Restoration Photos

I've had quite a few customers say that their watches came out better than they expected. So, to help convey the type of work that is possible, I decided to start posting some before and after photographs of a few of the watches I've restored. These are pretty typical jobs, and I've selected a wide variety to illustrate what can be done.

Vintage Rolex Moonphase Restoration, circa 1950, model 8171

This is one of the rarest and most collectible Rolex watches.  These were made in 2 basic versions, an oyster and a non-oyster variation.  The term oyster refers to a Rolex that is waterproof.  Oysters always have screw backs, and typically have a screw-down crown (the Super Oyster non screw-down crown being the exception).  This particular model is the non-oyster version, so it has a snap back and a plain dress style winding crown.  The dial on this watch was not original and had been refinished in the past.  This was incorrectly marked both chronometer and precision (it should be one or the other, but not both).  I did some research on exactly how an original dial was marked, so this was refinished as close to original as possible.  I did a complete restoration on this watch, and custom-made some new corrector buttons for it as well.

The same model watch sold at auction for over $50,000.  The auction results for that watch are shown for your reference.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Charles Frodsham Minute Repeater Perpetual Retrograde Calendar Moonphase, Circa 1880

This is a very complicated watch.  First, it is a minute repeater.  If you are not familiar with that, it has 2 gongs that will chime the time on command.  They were originally used to be able to tell time at night (before the advent of electricity) without having to light a candle.  The gongs are not shown in the photos, but they are basically 2 wires that go completely around the movement, one sounds a low tone, the other a high tone.

This watch also has a Perpetual calendar, which keeps track of leap years and days in each month, so the date doesn't need to be reset in months with less than 31 days.  In addition, it has a 'retrograde' date display, in that the date hand travels clockwise (to the 28th, 29th, 30th, or 31st), and then flies back counter-clockwise to 1.  It also has a moonphase display.

When I received this watch, it didn't do much of anything.  It didn't run, you couldn't set the hands, and the repeater mechanism didn't work.  It did have some wear in the repeater train, so I added 2 jewels to correct for wear. 

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Breitling Chronomat, 2-register Chronograph Restoration

This is a vintage Breitling Chronomat in 18K gold.  As received, it was missing a pusher and the crown, and the movement/bezel assembly would fall out of the case if you turned it upside down.  It appears as though someone didn't know how to remove the bezel, and in trying to remove it they broke the stem, one case screw, and one pusher.  It had a fairly nice original dial, and the case was in good shape.  The movement cleaned up nicely.  

This uses a Venus 175 movement, which is very similar to the movement used in older Breitling Navitimers. The Navitimer uses a Venus 178, which is basically a 3-register version of this movement.  Typically, 2 register chronos will have either a 30 minute or a 45 minute register, whereas 3-register chronos will have a 30 minute register along with the hour register.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

A. Lange & Sohne "B-Uhr" Navigator's Watch, Luftwaffe WWII Era

This is a vintage A Lange & Sohne navigator's watch.  These are commonly called B-Uhr watches (short for the German term beobachtungsuhr - which translates to observer's watch).  These watches are huge in size (55mm), and were used by the German Luftwaffe during WWII.  They were meant to be worn outside of a flight suit, and used for navigation in conjunction with a octant or gyro sextant.  This basic style of watch was made by about 14 different companies for military use, all made to the same basic specifications.  However, the movements were all different, each manufacturer having their own design.  So, it's not surprising that parts for these watches are basically impossible to find.  

This watch had a lot of problems, the crown was broken off from the stem, and it couldn't be wound or set.  All of the parts for this watch had to be custom manufactured.  It is important to maintain the originality of these very rare watches, so I did use the original crown by drilling out the broken piece of stem stuck inside.  I also relumed the hour and minute hands, as the luminous paint was missing on the minute hand. 

For more information on German watches and clocks, check out Konrad Knirim's excellent book called 'Militaruhren, Military Timepieces'.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Vintage Rolex Bubbleback repair, rare hooded lug design, circa 1935

This is a very rare and early Rolex.  This exact watch is shown in the 'Rolex Wristwatches' book by Dowling and Hess (first edition page 106).  The photo in this book is credited to Sotheby's Inc 1990, so it has quite a provenance.  The design on the hooded lugs makes this watch particularly unusual (all hooded bubblebacks are rare, this one is exceptionally so).  This watch arrived in pretty bad shape, as shown in the photos.  The case was split, probably in part due to some rust and pitting.  It may have been dropped, or the back or case tube was over tightened, which finally caused the case to split.  I also found that the case frame was not exactly flat, and it had been stretched somewhat in the round, causing the bezel and back to thread on poorly.

Upon close examination, I realized that the case was very weak at this point.  There are 3 different threads which all come together at this one place.  Some of the case had been filed away in this area, presumably to remove some rust or pitting, adding to the problem.  I decided to make a tube out of stainless steel, to both reinforce this area and to act as aid in alignment.  If this joint was off by even a small amount, the threads would not have lined up for the bezel and back.  I also left a small flange on the end of the tube to give me greater strength and more surface area for the solder.  I soldered the tube with 14K white gold solder, which is a pretty close color match to stainless and also adheres quite well (in fact, the original pink gold hoods are attached to the steel case using pink gold solder).  The small flange is actually quite original looking.

This is a very difficult repair, and is extremely time-consuming.  The case has to be heated to a very high temperature so that the white gold solder flows (about 1200 F).  Keep in mind that the hoods are attached with a similar solder, so one has to be very careful not to heat the lugs too much otherwise they will move.  Also, since the case is somewhat pitted, it does not tolerate hot/cold cycles very well.  (Using a low-temperature lead solder would not have been strong enough, and lead solder easily darkens and corrodes with wear.)

Of course, I also supplied a genuine old stock Rolex crown, new threaded case tube, and completely serviced the movement.  The case repair should last as long as the case itself.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Vintage LeCoultre automatic watch repair

This is a vintage LeCoultre watch with a caliber 12A (later called cal. 476) movement.  This design is commonly called a 'bumper wind' because the rotor doesn't turn 360 degrees, it bounces between coil spring bumpers which are shown in the photos below.  Some water entered the case, clearly through the crown and caseback, which also caused the dial to turn yellow.  There is a coating of clear lacquer that is applied over the dial, and in time the lacquer will turn yellow, causing the dial to look very dark.

This watch needed quite a few parts, including a stem, crown, crystal, mainspring, and two worn parts in the autowind mechanism (one of which is shown below).  I also installed one extra jewel in the autowind mechanism to correct a worn bushing.  I refinished the dial and hands and removed the rust from the case.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Vintage Rolex Turn O Graph restoration, model 6202, circa 1954

This is a vintage Rolex Turn-O-Graph which had great sentimental value to its owner.  Despite its fairly rough original appearance, it did have a nice original dial, which is very desirable on a collectible vintage Rolex.  As you can see, the luminous paint on the hands had been patched, so part of the paint was original and part of it had been replaced.  This is fairly common, I just hadn't shown the process in other restoration photos.  I am able to color-match the paint on the hands to match the original luminous paint on the dial, so it looks correct when it is done.  It looks obviously bad when the hands don't match the dial.

The customer was very pleased, and wrote this:

We received the Rolex yesterday. I wanted to thank you for your time and work in restoring this watch. It looks brand new, and runs perfectly. I remember my father wore this watch many years, and was one of his cherished possessions. I only wish I knew more about it's history, i.e. where he acquired it, and the original price. He wore it until he was about 78 years old, and then I never saw it again until we found it in a shoe box after he passed away at 92. I never knew much else about it. However, I am overly pleased with the final product. My wife, Ann, spent many hours researching the bezel, and finding someone who would agree to even work on this watch. Fortunately, we contacted you, and the rest is history. Again, please accept my sincere appreciation for all the work you put into this watch. It will be a cherished family heirloom for many years to come.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

— Click here for more Restoration Photos (page 2) —

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

email: tom@bestoftimeswatch.com

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Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Vintage Tiffany 5-Minute Repeater Repair, circa 1902

This watch was received in pretty poor condition, and was partially disassembled when I got it.  This explains why the movement was so dirty, as the crystal was missing and the dial was removed.  As you can see from the photos, the repeater mechanism had 4 missing parts.  Plus, the 4th wheel pinion was broken, as was its corresponding jewel (this is the pinion that carries the subsidiary seconds hand).  

This is a very high-quality watch.  I believe the maker was probably Ekegren / Koehn, but the movement isn’t marked (other than Tiffany).  Finding parts for a movement this old and rare is simply impossible, so the 4 missing parts had to be custom-fabricated.  I repivoted the 4th wheel and replaced the jewel.  It also needed a new crystal, and a new sub-second hand.