Sunday, June 3, 2007

Grand Complication

There are no small watch parts.

Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, self-taught watchmaker Ernest R. Tope learned the ropes first through helpful watchmakers willing to pass on their knowledge and later honed his skills as the resident watch repairer at a Florida jewelry shop for twelve years. First studying and practicing watch repair, then later as a Factory Trained Rolex Technician.

Like most future watchmakers, Ernest's curiosity began when he was young and helped foster his interest in all things mechanical. With a varied work history, Ernest settled into life as a watchmaker repairing standard watches, but also taking on such challenges as a watch with an ivory movement, a minuscule Patek Philippe hunter case pocket watch as well as an Hamilton 992E with Lucite plates--far beyond the usual skeletonized movement.

His education has brought him in touch with Henry Fried and his work has included, Breguet, Audemars Piguet and Chronoswiss.

Curious? Then read on and enjoy.

PR: So, let's start off with the basics; how old are you and where were you born and raised?

ET: I was born in Tampa, Florida in 1951 and grew up there for most of my life.

PR: Where were you trained in watch repair? What was that like?

ET: I received no formal education in watch repair. Mostly I learned by applying my experience in life with reference material and what I could garner from other watchmakers. Fortunately most watchmakers I know are willing and sometimes eager to share knowledge. Much written material exists and is usually a very reliable source for the basic concepts. The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute has been instrumental in providing current wisdom.

PR: What was your first professional position and with whom?

ET: My first position was with a small independently owned jewelry store. There I began to learn the watch repair trade that went along with the skills I had studied.

PR: How did your childhood education, or experiences affect your decision to enter Watchmaking?

ET: Many a watchmaker dismantled their toys to see how they worked. I was no different. I learned to love mechanical things and focus on how they functioned. Eventually it was this love for mechanical things that drew me to watch restoration as a vocation. I still love discovering a mechanism of which I am not familiar.

PR: What did you do before becoming a watch repairer?

ET: I had been a Motorcycle Mechanic, a Firefighter and a Cabinet Maker not to mention a few other endeavors.

PR: Any idea what your old school friends are doing these days?

ET: I know what a few are doing. But your question has made me realize that I haven’t kept up with most of them. As I grow older I see that I was not inclined to keep long term relationships with more than a few special friends. Wonder if I’m missing anything.

PR: Are you a watch repairer, or a watch maker? Do you see a difference in these two terms, or occupations?

ET: Semantics for the most part, the term watchmaker implies to me those who work with watches. There are all levels of skills and applications that are covered under the same term. If you want to understand how the industry delineates these skills, you could examine the Official Standards and Practices for the Preparation, Education, and Certification of Twenty First Century Watchmakers. This can be found on the web at:

Some feel that true "Watchmakers" should be able to make a watch from scratch. I think they should be able to competently service a fine watch without damaging or degrading it in any way. That takes a certain level of skill, knowledge, and integrity with ethical standards. I have been doing that for a long time now.

PR: What was the first watch you owned? Do you still have it?

ET: Absolutely not, actually I remember leaving it on the back bumper of the family car while I was playing. My Mom drove off and I never saw it again.

PR: What was the first watch you ever repaired, either professionally, or before?

ET: It was an old Studebaker pocket watch. Not worth much and not much confidence.

PR: Any opinion on the decline that mechanical watches and Switzerland in particular, saw during the sixties and seventies?

ET: No real opinion.

PR: Was it the fault of the Swiss makers, or the cheap, accurate imports that entered the market? Who is to blame for that downturn?

ET: It was in the stars my friend.

PR: What do you think fostered the upswing in the eighties?

ET: It was brilliant marketing on the part of geniuses.

PR: How did the downturn and upswing affect your business?

ET: I became a bench jeweler because of the rumors and forecasts of various speculators. I returned to Watchmaking in the later eighties because I landed work at an Official Rolex Dealer. From then on it has been watches only.

PR: How do you feel about the ever increasingly complicated watches we're seeing these days?

ET: I like it because servicing them is my specialty. I am concerned at the number of beautiful and valuable watches that receive inappropriate treatment by the uniformed. Every watchmaker of high caliber complains of seeing watches that have been abused. The fastest way to demolish a fine complicated watch is to put it in the hands of the unqualified. I think there will be a great shortage of qualified people to service such fine mechanisms. Only when the owners become savvy in knowing who is qualified will they be free from that threat.

PR: Do you feel these will be a boon to new watchmakers, or a hindrance with their highly technical nature?

ET: Both, they will be more expensive (time consuming) to service and more subject to abuse (inadvertent damage). On the other hand, the owners who enjoy them are willing to pay for competent service and are delighted when the watch performs well. That means the competent watchmaker would have plenty of good paying work.

PR: How did you first learn about the American Watchmakers Institute? How long have you been a member?

ET: I joined when I learned of it in 1984. A fellow watchmaker invited me to a local gild meeting and educated me about the organization. I’ve been a member ever since.

PR: Do you have a mentor, or a watchmaker you hold in high regard?

ET: There are many but I suppose the guy that sticks out is the late Henry Fried. I learned from his books and later had the opportunity to spend a little time with him. He was amazing and a giant role model for the Horologist.

PR: Where do you see the watch repair business heading?

ET: It will be interesting to watch. I am not sure how the independent repairer will be supported by industry. As long as they are there will be some. Factory service will always be challenged to keep up with service for the large numbers of watches being

PR: Will you be going along for the ride, or will you go on to other things?

ET: My work is not the mainstream. I repair and restore watches that others do not. This is an area where there is no industry support to rely upon. I have more restoration work than I can do. You might say I am independent of industry. Lately I have been toying with making unique watches and admit I am drawn to that possibility. There will be more on that in the future.

PR: Are you where you pictured yourself as a young man, work wise?

ET: As a young man I thought I would have to work to survive. Now I know I can thrive without working. I never thought making money would be so much fun.

PR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

ET: Independent Horology, designing and making unusual watches.

PR: Do you have a favorite maker, or watch company?

ET: I could declare a favorite but actually it keeps changing depending on what marvel comes across my bench. Some of the finest watches I have seen were not signed. Anonymous was the most prolific watchmaker. Can you imagine a watch sold today without a makers name on it?

PR: When not at the bench, how do you spend your time?

ET: Self-discovery, I am on a great journey to know and love myself. This requires much self-observation and meditation. Freeing myself of the constraints of my past is a great pastime. I have no big hobbies or boy toys, just a big delightfully interesting world to be part of.

PR: What was your most difficult project, either difficult because it was complicated work, or just plain hard and nasty?

ET: The biggest challenge so far was making a spring detent for an English pocket chronometer. I may have found something harder now. Currently I am making an escape wheel for an extremely small cylinder watch. The wheel is 2.8mm in tooth diameter and .25mm high. It must be easy; the original was made before electricity came into popular use.

[Editor's note: Here is a link to a website discussing a spring detent]

PR: What was your easiest project?

ET: Can’t remember.

PR: Are you a "strap and battery" repairer, or do you turn your nose up at that sort of watch repair work?

ET: I still do that stuff for my friends.

PR: What is the silliest question a customer ever asked you?

ET: How often should I wind my quarts watch?

PR: Are watch repairers a cloistered lot? Are "outsiders" welcomed?

ET: There are all kinds but I find most friendly and willing to share information to those who respect their time. They may not welcome others who ask many questions instead of dong the research. It’s like asking for a free appraisal and historical evaluation on the back of the repair envelope. I have been bugged excessively for explanations to the novice. Try that with your lawyer or auto mechanic and see what happens. Generally, watchmakers are much nicer when they tell someone to get lost. When adequate respect for time is apparent most watchmakers will welcome anyone.

PR: What advice do you have for people like me, who wish to make this a new career, or a hobby?

ET: Research, Research, Research, and be real about your ability. The largest impediment to achieving success is a poor attitude. Give yourself full credit for what you know and acknowledge there are multitudes of things that you do not know. Discovering those things is a great adventure.

PR: What is your best kept secret, or tip for repair work?

ET: What goes poorly today may go miraculously tomorrow. Emotional stability and a sense of opportunity in whatever is happening serve me well in my work and my life. Now don’t tell anybody know.

PR: And lastly, ties: A single Windsor, or a double Windsor knot?

ET: I do not like to wear one. When forced I like one of those clip on ones from the 70’s. When there is absolutely no choice in the mater I will use a Windsor. Never heard of a double Windsor. Must be a different culture.

I'd like to thank Ernest for taking the time to participate with this interview. The experiences Ernest has not only encountered, but sought out are proof to all of us interested in Watchmaking, that it is possible--whether success, pleasure with our work, or fixing the hither to believed unfixable. Thank you, Ernest.

If you'd like to contact Ernest to inquire about his services, please visit his website at:

Email at:

Or call:

(813) 505-9749

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cleaning & Oiling A Bulova 10BC Movement

One of my favorite watches took a nasty spill and the upper pivot on the balance staff broke.

After acquiring another 10BC movement from Larry Foord, I proceeded with a pretty standard cleaning and oiling.

I was pleased to see that the replacement movement was a 17 jewel 10BC, so I swapped it for my 7 jewel 10BC.

The new movement was missing the barrel ratchet wheel, the hour wheel, the canon pinion and the upper pivot on the pallet arbor was broken, but the balance and hairspring were perfect.

After disassembling and hand cleaning the new movement, I separated the parts.

After the cleaning process, I used wooden skewers to clean out the jewel holes, being careful not to crack one. I also removed the cap jewel for the pallet arbor lower pivot and cleaned that.

Here are pics of the pillar plate:

And the dial side:

To avoid smudges I did a preliminary wiping of the bridges and plate with Rodico. A more though cleaning would happen after the movement is assembled.

Here we see the damaged pallet fork and arbor from the replacement movement. The missing pivot is quite obvious, even on so small a part.

Here is the first step in assembly; the pallet arbor and fork (PA&F) are set in place and the PA&F bridge is carefully set onto the upper pivot.

Here, all the pics are from the 7 jewel movement. As I got going on assembling the 17 jewel movement, I became careless and didn't take any pictures. So the 7 jewel will have to sit in for the 17 jewel movement. The layout is identical, however.

Next, the escape wheel is put in place.

Then, the fourth wheel--the gear which moves the sub-second hand.

Next, the third wheel--the gear which moves the minutes hand.

And lastly, the second wheel, or center wheel--the gear which moves the hour hand.

Here the bridge has been replaced. On a personal note, I've noticed it's far easier to place the bridges down on high jeweled watches. These seven jewel movements are tough, because there isn't a colour contrast between the pivots and holes, like a jewel will give you.

Here the barrel is placed in position.

And here the barrel bridge in put in place.

Here, the click spring gave me some grief on the 17 jewel movement. The click had jumped the spring, so I had to remove the click, so as to get the spring back behind the stud located on the underside of the click. Thirty minutes later, I was victorious and the click spring was my defeated enemy!

To crush your click springs, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the winding clicks!

Lastly, the balance goes into place.

This video may be downloaded for free from Rapidshare

Here is a video of the 17 jewel movement ticking along nicely.

This video may be downloaded for free from Rapidshare

Thursday, May 24, 2007


To all my readers, I apologize for my laziness in posting.

I don't want to turn this into a "personal" blog, so I'll keep it short. My father had some health issues, which have been clearing up very well. I've been helping my mother to care for him and have been putting out fires around the house; so things like studying and blogging have fallen by the wayside.

Starting next week, I will be making regular postings and updating the Chicago School Of Watchmaking section, as well as all the other sections. I especially hope to have a new Grande Complication interview up sooner, than later.

You've all been very patient and I look forward to interacting with you as much as possible over the next year--and beyond.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Custom Made Watch Dials

Received a heads up from reader Dennis Brooker on his custom made dials.

His dials are made using genuine shell materials and Swarovski crystal, etched carbon fiber, holographic background materials, real wood and rattlesnake skin. Dennis has also created a new high quality luminous film which is comparable to any luminous material now offered.

They are available for 35mm and 40mm watches in both quartz and auto. Your name, initials, a monogram, a military insignia or logo can be imprinted on to any of the dials.

My personal faves are the carbon fiber dials:

Check out Dennis Brooker's website for more info:


Good news for this weeks Autonomie; I had my first comment!

Reader rrwatch pointed out that the Chicago School Of Watchmaking course left out a couple of important setting mechanisms from their course: The key set and pin.

From Christoph Ozdoba's website:

"...the shaft where you insert the key to set the watch is usually directly in the center."

"In the picture above, the red arrow shows the little pusher that you have to operate (best with the nail of your thumb) if you want to set the watch: Push it in, and then turn the crown to set the hands."

The key set featured both front and back setting squares and the pin set--as is found on the Model 1870 Waltham.

I haven't made a new post on the Chicago School Of Watchmaking for several days and I apologize. I haven't had too much time to study, which is not an excuse. I hope to start posting daily, rather than catch as catch can, as I have been doing.

I posted info about my blog on several watch forums to mark the one month anniversary of the What Does Your Watch Say? blog. Response has been good, but I'm still looking for your comments and emails, readers.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Longines Legend Diver update

Some new info and pics about my favorite and yours, the Longines Legend Diver re-issue.

To be made available between September and December 2007 for approximately $1,900 US.

Reference No. L3.674.4.56.2
Mechanical automatic movement Longines L633 (ETA 2824/2) 11½ lines, 25 rubies, 28,800 beats per hour power reserve of 38 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes and second
Case: Round, stainless steel, with internal rotating bezel, two screw down crowns and back "plunger" or diver symbol stamped on the case back 42 mm
Dial: Black dial enameled with index hour markers with luminescence superluminova
Hands: Polished rhodium with luminescence superluminova
Water resistant: Up to 300 Meters
Crystals: Convex sapphire,
Black synthetic Bracelet with Longines signed deployment clasp

Troughout the text below, are pics of an original Longines diver from the 1960's.

The Longines Legend Diver, produced by the pioneers of the sport of diving and their exploits, this Longines line "Sport Legends" pays homage to the pioneers of the sport and their exploits timed by Longines.

The Longines Legend Diver is a re-issue of a diving watch produced in 1960, when marine exploration and the military and sport diving were in their glory. Longines had participated in the record dive of the Bathyscaphe "Trieste" in 1953 by providing on board instruments.

While preserving the typical spirit and the design of the sixties, Longines presents this vintage design with contemporary and powerful new design features: a convex sapphire glass, crown and back screwed down to guarantee a water tightness of 300m; a rotating disc under the top glass.

This watch brings together, in a legendary style, high performance and timeless elegance. From the very start of the 20th century, the symbol with the winged hour glass has been successively associated with the legendary names of pioneers such as the commander P.v.H. Weems, Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes and Donald Campbell, in the fields of aviation, of terrestrial and underwater exploration, but also in land speed records on the ground and in water.

The pinnacle of the Longines Sport Collection, this model in the Sport Legends line, the Legend Diver, shows off a highly powerful diving tool matched by the design revival of classic watches. Revisiting a model from 1960 a period in the pioneer spirit of diving records to which Longines took it's rightful share--in particular that of the Bathyscaphe "Trieste" to 3150 meters, in September 1953--it brings back the principal lines and in particular the convex glass, reminiscent of the unavailable at the time technical ideas, but carried out with the then available tolerances and high performances matching the dive watches we see today.

Its stainless steel case is 42 mm and has a screwed back, engraved with a diver.

The two screw down crowns are decorated with a fine criss-cross pattern, which is matched on the loop of the synthetic bracelet, carrying forth the pure spirit of the 1960' S. One of the crowns controls and locks the time lapse disc turning bi-directional under the crystal, making it possible to determine the remaining time of dive.

The luminescent indice hour markers and figures are coated in superluminova of the enameled black dial offer an optimal legibility, increased by the sober and clear typography of the figures 3, 6, 9 and 12.

A genuine dive watch, the Legend Diver is watertight to 300 meters. It is equipped with a mechanical movement, automatic Longines L633 with a power reserve of 45 hours.

Some more pics of the original model

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Chicago School Of Watchmaking Lesson 2

Master Watchmaking
A Modern, Complete, Practical Course
By Thomas B. Sweazey and Byron G. Sweazey.

The Chicago School of Watchmaking was founded in 1908 by Thomas b. Sweazey.


There are two types of part assortments available: bulk assortments which are not separated. And pre-sorted assortments, which cost more, but are easier to use.

In American watches there are three types of setting arrangements:

The first is the pendant set which uses s stem and sleeve and sits inside the watchcase and is sometimes called a Negative Setting.

The second type of setting is called a Swiss setting and the stem is a part of the movement and is sometimes called a Positive Setting.

The third type of setting is called a lever set and it uses a set lever operated by the finger nail and is mostly used in railroad watches.

Section 49:
A sleeve is screwed inside the watchcase pendant. The top of the sleeve is threaded, as is the upper part of the pendant inside. The sleeve with the stem inside is screwed into the watchcase pendant with a sleeve wrench. The bottom of the sleeve is sectioned like four fingers, which grip the bottom of the stem in two places; the bottom notch for winding and the top notch for setting. The crown is screwed onto the top of the stem, which is threaded.

Section 42:
When removing a movement from a case which has full head screws, you need only remove the lower screw, loosen the top screw slightly, pull up the crown into the setting position and the movement will come out of the case.

Section 43:
To remove the crown from the stem, after the movement has been removed from the case, hold the winding square with a pair of flat nose pliers and turn the crown to the left with your right hand.

Section 44:
Sleeve wrenches have prongs with either two, or four lugs on the ends of the prongs. The wrench is placed inside the pendant of the watchcase to unscrew the sleeve. On some watches, the sleeve is old and cannot be removed with the sleeve wrench. In this case, remove the stem from the sleeve and use a square file, or broach to unscrew the sleeve from the pendant. Adjustments are done to the sleeve inside the pendant, with the stem still inside the sleeve.

Section 45:
Using the sleeve wrench, place the correct size prong inside the pendant and turn the wrench to the left and continue doing so until the sleeve is free of the pendant and case. the, remove the stem through the bottom of the sleeve.

Section 47:
When selecting a new sleeve, make sure the diameter of the threaded top is correct, that the threads are the correct pitch and that the length is correct.

Section 48:
If a thread breaks off inside the crown which is made of gold, rolled gold, gold plate, or nickle, soak the crown in a solution of water and alum to dissolve the steel thread.

Section 49:
When replacing the crown, make sure the threads fit the stem threads and fits over the pendant.


Well, this section called Autonomie, was suppose to be a showcase for comments, or emails that I found particularly insightful, or interesting. Unfortunately, I haven't had any comments, or emails. So I've decided to use this first post to talk about how this blog is going.

The three interviews in the Grande Complication section were wonderful. Many thanks to dAz, Frank and Larry for participating and sharing their time and experience. I believe that Grande Complicaton will be one of the more important features of this blog, simply because by using the ideas, wisdom and experience of the people I interview, all new comers to horology will be able to have access to decades of knowledge, the type we would not normally be able to access.

I was hitting them outta the park with dAz, Frank and Larry, but for all my efforts, I have not been able to find an interviewee for this week. if I can't find someone by Thursday, Grande Complication will be a no go this week.

Seconde Morte has been a fun section to work on, since I get to present watches that turn my eye and share some sweet pics of those same watches with all of you. Next week I'll be presenting a watch from my own collection.

Lastly, The Chicago School Of Watchmaking course, the main purpose of this blog, has been fun to present. I think the pics and videos will go a long way to helping newbies like myself see the work, rather than just read about it. I genuinely hope this will be the most popular section of my blog.

That's it for now. I hope the people who have been kind enough to stop by will take a moment and leave a comment and let me know what you think. Share your ideas, thoughts, questions and opinions.

Seconde Morte

The Hamilton 992 B Railroad Watch

Railroad watches were arguably the highest grade watches made, only surpassed in time keeping quality by presentation watches and navigational chronometers. However, just what is a railroad watch?

Railroad watches, commonly called "standard watches" by the railroad industry, (because they met the railroad's standard), are watches that were accepted for railroad time service. At first, different railroads accepted different watches. While some railroads listed specific makes and grades as acceptable, others just listed requirements. The requirements differed from decade to decade. Also, "grandfathered" watches--those that were permitted to remain in service--as opposed to those newly entering service, varied from railroad to railroad and from decade to decade.

The Pennsylvania Rail Road purchased watches and published this rule:

"Each engineer will be furnished with a watch which shall be regulated by the Station Agent at the commencement of each trip and must be deposited with him when the engine returns. If not returned in as good order as it was received, the Engineer must pay the expense of repairs."

P.R.R. 1849

Conductors, however, furnished their own timepieces. This practice of loaning out watches to engineers was dropped shortly thereafter, most likely because the watches were starting to find their way into pawn shops

Within a few short years, the 15-jewel standard watch, still accepted for entering service on many railroads, was an economic disaster. In 1894, Waltham, just after introducing the 17-jewel Vanguard Model '92, was forced to add upper and lower center jewels to the 15-jewel model `83's remaining in inventory, and engrave them to be 17-jewel watches in order to dispose of them. It was toward the later half of this decade that higher jeweled watches, those having 21 jewels or more, were introduced.

Although the 18 size watches were the industry workhorse during this period, new 16 size watches began to appear in massive quantities. Hamilton's 992 was the most successful of these with over 100,000 sold in just a few short years. Despite Ball's rules for the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Division of the P.R.R., the move towards tighter requirements occurred. By 1908 the widely known and familiar requirements were almost universally in place:

Standard Requirements

(General - not from any specific set of rules)

Watches be:

American made 18 or 16 size

Fitted with 17 or more jewels

Temperature compensated

Adjusted to 5 positions

Lever Set

Timed to +/- 30 sec/week

Fitted with a:

  • Double roller
  • Patented regulator
  • Steel escape wheel

Plain while dial (but "Silvered" dials were allowed through the teens) having:

  • Black Arabic numerals
  • Each minute delineated

Open face

Configured with the winding stem at 12 O'clock

As for the 16-size watch, the 21-jewel model would be accepted for service for the next 30 years.

April 1, 1949


The minimum standard of WATCHES NOW IN SERVICE is a grade equal to what is known among American Railroad Movements as "NICKEL 17-JEWELS, BREGUET HAIRSPRING, PATENT REGULATOR, LEVER SET, ADJUSTED TO TEMPERATURE AND THREE POSITIONS," that will run within a variation of thirty seconds per week.

The post-war watches reduced down pretty quickly to the Waltham grade 1623 Vanguard, the Hamilton 992B (and Ball 999B) and the Elgin grade 571 B.W. Raymond. There were a few others, but hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of these three watches were built in the post war era.

Hamilton outlasted both Elgin and Waltham by a number of years. In doing so, it managed to produce the last railroad standard pocket watch to be made in the U.S., the 992B. This watch was in continuous production from 1941 to 1969. At that time, all Hamilton manufacturing in the U.S. ceased. At over 500,000 made, the 992B had the second largest production quantity of U.S.-built standard pocket watches, exceeded only by the original 992.

The next best thing after the 992 from Hamilton and the best known RR grade pocket watch of all time is the 992B from a bit later in history. Some differences noticeable are pressed jewels and the solid gold plate bridges on the escape wheel and pallet fork.

Good time for this model watch was +/- 30 seconds each week. Even if a watch is 99.9% accurate, it may well still be off by a minute and a half in only 24 hours. The Hamilton movement's accuracy is about 99.9977%, or +/- 3 seconds a day. A modern quartz watch is 99.9998% accurate, or +/- 1 second a day.

Godzilla Says...


Here's a video of me removing and replacing a movement from a case.

It's my first video, so cut me some slack, ok 8^)

Check out the Homer Simpson moment at 1 minute 12 seconds; that case back was going on one way, or another!

It's a big file, over 28 megs, so give it some time to load.

You can also download the file from Rapid Share for free, just follow the link:

Uncasing A Movement

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Chicago School Of Watchmaking Lesson 1

Master Watchmaking
A Modern, Complete, Practical Course
By Thomas B. Sweazey and Byron G. Sweazey.

The Chicago School of Watchmaking was founded in 1908 by Thomas b. Sweazey.


Section 3:
Master every job and all steps and speed will come with experience.

Section 12:
The first watch was made in 1500. In 1587 watchmaking as an industry was introduced in Geneva, Switzerland by Charles Cusin.

In 1635, enameling was invented by Paul Viet, a Frenchman.

The balance was introduced in 1658. While the minute hand came in to use in 1687. In 1700, jewels began to be used to support gear pivots.

The compensating balance was introduced in 1749, while in 1780 the seconds hand was created.

Section 13:
In 1819, Aaron L. Dennison began building watches by machine. His method of measurement was derived from the English measurement of 1 inch and 30th of an inch.

Dennison used 6|30 of an inch for the "fall". The fall was used by English watchmakers, making the pillar plate small enough to fit into the handmade watchcase.

With 1|30 being the measurement, an 18 size watch would measure 1 inch and 6|30 of an inch for the fall and 18|30 of an inch for the watch size; so the total size would then be 1 inch and 24|30 of an inch.

For watches which are 16 size, down to 0 size, (oh size, or naught size) the measurement is 5|30 of an inch for the fall. So a 16s would measure 1 inch plus 5|30 plus 16|30 making the total measurement 1 inch and 21|30 inch.

Dennison decided to move his factory from Boston to Waltham in 1851.

Section 16:
Screws were used on the pillar plate at the four o'clock position, while a pin was placed diagonally across at the 10 o'clock position in order to hold the movement inside the case, but also to make aligning the 12 hour marker directly center of the pendant easier.

Section 17:
Eventually screws were made long enough, that they could be screwed through both the top plate and bottom plate to hold the movement in the case. The problem with half head screws of tempered metal, is that the constant turning of the screws milled away the portion of the watch case, needing a washer to hold the movement in the case. This was remedied by introducing full head screws, which require removing the entire full head screws from the plates before removing the movement from the case.

Section 19:
The hunter case is comprised of several parts: The front and back lids and the cap are all held to the center by hinges, or joints, the bezel is snapped onto the center.

Section 22:
On snap back cases, a small lip, or cut out is present, so that a thin blade, or case knife may be inserted under the lip, or into the cut out to pry open the front and back. When replacing the front and back lids, the lip, or cut out should be slightly right of the crown.

Section 23:
Shaped cases are built with a key or pin in the center which fits onto the key seat. When replacing the back and bezel, it is important to make sure the key seat is directly over the key.

Section 24:
Swing out cases have a dust proof crown, stem and sleeve. Under the crown is a nut that screws down onto the outside of pendant and under this nut is a leather washer. To make adjustments to the sleeve, you must first unscrew the crown from the stem and then unscrew the nut off the pendant.

Section 29:
In older style cases for lever set movements, there is no sleeve. To remove the stem, you must unscrew the screw located on the pendant just enough, to be able to pull out the stem using the crown.

Section 33:
When trying to remove a movement from a case that is stuck, use the right thumb nail to apply pressure on the movement to ease it out of the case onto your waiting hand.

Section 34:
When taking a movement out of the case, or picking up a movement, be sure to use watch paper to avoid leaving prints on the dial, or movement.

Section 36:
When polishing a badly tarnished watchcase using a red cloth, blow some breath onto the case to moisten it to help with the polishing.

Section 38:
To replace the movement in the case, put the movement in by starting the stem in the winding arbor and fitting the movement into place. Then, while holding the dial side with the nail of your first finger on your left hand, turn the case over and place the movement screws in their slots and screw them in.

Section 39:
Place the crown into the winding position and turn it to be sure the movement is perfectly centered. Then screw in the movement screws just tight enough to keep the movement in place.


Assignment No. 2: Sections 12-25

Q1. How are sizes of American watches determined?
A1. American watch sizes are determined by using the English 30th of an inch. An 18 size movement would be 1 inch plus 6|30 of an inch for the fall and 18|30 of an inch for the watch size, for a total of 1 and 24|30th of an inch. A 16 size, down to a 0 size would be 1 inch plus 5|30th of an inch for the fall plus 16|30 of an inch for the watch size, for a total of 1 and 21|30th of an inch.

Q2. What is a case screw and what is its purpose?
A2. A case screw is used to hold the movement inside the watchcase.

Q3. Why are full head case screws considered better than half head?
A3. Full head screws are better than half head screws because the screw is made of milled steel and can wear away the case. A full head screw will not.

Q4. What is the crown and what is its purpose?
A4. The crown sits atop the pendant and is used to set the time and wind the mainspring.

Q5. What is a bezel?
A5. The bezel holds the crystal and sits on top of the watchcase center, protecting the dial and hands.

Q6. Why are screw bezels and snap bezels so called?
A6. A screw bezel screws onto threads located on the case center. A snap bezel snaps tightly onto the case center.

Q7. What is a screw back?
A7. A screw back is a watchcase with threads on the center, so the back may be screwed on.

Q8. What is a back back?
A8. A back back is what the watchcase back cover is properly called.

Q9. What is the center?
A9. The center is the middle of the watchcase where the bezel and back attach to.

Assignment No. 3: Sections 26-40

Q1. What tools are required to remove and replace a movement in its case?
A1. The tools required to remove and replace a movement in its case are a screwdriver, tweezers and watch paper.

Q2. What is the right way to hold and use screw drivers?
A2. The right way to hold and use a screw driver is by holding the shank between the thumb and middle finger, with the forefinger on the top twisting the screw driver with the thumb and middle finger. It may also be held with the top in the palm and the thumb, middle and fore finger on the shank twisting the screw driver.

Q3. What is the correct way to hold tweezers?
A3. The correct way to hold tweezers is by resting them on the middle finger and using the thumb and forefinger on the blades. Also, you may hold the blades between the thumb and forefinger, with the butt of the shank in the palm.

Q4. What steps are necessary to remove and replace a movement in the case?
A4a. To remove and replace a movement in the case, first unscrew the front back and back back, or snap them off, if a snap back case. Unscrew the movement screws and remove them from the movement. Pull the crown out to the set position and lift out the movement, holding it between a piece of watch paper.

A4b. To replace the movement, put the movement into the case by starting the stem in the winding arbor. Keep the dial up and make sure the movement is centered by moving the crown to and fro. hold the case between the thumb and middle finger and use the nail of the left forefinger to hold the movement in place. Use the screw driver to set the screws down tight enough to hold the movement.

Q5. Why should you use tissue when handling watch movements?
A5. I should use tissue when handling a watch movement to avoid getting finger prints on the dial, or movement.

Q6. Why should the movement be placed in a tray and covered?
A6. The movement should be placed in a tray and covered to keep dust off the movement, to avoid losing parts and to avoid damage caused by something falling on the movement.

Q7. How should a case be polished?
A7. The watch case should be polished by placing it in a two sided polishing cloth. Open the cloth like a book to expose the red cloth and rub the watchcase until polished. If the case is very tarnished, breath on it to moisten the case to help the polishing.

Progress Check 1A:

Q1: A man who repairs watch movements is commonly called a___.
A1. Commonly called a watchmaker, or a watch repairer.

Q2. Watches are generally classified as___watches and___watches.
A2. Generally classified as screw back watches and snap back watches.
Watches are generally classified as pocket watches and wrist watches.

Q3. The most important thing about a bench for proper work is its___.
A3. The most important thing about a bench is its height.

Q4. A Master Bench has an___to catch anything that might slip off the bench.
A4. A master bench has an apron.

Q5. Additional means to keep small parts from rolling off are___.
A5. Additional means are a groove along the front edge and a guard rail on the sides and back.

Q6. Watch work is best done on a___surface.
A6. Watch work is best done on a smooth surface.
Watch work is best done on a white gloss free surface.

Q7. The tools used___should be stored nearest at hand.
A7. The tools used most commonly should be near at hand.

Q8. To avoid tiring the eyes, the watchmaker should have___.
A8. The watchmaker should have a loupe.
To avoid tiring the eyes, the watchmaker should have good light.

Q9. Watchmaker's benches have a standard height of___inches.
A9. Watchmaker's bench has a standard height of 38 inches.

Q10. A___set is desirable at the bench.
A10. A comfortable seat is desirable at the bench.
A low seat is desirable at the bench.

Progress Check 1B:

Q1. The first watches were made about the year___.
A1. The first watches were made about the year 1500.

Q2. In 18 size watches, the amount allowed for the "fall" is___thirtieths of an inch.
A2. Eighteen size watch have a "fall" of 6|30th of an inch.

Q3. In 16 size and smaller watches, only___thirtieths of an inch is allowed for the fall.
A3. Sixteen size and smaller watches have 5|30th of an inch for the "fall."

Q4. American manufacturers use___to hold the movement in place.
A4. Movement screws are used to hold the movement in place in American watches.
American manufacturers use case case screws to hold the movement in place.

Q5. The best type of case screw has a___head.
A5. Full head case screws are the best.

Q6. A watch which has two lids or backs is said to have a___case.
A6. A hunter case has two lids or backs.

Q7. When the bezel and back can be snapped on, the case is known as a___case.
A7. A snap case has the bezel and back snapped on.

Q8. Some types of cases must be opened with a___.
A8. A watch blade must be used to open some types of cases.
Some types of cases must be opened with a case opener.

Q9. When both bezel and back screw on, the case is known as a___case.
A9. A screw back case has both the bezel and back screwed on.
When both bezel and back screw on, the case is known as a screw bezel and screw back case.

Q10. Where the movement is contained in a hinged inner ring, the case is called a___case.
A10. A swing out case has a hinged inner ring.

Progress Check 1C:

Q1. The first step in taking a movement from its case is usually to remove the___.
A1. When taking movement from the case, first remove the bezel.
the first step in removing a movement from its case is usually to remove the back.

Q2. Next, the stem is ordinarily___to free the movement.
A2. Place the stem into the set position.

Q3. The width of the screw driver blade should be___the width of the screw head.
A3. The screw driver width should be as close as possible to the width of the screw head.

Q4. Watch parts are preferably handled with___.
A4. Handle watch parts with tweezers.

Q5. ___pressure should be applied to tweezers in working with watch parts.
A5. Light pressure should be used with tweezers.

Q6. You can avoid finger prints by using___in handling the movement.
A6. Use tissue paper to avoid finger prints on movements.

Q7. A movement should always be held by the___.
A7. A movement should always be held by the edge.

Q8. A good habit to form is to place small parts in a___.
A8. Place small parts in a parts tray.

Q9. Cleaning a watch should also include cleaning the___.
A9. When cleaning the watch, also clean the case.

Q10. it is important to___the movement before tightening the case screws.
A10. Center the movement before tightening the case screws.

Chicago School Of Watchmaking

This is my first entry about my education in watch repairing and watchmaking. This won't be a weekly posting, like the other sections; I will post daily updates of what I have learned, the exercises and practical work in the course and answers to the test questions throughout each chapter.

As far as I know, the course has become public domain, so I do not believe I will be breaking any copyright laws. However, I will not be posting the course in it's entirety, or posting scans of the course pages. Only what I have learned that day.

I will also be including pictures and hopefully video posts of the hands-on work. I hope that this feature will be a record that students will be able to follow and learn from. As I learn, so will you. And more importantly, my mistakes will be on display as well.

I don't believe in "learning" from my mistakes. When you learn from a mistake, all you're doing is leaning how to make the same mistake over again, but more efficiently. When I make a mistake, I move on and do a thing again. I know that sounds like the same thing, but it's not in that, I do not analyze mistakes, I analyze success. Do a thing wrong; move on. Do a thing right, examine it and remember the actions, or steps that arrived at the correct result and then move on.

If you would like to follow along, or get a copy of the course for your own study, you can check out a copy from the NAWCC Library, (members only,) buy a copy from Larry Foord, or possibly find a copy either on disk, or hard copy on Ebay.

I'll be flying along pretty fast over the next few days, simply because I've already studied the first three chapters of the course. Starting next week, I will begin the daily postings.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Grande Complication

For Larry Foord, horology isn't just a passion, it's in the blood.

Larry Foord, is the webmaster of the popular website, Uncle Larry's Watch Shop. He entered the horology business fifteen years ago, but has been collecting and dealing in clocks and watches since his early 30’s. After going into semi-retirement and making his hobby of horology his new career, Larry has been providing watch supplies, parts, tools and books to watchmakers and collectors alike, since 1995.

Operating his business out of Woodstock, Ontario, Larry is also an appraiser on the Canadian Antiques Roadshow, a spin-off the long running BBC Antiques Roadshow. Larry is a self-taught watch repairer, is enjoying a new career providing materials to watch repairers worldwide and appraising timepieces on television, as well as being a member of NAWCC Chapter 33 located in Toronto, Ontario.

My favorite part of this interview was in closing this installment of Grande Complication, Larry has provided a delightful story which goes a long way to proving that watchmaking is quite possibly genetic and runs in the blood.

Curious? Then read on and enjoy.

PR: So, let's start off with the basics; how old are you and where were you born and raised?

LF: Raised on a farm in St. Catharines, ON, but moved here (to Woodstock, ON) in my youth and consider it to be "home", we are 62 years old.

PR: Were you trained in watch repair? What was that like?

LF: Self trained, primarily with the Chicago Watchmaking School home study course, and enjoyed every moment of "learning".

PR: What was your first professional position and with whom?

LF: Have always been self employed, semi-retired at 50 and went into the horological business as a means of keeping food on the table most nights since I really couldn't afford to retire.

PR: How did your childhood education, or experiences effect your interest in horology?

LF: Although I was always into "mechanical things" my horology interest really didn't begin until about 15 years ago.

PR: What did you do professionally before deciding to run your horology business full time?

LF: When I retired about 12 years ago, horology became my retirement/full time occupation.

PR: What made you decide to begin an horology business?

LF: It was a logical step, turning a hobby/interest into a business.

PR: Do you see a difference in the terms watch repairer, and watchmaker; or is there a difference?

LF: Watchmaker is very much a misnomer, in today's terms it is used loosely as someone who fixes watches. Sadly the true "watchmaker" has, for the most part, disappeared from the scene.

PR: What was the first watch you owned? Do you still have it?

LF: My first watch was given to me by grandfather, it was a elongated Bulova...sadly it was lost during the divorce settlement (or she says).

PR: What was the first watch you ever repaired?

LF: I don't remember, but I do remember the mainspring almost got my eye!

PR: How did you become involved with "The Canadian Antiques Roadshow"?

LF: They must have been desperate...they called me, and I decided to go. All things considered, it was truly a lifetime experience...not being an expert, but to have my fifteen minutes of fame on TV and to interact with so many people and see so much cool stuff.

PR: What has been the most exciting timepiece you've appraised on the program?

LF: Honestly there are so many, but I think the one I liked best was the young lady who had a watch of her grandfather's that had mostly letters instead of numbers, she almost fainted when I told her it was a 1/4 Century Club Rolex from Eatons (given to employees for 25 years service) was giving out these wonderful surprises that makes the Roadshow fun.

PR: What was the craziest thing that has happened while taping the program?

LF: Probably the most insane was a guy who ended up at my table with a "weather station" and refused to leave when I told him he was at the wrong took the producer and some security people to "encourage" him to move.

PR: Has becoming a TV personality affected your life in any way?

LF: Not really, it is mostly the endless demands for autographs and pictures that eats up my time...seriously, there is no effect, it was just fun to do.

PR: Any opinion on the decline that mechanical watches and Switzerland in particular, saw during the sixties and seventies?

LF: I think we are seeing somewhat of a resurgence in mechancial watches, certainly more people appreciate them now, and the collector market is no doubt growing.

PR: Was it the fault of the Swiss makers, or the cheap, accurate imports that entered the market? Who is to blame for that downturn?

LF: I don't know that it is anyone's fault, time changes, simple as that.

PR: What do you think fostered the upswing in the eighties?

LF: Probably the public, or a portion of it, tired of the "throwaway" quality of quartz watches.

PR: How did the downturn and upswing affect either your business, or your collecting?

LF: Really didn't, because my entrance into the market really began in late 80s/early 90s.

PR: How do you feel about the ever increasingly complicated watches we're seeing these days?

LF: Love it, I just love complications.

PR: Do you feel these will be a boon to new watchmakers, or a hindrance with their highly technical nature?

LF: It probably scares people off, but the true watchmakers will certainly delve into it, and learn.

PR: Where do you see watch collecting heading?

LF: I feel pretty confident it will always be there, there might be some softening of markets but that could as easily be a correction in the market. Sadly, the majority of collectors (likewise the NAWCC, its regional, our local chapter) have white (or no) hair; we need to bring youth into our world.

PR: Will you be going along for the ride, or will you go on to other things?

LF: I'll always be there for the ride, too old to change now!

PR: Are you where you pictured yourself as a young man, work wise?

LF: I really don't know the answer to that, I tend to live for today, without regrets for what didn't happen yesterday, and very accepting of what the future will bring to me.

PR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

LF: Likely still doing the same as I am focus is almost entirely on tools now (for profit no doubt, but I do enjoy seeing the tools go back into new watchmaker's hands,) and (this is a deep dark secret) I really only work half days.

PR: When not working with watches, how do you spend your time?

LF: I have many interests...I am a ham radio operator, motorcyle enthusiast, ex-antique car restorer (probablay too old to revive that), computer gamer (primarily MMOs), genealogy, a grandfather, and I love to travel...not enough time, never is.

PR: How long have you been a member of NAWCC?

LF: Fifteen years.

PR: What is your favorite watch, either that you've owned, or have seen?

LF: Tough questions, and while I very much like complications, I think vintage (true vintage) Rolex are my favorite.

PR: What is the silliest question a client has ever asked you?

LF: Since I am still in business I can't sort one of the many, and I live in fear he/she might read this.

PR: Are watch repairers a cloistered lot? Are "outsiders" welcomed?

LF: I'm inclinded to say that they are not, but "outsiders" might have trouble "gettting in"...sad isn't it?

PR: What advice do you have for people like me, who wish to make this a new career, or a hobby?

LF: There is no doubt that anyone can make a new career from watchmaking, the demand is certainly there. This applies to clock repair too. I stopped doing repairs about four years ago, and the calls still come in.

PR: What is your best kept secret, or tip for repair work?

LF: My best tip, is work hard and be honest...that formula will guarantee success.

PR: And lastly, bow ties: hand tied, or clip on?

LF: I have enough money so I don't have to wear ties!

And since you didn't ask this question I am forced to volunteer it...since it raises the issue that horology might be genetic. My father, from who I was estranged almost all of my life, went into watchmaking in his early fifties, as did I. His father did not, nor did his grandfather...but his great-great-grandfather (I am almost sure, but can't prove it yet) was James Foord, watchmaker, operating from Sussex, England for most of his life!

Thanks to Larry for sharing his insight and experience with us. Every person has any number of directions they could take in life. Fortunatley for watchmakers and collectors, Larry Foord entered the field of horology and horology is all the better for it.

To contact Larry, or to purchase supplies, parts, tools and books, please visit his website at:

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Seconde Morte

Martin Braun Selene

The Martin Braun Selene is a moon phase complication, with a twist. The dial is dominated by a fantastically realistic moon phase disc, so the owner of this beautiful watch will feel they have the moon on their wrist.

"What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary...but...A Martin Braun Selene would be easier. Whaddya say, Mary...Mary?"

The mechanism behind the lovely dial of this, the seventh Martin Braun complication, is so accurate, that it will not need correction for 122.5 years. After which, the moon phase will only be off by one day.

Setting the Selene is accomplished by a corrector button located in the case center at the 8 o'clock position. Because the setting is so precise, the phase can be set to the minute, rather than the usual hour, or day.

The date is shown via a pointer and numbers 1-31 located around the outer dial. The hour ans minute hands are skeletonized, so as to avoid obstructing the moon phase. Normally I don't like open work hands, but on this dial it works perfectly and gives prominence to the complication, than the time.

The moon is presented through a disk with two dark circles. The disk revolves underneath this transparent moon and eclipse it. Because of this over lapping, the shadow of the moon is clearly seen, even during a new moon. A far cry from the usual two painted moons on a circular disk that we've seen for years.

There are three different dials available for the Selene:

The Selene B has a black painted dial. The hands are made up of backwards sun rays from Martin Braun’s logo. Luminous markers offset the dark dial and also underscore the moon theme.

The Selene S is based on the dial of Martin Braun’s first complication, the EOS. The sun ray guilloché pattern radiates from a point behind the moon at 9 o’clock rather than 6 o’clock as it would on the EOS.

And lastly, but certainly not least, a meteorite dial. This particular material is blessed with the so-called Widmanstätten structure, named for Alois von Beckh-Widmanstätten (1754-1849). Such meteorites are normally found in Africa, especially in the area of Namibia.

For more pics and further information, please see Mike Disher's post at Timezone: