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!