Mechanical WW Balance removal delayed, is balance destruction denied.

MrRoundel

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Greetings all.

I just thought I'd post this as a tip or trick. I have learned this lesson before, but was hoping to get around it. Sometimes there's no getting around things.

A while back I was working on an automatic wrist-watch movement. It had a center seconds hand that used a "split level" (?) center wheel. When this is used, especially on small ladies watches, it provides very little, and oh so dangerous, clearance for balance removal and installation.

Most of the time, we remove the balance before we start disassembling the train, etc., no? At least I have always done that. Well, after working on a couple of these automatics, and ruining a hairspring, I realized that it might be best to remove the balance after removing the train-bridge(s), and whatever else inhibits the free lifting of the balance.

When I got back to the little Eternamatic (#1195r - 8 1/4 ligne) with a replacement hairspring, I first tried to get the balance under the center wheels. I just didn't have the clearance, and was risking the replacement. So I went to the change of sequence route and pulled the train-bridge. I also had to pull all of the train-wheels, leaving only the escape wheel and pallet-fork in place. I also had to pull two winding wheels. This gave me adequate room to get the balance to settle in. Due to it's size, and marginal lighting, it was still not that easy. But it is in now, and the rest went back together pretty nicely.

The moral of the story is: On small automatics, and perhaps others as well, removing the balance later, and installing it sooner, seems to be the ticket to fewer ruined hairsprings. I hope this helps someone. Cheers.

Note: There may be risk to the balance and train during removal. You must be very careful to be sure that there is no power left in the mainspring. I'm happy to hear of the pitfalls versus benefits of such a technique.
 

GeneJockey

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If I were working on vintage Gruens, with their weak hairsprings, I'd likely adopt this approach. I actually do know another hobbyist who puts the balance in first, and it works for him.

For my usual work, the one problem I see is that you lose the ability to test how freely the train spins, then checking for backlash with the winding wheels installed, and then pallet snap once it's installed, so that before you install the balance you've already had the chance to address any issues in the rest of the movement. I guess you can still do that, but then disassemble sufficiently to install the balance and reassemble?
 

MrRoundel

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All good points, GeneJockey. I'm guessing that more hairsprings on small watches get messed up than any other part. In this particular Eternamatic, once the wheels were in place, I gave the watch a small wind. If it got good motion, I felt I had a fighting chance of it having sufficient play in the train. Cheers.

Side question: Did any of your crystals for the 32.05mm size work for you yet? I'm just curious.
 

GeneJockey

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All good points, GeneJockey. I'm guessing that more hairsprings on small watches get messed up than any other part. In this particular Eternamatic, once the wheels were in place, I gave the watch a small wind. If it got good motion, I felt I had a fighting chance of it having sufficient play in the train. Cheers.
Maybe it's the age and condition of the watches I acquire and work on, but I probably spend most of the time during a service making sure the train runs freely. Sometimes it's close to, but not QUITE good enough, and then the balance motion's always subpar at full wind. Apart from a Gruen which gave me a hell of a time on several fronts, none of the watches I work on have were that hard to get the balance back in, and when disassembling I generally unscrew the stud screw and remove the cock separate from the balance - except the Swiss movements where the regulator has that boot you have to turn to free the hairspring.

Side question: Did any of your crystals for the 32.05mm size work for you yet? I'm just curious.
None of them is exactly what I want. I tried a couple that were for Seikos, but they are all way too tall, and have a bevel around the top that looks bad with these watches.

The closest to acceptable has been a G-S EverTite, which is an domed crystal, but while not correct is at least unobtrusive. I decided to live with the scratches on the two watches that have correct crystals that aren't horrible, and get another E-T for the 4th one. But I'm still searching for a flat top, armored crystal 2.5mm in total height.
 
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Rick Hufnagel

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Doug,
Have you tried superfine sandpaper and then brasso. Works like a charm on those plastic crystals. Unless the scratches are gouges.


Mr. Roundel I havent worked on anything where I would need to employ your technique, but my first instinct is always to get the balance assembly out so I do not accidentally do any harm, but after reading your post, I'll certainly look twice before dissasembling smaller movements. Thanks
 
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MrRoundel

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Hi Rick. As GeneJockey mentioned, you can't release the HS at the regulator pins on the Swiss movements. Otherwise, also as GeneJockey mentioned, releasing the hairspring and lifting up the balance cock without it is a good move, methinks.

As far as checking the freedom in the train, I suppose one could install the train-wheels and their bridges, and then removing again after being satisfied with their freedom. Yes? The pivots lined up very easily in this particular movement, so it wouldn't be a lot of extra work.

Oh, and GeneJockey, you're doing the right thing in working with the crystal in your watch. I removed a crystal from a Wittnauer electronic and could not find a replacement. In addition, the crazy, but cool looking, case had the crystal glued in so well that the crystal left a significant acrylic ring behind in the groove with the glue. I tried melting it a little at a time to get it out, but it would have taken years, and whatever tool was used had the tendency to scratch the case with the slightest mis-placement. I ended up using the "knucklier" option by soaking it in acetone to dissolve the glue. It worked after a few long soaks. Everything held up well except there were painted white minute markers around a reflector ring, trapped and glued like the crystal, that disappeared after the soak. And they were a key part of its cool factor. I just saw no other way. The best way would have been to leave the old one in place, and perhaps polish it out. I'm guessing the reason it hadn't been replaced is because word got around to watchmakers that they weren't really replaceable at all. Attractive but terrible design if it came from the factory that way. Oh well...Good luck with you Elgin.
 

fijidad

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LOVE the Title of this: Balance removal delayed, is balance destruction denied.

There was a song once as I recall "50 Ways to Ruin a Hairspring!"

My horror story is that, upon removing the balance cock, the balance stays embedded in a dirty lower jewel...and the only thing separating the two is the HAIRSPRING! That still small voice whispers in my ear....STOP BEFORE YOU COMPLETELY SCREW THIS UP!
 
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GeneJockey

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LOVE the Title of this: Balance removal delayed, is balance destruction denied.

There was a song once as I recall "50 Ways to Ruin a Hairspring!"

My horror story is that, upon removing the balance cock, the balance stays embedded in a dirty lower jewel...and the only thing separating the two is the HAIRSPRING! That still small voice whispers in my ear....STOP BEFORE YOU COMPLETELY SCREW THIS UP!
If it's REALLY stuck, you probably need a new balance staff, anyhow!
 

karlmansson

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LOVE the Title of this: Balance removal delayed, is balance destruction denied.

There was a song once as I recall "50 Ways to Ruin a Hairspring!"

My horror story is that, upon removing the balance cock, the balance stays embedded in a dirty lower jewel...and the only thing separating the two is the HAIRSPRING! That still small voice whispers in my ear....STOP BEFORE YOU COMPLETELY SCREW THIS UP!
Cleaned a women’s wristwatch balance with hairspring on it in my cleaning machine once. A coil somehow got tangled in the mesh. Didn’t notice it. Lifted the balance out. Was left with something resembling gift wrapping string. Now I clean them mounted in the watch...
 
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MrRoundel

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Now I clean them mounted in the watch...
Thanks for your input, ,karlmansson. Yes, I often do this on even wrist-watches as large as 12L. However, I usually end up removing the balance completely and then replace it after the rest of the watch is torn down. Thinking about it, your way does seem like the safest way, providing one doesn't drop the movement, etc. And, if it has a shock-spring device, and if they, and the jewels, are removed before the watch is completely torn down, breaking a pivot would seem less likely.

Presently I have an A.Schild 1287 on my bench for cleaning. I might just try leaving it in during the whole process this time. Cheers.
 

MrRoundel

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OK, well, it sounded good on paper for a second. Removing the pallet fork would have been rather tricky, OK, impossible, without removing the balance first. And actually I was thinking of removing the balance wheel anyway because my cleaning fluids don't seem to be getting hairsprings clean enough, so I'll have to One-dip it.

Still though, the movement had the what I'll call duplex center-wheel, that cut down on room and set up more teeth to bite into the hairspring while lifting. So I did wait until late in disassembly to remove the balance. Cheers.
 

karlmansson

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My response was probably a bit off topic. It was dealing more with destroying the balance spring during cleaning than during removal of the balance. I do remove the balance prior to disassembly if the whole movement, and then reinstall it on an empty plate.

Regards
Karl
 
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GeneJockey

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OK, well, it sounded good on paper for a second. Removing the pallet fork would have been rather tricky, OK, impossible, without removing the balance first. And actually I was thinking of removing the balance wheel anyway because my cleaning fluids don't seem to be getting hairsprings clean enough, so I'll have to One-dip it.

Still though, the movement had the what I'll call duplex center-wheel, that cut down on room and set up more teeth to bite into the hairspring while lifting. So I did wait until late in disassembly to remove the balance. Cheers.
Alternatively, "concentric 4th wheel".
 

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