Rolex 1603

This lovely gold dialled Rolex reference 1603 came in with a low power reserve, when I tested it I got 28 hours from a full wind which is about 33% down on what you’d expect from a healthy 1560 calibre. A service and new mainspring should sort this out! The watch dates from 1961 according to the inside of the caseback and is in exactly the condition I love to see vintage watches in that have been used as intended and looked after.

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A typical Rolex caseback with thankfully with no signs of damage.

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Inside things are looking good, I half expected the rotor axle to be worn looking at the witness marks on the plate made by the rotor coming in contact with it. However the axle appears to have been replaced at some point and there is minimal wear which is good, it shows it’s been serviced properly in the past.

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With the autowind bridge removed the movement is more visible with it’s indirect driven centre seconds and shock protected balance and escape wheel.

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With the movement uncased we can see the dial has survived the past 50 years in very good shape.

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With the dial and handset removed the calendar components are exposed. Look at all those lovely open 6’s and 9’s on the date ring!

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With the calendar components out of the way the keyless work can be seen.

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A bare plate ready to be turned over.

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The stripdown continues, the balance and pallet fork are removed in this shot.

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And the watch is now fully stripped ready for cleaning and inspection.

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Whilst the cleaning machine was running I decided to tackle the case, I’d ordered a new crystal for it so it was time to remove the old one and ultrasonically clean all the case components.

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The bezel removed and crystal out.

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The oyster bracelet had a smidgen of muck in the endlinks!

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It’s amazing how dirty a bracelet can get when it’s worn everyday.

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The bracelet and case was given a good old clean in the ultrasonic bath. I’d been waiting for the post to be delivered as I was expecting the new crystal, seals and mainspring to arrive but as usual the best laid plans tend to go awry! The post was delivered but no Rolex parts today so I continued with the reassembly as much as I could which is the reason it looks a bit of an odd way to go about it. The cap jewels and springs were lubed and reinstalled, I love the little four leaf clover spring on the balance cap.

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The escape wheel has a lyre type spring.

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The train assembled as far as I could without a mainspring.

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The reverser wheels ready for the bottom plate.

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The calendar side coming together.

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Pictured below is an important component of Rolex’s beautifully simple method of snapping the date over instantly, this spring loaded lever operates on a cam on the underside of the date change wheel and the little jewel fits on the axle on the end.

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The calendar side ready for the dial to be fitted.

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Another nice touch is the way the date can be centred in the window by adjusting this eccentric cam on the date jumper.

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The dial and hands refitted.

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As I’d now gone as far as I could it all had to be put away until the following day, hopefully the new parts will arrive!

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Unfortunately the parts didn’t arrive at all that week so I ordered another mainspring, seal and crystal thinking they were lost in the post. Of course the original order turned up the following day – typical! The new mainspring was then fitted.

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The barrel was replaced…

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….and the bridge, wheels and centre seconds pinion were fitted.

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The autowind bridge and rotor was then replaced.

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This meant the movement was now ready for recasing.

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The new crystal was fitted along with a new caseback seal.

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The movement was recased….

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….and she was finally finished. A beautiful example of an early 1603 I think you’ll agree.

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