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ETA 6497

by Tony

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.  

Tomorrow we’ll be taking apart an ETA 2824 which should be interesting as well. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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  1. Posted November 13, 2008 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Hey Tony…. I really enjoy hearing about your experiences in class. I’m getting a unique peek at what the training is like.

    It’s also fun to hear about your first lessons in crawling on the floor looking for a spring. I don’t have enough digits to count the number of times I have 🙂

    Good luck in school… it sounds like you’re doing great!


  2. Aaron
    Posted November 13, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Well that is (for lack of a smarter word) RAD! I am glad you got to finally put together a real movement. I have taken apart and put together a 2836 but I am in the same boat as you. I don’t know a heck of a lot about these things! I’m really glad you are posting on here. I don’t know if you saw my post earlier but I am attending WOSTEP in switzerland next year so this is great to get an inside look into the course. Thanks a lot and keep us up to date!

  3. Posted November 14, 2008 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    Cool! I’m in the process of re-assembling my first watch, a similar pocket-watch movement. It comes apart much more easily than it goes back. At my teacher’s advice, I sketched the gear train before I removed it, so putting things back in the right place and order was fine, but getting the bridge back on was tricky.

    I had to change the mainspring too. Watch your eyes when you do that job – you can kill people with those things!

    I’m hoping to tackle a rare (but semi-broken) 1904 Waltham wristwatch I purchased on eBay next. It’s a small pocketwatch movement in an early wristwatch case, so should be another good beginner project.

    God, I wish I could do that every day. Unfortunately I only get 2 hours a week in my evening class. =(

    Love the blog! Keep it up!

  4. Justin
    Posted November 14, 2008 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Great to hear about your progress, Tony. Congrats on your first watch. Keep us posted.

  5. Posted November 15, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Nice work Tony! Thanks for walking us through it – fascinating to follow along with you!

  6. Perdita
    Posted November 16, 2008 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    Wow. That is kind of intense! The first time we did a watch (6497 also) we had this animated computer program that named every part and showed how to put it in. I think your way might have been more educational, but I really liked having the guide because I was really nervous about the whole thing. Having a mysterious pile of parts with no directions sounds scary.

    I also lost the yoke spring the first time. I felt embarrassed, but it turns out that a good percent of a watchmaker’s time *is* finding lost parts.

    Right now I am in the second year and we are being traumatized by hairsprings. It turns out it is just as awful as everyone told us it would be.

  7. Tony
    Posted November 16, 2008 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Thanks everyone! The 6497 has gotten A LOT easier since I’ve disassembled and reassembled it over again. We tore apart an automatic ETA 2824 the other day and compared to this, the 6497 was huge!
    Anyway, thanks for reading and I’ll keep you all updated. 🙂

  8. asdfjkl;
    Posted November 17, 2008 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Tony double up on your tweezers it works real well and the yoke spring will go in real easy or use a buff stick to hold it in place but if you think looking for a spring is hard wait til you look for a jewel

  9. Rob
    Posted December 12, 2008 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Hey guys! It’s fun to read what you are going through. I worked as a watchmaker for several years in high school at a jewelry store. My job was to take the movement completely apart, put the parts through three separate washings (in the cleaning machine), and then oil it and put it back together. I must have done 100-200 watches in my time.

    Anyhow, I’ve wanted to pick it up again after almost 18 years of not doing it. Its coming back to me, and I’m doing great. The only problem is I can’t remember how to rewind the barrel spring. I’ve worked on two Waltham’s and two Elgins, and after I put them back together, they don’t work. When I wind them up, they lose the wind. It must be the barrel spring, and I’m not putting it together right. What am I doing wrong? I guess it’s just been so long, I’m forgetting. Do I take the spring completely out and rewind it by hand? Any help would be appreciated. The sooner I can figure out my mistake, the sooner I can get three or four movements working that I can set in new cases and sell.


  10. J.Peter
    Posted December 13, 2008 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Rob, Thank you for the question. This is a hard one to answer though. What kind of mainsprings are they? What tools do you have? I very rarely re-use mainsprings because of their propensity to break. I usually install a brand new spring. If you do re-use a spring it should be removed from the barrel and cleaned and lubricated by hand. Tongue end mainsprings can be wound with a mainspring winder and inserted into the barrel. With T-end or Double brace mainsprings it is often easier to wind the spring straight into the barrel. Be sure the Tee engages with the slots properly. Another problem with old pocket watches is often the eyelet and the finger on the barrel arbor. A center coil that is too large will keep this from connecting well.

    Some more specific information about your problem might help us give a better answer.

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