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Informations: Overview

Themes, discussed by email or in forums are presented here. As this is a German site, the number of German articles will grow faster than of the English. So if you understand German, please also visit the German information pages. Very important themes are issued in English and German, more extensive themes get their separate pages. Take the time to browse these pages - knowledge saves money, yours!

Automatic for Everyone
Basics for Descriptions
Date and Origin of a Watch
Evaluation of Timepieces
Manual Winding of Automatic
Market Data
Movement Sizes, Conversion
Remote Diagnostics
Run or Rest?
Service for Watches
Spare Part Sourcing
The Second Old Timepiece
Troubles with Old Watches
US Import Codes

Market Data
The archive about watches, jewelry, and related items contains almost only items from Ranfft Watches. This prevents copyright troubles, and guarantees a consistent relation between item and price.
    The watch section is already big enough to evaluate many watches. Other sections are still poorly supported. Maybe, somebody else will bring some life into these sections with an own market place. Many descriptions contain informations about history and technology. So you'll get one or the other question answered with the right keywords in the search function.
For each item the reserve and the highest bid is mentioned, and the market, where it was offered. If the high bid is missing, the item wasn't sold, e.g. because a to high reserve inhibited it. But this is also market reality, and therefore such items are included.

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In the archive besides trading results movement data are collected. For each the main features and technical data are given, as well as remarks about history, quantities, and special features. Moreover illustrated examples are given, with their year of production, signatures, and shock devices. Most facts need no explanation, but the following well:

Diameter D

Additionally to the nominal diameter in French lignes or US sizes  diameters are given in mm (Millimeters) as follows:
D not further specified value from public sources.
Dn  nominal diameter, calculated from the value in lignes or the US size. If calculated from lignes it is normally the maximum mounting diameter, while the US size usually represents the outer diameter.
Dm mounting diameter. With this diameter the movement fits into the aperture of the case or mounting frame - therefore slightly smaller than Dn.
Do outer diameter, thus the largest. Most movements have a flange a little bigger than Dm, to rest on the case band or mounting frame.
For odd shaped calibres accordingly two dimensions are recorded.
    US sizes are usually precise, because US movements and cases were standardized to a certain extent. Published diameters in lignes are often just advertizing: Small movements were published too small, and big movements too big. As long as Do is bigger than the manufacturer specification and Dm snaller, the manufacurer specification is resumed here  Else these data are only resumed if the difference is less than 0.25'''; for higher differences the actual dimensions are rounded up or down to 0.25''' steps.

Height H
From published sources or own measurements. Usually the construction height is given, thus the distance between the surface*, the dial is resting on, and the highest plate, bridge, or cock on the back side, or the rotor of automatics respectively. Parts like screw heads, settings, regulators, or outstanding pivot ends are not taken into account, because they can be modified to achieve over all the construction height.  Sometimes winding gears or rotor bearings exceed this height. If the difference is reasonable, it is mentioned, to make the data comparable with those from other sources.
Power Reserve
From published source or own measurements. The measured value is truncated down to whole hours, and as individual variations are reasonable, additionally one hour is subtracted. Only movements in original and good running condition are taken for these measurements. If several such movements were investigated, the lowest truncated power reserve is recorded.

Balance Staff, Stem
Here the Flume order numbers are given, occasionally the order numbers of other sources. Even if these numbers don't always help, together with the search function they give a chance to find a donor movement with the same parts.

Mainspring / Battery
For mechanical watches the mainspring is described. The leading Flume number  (Zf....) indicates a standard spring with end hook. It is followed by the dimensions in the order width, inner barrel diameter, strength, length. A missing Flume number indicates a spring with unusual dimensions, special terminal, or for automatics a spring with fixed slip spring. For electrical/electronical watches identifiers for the battery or detailled informations are given

Further Data
The archive is continuously enhanced, and further data are included. Presently the display of the following not yet complete data is enabled:
F mounting height, distance between dial plane* and mounting flange.
T stem height, distance between dial plane* and stem center.
Hands: Here the hole diameters of hands are listed, starting with the slowest hand (mostly hour) and ending with the fastest (mostly second). Center hands and sub-dial hands are sepatated by a slash.

*) Movements with display discs on the dial side (e.g. calendar)  have occasionally no dial support. In this case the surface of the discs is taken as reference plane for H, F, and T. If a not permanently fixed dial spacer is supplied with the movement. its additional height is mentioned.
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Evaluation of Timepieces

Remote Diagnostics
Many market data bases are freely accessible for everyone. Useful are only data accompanied by detailled descriptions of the items. A large archive is published by the auction house  Henry's; it is in German, but the translator at the bottom of the start page will help. Also this site has a continuously growing archive.
     Even closed Internet auctions, e.g. on ebay can be used for orientation. But most descriptions are poor, and allow no sufficient judgement about values. Moreover, old and worn out is there often regarded as equivalent to antique and valuable. Therefore trash is often over estimated and the evaluation of mint items is uncertain. Nevertheless one can get a feeling for prices by contiuously watching the results.
      I use such sources, but also continuously watch auctions and markets to evaluate timepieces for auctioning. But I still fail now and then.
     Also troublesome is the grading of the condition. But it can be successful if the item is actually on the table, if modern equipment is available, and if an experienced watchmaker assists, if necessary.
I can't give remote diagnostics about timepieces, and I'm not willing either. If only some facts and some more or less detailed photos are available, I could not do more than browsing the sources mentioned on the left. This odd job can be done by everybody for himself.
      A more precise evaluation is only possible, if the item can really be investigated. This service is offered by the local watchmaker or jeweller. But don't expect it free of charge, if you are not a good customer of this guy. I don't offer this service - even not for money.
      The Pink Pages are part of my hobby, created as a service for timepiece collectors and -enthousiasts. You can use the market platform free of charge, or can give away the whole job for a moderate charge. There are alternatives, ebay first of all, and watches not being particular collectors pieces will sell better there, because there are enough bidders who set old and worn out equivalent to antique and valuable.
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Run or Rest?

The oppinion that a watch should continously run instead of keeping it resting in a drawer is nonsense.
      What moves wears, and this applies to the bearings as well as the mainspring. However, if properly serviced, a watch will run almost eternally, but if it is stored in a dry and cool place it will even last "eternallier".
      Anyway, this is not actually a question for collectors. If you own a couple of watches, and don't wear them all continuously on your wrists or in your pockets, each watch will run only a couple of days now and then. So if you care for your watches, you don't have to worry about wear.
Of course movements signed as "unadjusted" are adjusted properly. This signature is just a product of administration idiocy:
      In the U.S.A. a watch was regarded to be of U.S. origin if it was cased and adjusted in the U.S.A. (officially would do). As U.S. products were not charged with U.S. duties, the signatures "unadusted" on the movement and "cased and timed in U.S.A." in the case back saved money, wherever the components were produced, or actually adjusted.
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Manual Winding of Automatics
Often people fear that they will damage their automatic if winding it manually too long, because they don't feel a resistance when the mainspring is fully wound. Below some general information about common selfwinding designs.
      There are few early self-winding designs using a standard barrel with fixed outer end of the spring. Overwinding ist prevented there with a torque limiter (friction or ratchet clutch) between self-winding gear and barrel. Some even have mechanisms locking the rotor or bumper weight when fully wound.
      Here the first automatic with friction coupled bumper: Harwood
(No need to worry about manual winding here - it is not available.)
Here a movement with ratchet torque limiter on the barrel: LeCoultre_883
In such designs the manual winding gear may be directly coupled to the barrel, and then they are actually wound like a normal manually wound watch (until you brake the gear or your finger - never the spring). All other, and particularly all modern movements have the torque limiter integrated in the barrel. Just few older actually with a kind of ratchet inside the barrel but very most with a friction spring.
      This spring disengages when the outer turn of the spring removes from the barrel, and you must have very sensitive fingertips to feel it, when winding manually. As the average automatic will be overwound all day long when worn, the spring will do much longer without damage than your fingertips.
      However, keep in mind that many automatics are not designed for continuous manual winding. The barrel will bear it, but the gears may be worn.
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Automatic for Everyone

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

From the Harwood (Fig.1), the first series-produced automatic, to the Etarotor (Fig.2 ), the first large scale production automatic of modern design, it was a troublesome way.

Below a short description of this evolution with links to the example movements.
Eterna 833
Fig. 3
Omega 28.10RA SC PC
Fig. 4

In the 30s and 40s, AS was the only reasonable supplier offering automatics to everybody. Just Felsa offered the bumper Felsa 279 with minor success, and came not before 1942 with a successful calibre. Else there were only few poorly functioning concepts, and some watch manufacturers who designed bumper automatics for their own applications, e.g. Eterna (Fig.3) or Omega (Fig.4).
Rolex 630, rotor-module
Fig. 5
Rolex 630, base movement
Fig. 6

In 1931 Rolex launched the the central free revolving rotor.

It wasn't a sophisticated approach to mount a rotor-module (Fig.5) on a small ladies movement (Fig.6) with big base plate, but it was ingenious, and protected by patents it was inhibited for competitors until the late 40s.

So it lasted until 1950, before ETA announced the "Etarotor" (Fig.2)

Felsa 415
Fig. 7
Felsa 690
Fig. 8

Only few were able to circumvent the Rolex patent:

In 1942 Felsa lauched the first bidirectional winding automatic "Bidynator". The pilot series Felsa 410/415 (Fig.7) is hardly known, because it was already in the year of its introduction replaced by the famous family 690 (Fig.8).

Longines produced since 1945 the Longines 22A with excenter winding, but only for their own application.
AS 1049
Fig. 9
Mido 816
Fig. 10

AS offered to everybody the AS 1049 (Fig.9). It is almost unknown because it was replaced by the similar AS 1049A after a short periode. Both are redesigns of the Harwood automatic, also without manual wind feature. The necessary friction coupling moved from the bumper into the barrel, where it still is in most automatics today. Both calibres were almost only used by Mido.

A version with manual wind feature hat the designation AS1081, but was produced since 1935 exclusively for Mido as Mido 816 (Fig.10).
AS 1171
Fig. 11
AS 1250
Fig. 12

The also since 1935 produced successor AS 1171 (Fig.11) and its sweep second variant AS 1172 are as well scarcely found as genuine AS product. But they appear more or less modified as exclusive calibres of AS customers, for instance as Fortis 250 . No wonder, since already the Harwood was realized by cooperation of AS, Fortis, and Blancpain.

After some stations of model enhancements, the AS 1250 (Fig.12) was the first bumper with great market success.
Pierce 861
Fig. 13
Baumgartner 90
Fig. 14

Of course there were dead ends in this evolution, and the bumper automatic was actually one.

But even stranger designs were realized, e.g. the  "rattle automatc" Pierce 861 (Fig.13) from 1933 with linearly oscillating weight, or the Baumgartner 92 (Fig.14) from 1951, where the rotor is knocking like a hammer on a quite simple winding device -  sophisticated, but probably not durable.
Eterna 1194R
Fig. 15
Eterna 1248R
Fig. 16

It lasted until 1948, before the ladies calibre Eterna 1194R (Fig.15) was introduced, the first automatic with ball bearing rotor, and in 1949 the according family Eterna 1237/1247 (Fig.15) for gents watches followed. Both had already all essential features common to automatics of present production:

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Date and Origin of a Watch

There are some watches for which production date and origin can easily be found out:
     British watches are usually properly signed with name, and often address of the maker. Moreover  yearly changing hallmarks for precious metals allow precise dating of watches.
     American watch movements are also signed and numbered. And for most companies archives exist, which allow dating of a watch after the serial number of the movement, and the origin is no problem anyway for a signed item.
     There are also few leading European companies which numbered movements and/or cases, and which were proud anough to sign their products. For some of them manufacturing achives exist to evaluate these numbers, and you'll have no trouble to date e.g. a Breguet, IWC, Lange, Omega, Patek-Philippe etc.
     Hallmark tables, and many of these number archives are available in the Internet. But most are supplied by collectors, and therefore the locations on servers often change. So you'll be forced to create your own link file, after consulting search engines or watch fora. Especially for American watches a very active collectors community cares for good information sources - even for smaller companies.
For the major quantity of European watches it is a troublesome job, and the results are disappointing in most cases. While American watches were produced already in industrial style around 1900, in Europe small workshops or even single watchmakers bought kits from rough movement manufacturers and created their ownl models - most without signature, many with fancy signatures telling nothing. Most watches were anonymous, and will remain anonymous, and there is scarcely a chance to find out the maker.
     Many watches got their signature on dial and/or dust cover from the selling jeweller. With some luck the jeweller store is still in business, and with a big heap of luck you may get some informations about a particular watch.
     Often people believe that numbers or what they believe to be a secret signature in the case will help further. Sorry, it doesn't: Cases were not produced industrially, and the parts were not interchangable. So all parts of a case got a number, just to keep them together, and nobody recorded these numbers. And what ever is written else on the case are hallmarks for precious metals, technical data, operation instructions, or just advertising - without any importance for manufacturing date or origin.
      However, fashion trends existed which allow to date a watch, and the technological evolution is another research tool. With some experience, this helps to date the watch reasonably, and gives an idea of the region of origin, sometimes even the manufacturer.
      I've evaluated such details over some decades of collecting, and give an approximate date of manufacturing, and sometimes the origin of every watch I post in the auction, shop, or archive. So all you have to do is to compare the details of case, dial, and movement of your watch with similar watches listed on this site. This will give you an idea, when and where your watch was made.
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Dr. Roland Ranfft
Poststr. 32a
26388 Wilhelmshaven
phone +49 (0)4423 9849691

email:  info@ranfft.de
Last update:  08-25-2020