Restoration: Zenith Respirator Kennedy calibre 2542PC

IMG_7016Rob 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.IMG_7019

No lack of dirt inside!


Dirt and rust everywhere.IMG_7022

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.IMG_7025

This does not bode well.IMG_7026

The movement is beyond economical repair.IMG_8144

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.IMG_8146The 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.IMG_8126

Reassembly starts with the mainspring and barrel, and I put some braking grease on the walls of the barrel.IMG_8127

The new mainspring goes in.IMG_8128

I put some mainspring grease on the spring, put the barrel arbor in and close the barrel.IMG_8129

The plate looks nice and clean.IMG_8130

The cap jewels get a tiny drop of Moebius 9010.


The oiled balance jewel.IMG_8131

Now I start putting the gear train back in.IMG_8132

Gears ready for the wheel bridge.IMG_8133

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.zenith-corder-03

By moving the pallet fork, the oil is now transferred onto the escape wheel teeth.IMG_8134

With the pallet fork in, and everything oiled, I can lift the balance in.IMG_8135

The movement starts beating already, and I push the balance cock into place.IMG_8136

Now I can secure the balance cock with its screw.IMG_8137

Happily beating.IMG_8138

With the mainspring barely wound, this is looking good.IMG_8139

I put in the bridge for the auto winder.IMG_8140

Now the wheels for the auto winder are put into place.IMG_8141

And the bridge holding the wheels of the auto winder is placed on top.IMG_8142

I turn the movement around, and start reassembly of the bottom plate.IMG_8143

Bottom plate complete.


The dial and hands are on, and I’m ready for casing.IMG_8157

Now it’s time to clean the case. I put it into the ultrasonic cleaner first, and it comes out a lot cleaner already.IMG_8158

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!IMG_8184

The crytal has scratches, and needs polishing.IMG_8185

I start with a 240 abrasive paper, and then work my way up.IMG_8186

That looks a lot better!IMG_8259

A nice and chunky case.IMG_8269

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.IMG_8270 IMG_8271

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.


9 thoughts on “Restoration: Zenith Respirator Kennedy calibre 2542PC

  1. I have this beautiful golden watch for sale. It has a 18K golden bracelet.
    Please let me know in case somebody is interested

  2. Buena noche mi padre al morir me dejo un gran amor por sus relojes, soy de la ciudad de MEXICO DF y entre los relojes que me heredo tengo un ZENITH 2542 PC automatico INCA BLOOCK 20 micras de oro 795A586 muy parecido al del documento que han comentado. Para mayor dato en la caratula dice expo67 me pueden comentar algo al respecto de esta pieza. (intento darles los datos que mas tengo confiando en no tener errores) El ahora mi reloj esta funcionando y es super exacto. GRACIAS

  3. Pingback: AF/P: to be or not to be? A Respirator, that is. - Page 2

  4. Some will remember that Watch Guy did an overhaul on my Respirator Kennedy…it’s become my fast favourite. Since then, I sourced a new crystal – and gasket – it took a long time to find and cost an exhortative amount! But somehow it looks a lot crisper and the gasket tightens up the fit nicely. But it’s not a swim watch, so don’t get any ideas!

    I’m really puzzled by the lack of split stem – I have three Respirators, all with similar series movements (I mention it because there also exists a variant with a Zenith cal.405) and all with split stems. I’d suggest that the standard Respirator stem is a split stem with an O ring seal on it.

    For those interested in such things, the watch is called the ‘Kennedy’ because JFK used to wear one – there’s a picture of him out there on the ‘net signing documents, with the watch showing clearly. They are fabulous watches, in my opinion.

    • I was very lucky, and the original gasket was still in good enough shape to be re-used, and the crystal polished up nicely.
      Unfortunately, I couldn’t get hold of an original split stem and crown, so I had to fit a normal stem. The standard male/female stems you can buy can’t be used as there isn’t enough space for them. That means the next time the stem has to be taken out, it will most likely break, and will have to be replaced again.

  5. > The movement is beyond economical repair.

    Nooo ;(

    Was the rotor too far gone to transplant to the donor movement? The centre did look a bit… manky.

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