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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.

8 Comments

  1. J.Peter
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Aimeri, welcome to the blog. I look forward to more of your posts. BTW, That little magnetic wheel is the rotor.

  2. Posted September 10, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Welcome to the blog, Aimeri. It’s a delight to feel your passion for the craft pour out through your writing.

  3. wackyvorlon
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations! They are truly wonderful machines, nothing in the world like them. I didn’t realize people actually disassembled quartz movements, I’ll have to order one to play with.

  4. Posted September 10, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I just read this post, and I got goosebumps because it is so eerily close to my own recent decision to delve into watchmaking. I too have always loved watches, and collected them over the years, I probably have around 200 or so. I too have destroyed many a cheap watch trying to figure out just how it works. When things slumped in the economy the last year, I thought about what job it was that I would really like to do for the rest of my life. Then I remembered my love for watches! Duh! I started reading forums on the web devoted to watch collecting and such (how geeky is that?) Then I stumbled onto THIS great blog. It was all here. Everything that I was interested in, and needed more info about. I did searches for AWCI members and Lititz grads (or other watchmakers) in my area and contacted many of them. J.Peter was so kind as to help me get in touch with a recent Lititz grad not to far away. I stopped by one day to visit, and one thing led to another, now I too have a bench to work at in his shop. I’ve been able to spend several days there, schedule permitting. It’s so much fun to be around all the gadgets and gizmo’s that I have been reading about. My goal is to get into Lititz this next year, and I feel like I really have a chance by going into the shop and learning the skills from a recent grad. Watchmaking is not a dead art. There is a great, young group of up and coming watchmakers that are excited and passionate about their work. There are so few people that practice this trade, and it’s an honor to try to be a part of that group. Thanks again for your post Aimeri, Thank you J.Peter for this blog, and thank you for everyone else that contributes.

  5. Posted September 11, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    There was a time when watchmaking was in very real danger of dieing out, but now we’re beginning to see a wonderful resurgence in it. I’ve even got myself an old Boley lathe, and I can’t wait to spend some time playing with it!

  6. Posted September 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Great going indeed! A similar story is unfolding in Vancouver, and a young student is taking off in direction for his specialty courses. Cheers for all the encouragement that a super blog like the watchmaking blog provides, and kudos to J.Peter, J.Edwards and likewise to you Aimeri. More like minded individuals will be keen to watch, listen, and learn from your writings and feedback.
    Best of luck,
    Prem C.

  7. T.Allen
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Wow! Way to go Aimeri. I just read your blog and it is almost identical to my situation. I have been in IT for many years and it does not fill the void or fufillment I get when I work on clocks and watches. You are very lucky to find a mentor that is willing to work with you. I have contacted many watchmakers in my area on becoming a mentor or just getting some tips but I always get a cold shoulder. I finally found Bob Tascione videos on the internet and talked to Bob about learning clock and watch repair. I started with clocks because they were a cheaper investment in specialized tools and it gave me a good understanding of time mechanics. I then purchased the videos on watch repair and started working on old watches I picked up on Ebay. I have built my own Clock and Watch shop on my own. I have read books, watched videos and read as many forums I can. I am sure I am not doing everything the correct profesional way since I have no formal training but I have learned alot and plan on attending some type of school in the near future. Like you said it’s tuff when you have a family and trying to change careers. Good luck and I look forward to reading about your progress.

  8. Posted September 18, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    T.Allen:
    I’m surprised and shocked that you’ve had such a hard time finding a mentor on watchmaking. It is my understanding that the demand is higher than what the current watchmakers can handle and that if nothing else should be more than enough to encourage watchmakers all over the US to train people to help them. This situation is true here where I live, and we have 5000 people in our little town. We have 2 watchmakers (actually they are neighbors and they started working together) and both of them are not able to handle the demand. My mentor hopes that I will be able to help take some of the load off his shoulders, not even necessarily working for him. And he also has a passion for watchmaking that he wants to share with others, and having somebody to talk to about it is just thrilling for him. I suppose that this is not true for everybody, and some watchmakers are just that. This is just a job for them, this is what they know and having more watchmakers around would only make it harder for them.
    Then again, I don’t want to be judgmental and I don’t know their situation. They may very well have their own reasons for not wanting to teach you.
    I think you did right in taking the matter in your hands, and I wish you the best of lucks. I wish that you get to go to watchmaking school and that you enjoy it as much as I know I will. As frustrating as dealing with springs can be, watchmaking is a true art and the opportunity to learn it should never be denied to anybody.

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  1. [...] 10, 2009 at 4:22 pm | In Uncategorized | Leave a Comment Tags: watches Over at my favourite blog, Aimeri has just begun working with watches . Congrats! They’re a lot of fun. I guess I’m going to have to order an ETA quartz [...]

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