When it comes to servicing a watch movement, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s specifications from the technical sheet. However, if you’re working with vintage watches, technical sheets may not be available, making it necessary to understand the principles of watch lubrication. Once you understand these principles,  you will be able to lubricate any movement without the need for a technical sheet.

 In this tutorial, we will cover the principles of lubrication for watch movements, and we will discuss the specific

lubricants needed for each component.

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How to Properly Lubricate Watch Movements

Understanding Watch Lubrication Principles

When lubricating watch movements, lubricants serve two purposes: to reduce friction and to reduce the wear of two pieces of metal sliding against each other. It’s essential to remember that you should never lubricate the teeth on a wheel or the pinions where they mesh together, with the exception of the escape wheel, which we will discuss in part two of this series.

The Power train

The powertrain is made up of five wheels that operate either on a high torque low speed or a low torque high-speed basis.

 The main spring barrel, the second wheel, and the third wheel all operate at high torque, low speed and require a thicker oil, such as Mobius HP 1300

The fourth wheel, the escape wheel, and the balance wheel all operate under low torque and high speed and require lighter oil, such as Moebius 9010. So, remember, for high torque low speed, use HP 1300, and for low torque high speed, use Moebius 9010.

Power Train
Power Train

Other Watch Components Requiring Lubrication

Apart from the powertrain, other watch components in the Keyless works, Motion works or Calendar works that occasionally move will require lubrication as well. The lubrication of these parts depends on whether they rotate or slide against each other under tension. 

Parts that rotate require a heavier oil, such as HP 1300, while parts that slide against each other under tension require grease. For this purpose, you can use Moebius 9504.

Essential Tools and Tips for Watch Lubrication

When it comes to lubricating watch movements, having the right tools is crucial. In this section, we will discuss the essential tools needed for watch lubrication and the importance of maintaining a clean work area.

Tools for Watch Lubrication

The good news is that the tools needed for watch lubrication are minimal and relatively inexpensive. First and foremost, you need a container to hold the lubricants while you’re working. The container should have a smooth glass surface and individual lids that cover each pot.

Oil Pots
Oil Pots

 While you can spend a lot of money on an oil pot, it’s not necessary. The most important thing is that the container has a lid.

Dip oilers are also essential for watch lubrication, and you can buy them individually or in sets. If you don’t have a use for larger oilers that come in a kit, it’s better to buy individual oilers. However, buying a kit isn’t a bad idea either, as most oilers are usable, and the larger ones can be used for other purposes, such as when you need a probe.

Oil Pots
Dip Oilers

Finally, it’s essential to have something to clean the tips of the oilers. While some people prefer to use pith wood, foam blocks are a better option, as they don’t shed and last longer. Additionally, foam blocks have multiple sides that you can use. You can also use them to store your oilers.

Oiler cleaning block
Oiler cleaning block

Tips for Maintaining a Clean Work Area

One of the essential things in watch lubrication is maintaining a clean work area. Cleanliness is always crucial in watchmaking, but it’s especially important when doing lubrication work because hair and dust are attracted to the oil.

 Dust can find its way into the balance hole jewels and significantly affect the timing in your dial positions, making it impossible to regulate the watch. To avoid this, start by wiping down your work area with Windex and a paper towel. Also, check above your work area to see if there’s anything like a light that might have dust on it that could fall down to your movement as well.

Dispensing and Controlling Oil in Watch Lubrication

Dispensing and controlling oil is a crucial aspect of watch lubrication. In this section, we will discuss different methods to dispense oil and the importance of controlling the amount of oil

Dispensing Oil

It’s essential to dispense only the required amount of oil into your oil pot to avoid contaminating the entire bottle. A good practice is to remove only enough oil that you need for the next week or so. If you remove too much oil, you increase the risk of contamination with hair or dust.

There are different methods to dispense oil from the factory container into your oil pot. The first method is using tweezers. Make sure your tweezers are clean, hold them together, and dip them into the oil in the factory jar. Pull the tweezers up and transfer the oil into the oil pot. 

Dispensing Oil to Oil Pot with Tweezers
Dispensing Oil to Oil Pot with Tweezers

The second method is to use a clean wire or screwdriver tip. Dip it into your bottle, pull out a little bit, and drop it into your oil pot. Both methods are a bit wasteful because you always have some leftover oil on the tweezers or wire.

Dispensing OIl with Screwdriver
Dispensing OIl with Screwdriver

Mastering the Art of Watch Lubrication: Controlling Oil

Controlling Oil

One of the most significant mistakes that new people make when lubricating watches is over-lubrication. It’s essential to note that the amount of lubrication needed is smaller than you think, and over-lubrication can cause significant problems and reduce the watch’s service life.

When you insert the oiler into the oil pot, controlling how much oil you pick up is crucial. Oiling should be done using a 10x loop or a 15x loop.

 Over-lubrication is common in vintage watches, causing oil to spread throughout the boot, which leads to shorter service life.

Dipping the Oiler

To begin with, you should never dip the entire tip of your oiler into the oil. Instead, aim to pick up oil from only one side of the tip. Hold your oiler at a high angle, and you’ll pick up less oil. 

Holding it at a lower angle will allow you to touch more of the oil, pulling away more oil in the process. Remember to pick up oil from only one side of the tip. We’ll explain why in a moment.

Picking Up Oil at Low Angle
Picking Up Oil at Low Angle

 Controlling Oil Pickup with Speed

The second factor to consider when controlling the amount of oil you pick up is the speed at which you pull the tip away. Pull it away quickly, and you’ll retain more oil on the tip. Pull it away slowly, and you’ll retain less.

It takes time and practice to develop a feel for picking up just the right amount of oil. But there’s one more tip that can help. Touch the oiler to the outside rim of the lubricant instead of in the middle. You’ll be less likely to pick up too much oil, and you’ll have more control.

But keep in mind that the outer rim of the oil pot is where dust and hair tend to accumulate. So make sure your oil pot is clean to avoid introducing dust into the jewel when you’re lubricating.

Lubricating Watch Jewels

Using the Correct Oil

It’s important to use the correct oil on both pivots on the same wheel. Using different oils on either side of the wheel can change the friction level, which changes the amplitude, which changes the rate, making it harder to regulate the watch. 

For example, if you’re lubricating the fourth wheel, make sure to use the same oil on both sides of the jewel. Don’t use 90-10 on one side and HP 1300 on the other. Keeping the oil consistent ensures that your watch runs smoothly and accurately.

Lubricating Jewels For Wheel Pivots

To lubricate the jewel, we’re going to start with a small bubble on one side of the tip. The reason you want oil on one side of the tip is that it allows the tip of the oiler to touch the bottom of the pivot as it goes down into the jewel without getting any oil on the flat side of the jewel or the tip of the pivot. 

Lubricating Pivot Jewel in Watch Movement
Lubricating Pivot Jewel in Watch Movement

Oil left on these areas will draw the lubrication away from the jewel hole through capillary action.

You can tell if the pivot has enough oil on it by looking into the jewel with your loop and moving the wheel up and down. You should be able to see a small ring of oil around the pivot.

Oil in Pivot Jewel
Oil in Pivot Jewel

Never lubricate the pallet jewels. The problem comes from the upper jewel close to the pallet fork arm. Lubricating that jewel will cause lubrication to work its way down the pallet fork arm, get onto the banking pins, and work its way down into the fork slot, which transfers oil to the impulse jewel. Within three months of your service, you’ll start noticing problems, and within six months, the watch might even stop running.

 Lubricating the Barrel Arbor

Lubricating the barrel arbor is an essential step in watch servicing, but it’s not always easy to do correctly. The barrel arbor has four points of lubrication that need to be addressed.

First, there is the shoulder that rides on the barrel drum in the barrel lid when the main spring barrel is closed, as well as the pivots that sit in the main plate in the bridge. There are two ways to lubricate the arbor where it goes through the holes in the barrel-lidded drum.

Method 1: Lubricate Before Closing the Barrel

The first way to lubricate the arbor is to lubricate the shoulder before the barrel is closed. To do this, you just touch the tip of the oiler into the corner of the shoulder of the barrel arbor.

Lubricating Barrel Arbor Outside Of Barrel
Lubricating Barrel Arbor Outside of Barrel

Method 2: Lubricate After Closing the Barrel

The second way is to lubricate it after the barrel is closed. This is more appropriate on new barrels. It’s also important to lubricate the shoulder where the arbor pivots go into the bridge in the main plate, unless they’re jeweled, in which case they need to be lubricated just like any other jeweled hole.

Lubricating Barrel Arbor installed
Lubricating Barrel Arbor installed

Lubricating the Main Spring

If you have a main spring that’s good enough to reuse, after you’ve cleaned it, you just apply a thin layer of 8200 grease onto the main spring. 

The method is the same as when cleaning the main spring. You take folded paper, add a couple of drops of 8200 grease onto the paper, lay it over the main spring, and then pull the main spring through the paper, distributing the grease onto the main spring. Then take another clean paper and pull the main spring through it again, which leaves a very thin layer of 8200 on the main spring.

Lubricating Mainspring With 8200
Lubricating Mainspring With 8200

And that’s it. That’s all you need. The main spring doesn’t need anything else. You don’t need to add any drops of oil to it. If you’re using a new main spring, they come pre-lubricated, so you don’t have to do anything.

Lubricating the Keyless Works

Lubrication is essential in keeping your watch in optimal condition. In the keyless works, the majority of the parts will need grease, given the nature of everything sliding against each other. However, there are some exceptions that need specific lubrication. Here’s how to lubricate the keyless works.

Lubricating the Stem

The pivot on the end of the stem requires HP 1300, while the square part of the stem needs a small dot of grease on each side. Lightly spread it out using an oiler. For the two areas that come in contact with the main plate, put a small dollop of grease and spin them around to spread them out.

Lubricating the Stem
Lubricating the Stem

 Lubricating the Sliding Pinion

The ratchet teeth on the sliding pinion need three or four little dots of grease. Once installed onto the stem, it will mesh with the teeth of the winding pinion, spreading the lubrication.

Lubricating the Sliding PInion
Lubricating the Sliding PInion

 Lubricating the Yoke and Setting Lever

The post where the yoke sits requires a light coating of HP 1300 and a very light coating of grease on either side of the groove on the winding pinion. Put a dot of grease on the end of the yoke where it comes in contact with the setting lever. The yoke will come in contact with a spring that slides back and forth, so put a very light dot of grease where the contact point is.

Lubricating the Yoke Spring
Lubricating the Yoke Spring

Lubricating the Setting Lever Jumper

Spread a thin layer of grease on the pin of the setting lever before installing it, as it slides back and forth inside the setting lever jumper.

Lubricants for Watchmaking

If you’re new to watchmaking or on a budget, Mobius 8000 is an inexpensive oil to use while practicing your skills. However, it’s not a long-term solution.

For some lubricants, there’s no good substitution like 9010, while Mobius D5 is a suitable alternative for HP 1300. If you’re looking for less expensive grease than Mobius 9504, Molycote DX is a good option, but it’s hard to clean off and may require touching up some parts of the keyless works after washing.

Remember, proper lubrication is crucial in keeping your watch running smoothly, and it’s best to use high-quality lubricants to ensure longevity and optimal performance.

ProTip

As a watchmaker, saving money on lubrication can be a big deal.

In order to prevent waste and maximize the efficiency of your lubrication process, it’s a great idea to store your main oils, such as Mobius 9010 and HP 1300, in syringes.

Using Syringe to Dispense Watch Oil
Using a Syringe to Dispense Watch Oil

By using syringes, you can dispense a very precise amount of oil into your oil pot, which eliminates the waste that often occurs when using the tweezer method or the screwdriver method to dip oil out of the factory bottle.