Rant: eBay Parts are the Worst

smoseley

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I keep ordering (pocket watch) parts from eBay, paying top-dollar for them, and receiving incorrect, ill-fitting, or not-as-described parts. That is... when I receive anything at all.

To make it worse, eBay's draconian policies highly favor the party with the most feedback, so when dealing with any of the few "power sellers" who specialize in pocket watch parts, you really don't have my options but to hope they'll do the right thing to make you happy (eBay will even delete your negative feedback after shutting down a dispute with a power-seller, and credit cards won't allow a dispute against paypal charges... so you literally have zero options).

Where can I go to find parts, where I can be sure I'm not overpaying for garbage from a business focused on quantity over quality?

Thanks!
 
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musicguy

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Have you used Dave's watch parts(website) yet?



Rob
 

Kevin W.

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What kinds of parts are needed, new, vintage, antique ?
 

smoseley

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I think it would be much more helpful for some of us if you could narrow it down more? like in which specific part like a balance staff mainspring setting spring and make and model the watch?
I've had issues with it all. Dials, regulators, balance staffs, hands, cases, you name it. Mainly I've experienced issues with condition and getting parts as described. Am I the only one who's had this issue with eBay?
 

John Runciman

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I've had issues with it all. Dials, regulators, balance staffs, hands, cases, you name it. Mainly I've experienced issues with condition and getting parts as described. Am I the only one who's had this issue with eBay?
one of the major problems with American pocket watches are their old. The age isn't necessarily a problem but manufacturing way back then was a problem. Have you ever noticed pocket watches have serial numbers that's to keep all the plates together. I've even seen an hour wheel with the serial number. Look carefully at your balance wheel it usually has the serial number scribed on it. if you look at the records of the watch companies you'll see that there was usually upgrades the movements there were variations. Then they were made in batches conceivably each batch may have some minor size variations. With time they get better and better at parts interchangeability until at some point in time there is no longer serial numbers on the movements in the parts will interchange but the early parts can be problematic.

if you look at YouTube there is a couple of videos on early watch manufacturing. Look at the assembly line part of the videos. Often times will see somebody hand fitting the part. in other words the part just didn't drop in the required some sort of manufacturing on the spot to change its size shape whatever to fit. Then when we get to the escapement adjusting usually all of those components are adjusted for each watch.

I know somebody who did a project with some 12 size Illinois watches they were picked because according to the parts book there all identical at least this particular one should've been. Unfortunately is made over 30 years which of course means variations. when the watches were disassembled for cleaning because are so many of them the movements were Together but the dial components were all separate because after all their identical the canon pinion, hour wheel and of course hands are all identical so they were placed in separate containers. final assembly brought a surprise of oh dear the canon pinions did not necessarily fit on the center wheel shaft which means somebody has to go through and pick one that fits properly. Then of course everything else had to be fit because the resize variations for everything on the dial side including the hands. They would've done much better if all the components admin kept together.

Then there is my all time favorites which always catches the newbie and quite a few other people. That is the balance staff how hard could that be to get? as you know it's quite easy their books to look up which staff you need or there's a website ill tell you the exact staff you need one part number one staff perfect system. But where you aware that balance staffs come in different pivots sizes? Let's look at an Elgin parts book when Elgin staffs were priced nicely. You can buy a dozen but read the fine print it says that if you buy a dozen and you don't specify the pivot size they will send you an assortment of sizes. Just think of your eBay seller is selling that would they know that it's a bag of assorted sizes?

While were talking about Elgin that's my favorite company for balance staffs. Let's look at 18 size watch that's probably going to be in 857 no problem up to five different pivots sizes and you're good to go or are you? There were four different staffs each with different pivots sizes for that part number. They had a new and old style and then there was another variation this means if you have the wrong staff it isn't going to fit. the basically a heck of a lot of variation for an identical part number.

Oh other problem with balance staffs if you get a modern replacement staff like bestfit for instance they manufacture their staffs oversize that way you could reduce them to fit. Like for instance Hamilton 992B as far as I know there's only one sized staff and there's is slightly oversize. Which means unless you have access to a lathe it's not going to fit unless someone pounded it really really hard then the next watchmaker won't build a get the original staff to fit because the hub is now too big.

so is it going to be problematic buying parts off of eBay yes. Because parts may or may not interchange. The seller may not actually be a watchmaker he may grasp of the watch parts are but may not grasp that they're all these variations and even if the person did do they really care?
 

MrRoundel

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I can sympathize with the OP on this stuff. It does seem that more than 1/2 the staffs I buy for replacement are too small in at least one important dimension. I can't say that I've ever bought one that was oversized for its part number. Although I have heard of a brand that used to supply slightly oversized, adjustable, staffs. It's like a cruel joke.

After struggling with a balance for a rare 12s Illinois movement, I finally tapped out the odd staff it has. The replacement looked right. And in order to look right, it had to look odd, as the staff incorporates the safety-roller into the staff. There's no reason that I can see that staff wouldn't fit other than it being made too small for the friction fit. The hardened bub that is part of the balance would be unlikely to have been enlarged by tapping out an earlier staff. The old staff's critical dimension is .53 mm. Replacement is .51mm. Carumba. Using glue is entering my mind at this time. Would that be utterly Crazy, as in glue? Or perhaps crystal cement would be a better choice?
 

gmorse

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Hi MrRoundel,
The old staff's critical dimension is .53 mm. Replacement is .51mm. Carumba. Using glue is entering my mind at this time. Would that be utterly Crazy, as in glue? Or perhaps crystal cement would be a better choice?
You may regret doing this, or maybe not, depends in part on whether you can manage to make it run true, but the next person to service this watch is much more likely to! There's an often hazy line between using innovative materials and techniques, and 'bodging'; it's up to you to decide which side of the boundary you end up, but please consider the next guy down the timeline.

Regards,

Graham
 

MrRoundel

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Sometimes I wonder if it's always been this bad. Maybe today we are often buying factory rejects? In the coming years we will just need to get used to making more staffs.
I wonder the same thing. Lots of factory "blems" that sat unused for many decades for a reason.

And Graham, I'm mostly venting about the glue stuff. But dang it, it is irritating. This particular staff doesn't grow on trees, but rather "dangling at the end of a piece of wire just waiting to be freed", as an old friend used to say. It may be that having a staff made for the balance is the only way. And with the safety roller being incorporated into the staff, that should provide an even greater challenge to someone. Perhaps even more than truing a balance with a glued staff? Cheers.
 

gmorse

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Hi MrRoundel,
And with the safety roller being incorporated into the staff, that should provide an even greater challenge to someone. Perhaps even more than truing a balance with a glued staff? Cheers.
Not that difficult, at least the steel material is more predictable than glue! This Swiss one mounts the impulse jewel in the wheel hub.

DSCF0974.JPG

Regards,

Graham
 
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D.th.munroe

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Sometimes I wonder if it's always been this bad. Maybe today we are often buying factory rejects? In the coming years we will just need to get used to making more staffs.
I think it has been a gamble buying parts with unknown origins for quite a while.
There are adverts in the old journals in the last 1/4 of 1800s and well into the 1900s of warnings of counterfeit parts of low quality, which probably were found and now being sold as original new old stock.
Dan
 

MrRoundel

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The stories of some after-market manufacturers of old making their replacement staffs slightly large remains a rumor in my experience. I have yet to see that be the case, FWIW. Any time I have used an oversized staff and adjusted it down has been because I ordered a staff for another watch that needed minimal reducing to fit. Even that is just better than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. YMMV. Cheers.
 

Greg Frauenhoff

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My post is not in defense of ebay parts sellers. That said, there is much to consider when getting a replacement part for an antique watch. First there are the parts themselves: genuine factory, 3rd party period, 3rd party later, 3rd party modern. Then one must consider that many watches have been altered (repaired?) over the years with less than correct parts, such that an absolutely correct one will no longer fit.

Over the years I've owned (and mostly sold off) a tremendous amount of new-old-stock material, both factory and third party. Even factory material can require some alteration. I won't go into all the details, but suffice to say that while fitting a factory made Hamilton 992B staff can be trivial this is rarely the case for say a Hamilton from the 1890s. Correct factory hands are another item that generally requires some tweaking. And this all assumes that you have the correct part to begin with. Need a center wheel with staff and pinion for say an 18s Hampden? Which model? Which grade? What is the hole size? There's much to consider.
 
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MrRoundel

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Too bad, for me, that you didn't post earlier, John Runciman. I was bidding on an auction for Bestfit staffs that ended yesterday. I'd have gone higher had I have known it was Bestfit that made staffs slightly oversized. Timing, with knowledge, is everything. Cheers.
 

John Runciman

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Even factory material can require some alteration.
it's why a good rule to follow when replacing parts in anything vintage always measure what you take out. Then measure whatever you perceive you going to put in and make sure they agree.

then the golden rule always modify the replacement part to fit the watch not the other way around. Typically people are eager to modify the watch to fit their part failing to grasp that somebody down the road may have to repeat this process only to discover that they're going to have a new problem because you modified their watch.

the problem with factory material is as noted there will be variations. We are attempting to fix watches 100+ years old. In 100 years of manufacturing, manufacturing has improved. The ability to maintain exacting specifications has improved so when you work on 100-year-old watch there are doing the best they could at the time but there will be variations.

this means that anyone working on vintage watches has to accept that there is different challenges like things may not fit.
 

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