Setbacks and Learnings of a Timelord (part 3)

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Have you ever had a moment in the middle of a project that you were so excited for, as you know it draws you closer to the end? For me, that was this weekend. And with it, the heartache that come with failure.

The Seamaster 300 style arrived and was amped! As I had done several time before I removed the back and the two clamps around the movement holder. Popped off the hands, pulled out the movement and flipped it over to removed the two clamps that hold the dial to it. I got the Tudor style dial off and put on the new Seamaster style on and noticed something horrible; the date window was off. My heart fell into my stomach. Reassessing my work, I checked to make sure I had not off set the dial or used the incorrect placement; everything on my end was correct. What I had discovered from its creator is that it was meant for the Asian made equivalent of my movement. And their date wheel is slightly inset.

Devastated, I figured this was a sign. So I decided to just wrap up this watch as a Tudor based homage with a date. I buttoned everything back up, and slid the winding stem as I had done so many other times, back into the plate of the movement. Accept this time; there was no click.


Panic hit me as I double checked to see if the movement was running in my hands; it wasn’t. I slid the stem back though and this time it did actuate the movement, I was relieved. But as I went to click it out one to set the date; it just pulled all the way out!

I would later find out that I had been pulling the stem out wrong this whole time, discovering this is a common issue with the ETA 2824/2336 where the keyless on the winding stem gets out of alignment IF you don’t pull it out to ‘time set position’ first.

I had been researching the levels of the movement and felt fairly confident I could get down to that area of the movement. Pulling away the roter, the automatic assembly, down to the ratchet. And here was my second mistake; I let loose the mainspring to make sure there was no power in the movement. When it did, the gear started whining and to be honest it startled me. And my hand shoot ever so slightly; reengaging the ratchet gear. It ground off a few teeth.

Pissed at my mistake, I carried on and later would order a replacment. I realized that I would have to really get to the back of the baseplate to get to the action that I figured was at fault; and then I realized, yet again, another mistake. I could have just accessed the keyless from the face of the movement!

I took a break, to have my anger at myself subside as well as to help my hand shake. Afterwards, I went back to work and started reassembling what I had done. In retrospect, this exercise was good, as I now have much more confidence pulling apart and understanding how the gears and springs interplay in the movement; but in the moment, I was pretty pissed at myself.

I get down to the click and click spring, right before I get the automatic module back on, and as I set the click spring… TWING! It shot out of the movement- to who knows where. I sighed…cursed…and sighed again. As I would have to order a replacement of that as well.

I buttoned up the backside of the movement, flipped it over, pulled the calendar wheel and minute bridge and there was the area I needed to work on the whole time. I was able to make the repair in about 15min after that.

So now, I have a movement, that can’t wind, and I hope is still in balance, as I feel I have ‘manhandled the hell out of this movement.

Lessons learned:

Why Swiss

Going into this project; I knew I was going to make mistakes. I could have bought a cheaper Asian made movement (at almost a quarter the cost), but I also found it is harder to find replacement parts without having to buy a whole new movement. ETA 2824 and by proxy my Sellita SW200 are tried and true Swiss movements, that are worked on daily around the world. And as such, replacement parts are much more easily found. I ordered a click spring and a ratchet gear for $20. But now, have to wait for their arrival as they are being ordered from overseas.

My mistakes are my accomplishments.

After this, my wife asked me; “what are you trying to do with this watch?” Many at this point might throw their hands in the air, and put this movement and project into a drawer; and yet I continue. I have built and, repaired countless devices made of copper and silica, built many things of wood and steel. But never anything as precise and small as a watch movement. It baffles and amazes me at the fact that human kind can cram a small micro computer into just a few millimeters that just needs to be powered by springs and cogs. That, to me, and an adventure of discovery. And until I had to troubleshoot a problem to get this movement back up, I was hesitant to dive into the movement.
These mistakes led me to see the logic behind how Sellita/ETA designed this machine. How everything is layered, and the order to which everything is stacked. There is a beauty in this, as I see how this tiny original wearable computer; was meant to be used, abused, and worked on. Something that is becoming more and more lost on our devices these days.

Next Phase

So now, I wait for parts to arrive and see what I can read on this movement. I now feel confident in repairing the mistakes and damage I made. And after all this, hopefully it still ticks, as I will have a watch that I can honestly tell someone;

“What makes it tick.”