It's Alive!!
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Thread: It's Alive!!

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  1. #1
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    It's Alive!!

    Finished my project watch a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to share the results with the forum. First off, I'd like to thank all of the kind folks who took the time to answer my newby questions, with special thanks to pithy for his above and beyond help. pithy is the man! I don't think this would have turned out nearly as well without the help and advice I received in this forum.

    This project started out with my desire to build a custom skeleton wrist watch. Sure, I barely knew what I was doing, but this didn't dissuade me in any way. I spent many many hours on this forum, on the net, and on You Tube studying the things that I needed to learn to be successful.

    I originally was going to use a Chinese 6497/6498 movement, but found a vintage skeleton pocket watch on eBay with a Unitas 6498S Swiss made movement in it, with nice perlage finishing on the main plate/bridges. Why use Chinese when I could use genuine Swiss?

    I learned a ton during this process, especially from the mistakes I made. I learned how to reform a hairspring with a couple of pairs of #5 Dumont tweezers without destroying it. When I started this project, I didn't envision that I would need to get that deep into real watchmaking techniques, so I was pretty pleased when I was able to pull it off.

    i had to make or modify several tools along the way to solve issues I encountered.

    I had to learn the proper way to clean a watch movement, as well as properly lubricate and adjust the timing of the movement.

    i made some mistakes to be sure. I installed the mainspring in the barrel 180 degrees out, it was wound the right way, but flipped over (like flipping a pancake) so that the center of the spring slipped right over the arbor tang when winding. I figured out what was wrong on my own and corrected it. I installed the pallet upside down, the movement was actually working but when setting the time, I noticed the gear train was moving which obviously shouldn't happen due to the pallet stones slipping under the escape wheel teeth. Figured that out on my own as well and corrected it.

    While casing the cleaned, oiled, and adjusted movement with the hands already installed, the whole thing slipped out of my hands and the movement fell about 3 ft onto my hardwood floor. I was about ready to lose my mind at this point for being so careless. No, I couldn't do this over my padded work surface, I had to do it over the edge of the table. DOH!!

    Anyway, it miraculously survived without sustaining any damage that I could see. I did have to readjust the rate and beat error after the 'incident', which was caused purely by my buffoonish handling. Lesson learned though.

    i used the Ofrei #11 case with sapphire crystals, and installed a nice Java lizard strap with deployant clasp.

    I learned that I should have cut the stem to length and figured out the casing logistics before I cleaned, oiled, and adjusted the movement. This would have saved me having to install and remove the movement from the case multiple times, with increased risk of introducing dirt/debris into the movement. It would have saved me from unscrewing the stem release screw too much and releasing the spring loaded keyless works parts, with subsequent rebuilding of this portion of the mechanism, with the tension spring flying out in an unknown direction and me spending 30 minutes on my hands and knees searching for it. Yeah, I admit it, I cussed quite a bit at this point.

    It would have also saved me from having one of the winding gears fall out of the movement and land on the inside of the crystal when I removed the stem. This then caused me to spend another 20 minutes or so trying to remove the KT-22 stem grease residue that came from the gear from the inside of the crystal. I knew that I should only remove the stem in a crystal up orientation due to the lack of gear retention in the skeleton movement, but made the mistake anyway. Lesson learned.

    I was concerned with using the movement retention screws as mentioned by Ofrei to keep the movement from moving around in the case after reading a horror story about this on this forum (unscrewing the case back caused the screws to unscrew jacking up into the case back and preventing its removal). I purchased various rubber and plastic/nylon gaskets to try and resolve this issue, but alas none did the job. So, I ended using the movement retention screws but to hedge my bets, I put a light coating of KT-22 on the case back surface that contacts the heads of the screws, and used a case back ball to close the case back to prevent over torquing. Since the screws are stainless steel, as well as the case back, I believe the 'jacking' issue experienced by the previously mentioned forum member was caused by the ready propensity of stainless on stainless galling as well as over tightening of the case back onto the screws that were adjusted too tall for the available clearance. Anyway, this worked for me and I had no issues removing the case back. Whew.

    I originally wanted to install a custom st of hands that looked like the Chrysler building (Art Deco style), but couldn't find anyone that could make these, so I bought several sets of hands for $4/pair from Ofrei and selected a blue colored set as the best fit aesthetically as a match to the movement. I removed the green glow lume and re lumed them myself with blue glow lume I purchased from watchlume.com. Came out pretty well, and the glow is quite strong and is clearly visible all night long.

    I've since learned in this forum that the Bergeon binder is considered the best, so I'll pick some up for my next lume job and give it a try.

    i did apply the lume a bit heavy on the minute hand, and found it was rubbing on the top of the hour hand, so off came the minute hand and a I used a straight blade razor blade as a scraper to thin out the lume thickness. Took me a couple of tries but I finally got it right. I had previously learned that on a skeleton movement the underside of the minute hand has to be installed very close to the top of the hour hand to prevent the hour wheel from riding up and disengaging from it's drive pinion. Normally, this is accomplished with a curved Bellevue washer that is installed between the dial and hour wheel to keep the hour wheel engaged with its drive pinion.

    I also had originally wanted to make a custom brass dial ring with luminescent markers, but decided that I didn't want to cover up any of the beautiful movement and ended up going sans dial.

    All in all, I'm very pleased with how this watch turned out. Just like Lay's potato chips though, I can't stop at just one!!
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  2. #2
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    Re: It's Alive!!

    What a beautiful piece of work, congratulations!

  3. #3
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    Re: It's Alive!!

    Love those old colibri skeleton, have had a few and done similar conversions as well. Fine work.
    jdrichard likes this.
    1977 Timex Milspec Custom Conversion
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    Dirtvictim 2011

  4. #4
    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Re: It's Alive!!

    Congrats! Watchmaking is a difficult thing, depending on what you do and what type of watch you are working on, but when you make a mistake, that's when the real challenge starts.

    I started out by cleaning and restoring wrist watch cases. A simple thing, you take crown and stem out ond then the movement. At one occasion, I overturned the screw and couldn't fix the stem anymore.The counter part on the other side came off and fell around between the movement and the dial. That means hands off and than the dial off etc. etc. Not to speak of all the additional tools you have to get the deeper you go.
    Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.

  5. #5
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    Re: It's Alive!!

    Thanks for the kind words folks. Just picked up another Colibri skeleton pocket watch, going to make another one of these for my son as a Christmas present, sans the mistakes!
    jdrichard likes this.

  6. #6
    Member jdrichard's Avatar
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    Re: It's Alive!!

    Great work. And great looking watch

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    Re: It's Alive!!

    Congrats on your achievment! - Look stunning on your wrist.

  8. #8
    Member xzqt's Avatar
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    Re: It's Alive!!

    Nicely done.
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    Visit my BLOG.

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