Apologies for the lack of updates (I seem to be saying this everytime I post something!), this is solely due to the volume of work that keeps coming in. I have a huge backlog of work that I think you’d find interesting so I’m making a concerted effort to pull my finger out and get posting again starting with this gorgeous Laurel from (we think) 1915. I say we think because I’m assuming Seikosha was using the same dating system back then as they do today which would mean this was produced in August 1915. This may not be correct but it would fit with what we know about the history of the model, the Laurel was the first wristwatch Seikosha ever produced and production began in 1913 pretty much straight after they had started producing enamel dials in house. The first Seikosha wristwatch with Seiko branding on the dial came in 1924 and was smaller in diameter at 24.5mm. The Laurel is 29.5mm in diameter with a 12 ligne movement which is small by today’s standards but back in those days it was a generous size for a gents watch.
The watch in question was a runner but was in very bad health, I couldn’t get a legible trace out of it on my timing machine and it didn’t run for very long (more about this later).
The case is 0.900 silver and opens from the front with a double hinge arrangement to access the movement.
It’s a very simple movement to strip down, and it’s a quite basic one with only 7 jewels, 2 balance jewels and two balance caps, 2 pallet end stones and an impulse jewel. Everything other bearing surface are just drilled holes in the plates. As you can imagine 100+ years worth of wear is going to be considerable! The under dial components are straightforward enough, however the set lever spring has been snapped and a small horseshoe spring has been substituted.
The train side is pretty straightforward to strip.
A couple of issues I found were that there was tremendous wear on the mainplate, this watch had obviously been used a lot, and the mainspring had set. Luckily the owner had a NOS one for it, you can see what is meant by “setting” in this picture, decades of use and being confined in the barrel has left the spring with little of it’s original tension in comparison to the NOS one.
The other issue was with the balance and escapement. The mainplate balance jewel is of the “rubbed in” type and had been adjusted or replaced pretty crudely at some point in it’s life. It isn’t unusual to watches of this age with adjusted or replaced end jewels as it would have been re-staffed a few times by now and on occasion staffs were either turned up to fit from one that was a near match or turned up from scratch and the jewel would be adjusted up or down to suit. This balance staff had been replaced with one of the wrong length and the jewel had been adjusted to allow it to run, the staff was also broken on one of its pivots explaining the sporadic running and stopping.
I spent some considerable time searching for a replacement staff and found one that matched the dimensions of the one that was fitted. I actually found a NOS Laurel staff but as the one fitted was of different dimensions it meant the roller table had been broached to fit and wouldn’t fit the NOS staff anymore.
The balance was re staffed and poised, a mixture of removing metal from the slugs or adding/moving timing washers.
Once it’s correct it should run true and flat on the poising vice and not stop rotating in the same position which would indicate a heavy spot.
Once this was done the balance was refitted but the watch still wouldn’t run cleanly, there was a lot of endshake on the pallet fork allowing the roller table to come into contact with the forks horns when dial down and this in turn wasn’t helped by the staff not being correct. I was all set to try and adapt a suitable roller table by turning it down slightly to get the needed clearance which isn’t really the ideal way to tackle this issue when the owner said he’d located a donor watch and would send it over to see if we could salvage the necessary parts.
The watch arrived and looked remarkable similar although the case on this one was base metal, not silver and it didn’t have the hinged lugs. The dial was in poorer condition but we’d be using the other watches one which was in great condition so no real issue.
It also had a different opening arrangement.
The good news was although it didn’t run the movement looked in better shape than the other watches one and the balance swung freely which was a bonus. There were some differences, this one had it’s set lever spring complete but was missing the brass motion work securing plate.
The movement was stripped, cleaned and inspected and whilst it had a couple of anomalies such as a damaged barrel and lid the important parts such as the mainplate and bridges had less wear than the other ones. They still had a fair amount of wear but the watch is over 100 years old so I’ll cut it some slack!
The movement was built up using the best components from both.
The stem from the original watch had a better crown but the stem was slightly too large in diameter for the mainplate we are using. This was compounded by the fact the crown button had been soldered to the stem and couldn’t be removed so I turned the diameter down a hair in the lathe. The enamel dial from the original watch was refitted and it started to look like a watch once more.
And there she was, movement back in the case and ticking away happily once more. The older the watch the greater the challenges especially if they have been worn and worked on for decades. Lets not forget that in the 1930’s these would have just been old out of date Japanese wristwatches and watchmakers would have used any old tricks to keep them running as economically as possible. To actually be able to keep one running in the 21st century in as original condition as this one is no mean feat so congratulations to the owner 🙂