1967 Bulova AeroJet Caliber 11ALACD

Bulova AeroJet Feature

To be entirely honest, I did not expect to love this Bulova AeroJet as much as I do. I originally purchased it in non-working condition with a crystal so scratched that it looked like someone had taken it to a belt sander. The only reason I got it was to use it as a harvester movement for another project. Once I finished with that watch I decided to get some practice on the AeroJet. The final result was a watch that is just as beautiful if not more so than the original project watch (in my opinion.)

Before the age of quartz, Bulova revolutionized the watchmaking industry by creating a series of reliable and well-made mechanical movements with parts that were largely interchangeable as well as easily ordered, intelligently marketed, and well packaged for watchmakers. This fact makes them great watches to work on as well as great watches to collect because their maintenance and repair are generally straightforward and reasonably priced.

When I was digging through my drawer for a new watch to work on, I decided on this AeroJet because I liked the patina on the hands and dial and the scratched up and dull case provided a good opportunity to practice my polishing skills.

The only problem with this watch (minus the fact that it was missing parts from the previous project) was that the oscillating weight axle was broken. An automatic watch is wound by motion that is transferred to an oscillating weight. As this weight rotates it winds the mainspring of the watch. Some watches have ball bearings and others have an axle. When the axle breaks it causes the rotor to wobble and makes it unable to sufficiently wind the watch. It also makes a distinctive rattling sound that indicates that something is clearly not right. In the picture below the one on the left is broken and the one on the right is in perfect shape.

Broken one on the left, proper replacement part on the right

Broken one on the left, proper replacement part on the right

After procuring the proper axle and parts, I fully serviced the watch. As the dial sat on my bench it grew on me. It is immaculate which is always nice to find. The long, thin, and slivered hour markers shine brilliantly and stand out against the plain dial. they add a particular vintage feel and elegance to this piece. The “AEROJET” on the dial is an addition that adds an unexpected amount of intrigue to the dial (if you don’t believe me, cover it up and see just how much simpler the dial appears to be.) Finally, the perfectly matched patina of the hands and hour dots (see above the markers) is especially rare to find with Bulovas, as interchangeability is a double-edged sword with things like this. Once I polished the case and got it all back together with a new crystal I became enamored with it. This feeling only grew when I put it on a tanned brown leather band that perfectly complements everything I love about the watch itself. To me, this piece represents everything that is great about vintage Bulovas: well made, elegant, easily serviceable, and affordable.

Bulova AeroJet Crown Up Bulova AeroJet  Front  Bulova AeroJet Back  Bulova AeroJet Movement Bulova AeroJet Side

1966 Omega Seamaster De Ville w/ Caliber 560

Although I could never personally pull off the gold watch on the gold band, I can still appreciate a piece for those who can. This 1966 Omega Seamaster De Ville Caliber 560 that I just restored is not my personal style on the outside but it is still a beautiful watch. The movement is another story. The Caliber 560 is an incredibly rare beauty that is the visual epitome of what I love about vintage Omegas. As a whole, this watch is a great original example of a vintage Omega that showcases all of the distinctive marks that one should look for when buying Omegas from this time.

Before launching into what I like about this watch, let me  get some qualms with it out of the way. My first issue is with the metal band. My major problem with metal bands is that they show their age terribly. After a few years, the band stretches to become several sizes bigger than it was and looks saggy and worn. Furthermore once they are at this point of showing age they can rarely be replaced without looking odd against the watch head. My advice? If you buy a watch on a metal band, wear it for about six months to year and then lock it away and put on a leather, canvas, or nylon band. You will thank me later if you ever want to resell it.

My second issue with this watch is the unishell case (or more accurately the two-part stem.) Usually to service a watch you either unscrew or lever off the back to get to the movement. With unishell designs the movement is accessed through the crystal. It is then taken out with the removal of the annoying two-part stem and either lifting the movement straight out or the sliding of a movement lock. The problem with a two-part stem is not the removal but the winding and setting of the watch when not in the case. Other than these two issues however this movement is gorgeous and maintaining it was a fun task even if it was done at a tortoise’s speed (a balance complete for this watch costs upwards of $300 so slow and steady wins the race every time in watchmaking.)

The movement is an incredibly rare Caliber 560. I did not know it at the time (probably not a bad thing) but apparently there were only about 3000 of these movements made. The serial number dates this watch to about 1966. It has a very simple thin case with a big dial that is very 50s-60s. This was before the transition into more bulky and prominent cases of the 70s onwards. Once again, while not my style, I can appreciate its importance and its beauty inside and out.

When cleaning vintage Omegas it is always crapshoot as to whether the beautiful rose gold finish will come off in cleaning. To mitigate this risk, I usually start by washing a small part to see the effects. If the finish comes off, I set about cleaning the entire main plate and bridges by hand with some solvent, tiny swabs, sharpened peg wood, and my trusty Rodico bar (a tacky substance that removes oil, dirt, hair, etc.) Luck happened to be on my side with this one and I was able to ultrasonically clean the whole thing. Upon close inspection I found nothing wrong and set about reassembling the movement. When it was all oiled and back together (minus the rotor) I set about regulating it. Once it kept perfect time I then set the hands and the date, put the rotor on, and got the whole thing back in its shell.

Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Movement

One thing no once can fault Omega for is marking their watches. Most of these marks are obvious: Dial, Movement, Crown, Case, and Band. Omega however did not stop there. They also marked their crystals with a near imperceptible Omega logo. I was unable to get a view that showed it, but this one had it too. For anyone buying a vintage Omega be sure to ask the seller if the crystal is original or aftermarket generic.

Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Back Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Crown Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Band

Instead of replacing the crystal, I buffed this one out a bit. I opted to not polish the case because it would have looked different than the band. I wanted to keep the continuity and so I just used a rouge-less polishing cloth.

Back together with the band back on it looks like the 60s Omega it is. It is nothing extravagant but it is a well-made cleanly designed watch that will easily run for decades to come. Its rare Caliber 560 gives it a little secret that distinguishes it from other similar models. At the end of the day, I am glad I got the chance to be able to say I worked on a rare 560.

Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Side Close upOmega 560 Seamaster De Ville Front Omega 560 Seamaster De Ville Side