Need a Mechanical Watch to take apart and put back together

I've got to curb my watch-buying binge. In order to appreciate Haute Horlogerie, I've decided that I have to learn about ...well...haute horlogerie. So, I need an inexpensive watch that I can take apart to examine and understand the workings; and then put back together.

Obviously, I may not get it back together; so I'm looking for a very inexpensive watch that has a roughly comparable set of gizmos (...see I really do need to learn the terminology...) with better watches. Later on I may tackle my Raymond Weil automatic, but before that I'll have to start with  a basic mechanical.

Any suggestions?


Therw are many "off the shelf" inexpensive movements out there
02/20/2016 - 21:17

You may Google something like "inexpensive Chinese mechanical watch movement" or some such. I found many. Just base it on the complication - I found a simple date watch movement for $30. You will find the right tools will probably cost you more than a movement. I am not sure if some of the others have a better idea - if an oversize movement exists for this purpose, for example. 

I buy old American pocket watch movements on Ebay to practice on
02/21/2016 - 02:36

They are bigger than wristwatch movements, which makes assembly and dis-assembly easier.  But I only do it to practice and understand the workings of a mechanical movement.  I would never touch on of my own VCs, except to make a micro-adjustment on the regulator.

Found a possibile ... and a watch museum
02/21/2016 - 02:53

Thanks for the suggestions. Dan gave me an idea--I found a watch musuem not far from us in Bristol,  Connecticut, and I'm going to go there and see about American pocket watches and other materials. (I found the museum in the HH Journal--yet another discovery for me.)  Also, I think I'll start with the pictured watch I found on Amazon:

Found a possibile ... and a watch museum

It's only about $10 or so and looks like a fairly simple mechanical. (At least I'll be buying something affordable!)

Taking them apart is fun
02/21/2016 - 17:31

but putting them back together is another story crying.  I had a go at this 1840s V&C verge and fusee movement here.  Good luck with your project!

Getting some help from the Watch Museum
02/21/2016 - 22:05

I'm hoping to go to the in Bristol, CT. They should have some books there that will help. They're only open in the winter by appointment only, but the weather we've been having bodes well for an appointment in the near future. Once I get my project started, I'll photograph each step so that once I un-do it, I'll be able to re-do it. (If I cannot get it back least I'll learn about some of the works...)

Re: Getting some help from the Watch Museum
02/21/2016 - 23:12

You might want to check out this link, Bill


Thanks Joe
02/22/2016 - 00:10

I looked at that link earlier, and I think I'll take another look. It's all a matter of time allocation, and I believe that school might be a bit over my head at this point--I'd have to spend more concentrated time. What I want is something at a slower, less organized (i.e., rigid) pace. (Besides I don't like to have to sit in a corner with a cone-shaped hat.)

Re: Thanks Joe
02/22/2016 - 03:37

One of the "tasks" we had a few years ago at the visit to the Vacheron factory during SIHH, was to disassemble and reassemble a large pocket watch, about the size of Harrison's H4. I wonder if VC still has any of those lying around. Perhaps Alex know.

Maybe they keep them for in-house training...

Good luck

Re: Need a Mechanical Watch to take apart and put back together
02/22/2016 - 05:20

Have a nice trip to inside of watches!

Taking machines apart is always fun.



Re: Need a Mechanical Watch to take apart and put back together
02/22/2016 - 06:04

Hi Bill

It's a good idea to start on something larger; a 6497-1 or 6498 is a good practice movement.

Get good tools and a good loop. My suggestion is a 4x optivisor and a loupe you are comfortable with; I use the kind that fasten on the temple of my glasses that magnify 10x and 18x. I like the idea of looking like George Daniels.

You should also have a bench that has a ledge on at least 3 sides; watch springs love flying across the room.

My favourite place to spend hours and hours is at Watch Repaire Talk; it is a blog that discusses watchmaking and you can get an answer to any question you might have. There are also watchmaking videos. If you want something more structured there are on-line watchmaking schools but I don't really think they are necessary.

Also, buy tools and lubrication materials as you need them; you don't need a lathe to make a balance staff just yet. 

Watchmaking can be extremely frustrating - especialy if you've lost a Novodiac spring for the 3rd time - but it is also a rewarding and interesting passtime.

Have fun. 


Great advice for learning about watch workings
02/22/2016 - 14:16

Dave, IO & Joseph,

Thanks for all of the advice. I saw a Bausch & Lome loupe, and while I have a Q&D set of tools, looking for some good ones. Will check out Watch Repaire Talk. Also, looking for some good metric rulers.

I'm going to see if I can program some of this knowledge!


Re: Great advice for learning about watch workings
02/22/2016 - 17:17

Hi Bill

Bergeon tools are the best as far as I'm concerned. Buying cheap stuff won't save you money.

If you can, ask a watchmaker to show you a few loupes to see what you think. Unless you have a store that sells such things near buy it is the only way I know of to try loupes. 

When you've lost a cap jewel and the spring holding it in has long since disappeard just remember you are doing it for enjoyment.

Have fun.




Painters tape and screws?
02/22/2016 - 18:51

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the tip on Bergeon tools. I've got another question. I read somewhere (possibly even on this site) that if you place the tape that painters use for edging over screws holding down the back of a watch, they're less likely to go flying when you open up the back. Just push the screwdriver right through the tape and CCW the screw. Have you ever tried that?


Re: Painters tape and screws?
02/23/2016 - 00:40

Hi Bill

Nope and I'd advise against it because the sticky stuff on the tape will get you in trouble later, e.g. some tapes use glue that is very difficult to disolve in any cleaning fluid you'd use on a watch. Rodico - jeweller's putty - is bad enough because even a very small amount  can get jammed into a very small pivot and cause problems. A speck of dust can do the same thing.

Just carefully loosen the screws on bridges or cocks with a screwdriver that is slightly smaller than the width of the screw; then take it out with tweezers. I suggest you do this: take screws out and put them in numerous times until you feel condident handling the tools. It's even fun for a while...

Rodico is the only sticky substance that should go near a watch.

NEVER USE ALCOHOL - it dissolves shelac and shelac is used to 'glue' on things like impulse jewels and some other parts of balance assemblies as well.

Have fun


This is why this forum is so great.
02/23/2016 - 02:53

Thanks Dave,

I realized none of those points, but I do now and am grateful for your indulgence of my sophistry.

Kindest regards,