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Introduction and First day of Watchmaking

by aimeri

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Today I make mine the words of a famous pirate:

“My name is Aimeri Baddouh and I want to be a Watchmaker!”, or something like that. You may remember that if you are old enough to have played the old Lucasarts’ Monkey Island series. Anyway, I digress.

My relationship with watches started when I was but a kid, and would take those cheap plastic quartz watches apart, and never be able to put them back together. After I grew up a little, my grandfather would show me his watch collection which was very modest but for a young lad such as myself at the time, it was just thrilling. From that point on I was hooked on watches. But as with many good stories, mine was not a straight climb to watchmaking goodness. I actually became very involved with IT, specially for Christian Missionaries, and as much as I like helping others translating the bible, I never truly felt that IT was my thing. I was missing that spark, that passion, until just recently dawned on me: “What about watches? I always liked them, what happened along the way that made me forget about them?”
So I decided I wanted to be a watchmaker and leave my IT days behind. Only that life is not that easy and my wife is currently going to school full time and we need one of us working full time to support the family, and that would be me while she goes to school. Then, on doing some research on the internet I’ve found the British Horological Institute website and learned that they have distance learning courses. Also at about the same time, I decided to pay the local Watchmaker’s shop a visit and introduce myself. He is a very experienced (20+ years of watchmaking, and AWCI certified) watchmaker, and he was more than happy to set up a bench at his shop for me, and let me play with some old watches that he has. So we decided that on Saturdays I would go to his shop and he would help me and teach me as much as he can. I am yet to send my enrollment form to BHI so I can start the course, but I know that having an experienced watchmaker that I can turn to when I hit roadblocks will be invaluable. I still want to go to the Lititz Watch Technicum in PA, but for the time being I think I am off to a great start, specially with my friend’s help.
On August 29th I took my first two watches apart. One mechanical and a quartz one. The mechanical watch is not working but my mentor mentioned that we can make it work again. Taking it apart without scratching the surfaces was fairly easy. The only tricky part was winding it down and removing the power of the main spring so it would not break any pivots or the stem, but after that was done, everything else from there on was smooth sailing. When the watch was completely dismantled, he taught me how to clean a watch.
Since troubleshooting that watch might take a whole day (at least for me it will), we decided to move on to a working watch, at least for that day. He chose a brand new, working, ETA 956.124 quartz watch. I was to take it apart and then put it back together, and the watch had to work again. The most difficult part of this process was to put the magnetic wheel (I don’t quite recall what he called it…) back on its jewel. It would keep sticking to the tweezers or the walls of the jewel pit. Then he taught me a very neat trick: To use a second non-magnetic tweezers to put a small screw under the magnetic wheel’s jewel, and that held the magnetic wheel in place, with it’s pivot exactly inside the jewel. Also I’ve learned that springs like to jump, which I thought was very annoying, specially because I had to find them again. After that I was able to put everything else together in place without too much trouble. Then, for the final test my mentor put some hands on the movement and a battery. With my heart racing I watched the whole process, wondering if I had done well or not. And voila, the hands were moving as they should! I was so proud of myself that I could not even put a sentence together. Of course I have much to learn, but Saturday was an amazing beginning for me and I feel as if I had found my long lost drive to be something, someone. I’ve found my lost childhood, ever so much that I hardly felt the hours passing by. By the time I got done putting the ETA movement back together it was 3pm, and he needed to close shop, so we agreed on meeting not next Saturday (labor weekend) but the one following that, and thus was started my journey as a watchmaker’s apprentice.

I plan on writing after every session with my mentor, as the time allows, so be tuned in for more on my adventures.

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