Question about the visual inspection of a new watch

Joseph Short

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Perhaps I am posting this in the wrong forum, but I am curious about something. Looking at auctions on the ubiquitous auction site, a lot of the sellers claim that their watches were "Recently serviced". Is there something to look for that can be seen under a loupe that would prove or disprove this claim?
 

musicguy

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I will move this thread to watch repair because they can give the best answers to this
question.

Rob
 

Rick Hufnagel

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Well... Look for obvious signs of dirt or debris. Check the hairspring looks nice... look for funk on the dial (That's a technical term btw). Sometimes it's easy to tell if it was just dunked in some chemical because the dial will have oil spots or marks in certain light. Look at the train jewels under a loupe and see if they are spotless and correctly lubricated. You shouldn't see any grunge or dust bunnies hanging out in there. Obviously if it smells like penetrating fluid... Well.. it probably got the spray treatment.

The term "serviced" is extremely overused when it comes to the bay. Unless you know and trust the seller, just assume it will need serviced. There are great sellers out there, but the sad thing is that they are far overshadowed by unscrupulous dealers.

Don't be afraid to ask the seller questions. How was it serviced? Was this watch completely dismantled? What kind of oil did you use? How did the mainspring look or did you replace it? Did you notice or replace any cracked jewels? Ect ect ect. In my experience an honest person will reply with no problem. If they reply with a snarky or hostile answer, you know it's a sham or they dunked it in lighter fluid.
 
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Joseph Short

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Rick,
Thanks for the information. I'm not seeing any funk anywhere on the movement I am looking at. Also, I see no visible rust or pitting anywhere. The hairspring is blue and very shiny. Other than what appears to be some darkening of the plates, it appears very clean. But how would a properly lubricated pinion and jewel look like? Should I be able to see a small amount of oil? Or should they appear to be dry?
 

Skutt50

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If recently serviced there should be some type of warranty. Can it be transfered to new owner?

Another indication is if you possibly can get a picture of the watch on a timing machine. If there are unregular lines or otherwise poor performance, it has not been properly serviced......

I have a regular customer who want a photo of each watch when disassembeled. He use them to prove that it has been serviced.
 
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Joseph Short

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The regulator is close to center. But after watching the video Rick provided, there is noticeable filth on one or more pivots. I just received this watch today, I will post photos as soon as I am able.
 

Chris Radek

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And yes, confirming what everyone else says: on ebay this is almost always a bald-faced lie. I have zero customers that have me routinely service watches for sale. It is not economically feasible, because they simply can not recover my cost in a higher sale price. They have me service the ones they keep!

I have had people ask me for this though, can I just do enough to make it run? One guy I met at a NAWCC mart, who sells a lot on ebay, said his "previous guy" charged him $40 per watch. I gave him a card and shook his hand, and said no way.
 

DeweyC

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Leaving aside overall condition (botched screws, fingerprints, scarred plates, deranged balance or spring, dust, sluggish motion, etc).

All of this begs the question: What does "serviced" mean?

Was it run it through a cleaner whole and then oiled?
Was it disassembled except for the mainspring barrel?
Were worn parts replaced?
What lubricants were used?
Was the watch returned to proper function? (winding, setting and most importantly, original performance specs)

"Service" is one of those words that sounds like it has meaning, until we realize it has none since everyone defines it differently.

Few collectors pay more based on a claim of service. If it is intended to be used, they send it to their own watchmaker who will first run it through the post service tests and then service if indicated.
 

Al J

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This question comes up often on other forums I frequent, where the seller claims a recent service. My advice to people is that unless the seller provides proof of said service, to consider it unserviced and account for the cost of a service in the price you are willing to pay for the watch.

For me, proof is not the seller making a statement, but a receipt from a known to be good service provider that can be tired directly to the watch in question, via serial number or some other means. There are some service receipts that if I were to see one that is tied directly to the watch in question, I would immediately tell the buyer to avoid the watch, or be certain it will need another service as soon as he gets it. There are a lot of hacks out there and some I see their work often...

Cheers, Al
 

nutmegtinker

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I hope I am not hijacking the thread but, this is very relevant and timely for me. I also just purchased my first pocket watch (Hamilton 992B) on that ubiquitous, infamous auction site. The posters here largely confirmed what I had been thinking. Namely, in spite of the sellers claim of having cleaned and oiled the watch himself and that he has his own watch repair business, I would like to take it to a local reputable watch repair person to have it inspected. How do I find the right person for this and how much should I expect to pay for a) inspection and b) a full service if recommended (assuming the watch needs only routine maintenance)? I live in CT, one hour north of Manhattan.
 

Marv

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I hope I am not hijacking the thread but, this is very relevant and timely for me. I also just purchased my first pocket watch (Hamilton 992B) on that ubiquitous, infamous auction site. The posters here largely confirmed what I had been thinking. Namely, in spite of the sellers claim of having cleaned and oiled the watch himself and that he has his own watch repair business, I would like to take it to a local reputable watch repair person to have it inspected. How do I find the right person for this and how much should I expect to pay for a) inspection and b) a full service if recommended (assuming the watch needs only routine maintenance)? I live in CT, one hour north of Manhattan.
I've purchased about a dozen watches from that ubiquitous auction site (so far). Some of them run very well and I have a couple that don't.

One thing that you should know is that these watches should have a regular service, some say every three years or so. That means you should plan doing a service at some point.

Second, the watch may run fine as it is. If it's bad out of the box, then you need to work that out with the seller. Ebay can help, but I suspect that it won't be that bad.

So, just wind up the watch, see how it goes.

By the way, the 992B is a great watch.
 

roughbarked

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Regular servicing. I recently said this to an acquaintance when he saw a tin of batteries on my table.
"I used to service this many watches in the same time it took me to fill that can of batteries".

We gave our customers a year warranty on a new watch(mechanical) but informed them that it would be best for correct performance of the watch, to get it serviced at least every two years. Which by the way is what we told them about their battery regardless whether the battery was still working or not.
 

roughbarked

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Leaving aside overall condition (botched screws, fingerprints, scarred plates, deranged balance or spring, dust, sluggish motion, etc).

All of this begs the question: What does "serviced" mean?

Was it run it through a cleaner whole and then oiled?
Was it disassembled except for the mainspring barrel?
Were worn parts replaced?
What lubricants were used?
Was the watch returned to proper function? (winding, setting and most importantly, original performance specs)

"Service" is one of those words that sounds like it has meaning, until we realize it has none since everyone defines it differently.

Few collectors pay more based on a claim of service. If it is intended to be used, they send it to their own watchmaker who will first run it through the post service tests and then service if indicated.
In the instance of having recently had a battery fitted, meaning serviced.
What if upon investigation, the battery fitter's hair is still there where she clipped the back on?
I've actually discovered this on more than the one occasion of examination of the watch, before opening.
•and I do mean that the customer was handed the watch and they put it on and wore it out of the shop before the battery went flat again or they brought it to me for another reason. ie; it stopped.
•and it wasn't a sexist comment because my hair is as long as hers. I know it was hers because no male I know would maintain his locks that well.. and that includes me. However, at least I tie mine out of the way.
 
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bruce linde

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a quick thought on ‘recently serviced’... i’m a clock guy, but i imagine this applies to watches as well. over time, my understanding of what constitutes each part of servicing a movement... and my ability to execute properly... continues to evolve.

for example, i have a large regulator i’ve serviced multiple times... mostly because it would run for months and months but with a small pendulum arc despite my best efforts and ‘servicing’.. and then it would go through a phase of stopping. i only today... after several years... realized that the piece of rod i used originally to replace a broken crutch rod had too much flex in it and was robbing power from the train. after double-checking everything else (bushings, slop, no bent pivots, acceptable smoothness when powering by hand with verge removed, and so on) i replaced the crutch rod with something stiffer... and now have a larger pendulum arc and can tell it has more power and will run more reliably.

moral of the story is that unless you know for sure who serviced it and how thoroughly, you just don’t know... and should probably go through every new acquisition yourself (or farm out to someone you trust) to make sure everything is up to the expected standards... and even then.... :)

btw... this time around i hand-turned new great wheel bushings, front and back, on my sherline... skills acquired more recently. that didn’t fix the pendulum arc issue, but did remove one more potential issue from the possible culprits list. when you’ve removed or dealt w all potential issues, it‘s probably ok to consider it serviced.

again, without knowing who did what, how well, and how recently , you can’t really trust that it’s been ‘serviced’.
 

Al J

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Well another example came into the shop that illustrates how useful the claim of a watch being recently serviced is when there's no proof other than the seller's word. This watch was said to have been serviced "3 days before being listed for sale." Timing checks indicated the balance amplitude dial down at full wind was 240 degrees, it was running 25 seconds fast, and this is a modern chronometer grade watch, so I knew it wasn't going to be pretty inside.

Some photos of the condition of the jewels:

Escape wheel jewel.jpg

Intermediate wheel jewel.jpg

Balance.jpg

So clearly this hasn't been serviced in a very long time - maybe 10 years ago. And after cleaning, the condition of parts also tells the same story:

Seconds wheel.jpg

Reversing wheel.jpg

Fortunately my customer didn't pay any sort of premium because of the service claim, so he was not surprised that it was in this condition, even though he was hoping for better. Not a huge penalty here because the parts are relatively cheap being a modern movement, so in total an extra $130 or so in parts needed. If this were a vintage watch with hard to find parts, it could easily be many multiples of that. I was recently quoted $500 for a used train wheel for one vintage watch I'm having issues finding parts for, so things can get expensive very quickly depending on the watch.

Cheers, Al
 

nutmegtinker

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OK. So, I just got this watch, a Hamilton 992B, yesterday from an eBay seller. Visual inspection matches the advertised condition. It was not running out of the box. I wound it fully and it did not start. I attempted to set it and it eventually started and has been running apparently on time (within the minute) for almost 24 hours. I am totally new to these railroad watches. Is my experience with the winding and no start normal or, a possible red flag of a problem? 992B running
 

Skutt50

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Normally it should start once you wound a few turns of the crown.

It can be that it runs in some positions and halts in others.
Did you run it in different positions e.g. Dial upp, dial down, pendant up etc?

If the watch has not been serviced for many years there may be old gummed up oils and other debree in the movement making it difficult to get going. A service is probably what is needed. The good ting is that you may not need any parts unless there are parts worn like in the posting before yours...... (If there are not such parts yet, it may well be if run as is.....)
 

nutmegtinker

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Watch runs in all positions. So far, it seems to running fast. Seems like a service is in order. Another question from a newbie: is the second hand supposed to stop when setting the watch (lever up)? Mine does not stop when in set mode.
 

Skutt50

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The second hand should not stop in the setting mode.
 

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