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Restauration dilemma .......


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Hello All;

I inherited an old silver-cased pocket watch which used to belong to my Great-Grandfather (GGF); the smaller man to the left.

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He used to be a driver on a steam locomotive, and he's standing proudly in front of "his" steam-locomotive 3715, around 1911.

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Most likely the watch was issued to him by the Dutch railroad company since it says on the dial: "Spoor en Post Horloge" (Railroad & Post watch)

The 15-jewels movement "35344" barely ran and was, upon closer inspection, a real mess.

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The movement was very dirty and in the past some "well willing" person has been working on the movement. The breguet hairspring was totally bend out of shape, some balance timing-screws were missing, the hairspring pinning-point to the stud was at a random (vibration) point and the regulator was pushed all the way towards "slow", so much so that the end of the regulator lever was full against the train-bridge ....... and it still ran +600 / +700 sec/day too fast !

The horizontal amplitude 140-170 and it stopped running in any vertical position.

There is play in the arbor/mainspring barrel, play in the arbor holes mainplate & bridge, play in the center-wheel mainplate & bridge and the jewels (including the pallet-fork jewels) don't look "fresh" anymore. Worn keyless and intermediate keyless wheels etc.

Finding the same size balance timing-screws proofs to be a challenge and I haven't succeeded yet. After hours painstaking work I managed to get the Breguet hairspring in a reasonable shape again but the correct vibration point, not having the vibration tools, is going to be a gamble.

Browsing the internet I stumbled over another pocket watch with the same 15-jewels "35344" movement, advertised as "in running condition". I bought it as a "donor", hoping that at least the balance assembly would be in a better shape.

 

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Yesterday the "donor" arrived.

The balance assembly seems to be, compared to the one in my GGF-watch, in "perfect" shape; the Brequet hairspring runs nice concentric & flat, the balance staff pivots look great and all the timing screws are all present. The whole balance assembly doesn't seem to be tempered with.

In fact, the whole movement seems to be in a much better shape, much less play in the parts (wheels / screws / keyless / arbor etc).

Currently the "donor" movement is soaking in the cleaning fluid, to be thoroughly cleaned this weekend and then the real condition checked.

Now we come to my dilemma; assume that the donor movement turns out to be in a much better shape, what to do ??

Transferring good parts to the original worn movement, and if / when doing so, when does my GGF-watch stops being my GGF-watch?

What would you do and what would be "acceptable"? 🤔

 

 

Edited by Endeavor
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hmmm, difficult choices!

Do you >>need<< your GGF's watch to run? Do you need to feel like you restored his watch?

If so, cannibalize the donor and hope that you get to the point where your GGF's watch runs. Do you plan to catty it? A lot? Ever? Would there be a male heir in your lineage who would be interested in having a running watch that had been owned by his GGGF? If so, that's the way to go.

If you don't plan to ever carry it and only plan to keep it in a drawer, I'd say leave it alone and service the donor - get it running great.

- Gary

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My GGF's watch has spent already many years (if not many decades) in a drawer.  Now it's in my possession and I for sure like to have it to run and like wear it (proudly I would like to add) on occasions. I've already done up the silver case, changed out the mineral crystal and bought a nice old 925 silver chain to it.

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To me there is not point having a broken watch laying a drawer collecting dust. Next to that, the handed down watch has met a family-member who has a watch-hobby and can do something (hopefully good) about it. I see it as a "challenge set".

It doesn't need to run like a Rolex, but it needs to be a reliable runner and, within respectable reasons, keep good time. I guess within +/- 60 sec/day should be achievable.

Even though having circling around it for years, but this watch made me finally buying a staking-set so I'm able to do something about the worn (non-jeweled) holes.

I was prepared, and set for, to pull all my skills out of the cupboard to restore this watch.

What I didn't expect was that the donor-movement seems to be in a much better condition and it becomes tempting to change out more parts than just the balance assembly ...... but then "my dilemma" popped up; hence this post ....

 

Edited by Endeavor
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You could use as many of the donor parts as required to get the watch running well, then as a longer-term project get down to restoring the original parts one by one. Swapping out the worn parts for better ones isn't irreversible, so that's what I would do to start with.

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39 minutes ago, Klassiker said:

Swapping out the worn parts for better ones isn't irreversible

Very true ....... but if it turns out that the whole donor movement is in much better, i.e. much less worn, than I could simply swap the whole movement out for the donor movement and keep the original ..... but my question is; is it than still GGF's watch?

Did I than restore or just replace? 🤔 Where does my GGF's watch stops being GGF's watch? 🙄

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1 hour ago, tomh207 said:

Another thought, what if ggf had taken the watch in for repair back in the day and the watchmaker put a new movement in?

 

Tom

Then it would still have been GGF's watch. Just not the same watch.

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3 hours ago, tomh207 said:

Another thought, what if ggf had taken the watch in for repair back in the day and the watchmaker put a new movement in?

I can follow your idea in so far that it would have been my GGF choice and the new movement would have been in his pocket in that period. But now I've, as far as I'm aware of, the original parts in my hands and I (as a temporarily custodian) have to make these choices. I have a kind of verbal provenance where the watch has been after my GGF, mainly stored by family members. Not 100% sure, but there is a real possibility that while the watch was in my fathers possession, that he had the watch "serviced" by a known friend who did among restoring steam-trains and other big mechanical objects, also knew something about clocks. I think that this would have been the only time that the watch has been out of the drawer / family. Looking at the state of the watch, most likely my farther got it back with a "sorry" and the watch went back in the drawer until he passed away and I received it. So, I think that the watch has still most, if not all, the originals parts from my GGF's time.

I like to make the best choices, so that it remains my GGF's watch.

Edited by Endeavor
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I agree with @Klassiker, keep as much of the original movement as possible, and use parts from the donor movement to get it running.  In American pocket watches, parts are often stamped with the same serial number, as they were meant to stay together as the watch was manufactured and adjusted. If you can keep the original plates and bridges together, that will keep it closest to the way the watch left the factory.  Everything else will have to be evaluated, wheels and pinions could be worn, and if you wanted to keep those you might be learning how to repivot train wheels, and then you need a lathe,  and collets, and then it goes on and on 🙂

I would consider this a long term project.  I'd document everything I do, and keep everything, so that the "original" parts could always be reunited with the original plates, so it would be as you received it. Just try not to do anything that's irreversible. 

It's awesome that you have that picture of your GGF, this is a wonderful piece of family history.

Good luck!

Edited by dadistic
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7 hours ago, Klassiker said:

You could use as many of the donor parts as required to get the watch running well, then as a longer-term project get down to restoring the original parts one by one. Swapping out the worn parts for better ones isn't irreversible, so that's what I would do to start with.

I agree with Klassiker here. It becomes wearable much sooner and as your skills grow on other less sentimental pieces it can be a long term project getting it back on the bench every now and then to bring it a little closer each time to its former original state. Even with a few temporary different movement parts you will still be looking at the same dial as greatgrand pap to tell the time. Staring at the face of his treasured timepiece that he was over a hundred years ago wondering about his time and adventures as a train driver, and thats something cherish.. I have had exactly the same issue with what i think was my grandfather's watch, up to now a new stem and crown, escape wheel and soon to be barrel and mainspring. Go with your gut feeling mate regardless of anyone elses opinions, we are just here to give you ideas and guide you towards something you already know x

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8 hours ago, Endeavor said:

Now it's in my possession and I for sure like to have it to run

Clearly you have your answer!

Cannibalize the donor and get your GGF's watch going again.

At some point you can pass it onwards knowing it has been in your family and restored by yourself.

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2 hours ago, dadistic said:

I would consider this a long term project.  I'd document everything I do, and keep everything, so that the "original" parts could always be reunited with the original plates, so it would be as you received it. Just try not to do anything that's irreversible. 

I think that we slowly can distill an answer out of the above replies.

My initial intention was to keep working on the original movement. Reduce the non-jeweled hole sizes (arbor / barrel, arbor / main-plate & bridge and center-wheel) and try to find the correct timing screws. Poise the balance wheel and get the watch ticking again.

Now with the new nice donor movement, I don't feel that, if it has to be, changing out the balance assembly (wheel & hair-spring, excluding the bridge) would be a crime but see it more as a necessity. The donor movement is to be kept as spare-parts back-up in case something more / else goes wrong with the original movement.

I think my aim is now to keep the movement as original as possible until parts replacement becomes a necessity.

It's of course already quite nice and a luxery to have an identical movement for parts. That's already a positive contribution to my GGF's watch story 😉

It's going to be an exciting & educative project 🤗

Thanks all for your contribution 👍 and hopefully, in the not to far future, I can show you my GGF's watch in its full working glory again 🙂

Thanks 😉

 

 

 

Edited by Endeavor
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12 hours ago, grsnovi said:

If so, cannibalize the donor and hope that you get to the point where your GGF's watch runs.

You realize that all of this is based on a assumption? The assumption is that because they look the same that they must actually be the same. In other words that you can swap the parts. Often times with vintage and howl vintage is this watch? Do we establish a timeframe of its birth? Often times with vintage watches the parts are hand fit this means swapping the donor into the original may require modifications. It's always a conceivability of that they may not swap at all.

8 hours ago, Endeavor said:

but if it turns out that the whole donor movement is in much better, i.e. much less worn, than I could simply swap the whole movement out for the donor movement and keep the original ..... but my question is; is it than still GGF's watch?

Did I than restore or just replace? 🤔 Where does my GGF's watch stops being GGF's watch?

You should come and work in a modern watch shop they do movement swapping all of the time. Any time a watch doesn't work especially a quartz but some mechanicals now that you swap the movement and no one gives it a second thought is just a component of really big component with lots of subcomponents.

7 hours ago, LittleWatchShop said:

I have faced this dilemma and it is tough. GGF rarely saw the movement, but always saw the case,  dial, and hands. I think I would swap the movement and continue to work on the original.

This is an interesting idea because it would give you a running watch to carry and show Often nobody's I care whether it's the original movement or not you will. Then you can restore the original movement and put it back in again and nobody's going to know either way annual have a spare movement just in case.

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15 hours ago, grsnovi said:

cannibalize the donor and hope that you get to the point where your GGF's watch runs

@JohnR725 note that I said: "...and hope..."

...as I have learned first hand that you can't take 110 year-old parts from one watch and just drop them into another.

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@JohnR725and @grsnovi: good points too !

My plan was give the donor movement a proper service and see what it does. If I decide to swap parts, it will initially only be the balance assembly (balance wheel & hairspring). If my GGF's watch runs happy on that, that's already one option.

However, if one gets to the point were the pallet fork, and most likely the escapewheel also needs to be changed, and perhaps when that combination isn't happy even more, yes then it become perhaps a "necessity" to swap the whole movement.

For sure, I'll keep track as to which part belongs to which movement.

I ordered a box full of junk-parts. Among those parts are quite a few balance-wheels and I do hope to find some more appropriate timing-screws. The original balance wheel had two timing screws missing. Without these two, the movement runs +600 / +700 sec/day with the regulator at full "slow". When I install two of my (too heavy) timing-screws in either slot, the movement runs -600 / -700 sec/day with the regulator at full "fast". If I install only one of those too heavy timing screw, the movement runs DD, with the regulator in the middle (the lift-angle empirical established and for now ignoring the beat-error);

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What I need to find are two timing screws, combined weight slightly heavier than one of my current timing screws (I don't have under-cutters etc). Then comes the poising part. As for the arbitrate, but best guess, vibration point, perhaps we have to live with that "as-is".

So I haven't given up yet on the old balance assembly. It does need more work and as @dadisticsays, a project which requires time.

Next to that, the mainspring barrel has wear, so has the center wheel, causing both to be slightly tilted. I'm hoping that by reducing all the relevant hole sizes to straighten those two and that the amplitude will increase.....

Regardless, the good news is that most likely I'll get a running watch, be it with the original movement, the donor-movement or a combination thereof 🙂

 

17 hours ago, dadistic said:

It's awesome that you have that picture of your GGF, this is a wonderful piece of family history.

Yes it is! There was a late family member who made sure that not all was lost, and there is even one more picture of my GGF. Standing proudly on (clearly) his steam locomotive, wearing perhaps the pocket-watch (you can see the chain) which is now in my possession ..... sadly the watch I received didn't come with a chain, but I guess, if the watch stopped working, these chains were either used for something else or sold.

I do assume that my GGF knew these living & breathing machines, knew all sounds and the locomotives quirks. These drivers were thoroughly skilled people and therefor, to restore his watch, I like to pull all my skills (known and yet to be learned) out of the cupboard......

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Edited by Endeavor
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Just serviced the donor movement. I had to put a new spring in (meant for GGF's watch) since the spring in the donor was a clumsy repaired spring. Apart from that, cleaned, pegged and oiled. Lots of recoil.

It is for sure a newer movement. GGF's watch banking-post were adjustable and the main-spring barrel had a hook. The donor has fixed banking-post and just a dimple inside the main-spring barrel. There is wear & play, but mainly in the spring-barrel.

While taking pictures the amplitude was improving, but for just hot out the oven, not too bad;

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Next up swapping the balance assembly ......

Swapped balance assembly & cock to GGF's movement;

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Clearly less happy 😞

So it seems that either I get GGF's balance to work or it's going to be a whole movement swap to the donor movement.

Looking at the current facts, that brings me to @LittleWatchShop idea; "I think I would swap the movement and continue to work on the original".

I may just do that 😉

 

 

Edited by Endeavor
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I wanted to post an update on how my project was "progressing" 😉

As @grsnoviand @JohnR725already remarked, swapping parts of old movements may cause problems.

Even though the donor movement has the same diameter, has the same look, has the same number and has been made by the same manufacture; just about NOTHING did fit.

Earlier I tried to swap just the balance assembly of the donor but GGF's watch wasn't happy. I tried the combination of donor escape-wheel / pallet fork / balance assembly, but the escape-wheel prevented the wheel-train from running smoothly. So I tried just the pallet-fork / balance assembly ... that didn't work either.

Back to the idea of swapping the whole donor movement in GGF's case. GGF's dial fitted, but GGF's hour-hand was too big for the donors hour-wheel. So I changed the donor hour-wheel for GGF's.  GGF's minute hand did kinda fit, but GGF's little seconds hand just dropped over the donors seconds-pivot, so I had to use the too long donors seconds-hand 😒

Attempting to get this already Franken in GGF's case didn't work very well either. I probably could make it to fit, but that meant modification to GGF's case and that was for me a step too far.

I reversed to whole process, all the parts belonging to the donor back to the donor and what belonged to GGF's back to GGF's watch. To avoid any mix-up, the donor movement is back in its own case, with its own dial & hands, ticking happily away.

It seems that there is only one way forwards, and that's restoring / repairing the original GGF's-parts, in this case mainly the balance assembly; restoring the hairspring / replacing the missing timing-screws / getting the balance in time and do the poising.

Delicate work which, apart from manipulating hairsprings, I haven't done before. It seems to me a bit of a "Do or die" scenario, with no room for error 🙄

Lots of work done with no real results, but valuable lessons learned 😉

 

Edited by Endeavor
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Way too early to celebrate, but after working my *ss off today, GGF's movement is kinda ticking again. Replaced the two missing timing screws and brought the balance "in-time" again. Poised the balance wheel and now I've a reasonable a Dial UP and Dial Down again. Vertical positions are no good yet, but I suspect still more work has to be done on the Breguet hairspring and the messed up regulator. Amplitude could be somewhat higher too, but we may have a starting point ....... 😉

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Edited by Endeavor
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