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The invisible defect

by Jordan Ficklin

I spend a lot of time examining parts looking for defects. In order to be a really efficient watchmaker you have to be able to see the defects and correct them during the disassembly of the watch. If you don’t find them until you have reassembled the watch you end up having to partially (or fully) disassemble the watch and re-clean components in order to correct the problem or replace the part.

Sometimes, however the defects are invisible (or imperceivable). This happened to me recently. I received a dive watch with a bezel that would not rotate. Usually this is because there is so much junk under the bezel that it is stuck in its current position. As usual, I removed the bezel and spring and thoroughly cleaned everything. It all appeared to be in good condition so I lubricated the parts and reassembled the watch. The bezel still wouldn’t turn! I repeated this several times (like banging your head against the wall) and got the same results.

Since the bezel is a simple apparatus I assembled it without the spring and found that it turned free and smoothly so I pulled a new spring out of the drawer and replaced what appeared to be a perfectly good spring with a new one. This cured the problem. On further examination I still could not see the defect in the old spring – but there was something definitely wrong with it, I just don’t know what.

What is the lesson here? Watches are simple machines and sometimes there is only 1 or 2 things that can possibly cause the problems you are seeing. When you can’t “see” the problem, a little trial and error can produce the results you need.

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  1. Posted September 29, 2009 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    This is also true for computers sometimes. Sometimes when the computer is just not working right and we exhausted all the other logical options, we tend to blame viruses to what is going on. But even if we don’t quite know, we keep trying different things. The good thing about computers is that if all else fails, one can always do a backup and then re-format the computer.

  2. Posted September 29, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a very informative post!

  3. Posted September 29, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    What type of spring and/or model of watch was this for, J.Peter?

  4. Posted October 1, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    There is an adage that Sherlock Holmes used. When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

  5. Posted December 2, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of a cheap, Chinese movement I was working on recently. The owner of the watch had bead-blasted the watch case and dial with the movement removed from both, and upon recasing found that the movement would not stay running. It took me quite some time to find the cause, but using all of the magnification at my disposal I eventually noticed what appeared to be the faintest trace of hair or fiber bridging two teeth of the center wheel. It looked far too weak to have brought the movement to a complete halt, but when I tried to remove it I had no luck at all – like this faint fiber was made of stone. In fact, it turned out to be a tiny chunk of glass from the bead blasting. The sharp side, where it broke away from a whole glass bead, had lodged between the gears and was really dug in. The smoothed outer portion gave the illusion of being a fiber running between the gear teeth. The glass itself was so clear that the faint edge was the only giveaway.

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