I have been searching for a suitable watch that I could repair/service and give to my Dad for a while, I finally found one at the beginning of my summer break. He isn’t really a big fan of watches to be honest, unlike me and my older brother, and his brand of choice has always been Seiko. A watch to him is an instrument to tell the time and nothing more, the look on his face when he discovers the cost of each new watch I acquire is one of astonishment. Since I have taken up watchmaking however, he has shown more of interest in mechanical watches but not to the point where he would go out and buy one himself.
His jobs over the years, from F1 mechanic to his current role as a HGV technician, have dictated that a watch can’t really be worn on a day to day basis. Subsequently his watches only see the light of day on holidays and special occasions. He once had a Seiko Kinetic that he purchased when the technology first came onto the market but it miraculously disappeared years later with a story involving the words ‘Brother’ and ‘Lost’. He has since relied on a trusty Seiko quartz chronograph and a Lorus chronograph containing the same movement, both requiring batteries when he went to use them for a recent event. After fitting new batteries I decided that it would be useful for him to have a mechanical watch to make sure he always had a watch that would be ready to work.
Due to its expected limited use and the fact I knew that he wouldn’t be interested in owning something of high value, I decided to search for an entry level Swiss mechanical containing an ETA 2824 or similar. It would be easy to go out and buy something like this for £300-400 but I wanted demonstrate to him the skills I had learnt during my training so far. I wanted to buy something that at the very minimum needed servicing and the case/bracelet refurbishing so I started to search. My usual lucky hunting ground of eBay came up with something perfect once again and another bargain project that I couldn’t resist (I will do another post on this one in a few weeks).
A Tissot Ballade III containing an ETA 2824, all stainless steel case/bracelet, display back, textured white dial and crucially it wasn’t working. Perfect. Payment was made and a few days later it arrived, the case and bracelet that were described as immaculate actually weren’t… Typical eBay sellers description then and something I have become accustomed to when buying used watches off the internet. It wasn’t a problem though as it just gave me a chance to put my refinishing skills to the test. Apart from a slight bit of ageing on the dial, cosmetically everything else looked ok.
Although I was visiting my parents and only had a limited selection of tools with me, I decided to pop the back off and see if I could diagnose why the watch wasn’t working. It seemed to wind ok so I knew it wouldn’t be a broken mainspring. With the back off, the first thing I noticed was that one of the movement clamp screws was missing and the movement/dial could be tilted slightly in one direction. So where was the missing screw? I soon found it wedged between the main plate and the balance wheel, after carefully removing it the balance swung back into life. Main problem solved. Without a cleaning machine at home or any tools/oil I couldn’t really go much further. I was due on my work placement the following week so I hoped to get all the work completed during those 2 weeks but if not I would await my return to school in September.
Fortunately I was given the opportunity to do some of my project work during the second week of my placement so the Tissot project got underway, a quick test on the timing machine showed that it definitely was in need of service so I set to work. The first task was to uncase everything in preparation for stripping the movement down. The watchmaker I was working with on my placement was also there for guidance and to offer up his experience when I encountered any problems. During disassembly he got me to check certain things along the way, some that I wouldn’t have even considered on my own accord. The first parts to be removed were the rotor and the automatic work, I made sure to check all the parts were moving freely and that the wheels had the correct end shakes, everything was fine so I could move on to the next step.
I came across the first problem when getting ready to remove the hands, normally I would just take them off but I was advised to check the clearance between all the hands and dial. On close inspection it was clear that there was almost no clearance between the hour hand and the dial. This indicated that either an incorrect hour hand had been fitted or more likely, the dial was bent. After some more investigation and lightly pressing on the centre of the dial with a buff stick, it was clear the dial was at fault. I removed the hands and left it to the watchmaker to carefully straighten the dial as its not something I had ever attempted before. Thankfully it straightened up perfectly without incurring any damage or minor marks.
The dial and hands were put to one side ready for re-assembly and it was now time to start inspecting/dismantling the rest of the movement in preparation for cleaning. My first point of call was to check the functioning of the calendar work to make sure the date change was smooth before removing the components one by one and checking them for any damage/wear. It was at this point that I began to place all the components in baskets ready to enter the cleaning machine.
The movement could now be turned over so the barrel, train and escapement could be checked and dismantled. Firstly the end shake of the balance was checked, then the shock settings were removed from each side of the balance so the balance itself could then be carefully removed from the movement and placed up side down to protect the hairspring from damage. As we haven’t yet covered hairsprings at school, I was given a brief overview by the watchmaker and together we checked that it was all ok.
The next parts to check were the pallets- the depth of lock and run to banking needed to be checked along with the end shake of the pallet frame. Its also important to check a few other things including horn shake and the division between all the parts that make up the escapement, I will cover all of these in more detail in one of my next posts. The pallet bridge and pallet fork could now be removed, the pivots on the pallet fork were checked for damage along with the pallet stones which can occasionally be chipped- this is a manufacturing fault rather than a result of wear and something thats not really a common occurrence.
I could now focus my attention on checking the end shake on all of the train wheels before moving on to removing the barrel bridge in order to access the barrel itself. Before taking off the bridge, the crown and ratchet wheels need to removed, once again they were carefully inspected before being placed in a basket ready for cleaning. The barrel could now be removed for the plate, I removed its cap and then its arbor before carefully removing the mainspring. As advised by the watchmaker a new mainspring would be fitted in order to prevent it failing in the future so the old one was simply thrown away. Finally the train bridge could be removed along with the train wheels.
The movement was now almost ready for the cleaning machine, the keyless work and motion work were checked and removed next, then the only task remaining was to peg out all of the jewel holes in order to remove any remaining oil. The parts were carefully placed in the cleaning baskets and the the balance was secured back onto the main plate to prevent the balance staff pivots from being damaged. The cleaning machine could now do its work while I prepared myself for the subsequent reassembly.
After cleaning, my first task was to lubricate the barrel wall using graphite and fit a brand new mainspring. With the spring in place the barrel arbor could be lubricated and put into position. The barrel end shake needed to be set next, I did this by deforming the centre of the barrel cap using a piece of peg wood, the idea was to in initially set the barrel with no end shake. I fitted the cap onto the barrel and checked there was no end shake, next I turned the barrel over and using the back end of my tweezers I applied some downward pressure to the barrel arbor. This deforms the cap slightly in the opposition direction to increase the end shake. A quick check that the end shake was correct and the barrel could be put to one side for now.
The incabloc shock settings could now be lubricated, at school we oil these by hand using a standard oiler but it’s normal practice in the industry to use automatic oilers. They speed up the process of oiling and require little effort compared to the manual method achieving the same result. After oiling both settings, the lower shock setting can be positioned in the plate and the movement turned over.
I was now able to get started with assembling the movement beginning with the keyless work. The first parts to go in are the sliding and winding pinions, making sure to apply lubrication to the Breguet teeth. Next the winding stem can be lubricated and inserted into the movement. The setting lever, double correcting operator level and yoke can be correctly lubricated and placed in position. The 2824-2 has a combined setting lever spring and yoke spring that also form the keyless cover. This is the next part to be put in position, both springs have to be lubricated at there friction points, and that was the keyless work completed.
The great wheel or centre seconds wheel sits in a tube in the plate and holds the secondhand of the watch. Due to its design, the acting surface of the pivot must be lubricated before being placed in the movement. In order to stop the oil from spreading, I treated the wheel with a substance called fix-a-drop that helps keep the oil in the position it was applied. Once treated and lubricated, I placed the wheel into the movement and screwed the train bridge down. With the bridge now secured in place, I was able to check that all the wheels were able to drop under their own gravity when lifted with tweezers- this checks that there isn’t any dirt making them stick.
Gear train in position…
Next to assemble was the winding mechanism. I applied a small amount of lubrication to the lower barrel bearing jewel and put the barrel in position. The top bearing surface in the barrel bridge was lubricated and the bridge secured in position, making sure not to forget fitting the balance stop first! Next I positioned the click and click spring then lubricated the crown wheel core. The crown wheel could then be located and screwed down. Finally I located the ratchet wheel and screwed it down. The winding mechanism was now complete. The crown could now be turned to check the train ran freely.
The gear train could be lubricated and the train run to allow the oil to circulate. The pallet fork could be placed in position and the pallet bridge secured down. It’s important to check that the pallets move freely at this point by tipping the movement from one side to the other. With everything ok, I could move on to putting the balance in position. Once the balance cock was secured down the upper shock setting could be fitted in place. The movement could now be wound in preparation for oiling the escapement. The teeth of the escape wheel are lubricated through either of the 2 inspection holes in the movement, the idea being to create a layer of lubrication between the pallet stones and the escape wheel teeth to reduce friction. Both the escape wheel and pallet fork are treated in fix-a-drop to prevent the oil spreading from its applied location.
The movement could now be placed on the timing machine and regulated, although not a chronometer spec movement most 2824-2’s can be regulated to within chronometer time keeping standards. After checking the watch in 6 positions, correcting the beat error and perfecting the time keeping I was happy with the result. Its always important to have an average gain in time, after all its better to arrive early rather than be late!
It was now time to refit the motion work and calender work to the movement. Once everything was in position and all correctly lubricated, the dial and hands could be refitted. The dial is fitted onto the movement and the dial feet secured in place. The movement is then placed in a movement holder that supports the centre seconds jewel, the support stops the jewel being pushed out while the secondhand is fitted. The hour hand is fitted first using a hand press, its then rotated via the crown until the date just flicks over, the minute hand is then fitted on. The hands are then rotated to check the date changes over between 11.59 and 12.01, if all is correct the secondhand can then be fitted into place.
The movement/dial could now be placed under a dust cover while the automatic work was assembled. The reversers in the automatic work are lubricated in a substance called lubeta which leaves behind a thin coating of lubrication. The wheels are placed in there correct locations and the bridge put in place. The jewels are lubricated and the automatic work is put to one side in preparation for casing the movement up.
I could now get to work on refinishing the case and bracelet, the case itself had a polished finish so it was a fairly easy task to remove the majority of the marks and brighten it up. The bracelet on the other had a combination of brushed and polished finishes so it would be an altogether more difficult task. The brushed finish had practically disappeared so it would definately would a million times better when refurbished. The bracelet was completely polished first then taped up and using a sharp blade I cut down between the links I wanted grain. The tape was then removed from these links and then the grained finish applied.
Taping up the bracelet…
The results looked good and it was definitely another job well done!
The finished bracelet…
I could now case the movement up and do a final check of the time keeping on the timing machine. With everything running nicely I could then fit the automatic work and the rotor. The case back was refitted and the bracelet attached. I was really pleased with the end result and couldn’t wait to take it home to present to my Dad. Thankfully he loved it and once the extra links I had to order turn up, I’m sure he will wear it with pride.
Once again I have learnt a lot from this project, which is the main reason I undertake them in the first place, but its also nice to give a present to someone who has helped me to get to where I am today and has been a real inspiration throughout my life. Hopefully the watch will last him for the rest of his life time and I guess I have signed myself up for taking care of its servicing needs from now on!
Anyway heres what you have been waiting for, the finished article (On my wrist, after all you have to try out your own work!)…