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Lubrication

by Jordan Ficklin

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I’ve blogged about what happens when your watch gets serviced. I’ve blogged about oilers so it’s time to blog about oil. The watchmaking industry has worked long and hard to develop just the right oils to provide the correct amount of lubrication and protection to a watch movement.

The purpose of lubricants in a watch is to: decrease friction and prevent corrosion. Traditional oils used in watchmaking have included vegetable (olive oil) based lubricants and animal based (neats foot) oils. These oils are excellent lubricants but when exposed to air they oxidize and lose their effectiveness very quickly. The first synthetic oils were produced in the 1950s and almost all of today’s oils are synthetic.

Greases are designed to lubricate without flowing freely. A grease is a combination of oil and a fibrous soap or other additive which acts as a sponge to retain the oil.

Some watches use materials which are self lubricating or which do not require lubrication. The coefficient between silicon and ruby is so minimal that escapements using those materials (like Patek Philippe’s) do not require lubrication.

Here is an overview of some common watch lubricants:

  • Moebius Synta-Lube 9010 – General purpose fully synthetic oil used for balance jewels and other fast rotating, low torque points in the watch.
  • Moebius Synta-Visco-Lube 9020 – A fully synthetic more viscous version of 9010.
  • Moebius 9415 – Synthetic Grease for high beat escapements.
  • Moebius 941 – Synthetic Grease for regular beat escapements. (18,000)
  • Microgliss D5 – Thick high pressure resistant grease. Natural Molybdenum based. Typically used in higher pressure slower turning train wheel pivots.
  • Moebius SYNT-HP 1000 – fully synthetic high pressure lubricant for slow turning high pressure train wheel pivots (center wheel, third wheel).
  • KT-22 – thick oil for winding and setting parts.
  • Fomblin Grease – white silicon based synthetic lubricant for rubber gaskets. Preserves gaskets and keeps them pliable.
  • Moebius 8201 – Molybdenum based grease for automatic mainsprings
  • 8301 – Graphite grease for automatic mainsprings.
  • New mainsprings have a teflon coating on them to help them wind and unwind smoothly.
  • Factory escape wheels are coated with Lubrifar in place of Moebius 9415.
  • Rolex has some proprietary lubricants:

  • Rolex MR4 – grease for winding and setting.

Just to wrap things up; watch oil is expensive. Crude oil is just under US$50 a barrel today but a barrel (42 gallons) of Moebius 9010, would take 15,897 of the typical 10mL vials, and would cost almost US$1.5 Million. Lucky for you and me, a 2mL bottle will last me a couple years.

2 Comments

  1. Posted January 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I am a clock conservation student at West Dean College about to launch into a 6 month test of different Moebius oils for antique clocks. I would like to get in touch with the marketing department at Moebius but cannot find any corporate website for them. Would you please be able to help? Many thanks.

  2. J.Peter
    Posted January 19, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Marc, When doing research for this post I was unable to find contact information for Moebius. Perhaps your local material house has contact information. They probably do business with them.

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