Even the best watchmakers spend time on their hands and knees looking for that elusive lost part. Its inevitable. The average mechanical watch contains 100+ parts and we deal with dozens of them a week. Over the course of a year, we handle hundreds of thousands of parts that are often fractions of a millimetre thin. Any watchmaker who has spent any appreciable amount of time at the bench can sympathize with what it’s like to have a spring ricochet out of its intended destination or to have a small part unintentionally fly from between the tips of your tweezers. If you’re lucky, and if you’ve taken the initiative to keep your bench clean and free of clutter, the part can sometimes be relocated in a matter of seconds. If you’re not so lucky, that part may find its way onto the floor and a little bit of sweeping or several minutes of crawling around on your hands and knees may be in order before it’s retrieved. On that very rare occasion, however, no matter how hard or how long you search for it, a part seems to vanish into thin air.
I have posted before about accidentally rolling over a part with my chair but, up until just recently, I have never taken the initiative to check the wheels of my chair to find that freckle sized screw or other small part that mysteriously vanishes. A short while back I made the transition from working in a factory service center to joining forces with another watchmaker working on the frontlines at a well respected jewellery store. As part of the move, we expanded the watch service area and installed new flooring. Before moving our task chairs back into the new space, we took a few moments to thoroughly clean the wheels of the chairs to keep the dust at bay and to preserve the fresh sheen of our new floor. Little did we expect to find so many once-vanished watch parts! The wheels were littered with screws, oscillating mass axles, and other small parts. We had unwittingly stumbled upon the elusive ‘Bermuda triangle’ of watch parts.
So, the next time you lose a part and just can’t seem to find it, take a moment to turn your chair over and give the wheels a once-over. You never know what you may find.