In our last post here on the blog, Roger Smith showed us how to make watch hands from raw steel. Keeping the hands of a watch well organized is also an important aspect of a watchmakers craft, particularly when it comes to more complicated watches like chronographs.
Occasionally, I get watches in for service that feature as many as 7 or 8 different hands (the most complicated watch in the world, Patek Philippe’s Calibre 89, features 23 hands on two dials). In the past, when a complicated watch would come across my bench, I would draw diagrams of where each hand went. Later on, I switched to using a digital camera. However, if a watch happened to have very similar hands with slightly different sized posts, neither of these solutions was quite perfect for keeping the hands organized while the mechanism was being serviced.
Thanks to a comment from David, a few months back on a post here on the blog about printing with titanium, I was able to create a handy solution out of nylon plastic for myself and one of my co-workers that has put our hand organization and storage woes to rest. I have since made a few refinements to the original design, to make it even better, and the end result is now available for anyone to order on Shapeways, in the colour, size, and material of their liking.
It’s a simple solution, consisting of a tray with one larger storage area and three circular divisions laid out in the classic chronograph format. I opted for three subdial divisions instead of four for several reasons. The first is that it ensures there is ample space for the main hands of the watch. The second reason is that if the watch you happen to be working on does have a fourth subdial, the fourth subdial hand (or hands) is typically distinguishable enough from the main, central hands that it can be kept in the main area of the tray without consequence. Thirdly, the use of three subdial divisions makes orientating the tray simple and intuitive. The outer edges of the tray taper inwards, making it easy to pick the tray up and move it around securely. The tray is also available in two sizes: a small, 42mm version to fit in classic Renfer trays and a larger, 48mm version to fit in the hand and dial storage containers used by Rolex (as pictured at the top of this post). The larger version should also fit well in the newer, flip-top Renfer trays, although I’ve yet to try this.