Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yes, we've seen them all.

Every now and then, a watch brought in for repair reminds me that fine watches are not designed and built for those who have no appreciation for fine mechanical engineering.

Pictured below is a four years young Rolex Submariner 16613. What exactly happened to it will remain a mystery, and even more so how it happened; but one thing is certain: applying brute force will not do any good to the fine winding system of any mechanical wrist watch.

Here is a brief explanation of what happens when you pull the winding crown
to set the time:

The stem (attached to the crown) will engage a number of setting levers, which
will in return push the clutch wheel to engage with the intermediate setting wheel. From there, the motion is transferred to few more wheels and finally to the hands.

Needless to say, the gear work is very fine and requires gentle handling.
Applying too much force too quickly will definitely cause problems.

To put the things in perspective, here is a shot of a clutch wheel and set wheel
next to a 5 cent coin:

If those wheels are free to move and lubricated properly, they will withstand
significant winding force. However if the wheels seize up or are jammed (by a loose crew or case clamp) then unfortunately something will break.

And here is another close-up:

Note the stripped teeth! In addition, the hardened steel setting lever was bent too!

Black specks shown above are actually broken off teeth that have lodged themselves
deep inside the watch movement, causing the watch to stop.

And all this could have been avoided with just a bit more care and common sense.

The photo below shows partially disassembled Rolex 3135 with calendar and winding system removed.

The bottom line is this: if the winding or time setting feels strange or tight, restrain yourself from applying any excessive force. Leave it as is and take it to your watchmaker. Often this is a tell tale sign that your watch is due for an overhaul.

The last thing you want to do is to cause further damage - which is not only completely unnecessary, but very costly too.

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