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11 Great Stocking Stuffers for 2011

by J.Edwards

One of the great things about being a watchmaker, is that so many of the tools we use everyday are small. Barring cleaning machines and water resistance testing equipment, most of the stuff we use to do our job everyday can fit in a stocking at Christmas time.

For this year, I’ve compiled a list of small, stocking-suitable items that I’ve found useful and interesting over this year past. Some of the items you may not have heard of before and most of the items that made this year’s list I’ve come to use and appreciate on a weekly – if not daily – basis in our watch lab. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you still 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 here.

1. Barrel Closer

The clear acrylic barrel closer topped the list before and it does again this year. If you don’t have one already, I highly encourage you to get your hands on one. They are an indispensable tool in a modern watchmaker’s arsenal. Once you’ve used one, you’ll never want to go back. You can pick up a clear acrylic barrel closer through the PrimeTime Shop on eBay; grab the top and bottom halves modelled by yours truly through Shapeways; or take a shot at making your own.

Around $25

2. Barrel Arbor Endshake Adjuster

Barrel Endshake AdjusterTo get even more mileage out of a barrel closer, I’d like to introduce you to an accessory that eases and simplifies the process of adjusting the endshake of the barrel arbor in the barrel. The barrel endshake adjuster is an accessory for the barrel closer that I developed earlier this year to assist me in adjusting endshake.

Ensuring that the endshake of the barrel arbor is correct is a critical precursor to achieving good balance wheel amplitude in a watch and can be adjusted by pressing the centre of the barrel cover into a concave recess. In the past, I used a domed piece of boxwood or the backside of an oiler pressed into the bottom half of the barrel closer, but I was never fully satisfied with the process and felt I could find a better way. After a couple of iterations, I eventually settled on simple design that closely resembles the top half of the barrel closer, with a convex inner topside that mirrors the concave recess in the bottom half of the barrel closer. It is a tool that I now use almost daily.

Be forewarned, the clear plastic currently available on Shapeways isn’t as transparent as I’d like it to be (yet) and requires a bit of work to polish up. For those who don’t want the extra work of polishing, an earlier iteration of the adjuster with hollow sides is also available.

Less than $20

3. Coin Screwdriver

Coin Screwdriver

If battery changes are something you do on a day to day basis, you have more than likely encountered watches from the likes of Swatch, which require a coin to unscrew the battery cover. While convenient for people who wish to change their own batteries, this design choice rubs against the grain of a watchmaker or service techinician’s routine flow. I used to keep a penny in the top drawer of my bench for such battery changes, but modern smart watches from brands like Suunto and Polar employ a very large battery cover with a broad coin slot. Small change won’t cut it for cases like this. Tired of fishing for large coins in my pocket whenever this sort of case came in for a battery change, I was delighted when I finally discovered the Veritas Pocket Screwdriver. It’s a coin shaped screwdriver with a tapered that edge allows it to adapt seamlessly from Swatch sized coin slots all the way up to Suunto’s most behemoth battery cover slot with ease.

$10 per dozen

4. Quartz Reference Book

Quartz Reference BookKeeping tabs on technical specifications for quartz watches when running them through standard diagnostics tests used to mean having a two foot stack of documentation beside your quartz tester. No longer. Thanks to J.Peter’s hard work, we now have a concise, go-to reference for quartz specs through the book Electrical Test Values for Quartz Watches, which he compiled over the past year and is now available on Lulu.com.

$16

5. Polymide Tape

For a number of years I always thought that protective polymide tape was expensive. That presumption was due, though, mainly to the fact that the watch brands I was purchasing it from charged so much for it and my local material houses didn’t stock it or even know what it was when I asked for it. Thankfully, the Internet has changed that. Sites like Amazon and DealExtreme now stock rolls of polymide in sub-centimeter widths for 1/10 of the price I used to pay.

Polymide tape being applied to a watch bracelet

Polymide tape is widely used in the electronics industry for masking and insulating electronic circuits. In the world of watches, its phenomenal heat resistance makes it great for protecting individual areas of watch cases and bracelets during polishing and finishing. For instance, to mask off an area of a watch bracelet that has a high polish while applying a satin finish to an area right next to it, or vice versa.

One caveat of the polymide rolls available from Amazon et al is that it isn’t available in the 1mm width used to protect the thin polished detailing on Omega Seamaster bracelets. Serendipitously, though, after running out of 1mm tape one afternoon this past year, I discovered that it is both cheaper and faster for me to use a wider tape and run the bracelet through the satin wheel twice over, using an alternate taping pattern with each run, than it is to use the 1mm tape. Cheaper simply because it is less expensive to buy the slightly wider rolls online. Faster because I’ve never once had to head back to the polishing buff for a touch up because the tape broke, which was a not uncommon occurrence with the 1mm polymide.

Around $3 per roll

6. Surgeon’s Nail Brush

Surgeon's Nail BrushAlso known as a sensory brush, I was first introduced to this fantastic hand and nail brush by a surgeon who raved about them. I picked half a dozen of them up for our shop last winter, to use for scrubbing down after polishing and refinishing watch cases, and now we rave about them, too. The small plastic bristles are soft on the skin but aggressive on dirt and particulate matter. Previously, even with a great soap like Fast Orange, it used to seem that I could scrub for hours and still not remove all traces of polishing compound from the micro-crevices in my hands and fingers. Those days are now long gone. If you do any dirty work, I highly recommend picking up some nail brushes.

Less than $2 each

7. Sugru

Sugru Packets

Some things in life are hard to explain fully in words. Sugru is one of those things. You really have to hold it, try it, use it, and resolve a few hankering problems with it to know just how useful it can be.

In short: it’s grown-up Play-Doh that turns into silicone overnight. For a nice – but not exhaustive – sampling of what it can be used for, check out the array of examples on the company’s website. I’ve used it to successfully improve the ergonomics of a few tools and can easily think of a dozen other uses for it, applicable to watches, that I haven’t had opportunity to apply it to yet. Fixing silicone pushers. Replicating out-of-production watch straps. Creating odd-shaped gaskets. You name it.

If ever you do need to replicate an item using Sugru, and a small amount of shrinkage isn’t an issue, I’d also recommend checking out InstaMorph moldable plastic for casting a mold of the original.

$20 for a dozen packages

8. Chronograph Hand Organizer

We first introduced you to the chronograph hand organizer several months ago here on Tick Talk. Since then, Shapeways has upgraded their material offerings to include several new materials and finishes that make the original chrono hands tray even better, including polished nylon and ultra high detail acrylic.

$15 to $30

9. Nomos Sundial Ring

Nomos Sundial RingAs documented here on the blog back in 2008, the first time I ever encountered a sundial ring was the Aquitaine Sundial Ring my father gifted me on my birthday. A little over a month ago, a friend introduced me to this beautifully executed rendition of a sundial ring by the German watch brand, Nomos. In my humble opinion, Nomos is one of the most underrated watch brands out there on the market today, offering unparalleled value for the money compared to nearly every other watch brand in their price bracket. If you haven’t heard of Nomos before, they’re worth reading up on.

Around $150

10. Cellphone Macro Lens

Macro Lens

This one is a second repeat from last year’s list, but it’s another that’s worth repeating. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, this little macro lens has saved me millions. I have been surprisingly impressed with the quality of pictures I’ve been able to capture with this little guy over the past year and a half that I’ve had it and it has proved itself priceless in enabling me to easily communicate the details of a watch repair to potential clients. Used on an iPod Touch, coupled with Airplay to beam the images to an AppleTV, the customer service experience can be taken to a level that was hitherto unimaginable.

For some sample images taken using the macro lens with an iPhone 4 see this, these, and that.

$10 to $15

11. Star of Bethlehem Documentary

Star of Bethlehem DVDAlmost every watchmaker I know has at least a small interest in astronomy. The motion of the sun, moon, and stars, is at the very core of what spurred our craft into existence. If the earth’s rotation was just a little bit faster or slower, or if we spun a different orbit around the sun, all of the gearing that enables watches to divide time as they do would have to be completely re-calculated.

When I watched the documentary The Star of Bethlehem for the first time last year, I was blown away by the clockwork precision of the universe that it unveiled, and I’ve learned something new from it every time I’ve seen it since. I must admit, I’ve found the film has a dichotomizing effect on people, though. Those who’ve seen it are typically either awed by it or left skeptical. To the skeptics, I encourage you to pick up your most trusty set of astronomical software and run the numbers. I’ve yet to discover anything from the film that didn’t compute.

Around $10

5 Comments

  1. J.Mitterando
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Nice Post. Would like to see all of these in my stocking this year (forwards link to Mrs. Mitterando. LOL. Happy Holidays to all. One Question. Will those camera lenses work with any smart phone? Or Just iPhone?

  2. Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The lens works on any phone. It ships with a small, flat, metal ring with an adhesive back that attaches to the phone. The lens is held in place on the ring with a small magnet.

    For the newer iPhones the ring itself actually needs to be modified slightly to accommodate the flash.

  3. Posted December 13, 2011 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Hey Jon, Jp,
    Wishing you guys and your families, a very merry Christmas. Thanks for the barrel cover closers listing. I sincerely think everyone should own one, if they do not own one already. A lot is happening at our end, and watchmaking and watchmaking ideals are the first and foremost on my mind.
    For those learning, practice, practice, and practice some more to get those grades, and that super clean finish on your servicing and repairs.
    Season’s best wishes from us, me and my wife.

  4. J.Mitterando
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks! Just ordered it for my android phone!! Once again Happy Holidays to all.

  5. Posted December 13, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the warm holiday wishes Prem & J.Mitterando. We wish you & yours a joy filled Christmas season.

    Happy Holidays!

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  1. [...] of the stranger items on last year’s list of stocking stuffers for watchmakers was a mouldable, silicone rubber known as Sugru. I mentioned then that I’ve used it to [...]

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