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Thread: When is a watch hopeless?

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    Member lc130's Avatar
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    Default When is a watch hopeless?

    I'm trying to learn basic watch repair very slowly. At this point I don't know what I don't know. I'm now attempting to resurrect a sometime working Elgin PW.

    On this and other forums I've seen "non-runners" for sale. I've wondered if these are beyond repair or if the owner doesn't want to repair it.

    At what point is a watch hopeless? I'm trying to get to the point when I can hope to restore my grandfather's Waltham PW engraved to him from his wife on Christmas 1914. There are some rusty bits.

    Thank you for any insight

    Charlie

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    Super Moderator dave's Avatar
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    well this one certainly wasn't hopeless -

    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...W-freshly-dug-!

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    Almost any watch can be fixed, it's a matter of how much money do you want to throw at it. Parts for American watches are easy, I've got tons of them laying around here that I've accumulated for the last few decades. Some Swiss parts are easy, some not so much. And on something really valuable or really sentimental that cost is of no concern there are always custom made parts. Not cheap, but there are guys out there with the equipment and expertise to make almost anything you could need.

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    When time and cost of parts exceed restored value. Time to either put away or sell off. I was going to restore a JLC, but when I was told one gear alone was going to be $80.00 (and only one part of a number needed).

    I decided to sell it off in separate parts rather than fix.

    Grandfathers watch is something else. That's a love project and sometimes worth the extra price (sometimes)

    DON

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    Hi ic130, I like your previous idea of tearing down a Chinese 6497 better than jumping into a deep fixer. The deep fixer may have obvious problems which come easy but there are likely to be nightmares built into the watch from decades of poor repair. Nothing like tearing down and rebuilding to find out the watch won't time out which could be because the balance is a non conforming part installed 20 years ago. Hitting that or dozens of possible really trying problems are for later in the game .By sticking with one movement caliber you can develop skills and experience and really learn what you are doing and what you are doing wrong. If the movement ran before you opened it and now it doesn't that means you made an error not all the maybes that occur if you are dealing with years of bad workmanship.
    The other idea is to get a book Fried is good and also there is an English watchmaker with a good book - my warning is get one or the other as the nomenclature is very different and studying both will cause confusion. Keep on with your 6497 projects and you will know that you are doing right or wrong and have no confusion. Good luck !

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    Don's advice is good. There's "beyond economical repair" but that goes out the window when it's an heirloom.

    Some of the nastier things you might come across are very rusted screws where they are completely seized, and knackered balances with butchered screws (poor attempts at poising) or badly bent hairsprings.

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    As above..when it's beyond economical repair. I bought an Omega 321 movement for a CK 2998 Speedmaster. It looked like it had been in the sea for a few years. I managed to strip all of the rust and crap off.... but replacement parts for all that rust and crap will probably run into a couple of thousand notes! So its sat in a draw waiting for a day when I can afford to spend a couple of thousand notes on it!

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    Member lc130's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tinboots View Post
    Hi ic130, I like your previous idea of tearing down a Chinese 6497 better than jumping into a deep fixer. The deep fixer may have obvious problems which come easy but there are likely to be nightmares built into the watch from decades of poor repair. Nothing like tearing down and rebuilding to find out the watch won't time out which could be because the balance is a non conforming part installed 20 years ago. Hitting that or dozens of possible really trying problems are for later in the game .By sticking with one movement caliber you can develop skills and experience and really learn what you are doing and what you are doing wrong. If the movement ran before you opened it and now it doesn't that means you made an error not all the maybes that occur if you are dealing with years of bad workmanship.
    The other idea is to get a book Fried is good and also there is an English watchmaker with a good book - my warning is get one or the other as the nomenclature is very different and studying both will cause confusion. Keep on with your 6497 projects and you will know that you are doing right or wrong and have no confusion. Good luck !
    Yup. I agree. Grandfather's watch attempt is many years off. I've read that Elgin PWs are good for learning. Any other learning recommendations?

    Charlie

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    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    The reason why most of these old watches don't run is that they were serviced back in the 50s using oils that contained animal products like neatsfoot oil. These lubricants would dry out and leave traces of the bad stuff and parrafin like material. Prior to the introduction of the very expensive synthetic oils available today a watch would have to be cleaned and oiled every two or three years as the oils dried out. Additionally, blue steel mainsprings were notorious for "setting" which means to assume the shape they had in the barrel. Alloy mainsprings solved that problem as they never set and almost never broke. I would continue to work on hand winded cheap Ebay watches until you feel comfortable. Reuse every alloy mainspring and use low priced generic chronograph oil. Do not waste Mobeus synthetic oil on watches you are going to sell anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dave View Post
    well this one certainly wasn't hopeless -

    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...W-freshly-dug-!

    No, it's just been to Lanzarote

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    Hi, I would keep on with tearing down and reassembling the 6497. Its great practice and helps get your sense of touch improved to the point that you can feel a hairspring. Read the book and try to picture the flaws the book shows how to repair. When you have read the book and done a dozen tear downs it might be time to try an expendable pocket watch. Expendable is important as the learning process takes a while and you don't wan't to get discouraged by trashing out a watch that you can't afford to toss in the dead watch pile.
    It would help if you spend a little time finding a watchmaker who likes to shoot the breeze a bit while he works . If you can get him to talk a bit you may be exposed to some of the tricks of the trade as he works. Watching how he sharpens a screwdriver is a helpful lesson, oiling , how he handles a tweezer. All of these observations will clarify points you read about in the book. Time spent chatting up a pro is a great way to improve your skills. Finding the right one might take a little time but if you find a talkative guy it would be rewarding. If you have a local NAWCC Chapter with meetings in your area the members can be helpful and a source for used tools and movements.

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    Member lc130's Avatar
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    Good stuff. Thank you!

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    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    I think that a specific mindset is required to work on watches. One attribute that helps is to stop what you are doing and think of what would happen if you did it. Looking over the situation and examining the possibilities requires an active mind but is a good place to be. When you are removing the mainspring from the barrel, what will happen to the arbor at the tip when it comes flying out? How many times will you install the new mainspring before you stop putting it in backward? How can you tell by looking at the arbor which way it needs to go in? When you think that you have the balance or pallet fork in correctly, how much will you tighten the bridge screw before checking to see if it is in fact in the jewels? Will you just smash it down and discover bent pivots? Will you remove a full plate 18s pocket watch plate and snap off a tiny pallet arbor instead of being very careful? Get my drift? Learn from your mistakes and don't repeat them. Spend as much time fixing tools as using them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveH View Post
    I think that a specific mindset is required to work on watches. One attribute that helps is to stop what you are doing and think of what would happen if you did it. Looking over the situation and examining the possibilities requires an active mind but is a good place to be. When you are removing the mainspring from the barrel, what will happen to the arbor at the tip when it comes flying out? How many times will you install the new mainspring before you stop putting it in backward? How can you tell by looking at the arbor which way it needs to go in? When you think that you have the balance or pallet fork in correctly, how much will you tighten the bridge screw before checking to see if it is in fact in the jewels? Will you just smash it down and discover bent pivots? Will you remove a full plate 18s pocket watch plate and snap off a tiny pallet arbor instead of being very careful? Get my drift? Learn from your mistakes and don't repeat them. Spend as much time fixing tools as using them.
    Great information based upon practical experience. The more experience you get, the more ways you find to make mistakes. Correcting beat error, I find myself pulling the balance and bridge a dozen times, each time walking a tight rope without a netó I rotated the cooler the wrong way, took it too far, not far enough. Eventually, youíve spent an hour to get it down from 1.2ms to .8.

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    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by borgmaal View Post
    Great information based upon practical experience. The more experience you get, the more ways you find to make mistakes. Correcting beat error, I find myself pulling the balance and bridge a dozen times, each time walking a tight rope without a netó I rotated the cooler the wrong way, took it too far, not far enough. Eventually, youíve spent an hour to get it down from 1.2ms to .8.
    One of the best inventions of modern times is the adjustable hairspring stud. Shame the average person just cranks it around with not a clue that it is centering the roller jewel in the pallet fork. I've spend hours trying to put mainsprings in properly and I have the finest Levin winders. I just a few years ago started caring what I put in barrels for lubricant and how much to put in. Somethings just stump me completely. I have to just put them away for later and of course later will never arrive.
    D

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    A lot of watchmakers seem to get caught up with obsessing that the beat error should be extremely close to zero. It's not really that critical in reality, as long as it's reasonably low.

    I think the most disappointing thing to find for me is when someone has knackered a hairspring beyond repair. You must always be extremely careful when handling them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rodabod View Post
    A lot of watchmakers seem to get caught up with obsessing that the beat error should be extremely close to zero. It's not really that critical in reality, as long as it's reasonably low.

    I think the most disappointing thing to find for me is when someone has knackered a hairspring beyond repair. You must always be extremely careful when handling them.
    For a wristwatch, I try to get it under 1, for s pocketeatch I try to get it as close to zero as possible. Iím also only servicing my own watches, if my income depended upon quick turnaround, Iíd likely care less.

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    Senior Member DaveH's Avatar
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    I once met and talked with a retired watchmaker who specialized in hairsprings. The whole kit, building from scratch, repairing, whatever. I asked him what the secret was: he responded by shaking my hand in the regular way a man would shake another's hand, firm, steady. He said "That's a regular watchmaker". Then he presented his hand for another shake and it was like holding a dead fish in your hand, not a hint of force anywhere nor resistance. Benign, neutral, all stop.... "That's the way a hairspring man works" It was abundantly clear what he meant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveH View Post
    I once met and talked with a retired watchmaker who specialized in hairsprings. The whole kit, building from scratch, repairing, whatever. I asked him what the secret was: he responded by shaking my hand in the regular way a man would shake another's hand, firm, steady. He said "That's a regular watchmaker". Then he presented his hand for another shake and it was like holding a dead fish in your hand, not a hint of force anywhere nor resistance. Benign, neutral, all stop.... "That's the way a hairspring man works" It was abundantly clear what he meant.
    That's one of the better analogies for the delicacy of hairspring work that I've ever heard. I'm going to steal it if you don't mind.... I spent literally hundreds of hours a few decades ago learning to manipulate hairsprings. It truly is a discipline all unto itself within watchmaking.

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    Member lc130's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveH View Post
    Reuse every alloy mainspring and use low priced generic chronograph oil. Do not waste Mobeus synthetic oil on watches you are going to sell anyway.
    What is considered generic chronograph oil?

    Thank you

    Charlie

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