mikesomething

What an annoying day

18 posts in this topic

I have been trying to learn mechanical watch repair for a long time. I had never once successfully taken a non-working item and got it back to working condition. Its depressing.

I have this old watch its like 80 years old. It didnt run, so I thought I would service it and see if I could get it to work. So yesterday thats what I did, and it all went very well. It was a design I didnt know, it didnt even have a pallet, I have never seen one like this before, instead it had a cutout in the balance staff that allowed the escape wheel to pass.

It took me about 4 hours, but I did actually get it working, it ran for 4 hours. I was in a really good mood, as this was the first time I had ever gotten a previously non-working item to run. I felt like I had taken a first step to something.

So 4 hours, good, but still, it did stop. The balance seemed to be the sticking point. It just wouldnt turn smoothly. It seemed to run fine until the balance cock was screwed down tight, then it stuck. I thought the balance staff might be too long.

Long story short, on perhaps my 20th attempt to seat the balance the hairspring became tangled. My attempts to fix the hairspring destroyed it.

It feels so bad after so much effort, to all come to nothing. And I cant find a replacement as I have no idea of the make or model number.

The only good news of the whole thing is that once the POS hairspring was out the way, I was able to see the top balance staff pivot was slightly bent. So at least I was able to find the problem after all.

Just feels crap to work so hard for nothing. And, really it makes me worry that if a hairspring can tangle so easily, it feels like it can happen at any time, I mean what are we supposed to do if we cant get replacements? Do we only work on watches where replacement parts are readily available? With all the parts restrictions it feels like working on anything is a big risk.

Michael and JohnR725 like this

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From your description it sounds like you have a cylinder escapement. These were quite common from the mid 1800's into the early 1900's. not many people work on them as they can be a real pain to sort out so you did well to get it running. finding a re[placement H/S is likely to be a challenge and your best bet is to look out for a donor movement. I'm sure if you post some pics of the movement there is a chance that someone might be able to help.

JohnR725 likes this

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I might do, I have thought about posting a pic to find spares ...

but what do you think about what i was saying that things like this make it difficult to work on things?

One could spend 10 years learning, and 10k or 20k or 30k on a bench and tools, and one damn hairspring goes wrong and what good are your tools and experience then?

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Cheer up, mikesomething... Hairsprings can really get you down, but don't let 'em keep you down.  If you can take a picture of the movement or post the markings on the movement, I'll see if I have anything that will help.  Maybe if I don't have anything, someone else on the forum will.  Hang in there...

Shirley

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I agree sounds like a cylinder escapement. Then cylinder watches are a pain to work on which is why a lot of people won't work on them. Then finding parts for older watches like this can be a problem but at least before eBay. So to help you find something we would need some pictures to see if anyone can identify it.

Then for those that haven't seen a cylinder watch couple links.

http://www.abbeyclock.com/bcyl.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtdXV3AaQSg

 

Unfortunately hairsprings are part of watch repair unless you start repairing quartz watches they usually don't have hairsprings which can be a nice feature for them. Every single one of us risks damaging a hairspring but with time and practice for the most part that danger goes away. Then depending upon your skill a lot of hairspring problems can be fixed but like everything else in watch repair that requires lots and lots of practice. Then if you're really obsessed you can actually get tools to vibrated hairsprings providing you find them as supply of hairsprings is drying up. Then if you mangle a hairspring you could fix it. At one time there used to be Individuals or companies offering a service of vibrating hairsprings when you had a really bad hair spring day. Not sure if there's anybody left doing that anymore.

 

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Congratulations Mike on getting something back together and working again, even though it was a short period! If you did this without any help then you did well!

Seems like you cleaned the watch without disassembling the balance wheel from the balance cock. On older watches without shock-protection, this needs to be done to make sure the old oil is cleaned up and replaced with fresh oil. The bent pivot could have been a result of your handling, rather than the cause of poor running. First lesson learnt.

2nd lesson, inspect each part as you remove, not only the part but its interaction with the others. This will save you cleaning and assembling the watch only to be stone-walled by something that could have been identified earlier (like a bent pivot?).

3rd lesson, you started with an 80 year old watch. Not the best to learn on as parts are a problem and the watch may have some value.. buy some (working)  Seikos from India (on eb@y)..cheap as chips and tough as a Nokia 3310.

4th lesson..  quote " I had never once successfully taken a non-working item and got it back to working condition. Its depressing" unqte . You don't really have the experience base to identify why a watch is not working. Start with a watch which is working, if you can disassemble it and get it back together again then good. If it doesn't work then you did something wrong. 

Help is just as far away as your phone...don't hesitate to ask... but this lesson you've learnt already!

Cheers

Anil

 

 

Edited by anilv
JohnR725 likes this

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That's a cylinder watch. Now you can understand why we have such things as apprenticeships for those that want to learn about horology, way back in the 70's I did 5 years and another 2 years as an improver, which made sure I didn't make silly mistakes. Many are watch repairs and many are watchmakers and many will have vast stocks of material so they can turn to an old movement and seek out a replacement part. I had just cylinders which to find a replacement or I could alter one to fit. We all learn by our mistakes and we all make them. Working on a cylinder watch can be one of the hardest to undertake, so don't feel put off, you had a go and that is all that matters. A good start for you would be get hold of a few pocket watches and learn the basic just take them apart and reassemble and learn about them and what the parts are called, you don't even need to repair them. Don't get fusee pocket watch movements because they are very different. Pocket watch movements are more or less very big watch movements, you can even get a cylinder P W movements. Good luck. 

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Mike

I feel your pain, I am also new to this and very susceptible to mangling hairsprings.

Last week I mangled one upon assembly and spent two days working on that spring trying to straighten it out. It was looking pretty good and that's when it flew out of my tweezers and over my shoulder never to be seen again. I wanted to throw all my tools in the garbage . And start a simpler hobby.

Keep your chin up,  Tom

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Dont get disheartened by your mangled hairspring. I've been doing this a while and i think I've only managed to straighten out 3 out of what must be dozens in the end i usually end up finding a replacement. Hairspring manipulation is an art form in itself and anyone whole can do it consistently should be awarded a medal of some kind.

Mick

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11 hours ago, mikesomething said:

I have been trying to learn mechanical watch repair for a long time...

Hey! Welcome to the club :D I  am sure we had all a similar start. In addition, for us hobbyists a small success has a much greater value than for watch repairers who have learnt the trade in a school or by an experienced master. 

I hope You did not discarded the tangled spring. It would be a nice practice piece making it to shape again. I have some hairspring repair videos if interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7i9VrMkFaA

You could check if the main problem is the bent pivot by turning the movement over. If it has different rate/amplitude/working hours in the different positions, then one of the pivots is significantly bent. The pivot can be bent back if it is not looking to bad. There is a special tool for this,

bergeon-seitz-pivot-straightener-3.gif

but i am using jewels in old abandoned watch main-plates for this purpose. Just put the pivot in jewel where it just fits and bend the wheel so that it will lean the same degree in all directions. One can bend it by hand, the tool is just to makes sure one would not make an accident and to hard bending. 

 To practice repairs i am using big old pocket watches as Oldhippy suggested. Search for ramps333 on e-bay, he has always a lot of old non-working movements. Or for newer ones i would buy movement batches from India. 

 

Wesley881 likes this

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Hi Mike

You're not alone and this is certainly a hobby for me with frustrations ... but with satisfaction too!

I think you did a similar thing to me and thought that if you're going to spend long hours repairing/servicing a watch then it might as well be something a bit different rather than something run of the mill. I'm only new to this as a hobby too and one of my first attempts was with an old movement whose selection I'd based on the fact that it looked nice with lovely milled bridges and so forth (and was relatively inexpensive). After dismantling and cleaning it would run but very irregularly; dismantling again and a very close inspection witnessed a damaged jewel but because I'd selected something so old and 'unique' (=unidentifiable!) it was a no-go to take further.

I'd second advice given above on either working with something that is known to already be working and practice the best way to dismantle, clean and reassemble. Or select a particular movement model that is more commonplace initially and get a couple of non-working ones to turn into (at least) one working one i.e. you have a spares backup.

Ironically working when you have some kind of backup probably means more chance of success on the primary item! Working on something where there is no option but success causes nerves that will almost guarantee something will go wrong. Knowing instead there is a plan B allows someone to work with what I'll call 'careful confidence' and I've found this a much happier state to work in as I've gained experience over the last few months.

 

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I
One could spend 10 years learning, and 10k or 20k or 30k on a bench and tools, and one damn hairspring goes wrong and what good are your tools and experience then?

The thing is, for a real professional things won't go wrong. It's the same as circus acrobats, they are perfectly trained and talented as well, so to make very little use of the safety net.
Going back to watchmaking you should feel lucky to have the means, time and will to entertain yourself with such a fine hobby. Being practical i recommend however you work on more recent watches and not necessarily on the movement only. Personally I've destroyed many Seiko hairsprings, which are cheap and easy to obtain. Being honest I must say that any other hobby that I had was much more expensive and less rewarding than watch repair.

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As a reminder often overlooked by the world now that we've the Internet and answers are as quick as asking a question. There are other resources out there like books on watch repair. For instance "Bench Practices for Watch and Clockmakers by Henry B Fried" Has a rather sizable section on straightening out hairsprings and even vibrating reattaching them to their collets etc. Unfortunately looking at Amazon it's now price like gold but might show up on eBay someday.

Then depending upon where you live on the planet there are horological associations out there. A lot of these will have buying and selling going on. Give you the opportunity of possibly meet like minded people although watch repair tends to fall into a much smaller category than watch collecting. But a lot of times these various groups have events where they sell things great opportunity to pick up tools books etc. cheaply..

 

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26 minutes ago, JohnR725 said:

For instance "Bench Practices for Watch and Clockmakers by Henry B Fried" Has a rather sizable section on straightening out hairsprings and even vibrating reattaching them to their collets etc. Unfortunately looking at Amazon it's now price like gold but might show up on eBay someday.

 

 

thanks for the tip, i found a cheap one on ebay.

 

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I think we've all been there, whether with a mainspring or something else.... It always sucks but that's why your favorite beverages are around ;)

 

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Congratulations for getting the movement working. I wrecked the cylinder movement i came across. Took the balance off and the watch unwound. Never did work properly again.
Take the advice and work on more recent movements with availability of spare parts.
Also it's your hobby, the failures just make the successes better !
As Oldhippy said what are apprenticeships for and to master, can take a lifetime.
I used to get upset, think this is more to do with pride than reality. Now I just laugh the "Screw Ups" off and move onto the next project.
Enjoy your hobby and when things do go wrong, spare a thought for the "Professional " if they screw up, it doesn't only have financial consequences but damaged reputation!

Sent from my SM-T585 using Tapatalk

Michael and jdm like this

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Hi mikesomething,

How did things turn out with this one?  I've been struggling with cylinder escapements myself...I purchased some Metro and Oriole deco-era watches fairly cheap as non-runners and consistently found bent balances on them and will likely try straightening them on my jewel gage as szbalogh suggested to see if the situation improves.

Best,

Chad 

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On 1/10/2017 at 7:12 AM, szbalogh said:

Hey! Welcome to the club :D I  am sure we had all a similar start. In addition, for us hobbyists a small success has a much greater value than for watch repairers who have learnt the trade in a school or by an experienced master. 

I hope You did not discarded the tangled spring. It would be a nice practice piece making it to shape again. I have some hairspring repair videos if interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7i9VrMkFaA

You could check if the main problem is the bent pivot by turning the movement over. If it has different rate/amplitude/working hours in the different positions, then one of the pivots is significantly bent. The pivot can be bent back if it is not looking to bad. There is a special tool for this,

bergeon-seitz-pivot-straightener-3.gif

but i am using jewels in old abandoned watch main-plates for this purpose. Just put the pivot in jewel where it just fits and bend the wheel so that it will lean the same degree in all directions. One can bend it by hand, the tool is just to makes sure one would not make an accident and to hard bending. 

 To practice repairs i am using big old pocket watches as Oldhippy suggested. Search for ramps333 on e-bay, he has always a lot of old non-working movements. Or for newer ones i would buy movement batches from India. 

 

Hi @szbalogh, wanted to extend my thanks for this suggestion.  I got out my Seitz jewel gage last night and was able to successfully true up a pivot on a movement I had dropped previously.  It, like the watch in this thread, has a cylinder escapement and I thought all was lost if the cylinder was damaged.  After some patient adjustments (and several hairspring retaining pins later) I reinstalled the balance and it's running beautifully.  I'm assuming that the thumbscrew/leaf spring assembly on the gage is for this operation, but mine doesn't have what looks like a 'fine adjustment' like yours pictured above?

Best

C

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