I have recently purchased a National, Electric Watch Cleaning Machine. Attached is a photo for reference and identification of the model type. As can be seen, it has a fairly typical design, reminiscent of many other types, particularly Elma Super Elite. In fact, I do wonder which came first - the National or the Elma. My musings on this point later.
This is a very old machine, circa late 1940’s, 1950’s, but they seem to turn up sometimes on eBay, in various conditions ranging from the “beyond hope” and only really suitable as a donor for parts, and the “old but serviceable” and might-be-worth-a-punt-on machines.
This one fell into the middle somewhere, as it was a bit tatty and the heating element did not work. On the plus side, it had all its original cleaning fluid jars and lids, and the motor and speed control gave smooth, controllable spinning and no play in the bearings. I went to visit the seller to inspect it and we did a deal on the spot. This is not always possible on eBay, but as the seller had listed it as for collection only (due to its weight), it was a possibility on this occasion.
Once I had it home and gave it the once over, I decided that I would have to either do without heating for the drying stage, or find a replacement element. At the same time, it was very obvious that all of the original cabling was not safe to leave in place and it would all have to be removed and replaced. Any other electrical parts deemed unsafe would also be replaced as I inspected them. So - the idea of a restoration (of sorts) was born.
Now - it is not my intention to restore it to the point where it could pass current electrical safety standards, but I will be making it as safe as possible, without losing any of the essential character of the original machine. This is not going to be for resale, so being safe to use is an acceptable compromise, in my opinion. I will however, perform testing on it once the electrical work is done, to make sure that the essential aspects of earth leakage, earth bonds and polarity etc. are passed. (PAT Testing included.)
Whilst this is not likely to turn into another example of a superb restoration of an Elma Super Elite (as seen elsewhere on these forums), I hope at least to have at the end of it, a perfectly serviceable watch cleaning machine, and a restoration story - of sorts - of a vintage piece of English watch making and servicing machinery.
So first off - the before pictures. This one is a good view of the machine and its cosmetic condition, as purchased. The base is a heavy, cast alloy jobbie, with its original crackle paint job beginning to flake away in places, where the years of cleaning chemicals have attacked it, but generally sound. The jars still had residues of cleaning and rinse chemicals present. The first wash jar (front left), was particularly grotty and can’t have been cleaned for years. Fairly ironic not to clean the thing, that cleans the things! Maybe it was just left unused and unloved for many years.
The mains cable was a cloth-bound type I have not seen in years and could well have been original as it still had the old UK wiring standard colours of red/black/green. Also adding to the vintage-ness, was a very old, Bakelite three pin plug. This must have been one of the first of its type as I have not seen one in brown Bakelite before! (And I am 62...)
Anyway, that’s enough for now, as I’m not even sure anyone wants to read much about such an old machine. If anyone is interested though, please add comments and I’ll add to the story as I make progress.
At the very least, I hope I have found a potential solution to finding/ making your own heating elements for these old machines, which could also include providing replacements for Elma Super Elite, RM80/90 HCS511 etc. Machines. More details later...
I have just purchased an old Brenray watch cleaning machine. I have dismantled everything except the motor. I need to remove the basket holder but I don't know how this is attached. It has a grub screw which I have drilled out since the head was broken, however, the holder won't come off. Is the basket holder attached to the piece above, is it attached directly to the motor shaft or is the whole assembly attached to shaft? Any help with this would be appreciated.
Recently I have become obsessed with ana digi watches from the 1980's! I really dig the style for some reason.
I was looking on ebay in the low price ranges and I found this little nugget for the princely sum of $5.70 - the shipping from Peru was an inflated $20 AUD - so I got away with it for under $30.
It came well packed in a little padded envelope. It was missing the back, had severe damage, but I didn't see any rust stains on the back.
A view from the side
It is a Seiko H127A-5000 - the year could be between 1979 and 1980 - there is a little bit of info around the internet.
The case back will be an insanely rare part to find so I may have to CNC mill something or potentially 3d print a plastic back.
That is if I can get it working.
The Crystal is trash. I've tried sanding it, will wait till I have some crystal polish - I haven't had much luck polishing mineral crystals.
A new crystal is around $35 - with OEM Seiko writing.
I removed the movement and soaked it in WD40 to loosen all the bolts. It was too seized to attempt opening.
The LCD panel/dial has a crack in it. The sub assembly appears clean, the zebra strips on the LCD were a bit gummed up but cleaned up.
Happily the analogue movement was turning over freely, it wasn't ticking - but likely due to so much grit and much on the contacts.
The only corrosion was on the rotor, and some of the non important chrome plated parts.
I've soaked them in shellite. Cleaned with blutac and then inspected under microscope.
Everything appears fine.
It is a very high end movement with 8 jewels and all metal parts - it would have been top of the line back in the day. Very tiny parts.
The main circuit board is out - my it looks complicated.
Simple plain jane movement - nothing fancy: It's all inside:
The bridge is off and the rotor is next to the movement:
Cleaning the case:
Tonight I have finished cleaning everything - I have put it into my movement parts tray - awaiting some time after work tommorow.
If anyone knows how the LCD works please let me know - is the display in the top dial section? Or the next layer down? There is a white mirror presumably to reflect the light off the screen as this is the black model version (there were two models).
Parts look pricey and rare - I've found a dial panel NOS - also crystals online. May have to look for circuit board if its fried -
Can't find any bracelets - may have to go non OEM generic steel band.
Goal is to get it running - if its not running - atleast to be a show piece in my cabinet.
I got kinda jealous when I read a bunch of posts about people using Photoshop or InDesign to mock up dials and print them on decals etc... I mean, I know the real way to refinish a dial is to send it to the professionals, but I've been wanting to try to make some of the cheap and cheerful Bulovas I do be a bit more presentable before I wear them... Been wanting to try some diy approaches, but I always get stopped by the first task: removing the dial markers / indices.
The few posts I've read about diy dial restoration speak about using a pin or tweezers to push the dial markers out from the back... but the vintage Bulova dials I see have totally smooth brass backs with no sign of marker feet or anything... so how do the dial refinishers remove them? Are they riveted on somehow? are they held on by varnish or something??? Anybody know?
Here's a pic of the kind of thing I'm talking about - hopefully someone out there knows how the dial people remove these little markers (and replace them)... inquiring minds want to know
So I picked up this bad boy on eBay from someone in Spain. It's pretty messed up cosmetically, and missing a heeled bush and a removing punch. Considering all that, I definitely overpaid, but oh well. I don't know how rare these are to find on eBay, so I just decided to grab it.
I scraped off all the old flaking paint and found a very similar color paint at Michaels. Not a very professional job and you can see some brush strokes, but all in all it's much better. I know the colors look off in the pictures, but that's a camera white balance issue. In real life the colors are very similar... a completely unattractive greenish gray oatmeal. Why Bergeon used this color I'll never know.
Carefully removed the rust from the metal plate with steel wool and very very fine sandpaper. Did the same with the punches and bushes which had a nice coat of oxidation on them, then put them through the ultrasonic like they were watch parts.
The original chrome plating had worn away on the top knurled nut, but not to fear! I busted out my little Caswell "Plug N Plate" kit and used "copy chrome" (real chrome plating is dangerous and pretty toxic apparently, but I can't see much of a difference between old chrome plate and Caswell's 'copy chrome' - looks about the same).
The biggest unknown was if I could find replacement punches / bushes and yep! I just ordered them from perrinwatchparts.com... they were super expensive. I definitely overpaid for these, but again, oh well. I just wanted the tool to be complete.
So ta da! I now have a Platax tool. I'm going to break out one of my many Bulova movements with a broken staff and experiment with using this tool on the poor thing.
I don't know the I really needed this tool, per se. I have a nutcracker - type roller remover which works pretty well (I might have broken a few staffs by squeezing a little too much, but those staffs were broken anyway), and I have the little K & D balance remover tools for my staking set. I don't see how the Platax tool would be so so much better than the K & D tool, and I'd imagine any objections or concerns about the K & D tool widening the hole in the balance by using force instead of cutting out the old staff would also apply to the Platax tool, no? It also uses force to drive out the old staff while keeping the balance arms pinned. So maybe I didn't strictly need this, but when it popped up on eBay I couldn't resist, because I want to be able to follow along with what Mark does as closely as possible... and I'm still so new at doing this.
So, now I have a Platax tool, a complete 'inverto' K & D staking set (got for under $100, go eBay!), and just picked up a Seitz Jeweling tool (ouch, that was too expensive).
I am now wondering what other real watchmaker specific tools you need to have to be able to deal with most, if certainly not all, the issues you find on vintage watch movements ???
I mean, I'm not going to buy an old mechanical watch washer and put it in my one bedroom apartment in manhattan, not going to happen (at least, not if I don't want my husband to divorce me ). So I make do with a tiny, cheap Chinese made ultrasonic machine. And obviously, I'm not going to buy a lathe either, for similar reasons (space constraints, expense, plus wouldn't know how to even begin to use it)... but I'm wondering if I've covered almost everything else?
In terms of being able to make watch parts, yeah, that's the holy grail. Living in manhattan comes with many advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are obviously space constraints and expense of living. But the advantages are there are lots and lots of resources. In fact, there are a few "Maker Spaces" in the city, which are co-ops you can join and you can use their tools, like CNC mills, CNC lathes, 3D printers, 3D scanners etc etc... you can join these co ops for not much money, and they teach you how to use the tools.... I know that the consensus so far is that 3D printing watch parts won't work, because the machines are not accurate enough on such a small scale. But the CNC lathes? The CNC mills? Could they do micro-machining, in theory? It's something to think about. I think I'll create another thread about that sometime. Maybe I can pick up some good tips.
Anyway, hooray for overpriced watch tools! They are so much fun!
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A whiskey glass has suitable weight to it..
Zero to do with watches, but the place has been a bit quiet and if all we talk about is watches, well, no one gets to know anyone. Five years ago after 25 years of professional services, I completely lost my mind and bought a defunct manufacturing business and have slowly been building it up. Here's some shots I took yesterday of a couple of current projects we're just finishing up; a medium size box girder overhead crane and a lugger truck body. Apparently we've got an 80ton crane coming in; 110' long, 5' box girder - that's a large crane! I mess about with machining, welding, electronics and bit of clocks and watches for kicks in my home shop, but I've a lot pride in the team here, these are the people who really know what they are doing. Hopefully we get some more day job "show and tell"s....
No problem, a tumbler is good as they're heavy enough that they're unlikely to get knocked or blown by a gust of wind.
Wow, I feel like an idiot haha. I shouldve thought of that... thank you!