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119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Recently I am learning basic watchmaking, hoping to be able to do basic servicing by myself in the long run. While I did "enroll" in the TZ Watch School, I don't think I am going to shell out nearly $200 for an ETA movement to play with before I can be sure I won't break anything (been there, done that). So I sought out cheap metals from China.

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Since I am only learning to handle small parts, I don't really care about the condition of the watch. I bought this lot of junked manual wind watches for, like, 5 dollars.

Interesting facts:

1. I am pretty sure at least some of these are older than I am. Vintage!

2. While all these watches uses some variation of the Chinese Standard Movement, they come from watchmakers all over China - Shanghai, Danyang, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Jilin, everywhere.

3. Only one runs after winding right out of the package. And the amplitude is woeful to say the least.

4. All watches shows signs of being too close to water at some point, and lack of maintenance (duh). All the stems are rusted lumps and some even snapped with the slightest pressure. Movements inside are surprisingly clean though, at least on the surface.

5. Some watches, especially those from Shanghai, has an extra cover that wraps around the movement under the caseback. Judging from it's slightly bulged shape, my guess is this is some crude attempt of anti-shock. They certain won't protect the movement from dust or moisture.

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I ususally clean and pad my desk before working on a movement, but one look at it I decided that I cannot possibly do any more damage.

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I picked one of the non-working movement to play with in my first try. The condition of this particular sample is horrifying. Every gear has a thick layer of black oil underneath, and after some disassembly the oil actually drips, hence the paper towel. It's like working on a two stroke engine! I have heard of the practice of cheap Chinese movement servicing, where they just dunk the entire movement into oil and wipe off the excess. Now seeing is believing. There cannot be this much oil leaking from the main spring barrel.

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I did not do a full cleaning and oiling of the movement (yet). I just clean off the excessive oil with alcohol and clean the jewels a bit with a peg, then reassemble. Surprisingly the movement ticks on happily after that and actually has a good amplitude. I left it for a night and it is still running in the morning, although I did not test it for accuracy. I think I will do a full cleaning and oiling for this one later then see what I can do with it.

Oh, and, first post. :)

483 Posts
Great first post and welcome aboard! I have exchanged a few eBay messages with a seller who is supposedly rounding up cheap, non-working Tongjis and ST5s for me to buy very cheaply and experiment on, but I don't know if it's going to pan out. It will be fantastic if you manage to get any of these non-runners running smoothly, so please keep us up to date on your efforts!

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thanks people, it's so great to have a place to talk about watches.

Small update. When I'm back home from work, the watch is still ticking. Unfortunately I have to write the first movement, which I'll call Exhibit A, off since the rust damage near the keyless work on the main plate made it unable to be hand winded, despite parts replacement. (This watch come with a broken piece of winding stem lodged inside. Could be the cause or result of this problem.)

Tonight I started working on another movement. It's quite clean, but the hairspring is completely missing. :-s So I replaced the balance wheel assembly with one donated from Exhibit A. It cannot tick for more than a few seconds.

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During disassembly, I found out this movement has the exact opposite problem from exhibit A. It's dry as a bone. Coupled with particles of rust inside, this movement's could potentially be in worse shape than the last one.

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So far the visible problem is a bent pinion on the fourth wheel, which definitely needs replacing. Let's see how this go after a complete clean and oiling. This should be fun. :think:

A picture of part of this lot, including the two dials from which the movements I'm working on.
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After I fix up a working movement, I may choose one for a little restoration project.

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Case backs, from left to right, top to bottom: A Shanghai Baoshihua (nice brand!), Hebei Hunglian (red lotus?), Yangzhou Qionghua (but the watch dial actually says Suzhou), Dandong Chunlan, and Shanghai Diamond.

Of these, the Baoshihua is the only one running out of the box. But it's on its last legs.

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
After scavenging parts in good condition from about 3 different movements, time to clean them up.

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I have a cheap (and small) ultrasonic cleaner, but no fancy cleaning solution designed for watches. Since this is a cheap watch, I just use an alkaline kitchen detergent (!), then a rinsing step with rubbing alcohol. I cleaned all parts except the pallet fork this way (the shellac may be damaged by alcohol).

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Ugh. When was the last time these watches received a full service? Would that be measured by years or decades?

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"Beauty" shot of all the cleaned parts. Reassembling the main spring barrel is the most painful part of the process. Literally.

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I foolishly neglected to disassemble the balance wheel bearing jewels during cleaning. And with inspection the jewel cap shows a thick layer of dirty oil. So I have to clean them up by hand. I actually dropped one jewel cap to the floor and can't find it anywhere. Fortunately I have a lot of spares.

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Ta-da. Cleaned, oiled and reassembled. Shiny. And very "healthy" looking amplitude.

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I don't have a timing machine, so I used an app called WildSpectra Mobile Pro on my phone. Fortunately an uncased CSM ticks very loud and can be easily picked up by my headset microphone, getting a good measurement.

I can't regulate it better than +/- 25 secs per day. I guess that would have to do for a decades old movement literally salvaged from the junkpile.

I have a working movement. Now I need to restore one of the watch cases. :think:

I hope one day you can take pictures of all those wonderful case backs for us. There's some threads where they'd make a great contribution.
I'd love to, but the case backs are all so badly scratched you can barely see the Chinese characters on photo. I'll try to buff it out a bit to see if that helps.

2,694 Posts
Fantastic job, congratulations!

And thank you for showing those great pictures, and your wonderful explanations. If I ever clear a bit of space and try working on a few of my oldies, I will have learnt a thing or two from you.

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
After fixing up the movement (and several more), time to try restoring one of the watch cases.

My first choice is one of the Baoshihua watch.
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One special thing about this watch is that the condition of the dial is excellent. No scratches, no oxidation, only minor fading. And the watch shows signs of being generally taken care of (clean movement and stem - this is the only watch that still runs when I received this lot). However the crystal is still cracked, so I am waiting for replacement crystal to arrive before I start working on this one. In the meantime, I started practicing on a Dandong Chunlan:

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The reason I choose this one is simple: simple shape for easy polishing. Plus the crystal is not too badly damaged.

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I think someone hid this watch creatively in a Vietnamese POW camp for seven years. The completely rotten spring bars have to be removed with a wire cutter.

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Case disassembled and cleaned in ultrasonic bath. Doesn't look too bad without the grime.

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Tools for polishing the case: a set of 3M sandpaper and two grades of diamond paste. I have no polishing machine so everything is done by hand. Much easier than oiling the Incabloc jewel though.

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I guess there really are no secret tricks for polishing a stainless steel case. Just remove all scratches and dings with a rough sandpaper, then keep polishing it with progressively finer sandpaper/diamond paste.

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The dial is not in the best of condition. Unfortunately repainting a dial is beyond me.

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Casing the watch after polishing the crystal with copious amount of Polywatch. Actually the result is not too bad aside from the crack.

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And put on a bracelet.

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Another angle. This looks like a "proper" VCM. :)

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Most of the watch I received in this lot are lady sized. This one is 31mm without crown. Even on my comical 15cm wrist, this still looks quite petite.

With a refurbished movement, this watch probably has quite a few years of life ahead of it. I like to think I resurrected something that was once a treasured possession of someone, even though it ended up in the junk pile at some point.

After the replacement crystals arrive, I may try to restore a few more watches from this lot. In the meantime, I'll probably keep this Chunlan in a glass case as a good luck charm for my future amateur watchmaking endeavors, like Scrooge McDuck's first dime.

And thanks everyone for your kind words!

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Happy mid-autumn festival!

What better way to spend the long weekend than to work on another watch?


This is an easy one. Under the ravaged crystal is a good condition dial, and I happened to have crystals of the right size. Of course, I spent time to refurbish and regulate the movement inside.

One thing about this dial is that the minute markers are ridiculous.

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I personally used to find shiny faux croc straps like these to be a bit tacky. But the style of this watch reminds me of one my grandfather used to own. It had a faux croc strap, and it was elegant.

Wish I knew when exactly these watches were manufactured.

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Update... with many pics.

For the past 2 weeks I fixed and restored 3 more watches. I think I can get about two or three more repaired from this lot. In total this accounts for about half of the watches I received. Not too bad for a box of scraps in the hands of a beginner.

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From leftmost, clockwise: Chunlan, Suzhou, Yangcheng (work in progress), and Hunglian.

And here is the "crown jewel" of this box of scrap: the Shanghai Baoshihua.

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I waited until all the new replacement parts (crystal, crown, stem, gasket) arrived before starting this one because it is in otherwise very good condition. I still think someone threw this away by mistake, because other than a slightly rusted stem, the interior of this watch is almost perfect. There was even some (clean) oil left in the jewels so it must have been serviced relatively recently.

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The crystal was badly damaged and the case has some pretty deep ding, probably caused by rubbing against other scrap metal. The lighter scratches polishes out nicely though, and aside from the slightly marred hands, it almost look brand new after a crystal replacement.

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Group photo of all the restored watches so far.


And now for something completely different: restoring a Zuanshi (Diamond) SM1A movement.

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I have two watches with Diamond movements in this lot. At first I made the mistake of disassembling one without taking notes, and all the King's horses and men couldn't put the watch together again (well, my only problem was the keyless work). So I disassembled another one taking photos along the way.

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Long story short, in the end I can only save one of the movements. Link to full story in the Watchmaking board.

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The model code "SM1AB" was engraved on the main plate. I never heard of this variant before, so I would like to know when this movement was manufactured. When I did a search on this board, I found this post from Chascomm, which mentioned:

was Number 2, then Number 4 from 1970, aka Stopwatch (miaobiao), hence M code
1969 SM1A
1982 B thin, high quality

I am not sure if the B on SM1AB refers to this B variant. This movement is no thinner than the CSM. In fact it is 0.5mm thicker (and 1mm wider). But the parts seemed to be designed for a much more precise assembly (thus require a higher level of workmanship), unlike the CSM which still runs even if your reassembly misses by a mile.

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Also this is so far the only watch that can be regulated within +/- 10 secs with relative ease (+/- 30s is the norm for these scraped CSM). So it probably means it uses better parts.

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Since I forgot to take a "before" pic of the watch that housed this movement, here is a picture of the disassembled case.

I have a feeling that the gold color of the case may not survive polishing.

Mod. Russian, China Mech.
19,187 Posts
Very impressive recovery job!

The SM1AB inscription is intriguing. The B movement is the SB1H and related movements (SB1ZZ, SBS, etc) and this is not it. SM1A-K would make more sense (K being the designation for the 21,600bph version). Is it a 'B' or an '8'?

Or is it a Chinese character telling us that this watch was made on a Sunday? Surely that can't be right.

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Thanks for the inquiry. I do have a few pictures at slightly different angle/lighting (I take 3~4 photos at each angle to prevent shaky pictures).


I can say with confidence that it is a B. :think:
If it is an 8 or 日, it was poorly engraved. :-d

The movement is 21600 bph. Perhaps an earlier version?

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
And the archaeology continues! (?)

This is the caseback of this watch that I forgot to take a picture of.
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No model number.

And on the inside, it is lightly inscribed "95.12.24"
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Christmas eve. Nice. b-)

Not sure if it is the date of sale or service though. Part of me would very much like to think this was a Christmas present since I love Christmas, but 1995 seemed to be far too late for a hand-wind watch (Zuanshi shut down just a few years later), and a bit too early for these to be considered collectibles. Also I don't think someone would open the caseback and write down the date of sale.

The dial is also in proper English (Diamond/Jewels instead of Zuanshi/Zuan). Not sure if this is of any significance.

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Started working on another watch, and in need of a history lesson.

The watch I took apart this time is a Shanghai Jinji (Golden Rooster).
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Model number on the caseback: 7120J 501

After my last two posts, I started taking attention to markings that would indicate the watch's age (and gave me an excuse to bust out my toy USB microscope). On Shanghai ZSH movements it is relatively easy - they have a date code. For example, the very first movement I fixed has a date code of ML (1986).

However, the Shanghai movement in this Jinji is a bit more peculiar.

The number on the plate reads BB997, but with a big "HO" violently stamped on it. If I'm not mistaken, BB would indicate that this movement was made in 1975(!). According to saskwatch's website the Jinji were equipped with Shanghai movements that doesn't meet the grade 1 standard, and a marking of "付" was stamped on top of the date code to indicate them as such. I wonder if the "HO" marking is somehow related to this?

Ironically, after service, this movement is by far the most accurate that I have. I finally bought a timing machine, and this movement is accurate within +/-10 secs/day in 4 positions (Dial and crown up/down)!

119 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
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