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14 Great Stocking Stuffers for Watchmakers

by J.Edwards

It’s that time of year again. With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I would take some time to compile a list of useful stocking stuffers for watchmakers. I’ve scoured the net high and low to try and find the best prices on a lot of these items, as well, without sacrificing on quality. If you happen to know where to score even better deals on any of the items, please leave a note about it in the comments section below.

1. Barrel Closer

A barrel closer is easily one of the most useful and ingeniously simple tools a watchmaker can have in his or her arsenal. Not only does this little tool make closing barrels a snap, as we’ve mentioned on the blog here before, it’s also an invaluable tool for adjusting the endshake of the barrel arbor in the barrel. You can pick a barrel closer up via the PrimeTime Shop on eBay, in high grade acrylic, for $25.

Less than $50

2. 500x USB Microscope

500x-microscope
Great technology is becoming more and more affordable. The first USB microscope I ever encountered was in watchmaking school. At the time they retailed for around $1000. The optics were okay and the resolution was acceptable, but you could only zoom to around 25x or so. Today, you can pick up a 100x model, with higher resolution and LED illumination for around $30, shipping included. Even better still, is this 500x 2MP USB microscope, with LED illumination for $55. Branded versions of the same product, such as those from Dino-Lite, retail for several-fold as much.

Less than $75

3. Bronze Tweezers

This past summer, I was finally able to get my hands on a good pair of bronze tweezers while visiting Cas-Ker, a watch tools and supplies company in Ohio. They quickly became my go-to tweezers for most of my daily tasks. They’re softer than steel, so there’s no risk of marking the plates, bridges, or other components of a watch while working with them, and I find them to be much more durable than my brass tweezers. Some watchmakers I have spoken to find it difficult to hold smaller parts with their bronze tweezers, but after months of daily use, I have yet to have any complaints about the ASCO brand bronze tweezers I purchased. They have performed impeccably well for me, even when dealing with cap jewels and other tiny components. Highly recommended.

Around $30

4. Broad Tweezers with Replaceable Tips

When lubricating the barrel wall of an automatic watch or inserting the barrel arbor into the center coil of the mainspring, holding and maneuvering the barrel appropriately can be a challenge. My tool of choice to hold the barrel in these circumstances is a broad pair of non-marking tweezers with replaceable tips.

Less than $3

5. Caseback Ball

caseback-ball

While I would dissuade anyone from using this tool on a high grade watch, caseback balls are an incredible time saver when changing the battery on a low grade watch. When used correctly, a caseback ball can be used to open and close most low- to mid-grade timepieces with screw down casebacks, while still easily maintaining up to 30m of water resistance. A real stress reliever, in more ways than one.

Under $10

6. Cellphone Macro Lens

macro-lens

With cameras now available in just about every cell phone on the market, there’s an entire sub-industry of interchangeable cellphone camera lenses popping up. The most noteworthy of these lenses for the purposes of a watchmaker are the close-up, macro lenses. From generic, low-budget Jelly Lenses that fit just about any cellphone to 60x illuminated microscope lenses made specifically for the iPhone 4, there is solution out there for just about anyone. My personal favourite is this combination wide-angle macro lens, which I first discovered via Photojojo. For the more industrious, you can also build your own macro lens by following this tutorial on Instructables. I find my macro lens particularly useful when used in conjunction with the My Measures app for the iPhone.

Under $20

7. Small Utility Knife

utility-knife

I have used quite a few different utility knives over the years for sharpening peg wood to peg out jewels and to perform other similar tasks. For a long time, my preferred knife was a Stanley FatMax, as it was more ergonomic than other utility knives of a similar size. Later on, though, I switched to using a smaller utility knife, which I found offered me finer control. It also occupies a much smaller footprint in my bench when not in use. It’s been more than a year since I made the switch, and I’ve never looked back.

Less than $5

8. Bergeon’s Precision Oiler

precision-oilerWe’ve mentioned Bergeon’s new precision oilers a few times in the past here on the blog and they are an excellent evolution over previous generations of oil picks. If you are a subscriber to the Horological Times, there is a useful article in the November 2010 issue that details how to make comparable oilers yourself, from Bergeon’s classic oilers. Whether you opt to retro-fit old-school oilers or take the plunge on Bergeon’s latest offerings, the upgraded spades will make a notable difference in your lubrication techniques.

Between $25 & $95

9. Badger Balm

badgerbalmDry skin equals flaky skin, and flaky skin equates to the potential for undesired DNA to end up inside of watch movements. With the outset of winter now looming ominously over the Northern Hemisphere dry skin is back in season. To help combat this unfortunate reality, I try to keep my hands well moisturized. Badger Balm, for ‘hardworking hands’, has yet to fail me in this respect. It’s certified USDA Organic and outperforms any of the comparable chemical cocktails I’ve ever tried. Not only does Badger Balm work supremely well, but the broad tin it comes in is also great for dipping my knuckles or the backs of my hands in, which are more  susceptible to drying out than my palms. This keeps my finger tips free from balmy residue, which in turn keeps my tools from getting slick, while still keeping my hands well moisturized. Badger Balm is also available in several pleasantly scented varieties, including nutmeg and vanilla.

Under $15

10. Watchmaker’s Pocket Knife

armyknifeWith the exception of no longer toting one in my carry on bag at the airport, I always like to have a pocket knife close at hand, as they pack a lot of utility into a very small space. Couple this Swiss made watchmaker’s pocket knife with a collapsible loupe and you’ll be set to undertake simple watch repairs just about anywhere.

From $90 to $250


11. Spy Watch

Unless you’re an industry espionage agent, infiltrating Asulab or scoping out the creative space of Maximilliam Busser, this next item may not be particularly useful for you, but the cool-factor to price point ratio is enough to make it worth listing. Spy camera watches, worthy of Q’s laboratory in a Bond movie, are no longer a thing of fiction. Nor are they priced very far out of reach. Today, $40 can land you a pinhole spy camera timepiece, preloaded with 4GB of memory.

Less than $40

12. LED Flashlight

Finding small parts that fall on the floor can be difficult sometimes. Particularly if it’s a non-ferrous component like the spring or cap jewel from an anti-shock setting, which can’t be picked up  with a magnet. A strong flashlight, like this compact LED Mag-Lite are incredibly useful for catching that glimmer of light or long cast shadow off a small component that has run astray. Less expensive LED flashlights exist on the market, but I’ve yet to find one that compares in quality or intensity to the offerings from Mag-Lite.

maglite
Less than $25

13. Binocular loupes

volker

Binocular loupes offer crisp, clear magnification at an incredible 18-20″ working distance. Surgeons swear by them. Several high profile watchmakers also use them. Volker Vyskocil can be seen sporting a pair in Masters of Contemporary Watchmaking and Kurt Klaus of IWC fame has also been spotted wearing them at the IWC factory. While the size is just right for a stocking hung above the fireplace with care, the price tag on a high quality pair of these babies may make them a little too big for most stockings.

Between $500 & $800

14. ‘Tourbillon’ Cufflinks

cufflinkFor those who do have deep pockets, what watchmaker wouldn’t appreciate a functioning pair of carousel-tourbillon cuff links for Christmas? To get your hands on a pair, you can get in touch with Alexis Sarkissian in New York at (724) 263 2286 or info@totallyworthit.com.

Between $400 & $500

2 Comments

  1. Posted December 20, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jon, wishing you and Jp’s families, a very happy and Merry Christmas! I’m making a beeline for that 500x loupe with usb portal. :)

  2. Posted December 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Warm Christmas wishes to you and D, as well, Prem

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] While the videos don’t come close to even scratching the surface of what Watchmaking covers, they do offer valuable, second-hand insight into chapters 3 and 6 of the book, which discuss finishing techniques and the making of small components, respectively. I found it particularly neat to see Smith’s take on the brass rod polisher that Daniels’ details on pages 56 & 58 of the revised edition of Watchmaking. I also found it interesting to see that Smith uses a pair of bronze tweezers, similar to the ones we mentioned here on the blog back in December. [...]

  2. [...] find the tools and ideas proposed in this list handy for your own work. If you’d like to read last year’s list, you can check it out [...]

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