Goal: $300, Received: $360.00 (120%) Contribute Now
Donate whatever you can or Join the 14,000 other NAWCC members for only $80 (plus $10 for hard copy publications). Check it out here.

View RSS Feed


Restoring an old family heritage watch...

Rate this Entry
This time I've got a post about a watch I got a long, long time ago.


That's... it
The watch has a story. It was given to someone in the family of my neighbour as a wedding gift (or so she says).
When I got it, it was a ticking old watch, however the movement, too small and lose in the case, was celarly not the original one.
The dial has feet been bent to fit the new movement, so it actually might be the right one.

Like I said - the movement would work, but all of the sudden the ratchet broke, and I gave it to a watchmaker for service.
This was probably in 2001-2002, when I was young and foolish. When I got back the watch it had a different balance cock, different click and I'm now very sure the movement was repaced instead of repaired.
Still, the one I got first was surely non original, so not a big deal...

The new one was not working very well. In fact it was very slow.
I tried to adjust it and... the cap jewel setting broke away from the cock...
So I tried to reapir that, but my skills were very poor at the time and I broke a balance pivot.

What was there to do - I've sent it to another watchmaker, a more reputable one.
Partly because I was ashamed to admit I broke the watch, and partly because I was not satisfied with the repair.

The other watchmaker did an even worse job, only charging 5x as much.
The watch returned 'somewhat ticking', but definitely could not be called running.

I wanted to check what's wrong and my guess was - a damaged escape wheel tooth.
The watch would have a slowly growing amplitude until it reached on tooth, every time the same, when it would almost stop or even stop completely, and (unless it stopped), repeated the cycle.
So I went to the first watchmaker (at the time I only knew two of them) to share the thought.
He disassembled the movement and told me I was right (though I don't even know for sure) and he'd look for a parts movement.

He kept the watch for some years searching, later he had personal problems, started drinking and the chance for seeing my watch again fell to naught...

Until one day I've come up with this brilliant idea.
Not to offend him, I asked him for just the case and dial, so that I could search for a movement too.
And that's what I've had left.


The cased dial spent years in my drawer. I sometimes took it to one antique fair or another, but among the boxes of broken cylinder movements, I could not find a match.
Until just now

This watch needs a circa 38,5mm cylinder movement (6 rubis preferred, but I got one with just two jewelled holes), with key posts and escape wheel arranged almost in a straight line, so that the winding post is just by 12 o'clock. Most cylinder movements of this size are arranged differently, though...


The hands are similar to what the watch had when I first got it. I don't have the hands any longer, so I had to find another set.
The second hand is bad, and the minute hand I had to punch to fit, so it's very flat and not too elegant.


The movement surely needed cleaning, but that's not a big deal.


Mr Bad Guy... Yes, that's my 'work' this time. I can imagine someone calling it 'idiot's work' some day, but I had no other choice... The pins had to be filed down as the case rim was too thick, and I had no file one sided and precise enough to do just the pin.
Also, having a fine, original case and cheap, crappy movement I decided to make the movement fit the case, not otherwise.
DSC09751.JPG DSC09753.JPG

The fitting was a minor problem, though.
The messed up hairspring was THE issue here.

I tried to straighten it, but it just got worse...


Nah, that's NOT good at all...
The old Swiss cylonder watch have very, very soft hairsprings. Not just soft meaning thin, but very easy to permanently bend as well. It's very hard to work on them and a bent outer coil can be a problem, not to mention the middle coils...

But I'll get back to it later on.


The movement has a bridge construction. All bridges are separate.


The cap jewel was small and had a washer under the setting to press it to the balance cock...


Now because I broke this (bad looking anyway) washer trying to make it round, I just used a bigger cap not needing a washer.


The cock was filed down to fit the bent hairspring.
The pin on the underside of the cock limits the amplitude of the balance wheel, not to exceed the maximum.
There is a corresponding pin on the balance wheel rim...

DSC09768.JPG DSC09771.JPG

The lower balance cock is disgusting. Seriously disgusting.
In these watches the lower cock was attached to the dial plate, and the upper cock to the lower cock.


The main plate... Cleaned up nicely...


The cylinder escapement is high friction (and frictional rest) escapement, so it needs POWER.
A very strong mainspring in this one.


The escape wheel and the gear train.

DSC09774.JPG DSC09775.JPG

The gears are poorly finished. The top side is plated.


I start 'backwards', perhaps, with the escape wheel cock.
I don't know the correct direction, maybye that's the one, maybe not, but I don't think it matters.
This cock has an awful tendency to lift it's end while screwing down, so I had to hold this end in place...


Separate bridges make assembling easier, no doubt...


This bridge appears somewhat bent, but it's just fine screwed down tight...


Better ?
I bet...


Performance test...

DSC09791.JPG DSC09792.JPG

The 4th pinion is a bit bent...
The center pinion assembly is the three piece one - the center bear arbor is hollow, the arbor with the setting square goes through it and the cannon pinion is punched on it tight from the dial side.


The awful lower balance cock...

DSC09794.JPG DSC09796.JPG

And the balance.
It's... well even worse now, when assembled. Works very, very bad...

I took it off and tried again, but I made it worse every time...
So difficult.


How about that ?


The off focus pic shows this in the middle of work...


And there's my beauty...
It's a bit off centre, maybe, but works so well!

In fact, like I said, old cylinder watches have very light, very soft hairsprings, and no American hairspring I have would fit.
Actually I tried a 10s Elgin hairspring, getting what I'd bet was an ETA 2892 beat
So I used a damaged Soviet wristwatch hairspring. A one from Volna K28 movement, that used to have a particularly large (for a wristwatch) balance wheel.
I cut out the damaged center bit and damaged overcoil and then I kept shortening it, till it worked.

It ended p short, but working and I'm very proud of it...


Casing a Swiss watch.. with the screws on the top side, you can press it in with the dial off, avoiding possible damage...


That's a near perfect fit. I don't want to file the positioning pin slot, so I left it rotated by this 1* or 2* or so...


The lovely dial...


The hands...

DSC09817.JPG DSC09815.JPG DSC09833.JPG DSC09814.JPG

The two tone case has what I think are French hallmarks...

DSC09776.JPG DSC09767.JPG

And now the heart of this watch - the cylinder escapement.
I remember when I first got the watch I was astonished with it's construction... Howcome the fork was integrated in the balance wheel
It's a simplification, but yes, compared to the lever escapement, it's the balance that takes over the duties of the pallet fork.
The cylinder integrated in it's staff will unlock one of the fancy shaped teeth of the escape wheel, letting it advance by one tooth, getting a push from the impulce surface at the same time.

it is, however, a frictional rest and high friction escapement, not very accurate and not very durable (sounds strange when we can see a x hundred year cylinders still going, right ?), compared to lever escapement.

Main advantahe? Less parts, no jewels - not so importatnt in the age of mass production and synthetic ruby, but back then - quite a big deal.

As for quality, a Swiss cylinder watch can be a good or low quality piece and this one is very low.
In fact, it's much lower quality than mass made Elgin or Waltham watches, and even somewhat worse than low quality American watches like New York Standard.
If you look at the cheap Swiss conuterfeits of Waltham model 1857 - that's about it.
They are crappy not just because they are fakes, but because in Switzerland low grade watches were made that way at the time...
It's not a pleasure to look at, but thanks to it's simple and robust design, it's quite easy to assemble and can work for centuries if serviced properly...


Lovely, isn't it?
Might need some more attention in the future, but so far I'm very happy to have it.
It actually keeps time well enough to use it - so far it's just 5 seconds off after 18 hours...
Seems to gain more in vertical positions...

Have a great day !

Submit "Restoring an old family heritage watch..." to Digg Submit "Restoring an old family heritage watch..." to del.icio.us Submit "Restoring an old family heritage watch..." to StumbleUpon Submit "Restoring an old family heritage watch..." to Google Submit "Restoring an old family heritage watch..." to Facebook Submit "Restoring an old family heritage watch..." to Twitter

Updated 01-11-2017 at 01:07 PM by pmwas



  1. Jackson5's Avatar
    Wow just wow!! That is a real wonderful looking piece. Congrats!
  2. PWfanatik's Avatar
    Nice watch, and nice job.