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Solving a Puzzle

by Jordan Ficklin

I have heard many people refer to watchmaking like putting together a puzzle. In fact sometimes it is. I started thinking about this again today when I encountered the watch in the photo.

Labeling a Watch?

Labeling a Watch?

If you look carefully next to each of the 4 screws in the automatic module you will see scratched into the bridge the letters “s”, “vs”, or “l”. (I adjusted the contrast around the lettering to make it easier to read in the photo) Why would somebody do that? It took me a few minutes to figure out this “watchmaker”s code. “S” for short screw location, “VS” for very short screw location, and “L” for the long screw’s location.

About a year ago I tackled the problem of . It’s really not a difficult task, you simply need to think about why a screw is shaped the way it is and draw some conclusions. Occasionally you find a watch where you need a little extra help, as with the Venus movement in the other post. Some watchmaker’s line up all the screws in a neat little row, or put them together in the baskets with the components they secure. I usually put them all together and let reason and experience dictate where the screws should go — it almost always works for me.

There is no need to scratch on the bridge. This individual even labeled on the mainplate where the stem should go. That one should be extremely obvious. Oh well!

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  1. Posted April 5, 2009 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Hi –

    As a complete amateur who loves to fool around with watches, I always put the screws in with the parts simply to save time.

    The watchmaker I use to have real work done views marking any movement as a sign of vandalism, and works hard to remove any that he finds. Not on the inside of the case back – he sees that as useful information as to when the watch was last touched by a watchmaker – but on the movement itself…

  2. J.Peter
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I would never have thought to use the word “vandalism” but it is appropriate. I was taught to leave no trace in the watch, and that is what I strive to do.

  3. Posted April 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Jp is correct, it is vandalism. So is writing on the caseback, only the amateurs or watchmakers unsure of what work they carried out can prortedly have this excuse. I think the better a watchmaker, there will be no traces of his interventions, leaving behind a clean and spotless movement, like when it came out of a factory service from Switzerland- that is the goal of a watchmaker. Cheers Jp, keep up the good work!

  4. Posted April 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    On some very old calibers (100+ years), with custom screws literally tailored to each hole, I will screw them back into the mainplate before cleaning. For the most part I set them aside ,though. I ran into trouble once with a Russian calibre doing things this way, but ultimately worked things out without duress.

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