Thursday, August 29, 2013

Zenith Cal. 400Z El Primero column wheel chronograph

One of common requests is for 'more movement images' and I am always glad to share what is going on 'behing the scene'.

Zenith Cal. 400Z El Primero column wheel chronograph is one of my favourite watches. Photos below are for those who share the passion for precision and workmanship.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rolex Submariner 1680 Red - restoration, part II

Rolex 1680 The Red Sub

While we are still on the quest for the 'missing puzzle' - Which shop sold Rolex watches on Norfolk Island in 1970s? the owner of the Red Sub was anxious to get his baby back, so I got straight into Red restoration.

Before you see the photos, couple of points on what a true and faithful collectors of vintage Rolex watches regard as the 'honest way' to restore a watch:

- Mechanism: complete overhaul. Worn out or broken parts are to be replaced. For the same reason you would replace a brake pads on 1972 Porsche, you should replace movement components which are essential and responsible for time keeping. Remember: if it doesn't tell the time, it's not a watch!

- case parts: light polish only. This is done by hand, of course. Plexy glass: again, polish only. Original bezel insert should be retained for two reasons: originality and distinctive vintage look.

- bracelet: a worn out bracelet must be replaced! Again, you would not restore a vintage car and drive it around 'preserving' the 50 years old set of tires. Old bracelet should be preserved, but not attached to a newly restored watch.

- case seal: rubber seal should be replace. This is not optional! While vintage watches are no longer expected to be water resistant, seals are meant to be replaced regardless.

- dial and hands: this is actually the most important bit. The dial and hands should NEVER be replaced. Dial replacement is sacrilegious! Not only the new dial would spoil the look but it would significantly devalue the watch.

In other words, a proper restoration means bringing the watch in good working order wile preserving as much of it's character and originality, whenever that is possible. Like with any restoration, the end result should never become irreversible.

Once again, vintage watches should not be worn in water. When worn daily, extra care and attention should be taken. After all, we are just guardians- beautiful pieces will outlive it's custodians and will be passed on to the next generation of careful are respectful owners.

At least we hope so.

Case disassembly

the 'red' dial was manufactured by dial maker Beyeler, Geneve

the mainspring was dry, long overdue for cleaning, polishing and lubrication

movement disassembled, components ready for cleaning

main spring polished and lubricated

balance wheel

movement assembled


hands assembly

checking for clearence

movement assembled !

Plexiglas polishing

by hand :-)

more plexi polishing

"brushing" the lugs - refinishing

case cleaning

not bad :-)

almost there

ready to go!

As you would imagine, this quick 'show and tell' blog entry covers only some of steps involved in restoration which took approximately 6 hours. Holding the camera with one hand and assembling the watch with other is challenge I am yet to master :-)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1972 Rolex 1680 Red Submariner: one original owner.

You love your red Submariners? Me too!

This lovely example of a 1680 red Sub manufactured in the last quarter of 1972 just arrived to our workshop for a complete overhaul. The bracelet had virtually disintegrated, but the good old Subbie suffered no other damage.

Naturally this was a great opportunity to chat with the original owner who got it in 1975. That's right - the watch sat in a dealer's shop unsold for over two years! The Red 1680 Submariner was hardly a hot selling item back then :-).

The owner has had it since then and except for a couple of services in the late 80s and one in 2007, the watch spent 38 years happily ticking on his wrist.

"Would you like to know what your watch is worth today" - I had to ask.

"Yes, I would - but It really does not matter to me. It is the sentimental value, not the monetary one that makes it special. But I do remember what my wife paid for it: exactly $250, from a dealer on Norfolk Island - where we went for our honeymoon!"

Getting this one back to good working order is now more a matter of pleasure and enjoyment and my top priority. I just LOVE red subs!

Now, you may say that finding a red sub is not a big deal, there are hundreds of them out there on eBay and from online sellers.

I respectfully disagree. Pieces which are put together, and contain both original and aftermarket Rolex parts are not what serious collectors are interested in.

Good stuff - watches bought and worn by one original owner - are extremely hard to find and almost impossible to buy. As our customer said: money cannot buy memories.

One thing you can help me with: who was the Rolex dealer and what was the name of the shop on Norfolk Island that operated there in the 1970s?

Stay tuned for post-service photos!

Monday, August 12, 2013


He arrived last Thursday, well dressed, wearing a $12,800 Rolex. "I would like to buy a Panerai Destro with 56 hours power reserve". Obviously money was not an issue and he appeared to be reasonably sure about his choice.

I sensed that something was unusual even before the transaction was completed: while I was doing my best to explain how to wind the watch and set the time he was taking photos of the watch with his mobile device, uploading them on what appeared to be a social networking website, counting the number of "likes".

Yesterday morning, precisely at 8:29 I received a distressed email from the new Panerai owner: the watch was dead. Attached, was a 27 seconds video clip which should have helped me pinpoint the problem and provide an instant solution.

The video was both graphic and deeply disturbing.

A few years ago we ran a small survey titled: "If you are to select one 'crown' reason for purchasing a high quality mechanical watch, what would that be?" To our surprise, the top answer was 'sophistication'.

But sophistication cannot be bought or inherited. It is the result of a painful effort which "machines" our entire being, turning us from the Neanderthal to the Homosapien in a matter of one short lifetime. And ironically, the bulk of machining is done by us.

A fine mechanical watch is foremost and above all a PRECISION INSTRUMENT. Not an accessory to enhance your beauty or device which just tells the time. And this simple statement is the foundation, a corner stone on which you will build your watch appreciation and, if you want it, sophistication.

To his credit, the owner of the Panerai allowed me to share the video publicly, for educational purpose.

While you may find the opening moments intense, I find the last 5 seconds the most challenging.

The bottom line: there is a good reason why watches come with an instruction manual. And paying attention to the 'how to use it' instructions at the time of purchase is absolutely essential.

*** Before we go any further: this is what we call sophistication

Can you imagine the quality of a tool capable of cutting into a solid block of steel with such power that it looks like it's cutting a block of cheddar cheese? Can you comprehend, just for a moment, the precision required to turn that block of steel into a V8 engine? The forces required to flick the 500kg piece, turn it around, maneuver it and then bring it to the exact position, to one hundredth of millimeter? The heat, the finishes, the stream of coolant? Countless hours to write the piece of software? And the years of designing, improvement and engineering which went into the building of the Matsuura Maxia MAM72-63V 5-axis CNC mill?

Believe it or not, the challenges in the manufacturing of YOUR wrist watches are no less dramatic. Respect!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Premium: Who you follow determines your final destination.

If you have recently subscribed to our newsletter then you may not be aware that the newsletter has been around since September 2001. Some years were busier than others, but we are still very excited about keeping you updated with new watch arrivals.

It would be too modest to ignore your feedback: thanks to this very newsletter, many of you now regard us as not just 'another second hand watch dealer' but someone who week after week provides valuable content and helps you to have a better understanding of horology.

Actually, you often say that the 'Watchmaker's Newsletter' is your most anticipated piece of email and something you read first, without delay. You appreciate and understand the amount of work that goes into each and every email. And yes, quite frankly, even a two-paragraph newsletter with a bunch of images could take a whole day to prepare because we are not a 'copy and paste cat' but rather providers of original content.

The bottom line is: you love it, the readership is increasing steadily and we are grateful for your long standing support.

There is however one small detail: in recent months we have been receiving frequent requests for what you call a 'premium' list. Some of you feel that as we grow, the chances of snatching that desirable timepiece are diminishing. Others want even more 'personal' content, more frequent emails, more horology or to be placed on a priority alert list.

For years, we purposely avoided the creation of any exclusive list. The truth is, we still believe that the best way to sell pre-owned watches is on a first come, first served basis. The second reason to keep the things as they are: we have already stretched our resources and more administrative work means less watchmaking. The third reason: this mailing list should remain FREE to all.

However those who call themselves 'experts in customer service' have convinced me that when there is a strong demand for a 'product' then we should do our best to meet those expectations and provide a frequently requested service.

As of this week, in addition to our existing FREE mailing list, we will accept subscriptions to our Premium list. For just $99 per year you will receive 52 Premium Newsletters.

I can straight away list 20 reasons why you should immediately go to a Premium subscription. Instead, let me just point out two:

1. As a Premium subscriber you will be entitled to a $99 refund on your next watch purchase. You get your subscription money back, and still remain on Premium list.

2. You will be entitled to TWO free Insurance Valuations in your first year as paid subscriber. As we charge $95 per valuation to our regular customers, not only you will get your subscription money back AND remain on the Premium list but you will be $91 ahead.

With an offer like this, I will sleep well knowing that the deal is fair and mutually beneficial. Actually, the offer is so good that you will never request to be unsubscribed!

For the majority of our existing subscribers, things will remain exactly as they are: a free mailing list with plenty of new arrivals, mailed out 3 or 4 times per week - an email you would be proud to receive and forward to your friends.

And for those who want even more exciting deals, who understand that timing is everything and appreciate the value of professional service, Premium will be a logical step forward.

"Which way should I go ?" asked Alice.
"Where do you want to go?" replied the Cat.
"Oh, it really doesn't matter." answered Alice.
"Then it really doesn't make any difference which way you go." grinned the Cheshire Cat.

To find out 18 more reasons why YOU should follow your favorite Watchmaker and go Premium, click

to subscribe.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Charles Barbezat: the Chronograph maker from Le Locle

In 1888 Charles Barbezat - a watchmaker form from LeLocle - started the LE PHARE watch company. His specialty: complicated pocket watches, especially chronographs. At that time most high grade timepieces were mainly finished and adjusted by individual watchmakers, but Berbezat was in a way a pioneer of a more "industrial" approach leading to a greater output.

LE PHARE's business grew and in the 1970s it was one of the largest chronometer manufacturers in Switzerland. The brand was later 'absorbed' by Jean d'Eve which is still in business today.

Today I had the opportunity to work on a single pusher column wheel chronograph signed LE PHARE. Unfortunately the last person who 'took care of it' was not really familiar with the workings of this type of stop-watch work which resulted in a number of components being either incorrectly positioned or simply 'tensioned' in the wrong direction.

After an hour of disassembling and re-assembling, I got the chrono work ticking again. Which is rather good news because hand making any of the steel levers and retaining springs is really time consuming.

The porcelain dial is still intact, almost as good as when it was 'baked' in the early 1900s. Blue the screws, highly polished steel levers and the contrasting gold plates are what makes this Barbezat chronograph a very eye-pleasing timepiece.

The watch is now ready for a complete overhaul which would include disassembly, polishing of steel parts, cleaning, oiling and adjustment but I have no doubt that a finished job would be rewarding.

The only problem now is finding time to actually do it :-(

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hublot: Cool and uber-cool

Cool and uber-cool

When Ferrari signed a partnership program with Hublot last year, it clearly signaled that putting a red horse sticker on a watch dial is no longer the only requirement for a successful partnership.

Quite frankly - and rightly so - Ferrari was sick of Omega's lack of imagination and Girard Perregaux's laziness. Panerai went a bit further: they actually designed a watch which had some potential but this effort too lacked the most important ingredient: a true avant-garde look and high-tech guts that would leave us all speechless.

In just a few months, Hublot turned the watch-concept world upside down.

Image source:

A Ferrari watch is everything and more you would expect it to be: a representation of uber-cool, limited and out of reach for even those who could (almost) afford it.

The LaFerrari MP05 is no longer a watch the Ferrari dealer could throw after the deal was closed or wrap it up as a gift for a new car owner's kid. It is a $300.000 limited edition of 50 Masterpieces which will humble even a new Ferrari owner and make him drool for the next one.

"Ah, if THAT is what they wanted... why the hell didn't they tell us?" said three Swiss makers banging their heads.

As they say in marketing: there is nothing worse than underestimating your client's advertising budget....

Obviously if you are a watch collector on a budget, MP05 will remain on your wish list for a few more months.

But here comes the good news: for a smart and savvy collector, snatching a Pre-Ferrari Hublot back form the times when the brand was still struggling to sell $5K watches (insert here the YEAR 2000) the piece below will provide a load of enjoyment.

Hublot MDM Super Professional 400m is one of those pieces which will one day be a highlight of your collection. In my books: a never to be repeated offer. This 13 years old watch is in mint, 10/10 appears to be unworn. Automatic, of course. On a rubber strap - of course! Otherwise, it would not be a Hublot!

Check it out at