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Informations: Normal Madness

 
Good Care

A watch which is regularly maintained, and repaired if necessary, will do properly for many decades, often even centuries. But maintenance is not tinkering to extend use a couple of days.
Poor Economy

One may look for cheap maintenance solutions, but keep in mind that cheap and economical is not the same. Cheap tinker work only increases costs, and often they grow so high that only the garbage bin is left over, or selling via ebay.
 
  Index
Bagatelles
Crown Tube
Dead Thread
Oil Forgotten
Runs, Anyhow To OverviewTo Overview
   

Crown Tube

 

Fig. 1

Fig. 2
Magnify images by clicking them

The example watch was bought via ebay, because the AS 1477 inside was missing in the movement archive. It was a fair deal: The seller offered it as not running, and it costed only EUR 11.65. But as photo model or as donor watch it was still too good, and the question was: What's wrong and why?
     First diagnostics: The watch didn't run because a particle blocked the tiny train. But worse was that the crown couldn't be pulled for setting. The watch is signed as waterproof (cf. Fig.6). and therefore should have a tube for the crown gasket. But this is missing in Fig.1 at A. The cracked crystal  (at C and D) is less serious.
     In Fig.2 a tube A is mounted, and regarding its diameter one can  imagine how easy water could enter between the thin stem B and the wide hole for the (missing) tube.

Fig. 3

Fig. 4
Water creaped into the setting mechanism, and there the rust seized up the setting-lever screw A in Fig.3 and 4, leaving no chance for any motion. This screw holds the setting lever, consequently also fixed as welded.
     The issue: To get the movement out of the case for archive photos, this screw must be unscrewed to unlock and pull out the stem with the crown. But the chance of success was precisely zero, because the screw was fixed bombproof in plate, bridge, and setting lever.
     So the movement had to be disassembled almost completely inside the case, until the stem could be pulled out without loosening the screw.


Fig. 5

Fig. 6
Anyway, the movement was disassembled and had to be reassembled to make the desired photos. So why not cleanig the parts? It was no remarkable additional effort, and gave a chance for a beautiful, daily usable watch.
     The result is impressive: Well, the gold plating is worn through at edges like A and B in Fig.5, or at the ends of the lugs A and B in Fig.6. But this is hardly noticable. The case is made of nickel silver, remaining glossy there instead of becoming dull like brass or tombac. The dial has also suffered a bit. But spots at the periphery like at C in Fig.5 can be accepted, taking into account that the real watch is very much smaller than illustrated here.
     Such small automatics aren't produced today anymore. And even old samples are so rare that it lasted eight years to get this movement into the archive. Who ever enjoys such pea sizes can't pass by old watches, and a water resistant automatic of this kind can still compete against a modern watch.
 Figures  (cf. Service Prices)  
EUR  11.65  purchase of not working watch
EUR  54.00  standard service automatic
EUR  18.00  rust removing works
EUR  10.00  replacement crown tube
EUR    8.50  replacement plastic crystal
EUR    4.00  replacement back gasket
EUR    3.00  strap from overstock
EUR 109.15  total  (in 2011)
The direct consequence of the rubbish repair with missing tube was just EUR 18.00 for rust removing, and this could have been prevented. But as the repair required disassembling, at least half the service costs, thus EUR 27.00, go on account of the missing tube.
     The total is high for a ladies watch, even for an automatic with nicely finished movement. But keep in mind that sometimes watches with more serious (hidden) flaws are bought for this money, disregarding the possible financial consequences.

Simple Rule:
For botch you pay tomorrow much more than you save today.
Up Up

Bagatelles
 

Fig. 1

Fig. 2
Magnify images by clicking them
The example is a Cyma (Fig.1). It had just faint signs of usage but functional deficits:
1) Winding was sluggish.
2) With dial down the watch occasionally stopped running.

The attemot to open the back indicated immediately: Here was a botcher at work. A push back is bevelled at one spot of its edge, A in Fig.2. This leaves a gap between bezel and back, where an opener (e.g. knife) can be applied. When closing such back one cares that this slot is located opposite the crown for easy access.

Unfortunately, this case has a special feature: In Fig.2 at B a step is visible, and accordingly beween the lugs a border C, covering the seam between bezel and back. Our botcher had pushed the back precisely with the opening gap at this place. So it was impossible to open it with a case knife, and only with the pressure and the sharp blade of a pretty expensive Timoknack machine the back came off.

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig.3: The movement is a beauty, and  as described here a quite sophisticated design. Crisp at the fist glance, on the second some bagatelles were visible:

Of course, even professionals or experienced hobbyists loose tiny parts now and then. But they replace them by matching parts or adapt suitable parts to work properly.

Differently the botcher:

Fig.4: Cap jewel lost, easily replaced by a much too thick one. No functional deficit, but not actually pretty.

Fig. 5

Fig. 6
Fig.5: Two screws lost, easily replaced by any other: At A the end of a screw sticks out, at B the head of another. The tinker solution was simple: The dial domed a bit stronger and movement suspension screws left out. Now the dial sat correctly, but the movement was sloped enough to block the stem (first above mentioned deficit).

Fig.6: Another screw lost and replaced. The screw head at A sticks remarkably out and is touched by the balance hoop if the watch is positioned with dial down. Of course the balance is stopped by the slightest touch (second above mentioned deficit). Unfortunately the sweep second wheel B inhibits access to scrwew A. So the movement must be disassembled, due to this bagatelle.
 Figures  (cf. Service Prices)  
EUR  43.00  standard service manual wind
EUR  10.00  additionally for date
EUR  15.00  replacement of three screws
EUR    6.00  movement suspension screws
EUR    7.00  replacement of cap jewel

EUR  81.00  total  (in 2012)
The watch needed complete disassembling due to the "bagatelles", and it would be silly not to clean and lubricate it on this occasion. This would have saved just EUR 10.00, and therefore EUR 71.00 are the direct consequence of the rubbish repair.

Simple Rule:
For botch you pay tomorrow much more than you save today.
Up Up

Oil Forgotten
 

Fig. 1

Fig. 2
Magnify images by clicking them

The example is a Glycine from ca. 1945 (Fig.1). A chapped and scratched crystal, partially missing (A) and seriously discolored (B) luminous matter are no surprise after 67 years, corrosion spots from poorly rinsed cleaners like in Fig.2 unfortunately also. Moreover there were functional deficits:
1) In different positions the rate varied up to 4 minutes per day, and the amplitude (swing) of the balance was lean.
2) The automatic winding didn't work.

Referring the rate, first should be seen what the standard service would bring. For the automatic, the preliminary investigation showed that it wound only in one rotor direction, and this only after several rotor revolutions - pretty poor for a movement known to be a member of the line of bidirectional winding calibres.


So what happened?

Fig. 3

Fig. 4
Fig.3 shows the movement without rotor and top plate of the automatic. Wheel A, mobile supported on a lever, transfers the rotor motion to wheel B or C.
     If the rotor turns left, its gear shifts wheel A towards wheel B and turns this left, and consequently wheel C right.. If the rotor turns right, it moves wheel A to wheel C and turns this right. So what ever the rotor does, wheel C will turn clockwise, and the click F inhibits both wheels to be turned back again by the mainspring.
     A pinion beneath wheel C turns wheel D left, and a pinion beneath wheel D turns the ratchet wheel E on the barrel right. Wheel D is equipped with a one-way clutch. This enables soft manual winding without feedback to the automatic.
      The bearing for wheel C, top in Fig.4,  is widely extended to the lower right at A. Just because the pivot doesn't reach completely through the hole it still appears round at the first glance. Therefore the arbor left its upright position, and the pinion beneath ground a groove into the plate at B. If the end of the 1.4mm long arbor is dislocated just  0.1mm, the 3.5mm radius of wheel C will turn this to 0.25mm at its periphery (lever rule). As wheels B and C are just 0.2mm thick they don't remain engaged - no selfwinding any more.

Fig. 5

Fig. 6
Fig.5 demonstrates the solution: Die old bearing was drilled out and a bushing pressed in. Fig.6 shows the result: There the top plate hides almost all, but it has an inspection hole A to show the prefectly engaging teeth of the wheels B and C.

How could this happen?

Wheel D (Fig.3) is beared in hole D (Fig.4 and 5). Due to the gear ratio the pressure is there about five times higher than in the damaged bearing. Nevertheless it is as new. No doubt, the worn bearing was missed out when lubricating at some point. This can happen, but scarcely or never to an experienced watchmaker or even a careful hobbyist.

Fig. 7

Fig. 8

And Ready

The rest was cleaning and cosmetics. Miracles didn't happen, but the maximum position error was reduced from 4 minutes to 75 seconds per day. This is acceptable for such an old watch, and more efforts would have exceeded economical limits.
     The spots on the movement didn't disappear completely, but as Fig.7 shows, they are no longer distracting.
     Moreover the luminous matter of the hands was replaced. This needs always a compromise if done on old watches: Fresh bright lume doesn't go with aged numerals or markers, but if colored too dark it doesn't glow sufficiently. However, Fig.8 demonstrates that with a new crystal the watch looks attractive again.
 Figures  (cf. Service Prices)  
EUR  55.00  standard service automatic
EUR  16.00  setting a bushing
EUR    8.00  applying luminous matter of hands
EUR    9.00  plastic crystal round, type HW

EUR  88.00  total  (in 2012)
This example is rather normal than disastrous, but it demonstrates two things:
1) Except a single bearing, this watch had no wear which couldn't be expected after 65 years. It was sufficiently maintained, but at least once not carefully enough.
2) Already tiny laxness during servicing may cause remarkable follow-up costs, or irreparable damages (like corrosion).

Simple Rule:
Consider whom to consign your old iron.
Up Up

Runs, Anyhow

 

Fig. 1

Fig. 2
Magnify images by clicking them

The example watch was bought off ebay to fill two gaps in the archive: The Valjoux 5 KVM and its equvalent Lip K432. It was a fair deal: The watch was offered with the common remark "runs, accuracy not checked", but the photos showed a glued sweep second hand, a spoilt hairspring, and a terribly cobbled minute-counter jumper. As such things are usually only the peek of an iceberg, bids remained low.
     Now the whole iceberg: The hairspring was not only spoilt. As the wide gap A of the collet in Fig.1 proves, an arbitrary hairspring was forced onto the staff. As the watch became far too slow, one (!) balance screw was removed.. Now the watch lost only 25min/day in horizontal position, but the maximum position error grew to nearly one hour per day. In relation it could be regarded as peanuts that under the cap jewel plate B in Fig.2 a brass bushing C was hidden. It means high friction and short life time, but at least it was properly fit into place. Finally this sweetie ran anyhow, but nobody would consider the term performance

Fig. 3

Fig. 4
Fig.3 shows the monstrous botch on the minute-counter jumper: The solder lump D is not only ugly, but also shortens the elastical part of the spring to the half, making it accordingly stiffer. This often stopped the movement when the the minute counter should be incremented.
     Moreover the length of the spring was wrong. Its end E locked the wheel in a position, from which it could only be turned a bit and then snapped back to its old position. Motion anyhow, but nothing counted.
     Soft soldering is well suitable here.To replace the elastical part you need a hardened thin steel sheet (pendulum spring steel or part of a mainspring). And besides a soldering iron the tools in Fig.4 will do: A tungsten-carbide cutter removes excessive solder with low pressure, while touching steel only under high pressure. And a grinding rod brings the spring to the desired stength, here 0.06mm.


Fig. 5

Fig. 6

The result is acceptable. Under high magnification in Fig.5 at F still some solder is noticable, but in Fig.6 one must look twice to distinguish the repaired spring from a genuine.

The alternative is searching years long for a replacement spring or a donor movement - success not guaranteed. Of couse it is also possible to reproduce such part with some skills, but it would exceed the value of this watch if done by a watchmaker.
 Figures  (cf. Service Prices)  
EUR 114.88  purchase of defective watch
EUR   23.00  removing and reinserting movement, hands, and dial
EUR   26.00  replacement friction-fit jewel for balance
EUR   14.00  restoring worn balance pivots (burnishing)
EUR     8.00  replacement two balance screws
EUR   45.00  adapting and bending Breguet hairspring
EUR   40.00  correction position error, under 60s/day
EUR   40.00  repair minute-counter jumper
EUR   16.00  replacement sweep second hand

EUR 326.88  total  (in 2013)
This job could be done by a well skilled hobbyist. But without a guy who has two left hands, only with thumbs, and without any clue about watches it would not have come so far. Likely only the balance jewel on the dial side was broken, and this could be cured with EUR 49.00 (removing and inserting movement, replacing jewel). The remaining repair costs of EUR 163.00 were the consequence of the botcher attack.
     But still some luck: Due to the visible and suspected flaws the purchasing price was so low that all costs returned when selling the watch.

Simple Rule:
Don't do more on waches than you are actually able to do.
Up Up

Dead Thread


 

Fig. 1

Fig. 2
Magnify images by clicking them


At the first glance nothing to complain: Fig. 1 schows a fine ladies watc from ca. 1910, well maintained for its age. But a look under the bezel was frightening.

First thought on Fig. 2: A crushed dial was replaced by a fairly fitting one. Likely it should be cheap, and therefore the dial was mounted with two screws A and B. The "just-there-hole" C is still a mystery, but the botch is covered well by the bezel.

So go ahead with uncasing the movement. But this was impossible, because the thread for the screw D in Fig. 3 was gone, and the stem could not be released. No problem, since the dial could be unscrwewed to look why.

Fig. 3

Fig. 4
Fig. 4 demonstrates the difference between a fine mechanic and a watchmaker; A prefectly done sunk thread E was applied to take a screw to lock the stem. The (original) dial still has its feet on the right places, but these were useless because the movement must be encased before mounting the dial..

Fig. 4  also shows the new threads for the screws at A and B, and if clicked to magnify it, one can notice the spot C, where a screw through the "just-there-hole" would end up: Right at the edge of a screw. It might heve been better to think before drilling holes.

A good watchmaker would have solved the problem better: Simply cutting the next wider thread for the locking screw D and adapting a usable screw. This was finally done, and now the next one, who disassembles the watch, has no troubles to find out how to do without damagiages.
 Figures  (cf. Service Prices)  
EUR   28.00  removing and reinserting movement, hands, and dial
EUR   15.00  cutting wider thread
EUR   18.00  picking a usable screw and adapting it
EUR     8.00  replacing missing screws for dial feet

EUR 69.00  total  (in 2017)
The sum of buying price and repair costs will hardly return when selling the watch. So it would have neen already as gift too expesive. But at this place it might help to prevent such botcher disasters, and this represents also a certain value.

Simple Rule:
Not every fine-mechanic can replace a watchmaker.
Up Up
 
 


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Dr. Roland Ranfft
Poststr. 32a
26388 Wilhelmshaven
Germany
phone +49 (0)4423 9849691

email:  info@ranfft.de
Last update:  01-22-2020