Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?
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  1. #1
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    Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    Dumb question I know but anyway, I must be having really bad luck. I got my 2nd watch from eBay- this time a 30's Ingrham " Sentinel" pocket watch with nice art deco in the mail. The watch doesn't run. It just starts then stops. Thus probably in need of a cleaning. This is similar to a Westclox in that its a low-cost, mass-manufactured American watch. I removed the back and there are 3 screws holding the movement together. I didn't touch anything. There was no obvious means to remove the stem. I'll take pics later. But anyway, I assume these too can be oiled and lubed like any other watch?

  2. #2
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    In theory (and I've done it on a number of my own), but they can be tricky depending on the exact watch; especially later ones that were designed to be assembled by machines. Many can be partially disassmbled (usually keeping the plates together so as not to disturb the balance/escape wheel) and soaked in a solvent for a while, dried under a heat lamp (or a light bulb), and then reoiled in place. There was a thread here last week or so where someone posted service instructions for Timex watches (which are much the same design as dollar watches).

    The biggest problem is cost; you'll rarely pay more then $5-$10 for one of these, and service is liable to be 5-20x that. You could do it yourself, but you're looking at investing $50-$100 in tools, oils, etc to do a decent job, so only really worth it if you're looking to make a habit of collecting these. Although once you have the tools, you might start looking at more expensive watches. Which will encourage you to buy more expensive tools. Which encourages more watches. This the never-ending spiral I find myself in.... ;)
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  3. #3
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    I did some research and the consensus is that a lot of these are almost impossible to re-assemble once taken apart. I took one quick look at this one and indeed- if the screws that hold it together are messed with the whole damned thing will come apart. There a some folks who ( perhaps to the horror of others) said to simply remove the movement, soak it whole thing, then use a very tiny amount of what amounts to 3-in-1 oil for the main spring and pivot joints. Only problem is that I can't figure out how to get the crown stem out of the watch. Right under the stem in the movement is what looks like some pin. Have no clue how to remove that. Once I do I could probably proceed.

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    Member joeuk's Avatar
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    I have taken one a part but was very very hard to put back together, the only thing I had probs with was the hairspring (not much luck with these) The watch guy I use can service these, he mentioned a pivot wears and he normally would re-do this. So I am sure other people can also service these in your area,or you may need to post.

  6. #5
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    My repair mentor was, at one time, a big time dollar watch collector. In fact, older editions of the Complete Price Guide show his picture as being a pricing consultant on dollar watches.

    As such, he spent a LOT of time working on them(in fact he gave me a large rubbermaid tote full of parts and partials) and can do things with them I didn't know were possible.

    Unfortunately, I've never had as much luck. The biggest difficulty for me at least is that most of the time, the hairspring is simply pinned to the top plate rather than having a detachable stud. Thus, to handle them properly, one must unpin and then repin the hairspring-something which takes a fair bit of practice to get right.

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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    One of the stories I've heard about dollar watches that needed fixing was that some folks would pour lighter fluid in the watch, swish it around and then dump it out. The watch would then run again.

  8. #7
    Vint. Forum Co-Moderator Mirius's Avatar
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    My father told me a similar story yet this was about Roamers when he was on active service in Kenya in the fifties (I guess). Only he said that they lit the lighter fluid.


  9. #8
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    Lighter fluid (a.k.a Ronsonal) is my go-to cleaning solvent for watches; terribly useful stuff. Its no benzene, but then it doesn't cause cancer either, so fair trade off.

    Not sure that lighting it would help anyway; more likely to leave particles in the watch that way, I'd think. Heating it, on the other had, would help it remove oils, so maybe that's it.

    There was a watchmaker that used to frequent these boards that described the process as soaking in solvent overnight, then tying a string to the movement and whipping it around your head for a bit to dry it out. The idea being that you want to make sure the dissolved oils and dirt actually get removed from the pivots, and a little centrifugal force accomplishes that nicely.

    Once you've done that, the watch will likely run as is, but you still want to go in with some light oil on the pivots, otherwise the metal-on-metal action combined with normal oxidization will start to generate particles that'll jam up the works again.
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  10. #9
    Member Outta Time's Avatar
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    They can be partially serviced, and I have done several, but as noted above, the cost immediately outstrips the watch's value. Some of them are simply not made to be serviced or even disassembled. (rivets, for example) The ones I've done, I removed the balance or sometimes done a proper disassembly, but not usually. Usually just the balance, and have soaked the movt sans dial in cleaning solution, and then spun it as always in the drier of the cleaning machine. I shouldn't have to say this, but spinning a movt of any kind on a string over your head hard enough to drive solvent from it is not a good idea. Even a salad spinner would be a better alternative. Usually the watches have never been oiled or serviced, and have come to serious harm from friction of metal on metal, and will not run, regardless of cleaning and lubing. Even new, the watches were not, shall we say, good timekeepers in the strictest sense of the word. Still, they hold sentimental value for some, as I still have the one I had as a kid. (Westclox) By all means, try and clean them, and definitely lube them afterwards at all pivot points and in the mainspring, etc. If you end up with a nicely running watch, you will have beat the odds, and risked very little money.

  11. #10
    Member bstag's Avatar
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    Re: Can Dollar pocket watches be serviced?

    Quote Originally Posted by AbslomRob View Post
    Lighter fluid (a.k.a Ronsonal) is my go-to cleaning solvent for watches; terribly useful stuff. Its no benzene, but then it doesn't cause cancer either, so fair trade off.

    Not sure that lighting it would help anyway; more likely to leave particles in the watch that way, I'd think. Heating it, on the other had, would help it remove oils, so maybe that's it.

    There was a watchmaker that used to frequent these boards that described the process as soaking in solvent overnight, then tying a string to the movement and whipping it around your head for a bit to dry it out. The idea being that you want to make sure the dissolved oils and dirt actually get removed from the pivots, and a little centrifugal force accomplishes that nicely.

    Once you've done that, the watch will likely run as is, but you still want to go in with some light oil on the pivots, otherwise the metal-on-metal action combined with normal oxidization will start to generate particles that'll jam up the works again.

    Can I get a picture of you slinging it around your head :> I clean them in a similar way. Early ingersoll's I just take apart like a normal movement. The later westclox like the scotty's i do not take a part I soak them for 24 hrs in a cleaning solution(lighter fluid) then use my blower to dry it out. I have a rather large collection of dollar pocket watches almost all of them working condition. I oil them with the newer all in one synthetic oils.

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