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The Three Emperors' Corner - part four

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Good day to you all!

As you can expect - the story of my homeland goes on, and this time - we're back in Cracov.

The railway station you remember from part three, only this time we're not heading to the town square.
This time I took another route to the more southern part of the city, the district of Kazimierz.

Since it's erection in the medieval times, Kazimierz had been a separate city until 1792, when it was merged with the city of Cracov. Back in the old days there was a branch of Vistula river dividing both cities, but these days are long gone. Nowadays you'll pass from Cracov to Kazimierz barely noticing.
On the main square above...

...there are two synagogues, includung the most important (and touristically attractive) main one below:

as you can see - despite it's the middle of a normal, working day outside season, the place is crowded with tourists. I don't think there is a good moment to find this place deserted to take better pictures.
But why two synagogues in one town square

Well - due to a conflict between the authorities and the Jews living in nearby Cracov in 15th century, the Jews moved (or were relocated) to Kazimierz, forming a large (and growing), pretty closed community there.
Now - even though the Jewish district was not as big as the entire city - Kazimierz is known worldwide as 'the Jewish district' of Cracov.

Yes, before the horror of World War 2, there were many Jewish communities in Poland, we now can see on old photographs and sometimes hear in the stories told by those, who still remember the times.
Today, every day, many tours from Israel arrive to Kazimierz to see this part of their heritage, they had to leave behind.

An old, touristically attractive places like Kazimierz is also a place where good, old-style antique shops can prevail.
The era of omnipresent internet made antique dealing surely more difficult, as many old things can be bought on-line and... cheaper. Still, being in such place one surely will be more willing to buy something in a place like that.
And so I bought myself a Zenith watch...

This pictures I took after cleaning, as I forgot - I admit - to take 'before' pics.

The case is made of silver and it's rose gold plated.
The caseback is badly tarnished and was even worse beofre, resulting in very bad first impression which - combined with the fact the piece was barely ticking - resulted in quite acceptable (especially for a Kazimierz antique shop) price. Still - the watch obviously had a lot of potential.

Let's see...

As stated on the caseback, this unit has a compensation balance with Breguet hairspring and 15 jewels.
The case is - as you can see - soking in cleaning fluid, so let's see some parts.
There is a (quite ordinary, matt finish) steel lever escapement and - like I said - an expansion balance.
Clearly, there are some washers under the screws and I also noticed the watch was pretty much out of beat.
I know it's hard to tell in a barely ticking watch, but in this one it was quite apparent, so someone had done some work on the balance complete before. I don't think it was staff replacement as the balance is perfectly flat. If it were - very well done.

The gilding of the plates is - as you will see even better later on - remarkably 'gold', so to say.
You know what i mean - not dully yellow, but shines like pure gold.
Because I've once broken a Zenith regulator, I did not decide to take the balance bearing apart - just a prolonged soaking to soak as much old oil as possible. Looking under magnification - the bearing looked just dry, no dirt in it.
I also forgot to take pictures of the keyless works disassembled.
In this Zenith there is a stem mounted in the case sleeve, and a female stem in the movement.
Unlike in American watches, there is no additional arbor in the female stem, so it's just female stem, clutch gear and windnig pinion pictured.

Assembling begins top side, with the keysles works assembly mentioned, the barrel and the gear train.
In fact, the keyless works parts can be inserted later, with the barrel bridge already on, whatever you like more.
Notice the stem you have to insert into the hole from the outside and when inserted, it sits nicely in place.

Turning to the dial side - I've already placed the cannon pinion on the center arbor and that's one issue I noticed - there is some play in the dial side center bearing. Not jewelled, so not any strange at all. It's not bad, so I don't think it requires urgent repair.

Now - the rest of the keyless works.
I don't know if the two facts are linked or not, but I've heared George Jacot (who set up Zenith company) trained in USA, which might have affected his ideas of building a watch. Anyway - many Zenith watches of the era have American style sleeve in the pendant and female stem in the movement. I don't exactly know how common it was among Swiss made watches back then, as I don't have too many, but for sure I can tell Zenith used solutions quite similar to the American remontoires.

The main difference is that there is no arbor going through the female portion of the stem, operating a setting lever on the other side, the setting lever is where it 'should' be, close to the rim of the movement.
In fact it looks like this could be converted to a detent stem design very easily later on during production.
The metal plate close to the outer rim can be moved (green arrow) to lock the keyless works in setting position.

Because it's the whole stem that moves, not just an arbor in it, be sure to lubricate the wide bit of the stem as well. Otherwise it won't click out easily and the movement will have a tendency to jam in setting position despite you pull the stem out.

Back to the top side now - the gear train has (like the escapement) a very simple, nothing special finish, but not the plates. The plates have - like I mentioned - wonderful gold layer on them, anglaged edges and nicely chosen, 'bloody' red ruby jewels.

Assembling this Zenith is smooth and everything fits beautifully.
With the escapement in place I put the balance cock on, so that I can estimate where the hairspring stud needs to be. The technique is simple - you just hold the balance assembly observing the roller jewel (usually clearly seen in good light, unless located under balance arm) and you try to hold the balance with roller in line with the escapement. Underneeth, you can see the stud hole and I believe that's where the stud should be.
In this watch the beat center was about 15* off.

Notice the dial as well. It's a double pressed enamel dial with arabic numerals.
The pressed in sections have matt finish, while the outer bit is glossy.
The dial is in MINT condition, not a hairline, not a chip, not a scratch.
I pt the movement under cover to wait for casing...

And there it is. Timing the watch I determined...

...the balance needs to be repoised and the bad readings are arranged in a manner suggesting there is a diagonal position even worse.
Clearly, there must be an obvious heavy spot on the balance, but I think I'll attend to it next time.

This watch is incredibly pretty. It has this wonderful, high quality look about it...

The hallmark on the back is Swiss.

And the lovely movement once again.
This watch was a real, real pleasure to work on.
It's just so beautifully engineered and crafted.

I tried to improve the case by both chemical cleaning (which actually did the gild very good) and very mild caseback polishing.
Unfortunalely, the tarnish is very chemically stable and you can't polish an engine tured surface down flat as well.
So much of the tarnish had to stay.
Otherwise the watch is in SUPERB condition, bith the dial and the movement.
It's worth noticing the major 'visual' flaws I've found in the entire movement is a watchmaker's signature scratched on the pilar plate under the dial, and a matt brusie on the top side of the barrel. Otherwise it's near pristine, not even serious screwdriver marks on it's screws.
You don't see such beautifully preserved watch movements of that era very often!
See you soon and thank for looking !!!
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Updated 04-04-2017 at 03:20 AM by pmwas



  1. NahumS's Avatar
    Your watch is beautiful- it looks like you did a great job restoring it. Use it well!
    Thanks for the pictures of Kazimierz - I visited Cracow a few years ago and was thoroughly enchanted by it- especially the Rema Synagogue (upper picture) and its adjacent cemetery and the Izzak Synagogue. The larger synagogue was closed the day we visited...I think I remember looking in the window of the antique shop.
    Thanks for sharing!
  2. Robert Gift's Avatar
    Wonderful article! Great photos! Thank you.

    "the balance needs to be repoised and the bad readings are arranged in a manner suggesting there is a diagonal position even worse.
    Clearly, there must be an obvious heavy spot on the balance, but I think I'll attend to it next time."

    What makes you suspect this?
    Thank you.
  3. pmwas's Avatar
    Thanks you both for kind words.

    As for the balance.
    I've read that if a balance wheel has a heavy spot it will run consistently in horizontal positions, while in vertical positions it will have deviations, loosing most (or gaining least) in the position indicating the heavy spot (hmmm.l.. heavy it was, not light, right ?).
    So if the heavy spot on the balance wheel is is located directly at 6 o'clock direction, the watch will run slowest crown up, fastest crown down and somewhere between crown left and right.
    This watch runs slow crown up and right and fast crown down and left, so probably there is a diagonal position that's slowest and fastest as well. Maybe, maybe not