Rob sent me this Zenith Respirator, which he was given. We don’t know anything about the history of the watch, but the 2542PC was built between 1964 and 1969, so we can date the watch. The design goes along with that date range …
From what you can see from the outside, this doesn’t look too promising – you can already see flakes of rust on the dial.
No lack of dirt inside!
Dirt and rust everywhere.
The winding stem is so rusty that it just breaks off, but I’m lucky and I can unscrew the broken bit from the crown. I would have expected a split stem on a solid case back construction like this, but there isn’t one.
This does not bode well.
The movement is beyond economical repair.
Someone has re-glued the dial markers – this does not look like a professional job. I will leave the dial as it is, though, as it’s not too bad, and part of the history of this watch.The case and case back are solid 9k gold, and weigh over 27 grams. The heaviest gold case I have so far encountered.
Help comes in the form of an eBay find from Switzerland, which is in very good shape. A lot cheaper than trying to find all the parts necessary to restore the old movement.
I take the donor movement apart, and all is looking well.
Reassembly starts with the mainspring and barrel, and I put some braking grease on the walls of the barrel.
The new mainspring goes in.
I put some mainspring grease on the spring, put the barrel arbor in and close the barrel.
The plate looks nice and clean.
The cap jewels get a tiny drop of Moebius 9010.
The oiled balance jewel.
Now I start putting the gear train back in.
Gears ready for the wheel bridge.
The gear train is complete.
I oil the escapement by putting a tiny drop of oil on the side surface of the exit pallet stone.
By moving the pallet fork, the oil is now transferred onto the escape wheel teeth.
With the pallet fork in, and everything oiled, I can lift the balance in.
The movement starts beating already, and I push the balance cock into place.
Now I can secure the balance cock with its screw.
With the mainspring barely wound, this is looking good.
I put in the bridge for the auto winder.
Now the wheels for the auto winder are put into place.
And the bridge holding the wheels of the auto winder is placed on top.
I turn the movement around, and start reassembly of the bottom plate.
Bottom plate complete.
The dial and hands are on, and I’m ready for casing.
Now it’s time to clean the case. I put it into the ultrasonic cleaner first, and it comes out a lot cleaner already.
With a bit of careful polishing, I get back to a nice finish. I don’t want to do a complete polish here (e.g. take out all the scratches), as that takes off quite a bit of material. You can always polish, but you can’t un-polish!
The crytal has scratches, and needs polishing.
I start with a 240 abrasive paper, and then work my way up.
That looks a lot better!
A nice and chunky case.
The dial shows its age. Again, you can always decide on a dial restoration later, but you can’t un-restore. So I always err on the side of leaving things as they are.
I could have gone the whole hog here – with dial restoration, a full case polish, re-luming hands, etc.
Firstly, there is a budget to consider, and, secondly, conservation. What I did to this watch doesn’t leave any permanent traces, the watch is pretty much as it was before, just working and clean. At a later stage, more work can be done, and the watch can still be returned to nearly-new state. But once that’s done, there is no way back.