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Hamilton Wristwatch, movement caliber 980

Here is one example of a before and after shot of a Hamilton watch I recently restored. It was a fairly typical job, and was of great sentimental value to its owner as it belonged to his grandfather. Work included: clean and polish the case, overhaul the movement, refinish the dial, and replace the following parts: balance staff, balance hole jewel, mainspring, stem, crown, glass crystal, and hands.

The customer sent me the following e-mail after the repairs were completed. This was entirely unsolicited, and purely coincidental that I had taken before and after photographs.

Excellent work. The watch is wonderful. You exceeded my expectations and that doesn't happen very often. I, too, am an engineer and burdened with a persistent quest for perfection. My grandfather's watch is as close to that as anyone, anywhere could have accomplished. You are a true craftsman. Thank you for a rewarding experience. Bill G, Elmwood Park, NJ.

Omega Seamaster Chronograph, 1960's vintage, movement caliber 321

This watch required a different approach than the Hamilton. First of all, the bezel and crystal were missing, and the watch didn't run. The hour hand was bent at nearly a 90 degree angle, and the sweep hand was also pretty badly bent. The dial was original, with some minor imperfections, but was still too good to refinish. The case was originally plated, and was showing some wear especially at the tips and inside edges of the lugs. Because of the age of this watch, parts availability was hit and miss. Original parts that were still available included the crystal, pushers, crown, and back gasket. Neither the hands nor the bezel were still available, so I had a bezel fabricated which I then altered to match the style of the original bezel. I then polished and plated the entire case and bezel so everything matched. I ended up using the original hour hand, by straightening, polishing, plating, and finally applying new luminous paint to it. Of course, I also completely overhauled the movement. (there is a slight dark ring around the bezel on the 'after' photograph, which is just a lighting/reflection problem, it's not really there.)

Rolex Oyster Chronograph repair

This watch illustrates a slightly different approach, in that originality is important in vintage Rolex watches. The dial was in very nice original condition, so we pretty much left it as original except for reapplying luminous paint to the hour and minute hands. It needed quite a few internal parts to make it right, as it had been carelessly repaired in the past. I refinished the case and bracelet, and replaced the crystal, crown, tube, back gasket and pushers. It was important to maintain the originality of this watch to preserve its value.

Rolex Bubbleback Repair

Here's another vintage Rolex restoration. Unlike the chronograph above, the dial on this watch had been poorly refinished. It made sense to have it refinished properly, with the correct gilt print (instead of the white on the previous refinish). I also replated the hands. The movement needed quite a bit of work, having a lot of wear in the autowind section which I corrected by installing jewels. I also replaced the tube, but kept the original crown, and replaced the mainspring, crystal, back gasket, and other worn parts.

Waltham Pocket Watch Repair

This was a sentimental piece.  Obviously, the dial on this was in very bad condition.

Panerai Chronograph, El Primero movement

This customer had taken this watch to another watchmaker and supposedly had it repaired.  It wasn't right the first time, so he took it back again.  It stopped again after taking it in a second time, so he eventually contacted me.  It needed a cleaning and  some adjustments to the escapement (which was why it kept stopping).  I also adjusted the flyback mechanism, as the hour recorder wasn't zeroing-out properly.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Vintage LeCoultre Futurematic Wristwatch Repair

I repair quite a few old LeCoultre watches, including alarm watches and Futurematics.  This watch was received in decent aesthetic condition, though the lugs were bent inward quite a bit.  I assume someone wanted to fit a 16mm band to this watch which was designed for an 18mm, so instead of buying a properly-sized strap they chose to bend the lugs.  Stupid, but it happens.  Also, the case back was loose.  The dial had been refinished previously.  I think the dial could be better, but it was not bad so we decided to leave it alone.  The movement had quite a few problems.  I replaced the driving wheel and added 2 jewels to correct some wear in the autowind section.   I also replaced the rotor bearing, which was worn and not original.  

These movements are pretty unique in that the watch actually stops autowinding when the power reserve is full.  There is a relation between the reserve indicator and the autoweight, so when the mainspring is fully wound a hook engages the autoweight and stops it from moving.

Because of this unique design, most watchmakers do not know how to properly service these movements.  There are special procedures to get the reserve indicator, mainspring preload, and autoweight hook to function correctly.  I have factory documentation on this movement describing these procedures, and I have developed a few of my own techniques to restore these watches to proper functionality.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

"Stewart Warner", made by Chelsea, Car Clock Repair

This is a clock from a vintage Pierce Arrow automobile.  The owner of the clock also owned the car, and was having the car completely restored.  This was very dirty when I received it.  It needed a thorough cleaning and a new mainspring.  I didn't take any 'before' photos, these are just shots of the completed car clock repair.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Patek Philippe Minute Repeater

This is an example of a high-end repeater repair.  The photos show how many parts are in these movements, and just how complicated they are.  Consequently, the costs to restore such a watch are also high.  

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Rolex Oyster Perpetual, 1950's era, caliber 1030 movement

On many watches I spend a fair amount of time on the aesthetics.  This job was quite opposite in that I spent almost all of my time on the movement.

This watch had great sentimental value to its owner.  It was a gift to his father, who was a sea captain, by his crew.  Unfortunately, the owner got the watch wet (which is a bad idea for vintage watches), and the watch leaked.  He then took the watch to a few different 'Rolex repair facilities' (his words, not mine), and no one could fix the watch.  What is even worse is that one of the places that looked at the watch basically stole quite a few parts from the movement.  

Parts for this particular watch are very hard to come by, as this Rolex caliber 1030 movement was only produced from about 1950 to 1957.  In contrast, the successor to this caliber was the 1500 series which was produced for 20 years.  Eventually, I had to go to about 8 different suppliers (plus my own inventory) to obtain all of the required components.  Including screws, this watch needed 42 parts!

Photo 1 shows the watch as I received it.  Basically, all of the sweep second parts are missing, as are most all of the autowind parts.  Photo 2 shows the movement after cleaning, with quite a few new parts already installed.  All of the components on the white background are also new (as they were all missing).

Photos 3 and show the finished watch.  You'll note that quite a bit of the rhodium plating has worn off the movement, this is pretty common on watches that got wet.  It is primarily an aesthetic concern only.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Restoration Photos, page 3

Tom Gref  -  PO Box 69151  -  Tucson, AZ  -  85737  -  520.818.3382


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