Waltham's First RR watch...mine needs help!

Thread: Waltham's First RR watch...mine needs help!

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Maine, USA

    Waltham's First RR watch...mine needs help!

    I just cleaned Waltham SN 553, 8xx. It is in what I , as a rather experienced ( 25 years / 300+ watches worked on ) hobbyist, would call good shape...someone else replaced a pallet stone, balance staff, roller & jewel, and ( of course...) mainspring. My problem: the lower pallet pivot needs to be straightened...I reckon the old fellow would run with it as is, but, it really should be improved...so: what chance do I have of successfully intervening? And, if anyone reckons this can be done, how would you do it? Note: I need to apologize for not Posting Images...I have never done this, tho I plan to learn very soon! Finally: I have very fond memories of a watchmaker who lived in Oregon and passed away several years ago...if I had sent the pallet to Owen, he would have ground the bad pivot flush, run a pivot drill into the arbor, and installed his newly-made pivot...I reckon he would have considered it a quick, unexceptional piece of work...if only I had had sense enough to spend a few weeks with him at the bench...he sold me quite a few tools & a lathe, and more...time to learn how to use it all, yes?! Thanks. Michael Maddan.

  2. #2
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Kentucky, USA

    Re: Waltham's First RR watch...mine needs help!

    You have a couple of options.

    One of the things that you have going for you is that pallet arbors are among the simplest parts in these watches, as they are a tapered shaft that holds the lever by friction. Of course, with any part of this sort, the angle and diameter of the taper is critical so that you hold the lever at the correct height and apply just ENOUGH friction to keep it in place(without splitting) but aside from that it's a relatively simple part to make and a functional(if not pretty) example doesn't take a terribly long time to make and can be fitted by trial and error.

    A lot of material for '57 models is difficult to find new, but again the pallet arbor is something that can easily be salvaged from a parts movement. Again, since it's friction fit, all you need is a staking set to get it in and out. If you use a lower grade parts movement, you may have to polish down the pivots. Also, it may be handy to have two or three to try as there's more variation in these early watches than a lot of folks realize and it can be trial and error to find one with the correct taper diameter. Of course, if it's too large just carefully polish it down to the right diameter. Depending on how careful you want to be, you can use an arm hair/eye lash to cheat if the diameter is a bit small, although there's a limit to how well this works and of course will put the lever slightly off center in the arbor.

    Finally, it's definitely worth trying to salvage your old one. I'd try a pair of pivot straightening tweezers followed by a burnishing on the lathe, although the steel is often hard enough on these parts that attempting to bend it back may break it. Slow and easy is the trick, and you might even want to draw the temper before straightening and then reharden it after. If the bend is only slight, you might even get away with polishing it round in the lathe-it will end up a bit undersize, but these watches are already a bit sloppy anyway so it likely won't make a huge difference.

    If it were mine, I'd try to salvage the old one first, then hunt through parts to find a replacement, and finally turn a new one.
    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.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Maine, USA

    Re: Waltham's First RR watch...mine needs help!

    Ben...thanks for your extensive and thoughtful suggestions: as someone who really likes 19th century American watches, it's always a pleasure for me to encounter someone who appreciates and KNOWS what he or she's talking about! I'm currently looking through my parts movements & parts, and have yet to discover a replacement...I've never worked on a Waltham with this one's anchor-shaped fork...all my other KWKS's have the English-style, straight configuration. At the end of the day, I'll probably drive out the arbor, draw the temper, and go from there. I especially like your thoughts on the degree to which these Old Fellows are able to tolerate 'less-than-aerospace' tolerances...one of my lasting pleasures in working on such watches, is the understanding that the individual at the bench, really does have quite a bit to do with keeping them going and happy...it's not at all difficult to see why the 19th Century English watchmakers chose not to keep up with the Swiss and Americans...! Michael
    Last edited by Michael Maddan; June 4th, 2016 at 03:21. Reason: grammar!

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