Vintage watch & Waterproofing
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  1. #1

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    Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    Hi all,

    I've always liked the look of vintage watches and am currently looking for a new automatic every day watch. What is your experience with old watches and water? I'm looking for something I can take in the shower and hopefully even swim with. Should I abandon hope of finding a reasonably priced old watch that keeps good time and is waterproof?

    thanks for any advice.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    You can certainly look, but I suspect you'll have a hard time finding all three. Keeps good time shouldn't be a problem and you can certainly find reasonably priced vintage watches. Waterproof may be a problem, especially along with reasonably priced.

    The other issue is: do you really want to risk damage to a vintage watch by getting it wet all the time? If it floods it's not like you can easily get another one. Unless I'm wrong and there are plenty of waterproof, inexpensive, vintage watches around I would get an inexpensive diver for swimming and other water sports and try to wear the vintage watches in less hostile environments.
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  3. #3
    stuffler,mike
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    I own a lot of vintage watches but never thought to take a shower or swim with them. They are vintage, right ?!
    Last edited by stuffler,mike; May 2nd, 2008 at 17:23.

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  5. #4
    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    I have several vintage (late forties through the eighties) watches, I don't shower with most of them as they are on leather bands, but a few are on Nato or Zulus or the like and have had no problems with water.

    How "waterproof" any watch is based on a few factors:

    1) Caseback design. There are several designs of cases, cup-type cases (those with two "cups" that slide over one another,) screw backs or snap backs with no provisions for a rubber gasket won't be water resistant, period, any rubber gasket fitted should be good to some level of water resistance, screw down back being preferred, as the compression of the gasket is ensured, even if the gasket is worn.

    2) Crystal design. There are also several types of ways to fit a crystal, gasketed glass (sapphire or mineral,) tension ring plastic, "wedge-ledge" plastic, compression fit, glued it. Obviously, the gasketed designs will be the best as far as WR goes, but the tension ring type (especially when installed with a sealant) is just as good, the "wedge-ledge" is limited to about 3 atm, maybe slightly more if installed with a sealant. The remaining type ar usually not considered WR at all.

    3) Crown design. The crown is the usual water entry point, especially in older watches. The non-screwdown crown is capable of up to 20 atm, but the crown gaskets and the crown tube must be in good shape. Many times the repeated winding and setting will wear a shallow depression in the crown tube, this coupled with a worn gasket will reduce the gasket compression and allow water to enter the case, usually not a flood, but dampness, which is worse, 'cause you don't notice it immediately. (How many watches have you seen with rusty stems but otherwise seem OK?) Screwdown crowns, also have problems, the top of the crown tube can become damaged and not be a level surface for the gasket to seal on, once again, dampness in the watch.

    4) Other holes in the case. Pushers, buttons, helium relief valves, etc. Non-screwdown pushers and screwdown pushers usually share the same sealing properties, the screwdown collar, just prevents accidental operation of the chronograph, and seal in a manner similar to that of a conventional crown, and therefore, will have the same wear patterns. In shallow water, probably up to 1/10 the maximum rating of the watch, the pushers can be operated (assuming all is in proper shape) without water intrusion. The sealing gasket slides up and down inside the pusher tube, this manner of sealing is used in applications that operate at higher pressures and don't leak, however, at pressures closer to the maximum rating the water trapped under the pusher head will be forced agaist the seal possibly causing leaks (the pusher starts to act as a pump.)

    So, what is the short answer, just because a watch is old, does not mean it cannot be water resistant, it can, I have several diver's that I would feel safe using while diving. Further, there is nothing to prevent a watch from being just as water resistant to the level it was when it was first made, provided the necessary parts are in good shape. Inspect and test, a 100 meter rated watch made in 1954 could easily be used to shower, swim, or even dive.
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  6. #5
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    Another excellent response. Thanks.

    It prompts a question -- in sealing crowns, my watchmaker always pulls my signed crowns and replaces them with generic crowns with new gaskets. He says replacing gaskets in crowns is a horrible task he avoids. Do you have any experience with this?

    tnx!
    bruno_sfc likes this.
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

  7. #6
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    Quote Originally Posted by 23-23 View Post
    ...Should I abandon hope of finding a reasonably priced old watch that keeps good time and is waterproof?
    It is my experience the same money will buy a lot more watch if it's vintage than if it's new. As other posts indicate, vintage watches can be water RESISTANT up to their original resistance... (if it is marked waterproof then assume only 3 ATM...). And any competent watchmaker can do a water resistance test of any watch. Then you know FOR SURE.

    Go for it!
    bruno_sfc likes this.
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

  8. #7
    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    Quote Originally Posted by Eeeb View Post
    Another excellent response. Thanks.

    It prompts a question -- in sealing crowns, my watchmaker always pulls my signed crowns and replaces them with generic crowns with new gaskets. He says replacing gaskets in crowns is a horrible task he avoids. Do you have any experience with this?

    tnx!
    Crown gaskets can be a b!tch to get out and get back in without cutting or damaging the gasket. That's why he does this.

    However, I would stay that is the wrong thing to do, as generic crowns are, well, generic. If you look at the bottom of the crown (I hope he gives you back the old ones,) you will see there is a plate crimped into the bottom, sometimes you can get a used oiler in between the plate and the crown post and pop out an old gasket (provided it hasn't turned to goo) and pop a new one in place. This is why it's difficult, you have to use a oiler or the like and you can scratch the new gasket, thus causing leaks. Sometimes you can pop the bottom plate off and this makes things much simpler. Sometimes you have to remove the bottom plate by carefully filing the crimp off and when done recrimping.

    Another reason I won't replace crowns if possible, is my supply of high quality stainless steel crown is dwindling and Otto Frei and Jules Borel are starting to send plated crowns, which I cannot abide. A stainless case needs a stainless crown.

    There is also a problem with OEM crowns, especially older ones, the gasket in the crown is not what is today a standard or commonly available size. I have had to order generic screwdown crowns just to get the two gaskets out of it, which works out to about $9.00 a gasket.

    EDIT:

    If it is only marked "Waterproof" or especially "Water Resistant" it is only 2 atm resistant or less. ISO 2281 specifically states anything 3 atm or higher should be marked with its rating in atmospheres or meters. Back dating this requirement to pre-ISO watches will cause you to err on the cautious side.
    Last edited by lysanderxiii; May 2nd, 2008 at 20:40.
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  9. #8
    Inactive Isthmus's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    The way I see it, your choice to swim or get a vintage watch wet really depends on the watch, its condition and whether you can get original or proper aftermarket seals for it.

    If the watch was originally designed with water resistance in mind, then it is a pretty safe bet to assume that a GOOD watchmaker would be able to fully overhaul that watch and make it at least sealed back to it's original specs.

    Of course this assumes that proper parts can be sourced, that the case and caseparts have no corrosion and have no damage that would affect the correct fit of caseparts around potential leak points.

    Many collectors here have had vintage dive watches overhauled (admittedly, sometimes at considerable expense) and brought back to original or improved diving specs.

  10. #9

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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    Thanks to all replies! I'm going to look for a good watchmaker & a nice vintage watch!

  11. #10
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    Re: Vintage watch & Waterproofing

    What vintage designs do you like?

    Hamilton and Bulova have put out retro-styled military watches, with modern updates. I believe that an example of the hamilton is for sale in the private sellers portion of this site.

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