This week I took apart and assembled my very first watch! It was a very exciting and humbling experience. Our training movement was the solid ETA 6497 pocket watch movement. It’s rather large and pretty much bullet proof according to my teacher. The 6497 is perfect for training because it’s strong, can withstand amateurs like me, and larger than most movements.
So we got a little red box with all the components disassembled. To be honest, I had no idea what each part was and what it’s function was. As some of you know, I have no background in watchmaking and knew nothing but basic stuff (basic as in, I knew what Rolex was and that’s about it). We were asked to separate the parts into the different categories. From right to left (since I’m a righty), the winding and setting parts, the gear train and bridge, the barrel and bridge, and the balance and bridge. I did my best to remember what I read, but I had some stuff mixed around. Anyway, once we got all that squared away, assembling was next!
The first time we put it together, my instructor gave us little information and pretty much just the basics of what we needed to know. He wanted us to analyze each component and how it works with other components. I have to admit, I got a little frustrated at times but I knew this would come in this profession. Also, I’m very good with hands and now that I had to use tweezers for everything, it took me a little while to get used to it. Handling, turning, manipulating with tweezers is sort of a task. I had to resist the urge to stick my finger in there and move stuff.
We started with the winding and setting components. I installed the winding stem, then the winding pinion and crown. It was a little fussy installing the setting lever and screw so my teacher said this was the only time we could use our hands. For those that don’t know, the setting lever is on the dial side and the screw for it is installed on the bridge side. We haven’t been taught the correct technique to do this yet, but I’m sure some of you know already. Next was the yoke and the yoke spring. Now, this is where I had the most difficult time. The spring goes between the main plate wall and yoke. This is not an easy task, especially for a beginner like me. I got it in after a few attempts and I decided to take it out again to get a little more practice. What a bad idea. I spent the next hour trying to get it in and a couple times the spring flew out and I had to crawl on the floor looking for it. I’d rather not think about that anymore so next part in was the setting lever jumper. This also acts as a bridge for the wheels, yoke, and yoke spring.
Now we flipped over the main plate and started putting the wheels in. I had a tough time figuring out which wheel went into which jewel. For me, it was trial and error assembly. The center wheel was easy but the second and third wheel gave me some trouble. After that the escape wheel was installed, and the train bridge is then installed. This was a bit tricky since a lot of components have to be on the same axis for it to go smoothly. All the pivots and jewels had to placed correctly, then the posts, then the screws. Next was the barrel, then the barrel bridge, the ratchet, and crown wheel. This was the easiest of them all to install but we had a long discussion in this area that I’ll explain at a later time. The pallet fork and pallet bridge were installed next. This was somewhat easy but also tricky since the fork is so small. I had the pallet fork upside down and I didn’t even know until I assembled everything and the fork wouldn’t move! Our balance was complete so we didn’t mess around with that yet. That install was pretty easy and I finally assembled my first watch! I wound the thing up and (almost) everything came to life. It was a great feeling and a very fun experience.