Accumulating Tools (and Knowledge)

I am trying to resurrect an old yacht timer I found on eBay. It was in pretty bad shape but, as I’ve said before, I’m fond of Gallet watches.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to save the rusty movement. At the very least it has a broken balance staff. The first challenge was getting out the case screws.

I started by apply some penetrating oil to the screws and letting them sit overnight. The first screw came out with only a little effort but the other screw was seriously stuck. I started by pulling out the fiberglass scratch brush. I bought this many years ago when I found myself working on a lot of yacht timers that appear to have spent time in the bottom of a damp drawer on a sailboat somewhere. This got the screw to the point where I could see the slot.

Next I pulled out one of my junk screwdrivers from a box I keep in my bench. I put it in the screwdriver holder and sharpened it to a fine edge on a coarse India stone. I didn’t bother cleaning it up because I wanted something with sharp edges. I could use the corner of the screwdriver to clean out the slot a bit and the edge burr would grip the slot.

The watch doesn’t have a crystal at the moment so I was able to put it flat on the bench and really apply some pressure. The screwdriver gripped well and I was able to carefully withdraw the screw.

It’s taken me a while to accumulate all my tools but having a scratch brush, junk screwdriver, sharpening holder and stone made this a simple job. You never know when a tool will come in handy. I suppose that’s why we collect so many!


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A Venus 170 Chronograph Mashup and the Importance of Books

ChronoBooks2Back in 2014 I acquired a Gotham chronograph with a low grade, 7 jewel Venus 170 movement. For some strange reason the only part missing was the flyback lever or hammer.

I spent some time over the years looking for a hammer or a parts movement. Last fall, I bought a battered Gallet movement on eBay. This was the high grade, 17 jewel movement found in Breitlings. I decided to clean up the Gallet movement first and if it worked I’d put it in the Gotham case. I debated whether this was the right thing to do but as it turned out the Gotham movement, though it looked good, had some corrosion. Also, I’m a fan of Gallets so wanted to bring the movement back to life.

HighLowAfter a thorough cleaning and a new mainspring the Gallet movement worked great. I did find a few shouldered screws had been installed in the wrong location and I needed to make one new spring but that was all. Once again I can not overemphasize how helpful the Esembl-O-Graf books are when working on old chronographs. Since my post on the Wittnauer chronograph I’ve acquired a complete set and Volume 2 covers the Venus 170. You can find them reproduced online but I recommend the actual books if you can find a set.

EsemblOGraf2With the movement cleaned and running, I put the dial on, installed it in the case and put on the minute counter hand. That was when I noticed the problem.

When the minute hand advanced it went from 45 at the top to about 1 1/2. Almost immediately I realized the what was wrong. The Gallet movement had a 30 minute register and the Gotham was 45.

First I tried swapping the pinion, center chronograph wheel, intermediate wheel and minute counter wheel. This is when I discovered that the Gotham center chronograph wheel had damaged teeth making it impossible to adjust the depth with the pinion properly. I switched back to the Gallet pinion and center wheel, which have slightly larger teeth.

I was able to adjust the depth of the intermediate wheel properly and the minute had advanced correctly but then saw another problem. I had moved the minute counter wheel jumper from the Gotham, since the Gallet did not have one. It worked correctly when I had the 30 minute counter wheels installed but now with the 45 minute wheels the jumper was right on one of the minute counter wheel teeth when reset.

ResetOffThis problem was discussed in the chronograph class I took last year. Since the minute was advancing properly the solution was to adjust the hammer (as opposed to adjusting the face of the jumper which is a much more delicate operation). This is covered in de Carle’s “Complicated Watches and their repair” but a much more thorough and helpful discussion can be found in “The Chronograph – Its Mechanism And Repair” by Humbert.  In short, the minute counter wheel hammer was adjusted so the jumper was centered between two teeth when in reset and then the center wheel hammer had to be shortened symmetrically so that there was just a little play in the minute counter wheel when the hammer was pressed against the center wheel. This allows the minute counter wheel position to be determined by the jumper rather than the hammer that strikes the minute wheel heart-cam. Humbert’s book covers this in exhaustive detail and I highly recommend it. One great tip was to put a bevel on the underside of the face of the hammer corresponding to the angle you want to file into the face. Then just file up to the line. I finished it with an Arkansas stone and burnished it smooth.

Humbert2Everything appears to be working. I still need to do some work on the hands. I had planned on using the Gotham hands but one of them was rusted onto the pivot and did not survive removal. Fortunately, though the Gallet movement did not come with a dial, it did have hands. I’ll need to trim them up for use with the Gotham dial. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


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Wittnauer Chronograph Complete

Well it’s been about six months but I finally completed my Valjoux Caliber 71 watch “kit”. As I described here, late last summer I picked up a very nice chronograph that was partially disassembled and had been bouncing around in a peanut can for many years.

The watch dial is marked Wittnauer but, while this company did make some of its own movements, this one uses the manual wind Valjoux 71. The 71 is a relatively large 14 ligne movement. It is based on the Valjoux 22, with the addition of the hour register at the 6 o’clock position. This movement also found its way into many other brands including Heuer (as the Reference 345) in the 40’s and 50’s.

For those who may not have used them, I must say the Esembl-O-Graf books are an invaluable resource. There are 28 books in the series, with each book covering a single caliber. All but a few are dedicated to chronographs. For each major part of the chronograph there are two pages containing a verbal description for removing and installing the part along with a diagram. A friend lent me his hard copy of volume 13, which covers the Valjoux 71, and it made sorting out the parts and servicing the watch much easier.

In the end I replaced the mainspring, one of the hour wheel friction springs, a pusher spring and several screws. I was also lucky enough to find a replacement intermediate hour yoke spring. After cleaning and reassembling I then took the entire chrono portion of the watch apart again for a class. And I lost count of how many times I installed and removed the hands for various reasons!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe watch runs great and keeps excellent time. After some adjusting all the chronograph functions work as they should. This is really a wonderful timepiece. I am glad I was able to bring out of the peanut can and back to life.


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Waltham Jitterbug

I had some free time while waiting for parts for other projects so I thought I would get this Waltham timer up and running. I am not sure where this came from but was not running and the hands had a bit of rust. Never a good sign.

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This is a military timer, usually referred to as a bomb timer, though I don’t know anything about how they were used. It does not appear in the 1940 Waltham material catalog but is there in 1958. Based on the serial number and the 1958 catalog it was produced some time between 1942 and 1945. So it was likely made for use in World War II.

What makes these fun is the very high beat rate, hence the name jitterbug. A typical watch ticks 5 times a second but this one ticks 30 times a second. The fastest models were 1/100 second frequency! Take a look at how this one ran after it was cleaned and a new mainspring installed.

The hands had some surface rust but I chose to just clean them up a bit and not repaint them. I won’t replace the slightly yellowed crystal. Who knows where the watch has been. I want to keep it as original as possible.


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Too Big?

This is watch 1002 cased and ready for testing. My plan was to keep this one for myself since the movement has a few scratches. I used the dial and hands from another pocket watch because this case is so big.

IMG_5016In fact it may be too big. My other watches are about 44mm but this is over 46mm (1.8 inches). Runs great though.

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Valjoux 71 “Kit”

IMG_5014A quick picture of a Valjoux 71 chronograph project I acquired over the weekend. It was taken apart many years ago and was rattling around in a peanut can. The picture above shows the major pieces set in place just so I can see what is missing. So far it looks complete, needing only a mainspring and the hairspring untangled. We’ll see. There are a lot of parts in this watch. I am very happy to have it though. A high quality chronograph like this in working condition sells for more than I like to spend on a watch. Well worth my time as a project. Should be fun!

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First Watches For Sale

The first two handmade watches have gone up on my Etsy store. Check them out and let me know if you have any questions.

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1001

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1003

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Ratchet Wheel Decoration

I thought I would share my first attempt at decorating a ratchet wheel. This was done on an old wheel with a broken tooth using a six jaw chuck in the lathe. Something like this will definitely find its way into a future watch.

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Work In Progress

Just a quick update. I received the case last week for watch 1000. Parts and plans are coming in a bit out of order so this is the third watch to be completed. It is currently being tested.

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I really like this simple hand and dial combination.

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First NWC Watches

Last fall I started looking into making my own watches. I was inspired by a lecture given by a local watchmaking student. His school project movement was an ETA 6498. The lecture covered his process for making a 3/4 plate for the watch and was quite interesting. But what got my attention was that he had found a case online, along with a dial and hands,  to turn his watch movement into a wristwatch. This was the first I’d heard of a modern movement and matching cases available to the public. And that is what got me thinking about making my own watches.

It turns out there are many other individuals and companies doing similar projects. I decided to start by building a few watches using parts available from supply houses and the internet, just to see the quality firsthand and to find out how difficult the process would be. One thing I knew from the beginning though was that instead of buying new movements from Switzerland or the cheap copies from China I would use recycled Swiss pocket watch movements that I would inspect, clean and test myself.

There is a lot more to the story and I’ll talk about that in the weeks to come. For now, here is a preview of the first two watches.

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