The "Waltham"
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  1. #1
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    The "Waltham"

    Cut and paste of a thread I started in the wrong forum.
    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _

    I'm pretty sure it's not one. . but it reminds me of one so until I gain some traction in this hobby that's what I'm going to call it.

    I first thought it might be a Chinese knock-off of a "classic looking" movement, but newish; but the dial removed indicated that this might actually be something old. The dial is porcelain and has some depressions that are only noticeable when viewed from an angle, like a watermark. It almost looks like the metal underneath was pitted and new porcelain applied. I realize this is not the case, but I'm attempting to describe the dial.




    I spent a few hours with this $28 ebay find tonight. The seller's description was dead on. "Watch ticks if shaken but soon stops."

    I first discovered there's what appears to be a V-shaped flourish that extends from the center of the pallet's end where the pallet pivot would be. I oiled all jewel holes and manipulated this tiny appendage with my dry oiler, coaxing some ticking and perhaps got a full revolution of the escape wheel, at the most I got 8 seconds of ticking. I'm not sure but I think the hairspring might be sticking at one point. Amplitude is weak.

    I proceeded very slowly and figured out how to remove the dial. There is a screw with a "skirt" that bears against the dial's pillars, holding it in place. Once I got the hands and the dial off, I observed the hour wheel and minute wheel are coated with a dust-like coating of rust. Hopefully it's just surface-deep and might be remedied by a soak in oil or penetrant or whatever you nice folks recommend. (I've got brake fluid and ain't afraid to use it!) but I haven't a clue if this solvent would be overkill.

    My tentative plan is to remove the train wheels, clean and lube and replace, and clean and lube everything BUT the balance; as I'm not quite confident that I can remove it and reinstall it without damage. I feel there's a ghost of a chance that cleaning everything else might put a heartbeat back into this little item.

    I'm only a couple of weeks into this wonderful hobby and I'm already eyeballing tools I have no business getting (staking sets).

    Anyways, any insight is truly appreciated, and I'm thick skinned, so don't be shy.

    I'll keep this thread going with some photos as I progress, and hopefully this old little movement will develop a pulse.

    Thanks for reading.
    Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain. For you are young and time is long, and there is time to kill today. .

  2. #2
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    In the spirit of going very slowly, today I removed the escape wheel bridge. The escape wheel was absolutely full of years of grease, grime, and all associated items that stick to such. Replacing the bridge (the one shortest one on the movement) took more time than I thought, and the notion of removing everything else seems like an invitation to disaster.

    This might sound crazy, but how inadvisable would it be to give a squirt of brake cleaner into the movement? It evaporates almost instantly, and carries all crud and grease away. Other then perhaps a drop or two getting into the barrel; in my ignorance, I see no downside, unless this solvent would deteriorate the shellac that holds the pallet stones in place.

    Is this a ridiculous idea?

    Thanks all. I would really like to see this thing tick.

    The alternative is to practice practice practice, and revisit this movement months down the road, when I'm ready to tackle such work.

    Your thoughts?
    Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain. For you are young and time is long, and there is time to kill today. .

  3. #3
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    What you have looks to be a reasonable quality Swiss lever movement. It's hard to say exactly when it was made-I'd guess maybe 1880s to 1920s as a VERY rough window, but I don't know that much can be said beyond that. The "rough" appearance you describe on the back of the dial is typical of all enameled copper dials.

    The two ends that you describe on the pallet fork are known as the counterpoise-they were added in an attempt to balance the lever, and at one time were par for the course for better American and Swiss movements. Later on, it was found out that making the escapement as light as possible was more beneficial than those, so they pretty quickly went away.

    In any case, the fact that by manually moving the lever you can get the escape wheel to advance, but not actually run on its own, indicates to me that it's probably just badly gummed up to the point where there's not enough power getting to the escape wheel to actually make the watch run on its own. This is quite common, especially if the watch was last serviced sometime before the 1950s or '60s when synthetic lubricants became common(earlier lubricants tended to be whale oil based, which at least as well as synthetics when first applied but will solidify into something resembling glue over the course of many years).

    Your plan to squirt brake cleaner on is a variant on the old trick of squirting lighter fluid in to a movement to get it running, a trick which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. There are two common types of brake cleaner out there-traditional chlorinated brake cleaners(aka "the good stuff") and "eco friendly"(or sometimes "California legal") cleaners that tend to be mostly hydrocarbon solvents. The latter probably wouldn't do any damage. I've never actually looked at the compatibility of halogenated solvents with shellac, so offhand I would say avoid.

    In any case, when I get a movement badly congealed up with whale oil, I usually end up running it through the cleaning machine, pegging all the jewels with pegwod, and then cleaning again in the machine. Watch cleaning solutions make your life a lot easier, but I did clean watches entirely by hand for a while using nothing but Naptha and pegwood. Regardless, I'd suggest that you're likely to have the best results from taking the watch completely apart, a hand cleaning with pegwood and solvent of choice, and then reassembly and oiling. If you do have congealed whale oil, a solvent rinse without disassembly could allow it to run just well enough that you end up scoring and damaging the pivots and causing more problems in the long run.
    Michael Maddan and tinknocker like this.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

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  5. #4
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    I would also say that the movement badly needs a thorough service, not just a squirt of WD40 or lighter fluid. The latter approach would loosed the crud which would eventually find its way into the jewels where the pivots are and would grind them down PDQ so that the whole watch would be bust!

    The movement is definitely Swiss, the shape of the lever cock reminds me of Fontainemelon (FHF) although I could be wrong. The keyless works would help confirm/reject that theory. But definitely nothing by Waltham.

    Hartmut Richter

  6. #5
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    Thank you both, Ben_hutcherson and Harmut Richter. I will not use solvent in the movement. I will use it after disassembly. I'm just beginning, and don't feel 100% confident, as my current cross to bear is replacing a bridge over multiple pivots. I'm sure it's just a matter of practice, but I really like this movement and would prefer the sense of accomplishment of reassembly rather than the alternative.

    I know this is not a taught evolution, but is there any advice you might pass on when it comes to reassembly? I know to take pictures and make drawings if necessary. My issue is the alignment of parts. My manual dexterity I would say is better than sufficient, but when it comes to things like replacing a balance cock with wheel attached, my confidence is low, as I ruined the hairspring on a different, inexpensive practice movement I purchased.

    Are there any best practices, or do's or do not's that I should be aware of?

    Thank you again.
    Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain. For you are young and time is long, and there is time to kill today. .

  7. #6
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    Typically, I will line up all of the wheels upright in their pivots on the pillar plate, and then just set the bridge/plate down on top of it. I then use a needle stuck into a dowel for a handle to nudge each wheel until it falls into place(I've heard this process called "tickling", although I don't know of the exact origin). I find it's sometimes/often helpful to use my finger to apply a TINY bit of pressure to the bridge while I'm doing this, but I don't suggest that a beginner do this as it takes a fair bit of practice to develop the right amount of "feel" for how much pressure is appropriate vs. too much.

    You will find that some movements fall in to place when you set the bridge on them(Hamilton pocket watches are notorious for this), some need only a tiny bit of work to get everything lined up, and others still take me a couple of minutes of messing with despite having done this thousands of times.

    As a general rule, I do find fully jeweled movements easier to assemble. The smooth surface of the jewel face seems to "guide" the pivots in to place, and with a bit of practice you can also see where the pivot is in relation to the hole through the jewel.

    That's the best advice I can offer. The first watch I took apart and then put back together was an Elgin grade 96, which is an 18 size full plate movement(those come with their own challenges, although I now find them as easy as anything else) with 7 jewels. It took me a solid half a day on and off of messing with it to get the pivots right, and then I realized I'd left a part out that required that I take it apart again. I still have the watch and it still runs, though :)
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

  8. #7
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    You have no idea how valuable those pearls of wisdom are. Thank you so much!!
    Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain. For you are young and time is long, and there is time to kill today. .

  9. #8
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    By dowel I'm imagining something matchstick/toothpick sized, with a needle stuck into it. That's a smart tool. The only thing better than a wealth of knowledge is an individual willing to share it.

    Thanks again.

    I've set the "Waltham" aside. I'm going to practice on an Avalon movement, which I discovered after removing the dial is an ETA. I'm taking enough pictures so reassembly will be like a paint-by-numbers. So far it's stripped down to just the crown and ratchet wheel remaining, and barrel bridge, which will allow the center wheel to be removed afterwards. I plan on filling a petri dish with brake cleaner (the good stuff) and swish until clear, replacing the fluid as needed.

    Once I'm comfortable with my skill, I'll tackle the ca. 1880-1920 Swiss movement. It's a beautiful piece. It's got enough sludge in it to paint my walls.
    Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain. For you are young and time is long, and there is time to kill today. .

  10. #9
    Vint. Forum Co-Moderator Mirius's Avatar
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    Putting it aside is certainly the smartest move. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to pick it back up. One slip of a screwdriver (oh so easy when your confidence exceeds your skill level) will leave a scratch across a bridge that you can’t repair.


  11. #10
    Member Rook49's Avatar
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    Re: The "Waltham"

    I wonder how many old Waltham designers and craftsmen you caused to flip over in their grave by calling that watch a Waltham?

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