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  • OT Pocket watch cleaning.

    I have a pocket watch that came to me when my dad passed in 1999. A few months ago I took it from it"s resting place of 20 years and wound it up. It worked and kept good time until about a week ago when it stopped. I took the back off and blew it out w/a rubber bulb. It will run but not for long.
    Is it feasible to clean it ultrasonically at home? I like to tinker but I don't want it damaged as it has sentimental value. The watch has a 17 jewel swiss movement made by J.P. Pingquin Co. The watch was marketed by Helzberg jewelers.
    Has anyone tried this at home?
    Larry on Lake Superior

  • #2
    I would find a competent watchmaker, there are still some around, and pay to have it cleaned oiled and adjusted. The new oils are synthetic, and last longer, the old oils, like from twenty years ago, get sticky and cause problems.
    You can certainly take it apart, but if you make any little mistake it will be difficult (expensive) to find replacement parts, and a watchmaker will have the right tools to do this. A good mechanic will completely disassemble the watch, clean every part, and reassemble and adjust the watch so that you can enjoy it for years to come.

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    • #3
      I have the same issue: my grandfather's retirement watch that used to run and has stopped. I looked into having it cleaned and learned this: for a moderate fee you can have it ultrasonically cleaned (quick and dirty). For many times more (hundred's of dollars) you can have it cleaned properly (disassembled by a real watchmaker). Mine sits in a drawer, dirty and stopped.

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      • #4
        You would need to remove the balance wheel and spring before thinking of ultrasonic cleaning. Also, if the mainspring is enclosed, how would that get cleaned properly?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by ldbent View Post
          Has anyone tried this at home?
          All the time, its a lot of fun....but to do so does require the basic equipment and skills a watchmaker uses. Just as important as cleaning is proper oiling. Its a interesting thing, oiling a watch. The challenge is getting just the right amount on. Get it right and surface tension holds the oil in the jewel and around the pivot (think journal bearing on a bigger shaft). Too much and it runs off in short order and gums up something. special tools are used to pick up and deposit just the right amount of oil.

          This is not like anything else you've worked on. You can't 'good enough' it, you have to follow correct procedures. The reason is everything is so small, quite literally the little stuff really really matters. A spec of dust or cleaning residue can stop a watch and few machines have such a high duty cycle....so in venturing into what will be a very different world so there's learning to do.

          Very basics:
          -disassemble, you need minimum. case opener, loupe, proper screwdrivers, hand puller. Learn how to let down the spring before starting
          - take photos every step of way - the beginner watchmaker's secret weapon
          -clean. L&R style is best using wash/rinse/rinse/dry. you can do it with peg wood and the right cleaner, but its a pita. What you clean with is important. About everything you can think of leaves a residue except the proper solution - i.e. L&R wash. lighter fluid would probably be next best, but its far away, distant second
          -inspect everything - cracked jewels, pivots needing polishing etc
          -oil. already mentioned, its study unto itself, different lubricants get used in different spots including the spring. Getting the right amount of oil there is key, but you also need to use the right oil, sold in little vials for lots of money.
          -reassemble (not 100% required, but probably want to add a spring winder for this step)

          This all assumes everything is perfect and no repairs are necessary

          Last edited by Mcgyver; 06-08-2020, 09:16 AM.
          in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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          • #6
            I found a vintage Omega Speedmaster and to have it properly 'serviced' by a local watchmaker it is going to cost north of $1000 canuck bucks...
            I about fell over... Even for a free watch, spending that kind of money seems crazy to me.

            Cheers,
            Jon
            Attached Files

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jon Heron View Post
              I found a vintage Omega Speedmaster and to have it properly 'serviced' by a local watchmaker it is going to cost north of $1000 canuck bucks...
              I about fell over... Even for a free watch, spending that kind of money seems crazy to me.

              Cheers,
              Jon
              nice watch, it seems high if you went to an independent, but it is a complicate one so maybe that's right.

              Once upon a time when people needed watches, the Swiss cranked out millions of movements. There are now drawers and bags full of nice Swiss watches not being fixed, might be worth a hundred or two but the repair bill is $500 so they sit. This is prime for the amateur watchmaker - you get to work nice Swiss movements you can get for next to nothing.

              The luxury watch industry, which has being a enjoying a bit of a revival, is hard at work trying to shoot themselves in the foot. What they've done (swatch, the 800 lb gorilla who owns Omega, Tissot, Longines, Breguet etc) has decided to no longer sell parts to watchmakers. Same with Rolex. The only way to keep your $5000 Omega going is to send it in for factory service....at $800-1000.

              People obviously spend thousands on a nice watch, and they're not all princes of a sultanate. I think when they see the jaw dropping cost of factory service, and that a local independent is frozen out of providing the service (at a lower cost) they'll feel bent over enough that a lot of the market will say **** this.

              Its a fun pursuit, I do like the craftsmanship of the movements and the new challenges working on them provides
              Last edited by Mcgyver; 06-08-2020, 09:44 AM.
              in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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              • #8
                Probably best to leave it alone unless you intend to use it. I've carried a Hamilton 992B 21J railroad watch for 40 years, and it's getting harder and harder to find someone qualified to do the biennial service. Expensive, too -- the last one cost me $250. There are a lot cheaper ways to tell the time. More accurately, too, although my watch can stay within about 30 seconds a month and less than =/- 5 seconds a day.

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                • #9
                  Thanks to all for your input. Searched online and it is readily apparent that proper servicing is far beyond me. I'll go the ultrasonic route. At my advanced age I'll likely wind down before it does.
                  Larry on Lake Superior

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mcgyver View Post

                    What they've done (swatch, the 800 lb gorilla who owns Omega, Tissot, Longines, Breguet etc) has decided to no longer sell parts to watchmakers. Same with Rolex. The only way to keep your $5000 Omega going is to send it in for factory service....at $800-1000.
                    According to the local guy he can still get parts.
                    Apparently if you send it in to swatch they will restore it to factory spec, which removes everything desirable to a collector apparently.
                    Here is the discussion I had with some collectors if your interested:
                    https://omegaforums.net/threads/foun...orward.114322/

                    Here is what the local guy emailed me:
                    Thank you for the email and your interest in my services. To maintain the value to the fullest, it is not recommended to change the dial or hands to modern versions, or to relume them to make them glow again. So in the eyes of most collectors the advice you have been given in that regard is good.

                    So for the rest of the case, there are possibly some things we should discuss. I'm guessing this hasn't been serviced in a long time, and if that is the case the seals (O-rings) are likely deteriorating. The seals often turn from being soft and pliable to being hard, and then after that sometimes they turn to a black goopy tar like substance. If they go further without being replaced, they harden again but this time turn into a very brittle glass like state. There are seals in various places on this watch - the case back has a seal, the crown has a seal inside it, as do both of the pushers, and lastly the crystal is held in with this same type of seal.

                    If the crystal seal goes bad and turns to goop, it can affect the printing on the underside of the crystal that makes up the tachymeter scale. So in some cases the crystal must be replaced. If you want the watch to have any water resistance at all, the crown and pushers must also be replaced. I'm just letting you know this because these items can add up pretty quickly in a service.

                    For servicing the movement in this watch, the labour charge is $650, and any parts required would be in addition to that. I don't mark up the parts, so whatever they cost me is what I would charge you.

                    I always replace the mainspring in each watch that I service, and for the Cal. 861 in your watch, the new spring is $44.

                    Service includes the following:

                    - Complete disassembly of the movement

                    - Cleaning of the movement parts

                    - Inspection of all wear parts for damage

                    - Reassembly of the movement

                    - Lubrication

                    - Adjustment of the movement

                    - Testing of the movement

                    - Recasing the movement

                    - Testing of the assembled watch

                    - Water resistance testing appropriate to the rating and construction of the watch up to 10 Bar (100 m)*

                    * - Watches requiring higher pressure tests are subject to an additional $30 fee – optional.

                    With every watch I service I take photos of the servicing, and provide you with a document that details all the steps taken.

                    Shipping back to you and applicable taxes are not included in the above prices.

                    So please review the information above and let me know if you have any questions.

                    Note that a new crystal is $140, new crown is $32, and new pushers are $135 for the set of two.

                    Unfortunately due to the risk of transmission of Covid-19, I am not accepting any drop offs or pick ups, so the watch would have to be shipped. I receive watches shipped to me from all over the world, so it's never been an issue, but if this is a deal breaker for you I understand that.
                    And then in a follow up he indicates he can get the parts once they open back up:
                    So right now I'm going to suggest holding off on sending the watch. Swatch group is still closed sue to the Pandemic, and I know I don't have all the parts I'm going to need for this job - I don't typically keep the pushers, crowns, and crystals for this model in stock. So I don't want to get it here, get started, and then have it sit while I wait for parts. They may be returning next month, at least that's the last I heard. So if you can wait, send me a email again say the middle of une, and we'll see where things are at then.
                    Cheers,
                    Jon

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                    • #11
                      Jon--Wow--that's an amazingly detailed description of the proposed work. You may have found an honest man.
                      Larry on Lake Superior

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                      • #12
                        Any recommendations for resources if someone wanted to look into what's involved with this type of work? Books, websites?
                        Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

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                        • #13

                          Here is what the local guy emailed me:
                          Sounds like he's doing a lot more than a service (clean and oil) so the price might be reasonable.

                          Originally posted by Jon Heron View Post
                          According to the local guy he can still get parts.
                          As for parts, I notice there;s a now an "Omega parts network". This is apparently something you apply to be part of but Swatch dictates if your in or out and what you can charge etc. I see it a bit as like a car manufacturer saying we'll sell to the dealer but he can't sell to your or you local garage. There was a law suit at one point with Cousins over Swatch restricting the

                          Not how I earn my daily crust so may not have everything perfectly straight, but I've heard lots of watchmakers complaining about it and as Swatch still controls the parts I believe it has really increased the cost of ownership.

                          Fixing watches commercially, you buy the parts, but a qualified watchmaker, one who went through the 4 or 5 yeas of schooling in Switzerland learns how to make most parts (I believe they all make a watch as part of their training). For an old pocket watch, this is what us hobbyist can do, make parts when they're unobtainable, although there is also an NOS market for watch parts


                          in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ldbent View Post
                            Thanks to all for your input. Searched online and it is readily apparent that proper servicing is far beyond me. I'll go the ultrasonic route. At my advanced age I'll likely wind down before it does.
                            I hope you don't do that to a nice old watch - as you say you don't want it damaged as it has sentimental value. It might start it working, but will damage it as it won't get the crude out, fix whats wrong (cracked jewel, scored pivot are common examples), clean and oil the spring etc. Disassembly is the only way, I'll help you if I can, but better to keep it as a non- working heirloom than run without it being cleaned and oiled correctly.
                            Last edited by Mcgyver; 06-08-2020, 01:06 PM.
                            in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tom S View Post
                              Any recommendations for resources if someone wanted to look into what's involved with this type of work? Books, websites?
                              I only dabble, but found these worthwhile:

                              Click image for larger version

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