickly become a cult icon. The watch was originally fitted with a very popular 1970’s chronograph calibre, the Valjoux cal. 7734.

In operation it is just like any other Valjoux powered chronograph; the blue ball in the centre is the crown, used for winding and time-setting. The yellow ball/pusher is used to start and stop the chronograph, and the red ball/pusher is used to reset.

Finding these original versions in good condition can be quite hard these days. These watches came to me needing little more than cosmetic tidying up, but I couldn’t miss the chance to write about them on the blog, it could be a while before another one graces the bench.

In 2008 Lip reissued the Mach 2000 along with a number of other classic models from the 1970’s. As well as the original version they also released a version in silver called the “Light Master” and a version black rather than multi-coloured balls called the “Aeronef”. All the new models are fitted with quartz rather than mechanical movements (too bad!), but they retain almost the same styling as the original.

The owner of the watch in this post, Henrik de Keizer, is lucky enough to own two of them, the second being this one with gold rather than coloured balls.

Henrik is the importer of Lip watches for Holland, for more details and to see the current Lip line-up, visit www.lip-horloges.nl.

For more information about Lip watches in general and their history, check out this page over on Watchismo.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Henrik de Keizer for letting me feature his watches on the blog. **