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Maintaining and Repairing Mechanical Watches - A Practical Guide by Mark W. Wiles

robmack

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Jun 22, 2013
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Title: Maintaining and Repairing Mechanical Watches - A Practical Guide
Author: Mark W. Wiles
Publisher: The Crowood Press Ltd., Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 2HR
First Published: Oct. 1 2016
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1785001558
ISBN-13: 978-1785001550
Dimensions: 19 x 1.8 x 24.1 cm
337 colour photographs, 208 pages


Table Of Contents
Introduction
Part 1: The Basics
Part II: How a Watch Works
Part III: Servicing and Cleaning a Watch
Part IV: Common Repairs
Part V: Different Types of Watch Mechanism


I will start by saying I'm not a professional watchmaker. I've just started collecting as a hobby and wanted to broaden my knowledge about mechanical watches. I found this book at the local library and checked it out. Just the first few minutes browsing through the book convinced me that this was a serious text book and worthy of a further thorough read.

This book is targeted for those entering the horology field - new students or hobbyists can obtain the best value from this book. Those with greater experience would probably be better served with a more advanced textbook. The flow of the book assumes no prior knowledge and brings the reader to the equivalent of an advanced beginner status by the end of the book. The target is to;

  1. introduce the tools necessary to begin working on watches
  2. introduce horological terminology
  3. bring the reader through a complete tear-down, cleaning and re-assembly of a basic mechanical watch movement.
  4. introduce the reader to several common repairs and adjustments that every watch will require sometime in their lives

Mark Wiles writes well. His explanations are clear and concise. Suitable language is used throughout so that concepts are articulated in an unambiguous manner. The text builds on foundational knowledge as it is introduced throughout the book. This helps to immerse the reader into the terminology and vernacular of the hobby/trade. The book is liberally illustrated with clear labelled colour pictures, diagrams and tables throughout. Each photo usually illustrates one point, or is presented to offer side by side comparisons. Important elements in photos are given numbered and coloured labels and the labels are explained in the accompanying captions, which I thought to be very instructive and informational on the part of the author.

The first chapter introduces the tools that the author feels are the minimum needed to work on a watch. This is followed by a long chapter on the components and operation of a simple mechanical watch. The author relies upon an easy-to-obtain watch to illustrate the disassembly and reassembly processes throughout the book — a ETA 6497. This is also known as the Unitas 6497, and the Chinese equivalent of this movement is the Seagull ST25. This is a 9S or 16-1/2 Ligne (37.24mm) movement and replacement parts are readily available. The reader can follow through the text of the book practicing on their same movement.

The next chapter begins to walk through the sequencing of dismantling a watch to prepare it for cleaning. Again, I thought it was well written because the text was procedural in its tone, concise in its description and thorough in its treatment. The author anticipates problem areas that the student may encounter along the way and inserts tips and/or warnings at that point in the process. Steps use the ETA 6497 movement as illustration although any movement the reader currently has could be substituted so long as the details of the parts don't deviate much from a standard mechanical watch (e.g.. date, alarm or other complications). I especially liked the treatise on oiling. Mr. Wiles broke down the types of oils needed to be stocked by the level of the operator — Hobbyist, Amateur, aspiring Professional. This was helpful for me because it gave concrete practical advice based on level of experience and probability of encountering an unusual movement requiring an esoteric oil. Essentially, I only need to stock oils which I am most likely to use. This is reflective of the types of advice offered throughout the text, which makes this book so valuable for the level of reader it targets. Another nugget of information in this chapter was how to time and regulate a watch using a watch timing machine. This was very enlightening and gave quick, concise advice relating timing machine display to a given problem area in a movement. I know there are numerous texts devoted to this subject but it was nice that there was treatment of this topic in this one book.

The next chapter covered typical repairs that older mechanical watches would require. These repairs include replacing a mainspring, replacing a winding stem, replacing a crystal, adjusting hand friction and replacing luminous paint on watch hands (can't imagine how often that comes up).

The last chapter is dedicated to specialities such as other escapement types (English level, Pin pallet, cylinder and verge), sweep second hand movements, fusee watches, various types of keyless works. A novice would not necessarily encounter these types of watches often but you never know. The treatment is light and so would not serve complete justice to the topic. However, it broadens one's knowledge about a variety of aspects of watchmaking and that is generally the forte of this book. It's a text that crams a lot into a small space.

In conclusion, I'd highly recommend this book if you fall into the targeted region of its readership. It is a modern replacement for similar books that get recommended, the advantage of "Maintaining and Repairing Mechanical Watches" being the instructional tone of its writing, use of detailed colour photos instead of hand-drawn diagrams and the use of modern tools and techniques.
 
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Tim Orr

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Sep 27, 2008
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Good evening, all!

I just started working with this book, and want to say I agree wholeheartedly with Robert in his review.

I have tried to work with numerous books, and have been frustrated over and over again because sooner or later, most assume you know things you may not. They do not define, describe, or explain things for someone with no knowledge at all. I have purchased many books over the years, and even the ones that claim to be for beginners often lose me a few pages in.

Mr. Wiles starts at the beginning and takes me step by step, leaving out nothing.

Remember how when you were at university and one of your calculus texts would show a formula, then say, "From the above, it can be seen that ... " and then they'd print another formula, and it was up to you to figure out how to get from the first one to the second? Sometimes, it would take pages of calculations to do that. Yes, "it could be seen," but not easily.

Wiles even makes great suggestions for beginners, like working by poking a hole into a plastic bag and working with the tweezers through that hole, so that when the inevitable happens and a tiny part decides to escape from the work area, it is trapped in the bag and not lost forever.

You old-timers probably don't have to worry about that, but it was an incredibly helpful suggestion for me.

Wiles also makes a very strong suggestion that we'll do better disassembling and reassembling things if we make an effort to understand what each part does and how it works. He even suggests we can figure things out by understanding their purpose.

The photos are generally pretty good, though I've had to resort to using a magnifying glass on some of them. I've also made some notes in the text to link to the photos and the callout numbers within them.

It might be that in the olden days, when everyone was an apprentice working for a master, there was always someone to help you move from step to step, but that's hardly the case anymore.

Mr. Wiles' book is a great remedy for those huge knowledge gaps we often have to bridge.

There are numerous copies of Maintaining and Repairing Mechanical Watches on Abe Books, Ebay, Barnes & Noble, etc., at quite reasonable prices. If you're as rank a beginner as I am, you'll be glad to have this book in your library.

My only wish is that Mr. Wiles will write more books!

Best regards!

Tim Orr
 

gmorse

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Jan 7, 2011
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Hi Jon,

Does it cover auto wind and date mechanisms?
No it doesn't, it stops with sweep seconds, having covered lever escapements and a brief look at pin pallets, cylinders and verges, with an explanation of fusees. As a sound introductory text whose strength is in its clear illustrations, I think it does a good job. Apart from the odd typo, I haven't noticed any serious howlers.

Regards,

Graham
 
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