Posts Tagged 'Rolex'


I’m not just a watchmaker. I love watches too. I try not to dwell on them too much here because if you check out the blogroll there are plenty of people blogging about every new watch that hits the market. I do however want to spend today writing about watch catalogs.

As a watchmaker I like watch catalogs for several reasons:

  1. They make great reading material at lunch ­čÖé
  2. They help fill my dreams at night.
  3. The serve as a historical reference of watch models. It is important for me to know if a watch is authentic or not. I’m pretty good with Rolex, but when it comes to other brands it becomes more tricky. Catalogs prove to be a great reference.

There are also some other great references. Every watch collector and watchmaker needs a copy of Cooksey Shuggart’s Complete Price Guide to Watches. I also like the Wristwatch Annual. For Vintage Rolex Sport Models the book with the same name works well. I don’t have a really good reference for other Rolex models yet, if you can recommend one please feel free to comment.

Gerald Genta┬áCatalogBack to Catalogs. The holy grail of watch catalogs is the Rolex Master Catalog which is difficult to get because Authorized Dealers (in the U.S.) are required to return their previous year’s catalog to get a new one. Many watch companies make beautifully bound catalogs available to their customers, simply by asking for one on their web page. Today, I received in the mail a beautiful catalog from Gerald Genta (those aren’t noises in your head when you visit the site- they come from the web page). I could never afford one of their watches (see Watchmaking Injustice) but they are things of beauty as is the catalog. If I could afford one I would definitely go for the Fantasy Model RSF.X.10.143.LB.BA featuring jumping hour, retrograde minutes, sweep seconds and Mickey Mouse in an aviator’s theme. About a year ago I received a beautiful hard bound catalog from Jaeger-LeCoultre. In order to get Rolex’s customer catalog you will need to hit up your local authorized dealer, it is beautiful as well, but very incomplete. Some dealers also have great catalogs like Hamilton Jewelers in Princeton, NJ and Wempe. One last place to get great catalogs are auction houses. The catalog for Antiquorum’s upcoming Rolex themed auction The Evolution of the Rolex Sports Watch” is 488 pages of fabulous Rolex knowledge and it’s available online and for download as a pdf file or you can purchase the catalog in hardcover. Oh, and if you want to make my day bid on those Rolex cufflinks (Lot 10, pg 20) and send them my way ­čÖé

Whenever I see a beautiful catalog available I try to get one to add to my collection, I’d like to build a historical record because I know it will be valuable in my profession. Oh and they are fun too.

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What happens to my watch when it is serviced?

So you decided to get your watch serviced, but you were shocked by the price. Let’s talk about what you get for the price.

Omega┬áPWWhen a professional watchmaker services your watch his job is to bring it to like new condition — This isn’t always possible but we try our best. What you say? Not always possible? Sometimes a watch case has a huge dent in it and removing it would cause way too much wear on the watch to warrant it, so we pretty up that section a little bit taking care to make the rest look perfect. And, then there is the issue of parts. When parts aren’t available what does one do? Not replace worn parts, make new ones, use generic, or turn down the reapir?

So back to the service: It usually includes a complete refinishing of the case and bracelet (not to be confused with polishing.) Sometimes an individual will polish a watch case and make it “shiny.” Refinishing the case means applying the same finishes as original in a clean, crisp manner and can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on the specifics of the finishes applied. Your typical Rolex case and bracelet requires 3 different polishing compounds, 5 different finishing wheels, a lathe for refinishing case backs and tape to mask off the polished center links when applying the line finish to the outer ones. It is a labor intensive process.

HammyServicing the movement requires detailed and precise work. The watchmaker shouldn’t leave any marks on anything. The dial and hands are removed, the watch movement is pre-cleaned and then every component is carefully examined under magnification for flaws as the watch is disassembled (there are well over 100 parts in most watches). All worn components are replaced and all faults are corrected at this time (except for timing.) Jewel holes are pegged out and pivots are cleaned in a block of pith wood. The disassembled watch is then put into a special watch cleaning machine which combines agitation and ultrasonic frequencies to clean the parts. The parts generally go through one wash cycle and two or three rinse cycles before being air dried. The parts have to be perfectly clean!

Once the parts are clean they are never touched by hand. The oils in the skin could damage the parts and small flecks of skin are enough to bring the gears in a watch to a grinding halt. The watch is carefully assembled and each component is again examined under magnification to be sure there are no defects. As the parts are assembled each function is checked to make sure it is working correctly and the watchmaker is careful to make sure no foreign substances are inside the watch. I find dandruff to be a real problem, I’m always finding little white flakes which I have to remove carefully. You can watch the video at this site for a feel of what goes on during assembly.

Special lubricants are applied to all the bearing surfaces in the watch in a very precise manner according to the manufactures instructions. Too little means the watch needs to be serviced again prematurely, too much means the oil runs everywhere and gets on parts that can’t have oil. A typical watch requires five or more different lubricants, all must be applied in the correct areas.

Once the watch is assembled the watch is put on a timing machine to check its rates. Careful adjustments are made to the hairspring and regulation device to ensure the watch keeps good time.

The dial and hands are again placed on the watch and the movement is placed back in the refinished case. All the gaskets are replaced and the watch (if it is water resistant) is pressure tested for water resistance. The watch is then observed for several days and any additional adjustments are made to the timing of the watch.

The end result is a beautifully restored watch which is ready for another five years of service.

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Here is a sample list of what might take place during the disassembly of the watch:


  1. Carefully examine bracelet for damage
  2. Remove Bracelet
  3. Carefully examine case, dial & hands
  4. Remove case back
  5. Examine watch
  6. Remove Stem
  7. Remove movement from case
  8. Re-install stem
  9. Remove hands
  10. Remove dial
  11. Remove date disc
  12. Remove hour wheel
  13. Remove cannon pinion
  14. Let down power on mainspring
  15. Pre-clean complete watch
  16. Check & correct balance endshake
  17. Check & correct balance interaction with pallet fork (roller jewel, fork clearance, horn clearance)
  18. Check & correct pallet fork interaction with escape wheel (total lock, drop, run to banking)
  19. Remove balance bridge & balance
  20. Verify condition of balance pivots
  21. Check & correct pallet fork endshake
  22. Remove pallet fork
  23. Check condition of pallet stones & shellac (make corrections if necessary)
  24. Verify condition of pallet arbor pivots
  25. Peg out pallet jewels
  26. Check & correct escape wheel and gear train endshakes
  27. Check freedom of the gear train
  28. Check & correct barrel arbor endshake / sideshake
  29. Remove ratchet wheel
  30. Verify condition of ratchet wheel teeth
  31. Remove crown wheel
  32. Verify condition of crown wheel teeth
  33. Remove crown wheel core
  34. Remove barrel bridge
  35. Remove barrel
  36. Verify condition of barrel teeth
  37. Open barrel and remove mainspring
  38. Verify condition of barrel arbor
  39. Pre-clean barrel
  40. Tighten barrel endshake
  41. Peg-out barrel bushings or jewels
  42. Remove train bridge
  43. Peg-out jewels in the gear train
  44. Examine all train wheel pivots for wear
  45. Examine all pinions for debris, rust, and wear
  46. Remove set lever spring
  47. Remove intermediate setting wheel examine condition and condition of post
  48. Remove minute wheel & examine condition
  49. Remove yoke spring
  50. Remove yoke
  51. Remove set lever
  52. Remove stem & examine condition
  53. Remove winding pinion & examine condition
  54. Remove sliding pinion & examine condition
  55. Install balance
  56. Check & correct hairspring for flatness & trueness
  57. Remove cap jewels
  58. Washing

  59. Put movement parts in cleaning basket and send through a wash cycle
  60. Assembly

Should I run my chronograph all the time?

Monday Myth Running my chronograph all the time will cause it to wear out sooner. Is this true? Short Answer: No

There are many different kinds of chronographs: Quartz, Mechanical, Two function, Three function, Column Wheel, Cam, Sliding Clutch, Vertical Clutch, integrated, modular. What do they have in common? For all of them the answer is no, running your chronograph all the time will not cause it to wear out sooner.

A chronograph is a watch which has an additional complication which allows you to record elapsed time, usually by pressing a button to start the timer and to stop it.

ETA 251.272┬áChronographThere are two basic quartz models of chronograph. One has 4 or 5 motors (one for the time of day, one for the seconds counter, one for the minute counter, one for the hour counter, and one for the division of seconds if equipped.) The second kind has a standard quartz movement with a mechanical module added on to the dial side of the movement adding the chronograph function. Running either of these all the time will cause your power cell to deplete faster but the forces are so small that the parts aren’t going to wear out any sooner because you are using them. These parts will need to be serviced the same time as the other quartz components.

Mechanical Chronographs have much greater forces throughout. The basic movement has a fairly large spring providing power to the gear train forcing it to rotate. When not properly lubricated and/or dirty these parts can be ground into nothing (see post on servicing). With each gear the forces are reduced. The chronograph mechanism is usually driven by the fourth wheel (whose forces are not terribly great) and as we continue through the chronograph mechanism the forces get smaller and smaller. When a watchmaker services these components he cleans and lubricates them in such a manner so that they should be able to run for 5 years without causing any wear (assuming the watch remains clean and dry). We apply the same principles to the chronograph section as we do to the regular gear train. Since the forces are smaller in the chronograph train it should be able to withstand the same period of service. When the chronograph is disengaged the wheels don’t turn (and therefore don’t have any chance of wearing) but when it is engaged they don’t turn any more than the base movement. Your base movement will begin to wear out or stop working well before the chronograph parts begin to wear.

With a vertical clutch chronograph like in Seiko chronographs or the Rolex 4130 the clutch actually slips when the chronograph is stopped, potentially causing this part to wear more when the chronograph is stopped than when it is running. This part is still designed to perform well for the same service interval as the rest of the movement.

The bottom line: Have your watch serviced every 5 years by a qualified watchmaker and nothing will wear out, chronograph or otherwise.

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Five films from Rolex

While visiting the “Timezone Rolex forum they mentioned five new videos on the Rolex web page. They are pretty neat short films about what goes into constructing a Rolex (sort-of). They cover the following topics:

  • The Movement
  • The parachrom hairspring
  • Everose Gold
  • Ceramic Bezels
  • 904L steel

To watch the videos visit their web page at

Watch Maker? or Watch Repairer?

Rolex1400Some days I feel like a watch repairer or a watch technician. Other days I feel like a real watchmaker. Today was a watchmaker day!

Today I worked on a Rolex Caliber 1400. It is a small movement. As you can see from the picture it is smaller than a dime, but it isn’t the size that made me feel like a real watchmaker. This movement need a new balance staff. If you look at the full size image, you’ll see a little ‘something’ in the background between the movement and the dime. (That is the old balance staff.) To fix this watch I had to remove the old staff. This involves removing the hairspring and roller from the old staff. I chucked up the balance wheel in the lathe and cut out the old staff and riveted in a new staff. I then re-installed the roller, trued & poised the balance wheel, and then reinstalled the hairspring.

When I got done with the whole operation, I stopped to think. I didn’t even second guess myself because of the size. I simply did it and did it right. I guess today I’m a real watchmaker. I know I didn’t make anything, but I performed a complex operation on a very small watch and I did it right the first time without second guessing myself.

A big pat on the back for me!

Inequality for Women in Watches

The world of mechanical watches has exploded in the last 10 years. Quartz was supposed to kill the mechanical watch, but as it turns out, people love fine craftsmanship, and as it turns out, it is easier to showcase that craftsmanship when it isn’t hiding underneath a circuit board. But who buys these watches?

It seems that the main interest in mechanical watches comes from men. The industry seems to recognize this because most new mechanical watches (especially those with complications) are for men. Sure, there are some staples. Rolex makes lovely mechanical watches for ladies, but honestly do these women care that it is mechanical. When it comes to a Rolex, do the men?

There are many people out there who would like us to believe that a lady wants a pretty watch and she doesn’t “care what is under the hood.” Sometimes this is true, but I’m sure there are some ladies out there interested in watch complications.

Let’s see what’s out there for women:

  • Rolex offers an automatic with or without a date for women, although they now offer more feminine looks in larger models. I mean really, the “Safari Daytona” is not for a man, unless he’s dressed in women’s clothes.
  • Zenith has several of their “Open” Collection for women with hearts & stars & cutesie frills.
  • Cartier’s women’s models are about 80% quartz.
  • Patek Philippe’s highest selling line, the “Twenty~4”, is available mostly in quartz with a couple manual wind models. They do have a new ladies Calatrava dual time zone with a display back.

Honestly, as much as I follow the watch market, I don’t really know what is available for women in mechanical complicated wristwatches. They have a very small share of the market.

Is it fair, or justified, or simply a business decision? Let me know.

Certified Watchmaker

When I graduated from the Lititz Watch Technicum, I left with an LWT Diploma, a WOSTEP certificate, and the title of AWCI Certified Watchmaker for the 21st Century. So what do they mean?

My WOSTEP Certificate means that I successfully completed 3000 hours of coursework approved by the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program and passed the intermediate and final exams. I completed this coursework at the Lititz Watch Technicum from 2004 to 2006. The goal of the WOSTEP program is to prepare watchmakers for after sales service of quality swiss made timepieces. It is recognized throughout the Swiss watch industry. The coursework and exams require proficiency in micromechanical tasks such as filing, sawing, turning, and burnishing as well as proficiency in watch cleaning, lubrication, timing, adjusting, hairspring manipulation & forming, theory & ideas. Students are tested in each of these areas culminating in a final exam administered on an automatic, chronograph & quartz wristwatch.

The LWT diploma is unique to the Lititz Watch Technicum and requires that the student complete (in addition to the WOSTEP requirements) a school watch project (see LWT post), a thesis project, and a significant number of “real world” customer repairs.

The AWCI Certified Watchmaker is probably the most recognized certification in the United States, but it has a shady history. This certification has been around for many years but it lacked respect in the past due to its administration methods. This certification was totally revamped and the Certified Watchmaker for the 21st Century (CW21) was born. This new certification process (which I completed) is strongly supported by the American Watchmaking Industry, especially by Rolex USA. It is designed to assess the skills of watchmakers and determine whether they have the knowledge and skills to work on high quality modern watches. It specifically tests on automatics, chronographs and quartzes. I cannot write about the specifics of the exam but details are available from AWCI. Since I know many individuals who have taken this test (some who have passed and some who have failed) I feel it is a very good assessment of a watchmaker’s skills and I would encourage all watchmaker’s to take it.

When first faced with the decision as to whether to take the CW exam or not I was torn. I already was slated to receive the WOSTEP certificate and the LWT diploma, but I decided to support the exam as a way to qualify good watchmakers in this country. I’m glad I did. Many companies have supported this certification. Rolex offers spare parts accounts to watchmakers who receive the certification and who have a professional workshop. Recently they have even extended tool accounts to some of these individuals. In the latest Horological Times it states that Rolex will require all their spare parts accounts to have an AWCI CW by 2010. If it is good enough for Rolex, it’s good enough for me. I still hold out hope that other companies will follow suit. Availability of spare parts is a serious issue for watchmakers today, maybe I’ll write about that next.