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Given the limited nature of hand-made watches, what's the expected price to pay for one?

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello


(This is a massive post, so please only read if you’ve got a cup of tea and a comfy seat)


I have been a member of these forums for a few months now but I’ve been quietly obsessed with watches for as long as I can remember.


I’m 27 and have had watches for as long as I’ve been aware of them, but it’s nothing to write home about. I’ve never had the money to get serious with it so it’s been cheap digital watches or nothing.


Over the past couple of years or so I’ve got back in to it and have had a Wenger Aerograph “Vintage” on my wrist for a while now (as I said nothing special). That’s set to change at Christmas when my lovely fiancee/santa brings me a Citizen Nighthawk, as reward for designing and having made a bespoke engagement ring that I used in August.


I am very excited about it.


Anyway, this is a long way round to getting to the meat, but a bit of backstory is sometimes nice...(?)




I work in an architects in Scotland, we’re quite big. I also have a degree in Product Design and got the job as the model maker in house 5 years ago and as such have access to a Rapid Prototyper, Laser Cutter internally and many contacts that can do acid etching, metal plating for RP parts and many other techs outsourced...can you see where this is leading?




Basically I’ve designed a watch. I have no background in horological assembly, or indeed any knowledge of anything. I’m green. But I know what I like. I have a few questions that I am hoping to get answers to/pointed in the direction of so I can get my idea produced! Please don’t see this as me being lazy. I could spend the next year reading forum posts, learning stuff etc, but the best way to learn is to ask those in the know. So if you could be so kind as so help, I would be greatly appreciative.




The idea:


CASE


I have designed the case outer (aesthetics) and will be 3D modelling and Rapid Prototyping this in our Objet machine. It’s a photocuring resin and as such can be finished itself to an amazing smooth finish.


This will then be plated by a company that specialises in metal coating RP parts. They can do a lot of finishes and are reasonably cheap (£50 i expect)


Our machine has incredible tolerances, so the finish and fit will be pretty close. It’s obviously not going to be to the tolerances of a properly made/machined watch case, but it will be enough I hope. I will then take this if it works and all fits and get a proper bit of metal machined at a local shop if I can find one that does intricacy.


Dimensions of case are as thus:


41mm dia face/glass
44mm dia outer case
22mm lug width




As an aside, do any of you have a sectional showing how a watch is constructed once assembled i.e. showing everything in place?




MOVEMENT/FACE
Here’s the first question. I will make this case to fit a pre-made movement. However I have no idea about this. The movement should fit in the 41mm dia so there’s no gaps around it (and by that I mean no 5mm gaps. a 0.5-1mm gap is fine.)


1: I’ve saw movements on websites that are aesthetically pleasing (either already plated/finished or skeletonised) and are assembled...but are they ready to go out the box? You just put them in, wind up and off you go?


2: Are there any relationships between case and movement i.e. is there anything mechanical that I need to be aware of? Or is it simply a case of putting a movement in a case designed to accept it and you’re good?


3: I do not have the ability, tools or knowhow to deal with a face/hands etc. Is there places in the world where they can take an idea, or a face design and get it manufactured to pro standards i.e. under a macro lens it stands up as an actual watch face?


4: The movement will have 3 chrono dials on it, to the 12, 9 and 6 position, a date and power reserve at 3. Is there a movement that is in this configuration or close to it? I am willing to loose the reserve if its a problem.




CHRONO/CROWN


I will be making the crown and getting it plated too, but the chrono pushers are kind of standard fare. Is there anywhere that I can purchase these pushers?


Is there a resource or website that shows how movements in a chrono including the pushers and assembly, how that all works? I’m thinking about the interaction between the moving parts outside the case and how it relates to what goes on inside the case.




GLASS/CASEBACK


I will fabricate these as well but wouldn’t mind having a glass caseback to show off the movement, but I don’t mind.


Again I will amend the case to fit the standard sized parts.


WATERTIGHT?


I’m not going to achieve anything close to depth resistance, but a wee splash here should be ok if I install some kind of o-ring? I would really appreciate any knowledge on this.






SO!!


There you go. In a nutshell I am going to fabricate the case, caseback, crown. I am looking to source the movement, chrono pushers, face and glass. I would appreciate help on movements, chrono pushers and the face, if you would be so kind.






I hope this is not too much to get through and I really hope to hear some good replies. I know a lot of you will see this as complete rookie stuff and send me to google. But if you could take a moment out of your day to instill any of that vast knowledge I see around these forums, I would really appreciate it.




Final word on budget. There is none. It will be an “as and when” purchase but I am thinking sub £200-£300 for movement/face/glass. The other stuff I can get through work.


Gordon


p.s. I will be creating CG vis of this watch so will show you all when I've done that.
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

My concern would be to the strength of the resin. After it is plated it will look nice but it may not be strong enough to handle daily bumps and the stresses of screwing the case back on to it. Please post some pictures as this project progresses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

My concern would be to the strength of the resin. After it is plated it will look nice but it may not be strong enough to handle daily bumps and the stresses of screwing the case back on to it. Please post some pictures as this project progresses.
Hi thanks for your reply

The resin/plated object is just for fit/sizing etc, I would get a proper one machined.

Thanks

G
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

A chronograph movement with power reserve, if Swiss, will be expensive, in the neighbourhood of $800-$1200. If you're going to go to the trouble of making this case, dial and crown yourself, as well as design the dial, etc, I would recommend Swiss. The other options are Chinese and Japanese, and of those two I would recommend the latter, although I'm coming up blank on a Miyota chrono, I'm sure wiser voices will chime in here.
Unless you're talking about quartz here, in which case it would be much cheaper, although since you mention an exhibition caseback, I assume we're talking mechanical. I'm not aware of any new chrono movts that would simply fit snug in a 41mm opening. That would put the movt as being about 18''', the size of a pocket watch movt. The Valgranges chrono A07.211 might fit the bill at 36.6mm, and has the layout you are after, but no power reserve. It's pricey. These movts from ETA are large, and top of the line. A regular chronograph movt is around 13.25''', like the 7750 series. Most watches, even higher end ones, (Breitling, Omega) have a solid spacer ring inside for the movt to fit snugly in the case. This comes about from modern cases tending to be much larger than the older ones. If I were you I would get some cases from other watch brands, and have a look how they are made. The interior is a series of steps, with alternating diameters to accommodate the movt and dial and spacer ring and case clamps. The height of the hour wheel and cannon pinion dictates the height from the dial to the crystal, you want good clearance for the hands. You can go with a removable bezel, or mill the diameter for the crystal from the top of the case, and friction fit a flat or bombé sapphire or mineral crystal. The caseback will also have a friction fit, but flat mineral or sapphire glass. Where the movt sits in the case determines the position of the stem and pushers. pushers can be screwed in or press fit. The crown can be screw down or regular with gasket. A screw down crown would be challenging to build from scratch. You can secure your caseback either as a screw in piece, or with tiny screws around the periphery.
So, essentially, from your movt, you take any and all measurements and design the case accordingly. There are common and uncommon crystal sizes, and that may affect your design also. These are just my thoughts on what I would look at if I were going to do it. I made an exhibition back, silver case for a ladies watch from scratch at school using hand tools, and I'm not likely to ever repeat that little foray into casemaking.
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

That sounds really fun! Some random bits:

Pushers can be ordered from Ofrei, or (I'm guessing) Cousins in Britain. Ditto for hands, crowns and crown tubes, etc..
An important concept/dimension for movement & cases, besides diameter, total thickness etc. is 'stem height'. Check the movement parameter post in the permanent section of the chinese mechanical forum: https://www.watchuseek.com/f72/comparison-selected-11-5-movements-interchangeability-467129.html
If you are custom designing a case, you can get away without a spacer/movement holder ring.
A cheap and good chrono movement is the Sea-Gull ST19. Specs/dimensions can be found online:
https://www.watchuseek.com/f72/sea-gull-st19-movement-pictures-74501.html
You can make your own dial (copper or other sheet metal, transfer film print), or get one made by one of the dial refinishers like International Dial.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

Hi All

Thank you very much for replying.

Sounds like a great start!

To be honest I am really looking for a reliable/cheap solution that I can easily source and can easily fit in to a case.I don't really have much interest in keeping it swiss. it would be great to say there's a swiss movement in my custom designed watch, but in reality if this even works, it'll be enough to say I'm wearing a working watch that I designed/made.

Exhibition case back is not a priority, in fact I changed the design slightly as I was getting in to serious territory with o-rings and threads on either end. I thought perhaps a way of negating this would be to make the watch only accessible from the front, and have the case designed as a kind of metal cup, in which you set the movement, face, hands etc and screw on the front. The back thus has just a recess that will accept a disc of metal, etched deep with a design, kind of like the evo-drive Euro versions but with my design and larger. almost a medallion type special thing. Maybe made out of brass or other bright gold/silver metal. But not gold or silver! hehe.

I also thought a lot about how this assembly interacts with a strap, and a suggestion I came up with would be to have the case as a separate, cylindrical metal object. This could then be grasped by 4 fingers/lugs which has the mech for the strap in it. The watch assembly would then have the capability to be separate ( I dare to say it, a pocket watch, although it would be more of a desk watch, if there is such a thing). I've saw an example of an expensive brand doing the whole pocket/wrist combo thing with a pretty fancy contraption to set the pocket watch in the wrist assembly, but my idea would be a semi-permanent thing, i.e. screws would need to be undone to get the watch assembly free from the strap fingers, but the watch case would have no indents/perforations through the shell.

Reasoning behind this is to keep it as simple as possible I guess. It would be easier to get a solid rod of metal machined to my specs (metal cup) than get one made that has holes/places for the lugs to get in to and how that all works, or indeed one machined with the lugs already attached. Instead I would have a solid/robust chunk of round metal with an engine inside, that happens to be gripped by the fingers/lugs.

Does anyone know where I can get proper dimensions for say a sea-gull movement. CAD type elevation dwgs with dims etc?

I am extremely excited about this challenge. I hope I can pull it off.

Any more thoughts?

G
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

The ST19 thread I linked had a drawing, which in turn links to a seagull website with drawings for all their movements.
???? Just click on the movement, e.g. ST16 or ST19, and use your intuition (or knowledge of chinese:-d) to click through to the drawings, e.g. http://www.tjseagull.com/wkt/1690.jpg .
What's the problem with a screw back with O-ring, if you have access to a machine shop? Alternatively you can secure the back with a bunch of small screws, but the screw back is nicer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

The ST19 thread I linked had a drawing, which in turn links to a seagull website with drawings for all their movements.
???? Just click on the movement, e.g. ST16 or ST19, and use your intuition (or knowledge of chinese:-d) to click through to the drawings, e.g. http://www.tjseagull.com/wkt/1690.jpg .
What's the problem with a screw back with O-ring, if you have access to a machine shop? Alternatively you can secure the back with a bunch of small screws, but the screw back is nicer.
Hi,

Sorry for the late reply, been working solid for the past week and a half and just tonight got home.

Looked at those dwgs and got them bookmarked.

The problem I guess is my lack of experience with the machining process and assuming that more complexity = more cost.

I did have a back with a bunch of screws arrayed around (8) but I guess I like the idea of having a solid case back, non-removable, like a nice honed 1 piece unit that's tank like, but not tank in size or shape...I don't know.

Having just got my parnis with an exhibition back, I am thinking it would be nice to see the movement, but then again I am all for <money.

I am going to spend the next week (time off in lieu) to get the design formalised and start asking around machine shops for pricing. Will check out all the websites as well.

Thanks again for your initial help, I can tell it's going to be a long process

Night all

G
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

Hello

Any idea where I can source movements?

Sea-Gull ST25's, ST19

Miyota Mechanicals etc

Also can you confirm Sellita movements are expensive? Is there anything similar?

I am thinking about losing the power reserve and having the 2 chrono dials at 12, 9 and 6, with maybe a date window at 3/day&date if anyone knows of a movement that is like this. I've seen a few but I can't seem to find prices/places that supply.

I am getting the CAD done but I really need to decide on a movement so I can get the thing clamped down.

I stay in Scotland and obviously need delivery to the UK.

Hope you can help

Thanks

G
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
F-Design - ONE Concept watch

Hello

I am currently exploring the process of designing and building my own watch using a pre-fab mechanism and various other stock parts, but in a custom designed case.

The thread for the watchmaking side of it is here. This is my first attempt at designing a watch so it's been a bit of an eye-opener.

I thought I would post it up in the WC&D forum to see what you all thought of it.

Dia - 44mm outer excl crown, 22mm lugs, 14mm deep.

The "brief" if you like was to design a really uncluttered watch, one that has the main functions of the watch...time...in the forefront, but have the added facilities there as well. I am a man who likes really sharp, clean lines. I love the Max Bill stuff, Mondaine, Junghans etc.

Front glass is flat sapphire inset from the bezel for protection, same with display back, which is frosted except from the sun-rays and the logo. I am toying with the idea of having ONE deep engraved on the flip side of the crown, but not sure yet.

Finally I might switch out the power reserve for a day/date as I am finding it hard to find a movement that fits this config.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Cheers

Gordon

Analog watch Clock Watch Wall clock Quartz clock


image © Gordon Fraser 2011
 

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Love the concept.. that's face is visually striking and unique

The caseback is a bit cluttered for my taste, but I like the frosted glass

Any thoughts to adding some depth to the hand markers, like what you may find on a Luminor?

Kindest Regards,
Portauto
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

Sorry I can't really contribute to your questions on the build and sourcing parts, but I just wanted to say that the design is gorgeous. Very minimal with a Junghans Max Bill vibe to it. I like! Can't wait to see the finished product!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

Sorry I can't really contribute to your questions on the build and sourcing parts, but I just wanted to say that the design is gorgeous. Very minimal with a Junghans Max Bill vibe to it. I like! Can't wait to see the finished product!
Hey

Thanks so much for the feedback 3ther. It's going to be a challenge but I'm really motivated, so should get some progress over the next few weeks re: case machining and lockdown of movements.

I'm currently rolling around the following movements:

ETA 6497 - It's a massive movement and doesn't have any sub dials but its really clean and nice looking. 36.6mm Dia

ETA 7750 - It's nice, has the 3 subs at 12, 9, 6 and a day/date, which would fit the bill perfectly. 30mm Dia.

ETA A07.211 - IF I could afford it, this would be the ideal. Big movement, 3 subs and a date. 36.6mm Dia.

There's a few other ETA's, Sea-Gulls and even a Sollita but its all budget restrictive. Part of me thinks that I should save up and get a proper movement like the ETA's, but then I sit back and think, that I might end up spending £400-500 on this project, and could look like it's hand made, or I could just get a £500 Mondaine and be happy.

But then again, would any one else own my design? Nop.

Updates as things with the machine shop progress.

G
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

ETA 6497 - It's a massive movement and doesn't have any sub dials but its really clean and nice looking. 36.6mm Dia
To clarify, the 6497 would normally have one subdial, for the seconds display (there are versions with a truncated fourth wheel pivot, so no seconds are shown though), directly opposite the winding stem (normally 9 o'clock for a wristwatch). The 6498 is the same movement but rearranged for the subdial to appear at 6 o'clock. Neither of those movements have chronograph complications though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

To clarify, the 6497 would normally have one subdial, for the seconds display (there are versions with a truncated fourth wheel pivot, so no seconds are shown though), directly opposite the winding stem (normally 9 o'clock for a wristwatch). The 6498 is the same movement but rearranged for the subdial to appear at 6 o'clock. Neither of those movements have chronograph complications though.
Hi,

Thanks for this. I was aware of it's pocket watch heritage and it's sub dial. Ideally I would go for the ETA A07.211 but in UK money it's around £400. The 6497 however is around £115, so really I think the option is to make a really simplistic dialled down version with the 1 sundial, no date, and see how this whole thing goes. If it works and I get a fantastic product at the end, then I can really start thinking about the big movements and more elaborate designs. I definitely don't want to spend lots of money and get a dog's breakfast as change.

I still think it will be a nice watch however.

Any other thoughts?

Cheers

G
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

Hey Yamyambiker!

I can't say that I have any extra input to contribute that hasn't already been mentioned, but I would like to say that I really like your design! I would KILL to get as far with a design as you have. I am 21 years old and have been absolutely crazy about mechanical watches for several years now. (I look at the back of my Steinhart Pilot watch to see the 6497 literally more than the face.) I still cannot pinpoint what it is that I am obsessed with concerning mechancial watches. All I know is that I wish that I could be a watchmaker and assemble, design, repair, and perfect watches. I want anything and everything to do with watches. Unfortunately, it seems very difficult to do this in the U.S. Especially when my aspirations are to live in Switzerland and assemble and designs these functional pieces of art.

My point is: I admire that you have even gotten as far as you have and that you will surely get further to a finished product. I can only hope that one day I will be able to get my ideas out. I truly believe my ideas are so unique and valuable that they would have a special niche in the market as I hope that yours do as well.

I am currently trying to obtain all of the tools to take my Steinhart apart (after I practice on a seagull movement) and skeletonize it and put it back together. I would also like to buy watches and customize them or change them to mechanical movements.

Please keep posting pics and updates of your designs! I would love to see them!

Hopefully with help from this forum we can get closer to making our ideas into realities!

Kyle
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

Hey, thanks for your kind words Kyle. I've got a degree in product design and I am a rapid prototyper by day, so up till this point I've only really been winging it knowing what I do from these two things. I'm starting to get in to deep water now that the dimensions and tooling are beckoning. but for some reason, unlike other moments when I get out of my depth, I'm sticking with it. Must mean that this is a project that I want to complete this time!

Had a quote back from a machiner and he's wanting circa £400 to machine 3 parts. There must be a cheaper way to do this! Or even a cheaper place. I've emailed about 15 different places so I'll wait till I hear back from all before getting upset.

But

It did lead me in to thinking about another solution to ease manufacturing stages/costs.

Is there any reason why one couldn't design a case to be backloading only? I.e. have the crystal pushed in either front or back, then have everything load in from the back, thus negating the need to get 3 parts made, with the first 2 having fine threads. Thinking about it, if there isn't a really glaring reason not to backload, it would reduce the whole process and remove a joint issue.

It would be a 1 piece shell housing all things, and a case back secured as in render...1 o-ring.

Oh and Outtatime mentioned a friction fit glass system for the front. How does this work in terms of no gasket? My assumption was that the glass would be surrounded with a seal....if not, what's the tolerance for glass friction fit for SS!?

So, backloading and friction fits anyone?

By the way, ETA offer all their DWG's on the website, which in itself is an education. Just brilliant that manufacturers offer this kind of info freely. Everything's on there as well...but then I guess it saves them the hassle of replying to 1,000,000 emails asking for details on this or that movement.

6497 it is for this version, with the .211 for the follow up.

Emailed some dial manufacturers in the UK to see what they are asking.

Many thanks

Gordon
 

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Re: First watch build...but need serious help!

That's great Gordon! Keep it up! I've also had the same thought/idea about back loading. I hope it works and that you can figure it out! I keep looking at your design which means I'm already sold on it! :D

Kyle
 
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