Teardown + Service: Rolex 6480 Oyster calibre 1210

This watch was sent to me by Constantine of Rochester, NY, for a service. He told me that the dial was quite damaged, so I expected a watch in not too good a shape.

The dial looks as though someone has smeared over it with a dirty finger, only missing the bits around the hour marks because the finger couldn’t get in there.

Only one way to find out what happened to the watch ….

I place the watch face down on a soft cloth and open the back

Looks like fire damage to me - the brass is almost red, and some of the stainless steel has been blued. No gasket. My guess is that this watch was heated over 130° C. That also explains the way the dial looks. Below the 6480, the back is stamped "III 57", which points to a manufacturing date in the third quarter of 1957

With all that temperature damage, the watch still ticks. The balance amplitude is ok, the lines are a bit shaky, but all in all, not too bad considering what must have happened to this watch

A closer look at the temperature damage

Looks like the hottest point was around 11 o'clock. The areas around the hour markers are less damaged as the markers themselves take away and diffuse some of the heat

After I remove the movement from the case, I take the hands off

No reason not to treat the dial as carefully as I can - I wrap it in watch paper and put it to the side

I start off with the bottom plate which shows less damage as it was protected by the dial and has less components that stand out

Bottom plate cleared

Now I turn the movement around and start by taking off the balance cock with the balance - balance colour almost red from the temperature damage

The movement with the balance removed. Check out the colour of the brass wheel - it's almost red

Barrel bridge removed

Top plate cleared

Main spring removed from barrel

On first sight, this looks bad. But, looking at the discolouration, the watch probably didn’t get far over 150°C, so with a bit of luck, there won’t be any deformation of parts.

I will put the parts into a strong ammonium-based cleaner, which should return the brass parts back to their normal colour. I’m also getting a quote for a dial restoration.

Now I have to order some gaskets and a new main spring. When the parts have arrived, I will put the watch back together again.

Two hours ammonium bath and an alcohol rinse later, things look up

The bridges look a bit better, too

And the brass wheels have found their original colour

After a bit of Dialux Vert and a buffing wheel, the wheel bridge looks a lot better. Still a tiny bit yellowy, but there is not much I can do about that

I've sent the dial off to the restorer, but the hands need a bit of attention, too!

As a first step, I gently sand the surface of the hands with a 9 micron paper

Then I put some Dialux Vert on a soft cloth and polish the hands

And here we have nicely polished hands

The barrel bridge and the balance cock get some attention as well

The new main spring goes into the barrel and is oiled

And the reassembly can start

The wheel bridge is mounted

The barrel bridge and the second hand assembly fitted - looks a lot better than with the discolouration we had before

That’s enough for today – and it’s the weekend!

I will resume next week as the dial will take a good 12 days until it’s done. Can’t wait to see what that will look like!

Wednesday, February 29th 2012

Today, I want to complete the top plate of the movement. I start by cleaning the pallet fork with some pegwood. I don't put it in the cleaning fluid, as that can dissolve the shellac that holds the pallets

I put the pallet fork into place and put the pallet cock in. I lightly oil the pallets and the pallet jewels

As soon as the balance is in, it starts moving - all looks very nice!

As the timegrapher is showing a beat error of 3.2ms, I will have to adjust that first before making any rate adjustments.

Adjusting the beat error is very fiddly - you have to insert an oiler from the side to block the collet and then move the balance. This takes me 8 attempts to get it right

March 15th, 2012

The dial came back today – and David Bill & Sons have done an amazing job. The dial looks great and original – well done!

The polished hands look great on the newly restored dial

New gaskets all around

As the watch is getting a new crystal, I'm giving the case a quick polish. This won't get rid of any deeper scratches, but it will make the watch look a lot nicer

The bezel gets a quick shine as well - but the deep scratches stay. If you want to get rid of those, you have to start with 240 grain sand paper and work your way up to Dialux Vert

With the pendant tube and the new crystal fitted, it's time for the movement to go back in

Well, I’m very pleased indeed with the end result – if you compare the last photo to the first, this watch has brushed up rather well!

14 thoughts on “Teardown + Service: Rolex 6480 Oyster calibre 1210

  1. Hi, Christian,

    Thank you for showing your wonderful restoration work. I own a Oysterdate Precision 6694 dated in 1960 (on the inside of case back). Similar to this example, on the bottom plate the serial number is stamped with “N” and 5 digits of numbers. I checked several online sources of info for serial number lookup but never found something like this. Do you happen to know the reason? Thank you for any info.



  2. The brassy color of the plates is not due to heat but damage from overly harsh cleaning solution or being left too long in the solution.

  3. I am so much enjoying this website with your stories and detailed photos. Great craftsmanship and very educational for someone like me, a watchlover with no technical skills.

  4. The end result is phenomenal. Just phenomenal. The before and after photos, and everything in between, tell the story very well. I can’t wait to see the watch in person. Thanks so much for doing a great job.

  5. Pingback: Service and dial restoration: Rolex 6480

  6. Pingback: 1958 Rado Automatic 21 Jewels AS1361N

  7. Looking forward to the re-assembly story!

    It’s always so much simpler to tear a watch apart — than to put it back together again, isn’t it!

  8. While you’re waiting for the new parts to arrive, you better take care no one sneezes on that cloth with the approximately 40 itty bitty parts, because poof, they’ll all disappear into thin air, never to be seen again :).

    • All safely tucked up in a plastic container now 😉

      I just put them on watch paper after taking them out of the alcohol rinse and blowing them dry so that any left-over alcohol can evaporate.

  9. Thank you so much Christian! I sent you an e-mail. You are doing an amazing job disassembling and diagnosing my poor pitiful watch. Frankly, I’m amazed it was working as well as it was before.

  10. Pingback: Teardown Rolex 6480 with temperature damage

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