Today a customer brought in a watch which needed urgent attention: an Omega Apollo MoonWatch with a broken component in the chronograph section. The watch was also long overdue for a service so Nick thought he’d give me a practical demonstration of how an Omega 1861 movement (found in most moonwatches) is disassembled.
This movement is the first one I’ve witnessed being disassembled that has a chronograph function, representing a huge step up in difficulty. I don’t pretend to properly grasp how the complex system of gears, levers and springs interplay to make the chronograph work, but this little introduction was both exciting and very, very enlightening. I had always wondered how the hands fly back into position after being reset and upon seeing it in action for myself I smiled from ear to ear for the next half an hour, marvelling at just how ingeniously designed the mechanism is.
It was during this disassembly process that this week’s tool of the week was needed. At first glance it’s (tool on the right) almost indistinguishable from a hands removal tool (tool on the left):
It’s only when you look closely at the tips do you notice the difference between the two. This tool is a wheel remover (Bergeon 30638-3) that removes sweep wheels from fourth wheel arbors and chronograph driving wheels.
The teeth of the tool lock underneath the wheels spokes and the wheel is then pulled of its arbour.
Despite its relatively large size, this gear is one of the easiest components to break in the entire mechanism. The wheel must be pulled upwards at exactly 90 degrees to the plate; any deviation will result in a bent pinion which can’t be fixed.
The disassembly process took well over an hour; we wanted to completely strip the movement apart and were in no hurry to do so. There are over 30 different types of screws in the movement and we wanted to segment them to enable easy reassembly. Mixing screws is something that can result in a lot of time wasted later on. Some screws might seemingly perfectly fit a slot, but it’s only later on, and after fitting multiple components, that you find it actually belonged somewhere else. This is to say nothing of the time spent actually handling the screws, which itself is something of an art form.
Though what I’ve just described may sound rather tedious, I assure you it’s anything but. When you finally finish piecing it together and breathe life into the mechanism via the winding stem it’s a magical experience.
New tools appear almost daily here in the shop and with each one of them comes a new challenge and insight. Nick assures me (not that I need the reassurance!) that such tools will forever continue pop up throughout my career. How very exciting indeed.
Until next time,