Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Zodiac’

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.

Rich.

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


Zodiac Astrographic SST (Zodiac Cal. 88D)…

I don’t mind the odd eBay gamble, but this Zodiac Astrographic SST was a real punt.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The watch arrived complete but in decidedly average condition and showing no signs of life. It couldn’t be wound either via the crown or the automatic winding mechanism, and the crown and stem pulled straight out of the watch – not the best of starts.

Zodiac first introduced the Astrographic SST in 1969, and as this early advertisement shows they were initially available in two case styles, the square cased model in this post, and a round cased version – the smaller versions are of course ladies models.

Gold plated models were added a few years later, and so was the “Astrodigit”, a further development of the concept which displayed an additional ‘digital’ readout of the time in the centre of the dial.

As you may have noticed, the unique selling point of these watches is that the time is displayed as “floating” batons for the hours and minutes, and an orbiting red dot for the seconds… very 1970′s.

With the watch removed from the case you can see that the floating effect is created by using three transparent discs in place of regular hands, each one visible through the next. Inset you can see the individual discs and dial.

The movement inside is a Zodiac cal. 88D which was derived from the manually wound A. Schild cal. 1687/88 and was specially modified for the Astrographic watches as extra height was needed on the dial side to accommodate the discs. The cal. 88D is one of the high beat calibres found in all of Zodiac’s SST (Split Second Timing) models. It runs at 36,000 bph or 10 beats/second, which as well as other technical advantages, gives the red seconds dot a smooth sweeping action around the dial.

On disassembling the watch I found that two parts in the automatic winding mechanism were damaged, but I had a parts movement from a previous Zodiac SST project that provided all parts required, so the problems were quickly solved, and after a service the movement was up and running again.

Cosmetically the watch was in poor shape too. The case had seen its fair share of ‘action’, and as you can see in the picture below, the crystal was pretty badly scratched.

Replacing non-round crystals isn’t straight forward, but for this watch it is even more difficult as the minute track and Zodiac symbol are transfer printed onto the underside of the glass, meaning that a genuine Zodiac replacement crystal would be needed, but they are long discontinued.

I did eventually track down a genuine crystal in the US, but with shipping costs factored in, the overall price was more than I’d paid for the watch, so I thought I’d try to polish out the scratches instead – not a simple process for mineral glass.

Increasingly finer grades of emery/polishing paper are used to remove the scratches and the final finish is achieved with a damp felt mop charged with cerium oxide. That process generates a lot of heat, and I was afraid that the transfers would melt, so I completed the whole process by hand. Considering how much time the entire polishing process took, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve got endless patience!

With the major marks removed from the case and after a re-brush, the watch was finally rebuilt. It still has its original Zodiac signed bracelet too which is a bonus.

Rich.


Zodiac Spacetronic (ESA Cal. 9150)…

Battery powered watches are a bit of a rarity on the blog, this Zodiac Spacetronic is only the second.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The founder of Zodiac, Ariste Calame, set up his first watchmaking workshop in 1864, but it wasn’t until 1908 that he registered the company name “Montres Zodiac”. Joined by his son, Louis Ariste Calame, and various other family members shortly afterwards, the company started to grow and developed strong export connections with the US.

A new factory was opened in Le Locle in 1951 and around that time, two significant models were gaining recognition; the “Autographic”, an automatic model with a power reserve indicator, and the watch for which Zodiac is probably best known, the “Sea Wolf” diver, first introduced in 1953.

Like many companies, the 1960′s and 70′s were the golden era for the brand with many visually and technically interesting models hitting the market, the Super Sea Wolf, Astrographic, and SST (Split Second Timing) models in particular. There were also some great mechanical chronographs sprinkled throughout the line-up, like this Cal. 90 powered model I repaired a couple of years ago.

For much more information about the Zodiac brand and their history, check out the site Vintage Zodiacs.

The Spacetronic model in this post is from the early 1970′s, a period when the line between mechanical and electric/electronic watches was blurring, resulting in hybrid calibres – battery powered watches with a traditional mechanical escapements. The calibre inside this watch is one such hybrid, the ESA Cal. 9150, also known as a “Dynotron”. I’ve written a description of how a Dynotron calibre works in a previous post, anyone interested can read that post here.

The watch arrived in good clean condition. The upper jewel and Incabloc shock spring were missing, but I had parts left over from my previous Dynotron project so that wouldn’t be a problem.  Even with a new battery fitted, the watch showed no signs of life, and on close inspection I could see that the oil had completely dried out, so the first step was to service the movement.

After servicing, the watch would run in two or three positions, but would stop almost immediately in others. Watching the balance wheel in motion revealed that the magnets on the balance wheel were scraping on the induction coils, too much end shake perhaps?

Alas, I wasn’t that lucky as under the microscope I could see that the tip of the upper balance staff pivot had been broken off, possibly at the same time that the shock spring was damaged, so parts would be needed after all. However, my luck was in as a search on eBay quickly unearthed a brand new complete balance.

Once the balance arrived it was plain sailing from there and the movement was back up and running again. The dial and hands were fitted, the case cleaned, and the crystal polished to finish the job.

And finally, just to finish off this post, here’s an advert from 1970 showing the white dialled version of this watch, along with a couple of other models in the range.

Rich.


Zodiac Chronograph (Zodiac Cal. 90)…

Here is a great looking watch from the 1970′s, a Zodiac chronograph.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Although running on arrival, the watch had a number of problems; it was missing a pusher, and the crystal, stem, and one of the chronograph levers were all broken. Parts would be needed to put this one right.

Inside this watch is a Zodiac Cal. 90 which I’m sure the sharp-eyed among you will spot immediately bears more than a passing resemblance to a Heuer Cal. 12.

During the 1970′s Heuer produced watches for other brands such as Clebar, Zodiac, Hamilton and Tradition, often identical to their own models but sold at a lower price point. These watches are referred to as “Poor Man’s Heuers” by the Heuer collecting community as they sell for significantly less than their Heuer branded counterparts these days, but represent great value for money if you can find them.

Tracking down a chronograph lever and new stem was quite easy, but finding a suitable tension ring crystal proved harder than I thought. The pictures don’t really show it, but this is a large watch, the face of which is nearly all dial. Because the tachymeter ring on this model is inside the crystal rather than being mounted on an external bezel, a much larger crystal is needed, and finding one locally proved difficult. I eventually had to order one from overseas.

Finding a replacement ‘fluted’ pusher was also difficult as the same style of pusher is used on Heuer’s Autavia models so they are quite a sought after item. To get the watch up and running again, a decision was made to replace both pushers with standard round headed pushers as it wouldn’t be much work to replace the pushers at a later date should a second fluted pusher be found.

However, as is often the case with work-around solutions, that wasn’t the end of the story. When the new pushers were installed they were nowhere near long enough to reach the movement due to the large size of the case, so I had to make some pusher screws with longer heads to solve the problem.

In the inset picture above you can see that the tip from the original stem has broken off. Though the stem may still work without the tip in some cases, it is essential for keeping the stem in line. Any lateral movement while winding or time setting would very quickly wear parts in the keyless works, so the stem should be replaced as soon as possible.

With all the replacement parts sourced, the movement was serviced, the case cleaned, and the watch re-assembled. It may be a Poor Man’s Heuer to some, but I wish I had a bag full of them!

Rich.

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