This is a story about one vintage watch restoration. Three years ago, I was gratified to purchase a notable watch by the famous brand Hy Moser & Cie. It was a vintage pocket watch movement with enamel dial in non-original wrist-wearing case.
Wrist-type casemaking for old movements was a tradition in early Soviet Russia. Some small ateliers were working on re-purposing of pocket watches into wristwatches due to high professional demand and lack of domestic wristwatch production. Mainly, they produced stumpy & ugly brass cases, strictly functional.
You can see as it came from a greedy antique dealer. Ridiculous piece of horological junk?!
The case looks really poor. Worn nickel plating, tarnished, rusty lugs.
Worn and dirty plastic crystal. Absolutely unacceptable.
There are some sad news about the movement.
Steel winding wheels are scratched. Every screw head is damaged. There are traces of rust and corrosion on steel parts.
Finally we can see some good news – nice enamel dial. I just fell in love with that deep-red “12” and “4” with swirl endpieces! Frankly speaking, these charming numerals were the only reasons to buy it. I just couldn’t leave this beauty trapped inside such an ugly shell.
Note the awful low-grade hands. Doesn’t look worthy for such a gracious dial.
So, what I planned to do is:
- build new stainless steel case with glazed caseback
- hide outer enamel chip under front bezel
- replace hands and crown with contemporary old-stock parts
- refinish all screw heads to plain mirror polish
- grind winding wheels with fresh shiny pattern
- make full movement repair and service (fix all problems, yet unknown)
- add some nice strap for wearing on a wrist.
Stage 1 – casemaking
Making new watch case was not so difficult as I have some casemaking skills. In this case I paid special attention to true-antique looking of bezels and lugs. Finished case must be styled similarly to earliest wristwatches as they could be constructed in 1910’s.
First we make measurements and prepare new watch case drawing.
Extensive lathe works to be done. We machined case ring blanks and fitted tolerances of bezel rings to snap properly on case body.
Olive pieces will hold the antique-style movable wire lugs. All parts are made of stainless steel.
Case to be assembled, holes for winding stem and setting button to be drilled. Two mineral crystals are fixed with special UV-glue.
On this stage, we encounter a problem with crown replacing – the stem is badly damaged by prevoius repairs. OK, new proper stem is made.
Old-stock winding crown from vintage repair kit. It is true contemporary to the movement, unworn and looks like new.
Stage 2 – fix movement troubles
You never know what was modified inside the antique movement by the number of repairs. Some surprises are really pissing off. First inferiour thing I’ve met when disassembling the movement was the incorrect barrel arbor. Square size of arbor was way smaller than the square hole of winding wheel.
First I’ve made an effort to find suitable wheel replacement with a smaller square hole.
Not lucky this time.
So it had to make new barrel arbor with bigger square endpiece. Corroded screw-nut also was replaced with better one.
Barrel arbor blank; barrel unfinished after hardening.
Please inspect the utterly damaged surfaces of wheels, screws and steel parts. These all are not natural wear signs – these are mistakes of repair persons who made unproper job. It should be all redone, but I don’t support the opinion that movement must totally shine like new. Some dings and marks can be kept to approve movement origin and 100+ years old age.
A plenty of work was given to make this movement look more proficient through glazed caseback.
This early 1900’s tool set is useful to make correct screw heads plain polish.
This is winding wheel refinishing with diamond grinding disc. Simple and effective method to make it look fresh.
A moment to check how movement looks after refinish. Not like new (it should not be like new), but decent vintage appearance. Never try to polish plates to keep original sand finished gold plating.
The rest troubles are prominently typical for antique watches:
worn balance axle (new high-quality axle was made)
three cracked hole jewels (all replaced)
weak mainspring (was replaced with new-old-stock one)
cracked stem fixing spring (new spring was made)
extremly dirty movement (was cleaned and oiled with full disassemblement)
Time to assemble the watch in new made case for tests and adjustment. Next step to pay attention to watch face.
Stage 3 – hands & accessoires
First of all, enamel dial is being cleaned. Many small dirty marks and scratches has gone!
What a beautiful look in new fresh housing!
Finally we can add hands. The hands must be of correct length, correct age/style, and correspond with numerals “weight” on watch face. Here we have bold fancy digits, so hands must be bold enough for easy time reading, but also bring some fancy detail to contribute sophisticated watchface image.
We choose classical bold “chronometer” old-stock hands in blue tempered finish steel. Looks harmonious, but has technical issue about hole size not matching hand arbors.
Actually these hands are from older-time fusee English pocket watches with larger hand arbors. Moreover minute hand has square hole.
Solution: machining brass fitting pipes to adjust hands holes to movement arbors. Here we use classic vintage small lathe. It’s rather simple watchmaking job indeed.
Hands with new brass fitting pipes pressed in.
New look of old watch is complete and thorough. Recased and gently restored, now it is pleasurable timepiece to wear.
After weeks of testing & adjustment to be fitted on new strap.
Hope you enjoy this review, any comments are appreciated =)