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The Last 100 Years

by Jordan Ficklin

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I recently was reading in the September 1969 edition of the AWI NEWS Bulletin when I read the following editorial from D.W. Lawrence of the Elgin National Watch Company. He spells out many of the improvements which were implemented by the watch industry from the 1920s through 1969. It’s a fun read. Click on the image for a larger version. When you get done reading please comment on what you think have been some of the great technological improvements to watches since 1969.

Timekeepers – A Documentary

by Jordan Ficklin

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The gentlemen in the video below are looking to make a documentary which will encourage people to take an interest in something very dear to me: timekeeping, horology, and watchmakers and clockmakers. I hope you will watch the video, click on the link and help them make this documentary happen. Many of you have been very generous in your donations on this blog, I hope this generosity will extend to these individuals.

Click here to visit their site on Kickstarter

Barrel Arbor Endshake

by Jordan Ficklin

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I know that after I danced Gangnem Style in the last video you thought this was going to be the “Harlem Shake” but it isn’t.

Endshake is the amount of play that an arbor has along its axis between the two bearing surfaces. On the 3130 Rolex specifies an endshake of 0.01mm to 0.03mm for the barrel arbor between the two bearing surfaces (one in the mainplate and the other in the barrel bridge.) A watchmaker needs to be able to judge this play without any measuring tools. He usually does this as much by feel as he does by visual confirmation. It has been quite some time since I had any feedback on my endshake adjustments so I set up a vertical micrometer dial gauge and measured the endshake of this barrel arbor without making any adjustments. Now its your turn. Below is a video of me testing the endshake of the barrel arbor in a Rolex 3130. How much endshake do you think this barrel arbor has? Leave your guess in the comments.

Adjustments to endshake in modern watches are made using a jeweling tool, like the Horia, Seitz, or Favorite.

If NFL Players Were Watchmakers v2

by Jordan Ficklin

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Sorry, for the double post. For those who receive my blog posts in email and couldn’t see the embedded video here is a link to the video. You’ll want to watch it, its quite entertaining.

If NFL Players Were Watchmakers

by Jordan Ficklin

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So here is something that is just lots of fun! Pass it along and feel free to let the world know what it would be like If NFL Players Did Your Job.

A Message from the AWCI President – January

by myazijian

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A Message from AWCI President – Manuel Yazijian, CMW21

January’s Horological Times 2013

I trust you’ve had an enjoyable and festive season with your family and loved ones; now let’s start an exciting new year. My preceding two messages concerned proper business planning, methods of enjoying your practice, the state of the industry in general, and to a certain degree, spare parts. It would be quite safe to say that, without access to the required spare parts, practicing after-sales-service is a futile task. It is important to note that some of the world’s most successful watch brands have pathways in place for independent watchmakers to obtain spare parts, pending on training and tooling, among other criteria. More information on this model is available.

This month’s message however, is geared specifically to those who are watchmakers, certified or not, working for companies of various types and sizes.

With the increased production of Swiss mechanical watches since the early 1990s, we find ourselves with an abundance of watches that require service and this will be so for some time to come. Unlike quartz watches, which were easy to repair and quite often easier to simply replace, mechanical movements, mostly automatic winding in nature, require complete service to exacting standards.

Having said this, you may come across workshop managers who are not understanding of these specific requirements. Their message quite often is that of pushing work out as quickly as possible, even if the mechanism is not repaired to the standards you learned while in the educational stage of your career. Some of your manager’s goals may be to lower your standard of workmanship to satisfy lower market prices, to increase productivity, or to simply perform substandard workmanship because that’s the only standard they’ve known.

You are now faced with a dilemma. Do you lower your standards because this employer affords you an employment, perhaps health care insurance and paid holidays, etc.? It’s a tough situation to be in, especially if you have dependents. Don’t feel singled out; there are many who have traveled down this path before you. They also had to make this difficult decision whether to lower their standards to keep their employment. After all, work seems to be plenty and customers can’t really tell what was done inside the watch as long as the case and bracelet are polished and refinished.

What can be the consequences of such a practice? One of the main ones is that your employer, seeing that you have agreed to lower your standards, will be tempted to press you even more to take shortcuts until the product is truly abysmal in quality. In the eyes of your employer, and to a certain extent, the client, you will be seen as the person to blame for poor quality work and therefore, a higher comeback rate.

What happens now? You have traded your standards, your reputation and self-respect for someone who has little regard for this profession. How long will it be before you look for other employers (or customers) who truly admire and understand the art and science of watch repair? How long before you lose the precious art and skills you have painstakingly acquired?

If you are forced to practice shoddy workmanship for whatever reason, feel free to document these events and contact the Ethics Committee at the following email address: You may also contact me directly. This practice will be documented and investigated by the Ethics Committee and your matter will be dealt with in the utmost of confidence.

I end this month’s message with the cartoon below which our Vice President, Wesley Grau, shared with me. This was given to him by one of his former watchmaking instructors. I find it summarizes the state of the watch repair industry. Notice the publication date—1956. Not much has changed since then.

Feel free to contact me by e-mail to see how AWCI can be of assistance to you:

As always, keep your skills honed, your standards very high, your attitude professional, your tools and equipment in great condition and your workshops clean and organized; you never know who may come by to pay you a visit.

Manuel Yazijian, CMW21

The small things

by Jordan Ficklin

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At the tip of every balance wheel pivot sits a little flat ruby jewel called a cap jewel. It’s role is integral in the capped system for reducing friction on balance pivots. When the watch is dial up or dial down the rounded tip of the balance wheel rests on the cap jewel, instead of the shoulder resting on the flat of the hole jewel (as it would with the other pivots.) This is covered with more detail in the post on Shock Resistance and in the post on cap jewels.

The point of this post is to stress the importance of examining cap jewels when servicing a watch.

Imperfection in Cap Jewel

This little cap jewel has a small imperfection (at the tip of the arrow in the photo). It may seem like a little thing, just a tiny little dimple, but that little dimple increases the amount of friction significantly. I missed this imperfection during disasembly and when I put the watch together the timing results were quite ugly!

Position Rate Amplitude
Dial Up +1 280
Dial Down +9 260
Stem Left +11
Stem Up +9
Stem Down +7 240

I might have thought it was the balance staff but a wise watchmaker at the last AWCI convention taught me that it is easier to check jewels than staffs so I switched the upper jewels with the lower jewels and got the opposite results. I knew it was the jewels. I pulled them out, cleaned them off and that is when I discovered the small indentation in the cap jewel. I replaced the jewel and with the new jewel in place I got the following rates:

Position Rate Amplitude
Dial Up +9 280
Dial Down +9 280
Stem Left +7
Stem Up +11
Stem Down +8

And with a little adjustment of the hairspring and regulation I was able to get:

Position Rate Amplitude
Dial Up +1
Dial Down +0
Stem Left +1
Stem Up +2
Stem Down +1

In the world of watchmaking . . . it is the small things that make all the difference. Be sure to carefully examine every component for wear. Little things affect timing, future wear, and your reputation.

Shock Protection

by Jordan Ficklin

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Here is another great video from Gary Biscelli and the folks at the Lititz Watch Technicum.

We’ve talked about shock protection before way back in 2008 and you may recognize this model as a very similar one appears in the video below:

How Jewel Bearings for Watches are Made

by J.Edwards

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Ever since John Harrison first used them in his H4 pocket watch, to defeat the longitude problem, jewel bearings have played a pivotal role in the precision of nearly every serious watch or chronometer produced since. They are now so ubiquitous and commonplace that most watchmakers take them for granted. We shouldn’t. The time and energy – not to mention patience and precision – required to make a single jewel is incredible.

While George Daniels illustrates in detail how to cut and shape jewel bearings in chapter 7 of Watchmaking, there are subtleties to this art that are much better communicated through video. Thankfully, once upon a time, America’s Elgin National Watch Company produced a comprehensive, 72 minute documentary on the production of watch jewels, detailing every step of their process, from raw boule right through to the specular finish. If you have ever wondered just how a watch jewel is made, watch and learn:

I found the segment on the automatic drilling machine to be most insightful, particularly the way the fine, steel drill rod is set and centered in shellac without holding up production of the other stones being drilled simultaneously. It is also interesting to note the number of naturally sourced aids, such as olive oil and honey, that were used by Elgin in the production of their jewels. Having spent many long hours enlarging a jewel hole once, using Daniels’ techniques, I can attest that it is nothing short of the miracle of industrialization and economies of scale that allows synthetic ruby jewels to be as inexpensive and abundant as they are today.

To download a copy of the documentary to watch later, or to stream it in a different format, visit

5 Fun Stocking Stuffers for Watchmakers

by J.Edwards

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In past year’s I’ve compiled lists of usually useful – and sometimes unusually useful – tools for watchmakers that can fit in a stocking. For this year’s list, I’ve opted to have a little bit of fun and compiled a short list of out of the ordinary items we’re not as likely to use at the bench, but still have ties to horology. If you’d like to read last year’s list of 11 great stocking stuffers for 2011, you can check it out here.

1. Watch Movement Cuff Links

As watchmakers, quite often our favourite aspects of a particular watch are kept hidden beneath a dial or the caseback of a timepiece. Watch movement cuff links, on the other hand, let the beauty and intricacy of a watch movement shine. They prove to be interesting conversation starters at weddings, cocktail parties, and black tie events. A typical pair will set you back around $150.

For the makers among us, it is also possible to fabricate your own using movements you may have on hand. All that’s required is a set of cuff link blanks and a little J-B Weld.

For those who would prefer a pair that actually tick, there are also these tourbillon cuff links, which we introduced to you in 2010.

Almost Free to Potentially Priceless

2. Beginner Watchmaking

Nearly every watchmaker dreams of one day crafting their own watch. In the wake of the upheaval and standardization within the watch industry over the past century, however, few practicing watchmakers ever actually follow through on this dream. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that it is a long and arduous journey to design, execute, and succeed in building a watch from the ground up on the first try. Some, like the grandmaster, George Daniels, have proven it is possible to achieve, but there are other world class watchmakers, like Kari Voutilainen, Antoine Preziuso, Franck Muller, & Vianney Halter who began their independent careers by customizing pre-existing watch calibres or ebauches. Working this way allows you to begin with a functional base that you can be more certain will keep time in the end. It frees you to focus on executing on the fine details and the likeliness of achieving small victories earlier in your journey helps to fuel the passion and desire that will keep you hooked and help push your work to greater heights as your skill, know how, and vision increase with each new watch. A nearly failsafe place to start on this voyage is with Tim Swike’s Beginner Watchmaking, which is targeted at novices but also provides useful resources for more seasoned watchmakers. If, or when, you’re ready to take your craft to the next level, dive into George Daniels’ Watchmaking

From $10 to $15

3. Cellphone Macro Lens

Macro Lens
As alluded to in previous years’ lists, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, this little macro lens for cellphones has saved me millions. I have been surprisingly impressed with the quality of pictures I’ve been able to capture with it and it has proven priceless in enabling me to easily communicate the details of a watch repair to potential clients. It has also been great for sharing some of the craftsmanship and wonder, of the small universe I interact with everyday, with family and friends.

Nearly $15 when I first bought mine a little over two years ago, the price on a new wide-angle/macro lens combo at the time of this writing has plummeted to an unreal low of only 9¢ on Amazon.

As little as 9¢

4. 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. This Swiss made watchmaker’s pocket knife is a tag team effort between the ever reliable Victorinox & Swiss watch tool manufacturer, Bergeon. While I wouldn’t even begin to consider undertaking a complete service with one, mine has proven helpful for small jobs, like strap swaps or bracelet adjustments, and ballpark estimates for service when not at the bench. In a pinch, I’ve also used mine to fix a few cellphones and eyeglasses for friends and family.

Around $250

5. Clockwork Pencil Sharpener

Last bit of horologically inspired fun, is a clock key inspired pencil sharpener by SUCK UK. The brand produces several other horological oddities, as well, including this googly eye clock.