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Vintage Pierce Navigator


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I'm a true novice and this is my first actual repair job but from the attached images you may get the impression that my real struggles are with camera in hand!  Any input how how to get the best pictures (and lighting) when working with such a small subject matter are appreciated!

I've been an enthusiast for complicated watches for sometime and this past Christmas my wife gifted me a vintage Breitling Navitimer- a replacement for the one we sold to help finance our wedding some eight years back.  Having done without for eight years I'm dead set on treating this timepiece right and so embarked on a quest to learn all I could about maintaining vintage mechanical watches.  This has as fueled an new found passion in me and I've now accumulated a few swiss watches from the 40's and 50's to work on.

My first purchase was an Omega Speedmaster 321 which was delivered in an Altoids tin... in many pieces; but that's a different story.  My second purchase is the above referenced Pierce Navigator Chronograph.

Manufactured in the late forties or early fifties, the Pierce Navigator was the everyman's chronograph and was priced more reasonably that most Swiss chronographs on the market.  The movement within (Pierce Calibre 134) is a little strange though, it utilizes a vertical clutch mechanism and the clutch plate is made of soft rubber.  The dial layout is a little different as well with the running seconds at six o'clock and the minute counter at the 12 o'clock position.

Here you can see the watch the shape it was delivered to me.  It was sold as not working but did begin ticking as I handled it.  As you can see the crystal and the start/stop pusher are missing.IMG_0135.JPG

Since the little guy was trying to give it a go, I placed the movement on the timegrapher to see what its vitals were.  IMG_0164.JPG

Time to crack it open!  Inside- dirt, dirt, and more dirt!  The chrono works don't look too bad.

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Dial side is a bit worse.  Here I've already removed the minute wheel and cannon pinion.

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The keyless works under the microscope.  Lots of dirt here.  This watch has no form of waterproofing.  Even the pushers lack gaskets and as a result lots of grime is able to enter the case.  Luckily for me there was very little rust.

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Disassembling the gear train.  More dirt is apparent here.  The mainspring was shot (no picture I'm afraid) but sourcing a replacement was not difficult.

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I cleaned the movement in my L & R cleaner then reassembled.  With the watch keeping time I moved on to the chrono works.  Pierce cases are plated brass as are the crowns and pushers.  They don't hold up well over time unfortunately.  The movement appears to be plated, perhaps in nickel or chrome and is polished to a mirror finish as are the various steel levers and springs.

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Here I got a little ahead of myself as the base movement worked well but had a sizable (3.6 ms) beat error.  I first tried adjusting the collet to correct the error.

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And this worked- to an extent.  Now I had no beat error but the watch ran phenomenally fast... then slow...  The timegrapher showed a beautiful Sin curve on the display.  Turns out the coils of the hairspring had exited the single plane and were now high on one side and low on the other.  I removed the hairspring and carefully reworked the coils under a microscope until they sat nice and flat.  Then I watched Mark's video on hairspring adjustment to make sure it was reassembled with minimal beat error.  Here' I line up the hairspring with the regulator before pressing it to the balance wheel.

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My staking kit is vintage but works well enough.  This was my first time taking it out.  No need for a hammer here though.

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Now this may sound easy, but I had to remove the hairspring three times before finally getting it just right.  I'm quite pleased with the results though.  Here you can see how it performs with the chronograph engaged.  The choro still slips slightly and a new rubber clutch may be needed but thus far I'm impressed with what has been accomplished.

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Lastly I'll need to source a second pusher and a crystal.  I'll be sure and post pics of the finished job though.  ^_^

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Welcome to the forum Ry, and what an amazing first post.  If this is your first foray into watch repairs, I can't wait to see what you come up with in the future.  As  matter of interest, what is your background?

Regarding your comment on your photography; there is not much wrong with it at all, but if you have a read of this thread you may get some ideas that will help you.

Cheers, Geo!

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Thanks for the encouragement!  

Geo, I have no background in watchmaking but rather an extensive one working on less than ideal automobiles- all personally owned unfortunately.  I think working on watches will result in a lot less scraped knuckles and curse words  though!  I find the hobby very agreeable.

My day job is a financial analyst for an aerospace company.  I hope is that I can learn enough about watch repair to eventually move into the field as properly licensed watchmaker.  That will require a bit of experience behind the loupe before I'll be ready to take the necessary exams.  Thankfully my wife is completely supportive.  ^_^

 

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2 hours ago, RyMoeller said:

I hope is that I can learn enough about watch repair to eventually move into the field as properly licensed watchmaker.  

 

 

Starting off like this you should achieve your ambition fairly easily, I wish you well.

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Ry,

Well done - this is great stuff. I have a bit of a thing for the Pierce 134, and that's quite a nice one.

There is a guy on eBay in the US called Francis who often lists new Pierce chrome crowns, but the pushers are like rocking horse manure, and there are a few different flavours of them.

The rubber washer for the chrono runner is a simple job to make from a crystal protector if you have a staking set. Roland Ranfft describes it well. I stuck mine down with superglue as it's easy to remove later if required.

If you struggled with adjustments there are clues here http://www.awci.com/wp-content/uploads/watch-tech-guides/pierce/134.pdf

Oh, and just to let you know, Cousins has a few parts in stock for them including complete balance wheel last time I looked.

S

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Thanks for the heads-up Stuart.  I've actually already secured the chrome crown but will need to get a stem for it (I shudder at paying the price I've seen and may try cutting one on a lathe instead).  I think I may have actually purchased the crown from Francis too.

That's a very good link you've provided.  It's a PDF of the Esembl-O-Graf, which I think may be the only written service data out there for the Pierce calibre 134.  I happen to have the entire collection which I purchased from a book collector for a fair price.  It's come in quite handy, not just on this job but on other chronos as well.  It was written in 1949 but for a lot of calibres there haven't been major changes (for example the volume on the Lemania 27 is entirely applicable to the Omega 321 movement).  Good stuff!  You can purchase a CD of every volume in PDF from a seller on eBay too.

Thanks for the tip regarding the rubber washer.  I'm kicking myself now for placing an order the other day for some replacement watch crystals and forgetting to purchase the crystal protectors too!

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3 hours ago, RyMoeller said:

Thanks for the heads-up Stuart.  I've actually already secured the chrome crown but will need to get a stem for it (I shudder at paying the price I've seen and may try cutting one on a lathe instead).  I think I may have actually purchased the crown from Francis too.

That's a very good link you've provided.  It's a PDF of the Esembl-O-Graf, which I think may be the only written service data out there for the Pierce calibre 134.  I happen to have the entire collection which I purchased from a book collector for a fair price.  It's come in quite handy, not just on this job but on other chronos as well.  It was written in 1949 but for a lot of calibres there haven't been major changes (for example the volume on the Lemania 27 is entirely applicable to the Omega 321 movement).  Good stuff!  You can purchase a CD of every volume in PDF from a seller on eBay too.

Thanks for the tip regarding the rubber washer.  I'm kicking myself now for placing an order the other day for some replacement watch crystals and forgetting to purchase the crystal protectors too!

Hi Ry,

Yes, I have the CD too! I bought a 134 stem from this guy, which is still sitting with its intended host and aforementioned crown in my "to do" pile.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Pierce-13-cal-134-haut-winding-stem-watch-movement-part-/272213813739?hash=item3f613529eb:g:TmwAAOSwiYFXEiO5

Didn't really break the bank!

I'm still looking for a chrono minute hand though.

S

S

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I buttoned up the Pierce today.  The chronograph is working nice and smooth.  A simple adjustment of one tension spring was all that was needed to remove the stutter from the sweep second hand.  I procured a replacement crystal and installed that along with some replacement pushers I pulled from another Pierce.

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I'm not happy with the pushers though.  There is a bushing or spacer that the post of each pusher goes though before entering the case.  On top of this spacer sits a tiny coil spring that is hidden under the pusher cap.  In every set of pushers I have found the spacer has been jammed into the pusher cap much to tightly to be removed.  The coil spring has long ago rusted away I suppose.   I've ordered some .25mm spring wire and have the brass and steel needed to turn new pushers on the lathe so that will be by next endeavor.  In the meantime, I've reassembled the Pierce to keep the dust out and open up a space on the workbench for another movement to be disassembled.

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It's still keeping fine time and the chronograph works beautifully.  The dial could do with a refinishing but I'll leave that for the next owner since refinishing is so often frowned upon.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, last Sunday my wife and I were off to see the parents who have a keen interest in my new hobby.  I brought for them the recently revived Pierce Chronograph above as it's a pretty little piece I could use to illustrate my passion.  Unfortunately on the drive up my wife dropped the watch.  It fell only about eight inches down and onto the center console of her Mini Cooper.  Unfortunately for me, this watch is not shock protected.  Thus at precisely 10:23:19 AM last Sunday morning the little heart inside my Pierce stopped beating.  

"Good thing I know someone who can fix it." said she, wryly smiling.  To her credit she felt awful and to mine I was indifferent.  I've not done a balance staff yet so I'm looking forward to this challenge.

The new staff is on order so expect to see more posts on this thread in the future.  In the meantime I'll leave you with an image of a fine little paperweight.  :huh:

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Oh no after all your hard work and the feelings you had when you did a fine job servicing. But look on the bright side you will be filled with even more pride when you've replaced that staff. As for your wife tell her your so upset you'll need a new piece to work on to get over it or some new equipment but if she's anything like my other half shell just say tough.:D

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Sorry to hear about the watch! It happened once to me on a nice 2496-2 brand new I had just received...and dropped right out of the envelope!

Looking into the bright side back then I also thought it was meant for me to fix it anyway! Nice attitude! and good job...waiting for one more challenge!

Cheers,

Bob

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