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Another Pierce Navigator

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I've done a lot of Pierce Navigator repairs in the last year but this one was a bit special as it was the first I completed for someone other than myself.  The watch is an heirloom and as such was received in much better condition than the those I've purchased off the bay.


The bracelet was broken and would eventually be replaced and right off the bat I noticed that the sweep second hand was missing.  The crown was also stuck in the setting position and therefore it was impossible to wind the watch.

With the caseback off I could see that the chronograph staff and pinion had actually been removed sometime back.  Also missing was the intermediate wheel which activates the minute recording wheel when the chronograph is engaged.  My guess is that the rubber clutch for the chronograph had failed sometime in the past and the watchmaker simply removed the other bits as opposed to attempting a fix.


I also noted a chip in the upper balance cap jewel.  I've never seen a defect such as this before.


With the dial removed, the normal accumulation of dirt and debris came to light.


The setting lever snapped back into place smartly and with that I was able to check the timing.


With the movement out I turned my attention to the case and pushers.  The spacers for the pushers often become jammed inside the pusher button as the result of an accumulation of grime beneath the button cap.  The springs, which sit between the spacer and the button, are made of stainless steel and generally hold up well over the years.  I've discovered that a good soak in vinegar will usually free the spacers and springs from the buttons.



With the pushers soaking I turned my attention back to the movement.  As I said before, this Pierce 134 is in much better condition than those I've restored in the past.  It's clear the owner has taken good care of the watch over the years.


Generally I'll follow the Esembl-O-Graf (volume 15) in reverse order when disassembling a Pierce movement.  I've done a few now and am getting used to the process.


Looking the parts over I didn't find any that required immediate replacement so the only order placed was for a mainspring and crystal (in addition to the missing chronograph staff, pinion, and intermediate wheel).  The old crystal was in fair shape but a little loose in the bezel so I opted for a new one.  The damaged cap jew was chipped only on the topside and therefore I opted not to replace it.


The parts were whisked off to the L&R cleaner and I turned my attention back to the pushers.  The vinegar bath succeeded in freeing the spacers and springs from the buttons.


I set the parts out for cataloging after cleaning and drying.  At this point I'll also do any rust remediation.  This movement was in fine shape but the levers for the chronograph did suffer from a bit of oxidation.  The rusted bits were placed in a bath of vinegar for a good soak, then any pitting was smoothed using the Dremel tool or a rub on the Arkansas stone.


The replacement chronograph staff, pinion, and intermediate wheel arrived in time for assembly.


The staff needed a new clutch plate.  In the past I've cut these out of nylon and although this is an adequate solution, it makes the final adjustment a lot more difficult since the nylon has so much less give than rubber.  A while ago I began experimenting with rubber o-rings as a substitute.  I use a rubber o-ring which had a thickness of 2mm.  By sharpening an Exacto knife and lubricating it with a bit of watch oil I can cut through the o-ring with very little compression.  This results in a disk that is thin enough and flat enough to use as a clutch plate for the chronograph.  A punch I made on the lathe is used to place the center hole.  Unfortunately since I made the o-rings before I began this service, I didn't have any images of the procedure.

Assembly is straightforward provided all the gremlins have been discovered beforehand.


The pallet, escape wheel, and cap jewels receive epilame treatment.


The balance wheel is cleaned separately with One Dip.


Put back together I noted a funky reading not the timegrapher.


The culprit was a slightly bent pivot on the pallet.  I replaced the pallet with one from my own stock and this resolved the problem straight away.


I let the watch run overnight before beginning on the chronograph layer.  It comes together a little slower as there are many more parts to lubricate and adjust.


A missing sweep second hand can be a real problem with Pierce watches as the center post is 0.35mm (which is large).  Fortunately I had a hand in my stock from a parts movement that would do- once I attached a post to it!  I have some brass tubing that has an inside diameter of 0.35mm so I just needed to turn the outside diameter down on the lathe and rivet the post to the hand.  Here I test the fit of the hand prior to painting.


Once that was settled I discovered the post on the minute hand was loose also.  A new post was turned on the lathe for it as well.


Problems with the chronograph became apparent after fitting the hands.  The culprit in this case turned out to be a damaged center jewel.  This must have occurred during assembly as the jewel checked out after cleaning.  Bad luck.


The jewel is pressed in from the topside and so it must be removed by pressing from the bottom side (dial side).  Unfortunately the jewel sits at the bottom of a long tube which required me to turn a special adaptor piece on the lathe for my Seitz tool.



A replacement jewel was sourced from a donor movement and I was back in business.  The owner decided on a replacement crown and a new strap and the watch finally came together.


I have a bit of a thing for Pierce watches but at the same time I don't think it's much of a coincidence that the watches housing a Pierce 134 movement only seem to exist from the late 40's and early 50's as they can be a bear to get running right.  In the end I was really pleased with this service though.


Edited by RyMoeller
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Excellent walkthrough on a movement that is unfamiliar to me. Your work to get around the hand issue & the post you made for the recessed jewel I found very interesting & useful for future reference. 

Great job done & very a nice watch.

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Wow, that was quite an involved job. Well done. 

Can you tell us any more about how you determined that the pallet staff was bent? Did you manually observe the locking/unlocking of the lever or did you just have an inkling that the pallets were suspect?



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7 hours ago, rodabod said:

Wow, that was quite an involved job. Well done. 

Can you tell us any more about how you determined that the pallet staff was bent? Did you manually observe the locking/unlocking of the lever or did you just have an inkling that the pallets were suspect?


Well it took a bit of trial and error actually.  Initially I thought it was a balance issue but having checked it out I just started to work my way back.  When I removed the pallet I noticed a slight bed in the pivot and figured it would need attention.  Replacing it with a good pallet solved the timing issue.

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Love the post!  

It reminds me of my father, who was a watchmaker for over 50 years.  Whenever I'd go for a visit he always had a story to tell.  His stories would always start, "this doggone watch I'm working on..." or "I had this doggone watch the other day..."  

I was always fascinated by his stories.  Although, to be honest, most of the time I had no idea what he was talking about.  In retrospect, I understand some of them now.  But he's long gone and so are his stories.

So, I honestly appreciate you sharing your "stories" with us!  :)  


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