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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, all.

Ok, so I've realized that it costs a lot to have a watch repaired professionally. So the logical solution is to learn to repair watches myself, or at the very least, to clean them.

I got a couple library books that tell very clearly how to disassemble a watch and clean it. I did that, and it was fairly easy. My complaint with these books is in the reassembly stage. They both say something similar to "Put the watch back together." Great. So I learned on my big 16 size pocket watch that placing gears and lowering the top plate onto them is a challenge, but I could do it. So then I decided I would disassemble, clean, and reassemble my wife's Buliva wristwatch, which has incredibly tiny parts. Is there a secret or a tool to help me line up these gears properly such that their pivots go right into their respective jewels? I've been trying for hours, and I'm very frustrated! I'm beginning to see why watch repairmen charge so much! Is there anything I can do, or is it trial and error until you get them lined up?

Thanks very much!

Steve.
 

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I've been trying for hours, and I'm very frustrated! I'm beginning to see why watch repairmen charge so much! Is there anything I can do, or is it trial and error until you get them lined up?
I have not been as brave as you have been... yet.
I am sure I will venture to where you are... but have not been there yet.
I say, more power to you for the effort.
I'll bet that someone here will most likely give a hint as to what the technique is for this re-assembly.

What I was thinking in response to your post is, the price of repairman hours these days might not reflect the pure skill that is necessary to put the puzzle back together. Rather, the price may be reflecting the reality that there are many fewer jobs being sent to repairman - but I don't know. The moderator here is a repairman and he can straighten out my supposition.

Additionally, not as much mechanical repair may be done these days as we seem to be in the advanced stages of parts replacement kulture. No need to dis-assemble, repair, re-assemble - when all ya need to do is throw old part away, insert new part. Therefore, repair constitutes a few screws loosened, new part or battery replaced and pay for the job. Price in that job reflects the smaller number of jobs being sent to repairman as we throw items away, usually.

Throwing items away does not include you... or me.:)
 

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Hi -

Trial and error, trial and error. Experience, in many ways, is *everything*.

I've purchased around 40 movements and around 5 watches for the express purpose of practicing. 30 of the movements were in a deal (women's Gruen movements, about half in various stages of undress), the watches are all no-name beaters that I can afford to throw away or save for parts.

The real critical thing is not just getting them back together so that they work, but also getting some of the technical stuff down right. There can be books written about what I don't understand about balances and geometries, and I'm strictly a "let's try this" kind of guy when it comes to getting something to work.

Good stuff gets worked on professionally. The rest is playing around.

JohnF
 

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You could sort of work your way down from a big pocket watch to a tiny movement, you know: 19 1/4 to 6 ligne is a big jump. ;)

In any case, there is no secret to getting the pivots lined up for the bridge. It just takes patience. It is easier in a fully cocked watch, but the little ones seldom are fully cocked. In any case, keep the movement absolutely level, and it helps if it is at eye level. I have an extra stand that I put on the bench to do this if it isn't going well (generally, I work with the movement just below shoulder level). I start off with the center wheel pivot and work my way to the escape wheel pivot, using a formed bit of pegwood to move the pivots into place, if need be.

(On a sunny, happy day, they just click into place on the first go.)

If you are extremely careful, you can put a tiny bit of pressure on the bridge where the wheels have fallen into place, in order to keep them there. Too much pressure, however, and you are going to damage a pivot. So, I would think carefully before doing this.

Best wishes,
Bob
 

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Hi -

Oddly enough, that's exactly what I'm doing: I've got three pocket watch movements to play with first. :)

The watchmaker who offers the classes I took also uses pocket watch movements for us thumb-fingered amateurs. He said that the greatest challenge was working on vintage women's calibres, as they tend to be very, very high quality and very, very small. After working on such and getting your techniques together, working on a 10.5''' watch is a snap. :)

And thanks for the tip on using a formed bit of pegwood. Good idea. I've used my smallest screwdriver instead, but that usually leads to scratches and scrapes. Like I said, I am not unknown to being thumb-fingered...

JohnF
 

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If I were you my good man is to take a break for a lil while then come back to it. That is what works for me, it is always a balancing act and steady hand also. Make sure you have lots of lighting and whatever table that your working on have raised edges too that way if anything bounces or falls it caught because nothing like loosing a screw or gear in carpet then you have another thing on your hands.

Good Luck:-!
 

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Hi, all.

Is there a secret or a tool to help me line up these gears properly such that their pivots go right into their respective jewels? I've been trying for hours, and I'm very frustrated! I'm beginning to see why watch repairmen charge so much! Is there anything I can do, or is it trial and error until you get them lined up?

Thanks very much!

Steve.
Good input all around, to get all the pivots in place requires experience as mentioned as well as patience... did I mention patience? Well patience is good to have when assembling watch gear trains. Good lighting, good optics and movement holder. With the wheels in place and bridge in position and no pressure on bridge GENTLY raise the movement holder about 3mm off the bench and LIGHTLY tap it to the bench. This usually uprights all the wheels and you can start fresh.

AS for the "Secret tool" yes there is one, I had my students make a tool called a "CIMP" the "Carl Issacson memorial pick" In memory of Carl Issacson whom I bought a bench from and found this tool inside to be perfect.

Basically it is a 4-6mm diameter piece of wooden dowel about 50mm + long with a 0.3mm diameter brass wire inserted in the end and sticking out about 30mm + / - Flatten the end with a punch or hammer lightly like a paddle and deburr and polish it.

When manipulating wheels and pinions into place, use the Cimp to nudge things where they need to go. This tool can also be used to check end shakes. The brass rod is thin - and it is meant to be - it will flex or bend before you do any damage. Once you have mastered the Cimp you can make one a bit thicker but I wouldn't go larger than .6mm in diameter. The wood and wire can be found at most hobby stores.

The original Cimp is pictured below for a reference only and is well worn I would start out using the dimensions given above. I took it out of its air lock UV protected box for the picture. It is now on display again in its proper place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hey, guys.

Thank you very much for your help. After a couple more hours of trying, I finally got my wife's watch put back together! What a relief. The bad news is that the watch still doesn't work any better. It runs for a few minutes and then quits. My record is 5 minutes of running. I took a very similar Bulova watch that works, and I put its banance and hairspring in my wife's Bulova, and it did the same thing, so I don't think that's the problem. Maybe I didn't do a good job cleaning and oiling.

Anyhow, thanks for the help and encouragement as I learn to reassemble watches.

Steve.
 

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Hi -

Doesn't sound so much like a lubrication problem as much more a power transmission problem. You may well need a new mainspring.

The watchmakers I use almost always put a new mainspring in when maintaining a watch, especially if it is a standard piece that they'll have in stock. While it might be overkill, their story is that this is so cheap to do that it's simply good sense, as a weak mainspring can cause all sorts of problems, starting with poor performance. A mainspring that is really old and weakened may, for instance, show a very irregular power curve that starts out strong but is inconsistent over time, resulting in a watch that shows very poor isochronism despite having a gear train, balance and escapement that is completely OK.

Your description of popping in a similiar balance and hairspring and having the same thing happen sort of gives me the feeling that the mainspring has a problem: if you do the reverse - put in the balance and hairspring from the non-working watch into the working one - you can check to see if the problem in the working watch is repeated or not.

JohnF
 
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