Are you struggling with putting your watch back together after disassembling it? Or worse, did you manage to put it back together only to find out it’s not working? Do you feel like you’re the only one who can’t seem to master this skill, despite watching countless YouTube tutorials that make it look effortless?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many aspiring watchmakers face the same challenge as you do. However, the good news is that there are things you can do to make this task more manageable, especially if you’re new to the craft.

In this post, we’ll delve into the #1 problem that new watchmakers face: assembling a watch. We’ll explore some practical tips and tricks that can help you overcome this challenge and improve your watchmaking skills. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what it takes to master this craft and be on your way to becoming a skilled watchmaker. So, let’s get started!

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The Importance of Taking Apart and Reassembling a Watch in a Logical Order

When it comes to watchmaking, disassembling a watch is often the easy part. However, when it comes to reassembling the watch, you need to ensure that you do it in a logical order. Why? Because once you’ve completely assembled and lubricated the watch, if something isn’t functioning correctly, you’ll need to start removing parts to troubleshoot the problem.

Take Pictures and Keep Track of Part Locations

When you’re taking a watch apart, how you take it apart doesn’t matter as long as the power has been let down. However, when the movement is new to you, it’s important to take plenty of pictures of the different part locations and their orientation in the movement. This will serve as a reference for you in case you get lost during the assembly process.

Take Plenty of Pictures
Take Plenty of Pictures

Reassembling in a Logical Order

As mentioned earlier, there is a logical order that you should follow when reassembling a watch movement. This ensures that the different systems are functioning correctly before you move on to assembling a different system. By doing this, it narrows down the areas that you need to check in case something isn’t functioning correctly.

The Importance of Checking Systems

When you disturb the lubrication that you’ve already applied by removing bridges and wheels, you introduce the possibility of new faults being created in your service work. This can further complicate the troubleshooting process. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that the systems are working correctly as you assemble the watch. This will be the foundation for future troubleshooting processes.

Focus on Checking Systems

Ultimately, the concept of checking systems in the movement as you assemble it is what you should focus on. This will make troubleshooting problems easier and prevent new faults from being created during the service work. Remember, this is especially important when working with more complicated watches, where there may be more areas that need to be checked, such as day/Date functions or chronograph systems.

The Importance of Installing the Powertrain Correctly

The powertrain is the most important part of a watch movement. If the power can’t be transferred to the escapement, nothing else matters. It’s what drives the watch, so it’s crucial that it’s installed correctly. Before you begin assembling the other parts of the movement, you should always install the powertrain first.

Install the Power Train Correctly
Install the Power Train Correctly

Checking the Free Running of the Train

Once you’ve installed the powertrain, the first thing you should do is check the free running of the train. To do this, you can either turn the center wheel or the mainspring barrel. What you’re looking for is that the train of wheels spins freely and then reverses direction slightly. We call this backlash. This is an essential step because it tells us that the pivots, teeth, and pinions are clean and in good working order. If the powertrain is not running correctly, there’s no need to install anything else until you figure out the issue.

Check Free Running of the Power Train
Check Free Running of the Power Train

Troubleshooting Issues with the Powertrain

When checking the powertrain, if you turn the center wheel or the mainspring barrel, and the wheels stop abruptly, then there’s an issue. It could be that something is dirty, a pivot is bent, or there’s a fault with one of the teeth or pinions. In this case, you need to take the powertrain apart and inspect the parts again to identify the problem. Remember, the pivots don’t need to be lubricated to do this test. The wheels should function correctly without any lubrication.

 Installing the Keyless Works

Once you’re satisfied that the powertrain is working correctly, you can now install the keyless works. The keyless works are the mechanism that enables you to wind and set the watch. This step is straightforward, but it’s still important to do it correctly.

Before checking the functions of the keyless works, it’s important to install the pallet fork, essentially locking the powertrain. With the powertrain locked, you can now check that the mainspring is properly locked in position by winding the watch.

If you’re working on a manual wind movement, wind the mainspring all the way until it stops. If it keeps winding and winding, then there’s an issue in the mainspring barrel that needs to be addressed. For automatic movements, check to ensure that the bridle is slipping inside the barrel.

 Once the mainspring is wound, you can check the second position of the stem to make sure that the watch is able to set time correctly by observing the motion works and the cannon pinion. Additionally, you can flip the movement over and check that the watchmaker side of the keyless works is working correctly.

Checking the Motions Works
Checking the Motions Works

Checking the Escape Wheel Teeth

With the mainspring wound, the next step is to check that the escape wheel teeth are properly sliding across the impulse base of the pallet jewels. This is the most basic escapement test, but as you learn more about how the escapement works, these inspections will become more in-depth and thorough.

Checking the Pallet Fork Function with Escape Wheel Teeth
Checking the Pallet Fork Function with Escape Wheel Teeth

Installing the Balance Wheel

After checking the functions of the keyless works and the mainspring, you can go ahead and install the balance wheel. Make sure that the impulse jewel can slide into the fork slot by correctly positioning the pallet fork horns.

Installing Balance Wheel
Installing Balance Wheel

The Importance of Checking Everything

It’s important to check everything before proceeding to the regulation process. Imagine if you didn’t check anything, and the watch runs for about 30 seconds and then stops. You’ll have to start disassembling everything to figure out the problem. This is why it’s crucial to check each system before installing the next system.

Pro Tip: Let the Watch Settle In

To begin the regulation process, you need to let the watch run for at least 24 to 48 hours. This allows the mainspring to open and settle in, allows the end jewels to settle in, and allows all the lubrication on the pivots to settle in. If you start regulating the watch before it’s settled in, you’ll be dealing with false readings on the timegrapher. So, give your watch a minimum of 24 hours to settle in before regulating it.

Timegrapher after service
Timegrapher after service
Timegrapher after Settling in for 24 Hrs
Timegrapher after Settling in for 24 Hrs

In Conclusion

Checking the functions of the keyless works, the mainspring, escape wheel teeth, and installing the balance wheel are crucial steps before proceeding to the regulation process. Taking your time during each step and checking everything thoroughly will ensure that the watch functions correctly. Additionally, letting the watch settle in for 24 to 48 hours before regulating it is crucial to avoid false readings on the timegrapher. Remember, taking your time and being thorough will pay off in the end.