How To: Repairing watch hands

If you repair watches, you know the feeling of your heart sinking when removing a chronograph sub-hand and the tube stays on the runner, and the hand comes off without the tube.

Once the dial is off, you can carefully remove the stuck tube with the hand remover, and with a bit of luck, it doesn’t fly 10 yards through the workshop.

If the hand is available new, no problem, but we do a lot of vintage Speedmasters here, and the replacement hands aren’t the same as the original hands. As our clients are very keen on originality, we repair the broken hand.

As a first step, I make the tube lean against some Rodico to prevent it flying off, and place the hand on top so that it’s level. The Rodico comes in handy here as well.Now I use a stake from my staking set and press the hand back together.

We could now rivet the tube back onto the hand, as it was done when the hand was manufactured. But there is the risk of the tube deforming, which I don’t want to take. Instead, I will solder the hand and tube back together. This will also guarantee that the tube will never detach from the hand again.

 

I put a tiny amount of flux around the tube, and then cut off a very small amount of solder and place it next to the tube. We are ready for soldering now, and the solder will wrap nicely around the tube once it gets heated up. I preheat my soldering iron to 300 degrees, and touch the side of the round bit of the hand with the iron until the solder melts and wraps around the bottom of the tube. If you take too much solder, you will have problems fitting the hand afterwards – we don’t want to create a ridge, but have the smallest amount of solder in between the tube and the hand.

 

This is the result we want – you can hardly see any solder, as it’s moved into the space between the tube and the hand due to the capillary effect.

This will of course burn the paint on the hand, so I dissolve the old hand with paint stripper, and then re-paint the hand.
This is best done with a thin oiler and diluted white paint.


The paint has dried. This is acrylic paint, which dries faster, but creates a slightly wrinkled finish. If you want a glossier finish, use diluted enamel paint.

6 thoughts on “How To: Repairing watch hands

  1. Very interesting. Is this why hands are sometime put back on following a service sitting slightly further from the dial, to prevent this happening in the future?

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