This watch has quite a bit of family history …
My father got this gold watch from his boss in 1958 at the age of 32 – his first serious job after the war and university. He wore it from 1958 right up to 1973 when he bought himself a Rolex – which he has been wearing ever since.
With my 50th birthday coming up tomorrow, my father decided to give the watch to me, as it’s been sitting in a drawer for the last 39 years.
I’ve asked him if he ever got the watch serviced, and he can’t remember ever having done that. But let’s give the good man some leeway and presume that if it has been serviced, it was before 1973. So we have a watch that hasn’t been touched for 39 years.
I got it in the mail and it was ticking since it’s automatic. I opened it up for a quick glance, and put it on the timegrapher.
Not beautiful, but running. You can tell that the watch needs a service, but you wouldn't guess that it's been lying around for 39 years
This is good - a completely clean and shiny inner lid that protects the movement
Wow - not only beautiful, but incredibly clean
Movement taken out of the case - this is an AS 1361N - made by A. Schild in Switzerland. It beats at 18,000 bph and has 21 jewels
With the auto-winder removed, you can actually see some oil on the wheel bridge
The auto winder - you can see quite a bit of oil on that as well
The balance and hairspring are nice and clean as well
Ready to remove the bridges
The movement has an intermediary centre wheel bridge, as it has a central second. The centre wheel does not have any jewels
Everything removed from the top plate
Now I turn my attention to the bottom plate
Not much to remove as there is no date ring
Time to get a bit forensic! I can't see any traces of oil on the balance staff - but everything is nice and clean
Top jewel of the pallet fork - no trace of oil, either
The pallet fork pivot looks dry, but clean
Jewels on the wheel bridge - they also look pretty dry. Behind the centre jewel, there is some oil on the bridge where the winder assembly was
I wipe the oil onto a clean sheet of watch paper - it's still liquid enough to do its job
The oil in the spring barrel is still in good condition - you can even see a little droplet with surface tension just where the spring opens out (at about 10 o'clock from the centre)
Escape wheel - pretty dry
The bottom pivot of the escape wheel - dry as well
Some oil in good condition on the barrel bridge
The fourth wheel - dry
The balance jewel with cap - you can see tiny tiny specs of some dried-up oil in the first groove of the jewel
Oil on the main spring in top condition
My interpretation of things:
Firstly, I think the watch was serviced before it went into hibernation in 1973. The strap is almost unworn, and there were traces of someone having opened the watch that didn’t look like they happened in the factory.
All the light oil (balance, pallet fork, escapement, wheels) has evaporated. What saved the watch was the fact that whoever serviced it oiled lightly, so there wasn’t too much residue to make the movement stop. A dry movement works, albeit not perfectly well – as we can see from the timegrapher. Also, as the watch wasn’t worn, it was kept at a fairly constant temperature in a centrally heated house, with no dust or dirt penetrating the watch. So whilst the lighter oil dried out, there was no mixing with dust which would have formed a hard crust.
The heavier oil, used for the main spring, the barrel, and between the wheel bridge and the auto winder, survived in very good shape.
Heavy oil (probably some clock oil that was used) survives quite well. Light oil, as used for jewels, evaporates over time. If a watch is only lightly oiled, it has good chances of taking this evaporation without coming to a halt.
It’s the 27th of February, and I’m going to put my father’s Rado back together.
All parts cleaned and dry
I start by winding and oiling the main spring
All set for reassembly
The intermediate bridge for the centre wheel and the barrel bridge are mounted
Then the wheel bridge for third, fourth and escapement wheel goes in. Make sure all wheels are properly seated and turn freely before tightening the bridge screws
Holding the pallet fork with a piece of watch paper, I carefully clean it with a pegwood stick
Making sure the pallet fork moves freely before tightening the pallet cock screw
The balance cock and balance go in and the watch starts ticking
The crown and castle wheel get some grease before going in
The the auto winder assembly is mounted on top of the movement
The gold plating of the hour and minute hand is so badly damaged that I decide to polish them. That takes the remaining gold plating off, but gives me shiny hands again. I can always re-plate another time
The movement is back in the case
The dust cover goes back on
And finally the watch back - done
What a beauty - and what a great birthday gift from my dad!