WWII 8 Day A-11 Cockpit Clock

Usually the watches I work on are too small to be able to clearly photograph a restore in a way that actually shows the problems and the work rather than what appears to be some arbitrary pictures of a watch taken apart and put back together. Fortunately this 8 Day Bulova Aircraft 21AE movement was monstrous enough to be able to show the full process and the problems along the way. The picture quality is much lower than typical posts, but that is because I used my camera phone to avoid constantly having to set up light box and use the professional camera.

Before I walk through the restore, Here is a brief background on the significance of this clock:

There were three makers of these particular 8 day clocks: Elgin, Waltham, and Bulova. Far and away the rarest to find are the Bulova ones. I am not sure why this is but observation has shown that they pop up less frequently than the other two. These 12 hour clocks were used in the cockpits of B-17s and B-29s during WWII. Named the A-11 they matched the name of the accompanying wrist watches also used by pilots of the time.

Now on to this clock:

Not only had this clock been through WWII, but also perhaps worse, someone clearly unqualified to service it tried nonetheless. Now I do not consider myself an expert nor do I believe I possess any special skill in the realm of watchmaking (other than a love and respect for the craft), but opening this movement up made me realize that I am at least better than some.

Taking this piece apart it became quickly apparent that this was going to be a dirty movement as the close ups show. The oil had crusted up with some dirt to form a gear-stopping grime wherever it had been applied. Over time dirt and lint had made their way in and caked on to whatever parts they could.

To put the size of this movement in perspective, the first photo is the mainspring barrel of the 21AE (left) next to the barrel of an average wrist watch. This is truly a hybrid between a watch and a clock movement and provides a great format for walking through a restore.

21AE mainspring barrel    21AE Disassembly  21AE zoom 21AE disassembly zoom  21AE filthy escarpement

After giving this entire movement a thorough trip through the ultrasonic cleaner I began the part observation. This is where things got really messy (and annoying.)

21AE Parts Tray

The wheel train bridge (the part that reads Bulova Watch Co.) that holds the escape wheel (the odd looking little wheel in the fifth picture) and the fourth wheel (the normal looking one next to it) had been put on with so much force and with the fourth wheel so far out of alignment that not only had the fourth wheel pivot been badly damaged, but the train itself had been irreversibly damaged. The damage caused the fourth wheel to cock to the side and halt the movement. This unfortunately required the purchase of a new “harvester movement” for the wheel and the train bridge. As the 21AE hasn’t been made for years, I was incredibly lucky to find one.

21AE Main Plate 21AE reassembly 1 21AE reassembly 2 21AE reassembly 3

Finally with the new parts I was able to finish the reassembly and place the balance complete in for that magical moment when the whole thing comes to life.

After finishing up the reassembly, the movement looked much nicer and cleaner and was ready to be reinstalled:

21AE assembled

Finally, once regulated, I fit the dial and hands, and fixed it into its case and for the first time since it arrived it looked and functioned like the amazing piece of military history that it is.

21AE complete

1967 Longines Caliber 284

Given that I buy old watches generally in non-working condition, it is incredibly rare that I am shocked in a good way when I get to the movement of a watch. This 1967 Longines was that exception. Once I got the scratched crystal off I saw that the dial was perfect on this watch. Not a speck of dust, a fingerprint, anything. I then got the movement out of the unishell (sometimes this can be a pain) and turned it over to reveal a movement that had not been touched by human hands since it left the production line 46 years ago. It had none of the scratches, dust, dirt, hair, or marks that are all too commonly the sign of human intervention. The case also had no service marks. It was common practice for watchmakers to leave a mark with a tiny engraving on the inside of cases. This watch had been bought, had an ugly stretch band put on it, and was then never worn. It only required a quick disassembly and cleaning to remove the factory oil, some new oil put in, and a slight regulation to get it running just as perfectly as it did all those years ago. Oh, and I also added a new leather band that matches the watch’s elegance far better than a stretchy band.

The caliber 284 is beautiful in its simplicity. It is a relatively wide but slim movement that is incredibly service friendly. I highly recommend this as a good movement to experiment on if you ever feel the itch to get into watch repair.

The dial is somewhat different with hands that are simple but just ever so slightly different from conventional hands in their shape, and the Roman numeral markers at 3,6,9, and 12 are also great touches along with the crosshair.

Usually there are several terms in the watchmaker’s lexicon that I need to use when describing a restore, but in this case only one comes to mind: Near Mint.

Longines 1967 Cal. 284 Front Longines 1967 Cal. 284 Movement OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Longines 1967 cal 284 side

1953 Hamilton Lyndon CLD

The Hamilton Lyndon is a model that was only manufactured for 2 years. Given its serial number I would have to guess that it was a 1953 making this year its 60th birthday.

This watch came to me dull, not running, and with with an ill-fitting crystal, but cosmetically it was in good shape. After getting the movement back up and running (some old oil and dirt were holding it back) and fitting a new crystal I gave the case a polish and it was back to its former glory.

If you look closely at the dial you will see a little “cld” below the Hamilton name. Pronounced phonetically this sounds out “sealed” (or something close) and that was what this watch was meant to be. The CLD line was designed as one of the first watches designed specifically to be water and dust proof. They achieved this by using a new case design combined with new gaskets. While this is certainly no longer waterproof it is a beautiful and well-designed watch. The champagne dial is a variation I have never seen before, and I think it is a unique touch to an already distinguished piece.

Decoratively, the lugs set this watch apart and add a definitively deco feel to the watch. These wing-like steps are a unique stylistic addition that makes this watch a standout among other plainer vintage Hamiltons and the rest of the CLD line.

Built on the robust caliber 748 (one of my favorite Hamilton movements), this watch should easily run for another 60 years if cared for properly.

Hamilton Lyndon Left  Hamilton Lyndon Flat  Hamilton Caliber 748  Hamilton Lyndon Right

1943 Bulova Air Warden

During the 1940s Bulova manufactured many military inspired designs for American consumers. With the backdrop of the war it was a clever marketing scheme that produced some of the more interesting models of Bulova’s vast collection.

Given the short duration of these releases, they have become coveted Bulova collector’s items. This Air Warden came to me incredibly dirty internally and with a broken mainspring. The mainspring is the power source of the watch so with out it the watch is useless. It’s kind of like a coal-fired power plant with no coal. After replacing the mainspring and cleaning, oiling and regulating, this piece is running wonderfully.

I also replaced the hands to match the watch. Because Bulova watches were designed to be easily interchangeable, it’s quite common to receive pieces with improper hand variations. I also added a strap that was true to the period and matches the ad as seen below.

Although it is way too small to be considered a men’s watch by today’s standards, I feel somewhat attached to it as a piece of Americana.


1950s Longines Automatic 19AS

This 1950s Longines Automatic I just finished provides a number of interesting talking (or writing) points. I apologize in advance for the length of this post on a seemingly normal watch, but I can assure that you will not regret reading it to its end (or at least hope you don’t.)

Firstly it provides a great example of what perlage is. This is a process where a drill press with a special tip is lightly applied to create the overlapping circles seen on the main plate. This purely decorative touch is rarely if ever seen by a wearer, but for a watchmaker it sets a particular tone as to the prestige and craftsmanship that can be expected from the piece.

While working on this watch I was at first intrigued by the uniqueness of its build and mechanism. The automatic rotor takes up an unusually large amount of space relative to the movement. Its rotation is also unbelievably smooth and barely makes a whisper. Additionally, while most movements and their parts lie relatively flat, the movement on this Caliber 19AS is very thick and the wheels are set in rather than laid on. While it was somewhat of a challenge to work on, this watch represents a time when watches were differentiated on craftsmanship and design of the movement rather than just the dial and the name.

The dial is clearly aged, but not in a way that detracts from the vintage beauty. It is both multi-leveled and multi-textured making it additionally interesting visually. The only real damage on this watch has been inflicted by someone who was so adamant about removing the engraving on the back that they actually stripped the edges down to the base metal. Other than that the case is very well preserved. On the design of it only one word comes to mind: circle. While most movements and crystals are circular, cases provide a near infinite amount of variations on the shape of a watch. This watch is a circle with four lugs attached to it. Even the crown feels like it doesn’t belong (its also relatively hard to operate.) That said, the dial, hands, and shape all come together to produce that wonderfully anachronistic feel necessary to qualify a piece as aesthetically “vintage.”

In the 1950s Longines was a manufacturer. They designed and built some fantastic calibers. Some, like their chronographs, are highly sought after collector’s pieces. Other movements, like this 19AS were forgotten, but they also represent the legacy that was destroyed by shifting the company from manufacturer to just another assembler. Bringing this 57 year-old machine back to working condition sort of makes me feel like I am doing my part in keeping the watchmaking legacy alive.

1950s Longines 19AS  Longines Perlage  In-set wheels  Longines 19AS Movement  Caseback Damage  1950s Longines 19AS front

Tissot Visodate SeaStar Seven

Sometimes nothing embodies the timeless and beautiful engineering of a watch like a classic workhorse movement. This Tissot Visodate Seastar Seven with its 784-1 caliber fits that bill. Made in the 1960s this 21 Jewel automatic movement was designed and built to work forever. It doesn’t have the fancy Geneva Stripes or perlage seen on many higher end movements, but this thing works perfectly. A quick disassembly, cleaning, oiling, and I didn’t even need to touch the regulator for perfect timing results. The movement came back to life as if it had been in suspended animation for 50 years. The only non-standard thing I needed to do was tighten what is known as the cannon pinion which is the part responsible for carrying the minute hand (if you ever notice that when setting a vintage watch it feels incredibly loose, chances are the cannon pinion could use a quick tightening.) Once I got it running again I put the whole thing back together and I think it looks amazing. Enjoy!

Tissot 741-1  Tissot Full View  Tissot Front