After completing my previous projects successfully, it wasn’t long before I had a desire to buy something else to restore to its former glory. I never set out to buy a particular brand or model when searching for these project watches but I do tend to look for something that needs some TLC and that I can potentially make a profit on should I decide to sell. Likewise I don’t tend to set a budget although the cheaper I can find something the better! I try to make sure that I’m not paying over the odds and generally stick to recognised brands that are easy to value. This formula has worked well for me so far and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve only sold 2 of my project watches to date but I like to know my money is safe should I wish to sell in the future.
I spent a few weeks looking for a potential candidate and back in October I came across 2 watches that fitted the bill. I just couldn’t decide which one to purchase even though they are similar models from the same brand so I bought both! This wasn’t really the plan but I got them both for what I believe to be a reasonable price, taking into account the amount of work needed to bring them back to there former glories. The watches in question were both manufactured by Breitling and although they look pretty similar at first glance, they do have a number of differences. The main one being the date of manufacture, the older model dating from the 1980’s and the newer model, the late 1990’s. The models in question are the reference 81970, which proceeded the Antares model and is visibly almost identical, and the B10050 Wings which most people would describe as the successor to the Antares.
I spotted the 81970 first, it wasn’t a Breitling model I was aware of until coming across it on eBay but after doing some research online I discovered that it was a scarce model produced in the 1980’s. There is very little information available but from what I can gather it was produced for a limited time and later turned into the Antares model which shares the same case, movement and hands. The only difference I can see between the 81970 and the Antares is the dial. The movement used is the Breitling calibre B10 otherwise known as the ETA 2892-2, widely used by a number of Swiss manufacturers, it contains 21 jewels and beats at 28,800 BPH.
I quite liked the look of this particular watch and it also had an unusual dial colour for a Breitling, it did however require a lot of work to bring it back to an acceptable condition. The description stated that the watch would stop and start so I knew the watch would need a service at least. The crown no longer screwed down, I hoped it would just be the crown threads that were stripped because if it was the pendant tube in the case I would be in trouble! The chances of sourcing a genuine Breitling tube or even an after market one to fit would be pretty slim. The watch didn’t look too bad cosmetically apart from the scratches to the glass although previous experience has taught me that photographs don’t show the true picture! I weighed up the pros and cons before finally deciding that it could be a worthwhile project, soon after a deal was agreed and it was on its way to me.
A few days later the watch arrived and I was pretty pleased with it, cosmetically it was pretty much as described although some of scratches I thought were on the glass were on the dial and the 18K gold rider tabs had some plating loss so clearly not solid gold. The movement didn’t run but looked to be in relatively good condition so a service would hopefully having it running nicely again. The crown as described didn’t screw down and after a quick inspection I was relieved to only find the crown at fault, the threads inside it were completely stripped! The seller gave a reasonably accurate account of all the faults and it definitely looked like a good project to undertake with lots of work required to bring it back to its former glory. I like a challenge and the transformation after everything has been done always makes the hours of hard work worthwhile.
Before I start work on any of these projects, I try to come up with an action plan, in other words a list a jobs that need to be done. This way I can begin to source the parts that are seen to be needed initially, the movement is obviously excluded to begin with as it needs to be stripped down before any parts are seen to be in need of replacement. Movement aside, it was clear that cosmetically the watch needed more than just a polish to make it look anything close to what it would have looked when new. At very minimum I needed a new sapphire crystal and the hands reluming, the watch would look much better for this but I would never be happy with it. I like to bring these project watches back to a condition as close to a new as possible so any part that can’t be refurbished must be replaced. The result of this being that I would also require a new set of rider tabs and ideally another dial which I knew would be difficult to source. The crown would also need to be replaced along with the stem and the bezel needed repainting. The end result was a fairly long list of jobs to undertake and quite a few parts to source.
List of jobs to do…
Fit Replacement Dial
Refurbish Case/Bezel/Case Back
Fit New Glass
Fit New Rider Tabs
Fit New Strap
List of parts required so far…
Gold or Gold Plated Rider Tabs
Whilst trying to source the required cosmetic parts, I decided to get to work on servicing the movement and giving the case a good clean. Firstly I removed the stem and uncased the movement, after removing the stem I could see that there was some corrosion to the end of it where it was fixed to the crown and a small amount inside the pendant tube. My guess is that the failed crown has allowed some moisture into the case, thankfully I couldn’t spot any signs of corrosion on the movement at this point. The next task was to remove the hands and dial from the movement but before I could do this I had to carry out a couple of checks. The first is to check that the hands can be turned via the crown, they are clear of the dial and the division between them is even. Any problems in this area can be possibly be corrected at this point, such as a bent dial. The second thing to check is that the calendar can be changed and moves freely, again a simple check but it could identify a problem to look at for later on. I couldn’t find any problems so they were removed and stored away safely. Also at this point, the movement was placed to one side so I could take the case apart.
I decided to remove the bezel first, normally the majority of Breitling bezels are held in place by a set of screws that run around its circumference but on this older model and a lot of the entry level colt models its slightly different. The bezel appears to have the screws present as with most Breitling’s but on trying to remove them I discovered that only the 4 in the rider tabs actually function. The other eight are actually pegs that push into the bezel and have heads with a slot to match the screws in the rider tabs, I guess this is either a sign of cost cutting or just an earlier type of manufacture. The second of those two seemed more likely once I removed the bezel, using a case knife to pry underneath it, to reveal the click spring. Usually the click spring is a removal part that has a tab to locate it in position in the case but on this particular model its soldered into to the case! This bezel system is a problem as such, in fact most bezels uses friction rather than screws for retention, but it does make removal trickier and that soldered spring can be a pain during polishing!
The next job was to remove the sapphire crystal, this is done using a wooden mallet and a soft cloth to prevent damaging the glass. The cloth is placed inside the case to protect the crystal and then the head of the wooden mallet is pressed against the glass, a steel hammer is then used to strike the wooden mallet. After applying the right amount of pressure, the crystal should hopefully pop out. The case was now ready to be ultrasonically cleaned in preparation for polishing. I also managed to secure a few used but genuine Breitling parts including a set of solid 18K gold rider tabs, a slightly domed double AR sapphire crystal and a stainless steel crown for a reasonable price. The riders although from a different model fitted perfectly, as you can see in the pictures below, and only required a light polish to pass as brand new. The crown was brand new and the crystal was in good condition bar some minor marks in the anti reflective coating. I was pretty pleased with them, they didn’t cost me an awful lot and they would dramatically improve the looks of the watch.
I could now get to work on inspecting and disassembling the movement, its really important to check the function and condition of each component before cleaning and reassembly because there is no point putting it all back together if its not going to work correctly. Failure to do this will only make things harder and ultimately more time consuming, time costs money and ultimately must be used efficiently. Up to this point, I hadn’t worked on the ETA 2892-2 before so I also took the disassembly to familiarise myself with the movement and the solutions it utilises to enable it to be a thinner calibre than the 2824-2.
The first obvious difference between the 2892 and 2824 is the height of the movement, the 2892 being a whole millimetre thinner than the 2824, at 3.6mm. The way this has been achieved soon becomes clear when the movement is disassembled, the automatic module is located on the main plate next to the barrel bridge as opposed to being located on top of the bridges like in the 2824. In order to accommodate this change, the crown and ratchet wheels are located on the underside of the barrel bridge so they can mesh with the automatic module. The rotor is also secured from the underside of the module via 3 screws as opposed to a single screw located in the top of the rotor on the 2824. The layout change is solely responsible for the 1mm height difference between the two movements, its a neat solution that can perhaps also be seen as a slight weakness due to the seemingly less robust nature of its components. Although I’ve yet to see any real proof that this the case.
The rest of the movement is pretty much standard ETA although the fit and finish of all the components is certainly a step or two above the other movements I’ve worked on so far. The bridges, main plate and rotor are decorated with a combination of pearlage and geneva stripes which certainly improves it looks over the lower grade ETA movements. The main things to check before disassembly are that the the watch winds freely via the crown, the hairspring is flat and centred, the division of the escapement, the end shakes on the train wheels and escapement; and finally the depth of lock on the pallets. The next step is to take the movement apart part by part, inspecting each individual component for wear or damage that will prevent it for working correctly and efficiently.
Its important to check all of the above because any required changes should be carried out before cleaning. Once the watch has been cleaned, it should be a case of putting it back together and lubricating it, no further adjustment aside from regulation should be required. I could not find any faults during disassembly, everything seemed as it should be so I readied it all for cleaning. I pegged out all of the jewel holes and after placing it into some mesh baskets it was time for it all to go through the cleaning machine.
Its common practice to replace the mainspring when servicing a watch to prevent future failure, they are pretty cheap and easy to replace so there is no need to take a chance on re-using the old one. After checking the price of a new mainspring on Cousins UK, I found the price of the spring alone wasn’t much cheaper than a barrel complete which includes a mainspring, barrel arbor, barrel and barrel cap. It seemed a no brainer to get the barrel complete for the small amount extra, the current one was approaching 30 years old and it would also save time on assembly and lubrication. I made sure to order one before servicing the movement so I could just drop it straight in after cleaning.
The first check after cleaning is to ensure that all the components are indeed perfectly clean before starting reassembly. The last thing you want is to put a component in place and oil it, only to then find its dirty and you need to clean the whole movement again! I like to start reassembly by putting the gear train in place and securing the train bridge, this way I can check the gear train runs freely before any of the other components are in place. I put the barrel in position next and then assemble the underside of the barrel bridge, usually I would fit the bridge and then the ratchet wheel, click, etc but the layout of this movement dictates the bridge be assembled first due to the wheels being located underneath the bridge. The movement is then turned over to fit the keyless work, the calendar work is not fitted yet just incase there are any problems with how the movement is performing. At this point, I lubricate the gear train and twist the crown a few times to let the oil circulate around the pivots of the wheels.
The next task is to fit the pallet fork and pallet bridge, the balance can then be fitted and the balance cock screwed down. Finally the shock settings must be lubricated and secured in position with the Incabloc springs. The movement is almost ready to be placed on the timing machine to check its running well and to carry out the first stage of regulation. However before that can be done, the movement must be wound to check its working and also to check that it winds smoothly- a sign that the parts are functioning efficiently and that the lubrication has been done well. The last thing to do before placing the movement on the timing machine is to lubricate the escapement, this is done whilst the movement is running, the oiler is placed through an inspection hole on the dial side of the movement and held next to the escape wheel so that its teeth take oil from the oiler. The lubrication is then carried across the impulse face of the pallet stones, maximising the performance by reducing friction. The movement is left to run for a while and then placed on the timing machine.
The movement was running well on the timing machine, amplitude was a strong 290 degrees and after a bit of regulation the timing keeping was pretty good if only in the horizontal positions. The movement was loosing a large amount of time and amplitude in the vertical positions, to rectify this I closed the index pins slightly so that the hairspring would contact the pins sooner, the longer the hairspring is in contact with the pins the more the loss is reduced. My last post, Forming Hairsprings Part 4, explains this in greater detail but I have included the diagram below to demonstrate the effect closing the pins down has. Number 2 on the diagram shows the point at which the hairspring contacts the pins, you will see from this point onwards the loss is significantly reduced as the amplitude rises, closing the pins down ensures the hairspring contacts the pins sooner and therefore reduces the loss from a lower amplitude.
I managed to get the watch running well in all positions after closing the pins down and spending quite a while regulating it so that the average time keeping across all positions was a small gain (+4 Seconds). Its best practice to leave the movement to run for 24 hours and then check how its running the next day, this allows the oil to circulate and the amplitude will generally increase by around 20 degrees. I took this opportunity to assemble and lubricate the automatic work in preparation for fitting it once the movement is cased up. The diagram below shows how its assembled and also its location on the main plate which, as I mentioned earlier, is the reason this calibre is thinner than the 2824.
I could now turn my attention to the case and bezel, after a conversation with a friend of mine that used to be a polisher at Breitling UK I decided that he would be able to do a better job on the case than I could. The case combines a number of brushed finishes running in different directions and it can difficult to obtain a good finish at the points they meet, for this reason alone I decided to let him demonstrate his skills. I’m extremely pleased with the results, the case looking nothing like its age now and almost good enough to pass as a watch thats a couple of years old. The crispness between the different directions of the grains is perfect, I have only ever mixed brushed and polished finishes so watching him polish this case has taught me some new techniques. We don’t get taught to polish at school, that comes later when I return to my employee but the more I can learn now the better!
The bezel, aside from suffering paint loss, wasn’t in too bad a condition but it did have a few scrapes that were quite deep into the steel. A simple polish wouldn’t even come close to removing these so I once again turned to my friend who using the Schaublin lathe, carefully turned the steel bezel down slightly to remove the deeper marks and used a Garryflex block to reapply the brushed finish. The results speak for themselves and after I repainted the markers the bezel was almost as good as new. I could now get the case put back together but before that I had to fit the replacement sapphire crystal, then the bezel was clicked back on and the riders/faux screws put back in position. I secured the faux screws and the screws in the rider tabs with loctite to ensure they cant work themselves loose in the future. Finally the case back, which as you can see in the sellers pictures had a number of deep slip marks from someone in the past using the incorrect tool to open the case, was refinished and the slip marks removed as much as possible. Again it looks much better but unfortunately some of the marks are just too deep to remove completely, its a shame when someone using an incorrect tool for a simple task causes such lasting damage.
With the case work complete I could now turn my attention back to the movement, having checked that it was still running well after 24 hours I let the remaining power from the mainspring down. This way I could check that watch could be fully wound again by the crown, this was the point at which my problems began and a few hours of diagnostics followed. The crown turned and the watch started to wind but then there was a crunch, the crown continued to turn but the barrel didn’t… After slowly dismantling everything I found the ratchet wheel minus a couple of teeth and also a tooth missing on the pinion of an intermediate wheel. A discussion with my tutor followed and we came to the conclusion that the replacement barrel and mainspring were at fault.
When I received the barrel from Cousins UK it came in a grip bag rather than the ETA factory blister packet so I had my suspicions that it was a refurbished part rather than a new one. I opened the barrel up and removed the mainspring, I discovered no sign of any lubrication so the mainspring due to friction wouldn’t have been able to turn and as a result the weakest points in the chain gave way, in the from of the wheel teeth. I can’t say I was best pleased but there wasn’t anything else I could do other than lubricate the barrel and mainspring, and then replace the damage wheels. The whole movement was cleaned again and re-serviced, I found a slight chip on the exit pallet stone so that was subsequently replaced with a new one too. Thankfully it ran smoothly again after that without any subsequent problems. It was a lesson learnt for me, never trust that any pre-assembled parts from Cousins UK are in a fit state to go straight into the movement…
I could now assemble the calendar work in preparation for fitting the NOS dial that I managed to source from eBay. I stumbled across it and agreed a reasonable buy it now price with the seller. Its not perfect, the lume has aged and there are some marks on the dial but much like the other parts I sourced, its a big improvement on the original item. The hands, as mentioned previously, had some luminous material missing so I needed to relume them. Obviously the lume doesn’t match the aged lume on the dial but I don’t think its too noticeable, I could have tried to relume the markers on the dial but thats an altogether more difficult task! Once the dial and hands were fitted, I cased up the movement so I could cut the new stem to size and secure the new Breitling crown.
The last few tasks were to put the automatic work and rotor in position and complete final regulation before fitting the case back. Just before the Christmas break the school received a new timing machine, the Witschi Chronoscope X1 (G2), it has a colour touch screen display and is capable of showing the average timekeeping of a watch in one position for any set period of time. This feature makes it easy to spot any problems with the movement as the time keeping trace is shown for the entire period along with highest gain and loss. I was able to carry out my final regulation on this machine, the information it provides is very clear and certainly useful but then it should be for the amount this thing costs! Anyway, I got the watch to an average gain of 2.7 seconds across all positions which I’m pretty pleased with. The amplitude varies between 260 in vertical positions and 300 in the horizontal positions. The final job was to fit a new case back seal and screw the back down, the Christmas break arrived before I could carry out a pressure test but I will do this at some point in the new year.
I ordered a new padded black leather strap with white stitching from waccex.de, the straps are virtually identical to the genuine Breitling ones and at £16, cost a fraction of the cost. Obviously you don’t receive a buckle with the Breitling logo but I simply re-used the one from the old strap. So thats another project completed and another watch that I’ve added to my growing collection. Once again I have learnt a number of different things and gained some new skills, I never seem to be able to complete a project without some sort of hiccup on the way but thats all part of the learning curve. I always enjoy the experience of these projects and my reward is a watch at the end that I can keep for many years to come. Anyway here is the part most of you have been waiting for, the end result…