Are you struggling to achieve consistent amplitude in different dial positions? Do not worry – you’re not alone. This is one of the most common issues that new watchmakers face. But did you know that the primary culprit behind this problem is often overlooked? 

Improperly lubricated balance jewels are the root cause of inconsistent dial positions. Many new watchmakers assume that poise errors and gravity are the main reasons for inconsistencies in dial positions, but that’s not entirely true. While they can certainly impact a watch’s performance, they do not directly affect the dial positions. In this blog post, I’ll be revealing the secret to proper watch lubrication and showing you how to master the art of lubricating balance jewels and pallet jewels like a pro. So buckle up and get ready to take your watchmaking skills to the next level!

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Understanding Lubricating Shock Systems in Watches

 There are a bunch of different shock systems used in vintage watches, like KIF and Seiko’s Diashock. However, understanding how they work is the key to servicing any of them like a pro.

Common Problems Found with Shock Systems

Although it is uncommon to find a broken shock system, losing the end stone or breaking the retaining spring is a common issue that you may encounter. But don’t worry, after reading this post, you’ll have the skills and knowledge to tackle this problem with ease.

 How the Shock System Goes Together

The shock system comprises two jewels mounted in the Chaton. The pivot hole jewel is installed in the Chaton, and the end stone is inserted into the top, maintaining the correct distance from the jewel hole to not only retain the oil for the balance staff pivot but giving the pivot a surface to spin on.

The Chaton sits in the shock-setting block, which is pressed into both the main plate and the balance bridge. The shock spring fits into the shock setting block and presses down on the end stone, holding the Chaton in position in the block.

End Stone and Chaton Jewels
End Stone and Chaton Jewels

Preparing for Lubrication

Before you begin servicing the shock system, ensure that your work area is spotless and only contains the necessary tools and materials. Any distraction during this process, especially when the jewel is out of the setting, can cause a missing part before you know it. 

 Importance of Proper Lubrication and Installation of End Stone in Chaton

Lubrication Amounts Should be the Same

The amount of lubrication on both end jewels must be the same, regardless of the type of movement you are working on. This is a Universal Rule. Too little lubrication prevents oil from reaching the pivot hole and staying there when the movement is in a vertical position, which can negatively impact the amplitude and too much oil can cause the oil to creep out of the shock setting away from where it needs to be.

End Stone Installation Issues

The end stone must sit flat in the chateau to avoid any angle discrepancies between the pivot and end stone. If the end stone is not flat, the two balance pivots will have different amounts of friction, which affects the amplitude, which ultimately affects the rate.

Removing the Shock Setting

How to Unfasten Shock Spring

To unfasten the shock spring in this setting, insert the point of your tweezers into one side and gently move that side out, then do the same for the other side. Slip your tweezers under the spring and hinge it up.

Removing Shock Spring
Removing Shock Spring

Removing the End Stone and Chaton

Once the clip is removed, lift the chaton and end stone out of the block with your tweezers or a small point of Rodico. If the end stone does not separate from the chaton, hold the chaton and try lifting the end stone off using a piece of Rodico. If it still doesn’t come out, you’ll need to insert a wire into the jewel hole to push out the end stone or drop it into a solvent jar to loosen up any dried oils.

Removing End Stone and Chaton with Rodico
Removing End Stone and Chaton with Rodico

Cleaning and Polishing the End Stone

After separating the end stone from the chaton, drop them into a cleaning jar with either IPA or hexane and let them soak for a few minutes. Remove the chaton and put it in a safe place. 

Inspect the end stone for cleanliness by holding it in a way that the light crosses over it. If it doesn’t shine like a mirror, buff the jewel clean.

 To polish the jewel, place the flat side down, add a drop of IPA alcohol to the paper, and use a leather buff. Lay the buff on top of the jewel, pushing down on the end stone with a little pressure and slowly move the buff back and forth. The dome top of the jewel presses into the soft leather, holding it in place while you’re buffing the jewel.

Polishing End Stone with Leather Buff
Polishing End Stone with Leather Buff

How to Lubricate a Balance Jewel or Shock Setting Jewel

As a watchmaker, lubricating balance jewels is an essential part of the watch service or repair. When you are new, it will require some practice to get it right. So, practice because it is that important.

Applying Oil to End Stone Jewel

Once you have a clean jewel, lightly hold it with your tweezers and apply a small drop of Moebius 9010 to the center of the jewel. The drop of oil should occupy anywhere from about 50% to 75%  of the surface of the jewel. If it’s too small, add a touch more oil to ensure that it’s the right amount.

Applying Oil to End Stone
Applying Oil to End Stone

Placing Chaton on End Stone

Next, place the chaton directly on top of the end stone. Make sure to drop it on correctly; otherwise, it will spread the oil across the end stone instead of up into the jewel hole. If you miss it, clean both pieces and try again. When done correctly, you’ll see a circle of oil under the end stone. The Capillary action of the oil will make the end stone stick to the chaton when you turn them over together.

Applying Chaton to End Stone
Applying Chaton to End Stone

Reinstalling Chaton into the Shock Setting

To reinstall the chaton and end stone back into the jewel setting, simply drop it in, push over the retaining clip, and push one side of the clip in, followed by the other side. Repeat this on the opposite jewel to complete the process.

Installing Chaton Back into Block
Installing Chaton Back into Block

Removing and Installing a Kiff Style Spring

Another type of shock spring that you may come across is the Kiff style, which has three pins on the spring that hold it into the block. To remove it, gently turn the retaining spring until it comes out, and then remove the chaton in the same way as before.

To insert it, lay it on top of the jewel and repeat the first pin underneath while rotating it around. Use a probe to keep it from flying out. With the second pin under the plate, continue to rotate it around until the third pin is in place. Then, lightly push it down while turning with your probe.

Installing Kiff Spring
Installing Kiff Spring

 Mastering Pallet Jewel Lubrication in Watchmaking

Correctly lubricating the pallet stones and the escape wheel teeth is a challenging part of a watch movements lubrication, but maybe, one of the most important.  It requires precision and attention to detail to get it just right. Too little lubrication can negatively affect the amplitude of the watch, while too much can lead to contamination and low amplitude. 

 The Main Method of Pallet Jewel Lubrication

There are two main ways you could lubricate the pallet jewels. The first is to apply the lubrication directly to the escape wheel teeth, which can be incredibly difficult without over-lubricating everything. The second method, which we’ll be focusing on, involves adding lubrication to the pallet stone itself, allowing it to transfer to the escape wheel teeth in a consistent manner.

Lubricating the Pallet Stones

To begin lubricating the pallet fork, inspect it for cleanliness and install it into the movement. Add a minimal amount of power to the mainspring, and focus on the exit stone on the left of the pallet fork. Pick up a tiny amount of grease on the tip of a clean oiler and apply it to the center of the pallet stone. Advance the escape wheel until all the grease has been removed from the pallet stone, typically within five to seven teeth. If it takes more teeth to remove the grease, you’re probably applying too much. Add another small dot of grease and complete one revolution of the escape wheel so that all 15 teeth are lubricated.

Appling Grease to Pallet Stone
Appling Grease to Pallet Stone

Checking for Proper Pallet Stone Lubrication

After lubricating the escape wheel teeth, it’s essential to check your work. We’re looking for the correct amount of grease, so we want to focus on the position of the leading edge of the escape wheel tooth on the impulse plane and how much oil forms under the escape wheel tooth. The oil should bead up anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the total length of the escape wheel tooth and happen when the front sharp edge of the escape wheel tooth is about three-quarters of the way across the impulse plane.

Correct Pallet Stone Lubrication Amount
Correct Pallet Stone Lubrication Amount

Pro Tip: How to Replace Retaining Springs

There is a good chance you will need to replace or lose one of your retaining springs, but there’s an easy solution to this problem. 

Just roll up a piece of Rodico, stick the end of the spring in it, and use it to hold the spring while you put it back in the block. If you stick it down in the slot, give it a little turn, and the feet will go back into the slots. 

Installing Incobloc Spring with Rodico
Installing Incobloc Spring with Rodico

Once it’s in place, maneuver it around with your tweezers. The retaining springs are delicate and springy, so it’s best not to use your tweezers to maneuver them. Use the Rodico; it will save you more times than you can imagine.