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Technique for pinion alignment for reassembly


MrWhippy
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Hi all,

I've got a pretty beaten up "Services" handwind watch that I'd guess is from the 1950s (pictures below). I'm very new to the idea of opening watches for repair / servicing so I'll expect to do a little bit of damage along the way while I learn. I've already found it very hard to find a way of letting down the mainspring gently on this watch because I haven't worked out how to access the click yet, I managed to undo the stem removal screw too much so I had to open up the keyless works and then I managed to lose a spring for the date wheel detent. Anyway, I digress.

PXL_20211208_100126665.thumb.jpg.b916f9f4affe889f32f62e8dafb2945d.jpg

A few times I've had to reassemble the plate which holds the jewels for three pinions (escape, fourth? and third?). This is a difficult balancing act (literally) where the escape wheel assembly wants to flop out of position making it difficult to simultaniously align all 3 pinions at once. If I make a mistake and try to screw down the plate when they're not quite perfect then the escape wheel won't be aligned with the palet fork or the 4th(?) wheel or I risk bending the pinion. 

My question is: does anyone has a good technique for keeping the balance wheel in position for re-assembly or is it basically just luck?

Thanks,

James.

PXL_20220116_062554839.thumb.jpg.69edbf9bcfa95f23031741fa27c838ea.jpg

PXL_20220116_062516491.thumb.jpg.2afeebbf5454dceaacabbc4fa432de00.jpg

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Pinion alignment can be tricky indeed but without it the watch is doomed.

For me I have found really good magnification is essential then before lowering the bridge onto the wheels make sure all of the wheels are absolutely upright. Then when lowering the bridge align to bridge screw holes and in theory it should then just drop on.
However sometimes this can still be tricky because we a talking about very fine tolerances so to aid alignment fit a couple of the bridge screws with very little pressure but now the bridge is aligned and with the bridge aligned it’s wriggle time.  With good magnification and good light hold the movement (in a movement holder)  and look inside the movement to see what wheel/s are not aligned and move them into alignment and with very little pressure it will fall into place.

Final tip never ever fully tighten any screw until 100% happy with the alignment and test as you go.

PS it’s one of those jobs the more you do it the easier it gets. 

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 I don't drive the screw all the way home, just enough so I can slide the pivot in jewel hole, Its a game of tightening & loosening the screw just to keep gears in place so to slide the pivots in holes, might take a couple of tries, usually one jumps out of its hole whilst you manage to slide another in.

I take the cock& balance off the mainplate to gain better access to gears/ pivots. 

Good luck 

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I used to use the technique described above by Nucejoe. It was also the technique taught to me by my mentor. But in recent years, I switched to using a technique which I learnt from YouTube. 

Basically, you put all the wheels into the holes of the bottom plate, stand them as upright as possible, then hover the upper plate over the wheels, trying to align the holes to the pivot and drop it on. There is a chance that you'll get a "hole-in-one" and all the pivots would go home into their respective holes. Failing which, you use the back end of your tweezer and tap lightly on the movement holder while observing the upper plate. The tapping will jar the wheels and when they are all aligned  you'll be able to see the upper plate drop home.

Sound ridiculously ludicrous, right? But I've been using this technique for the past 2 years, with only an occasional stubborn movement which will require the poke and pray method.

And for Accutron movements, mastering this technique is essential to avoid damaging the delicate index wheel.

Oh yes! May I add that with this method, I can get most top plates on in under 30 seconds.

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I think I'm having a minor confusion with your question? Then you make a reference to the balance wheel while you're talking about the wheels and adds to the confusion perhaps? Then there is the problem with your picture I see the balance wheel is already in the pallet fork what exactly is that?

One of the observations I made with some people assembling a watch is they put the watch together in the wrong order. Like they put the pallet fork in the first it's one of the last things you put in. The picture above the balance wheel doesn't need to be there the pallet fork doesn't need to be there. You only need to worry about the three wheels once they're in then you can put the pallet fork in. Followed by the balance wheel.

 

 

 

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27 minutes ago, JohnR725 said:

I think I'm having a minor confusion with your question? Then you make a reference to the balance wheel while you're talking about the wheels and adds to the confusion perhaps? Then there is the problem with your picture I see the balance wheel is already in the pallet fork what exactly is that?

One of the observations I made with some people assembling a watch is they put the watch together in the wrong order. Like they put the pallet fork in the first it's one of the last things you put in. The picture above the balance wheel doesn't need to be there the pallet fork doesn't need to be there. You only need to worry about the three wheels once they're in then you can put the pallet fork in. Followed by the balance wheel.

 

 

 

Hi John,

Sorry for the confusion - I think I muddled my terms. My question was supposed to be about how to keep the escape wheel in position while I re-fit the plate (I got myself confused and said balance wheel instead).

Thanks for your tips about assembly order though, I'll certainly bear that in mind.

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1 hour ago, HectorLooi said:

I used to use the technique described above by Nucejoe. It was also the technique taught to me by my mentor. But in recent years, I switched to using a technique which I learnt from YouTube. 

Basically, you put all the wheels into the holes of the bottom plate, stand them as upright as possible, then hover the upper plate over the wheels, trying to align the holes to the pivot and drop it on. There is a chance that you'll get a "hole-in-one" and all the pivots would go home into their respective holes. Failing which, you use the back end of your tweezer and tap lightly on the movement holder while observing the upper plate. The tapping will jar the wheels and when they are all aligned  you'll be able to see the upper plate drop home.

Sound ridiculously ludicrous, right? But I've been using this technique for the past 2 years, with only an occasional stubborn movement which will require the poke and pray method.

And for Accutron movements, mastering this technique is essential to avoid damaging the delicate index wheel.

Oh yes! May I add that with this method, I can get most top plates on in under 30 seconds.

Thanks Hector, I wasn't able to get a hole-in-one but I can see how this method works. In my case I'm not using a proper movement holder but I can see that would be a big help in getting this method to work properly.

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7 hours ago, MrWhippy said:

Hi John,

Sorry for the confusion - I think I muddled my terms. My question was supposed to be about how to keep the escape wheel in position while I re-fit the plate (I got myself confused and said balance wheel instead).

Thanks for your tips about assembly order though, I'll certainly bear that in mind.

I have poor eye site so for the real delicate fittings such as the pallet folk I use my microscope. It’s all about being absolutely confident that the pinions are in their jewel holes. 

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