Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?
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  1. #1
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    Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    Hello all,

    Recently I have found myself obsessed with old trench watches. I have always been fascinated by watch movements or any other sort of kinematic mechanisim, but until now never bought a watch that required manual winding. Being a pilot who is also fscinated with WW1 aviation I stumbled upon all the various trench watches online. My goal was to just buy a pretty rough Elgin trench watch that was not running and then dissasemble it to learn how it works without the fear of ruining something that was worth fixing. However what I ended up with was a somewhat nice Depollier Tiffany watch so I figure I may want to have it done elsewhere. It is only Gold plated so probably not worth much, but hopefully more than the $75 I paid for it. If not, I dont care as I still like it. Anyhow, my question is, is there a book I can buy that will give me some information on how restorations are done. I am design engineer with a fair amount of skills working in robotics and motion design so i know I can do it, so long as I dont attempt it blind. Or should I just pay to have this one worked on and try and find something a little less nice as my first attempt. There is a good watch store near me that specializes in old mechanical watches.

    Also since the old radium lumination still on the dials looks to be in good shape, should I just leave it as is rather then have it removed and re lumed? I dont care if it is lumed or not and am leaning toward the look of the old.

    Any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated,

    Marc
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  2. #2
    Member Marrick's Avatar
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    Hi and welcome.

    If the watch is currently running, then it should be stripped down , cleaned, oiled and reassembled. This HOW TO CLEAN AND OIL A VINTAGE MECHANICAL WRIST WATCH OR POCKET WATCH REPAIR gives an overview of what's involved.

    If its not running, it may require parts which may or may not be available and perhaps more specialist tools and expertise. A picture of the movement would help.

    Personally, I think its too nice a watch to start to learn on. Its fairly easy to get grotty watches from ebay for very little if you want to practise.

    IMHO, the dial and hands are fine and should be left as they are.
    Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."

    Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)


    Please don't PM me to ask for a valuation - I won't attempt one.

  3. #3
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    It is only Gold plated so probably not worth much, but hopefully more than the $75 I paid for it.
    I would have snatched it up for that price...no hesitation at all.

    Personally, I think its too nice a watch to start to learn on. Its fairly easy to get grotty watches from ebay for very little if you want to practise
    +1...I would pay to have this one serviced. I do most of my own service work - but some watches are worth the assurance of having them professionally serviced. Also, proper equipment and materials for the first service will cost you more than having the watch serviced by a professional. The tool (and proper oils!) investment only pays off over several watches.

    If you decide to learn how to service a mechanical watch here are two classic books on the subject:
    The Watch Repairer's Manual - Fried
    Practical Watch Repairing - De Carle

    There is also a US military manual that you can find pdf online. I don't remember the name or source though...

    Great watch. I hope that you enjoy it.

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  5. #4
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    Hey Guys,

    Thank you so much for the replies. I plan to take this to the Local watch repair place to have it serviced properly. The previous owner said it was running last time he wore it but when he took it out to wear again it was not. My hope is that it is either bound up or just dirty. I figured since it was running recently that it was worth a shot to buy. It shoudl arrive either today or tomorrow, and I will post a pic of the movement. The pics from the auction were blurry from the flash. One quick question, do you think the restorer will be able to remove the hands without damaging the old lumination on the hands or should I ask him to avoid removing the hands if possible?

    The link with the instructions on how to clean a watch is exactly what I was looking for. I plan to buy a pocketwatch or another more rough trench watch to give it a try. I will look for one that runs or at least ticks for my first try. oH one thing I noticed is the rear case knife with a blunt edge. I am curious if I could use an Oyster knife as I already have one. Or is the curved side used to open the case?

    Thaks again for answering all my newbie questions...

    Marc

  6. #5
    Member pithy's Avatar
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by addicted2climbing View Post
    . . . . . . . Being a pilot who is also fscinated with WW1 aviation I stumbled upon all the various trench watches online. My goal was to just buy a pretty rough Elgin trench watch that was not running and then dissasemble it to learn how it works without the fear of ruining something that was worth fixing. . . . .
    Surprised you didn't go with something a little larger. Don't make the mistake of confusing engineering with mechanics. (Engineering school personally wasn't that much of handicap to overcome but most find it insurmountable.)


    p
    Courtesy of ULF.

  7. #6
    Member Paleotime's Avatar
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    One quick question, do you think the restorer will be able to remove the hands without damaging the old lumination on the hands or should I ask him to avoid removing the hands if possible?
    Hand removal is necessary in order to service the components that are located under the dial. Hand removing tools are pretty gentle so the old lume will probably be OK - but some lume can be very delicate.

    oH one thing I noticed is the rear case knife with a blunt edge. I am curious if I could use an Oyster knife as I already have one. Or is the curved side used to open the case?
    Any not too sharp edge will work. The best has a flat side and a beveled edge. Look for the right spot and don't lever again the lugs where the strap attaches.

    Don't make the mistake of confusing engineering with mechanics. (Engineering school personally wasn't that much of handicap to overcome but most find it insurmountable.)
    HaHa...Nice point Pithy...Reminds me of the time I put a water pump on a friends car - he was an engineer and absolutely no help.

    Looking forward to the movement pics...

  8. #7
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    [QUOTE=HaHa...Nice point Pithy...Reminds me of the time I put a water pump on a friends car - he was an engineer and absolutely no help.

    Looking forward to the movement pics...[/QUOTE]

    Well, Luckily I dont have an Engineering Degree pursee; only an AS degree. However, I have always been good at mechanisms and visualising design in 3D. When I was a kid my mom would come home to find things completely dissasembled so I could learn how it was made and how it worked. I usualy waited until things broke to take them apart but not always. Some with good results and others well my mom was pissed. I started at the bottom in my field in 1993 and have enough experience through various jobs in linear motion and robotics that I am now the head engineer at a company designing the rigs to film 3D movies.. We are beating the pants off James Cameron and the rig we use and manufacture was mechanicaly designed 100% by me... In the beginning we were a small company and most of the assembly fell to me since I had the best knowledge of the internals. Now we are much larger. I really enjoy the design aspect as well as the assembly so I am hoping I will like working on watches. Regardless I will have a ton to learn in the watch world. OK enough tooting my own horn..

    Ok so the watch just arrived and I was excited to open up the package. First thing I noticed yes its apears small on my wrist, but I still like it very much. The large Pocketwatch conversions online looked so huge, but perhaps its more a suitable size for me... Anyhow, the back cover was loose enough that it popped off easily and I took a few pictures. Knowing the guy said it worked recently, I thought perhaps he dropped it and maybe something was bound up. I turned the winder to see if it moved and wound it a few turns. I then looked at it through a magnifying glass and carefully touched each gear I could see. On about the third gear it sprung to life and has been running about 45 minutes and so far its keeping acurate time.. Woo hoo... I think I got very lucky on my first trench watch purchase.

    Below are a few pics. The movement says 15 jewels and only other marking says swiss made. I was expecting it to say Waltham as on another Tiffany watch in a similar case that I had seen online prior. Maybe the one I have has a cheaper movement. The glass and dial seem perfect. Any help would be great. Also I am unsure if I should bother with a cleaning as the only issue I see is that the back cover is a bit loose when attached and the strap is missing the buckle. I am not a fan of the strap anyhow..

    Well below are the photos...



    Name:  Watch Front.JPG
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  9. #8
    Member pithy's Avatar
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    How big is your wire lugged, cushion shaped watch?

    p
    Courtesy of ULF.

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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by pithy View Post
    How big is your wire lugged, cushion shaped watch?

    p
    Hello Pithy,

    Here are the dimensions from my Calipers.

    32mm wide without Winder. (9 to 3 position)
    34.66 mm wide with winder pushed in.
    32mm tall (12 to 6 position)
    11.75mm thick base to glass top

    Lugs: 23.25mm ID 25.4mm outer 1.17mm diameter wire...
    Current strap: 22mm wide at lugs..

    I have seen straps that have more of a heavier duty look where the strap is continuous through the lugs with the watch attached to a seperate strap. Some of the signal corps watches or old pilots watches I have seen have this type of band. I thought that maybe replacing it with that type of band may make it seem larger for my size wrist. My wrist circumference is 7.5". Any idea where I could find a band like that? Also since the enamal bezel seems perfect without a single flaw I am worried it is too good and perhaps fake? I dont really care as to me I like it regardless, but how would I tell if this watch was legit and not a franken watch...

    By the way its still running and keeping perfect time...

    Thanks again,

    Marc

  11. #10
    Member pithy's Avatar
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    Re: Trench Watch Restoration.. Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by addicted2climbing View Post
    . . . . . First thing I noticed yes its apears small on my wrist, but I still like it very much. . . . . .
    Quote Originally Posted by addicted2climbing View Post
    . . . . . 32mm wide without Winder. (9 to 3 position) . . . .
    For its type and vintage, this would be considered a large, wire lugged cushion. You refer to this as a trench watch. I have no idea idea if this (or anything like it) was popular in the WWI trenches.

    p
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