1970s Girard Perregaux Electronic (Caliber ESA 9154)

Girard Perregaux Electronic Feature

My fascination with  short-lived technological transition pieces continues with this Girard Perregaux Electronic. Unlike the original Hamiltons, the electronic movements designed by this maker (ESA) that came out in the 70s were easy to service, robust, and way less temperamental. They also have a much higher beat rate than their predecessor. At 28,800 vph they run accurately and unbelievably smooth. It also comes with a crude but efficient hacking mechanism. One interesting thing about these movements is that the gear train must fit into a seemingly small portion of the movement in order to accommodate the electronics and the coil. It was a relatively straightforward service, but a fully enjoyable one nonetheless.

Generally when I work on a movement for the first time, I try to get one that is in running condition. In my conversations with many hobbyists who became quickly frustrated with the craft, the common thread was that they made the choice to buy broken movements and learn from there. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to diagnose why something is not working if you have not taken the initial time to learn what makes it work, and how to properly take down, clean, and assemble a movement. The advantage to starting with a running movement is that you know that if you did everything right the piece will tick when you are done. That was my hope with this one.

I bought this watch as just a head in “working order.” Once again, a victim of believing everything you read in an eBay description, I found that while this watch was in absolutely pristine condition externally and on the dial, the electronics didn’t seem to want to work. I also noticed immediately that the circuit insulator had blistering on it from heat. Fortunately the ESA 9154 was a commonly used movement (unlike the super rare ESA 9176 which I am dying to get my hands on) and so I was able to get a harvester movement for at least the circuit insulator.


Next I set about disassembling the movement. While the electronics in these are a bit of a mystery to me, the rest of the mechanism is like any other watch, and so I took it all apart, cleaned everything (other than the electronics of course), gave it an inspection, oiling and reassembly. I then did what I assumed would be a logical step which was to inspect the coil for any defects or dirt. When I found none, I proceeded to put the whole thing back together (with the new circuit insulator) and with a fresh battery it came back to life.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Main Plate Girard Perregaux Electronic New Circuit Insulator

I am unsure entirely why, but I love the balance on this watch. Its construction so perfectly encompasses classic and unchangeable balance elements with modern technology. It feels much more like a balance wheel than the Hamilton electric balances, and is much cleaner aesthetically. The movement of this balance wheel is also mesmerizing.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Balance Wheel



The only odd problem with this movement is the absence of a quick release for the stem. It was quite a procedure to take out the stem, fit the movement in the case and then refit the whole works. Other than that though I love this movement. It runs super smooth and accurately.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Battery Bridge Girard Perregaux Electronic Movement 1 Girard Perregaux Electronic Movement 2

All together it is a wonderful watch from the 70s. The case and dial are in phenomenal condition and the faded brown band helps to complement the watch without further accentuating how gold, clunky, and 70s it is as a gold band would have done. Although this is from a time when Girard Perregaux was not yet the brand it is today, it is still a great looking, well made, and accurate runner and a great piece of Girard Perregaux and horlogical history.

Girard Perregaux Electronic DialGirard Perregaux Electronic SideGirard Perregaux Electronic Angled

Review: Thomas Earnshaw Watches (The Admiral and The Astor)

My experience with Earnshaw watches was Interesting. Within one brand and two watches I found a diversity of design. One represented a modern sports/diver watch while the other was a more simple and elegant everyday watch that drew its design inspiration from a marine chronometer.

The Admiral:

Earnshaw Admiral Feature

As soon as I put it on my wrist I knew the Admiral was not for me. While I liked the dial design, and the overall styling, it was simply too thick for my wrist. At about 14.5mm thick it was just too much. This watch needs to be on a wrist far larger than mine to feel comfortable. While the width of a watch is something one can get used to, the depth is one of those things that either works for you or it doesn’t.

Earnshaw Admiral on Wrist


Beyond my initial resistance to it based entirely on my opinion, there are some good attributes to the watch. The dial is very well designed and while busy manages to be very legible. They opted to have mostly hollow hands with just the tips filled which allows for greater legibility of the functions such as the date and the power reserve. The case is and feels very solid, and has a nice weight to it that you sometimes do not get with watches of this type. The button above the crown activates the date function (the sub-dial in the upper right, and while it seems like a bit of overkill to have such a pronounced design feature just to set the date, it was oddly reminiscent (in a good way) of setting the date on an aircraft clock. It also runs reliably on its Chinese caliber CH-TY2714.

Earnshaw Admiral Dial  Earnshaw Admiral Movement


As with all watches there are some problems. The one-directional bezel feels somewhat puny in construction quality to the rest of the case and the click of its rotation does not feel like it is fitting of the case construction. Additionally, the crown is not centered on the crown guards, which is an odd oversight, but an annoying one at that. Finally, the date changes consistently early (about 4 minutes.)

Earnshaw Admiral Crown


All in all, it is a good-looking, hefty watch that happens to be too thick for my wrist. If you are into larger, sportier watches then this is definitely an option. While the listed retail price at $680 is a very high price to pay for this watch, it is routinely available at much lower price points. Places such as Gilt and Overstock.com have sold out of this watch in the $120 range, which I would say is a fair price.

Earnshaw Admiral Width Earnshaw Admiral Buckle

The Ashton:

Earnshaw Ashton Feature

The second watch I tried was the Ashton. I have very little negative to say about this watch. It is a comfortable wear, has a great weight, and a well executed combination of different design elements from the marine chronometer inspired dial, the porthole styled bezel, and the brushed steel band with polished streaks.

Earnshaw Ashton Side

Earnshaw Ashton Band Earnshaw Ashton Crown


The dial is very legible with the prominent roman numerals and the elegant and simple chapter ring. The Breguet hands fit very well with the style of dial. Built with what looks to be a member of the Chinese CH-TY25xx family it is a solid automatic movement for the price.

Earnshaw Ashton Movement


The problems I found with this watch were that the power reserve continues to move forward past the full indicated 40 hours and can look empty even though running. The Roman numerals while fitting well into the watch design are stamped on the dial as opposed to being made separately and inserted in. This has the unfortunate effect of making the dial look a bit cheap at certain angles. Additionally the band, while well finished on the outside had cut marks on the less seen sides. Finally, the clasp is a bit tough to work until it loosens a bit.

Earnshaw Ashton Buckle Earnshaw Ashton Band Cut Marks Earnshaw Ashton Numerals


I thoroughly enjoyed this watch. It was comfortable to wear, looked great, and is well executed. The listed retail price at $600 is high for this watch, but was listed a while ago at Gilt for $200, and I am sure will pop up again at a similar price. In that range it is a good value.

I think it is worth clarifying that although Thomas Earnshaw was a major contributor to the world of horology with his pioneering in the field of Marine Chronometers, the current brand that bears his name has no resemblance to the legacy of the man himself or his contributions to horology (even though their marketing would indicate differently.) They are instead a modern incarnation that puts out large production watches using mass-produced movements. Judged against the legacy of Earnshaw, one is likely to be let down, but judged as its own different brand, Earnshaw produces some well-styled watches worth seeking out if you are in the market and can find them at the right price.


Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Microtor Caliber 215-9

Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Feature

There are few amazing pieces as under-appreciated (and well priced) as the Universal Genève Polerouter Jet. Finally after years in the under-rated pile of vintage watches, it is getting its time in the spotlight. As a fan of innovators and clever engineering feats, this watch was impossible to pass up on when it crossed my path. The flawless and rare dial combined with my desire to work on one of these movements made this restore a fantastic experience.

Universal Genève filed their patent for the Microtor in 1955. While they are certainly the most cited for the pioneering of this type of movement, the real credit actually belongs to the Buren Company (which made the movement that powers some of the Hamilton Thinline series and Bulova Ambassadors, among others) who filed their patent just a year before UG. As a result they were the winners of a patent infringement case that followed. While Buren may have won the innovation race by almost a year, Universal Genève it would seem was taking their time to not only perfect the mechanics, but also the aesthetics of their movement. The iteration they put out was impeccably finished (fittingly with Geneva Stripes) and is absolutely beautiful mechanically and visually.

Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Movement 1 Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Movement 2

The original purpose of the smaller rotor set into the movement is that it saves big on the total thickness of an automatic watch. A quick Google of the world’s thinnest automatic watch will bring up the Piaget Altiplano that unsurprisingly utilizes the Microtor technology. A secondary benefit utilized by the finest of watchmakers (such as Patek Philippe, A. Lange and Sohne, and others) is that minimizing the space needed for the automatic rotor increases the room available for complications as well as the display-ability of the movement through a sapphire back. Usually a rotor will eat up about 30-50% of the viewing space at a time but the Microtor requires much less and usually allows for an unobstructed view of the hairspring and the other mechanics.

I got this watch in running condition but in need of a full service. The balance was sluggish and under the microscope it was easy to see why. Sometimes oil just migrates and dries up but sometimes it collects dirt and becomes extra viscous or dries up, creating resistance where it is supposed to be there for the opposite reason. Oil had caked up in the balance jewels and was prohibiting free movement of the balance. A thorough cleaning and oiling took care of the problem and after a slight regulation the watch was running beautifully.

On the wrist this watch is fantastic. It expectedly wears very lightly. The smaller profile comes out on the wrist. The brushed dial is different from the typical iterations of this watch and the rose gold markers and hands it gives the piece an added elegance.

All together, this is a wonderful vintage piece that showcases innovation, timeless styling, and easily one of my favorite movements to work on. If you are a stickler for slim watches but want an automatic, you can’t go wrong with one of these vintage beauties.

Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Flat Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Dial Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Angle Universal Geneve Polerouter Jet Side


1958 Rolex Oyster Perpetual 1500 Cal. 1570

Rolex 1500 Feature

The actual title for this piece was going to be “My First Rolex (or How I Learned About Center Wheel Pinion Wear and Then About The Importance of Absolute Cleanliness)” but I opted to keep format and stick with the basic title. This 1500 was a great step for me as it is a huge confidence builder to have the service of a Rolex under one’s belt and be able to take one from  +35 seconds/day to within chronometer specs. I look forward to servicing many more in the future.

Although people rarely get to see what is inside their Rolex, it is what makes the brand what it is. They have phenomenally well-built and finished movements that are the lynchpin of their reputation. Beyond the marketing and beyond the prestige, Rolex would not be Rolex without the magic that is their movements and manufacturing. They are able to produce these movements in mind-boggling quantities with the same standard of precision over and over and over. It is for this reason that they have been able to keep their name atop the list of luxury watch brands for so long. That being said, I’m not sure how happy they would be with me for servicing one of their movements as they have become increasingly hostile towards anyone other than Rolex touching the inside of their watches. This has become a huge point of contention between independent watchmakers and Rolex (as well as many other top-tier brands.) A fantastic watchmaker and writer put together a very good piece about this, which can be found at: http://nickhacko.blogspot.com/2012/05/preserving-our-dignity.html

Rolex 1500 Movement 1 Rolex 1500 Movement 2 Rolex 1500 Movement 3 Rolex 1500 Movement 4 Rolex 1500 Movement on Bench

When I first got this watch, it appeared to be running fine, but it was fast by 35 seconds. This is not out of the ordinary for a watch that has not been serviced in a long time. With that knowledge I set about taking it apart. The main plate is finished incredibly well with perlage of differing diameters in different places. As this was an earlier version of the Caliber 1570 movement, this watch did not contain a hack function.

As a general rule, when servicing watches of this caliber, a new mainspring is a must. Once that was done I set about reassembly in the most delicate manner I could muster. A single mistake could have mean that I would be unable to finish this watch. As Rolex is unreasonably restrictive on their parts, if I broke, dropped, or lost anything, I would either have to pay an exorbitant amount if the part was available or give up and sell the watch for parts. With that in mind I proceeded like porcupines mate (very carefully.) Unfortunately upon inspection of the gears I found something that made my heart sink. The center wheel had so much wear that it was wobbling in its place. For some reason unknown to me the caliber 1570 does not contain a jewel for the center wheel on the main plate. This means that the wheel experiences metal-on-metal friction. Running time plus dry/no oil equals this kind of wear.

The wear can be seen near the base of the pinion

The wear can be seen near the base of the pinion

The only fix is a new center wheel. Fortunately there is a limited secondary market for genuine Rolex parts and I was able to get my hands on one. I think it was during this time (even though it was covered and protected) that the second problem arose.

Once the new center wheel came in I cleaned it and got the watch together, I wound it up and installed the balance. If my heart sank before, this time it dropped through to the sub-basement. Everything was supposedly great and yet the movement would not run at all.

I disassembled the watch and re-inspected everything. Then something caught my eye under the microscope: a hair had become lodged around one of the gear’s pinions. This teeny tiny little hair had the capacity to bring such a magnificent piece of engineering to its knees. With the hair removed I reassembled the gear train and sure enough the problem was solved and the watch ran beautifully and accurately.

You can just faintly make out the hair wrapped around the top

You can just faintly make out the hair wrapped around the top

Once that whole fiasco was done, I put the dial and hands on and cased the movement. Back together it is a beautiful vintage Datejust that showcases the timeless elegance of the classic Rolex pieces.

As far as the cleanliness aspect, I upped the filtration; installed sticky mats on the floor; clean the bench at least once daily with compressed air plus now apply an extra diligence to cleaning the pieces as I go about installation. Lesson well learned.

Rolex 1500 Dial Rolex 1500 Angle Rolex 1500 Front

1969 Bulova Sea King Caliber 11BLC

When I choose watches to purchase, I usually have at least some idea of what I am getting into. When I do repairs for others it is always a guessing game. My most recent “restore” truly lived up to its name. It was a full on restore. I took a watch from scratched, rusted out, and not running to beautiful working order (If I may say so myself.) While work this extensive can be expensive it is really worth it if you are attached to the piece, and want more than a rusted lump sitting in the drawer. That being said this watch owner was relatively lucky. The rust did not penetrate into the more delicate (and expensive) bits, and as a result the replacements were mostly confined to the keyless works (the setting and winding bits of the watch.)

I was contacted about this Bulova Sea King from a person who had purchased it in knowingly bad cosmetic shape with a missing the crown. They had the belief that underneath the dirt and all back together, this watch would be a great vintage gem. They were right. The case was dirty but in fantastic condition, and underneath the scratched crystal was a near perfect movement. The real unknown was what the movement looked like.

Sea King Before  Bulova 1969 Sea King Before 2 Bulova 1969 Sea King Before 3

I received it without having seen the movement, so when I opened it up I was sad, but not shocked to see a lot of rust in the movement. When I see damage like this I feel it is important to contact the person and give them an honest assessment before proceeding. I believe that there is nothing worse than not knowing what costs to expect when dealing with restorations or services in general. It also provides an out should the person decide that the potential cost exceeds their expectations. Fortunately, this collector, while not entirely happy, chose to proceed.

Bulova 1969 Sea King Rust 2 Bulova 1969 Sea King Rust 1

My first step was to entirely disassemble and pre-inspect the parts. As I had said earlier, the rust was fortunately not on the balance, gears, or mainspring barrel. I replaced all the rusted out parts and then cleaned everything and reassembled.

Bulova 1969 Sea King Keyless Works Bulova 1969 Sea King Movement

Once the movement was done I got to the case. As can be seen in the original pictures sent to me the case tube had been crushed. It often does not look like it but the case and the case tube are often separate pieces. I did not know this until I had an unfortunate accident with my crystal press a few years ago. I accidentally crushed the tube on the case I was working on while I was fitting the crystal. After fitting a new tube, I cleaned the case thoroughly. This required several trips through the ultrasonic cleaner and the removal of a melted (and hardened) gasket and rust from the inside of the case. Additionally, there was some caked dirt that the cleaner just wasn’t getting rid of on its own. Once this was done I used a very fine abrasive and gently stayed with the grain of the case and brought the shine back without ruining or obscuring the finish. While the result is not as deep and precise as sand blasting (which is how that grain is put there in the first place) it is preserved and reflects light in the way the design intended. Underneath the dirt there were a few case scratches, but nothing major. Once I finally got the casework done I fit the crystal (obviously being mindful of the crown tube.)

Bulova 1969 Sea King Case-back

After I tracked down the crown I was able to complete this watch. Fortunately this was one of the rare instances where a repair comes in well under estimate. Back together this watch is an instance where its owner took a risk and was right. Beneath the dirt, scratches, and rust, it is a great vintage Bulova gem.

Bulova 1969 Sea King Finished Bulova 1969 Sea King Side Bulova 1969 Sea King Angle Bulova 1969 Sea King Front

Review: AVI-8 Watches

The mid to high-end of fashion watches is littered with either watches made to look like much pricier brands or with pieces that are simply too plain to stand out or justify their pricing. UK-based AVI-8 Watches has managed to break this mold with a bold series of designs inspired by military aviation. In a short period of time they have managed to roll out an extensive line of original timepieces with a particular attention to detail and a definitive flight-inspired look.

I was given two pieces from them to get a feel for their Hawker Hurricane line and their Lancaster Bomber line. Convinced on the merits of those two, I have since added a piece from the Flyboy collection to my own collection.

From left to right: Flyboy, Lancaster Bomber, Hawker Hurricane

From left to right: Flyboy, Lancaster Bomber, Hawker Hurricane

As a sucker for canvas bands, I was immediately drawn to the Hawker Hurricane Ref. AV-4017-04. The shade of green on the band is definitively vintage military. While it is a pretty large watch at 44mm, with a substantial thickness, it wears lighter than one might expect. The dial is easy-to-read and the Arabic numerals are very well selected for the time period they are trying to represent. The outer 0-60 index ring fits in very well around the prominent numerals, and I am always a fan of a second sub-dial at 9 o’clock. The thickness of the case is used to create a very well executed sense of depth between the crystal and the dial. The lugs have a small flare that helps to distinguish an otherwise plain (but well built and finished) steel case.

AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Side  AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Front  AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Dial

Small but noticeable flare on the lug

Small but noticeable flare on the lug

It runs well on what I originally thought to be a Japanese Miyota (Citizen) Automatic movement, but a little further digging by a reader revealed that contrary to the literature claiming this to be a Japanese Automatic, it is actually a slightly cheaper Chinese automatic movement.  It includes a quick-set date as well as a hack function (which almost feels obligatory on any timepiece that is aviation-related.)

AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane Movement

There are a few very minor things I might highlight as issues. Firstly, the date display is set very low in a small porthole at 3 o’clock that can be difficult to read. For such a large-featured watch the date is a bit lost. Secondly, the hand design differs between the second hand and the hour and minute hand. The latter are sharp and angular while the second hand is more of the round style seen in Panerai sub-dial hands. Finally, while I love exhibition backs the canvas band obscures this one. This is not true with any of their other automatic models that utilize leather bands.

Slight stylistic mismatch between the sundial hand and the large hands

Slight stylistic mismatch between the sundial hand and the large hands

With the canvas band on the movement is hidden

With the canvas band on the movement is hidden

The date size is relatively small for the watch

The date size is relatively small for the watch

All in all these design issues are minor, and do very little to detract from the overall beauty and utility of this piece. It’s a comfortable wear, great style, and can be had at a reasonable price point. While their listed retail price is perhaps higher than it should be, a quick search online and you can find this watch at a price point that makes it well worth the purchase.

AVI-8 Hawker Hurricane flat

Retail Price: $520 (Currently available at Amazon.com for $141.75 at that discount its hard to pass up on this watch)


While many of AVI-8s collections are extensive and diverse (the Hawker Harrier line has 33 references), the Lancaster Bomber stands out as the exception. They have just done one design in five different dial/case/band variations. The Lancaster Bomber was an iconic warplane for the RAF and unquestionably the most legendary of the British fleet during WWII. It holds a similar place in aviation history as the Boeing B-17 and B-29. They were the “flying fortresses” that won the war

AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Feature   AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Front

The presence on the wrist matches the grandeur of this aircraft. While it is smaller from lug-to-lug than the Hawker Hurricane reviewed above, it feels and wears noticeably larger. The crown proudly displays the logo and the colors of the RAF, which is a small but fantastic detail on the watch. Its hands are very much like those found on aviation instruments and setting the time feels like setting a gauge in a cockpit (in a good way.) They recapture the distinctive “bubble” underneath the cockpit with a pronounced date magnifier, and add an interesting “riveted” side to the case. All together it is a very well thought out and executed tribute to the aircraft it is based off of.

AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber "rivets" AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber RAF Crown

There are only two things that I found issue with on this watch. Firstly, the disproportion between the date magnifier and the date window is slightly off-putting. Secondly, such a legendary aircraft tribute should have a movement to match. Quartz seems to detract from the image of the Lancaster Bomber. Other than that it is a very nicely designed piece that is definitively not a dress watch and definitively not a casual sports watch. It is a watch that would go very well with a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Dial AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Back AVI-8 Lancaster Bomber Side 2

Retail Price: $320

After handling and wearing some of their watches I think AVI-8 is a brand with great promise. Their watches are unique, well conceived, and well executed. They stand out against the backdrop of the myriad of other watch companies competing in the “fashion” watch market that they do. The one thing I really wish they had was better movements. At the end of the day, the meticulous design detail that they put into their pieces is not matched by the quality of movements they utilize. Fortunately that is something one can add in due time. You can always add better movements to great designs, and with AVI-8 the combination of their design acumen with a high quality ébauche would make these truly amazing pieces. An ETA would change the class of these watches entirely. Wether or not this is a place they want to go, I am unsure, but they have an attention to detail that appears to be unmatched in the market segment they compete in, and they would be more than qualified to make the step from fashion to collectible. I for one am hoping they choose to fly into that stratosphere, and will certainly keep an eye on what they keep churning out.

1970s Tissot PR516 GL

Tissot PR516 GL Feature

While Tissot has done a great job with some of their Heritage series (such as The Navigator) there are timepieces that represent their era so well that remaking them only produces expensive anachronisms. This 70s Tissot PR516 GL should have been left alone. It is thick, chunky, oddly angled, and just about everything else awesome about pieces from the 70s. The remake is just not the same, and while the movement was certainly improved, some design elements were eliminated, and the metal band they chose to go with really did a disservice to the overall aesthetic.

I got this watch in relatively good external condition but not running and in need of a service. One of the major things for me with watches with a “grained” finish like this one is to always check for signs of polishing. If it has been polished it will never look the same (unless a specialist works on it but the cost of that relative to this watch is nonsensical.) Although there are some dings and scratches, the original grain is present and perfectly matches that of the band. The dial was also in great condition under the badly mangled crystal above. I knew that all back together it would be a fantastic finished piece that had that perfect and unmistakable “stuck in time” look to it.

Tissot PR516 GL Finish

The great thing about vintage Tissot is that they almost all use similar calibers. They are well built, easy to service, and run like champions. The only bad thing about them is the lack of a quickset day and date on some models.

Tissot PR516 GL Movement

The dial, hands, and tension ring all together create an interesting 3D layering that I had not seen prior to working on this watch. The minute hand passes underneath the tension ring’s notches to create a unique sense of depth to the watch. This touch appears to have been taken away in the re-issue.

Tissot PR516 GL Dial

Finally, the band very well matches the feel of the head. The same cannot be said for the new heritage re-issue. My call for a heritage series would have been a thinned down version of this classic piece with the same band style rather than the “racing” bands.

Rolex is loved because they have never really change their impeccable and timeless designs, but brands that were willing to design pieces meant for their era deserve their credit as well. While this watch is way too big to work on my wrist, it is certainly a timepiece that I can appreciate.

Tissot PR516 GL Side Tissot PR516 GL Angle

1914 Waltham 8-Day Car Clock with Wind Indicator

Waltham Car Clock Front

When I said I was done with larger pieces for a while, I was clearly lying to myself. Oversized watches are fantastic pieces to work on and learn from. Once you get past just how dangerous the larger mainsprings can be, and gain a healthy competence for uncoiling said mainspring safely (I do it by feeling with my hands under the bench to prevent anything from flying about), these are amazing pieces to service and see in action. Their oversized parts are also great for learning about complications for the transition to smaller pieces.

This vintage 8 Day Waltham Car Clock was two firsts for me. It was my first vintage Waltham, and it was my first power reserve. This clock came in a very heavy protective case that was meant to insulate it from the elements it would face serving as a car clock in 1914. Once I finally figured out how to access the movement, I was enchanted with both the size and the decoration on the back. The movement ran but only for a short time. Generally this is an indication that a thorough cleaning is in order to clear away dried up grease and oil in addition to dirt and dust that may have crept in during the years. Once a cleaning has taken place, the parts can be inspected for the wear and tear that comes with being part of a low-jeweled movement.

Waltham Car Clock Movement

As I disassembled it I saw some of the telltale signs that this watch was hugely overdue for a service like the black grease under the mainsprings. Additionally, the balance moved sluggishly and with poor amplitude. Once it was fully disassembled, I laid it all out and began cleaning and inspection.

Before Cleaning

Before Cleaning


After Cleaning

After Cleaning

Waltham managed to achieve the 8-Day reserve by employing two mainsprings. So it wasn’t just one dangerous oversized spring I had to deal with, but two! My cautions about larger mainsprings not said lightheartedly. A while back, I had one of those humbling “learning mistakes” that has indelibly marked my respect for this component on watches/clocks. As I was uncoiling a fully wound 8-day Seiko wall clock with an exposed mainspring, the unwinding key slipped from my hand causing the mainspring to instantly release its energy. The incident left me with four bloodied and bruised knuckles and a week or so off the bench to heal. Needless to say, I am very careful taking larger mainsprings apart.

Two Large Mainsprings

Two Large Mainsprings


Mainspring out of the barrel fully uncoiled

Mainspring out of the barrel fully uncoiled


Some assembly Required...

Some assembly Required…

All the parts looked good so I got the mainsprings greased and recoiled and began to put everything else back together. With all the pieces back in place, and the movement running like a charm, I regulated it before setting the wind indicator in place. There is a particular convenience to these clocks in that they do not need to be regulated to multiple positions, just the position in which you plan to mount it.

The final test was to let the clock run for seven days to measure its long-term accuracy. It was during this time on the bench that I came to appreciate both its aesthetic and its application.

As someone born during the digital age, the idea of a manually wound car clock was beyond comprehension. Quartz was king by the time I was around and as a result the idea of a beautiful mechanical timepiece being part of your car was long gone. With that also went some of the more detailed design work like the large oddly shaped steel case-front. At a certain point we traded convenience for craftsmanship, and while I couldn’t imagine having to wind the clock in my car, I’m sure the people who did so couldn’t imagine having to charge a computer, smartphone, or any of the other maintenance routines for our gadgets that came since. I am torn between the two. I love all my modern gadgets and all the benefits they bring (like this blog) but I also love that there are beautiful mechanical wonders like this clock from generations ago. I might be overly nostalgic, but I do not see someone in a generation or two being excited about restoring my iPhone or any thing else of the period that I might leave behind. This clock on the other hand is a beautiful relic from the turn of the century where it lived in one of the very early automobiles that would soon remake our world.

Waltham Car Clock Side  Waltham Car Clock Feature

1965 Bulova Railroad Approved Accutron Caliber 214

Bulova RR Approved Side

Ever since they were able to, Omega has boasted that they made “the first watch worn on the moon.” Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Speedmaster (and am wearing one as I write this piece) but their marketing slogan, while technically accurate, is still a bit misleading as to the full spectrum of horological instruments created for the space program. Among them was one of the greatest inventions in horology that wound up doing most of the horological “heavy lifting” for NASA. While Neil Armstrong was wearing an Omega caliber 321 Speedmaster when he took the first steps on the moon, the Bulova Accutron caliber 214 was powering the clock on the space shuttle, the clock and timer on the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP), and just about every timer and clock used in every major satellite launched at the time. In essence, Bulova did all the major work, but Omega stole the spotlight at the last minute.

Two TE-12 Accutron clocks used by NASA

Two TE-12 Accutron clocks used by NASA

The Accutron 214 revolutionized timepiece accuracy. While Hamilton figured out how to replace the mainspring, their electric watches did not solve any of the major problems with the regulation and accuracy of wristwatches. Bulova’s tuning fork approach not only replaced the mainspring, it replaced the balance. In place of the balance are tuning forks that oscillate at 360Hz. To put this in perspective, a high-beat watch, like the Longines Ultra-Chron oscillates at 5Hz. This very high rate combined with a 320-toothed index wheel makes for the most stable rates and smoothest running second hand on a wristwatch. The movement was accurate to within a minute a month (or +/- 2 seconds/day.) When running, the coils produce the characteristic “hum” that many Accutron enthusiasts are seduced by. This innovation was unfortunately short lived as the quartz watch came to mass market just a few years after the Accutron series. The look of these watches however remains one of beautiful electrical and horological engineering that fits as well on the wrist as it does as Sci-Fi prop.

This particular 214 came to me in working condition, but in dire need of a cleaning and service. The fragile gear train and sensitive electronics necessitate keeping these pieces in tip-top internal shape to maintain their perfect working abilities. Fortunately Bulova did a fantastic job at making sure that the right tools were available for watchmakers to be able to service their watches. The 214 kits and manual make sure that the service of this watch is as easy as possible for a skilled watchmaker. Bulova also designed the 214 to not require full disassembly for a full service and cleaning. Since it had been so long since the watch was serviced however, I ignored that, and took the thing entirely apart for cleaning and inspection. After a full cleaning and reassembly, this Railroad Approved 214 was in action and ready to go for another 5 years.

The Bulova Accutron Tools.

The Bulova Accutron Tools.

Bulova RR Approved Holder Bulova RR Approved Disassembled

This 214 is a remarkable piece of working history, and as parts get harder and more expensive to come by (and unlike mechanical watches, parts cant be machined), it is always nice to be able to hand a beautiful working example back to its cherishing owner to be enjoyed for years to come.

Bulova RR Approved Movement Bulova RR Approved Front

1958 Military Issue Bulova A17A Caliber 10BNCH

Bulova A17A Front

My military watch restorations continue with this beautiful A17A Navigator’s Watch.

This watch came to me in fantastic external condition with the original and beautiful patina on the dial and hands. I saw this on eBay advertised in AS IS condition and I knew that if I could get it fixed it would make a fantastic addition to the military pieces I have worked on. Fortunately my gamble on a non-working watch paid off and the fix was not too tough.

It took me about 5 seconds to figure out that the mainspring on this A17A had snapped. This is one of the easiest problems to diagnose. If you have a non-working watch that you notice just winds and winds with no tension, chances are high that the mainspring is broken. As I waited for the new mainspring to arrive I serviced and inspected the rest of the movement. The A17A uses a 17 Jewel version of the Bulova Caliber 10BNCH which incorporated a few of the new military specifications that were developed after the legendary A11. Also used as a pilot’s and navigator’s watch, the A17A was equipped with a hack function to allow for the precise and coordinated setting of time. From my understanding, the A17A had to individually pass stringent time keeping and durability tests to meet the specification, making these watches not only rare, but incredibly well made.

Broken Mainspring

Broken Mainspring

A close up of the hack function

A close up of the hack function

There is some controversy (and fraud) with this particular watch as it comes in two very similar iterations. There is the A17A and the 3818-A. Aesthetically these watches are identical. Movement-wise these watches are almost identical. The differences come down to two major things: the engraving on the case back and 15 jewels vs. 17 jewels. As the A17A is a much more desirable, rare, and accurate watch, people often (knowingly or unknowingly) advertise a 3818-A as an A17A to get top dollar for it. If you are in the market for one beware! Always make sure it is the proper watch. Even more clever (or devious) people can put a 15-jewel movement in an A17A case and pass it off for one, so keep your eye out for both crucial details.

When it was all done, I put an older military canvas band on it to perfect the military feel to it. It can now be added to the growing collection of military pieces that I have restored.

Bulova A17A Flat Bulova A17A Side   Bulova A17A Back

Bulova A17A Movement 2 Bulova A17A Movement 1