This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto
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  1. #1
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    This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Another weekend, another watch out of the project draw and onto the wrist.

    This one looked pretty horrible, with a destroyed dial, rusty hands, broken seconds pinion, missing seconds hand and broken stem. That dial was not original anyway. It was sold as a parts watch







    I gave the Gruen 420SS movement a full service and replaced the seconds pinion.



    Setting works



    Running



    Caseback




    Dial, hands, crown, stem and seconds pinion came from my spares. Note, the second hand is copper colored to match the dial. The dial and hands are OK condition but are in no way perfect. On the wrist on a vintage strap





    Case still needs some repair near the crown, but I need to learn to solder with gold. It is wearable in the meantime.

    I'm going to stick my neck out and say this movement is better quality than the Omega 30T2/284 that I did last weekend. Without the anchor the train responded to a gentle impulse with a longer reverse you normally expect. Also, no banking pins. This certainly deserves the 'precision' designation. Nice! I am officially a fan.
    Last edited by trim; November 21st, 2010 at 20:52.
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  2. #2
    pej
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    This is a great looking watch! Great job! I see Wadsworth made the case, just like the Omega bumpers from the '40s.
    Too bad you don't have any 'before' pics, its always great to see the difference some TLC makes :)
    I think Gruen is a bit underappreciated. At least the earlier ones!

  3. #3
    Member trim's Avatar
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Finally managed to find the original Vendor's photos - I have edited the original post.

    Thanks pej.
    Last edited by trim; November 21st, 2010 at 01:52.

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  5. #4
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Blimey!! That's a big difference and looks very nice!!

    What did you do to the dial??

  6. #5
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyMonkey View Post
    Blimey!! That's a big difference and looks very nice!!

    What did you do to the dial??
    Thanks Johnny. The dial was a good one I acquired earlier with a parts movement (a nice surprise).
    Last edited by trim; November 21st, 2010 at 03:48.

  7. #6
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Hi -

    A lovely resurrection! Seriously nice.

    Perhaps a word regarding "originality" and the like: one needs to be reminded that there few, if any, truly "original" watches out there if they have been worked on at all. I see what trim did here not as creating a "Frankenwatch", but rather a very responsible and correct rescue of something that was only good for parts.

    Why? He used original parts. No repainted dials, no "these hands will fit", but rather original parts all the way through. That is the absolute key.

    We all need to remember that watches, especially the vintage ones, weren't mass-produced the way we understand how mass production works (assembly line, single and repetitive tasks for workers, products with no differentiation, etc). More often than not they were assembled in batches (which is how many watches outside of the very large scale manufacturers are made today) or, especially in the higher-end bracket, were put together according to customer wishes.

    Back in the days when this watch was new, you'd still find that the retail channel employed full-time watchmakers as a matter of course, rather than as an exception like we have today. Hence when a customer came in and wanted to spend serious money, they would be presented with a series of choices, rather than a standardized product. This was true for pocket watches, for the large part, as movements were first married to cases at the point of sale, rather than at the factory. This extended into watches until WW2, when the supply of movements dried up severely, watchmakers started to disappear from retail channels (largely jewelers) and the manufacturers were able to integrate vertically, especially the Swiss, who rather than supplying cases, dials, hands and parts, supplied entire watches for the retail channel only.

    Hence, when looking at the vintage watches, you may be looking not at a standardized product as such, but at something that was put together at the point of sale to meet customer demand. Which also means that when you look for documentation and the like - old advertisements, product catalogues, etc - you may not always find your exact model easily available.

    Now, to this Gruen: the Pan Am models - nomen est omen - were originally built as a company watch for that great departed airline, Pan American Airways. The "issue" watches were made starting in 1940 through 1946 or so and came in a number of different models. Senior company people and pilots with significant seniority received solid gold watches; pilots received gold-plated watches, and everyone else who qualified (almost invariably other management positions and flight crew) received stainless-steel cases. The hands were what I call "paddle hands" with a square paddle to catch more light, and the seconds hand was always red.

    The watch was extremely popular and Gruen, despite the war (or, actually, because they didn not have manufacturing facilities in the US anymore at that point in time) was able to offer these to the public. That is probably the provenance of your watch, given the hands. It doesn't mean that it isn't a Pan Am, it's just not one that Pan Am bought for its employees (there were probably only around 1500 or so of these ever built).

    I find it is one of the most attractive watches that Gruen ever built. The dial is exquisitely done with superb spacing and attention to detail. The movement really is a wonderful movement: my master watchmaker expressed his enjoyment on working on mine, saying that they did everything right on that watch given the materials and technology available in the day, with particular attention paid to extremely good finishing where it was important, rather than making the movement look fancy, which is what sets a great movement apart from a pretty one.

    Congrats on doing a wonderful job resurrecting a disaster! My hat, sir, is off to you.

    JohnF
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  8. #7
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Quote Originally Posted by trim View Post
    I'm going to stick my neck out and say this movement is better quality than the Omega 30T2/284 that I did last weekend. Without the anchor the train responded to a gentle impulse by running for ages before gently oscillating to a halt, rather than the single reverse you expect. Also, no banking pins. This certainly deserves the 'precision' designation. Nice! I am officially a fan.
    Excellent result Trim, very well done.

    I have to question your analysis about this movement being of better quality because of the train running for ages and gently oscillating to a halt rather
    than reversing.
    This would suggest to me a train which is less than entirely free.

    A train which is entirely free, almost frictionless with correct depthing and no binding whatsoever will run down very quickly and the inertia
    will take the spring past its 'resting point', causing a slight contraction in the inner coil which causes the train to reverse momentarily. This
    is a good thing rather than a bad thing and isn't necessarily a sign of poor or good quality.
    On the other hand, solid bankings, I like that, looks a very nice movement indeed

  9. #8
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Quote Originally Posted by radger View Post
    I have to question your analysis about this movement being of better quality because of the train running for ages and gently oscillating to a halt rather
    than reversing.
    This would suggest to me a train which is less than entirely free.
    Yes. You are 100% correct. My fault for a really really poor description, in fact in rereading what I wrote that was not what I meant at all. I should not have used 'oscillate' and I really ought to have edited my post more carefully as there are two bad and partial attempts at describing the effect in one sentence.

    If I could go back in time, I'd buy lottery tickets, bet on horse races and buy stocks, then I would edit my post properly. I do understand the spring effect, so I am doubly guilty. Suffice to say this train suffers least from friction of all of the movement I have worked on so far.

    Fair cop.

    P.S. I hope you saw the post where I had to eat humble pie over your jeweling advice.
    Last edited by trim; November 21st, 2010 at 20:54.

  10. #9
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnF View Post
    <snip>
    I find it is one of the most attractive watches that Gruen ever built. The dial is exquisitely done with superb spacing and attention to detail. The movement really is a wonderful movement: my master watchmaker expressed his enjoyment on working on mine, saying that they did everything right on that watch given the materials and technology available in the day, with particular attention paid to extremely good finishing where it was important, rather than making the movement look fancy, which is what sets a great movement apart from a pretty one.
    <snip>
    Thanks John, great post - although you had me worried at first glance as 'franken' stands out above all other words to my eye these days

    I am using 'Pan American' as the 'common' descriptive term for these. This is certainly one of the civilian ones that Gruen manufactured to cash in on the success of the WWII era Pan Ams. Not one issued by Pan Am, which I believe had Pan Am on the case-back (in most cases?).

    I also want to agree with you 1000% on your statement that I quoted above.
    Last edited by trim; November 21st, 2010 at 21:13.

  11. #10
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    Re: This weekend's Gruen Pan American Resto

    Quote Originally Posted by trim View Post
    Yes. You are 100% correct. My fault for a really really poor description, in fact in rereading what I wrote that was not what I meant at all. I should not have used 'oscillate' and I really ought to have edited my post more carefully as there are two bad and partial attempts at describing the effect in one sentence.

    If I could go back in time, I'd buy lottery tickets, bet on horse races and buy stocks, then I would edit my post properly. I do understand the spring effect, so I am doubly guilty. Suffice to say this train suffers least from friction of all of the movement I have worked on so far.

    Fair cop.

    P.S. I hope you saw the post where I had to eat humble pie over your jeweling advice.
    Trim, I hope you don't think I'm being picky, that isn't my intention at all.
    In fact I look forward to your posts and admire your tenacity and learning methodology.
    You're a practical, hands on man like myself and you obviously get things done without
    to much reliance on other people.

    No doubt with your character and enthusiasm for watches you have achieved a lot in a short time
    and are to be commended.

    My only concern was to correct or debate, that which I though might be a misconception, in order for a greater
    understanding for ourselves and any readers who might be confused by conflicting information s'all. You don't
    have to eat humble pie at all as this was in no way intended as a slight to your ego...you only have my admiration
    for your achievements.

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