Crystal Clear

It's amazing what a new crystal will do for the look of a watch restoration. Most of the watches that come to me need their crystals replaced. You inadvertently rub your watch up against something and it gets scratched or it gets dropped and chipped, a new crystal replacement goes a long way for the look of a watch. Crystals come in plastic (acrylic) and glass. I prefer glass as they are a bit more robust and don't scratch as easy as plastic. 

Some round watches however require plastic crystals so that they can be compressed into the watch and its the compression that holds the crystal in place. Glass gets glued into the watch with ultraviolet glue.

After the crystal is glued in place, it sits under an ultraviolet light to cure

I spent the last couple of days replacing the crystals on a number of my watches and the results are incredible. Take for instance the 1949 Hamilton "Milton" below. You don't even know there is a piece of glass there protecting the hands and dial.

A New Crystal on my Hamilton Milton
The Milton on my wrist
1949 Hamilton Milton
1949 Dealer Catalog (courtesy of Vintage Watch Forums)
I use what are known as new old stock ("NOS") watch parts, including crystals. These are parts and crystals that were made during the era the watch was made. Watch purists like to see NOS parts used in restorations; I'm no exception. You can still find NOS parts and crystals today. I received from my watchmaker friend hundreds of parts and I've purchased several hundred NOS crystals off the net. I probably have 700+ crystals in my stock, but alas, I more often have to purchase a replacement crystal from the internet than find one that fits the watch I'm working on from my own stock.

Part of my collecction of 100s of NOS crystals

Perhaps I should be buying watches to fit my crystal stock, not the other way around. Sure would be an interesting way to collect watches.

More and more crystals
The picture below is a little box that houses a specific crystal; the box and label keep my stock organized. The letters "CMC" repesents the type of crystal shape (Curved square, Military - a curved lower edge, Cylindrical),  and the numbers 2195 and 218 represents the dimensions of the crystal in millimeters (21.95 mm x 21.8 mm). 

It's crystal clear that a new crystal makes the world of difference in a watch restoration.

Squirrel !

I got distracted last weekend, it was a 1908 Waltham pocket watch. I'm a vintage/retro wristwatch kinda guy but I came across this particular pocket watch and decided it would be a nice addition to my watch collection. I have more wristwatches than I care to admit but this is only the second pocket watch for me. I wear a wristwatch every day, a pocket watch, not so much.

My 1908 Waltham 620 pocket watch

While browsing at one of my regular vintage shops I came across this pocket watch. I had noticed pocket watches being sold by this particular vendor but hadn't thought much about them in the past. The shop is a cooperative of vendors who each have their own individual display cases. This particular visit I went by his display case and saw only a single pocket watch that was being discounted. The operator of the store informed me the vendor would no longer be at this shop and was selling off his inventory. The price was right but more importantly the movement, dial and case were all in great shape. When I used my macro lens to take the photos for this blog, all the flaws which are hard to detect with the naked eye are seen - it truly is a great looking watch.

The front bezel is screwed off to show off the great dial

It's an interesting surprise when you unscrew the back of the watch case and you discover a beautifully damascened movement inside. Oddly though, very few people would be looking at this beautifully engraved work, most likely just the watch maker when it went in for servicing (or me showing it off to my friends).

Inside my pocket watch reveals the beautifully damascened (engraved) movement

I was able to date my watch thanks to the great many resources out there including Pocket Watch Database. This website also provided an excerpt from a Waltham data sheet.

Excerpt from Waltham's 1954 "Grey Book" List courtesy of Pocket Watch Database

I mentioned that I wear a wristwatch most every day. Pocket watches don't seem to be the accessory you'd wear most every day. My first pocket watch (a Hamilton) has been worn on special occasions with a nice vintage chain. I wore it for a 2016 Robbie Burns Day function my wife and I attended for instance.

There is a pocket watch in my vest dangling from the chain

Can't say I mind being distracted now and then, especially if it means being able to dress up a kilt with a pocket watch and most importantly, enjoying a great evening with my loved one.

The Discovery

I really enjoy the hunt for a new watch. The hunt I describe in this blog is a bit different than my typical hunt via eBay, vintage/antique stores and jewellers though. This hunt was through one of the many boxes of things my retired watchmaker friend gave me while he was packing up his shop.

I was tinkering with watches at my bench as I usually do when I have some spare time, when I stopped and rummaged through one of those boxes.  I discovered a gem in the box below.

One of my many boxes filled with great stuff where I discovered my Elgin gem

I discovered a 1932 Elgin Campus line model 936 in that box. A handsome watch featuring engraved bezel and sides and a unique bevel to the bezel.

My 1932 Elgin Campus 936 that I discovered in a box

The catalog excerpt below is from 1931 but my watch movement serial number dates it to 1932. Catalog pages are a great resource to help identify watches, see how they were originally presented and learn a little more about the watch. My Elgin is presented in the catalog on a basket weave band. It would be a labour of love to hunt down an original band; perhaps I'll find one one day. In the meantime, it will likely get a nice new black leather (or lizard) band. Thanks to Vintage Watch Forums for the catalog reference.

1931 Wholesale Catalog Excerpt (my watch is the one in upper right)

If you look closely in the picture below of the inside case back of my Elgin, you can see where a watchmaker has etched their mark, indicating a service to the watch. This watch has had at least one trip to the watchmaker in it's 85 year life.

Inside watch case back 1932 Elgin

There are a number of databases that have been assembled on the internet that are the culmination of some hard work by many who have digitally cataloged original watch manufacturer's records of watch movement productions. I use a number of website resources to date my watch via the watches serial number that is stamped on the movement.

Serial number 33405509 on my Elgin corresponds to a production date of 1932

The engraving is still crisp and the inlay enamel intact on this watch. It will undoubtedly receive some wrist time when restored. The bezel of the watch is also uniquely bevelled giving it a unique profile.

The engraving and inlay enamel is also very nice on the side of the case

In addition to a yet to be serviced movement, the dial below is showing signs of it's age. I may decide to have it refinished but it's a toss up because when I look at the dial it does look pretty unique, age and all.

The dial and hands of my Elgin

Leave No One Behind

Of course one of the more delicate and nerve-racking parts of servicing a watch after it has been cleaned is the re-assembly of all the intricate pieces. Not for the faint of heart, I have a number of watch movements like the one pictured in this blog I can practise and, um, screw up on.

A Selection of Wheels, Screws, Bridges of a "Practise" Watch Movement

There are no less than 45 different intricate parts all contributing to a choreographed dance of movement. They all have a specific function, and without one, the watch would not work.

Main Spring and Barrel

A mechanical watch uses a spring for it's power source. When you wind a mechanical watch you are winding this spring. It is the springs power that gets transmitted through a series of gears that eventually powers a balance assembly. Check out the main spring above - it gets coiled up into that very small "barrel" in the middle of the picture.

Winding a Main Spring

If you checked out my last blog I talked about the cost of a single specialized tool. Well, the main spring can be wound by hand into that tiny barrel but I prefer a main spring winder (think more $).

The Balance Assembly

The Balance Assembly (seen above) is one of the the more intricate parts to a mechanical watch made up of several individual parts including the "hair spring" the fine wire you see coiled around a wheel (with balancing weights) in the above picture. The balance assembly (or balance wheel or just balance) is like the pendulum in a grandfather clock. Each swing of the wheel allows the watch hands to move.

More Parts!

Parts to a mechanical watch are not like the parts of your Ikea furniture, there are no leftovers; leave no one behind.