You’ve learned a little bit about servicing watches and now you’re ready to go out and start buying some damaged and broken watches to fix.  With literally tens of thousands of options available how do you know what watches to buy or not buy. The last thing you want to do is spend two or three hundred dollars for a watch that’s really only worth 100 dollars.

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Understanding Your Goal When Buying Broken and Damaged Watches

When you’re looking to purchase broken and damaged watches, it’s important to first consider your end goal. Do you want to simply take a watch apart and put it back together as a practice exercise? If that’s your goal just buy the cheapest movement only and have at it.

 Do you have a specific watch in mind that you want to fix for your collection? Start with buying a movement only and try fixing that first before looking for one in a case.

If you end up not being able to fix it, you will have a usable parts movement that you can use.

Best Places to Buy Broken and Damaged Watches

The first place that comes to mind for purchasing broken and damaged watches is eBay. eBay is going to have the largest selection of broken and damaged watches, including Swiss, Japanese, and American brands.  

Buying Broken Watches to Fix from Ebay
Buying Broken Watches to Fix from Ebay

 Goodwill stores also has an online auction where you can buy watches for repair.

Don’t overlook thrift or secondhand stores as well as flea markets as a source of watches.

 Don’t Buy a Random Movement Expecting to Find a Case for It

One mistake that new watchmakers often make is purchasing a movement-only watch with the expectation that they’ll be able to find a case to fit it.

It’s important to understand that watch cases are designed specifically for certain movements. Finding a case to fit less popular watch caliber can be very difficult to do.

To avoid this issue, it’s recommended to look for complete watches or empty cases that you already know the caliber that was in it.   

Look for Movements that only need Servicing.

 When purchasing broken or damaged watches to work on, it’s important to look for movements that are working.

 While they may be running poorly, at least they’re running. Before making a purchase, ask the buyer questions to ensure that the balance is operating and to find out about any other known problems.

This is especially important when it comes to balance wheels, as finding a replacement that is in good shape and fits the movement can be challenging.

Avoiding Broken Watches You Can’t Fix.

When buying vintage watches, it’s important to keep in mind that there are no guarantees that the watch will be a good runner, even if all the parts are there.

Research the caliber to see if there are any parts available either from eBay or the parts suppliers.

Buying a movement that you can’t even identify can lower your chances of successfully servicing it to completion.

 It’s not uncommon for people to end up buying two or three more movements in an attempt to create one functioning watch.

Finding the Right Price on Broken Watches

 Knowing how much to pay for an old watch can be tricky. One method is to search for similar watches on eBay. Go to the advanced tab and use the “sold” button to see what other buyers have paid for similar items.

eBays Sold Listing Feature
eBays Sold Listing Feature

This can give you a good idea of what a fair price is.

Understanding the Two Main Categories of Watches

 When it comes to servicing watches, there are two main categories to consider: quartz and mechanical. While some people may believe that buying quartz watches to practice on or restore is the least expensive option, this isn’t always true.

It’s important to understand the unique challenges associated with each type of watch.

The Challenges of Working with Quartz Watches

One of the biggest misconceptions about quartz watches is that they are easy to fix. While it may be as simple as cleaning it up and putting in a new battery for some watches, troubleshooting a quartz movement can require specialized testing equipment.

Additionally, leaking batteries or dirt build-up can cause significant problems that require more than just a battery replacement.

Parts for quartz watches can also be difficult to come by or nonexistent, leading to a cycle of unsuccessful repairs and a drawer full of useless watches.

Testing Equipment for Quartz Watches

One thing to consider if you are looking for broken quartz watches is testing the electronics. Other than using a multimeter to check continuity of the coil, other testing requires expensive testing equipment.

Troubleshooting Quartz movements does require these specialized machines.

Forget about Putting a Mechanical Movement in a Quartz Case

 If you’re unable to fix a quartz watch, it’s important to realize that converting it to a mechanical watch is virtually impossible.

Why Quartz Movements Don't fit into Mechanical watch cases
Why Quartz Movements Don’t fit into Mechanical watch cases

Quartz movements are typically thinner than mechanical movements, and the watch case is often specifically designed to fit a quartz movement.

Additionally, other factors such as the length of the Canon pinion can make a conversion almost impossible.

Considerations When Working with Mechanical Watches

 When it comes to mechanical watches, there are still unique challenges to consider. However, these watches offer more opportunities for a successful repair.

 It’s important to carefully evaluate the movement and the parts available before making a purchase.

Working with 200-Year-Old Antique Watches

 When it comes to antique watches, it’s important to understand that the older the watch is, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to fix it – at least at the beginning of your career.

Early pocket watches from the 1850s and earlier used a movement called a Fusee movement, which can be extremely difficult to work on without a ton of knowledge and specialized tooling and equipment.

Fusee Movement
Fusee Movement

Finding parts for these watches is also next to impossible, making them a challenging choice for beginners.

Pocket Watches from the Early 1900s to 1940s

Pocket watches from the early 1900s to the 1940s are a popular choice for those interested in antique watches.

They are relatively simple in design, and American pocket watches in particular are known for their beauty. However, they can still be extremely challenging to work on.

It’s important to keep in mind that Swiss and American pocket watches use completely different systems for manufacturing.

Swiss Movements: Identifying and Finding Replacement Parts

In the early days Swiss movements were made from parts gathered from many small specialty companies that specialized in making one part.

Then all the parts would go to an assembler that would put all the pieces together. There was no Parts systems and no record keeping.

Old Swiss Watchmaker
Old Swiss Watchmaker

 Unless you’re working with a Swiss movement from a company like Longines that kept detailed records, identifying a movement, and finding replacement parts can be difficult.

 Swiss companies at the time didn’t prioritize documentation or parts availability. It wasn’t until later that they began making parts available in response to American watch companies like Waltham.

 While American pocket watches were the first to standardize watch production and make parts available for repair, there are still unique challenges to consider.

It’s important to remember that the watchmaking industry was much different back then, and while parts were standardized, it was still expected that the watchmaker would need to fit the part to the movement.

American Watch Factory
American Watch Factory

This means that parts were not always just drop-in replacements and required careful matching of sizes and pivots.

 Challenges with Identifying Condition and Original Parts

Another challenge with American pocket watches is that it can be difficult to determine the current condition of the movement and whether it contains original parts.

 It’s possible that multiple people have worked on the watch, potentially swapping out parts that don’t belong in the movement.

 For example, a balance wheel may have been added just to make the watch appear complete, even if it doesn’t belong in the movement. This can make repairs and restorations more challenging and require careful attention to detail.

Tips for Working with Antique Watches

 Start with Seiko Movements and NH 36

Seiko is a great brand for beginners to start with because  they have movements like the 7s26 that have plenty of parts movements available.

The NH36 is also a movement that is relatively inexpensive and can be a good starting point for beginners moving from a manual wind to automatic watch.

These movements are sold to anyone who wants to make a watch and can be taken apart, serviced, and relubricated to improve their performance. This can be a good way to start building your skills in watch repair.

F.A.Q.

How Do I get into Watch Servicing

Getting into watch servicing can be a challenging but rewarding journey. Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Learn the basics of watchmaking: Watchmaking is a precise and intricate craft that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. You can start by reading books, watching videos, or attending classes on the basics of watchmaking.
  2. Get the right tools and equipment: To work on watches, you need specialized tools and equipment such as screwdrivers, tweezers, and a loupe. You can start with a basic toolset and gradually add more tools as you gain more experience.
  3. Practice on inexpensive watches: It’s best to start practicing on inexpensive watches before moving on to more expensive ones. This will help you develop your skills and gain confidence without risking damaging an expensive watch.
  4. Find a mentor or attend a watchmaking school: Finding a mentor who is an experienced watchmaker can help you learn the trade faster and give you guidance on how to improve your skills. Alternatively, attending a watchmaking school can provide you with more structured training and a supportive community of fellow watchmakers.
  5. Get certified: Getting certified by a recognized watchmaking organization can help you gain credibility and stand out in the industry. Some organizations that offer certification include the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI) and the British Horological Institute (BHI).
  6. Build a portfolio: As you work on more watches, start building a portfolio of your work. This can include before-and-after photos, descriptions of the work you did, and any testimonials from satisfied customers. A strong portfolio can help you attract new clients and showcase your skills to potential employers.

Remember that watchmaking is a lifelong learning process, and there is always something new to learn. With dedication and hard work, you can become a skilled watchmaker and enjoy a fulfilling career in the watch industry.

Can I make Money Repairing Watches

Getting into watch servicing to make money can be challenging. Here are some things to consider to help you get started:

Learn the basics of watchmaking. Doing service work is a precise and intricate craft that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. You can start by reading books, watching my videos, or attending classes on the basics of watchmaking.

Get the right tools and equipment: To service watches, you’ll  need to spend several thousand dollars on basic tools and equipment. You can start with a basic toolset and gradually add more tools as you gain more experience.

Practice on inexpensive watches: It’s best to start practicing on inexpensive watches before moving on to more expensive ones. This will help you develop your skills and gain confidence without risking damaging an expensive watch.

Find a mentor or attend a watchmaking school: Finding a mentor who is an experienced watchmaker can help you learn the trade faster and give you guidance on how to improve your skills. Alternatively, attending a watchmaking school can provide you with more structured training and a supportive community of fellow watchmakers.

Get certified: Getting certified by a recognized watchmaking organization can help you gain credibility and stand out from the crowd. Some organizations that offer certification include the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI) and the British Horological Institute (BHI).

Build a portfolio: As you work on more watches, start building a portfolio of your work. This can include before-and-after photos and descriptions of the work you did along with any testimonials from satisfied customers.  

Remember that watchmaking is a lifelong learning process, and there is always something new to learn. With patience and hard work, you can become a skilled watchmaker and enjoy a fulfilling career in the watch industry.

Can You Be a Self Taught Watchmaker?

Yes, it is possible to become a self-taught watchmaker. That’s we are all about here at Watchrepairtutorials.com
It’s not going to happen overnight as it is a time-consuming process that requires a significant amount of dedication.
Becoming a watchmaker involves learning how to do basic watch servicing. You need a knowledge of how a mechanical movement works and the ability to work with precision tools,

One way to start learning watchmaking is by watching our Watchmaking Basics Series of videos, which can provide an introduction to the fundamentals of watchmaking, such as movement components and assembly techniques.
There are also online communities and forums where you can connect with other watch enthusiasts and get advice on specific techniques or tools.

However, to become a skilled watchmaker, it is essential to gain practical experience through hands-on training. You may be able to find entry-level positions with experienced watchmakers or repair shops, which can provide valuable training and mentorship.

Investing in high-quality tools is crucial for a self-taught watchmaker, as these are essential for precision work and accurate measurements. Starting with basic tools and gradually building up your collection over time can be a practical approach.

Becoming a self-taught watchmaker is possible with dedication, patience and a willingness to learn. But it requires a significant investment of time and resources to become skilled in this specialized field.

Conclusion

Despite the challenges associated with vintage broken and damaged watches, they can still be rewarding to work on.

It’s important to start with watches that are within your skill level and take the time to carefully evaluate the movement and parts available before making a purchase.

Before moving on to vintage watches, it is important to make sure that you can first service new movements successfully.

You should be able to take a new movement with no problems and completely service it. You should be able to clean the parts an relubricate the parts improving its performance from the time you received it.

 If you can’t do this, you may have a hard time servicing a vintage movement, which can have many unknown problems.