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National Electric Watch Cleaning Machine

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It will be interesting to try the horolene, but I’m sure Mark does not use it in his Elma. In the video he showed something else from a UK manufacturer ( the name was mentioned for it, but I can’t find a supplier). I’m not sure how Horolene would perform in a Machine as I believe  it was originally designed as a soak for clocks. I think putting it into a machine would cause it to foam too much, but I do stand to be corrected on that point.

I think Mark’s reference to Horolene was as an additional step for badly soiled components, but not as a first wash in the machine. Happy to be proved wrong on this though.

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OK - Its all assembled  and looking good.

One minor modification was made before finishing: I have added a ON/OFF switch that isolates the motor when switched off. I have wired it so that the heater can be left on to allow pre-heating. I don't know if this will be a real benefit or not, but it's there anyway and prevents a continuous low voltage AC current be ing applied to the motor, even when not used. To install the switch, I simply drilled a 12mm hole opposite the existing heater switch, so that it looks - to all intents and purposes - like a later version of the same Model 1, which also had the switch fitted sometime in its life.

The first photo shows the underside completely rewired. Incoming mains lead (fitted with a moulded plug and fused @3 amps) enters from the right and immediately terminates in the original connector block, which was in good condition. A new earth bond lead was also fitted.

The internal wiring (orange, twin flex) runs up the centreline following the original cable run. It routes over towards the new ON/OFF Switch. From there, the wiring goes direct to the new speed controller, where there are two terminals: live in and neutral in.

The motor wiring comes from the motor. down the central support pillar, and from the bottom of this, directly to the remaining two terminals on the speed controller: live VAR out, neutral  VAR out.

The heater wires are not indicated as being live or neutral, so one side was simply connected to the incoming neutral terminal on the speed control. Then an additional conductor was taken from the incoming live terminal on the controller to one side of the heater switch. the other side of the switch was then connected to the other wire on the heater.

Finally, I shrunk the heat-shrink shrouding where I had fitted it, to provide additional protection where I considered it useful.

Wires were tidied up and then a visual inspection to make sure that all the neutral's and live's and earth's were connected to the things they should be connected to and that live and neutral were not accidentally transposed anywhere. Then a multimeter check to ensure correct continuity (no resistance) where it should be, and that isolating switches were doing what they should be doing. All good.


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Not required in a domestic situation, but I have a tester and it would provide additional peace of mind and help guard against daft mistakes.

Visual checking was already done, fuse in the plug changed for 3 Amp (more than sufficient) and tester connected to the machine.

Everything switched on and simply push to test.

Earth Continuity Test = PASS

Insulation Resistance Test = PASS

Overall Result = PASS.


Silly I know, but immensely satisfying in some ways...

(And yes - my tester is calibrated, till April 2020.)


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I think you'll find there are polarising views on the necessity of PAT testing for home use. :thumbsu:
Apologies, i'll get my coat.
Looking very nice and neat, looking forward to the first test run, will you be doing a video?
Also, PAT testing, it's one of those bugbear acronyms like PIN number, because, the T already stands for testing, yet we all do it, so we're saying portable appliance testing testing............(I suppose that applies acceptably to musical equipment, especially microphones?)

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The "After" Shot.

So - here it is after the work was done. I think it is a sympathetic restoration and I have tried to maintain the original look and function of the machine and have kept all of the real replacements out of sight. It looks well to my mind whilst still managing to wear it's age well.


Speed control - easily controllable, steady speed when set. The new controller does have a different operating range than the old one. The new controller (when the power switch is ON) provides a minimum of 30 volts to the motor. This is not enough to move it in any visible way.

Advancing the controller till the motor begins to move and I measured around 130 volts at the controller output. A slow and steady rotation happens when the control is further advanced and the output at this point is around 150 volts. Around 160 to 175 volts is needed to obtain a steady rotation at around the operational "washing" speed. This seems about right as the motor will rarely (if ever) be operated flat out.

Over all speeds, the motor exhibits no detectable RF interference, according to my RF Test gear, so I'm guessing the new controller is well suppressed as standard, and the motor itself is not noisy.

The heater was also measured for surface heat temperature and self-regulation. Essentially I just turned it on and measured it over a period of around 15 minutes. The surface temperature quickly reaches around 170C to 180C (after about 5 minutes), and seems to maintain that temperature fairly steadily, not really varying by more than about 10 degrees.

Hot enough to burn yourself if you touch it, but well out of the way with the "tunnel" installed. Heat at the top of the tunnel was estimated to be no more than around 45 degrees (rising air temperature) with the tunnel itself remaining cool to touch over a test period of 20 minutes.

My recommendation would be to turn the heater on when you start the first wash and it will be ready for you when needed at the end of the second rinse.


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A video maybe... :) (if my upload works)

It's not often these machines turn up, and less often they turn up working, so I feel justified. No commentary, just the noise of the machine itself. Dunno how it will sound to you, but right in front of me, its nice a quiet and completely unobtrusive.

I start from switched off, turn it on, advance the control to what I think is likely to be normal for use in liquids. Finally turning off.

Sorry -  Francis Ford Coppola I'm not!


Edited by Moose
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A "close up" sir?

Thought I would just give a close up after I had made some checks to see how much fluid was the correct amount for these jars, as they were unmarked and came with no instructions.

The Elma instructions indicate that the correct level of fluid should be around 1cm above the "suction blade" where the basket is attached. Also that when in use, the suction blades should not become visible, otherwise too much suction will be caused and may result in excessive foam being created.

So I thought I would try to capture this to show what the correct levels and speeds look like. This was done just using plain water.

Firstly with the correct level established. In these National Jars this volume is 750 ml. This is about 75% full.

Then rotation at the correct speed, move to too fast and then back down to nominal again.

The action of the "wave breakers" can also be seen in these shots.


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So - That's it...

I hope someone gets some information and maybe, a little pleasure from reading this series of posts. 

These Nationals are likely to become increasingly rare, especially working examples, as it seems a certain generation of older watchmakers are disposing of their ancient equipment. Or more likely, and sadly, the descendants of older watchmakers and repairers dispose of their loved one's estates and wonder what can be done with this heavy old bit of junk in Grandad's shed...

I really enjoyed working on this old machine and putting it back into useful service as my own, hobbyists watch cleaner. As well learning a little bit about the business of Mr Saul Lanzetter and his National brand and some of the patents in his name, which may or may not, have led to many such machines and their derivatives being sold all over the world.

All that remains now, is to find a watch of mine that is next in line for a strip down, fix, clean and rebuild and put this little machine back into productive service.

To that end, I'm waiting for the new 7750 video by Mark due anytime now. Ok - now where exactly did I put that tired old Valjoux 7750 when I cleared the decks for this old thing?



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3 hours ago, m1ks said:

I think you'll find there are polarising views on the necessity of PAT testing for home use. :thumbsu:
Apologies, i'll get my coat.
Looking very nice and neat, looking forward to the first test run, will you be doing a video?
Also, PAT testing, it's one of those bugbear acronyms like PIN number, because, the T already stands for testing, yet we all do it, so we're saying portable appliance testing testing............(I suppose that applies acceptably to musical equipment, especially microphones?)

Yup for the video, all done and dusted. 

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2 hours ago, Moose said:

Yup for the video, all done and dusted 

Thank you very much, I certainly found it useful. In fact. Like that bloke with the shaving equipment I was so impressed I bought the co......... Erm one of them.

It answers another question I had which was to which rotational direction the basket spins. I wasn't sure if it was designed to force cleaner down or create a vacuum to sick such it upwards. Going downward makes sense logically as the debris stays low but you never know.

Thanks for the videos and that sounds impressively quiet in use.

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Glad you found it useful. 

I was impressed at how quiet it was as well. For such an old machine, I sort of expected wear in bearings or something to perhaps create some imbalance and vibration, but no, steady as anything.

Certainly downward force on these older machines, but mostly nowadays they are automatic and bi-directional and as far as I know the “rotor” part does not exist anymore, so there is no imparting of a flow direction when it rotates.

I think for the average hobbyist, just using a machine, even of this vintage, is going to make a such a difference to cleanliness, that it won’t really matter.

still can’t wait to hear about you starting on your machine. I wish you well with it.


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I would particularly be interested in viewing the rheostat. I have a theory about the later editions of the model 1, like yours, with the additional on/off switch for the motor.

My thinking is that they changed the design of rheostat which necessitated the addition of an on/off switch, as the new version did not have an “off” position, like the one originally fitted  in mine.

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4 hours ago, m1ks said:

Some quick snaps of the National, had a quick play and all functioning. 

2019-06-28 12.10.59.jpg

Thanks for the update. Looking good and I'm pleased its functioning well for you.

I'm guessing that somewhere in its life, someone has replaced the motor with that from a Mark V, which would explain the off-white colour. Not sure why the heat tunnel is white though, never seen a National Machine with a square and white tunnel and the Mark V tunnel is tubular. Maybe someone just painted it white? (See photo of a Mark V, below.)

Looks to be in much the original condition that mine was in: The internal wiring is the same, fabric wound stuff and the heater and the way it's mounted is the same as well.

The difference - and I was expecting it - is the rheostat. Yours seems to have - what must be - a later modification, which changed the "flat-pack" style of fixed-resistances that mine had, with a more up-to-date (for the time) wire-wound and circular resistance. I think this is also why Lanzetter added the additional ON-OFF switch, as the circular rheostat did not have an OFF position, whereas the "flat-pack" version that my older one has, has the first stud-contact not connected to anything, thereby isolating the motor from the mains voltage when turned to off.

What's still the case, is that they were both just as unsafe really - even by standards back then - mainly due to the unprotected, mains-potential connections on the rheostat. It would have been a relatively simple thing to incorporate some form of protective cover over that area, to make it safer.

All the same, a good acquisition as it is and an even better one, once you have spent some time on it.
Good catch!




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Thanks Moose, interesting info re the motor etc. The ad did say the motor had been replaced at some point.

I noticed the rheostat was different to yours with the button type connectors but otherwise much the same everywhere else.

Oldhippy, that's what I'm hoping for, prior to this I've only ever cleaned by hand and had acceptable results but it's time consuming. There's something that niggles at me regarding ultrasonics so never used one but always fancied a proper watch cleaning machine mainly because I love gadget y things. 

Interestingly, I swapped a few messages with a fella on a group who started his career at Lanzetters, 2 brothers, one who dealt with the accrual watchmaking side and the other, the tools such as this and he worked on both departments, watchmaking after the tools section stopped.


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  • 2 weeks later...

But will Elma attachments fit the Lanzetter National?

(No...) :thumbsd:

The problem is simply size related. Whilst the two baskets look to be very close, the measurements are different enough to matter. Now - IF I had a lathe, and IF had the inclination...

In these photos you can see the size differences.

The inner diameter of the Elma baskets are 64 mm. The outer diameter of the National attachment point is 67 mm. Also the wall thickness of the Elma basket is only 2.2 mm, so there is insufficient thickness to be able to reduce it to allow the National head to fit, as there would be insufficient material left to provide enough strength.

As can also be seen, unlike the Elma Basket arrangements, the National basket holder and impeller, are both an integral part of the shaft. The Elma basket holder attaches to it's motor shaft via a metal bush and grub-screw, so it would need more "metal bashing" in order to fit an Elma Basket support to the National motor spindle.

Now - If I had a lathe, and IF I had the inclination, it should be possible to either:

  • Turn down the National basket support to fit the Elma basket holder. After all, it only needs about a mm or 2 taken off to fit. But - I would have to remove the 3 mounting studs during turning and then likely re-drill the newly-turned basket support to fit new ones. OR,
  • I could manufacture a new shaft for the National, bored out at one end to fit on the motor shaft, and turned down to fit the Elma Basket support. (I think someone actually did this, in another post on here somewhere.)

But I don't have a lathe and, crucially at the moment anyway, also do not have the inclination. In any case, we are currently packing up to move house by the end of the month, so it would in any case, have to wait until after we were settled, until I decided if I was tackle this, or just leave things as they are.

Anyway - there it is for anyone else wondering if these things might fit...

(Anyone want to buy a surplus to requirements Elma Basket holder?) :ph34r:





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That's a shame, I'm planning to 'heath robinson' some dividers for my main basket, probably from good old poundland tea strainer mesh because it's the only thing on the machine in not overly happy about. One large open basket for the heavy bits to roll around in.

The current idea is a straightforward cross piece or 3 sectional which will simply drop in. Hopefully it will be adequate enough for separating parts and stopping them bashing each other.

Cleaner and rinse first though and recover from my holiday break before deciding which practise movement gets the first try.

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That sounds like a good idea. I have a very fine mesh colander which is big enough to get quite a bit of mesh material from to fashion dividers.

But, I also fancy a bit of a challenge. Once I get moved I will see if I can manufacture a shaft. I have a mate with a lathe and I’m sure he would let me loose on it for the usual “consideration”. It also depends if I can get together the Elma bits at a lot less money than they seem to be advertised for. On the plus side, I already have the basket holder...

But, it will have to wait till the move is over with and I’m settled again.

So I’m keeping my eyes open in the meantime. And, my wife’s colander may well bite the dust in the meantime.

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  • 1 year later...

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