Thursday, October 22, 2020

To Jim, from Dad & Mum - Christmas 1934

 

Broken and discarded, then found by Jim's grandson, this 1930s Swiss A.S. watch is now ready for a new lease of life. Without any doubt this was the most difficult restoration project so far. 

A. Schild S.A. was a watch movement maker operating from the 1890s through to the 1970s.

Adolph Schild began producing watch movements Grenchen, Solothurn after 1896. Schild produced many different movements and became one of the largest movement makers in Switzerland by the 1920s. Schild movements were used by many manufacturers in the 1950s through 1970s, including such familiar names as Harwood, Fortis, Enicar, and even Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The quartz crisis of the 1970s hit Schild especially hard, as inexpensive Japanese and quartz watches cut into the market for volume-produced three-handed watches. By 1979, in order to survive the Japanese onslaught, Schild merged with ETA.

What made this restoration painful is the fact that there was not a single component that was not either affected by rust, broken, out of shape or simply worn out. Thanks to two other AS554 donor movements, the end result was luckily a success.

Make sure to watch until the very end to see what's coming next!

Check it out here: https://youtu.be/iJv5vGt2Us0

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Tough - yes, but not unbreakable

 

Omega Moonwatch plexiglass replacement - this is not a trivial repair. It requires specialist tools, removing the mechanism out of the case, removing the bezel and cracked plexiglass, case cleaning, and installation. Each set requires a very specific set of tools and parts are friction fit (press in fit). And lastly, the final step is a water pressure test. The whole exercise takes about 1 hour. Even the most experienced watchmakers do not take this job as a routine repair. The bad news is that recently our spare parts supplier informed us that a new price list for Omega parts is to be expected any day now. We used to charge $300 for parts, labour and GST inclusive. The bottom line is - be kind to your Moonwatch!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Rusty vintage Rolex: how to cure 'under the crystal' rust?

 

If you are into vintage Rolex submariners fitted with plexi glass (models 5513 and 1680) then you are well aware of a rather annoying problem-  rust visible 'through' plastic glass. This unsightly imperfection is actually too common; finding a perfect vintage Rolex submariner showing no sign of rust and pitting underneath the bezel is almost impossible. Pitting is a form of extremely localised galvanic corrosion that leads to the creation of small holes in the metal.

Actually, even the smallest amount of rust located directly underneath the crystal is perfectly visible, thanks to glass acting as a magnifying lens. The only way to get rid of the rust is to remove the bezel, bezel tension ring and then the plexiglass itself and clean all pitted surfaces.
Here is a photo of the middle case after rust removal. Unfortunately the pitted case is no longer waterproof.

The possible solution to restore water resistance would be to grind out pitted spots, fill in the cavity by laser welding and then re-grind the surface. However this intervention is a rather major undertaking and would only be done with the owners approval only.

For your enjoyment only

 

The story of Breitling began on 1884 when a 24 years old watchmaker Leon Breitling founded the small watch manufacturing workshop in Saint-Imier, Switzerland.

Leon Breitling specialised in the production of chronographsBy early 1930 Breitling had 40 different chronographs on offer.

In 1939 Breitling signed a large contract with the British Air ministry to make flight chronographs for the Royal Air Force. After WW2, Breitling was an official supplier to Douglas, KLM, BOAC, Lockheed, Air France and United Airlines.

To this day, Breitling chronographs are regarded as true pilot's watches known for their reliability and precision.

Featured in this video is the restoration of a 1953 Breitling Ref. 178 with 18K rose gold case and a Venus 170 mechanical column wheel chronograph. The previous restorer was unable to get the chronograph running and in desperation simply glued both pushers to the case, permanently disabling them. Cleaning the grim of the dial and deoxidising movement parts was a serious challenge. The entire restoration took 9 working days to complete. 

Video recorded and edited by Michael Johnston.

Watch it here: https://youtu.be/zD3ZuTp8PcA

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Do you have attention to detail?

 

The 1953 smashed Breitling restoration project has just got more interesting. Here is the original photo and also the photo of the dial after cleaning. 
Can you see what’s wrong with it? Today this would be unthinkable but back in 1953… well let’s just say nobody is perfect.

Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel – you do not want to miss this soon to be released video.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvYdh0ITL1KyPMmHD84kwXw
By the way the mechanism is Venus 170 which was designed in the 1940s and contains more than 120 parts (Breitling call it reference 103).
And as this old Breitling advertisement says - chronographs are no monkey's business!

Monday, September 28, 2020

NH2.1 Timascus generating unusual interest

 

After releasing photos of five sets of timascus parts earlier this week, Josh has been approached by two major players in the Swiss watch industry with a request for a meeting. The main focus of their interest cannot be disclosed, but we are talking about a very specific colour and very specific machining processes.  Right now we can only speculate where we are heading, but whatever the offer may be: we are not interested.  

>From the way I see it: our timascus project is getting too hot, too soon, generating premature and unwanted interest. Our time is yet to come so no need to rush. However, from now on there will be no more Instagram photos of coloured timascus parts and processes - completed watches only.  

Our timascus supplier has told us that we are not the first watchmaker who has ordered titanium alloy, and that they are getting enquiries from the watch industry all the time. "You are the only one crazy enough to actually machine watch parts out of it" - they say laughing. Which is a fantastic position to be in: if the timascus takes off and a major watch brand enters the market, we can always claim that important bit of the fame: we've been there first. And if timascus remains obscure, then our watch owners will be the winners- the only one with a unique and very special watch.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ali Baba's Cave

 

It's all about one thing: who do you know?

And when it comes to who do you know in Switzerland, then our man is Fran├žois-Maxime Greub or as he prefers to be called: Max.

Max is a second hand watchmaking machinery dealer, located in the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the very heart of Swiss watchmaking.

Last night, Josh and myself spent an hour talking to Max about the museum he is building, why old watchmaking lathes are better than new, and how to find that very special tool or machine that will help you ‘get your name on a watch dial’.

If you like watches, you’ll enjoy this unique interview and amazing showroom tour.

Here is the link: https://youtu.be/sMpszuYa2Yg

Service on $100,000 Daytona

 

Today's video is slightly different than the others: I am pulling apart and servicing my own watch. It is a 1974 Daytona Ref. 6263, which was sitting unused for a decade in a storage box. The mechanism is a Valjoux 72 which Rolex modified in the 1960s and renamed Rolex 727. What makes this movement special: Valjoux designed it back in 1939! If you are a Daytona collector, then you know that back in the 70s no one really wanted a manual chronograph. The truth is that Daytonas were so unpopular that Rolex could not give them away! Zenith, Omega and Breitling already had their own auto chronographs. A few years later, in the 1980s, Rolex started fitting Zenith movements in Daytona models. Nowadays, prices of vintage Daytonas are going through the roof. 
My watch has been serviced four times in the past: March 1985, January 1990, May 1997, November 2007, and this was its fifth time.

I hope you'll enjoy it - and no, your comments won't break my heart.

Check it out here: https://youtu.be/ZG_VGniV_3U

Again, a huge 'well done' goes to Bobby for his cinematography and editing efforts. Without him, this video would not be possible.                         

YouTube - and what we have learned so far

 

One thing is certain - no more videos featuring customers' watches.

As strange as it sounds, for some, watching their watch being pulled apart could be an emotional issue. It's like watching your favourite pet on the surgical table. 

The real issue is that the vast majority of viewers don't really understand the nature of the repair or servicing process. Some 'manoeuvres' are just not pretty to watch. If you are a vegetarian, you may find a video of an abattoir somehow disturbing. For example: a common complaint is that I don't use finger cots. I do - but during assembly only. While cots prevent fingerprints on metal, the side-effect is enormous desensitisation of the fingers. When manipulating extremely fine parts with very fine tools, there is no other option but to take them off. George Daniels had monster fingers - and never used finger cots in his entire life. Daniels was the most famous restorer of Breguet pocket watches. There is a reason why he worked 'naked' and most likely, an average watch forum follower who thrives on perpetuated myths and stereotypes, won't get it. 

"Why are you using such and such cleaning solution or lubricant?" is another commonly asked question. Yes, I am reluctant to provide more details. For two reasons: some are just my trade secrets, while others are too complex to apply by a novice watchmaker or enthusiast. What is shown in the video is a tiny snapshot of a more elaborate 'behind the scenes' process, so what you see is not necessary what you get. Chemistry is tricky. 

But the final reason why customers' watches won't be shown any more is this: watch owners simply can't take public criticism. Take for example a recent restoration video - which by the way has been watched over 100,000 times and received hundreds of comments. Most comments are praises for a fantastic restoration job but there are some viewers who were 'not happy' with the way the owner took care of the watch in the past. "If this was my watch I would look better after it!". Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't. Others directly blamed the owner for the watch being neglected and left in a rather poor condition. For reasons only known to him, the watch owner felt compelled to respond, and unfortunately, in a rather undiplomatic manner - by calling other viewers names and using very inappropriate language. Then hell broke loose, and I watched the drama unfold in real time, at 11pm. One moment I was praised (by the owner) for a fantastic job - only to be called names hours later - for no fault of mine. As they say - you can't please them all. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

From the workshop

 

For the past two months Josh has been working on the next batch of NH2.1 timascus movements. Here is a rare shot of the mainplates and bridges before being cut out. Measuring each part multiple times during various production stages is absolutely crucial - timascus is expensive material, but the marching time and tools are even more so - no room for mistake.

At the moment, we have no NH2 Timascus watches for sale. If you are interested in getting your name on the list for the next available watch, send us an email.

Citizen vs. Seiko

 

Citizen as we know it today was birthed in 1918. They are currently one of the very few manufacturers who possess the ability to make every watch component in house, the machines used to make them (Our Citizen R04), as well as electronic components and lubricants. However it was only formally named as such some six years after in 1924 when they produced their first timepiece. The mayor of Tokyo, Mr Shimpei Goto, wanted a watch available to the general citizen and loved by citizens of the world, so he named this first time piece as such. ‘Citizen’ was then taken on as the company’s namesake - whether they liked the name or it was taken on out of respect, I was unable to divine.

Of course, Seiko was already making watches and pocket watches for the everyday wear of its Japanese and even international customers having been in business for about forty years at this point. However that did not stop Citizen from making rapid growth in the manufacturing and development of horological technologies. The two would battle it out for horological glory for the century to come.

Fast forward to the quartz era beginning in the late 60s. Seiko, leading the charge, had just released the Astron; the very first production quartz watch, in 1969. As they were already the official timekeeper for Japanese railways, it was soon after that the quartz movement was adopted and issued over its longstanding mechanical predecessor due to its higher accuracy in timekeeping standard. However this did not happen immediately as the Astron release price was about the price of a mid size car. From this point on for competitor horological companies across the globe, it was quite literally adapt or die. Enter citizen.

The first quartz rail pocket watches were plagued with not having a large enough amount of torque to turn those classic thick and heavy ‘Seiko style’ hands that were a requirement by the Japanese government to have on an issued pocket watch. Stepper motor technology was very much in its infancy. So the hands generally were made as thin as they were allowed. Citizen however, ever developing their pieces, had already produced in 1967 the first ever transistorised quartz clock - the Crystron. This movement had a larger amount of torque produced and supplied to the gear train than the currently produced quartz movements of Seiko. The technology was later miniaturised so that in 1973, the Crystron Pocket watch was born. Competitor to the Astron and a powerhouse movement in its own right, Citizen took the Cold War-esq arms race to the next level. In 1976 there were three world firsts. Seiko produced the first rail issued quartz pocket watch with an accuracy of within 10 seconds per month with their 38RW based on the 3870a movement. Citizen produced a Crystron movement with an accuracy of within 3 seconds...per year, and they also released the first solar powered quartz analogue watch. Since then citizen has been at the forefront of extremely high accuracy Quartz movements, and it all started with the Crystron.

What we can see from the comparison photo of the Crystron and Seiko pocket watch of the same decade can only be described as either an homage to a Japanese design so ingrained in the country's industry and persona they simply had to use it, or a plain and simple dial grab to bump sales. I’d like to think the former. What is interesting to note however is the hands on the Crystron. A little thinner, and inversely skeletonised to remove as much weight as possible to assist that power consumption. Irrespective of the size of their massive coil!

The Crystron is certainly a timepiece with a rich history not only in the tit for tat race between two Japanese giants, but horological development on a global scale. Your average modern Swiss quartz watch, a Seamaster or Cartier, even with an additional fifty years of multi-industrial development, is accurate to about 3 seconds per month.

Andrew

You may find this disturbing -


but quite frankly, this is not uncommon for almost all watches fitted with a rotating bezel, regardless of brand.

ONE MINUTE video: https://youtu.be/FlrvPZKg0D4

A quick polishing job - the removal of a rather nasty chip on the plexi glass. The goal of this project is to preserve the original glass, clean the case and bezel externally before removing the caseback and assessing the movement.

You'll Love It

 

As per your request - here is the restoration of the musical pocket watch. A week in the making, this was a challenging project. I will let you be the judge. 

https://youtu.be/5fbAMqEexrY

Please make sure to watch it on your big screen TV, it is in 4K!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Enthusiastic Tasmanian Filmmakers


Well this is just funny - a bunch of kids from Tasmania reached out to us with a request to record a 30 second video showcasing their film making ability. A rather strange request, but we obliged. 

We sent them the NH2 J18 and they returned the watch next day. 

Here is the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEppxaEtl_s  make sure to like it and comment, they'll appreciate it.

By the way this very watch, NH2 J18 is now available for sale, price $9,800.