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Bulova wrist watch questions

jboger

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Jan 7, 2019
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I bought a bulova wristwatch at an auction today. It looks a bit Art Deco-ish, possibly from the Forties or Thirties. It's chugging along nicely with good motion to the balance. I think to disassemble, clean, and oil it. The movement looks like a small pocket watch. I have much experience dismantling those. Is there anything I should be aware of before I "dig in"? For example, would it be ok to use my pocket watch hands remover? Otherwise this looks like another pocket watch to work on.
 

Chris Radek

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Can you share a photo of the movement, or at least say which one it is? A lot of them, early on, really are just tiny pocket watches. If you are experienced doing big ones, and you have the equipment (or youth, haha) to see what you're doing, you'll be fine.

Later with shockproofing, durabalance, who knows - maybe there are special things to know, and we can help if we know what you've got.

(Maybe the repair forum would be better for this?)
 

glenhead

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For the most part, the only difference between an 18s pocket watch and a ladies' 5-ligne watch is size. Yes, there are going to be differences in specifically how they do some things and components are going to look different. That said, as I tell my customers, "a watch is a watch". I taught myself watch repair by buying ten Bulova 5AD watches and learning with them. I severely dorked up the hairsprings on the first two or three before I learned how to manage them. A couple of years later I un-dorked the hairsprings, and my daughter rotates through a stable of 5ADs (and 7BEACDs, and an Omega ladies' Seamaster, and a couple of Zodiacs, blah blah) for her daily watches. The movements in the early Bulovas like yours are very predictable and nice to work on.

Your pocket watch hands remover will be fine. Unless it doesn't fit, of course. I use the same hands remover for danged near all the watches I work on, though there are some where things get in the way of using it (like my Mother's FHF 59-21) and I have to resort to levers (or a Post-It). Same with any of your other tools - if they fit, they'll be fine. The only place you might run into a problem is if your mainspring winders are the wrong size or something.

Just pay attention as you disassemble things. Taking a picture of each stage of disassembly can be a great help on reassembly. Enjoy the smaller watches!

Hope this helps.

Glen
 

jboger

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As requested, here are some picture of the watch and movement. The movement is held in an inner case, which, along with the movement, together lift out of the case.

Broken main spring. Winds up quite a bit and runs for hours, but slips if one tries to wind it all the way. I suspect the mainspring broke somewhere near the arbor.

Anyone know what mainspring I should use?

John

IMG_2400.jpg IMG_2401.jpg IMG_2402.jpg
 

Chris Radek

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What a cool looking watch! Try not to breathe the crumbly radium.

Bestfit shows you want a 4x10x15. Borel has one that looks close, Cas-ker does not. Note this disagrees with what rougbarked found because 4 height is only 1.30 - so you better measure the height of your barrel to be sure.
 

jboger

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Thanks for all the help. I do have two more questions. One concerns the dial (picture below). What's the best way to clean this? Can I immerse it in soapy water, for example, or should I just brush it off?

I have partially dismantled the movement. I have not removed the barrel bridge yet. Does this movement have a detent? It is Swiss, after all. I hate detents. The answer is probably obviously yes. But before I dive in, I would really appreciate someone telling me yes or no.

Did I mention I hate detents?

John

IMG_2406.jpg IMG_2405.jpg
 

jboger

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I see others have added their comments. I did find a serial number look-up for Bulovas. Mine dates earlier than I thought, to 1930. It was sold as a Lone Eagle.
 

roughbarked

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In other terms it is called a set lever screw.
Why the hate?
Movement made between
13AF19271930

Washing the dial could lead to a big mess. Not advisable. Not saying that you won't get away with it. It is a risk though that isn't worth taking.
Dial brushes are soft. Very soft.
Bulova 13 AF = FHF 8244 bidfun-db Archive: Watch Movements: FHF 8244
 
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glenhead

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I don't do anything to dials except use a soft camel-hair brush on them, but that's me. I don't mind the "patina". There are people who will refinish a dial, but it ain't cheap.

The screw you've circled is officially called the set lever screw. (Or setting lever screw, depending on who you're talking to. Or to whom you are speaking, if you want to get really picky.) It's not really exactly a detent, in that it doesn't keep things from turning, but it keeps the stem from falling out. Loosen it two turns or so to free the stem. Getting the set lever threaded back onto the screw can be a hassle.

Glen
 

jboger

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I dislike set lever screw because putting the stem back in can be difficult. If anything internal to the setting mechanism--for example, the clutch--moves when one tries to slip the stem back in, this sometimes necessitates that the movement be dismantled again to get the alignment right. I have an early Howard that's a pain in this regard. You need to insert the entire movement back into the case--dial and all--before you insert the stem. You can not get at the clutch work.

This Bulova may not have that problem because it looks like the setting mechanism is exposed (no dial in place) when I insert the stem. I will proceed.

I will leave the dial alone.
 

jboger

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Te mainspring is now out of the barrel. As usual, I get things exactly backwards--someone says go right and I go left. Anyway, the mainspring is broken, not near the arbor, but the inside wall of the barrel. Here are the dimensions (inches) I measured with my micrometer:

Thickness: 0.003
Height: 0.055
Length: ~13 (or a little more)

Requires either a hole or a hook on the end to secure to the wall of the barrel. I indirectly measured the inside of the barrel, and that is ~0.06 inches.
 

jboger

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Actually the measurements given above in Post #7 are correct. The zero point of my micrometer is off by approximately 0.001 inches. So if you revise my numbers given above in Post #16 to

0.004 inches--thickness
0.056 inches--width

Then convert to millimeters (25.4 mm = 1.00 inch), we have

0.102 mm--thickness
1.42 mm --width

These match quite closely the numbers given in post #7 above. I never measured the length that accurately; just stretched the mainspring out along the length of a ruler and knew it was 13+ inches long. But the end was broken off, so I never measured the full length. In any case, 380 mm corresponds to 15 inches.

I'm convinced the numbers in Post #7 are the correct ones to use. I am going to work with those numbers. My micrometer reads thousandths of an inch on a dial with a needle. It's off by one unit. I need to see if I can reset the needle to zero.

All my references are for pocket watches. Wouldn't mind if someone pointed me to a source for a mainspring.

Many, many thanks to everyone!

John
 
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jboger

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Mainspring now ordered from a well-known, so-called auction website for which 90% of the sellers claim they only sell "rare" items.
 

MrRoundel

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On the set-lever and set-lever screw, I have found that they're pretty easy to reassemble if you use a finger cot and finger as your main tools. Being right-handed, with the screw trapped under the BB, lay the set-lever onto the threads, take left "cotted" index finger and press onto the lever while you lift the movement with your left hand (steadying with right) keeping pressure on lever, hold movement at the best angle you can to set your screwdriver (Rt hand) in the screw (a bit past 45 degrees?), and turn that bugger. It'll start in pretty easily.

I used to use a piece of buttonwood to hold the lever down as I lifted the watch into position, but the finger cot is way better.

I too have had issues with some of the early Howards. They have stout keyless mechanisms that seem to really fight getting the stem in lockable position sometimes. Good luck with your little Bulova. Cheers.
 

Dave Haynes

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You might try buying a mainspring gauge. They are on ebay a lot used and usually old. Most people don't know what they are. It solves all of the spring ID problems quick and easy. Identified as a brass ruler shaped tool with small slots on the edges and a steel slit in the middle to give the thickness (strength) of the spring. Most come with a leather holster. While you are at the ebay site, look for thread plates that are used to identify and freshen the threads. It is like a tap and die set in a plate of steel. Cheap and useful as many old stems are 6 or 8 thread size instead of common today 10-12.
 

jboger

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Actually, forgot that I had one . . .
 

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