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Danny1962

Is this realistic? Newbie buying tools and attempting own repairs.

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I might be starting to get the "watch bug", I was warned this could happen. It's also something that runs in the family.

I'm an inexperienced newbie when it comes to repairs and servicing though. Is it actually going to be realistic for me to buy a set of watch repair tools designed to tackle the more common tasks, then buy watches for spares/repairs (or those that need a service) and then get them back into full working order?
 
I've got no intention of ever working on anyone else's watches, only on ones I've bought for myself. And I don't intend to sell them at a profit after I've fixed them. It would simply be done as a hobby and as a learning experience.
 
I've got no doubt there's some excellent advice available here on the forum, but is that really going to be enough when it's being given at a distance?
 
If you reckon it's worth me going ahead with, what sort of money am I looking at to buy the essential tools?
 
And are there any makes and models of watch to concentrate on, or to avoid?

That "simply be" link shouldn't be there, I don't know how it got into the post and I can't work out how to get rid. Don't click it, it just directs to an online clothing retailer called Simply Be.

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I've serviced and reconditioned a few watches so far and almost all of my tools are the cheap chinese kind. Sometimes you have to be a bit patient, knowledgeable or creative but it can work out if you know what you're doing.

I'm only saying this so that you won't have to feel like you need Swiss tools since you, just like me, are doing it for your own good and probably don't plan on working on a Rolex anytime soon.

I have a hand removing tool that cost me 3-4 dollars and looks and does exactly the same thing as a Swiss one that costs 10-15 times more. It's probably not as high quality as the Swiss one but I'll use this for quite a while without issues. If it goes bust I'll just order another.

As far as watches go, I would recommend buying something cheap. Maybe get one that runs, first, so that you can see how it functions and if you do everything right it will still run at the end of the operation. It can be very easy to damage a fully functional watch during disassembly if you're not doing something right. Trust me, I learned the hard way.

Many people recommend starting with a pocket watch as they are larger (and simpler, at least in comparison to modern watches) and therefore easier to play around with.

I'd advise going with a vintage watch first. One with a large and simple movement such as an EB 8800 or 8810. These have few parts and are easy to comprehend overall. They're also cheaper and easier to find than a modern watch. Although affordable, Seiko, Citizen and Miyota movements are a lot more complicated than a simple 60s-70s Swiss/German movement with plenty of small parts that can jump around easily and mess things up for you. Not to mention that you, sometimes, need to get really creative to reinstall them on the movement.

Brand doesn't even matter but you won't find an Omega for 50$, for example. For a few tens of pounds you'll most likely find a nice watch to play with. Swiss, german, russian, etc.

Go for a manual wind watch, for starters...

Edited by gimli
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Raise the height of your working surface to a height, just under the chin. You will get a backache sitting at a standard height table. Comfort is so important, you could be there for hours. A small free standing table lamp of 60watts will help. Good lighting is very helpful. Being free standing on the bench, makes if positional. So you move it. Have fun.

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Hello Danny1962, 

Sounds like you're on a similar 'dabbling path' to me. I was going to be out of work for a while looked for something to do. Messing with watches was at back of my mind. 

tools - I bought a 'set' from ebay, about £100, no named brands, but looked good value. In fact, I used very little. Case opening knife, tweezers, screwdrivers. Screwdrivers were rubbish - bits kept coming lose, and tightening screw made of toffee. It's now waiting to go back on the bay...

Meanwhile, I've picked up the following 

Screwdrivers, hand removing leavers, hand pressing tools, oiling pins, loupes, oil, movement holder, tweezers. 

Mostly I've gone for the Anchor brand, which I think is Indian and cheap. Sourced from ebay / cousins / red rooster. So far tools are fine.

Most used - tweezers, screwdrivers, loupe, movement holder. 

Watches -

started on pocket watches. Smiths / Ingersoll. Possible error as not really designed for disassembly / reassembly. First one - almost tears of frustration. Slowly getting better. Now looked at 4 or 5. 3 working, one wrecked by me (Doh!) 

Watches - keep buying broken / not quite working ones from ebay, £10-20 ish tops. Careful though runs away with you. Broke a Licita I bought for 0.99p, trying to fix it. Then bidded over odds to make sure I got a another donor one. Couldn't get that to work either, or combination of the two. Put them both back on the bay, gone for £5, down £20 - but I had £15 of 'enjoyment'. 

Come to think of it, there may be an endless churn of partial watches and Smith's pocket watches cycling through the internet...Like some giant mechanical catch and release scheme.  

But now thinking actually I need a working one, as if it's bust to start with, how can I know I've fixed it. Last one was a swiss one, £25. Hoping if I don't break it, it goes back up for sale once I've finished playing with it. Do wonder if you had limitless cash, could you spend say £50-£100 on a watch (working) and it would be of better quality and thus easier to work with. Becomes bit of a high stakes hobby at that point though. 

Advice on here - brilliant. Supportive, informative, enthusiastic, practical and useful and humourous. Can't go wrong... Good Luck. 

 

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Some good cheap tools out there for case opening ... I am on the beginners path like you but have been fixing other stuff since I was a nipper from bikes to lawnmowers to walkmans etc... just love tinkering. Good screwdrivers are a must.. cheap ones are mild steel and wont last. I trawled the car boots and found a selection of vintage watchmakers screwdrivers for a tenner and a bergeon 4266 crystal remover on ebay for just £6.50  ( new they are over 60 quid ) you just have to be patient and hunt around. I started with a 12 quid set off ebay and still use the case holder, case back remover, bracelet pin remover and screw back remover. I think another must is a good quality spring bar remover such as the bergeon one which is about 12 quid but will last a long time. the one in my cheap set lasted one strap change..

also have a look on here for tips and also youtube has some great tutorials such as Watch Repair Channel   

have fun!!                                

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I think I've convinced myself to try giving a Timex I picked up of a certain auction site a go, runs but very fast, hopefully just needs a clean.

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I've bought myself a running seiko 5 with a 7s26a movement to try on. I've only ever tried to dismantle rubbish Chinese watches and failed. So I'm going to follow a few videos to see if I can gradually disassemble and reassemble more and more whilst still keeping it working.


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It's probably a good thing that I'm thinking of using it as a practice movement to take apart and put back together as it's arrived and is running very fast. Gaining about 5 minutes every half an hour or so!


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Yep ideally start with a large ingersoll pocket watch, with a painted dial, no lume, this will get you into how the different parts interact, and is fairly strong movement so difficult to damage, and then slowly get into smaller watches.

Also there are some excellent watch books out there, Donald De Carle has some excellent books.

 

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I picked up a Timex for around £20, nice looking thing but running ultra-fast.

Research suggests shortened hairspring due to either magentism or gunk.

So I've ordered a demagnetiser and a few cheap tools to dismantle and clean it should that not be it.

Will see how it goes.

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I picked up a Timex for around £20, nice looking thing but running ultra-fast.
Research suggests shortened hairspring due to either magentism or gunk.
So I've ordered a demagnetiser and a few cheap tools to dismantle and clean it should that not be it.
Will see how it goes.


I've got the same issue with the Seiko 7s26 that I bought to practice on.
Out of interest what demagnetiser did you go for? And are you going to practice piling the movement at the same time?

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oiling........ :laugh:


Haha yep oiling sorry. Bloody autocorrect and my lack of proof reading


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Demag arrived (finally) yesterday, and the Timex is still running 10 mins per hour fast so doesn't look like it was magnetised (didn't think so).

So next up is a clean and, hopefully, re-oil (bought some random pen off eBay, we'll see how that goes... no idea what the oil in it is).

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Quick update as I striped it down today.

I had very little idea what I was doing. I had managed to get my hands on a service manual for my movement (well two, as the manual for the model 27 that I have basically shows the day/date stuff then refers you to the model 24 manual). I was also lucky that an amateur watchie had done the same thing I was attempting to the exact same watch in a YouTube video, albeit sped up so fast you miss half the stuff, but it gave me some pointers and proved very helpful.

Many lessons were learned during the process.

The watch

A 1973 Timex - 26850 2773. Hand winding, but with day and date just to add complexity. Cost me the grand total of £16.91 off eBay (inc postage) and was running fast by ~10 minutes per hour.

Tools used

I bought:

  • A set of jewellers screwdrivers, basically 1.5mm and down, only really used one size but others performed non-screwdriver tasks
  • A set of precision tweezers, really only used one set
  • Automatic oiler pen
  • Toothpicks, not really needed

Had already/re-purposed

  • A camera lens blower (removed the brush)
  • Ice cube tray (to hold parts)
  • Chip extractor (from a computer repair toolkit, used in desperation to remove the hands)

The process

The hardest part was removing and re-attaching the hands -- they were a complete PITA to get off (I was pulling as hard as I dared). I hadn't purchased a hand removal tool, as I basically just bought the minimum I thought I could get away with. I didn't know if this would be something I'd attempt again so didn't want to waste too much money. A hand removal tool is probably worth the investment.

Separating the dial from the movement was another painful experience, partly because the Timex manual suggested you only need to remove the seconds hand. Having peeled back the tabs holding the dial to the movement I was worried I would do some damage to the dial because I was using so much force. Which is when I went heavy handed on the minute hand. I watched a video where the guy stuck a clear ziploc bag over the dial and plucked the hands off. That and my repurposed chip extractor just about did the job.

I was then able to lever the dial away from the movement and it brought the hour hand with it.

The rest came apart pretty easily.

Using some advice from another forum I skipped the pro cleaning fluids and covered it in lighter fluid (naptha, from the supermarket) then rinsed in pure isopropal alcohol (Amazon), before blowing dry (with the camera lens blower). I ended up doing this process twice as a couple of the hairspring coils still looked a little too glued together after the first pass. That may have been my imagination (too cheap to buy a loupe).

The Timex manual was decidedly lacking in detail about what to oil -- literally it says:

The movement should be re-oiled in the normal manner using only high grade watch oils.

Not a lot of use to a newbie -- the word pins was all I had to go on and some holes that appeared to contain the sharp end of what looked like a pin -- I added a drop of whatever oil came supplied in the pen I had bought -- the pen worked well -- prayed I'd got everything and started reassembling.

Again, the manuals are useless as they basically say "reverse the process" instead of any step-by-step or detailed diagrams. Even the video I'd found basically skipped reassembly. I put back what I had, it seemed to line up. I'll admit I was very skeptical just droping things back into place was enough.

The day and date wheels were fun as they basically fell apart when I lifted the dial off, so I didn't really see them in situ. Worked it out in the end.

I also had fun getting the stem back in as the spring for the notch mechanism was in the wrong place. Some patience and a few swear words sorted that. It went in and engaged, which was a good sign.

Getting the hands back on was easy enough, although hard to tell if I had them at the correct level. I didn't have a hand pusher to put them back on and I haven't managed to get the seconds hand reattached without catching on the minute hand yet -- largely due to me apparently bending the minute hand slightly when removing. I think I'll get there but another tool that may be worth the money.

A few turns of the stem and I waited with baited breath (there's always a delay as the power works through the mechanism). And then the seconds hand started moving! It's alive.

One minute later I was less impressed as the seconds hand got stuck on the minute hand. I've been round and round a few times, bending this and that, taking the seconds hand on and off. With it moving (I should find out how to unpower the watch really) it's not easy. So for now it's off.

Whole thing probably took me 3-4 hours (that £35 Timex service I found is looking a solid investment about now).

The result

I don't have a timegrapher, so I did a basic test of checking where the minute hand was, set a timer for one hour, check where the minute hand is when the timer goes off. Using that rudimentary test, it appears to be keeping good time. Certainly closer than 10 minutes per hour, but too early to say for certain.

The day window was out of alignment before too, and I have yet to see how that goes.

Will wait for it to run down and attack the hands again, see if I can finish it and then check for a longer period.

So a bona fide watch repairer now?

Baby steps. I happen to have a 25 jewel AS movement that's running very slow (another ill-advised, overly eager eBay purchase -- make sure to read the descriptions!), but I think that'll a bit more of a mountain to climb.

I might pick up the odd spares/repairs off the bay and dabble a bit more. Maybe work on something with some actual jewels.

Obviously I'm not advocating people rip the backs off their Rolexes and go at them, but you can achieve a fair amount with some patience and a simple set of tools. It's far less daunting a prospect having actually spent some time digging around in there. Mind you, not sure I'll be flipping non-runners any time soon.

I didn't think I did too bad though, considering I had barely a clue what I was doing, no prior experience and some forum posts and videos for guidance.

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These replies inspire me with some confidence, Longplay and others. I am still at the stage where I'm looking at YouTube videos and reading peoples' posts on sites like this, rather than actually doing anything "hands-on". But what's clear is that once I have gained more of a theoretical grounding, it can be both possible and satisfying for me to do my own servicing and repairs.

I am envious of people who can buy a malfunctioning mechanical watch and turn it into a fully functioning well oiled precision machine. I'd like to be able to do that myself, one day.

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An update.

I got the seconds hand back on, avoided the clash with the minute hand; partly by pressing the latter a bit lower, partly by seating the former a bit higher. All seemed to be going well.

Put it back in the case, all running fine. Went to adjust the time and the crown and stem came off in my hand. Flipping it over I also found the seconds hand had fallen off.

After some muttered swear words and a break, I went back at it.

Got hands on perfect again, slotted it back into the case and made sure to tighten the stem properly this time.

A quick hour-long test suggested it was keeping good time.

I fitted a strap, wound it and ran it overnight (day and date changed perfectly) and through today. The hands all survived a rigourous shake while washing off my own hands, so don't seem likely to drop off at will.

Bearing in mind it was running 10 minutes per hour fast originally, it's now keeping good time. I doubt we're talking COSC spec, but certainly within a couple of minutes per day.

I would call that a resounding success.

A quick snap, needs a better strap, although this has a rather unhelpful lug width of 17mm:

37727935922_b71e24b6c6_c.jpg

For those interested:

Equipment costs

  • Screwdrivers - £3.59 (eBay)
  • Tweezers - £2.99 (eBay)
  • Oiler pen (with oil) - £4.95 (Amazon)
  • IPA (250ml) - £3.99 (Amazon)
  • Lighter fluid (100ml) - £1.20 (I think, Asda)

Another piece of equipment I would say that worth the investment (and which I lacked) was a movement holder.

Hopefully that'll help the next amateur thinking of trying their luck.

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Nice work.  I would recommend getting a dial protector (if you don't want to use a ziplock bag) and a set of hand removing levers like these

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Watch-hands-removers-LEVER-type-tool-watchmakers-repair-/191427272972?epid=1988574703&hash=item2c91f4610c:m:m_wUpJPhxuQkSjqcDuKWSOw

put them under the hands and roll the lever down, and all the hands will come off evenly and without damage.

 

EDIT -  I would always encourage people to spend as much as they can afford to buy the best quality tools available.  I was using cheap tweezers until the BHI course, where i had a proper pair.  It wasn't just that they made the job easier, it was also that the instructor had had his tweezers for 40+ years.  Suddenly £35 for a pair of tweezers is under £1 a year (hopefully, if i live long enough!)

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In regards to servicing the movement. Normally one would have to use a couple of types of lubricants to do it right.

If you want to keep it simple I would advise you to use both an oil but also some sort of grease/lubricant (at least try to get one that's made to be used on fine mechanisms and such...). You should be able to figure out where to use what...

As far as removing the hands I have this very nice and good tool that I use. It's the cheap one, not the expensive Swiss one. Never had any issues with it as it's identical to the expensive one. Not as well made but does the job well, for me at least.

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Fair points from both of you.

I was keeping costs down, as it may have been (and may still be) my only attempt at a 'service.' The thinking was to buy the minimum I needed at the lowest price and then add/upgrade should I revisit.

Specialist watch oils are relatively expensive (per ml), but you use a tiny amount. Things like the screwdrivers have replaceable tips so I figured I'd buy better quality inserts when they wear.

My posts were purely designed to show what can be achieved with a minimal toolset and almost no clue, for those others tempted to tinker.

Don't 'have a play' on your prized possessions though! :D

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glad to here someone mention de Carles' book.  its my favorite.    if you look at his sketches on basic watch repair, like case opening, stem removal and de- magnatising;  it will be a good start.   the veteran experts don't use because its "it  deals with old stuff".  if you are starting out with an automatic seiko dissasembly,  get a newer book or try vidio's.  vin

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