Service: Zodiac SST 36000

This great Zodiac belongs to Michael. It’s a reminder of the heady days of high-speed movements, where watch manufacturers built faster and faster beating watches in the quest for accuracy.

This one beats 10 times a second, so 36000 times an hour. All good stuff, but you need a pretty strong mainspring, which delivers more uneven power over its winding cycle (e.g. from fully wound to almost unwound) than the less strong mainspring of a slower beating movement. Also, these high-speed movements need precision oiling, especially on the escape wheel, to function properly. So over time, performance also degrades more than in slower beating movements.

Zoom in and check out the tension ring at 1 o’clock. Somebody without a case press wanted to put a crystal in … Not succeeding, he took out the tension ring and just cut out a bit. Things like these don’t bode well for the rest of the watch.

This one doesn’t beat at all, so it’s time to have a closer look.

Somebody has taken his bathroom sealant gun to the watch, at least that’s what it looks like. Black gunk everywhere. There is so much of it (e.g. on the rotor and even on the balance), that this can’t be a dissolved gasket. This is sealant.

Lovely. After some trials, I find out that methylated spirit dissolves the stuff.

Another one of my favorites – big screwdriver on small screw. Here, the set lever screw was opened with a big screwdriver, thus damaging the plate.

You can see the black sealant on the balance wheel. Lucky it didn’t get on the hairspring.

Date and day rings.

Note the unusual quick-set date construction. The long lever at the bottom of the photo pushes the date changer in when the crown is depressed. Releasing the crown will then forward the date by one. It works surprisingly well.

I completely clear the bottom plate before turning the movement over.

Now it’s time for the top plate. First, the auto winder assembly.

I nudge the movement into some action, just to see what I’m up against.

Oh dear, all this does not bode well. Something is wrong.

Note the construction of the lever for the hacking second. Other manufacturers use a small lever the presses directly on the balance. I always found this a bit rough. Here is another approach.

A piece of advice I will heed. You have to buy the complete barrel if you want to change the mainspring. I will put the movement together and see what the amplitude is like before making any decisions.

I remove the balance jewels, and put the balance back on the plate. Ready for the watch cleaning machine.

Time to put the movement back together. Everything shiny and clean as I like it.

Enlarge this photo and check out the balance cock. The top bit that holds the hairspring stud stands up a bit where it shouldn’t. Somebody tried to push it down, probably with some pliers, and left some rather ugly marks. Also, he didn’t succeed πŸ˜‰

When trying to put the balance back in, I noticed that the hairspring wasn’t parallel with the balance. This was due to the stud not being at a right angle, but slightly tilted, caused by the above problem.

So I have to take that apart, and put it back together as it should be.

Back together as it should be.

That’s better πŸ˜‰ I will do a final adjustment after a couple of days running. You now may see my point about the mainspring – absolutely no reason to replace that.

It’s quite something to watch that balance swing 10 times a second.

Bottom plate ready for the dial.

The dial and hands go back on.

How is that? πŸ™‚

Gunk removed, new crystal pressed in, and we’re back in business.

Nice looking watch, and a great piece for a collection.

19 thoughts on “Service: Zodiac SST 36000

  1. Hi,

    I have an SST 36000… But for some reason it seems not that smooth when working. I even checked it slowing a video of it and seems to be tickling 6 times per second.

    The caliber is a fully original 86, nothing that makes me think the watch is fake, maybe the mainspring is not working fine anymore?

  2. Hello,
    my name is Mike and have a Zodiac watch/ non-sst 36000.The Dial has on it…
    Zodiac sign@ 12, Zodiac word @ 9 , and automatic @ 6. The Day changes by it self and /or when i turn the crown/stem, but the date does not change at all . does not change with the day at 12:00 am . nor by pulling the crown to any position (2 positions) and winding the crown/stem. I opened the back and is a Zodiac movement . is something out of place or is there another way of changing the date ?

  3. I love all the info I have s zodiac sst 36000 with the blue ring I’m trying to set the day how would I do this the date works great by pushing me the stem any ideas thank you

  4. Good Day Christian

    I have acquired a Zodiac SST 36000 AUTOMATIC in very good condition. It keeps time accurately. All work except the changing of the date. The date changes with the day. When I press the crown, I do feel a click. The date though will not change. Does it have to be at a certain time for this feature to work? Is the crown adjustable? What do you recommend?

    Rod Donovan in Texas
    361 633 1786

  5. Good Day
    I bought a nice Zodiac SST 36000. It had a new crystal installed prior to the purchase. I set the day by winding the crown. The date on the other hand, can’t be set. The crystal is tight, and has no play. Please advise.

    • Well, it’s a good thing that the crystal sits tight, isn’t it?
      If the day doesn’t change with the date, you have a problem, and your watch will need repair.

      Best regards,


  6. Hi, great picture show.
    1) The black gunk is most probably not any liquid sealant. I had the very same with a LIP watch. My late mentor told me that the rubber used back in the 60’s deteriorates in a way that it liquifies….
    2) One question :
    I’ve service a 72B which also has this remarkable quick date setting. But how far should the crown be away from the watch’s housing ( 0.5 – 1 mm) ?
    Anyhow, a crown which is not tight to its housing does not look very nice.
    And I do not see any cut-out in the housing to hide this spacing, as is done e.g. with a Seiko 5.
    Any advice ?
    Bert, Belgium

    • Hi Bert,

      Looking at my photos, I’d say the crown sticks out about 3/10mm. The best way to test that though is to press it in for the quick set date and see how far it’s still away from the case when it’s fully pressed – you can shorten the winding stem by exactly that. Too much, and you don’t have a quick-set date any more πŸ˜‰

  7. > How is that?

    Awesome πŸ˜‰

    I do like timegraphers, but have no reason to actually buy one. I did have a play with a free software one – it works ok (I think) if you have access to a decent contact microphone or can build one with a decent amplifier;

    The mainspring barrel warns about not opening just because of the tension it could be under?

  8. WOW! I had really despaired when I opened this watch up – I knew it was sick, but when I saw the state of it, I thought it was terminal. Christian is understating how disgusting the black gunk looked to the naked eye. But the Watch Guy walked on water again! Many thanks, Christian, dying to get it back and see it in motion!


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