Tag Archives: lancashire

Workshop: Basic Care Of Pocket Watches

I’ve been messing with pocket watches for about 6 years now and managed to fix a few. Some defeat me and there’s a simple reason; old age. The watch that is, not me.

You see pocket watches built back in the 1880-1920 period are genuine antiques and frankly, many of them were not built to last over a century. Owners skimp on servicing, the cases are hacked open with kitchen knives and cruder tools and dust, skin and hair sneaks in too. That often results in metal touching metal and the inevitable grinding paste effect that anyone who has stripped a BSA Bantam engine will be familiar with.

Later Walthams, with the decorative Riverside movements are far more reliable. Better built than Travelers.

I digress. Here are some tips for those who have a vintage Waltham, Elgin, Thomas Russell, Omega or Lancashire Pocket Watch, and wish to keep it going.

  1. Don’t adjust the timekeeping using the A/R lever. It’s tempting to press a screwdriver in and waggle it this way or that to try and compensate for poor running. But the problem is unlilely to be that simple and there is a danger of pulling the hairspring. Bang goes the timekeeping completely and most likely, the watch will stop after a few seconds of running.
  2. Don’t oil or lubricate it, unless you have practised on other watches and use the correct tools and watch oil. Don’t drip lighter fluid in there either. It might help a sticky balance assembly, but it’s no substitute for a proper service.
  3. Try not to wind the watch fully. You’re putting a 100% load on something that might not have been replaced since WW2, which was the last time the mainspring was replaced. It’s possible that it’s still using the original mainspring. So wind it ten turns, maybe eight – be kind to the old girl. When you feel a fair bit of resistance, then stop winding.
  4. Don’t set the correct time by winding the hands backwards. It is just more load on ageing parts. Always advance the hands to set the time.
  5. Does it have a winding key? Then there’s a fusee chain inside, wich if you imagine a mini bicycle chain, wrapped around a walnut whip, gives you a good idea of how it works. It is very delicate and most likely has stretched over 50-100 years. There are no factories in China making fusee chains for British or American pocket watches from the 1890s, so take care when winding it.
  6. Top winders are more durable, as this is late Victorian tech, so made with more precision as machine tool manufacturing advanced. Any excess clicking, resistance or `crunching’ is a bad sign. Don’t wind it, don’t try to fix it with WD40.
  7. If your old Waltham runs for 15-18 hours it’s doing well. Don’t expect it to run for a full day, or kep the right time. Many lost 1-2mins a day when they were new, so losing 5 mins a century later is acceptable. Be kind when you wind!

If you have a pocket watch problem then email me at; thenorthernwatchco@outlook.com and maybe I can help. Or it may need the A Team. Estimates and sympathy are free!

Is The Peaky Blinders Pocket Watch Boom Over?

It seems like a year ago that I visited an Antiques Fair at the Macron Stadium near Bolton, although in fact it was but a couple of months ago. Back then, we watch hunters were free to roam charity shops, antique shops, backstreet pawn shops etc looking for timepieces of interest. Happy days!

One thing I noticed while browsing the 100-ish stands at the antiques fair that Sunday were that pocket watch asking prices had fallen quite dramatically, compared to this time last year. A working sterling silver open case Waltham was on offer at £85, while a stop-start Ingersoll, missing a crystal, was ticketed at £20, spares or repair. Many collectors probably agree that it’s good that a dose of realism is now being applied to the pocket watch market but I’d go further and say that the mini boom of a few years ago is definitely over.

If you keep tabs on ebay then you’ll have seen a considerable drop in prices there too. Frankly, unless it’s a gold watch, or a particularly rare verge watch, you don’t see many people asking outrageous prices – as they used to until about a year ago.

There are many reasons for this decline in prices, but I’m thinking one of the biggest is the sheer fragility of most pocket watches. To be blunt, these old tickers often need very careful handling, or bows break, people try to wind them the wrong way, make the wrong number 7 key fit a number 11 pinion etc. Then there is the tendency that real mineral glass crystals have for falling out after 30-50 years of use. That seemingly simple repair isn’t so easy once you try to locate an exact match for the 494 glass or whatever fits your bezel.

Don’t get me started on fusee chain pocket watches, because the thought of trying to wind a new chain onto the column with the watch in bits is a bit of a nightmare tbh. Originally, such jobs were completed by children in watch workshops of the 1890s, so fiddly and frustrating is the job of hooking the fusee chain in situ.

Like many skills of the past, you won’t find many pro pocket watch repairers left nowadays – fact is, people don’t want to pay a living wage to those who CAN repair such vintage items. Often it can cost over £150 to service a silver pocket watch with a retail value of £100. Brutal maths.

The lion passant is the indicator of 925 silver on most pocket watches. You’ll see 925 on more modern stuff.

Then there’s the wearing of the watch, for which you need a waistcost. Very snazzy of course, but given that David Brent started to make the Gary Barlow/cruise ship singer outfit look like a saddo costume, the waistcoat has kinda gone out of fashion. You’ll find them all on the Debenhams `We Are Bust’ webpage anytime soon for £10 a pop.

So, much as I love the sound of a nice Waltham, Elgin or Lancashire Pocket Watch, and the heavy, reassuring feel of the silver in my hand, I won’t be buying one anytime soon. And I’m officially an old bloke. If a generation that grew up with Smiths and Ingersoll pocket watches being sold alsongside Timex and Accurist wristwatches is kinda glad to leave them in a drawer somewhere, I think the glory days of getting £250 for a nice, clean sterling silver pocket watch are long gone. Recession Britain will demand we invest more wisely in Swiss watches that might actually hold their asset value.

Do you still love a pocket watch and chain? Post a comment below.

Covid-19 Cancellations Hit Watch Shows & Fairs – What’s On in 2020?

OK, Baselworld and Watches & Wonders have both been scratched from the calendar, with all the losses to manufacturers, stand builders, hotels, caterers, media outlets, security staff etc. Quite a lot of jobs are going to be lost this year in the luxury watch industry if the media panic over CoronaVirus continues.

Yes it’s serious, people have died. But the truth is more people die of regular flu every winter, and that doesn’t stop us going about our everyday business. This is a huge blow to the Swiss industry, albeit that Swatch Group and some other brands gave up on Baselworld a few years ago.

sicura chrono valjoux 7734

Assuming the hype subsides in a month or so, will we see any watch shows later in 2020?

Well the London Watch Show is scheduled to go ahead on Friday 3rd April – Sat April 4th at the Intercontinental Hotel, near the 02 Arena. Even if the government passes temporary laws banning large gatherings of say 5000 plus people, this is unlikely to affect a smaller, ticket only show like this one.

The Midland Watch and Clock Fair is scheduled to go ahead this Sunday 8th March, at the National Motorcycle Museum, which is located just south of Birmingham, quite well signed from the M42/M6. Having attended this fair a few times to buy vintage watches, I can say it is good for picking up project watches, straps and tools, books etc. The really nice watches tend to be priced high, but you can always make an offer – traders can always harrumph and retire behind their Sunday Express.

phantom-caleuche watch specs prices

The Watch It fair on June 27th, held at Brownsover Hall Rugby looks like something very different indeed. There are lots of small scale manufactuers popping up all over USA and Europe, all sourcing Seiko/Citizen and Swiss movements, then finding cases, hands, straps etc from the thousands of parts suppliers worldwide. Hey presto – you’re a watchmaker!

OK, some of these new brands look very well assembled, such as Farer for example, others slightly less so. But if you’re in the market for a chunky divers style, or classic aviator, dress or field watch, with £200-£2000 to spend, then you’ll find something at this fair. There are also some beautiful vintage watches from traders such as Watches of Lancashire, plus things like framed prints of famous watch dials and movements to feed your passion.

The only downside is that this event is on for just five hours, so it probably will be a bit hectic around the stands. Great to see something unique in watch shows however, with a mix of new start-ups, accessories, vintage and modern Swiss all in the mix.


Workshop Report: Basic Refurb on an Orient 3 Star Automatic

orient refurb 1
This Orient had obviously suffered a tough life on ebay – note the dirt stuck to the 11 o’clock baton market under the scratched crystal – but it did run OK, so I started by getting the movement out and giving it a clean.

orient refurb 2
Quite a crudely made movement from Orient, a sub-brand of Seiko’s empire. Note the black marker on the lugs indicating this was a joblot sale at some point.

orient 3 stem
Removing the stem revealed a layer of dirt, plus evidence of over-oiling. All went in the ether bath, once the movement had been cleaned of course. I placed one drop of watch oil on the stem before re-fitting btw, just to make setting the hands that bit slicker – my own view is anything you can do to ease the burden on a setting lever that’s 40 years old is a good move, because if it bends or breaks, a watch like this isn’t worth a total stripdown to repair the keyless works. #Justsaying 

orient refurb 4 glue
I used the plastic die press to get the old crystal out, which shattered – reason was clear, someone had glued a replacement glass in at some stage. Note superglue residue in the bezel rim – all had to be painstakingly removed via toothpick.

orient 5 clean bezel
All glue removed now. While the movement was out overnight, I spent time polishing the steel case as best I could to minimise the 30-35 years of scratches n scuffs. Plus washed off the marker pen number on the lugs, using a dab of acetone on a soft cotton pad.

orient 6 new crystal
If this was a customer watch I would source a flat mineral glass crystal, but a cheap n cheerful acrylic hi-dome from the spares stash does the same job, and just pushes in using the crystal lift tool. Before re-fitting the hands, and putting the movement back in the watch, I used an art brush to gently clean the baton markers and dial – be very careful not to use any solvents on the dial or markers, as the dial coating will simply strip right off in 90% of cases.

orient 7 back
It’s worth spending 15 mins polishing the caseback, picking dirt from the indents, and fitting a new silicone seal, plus a replacement strap. The end result is a decent looking vintage watch that now keeps good time.

If you like what you see and you have a vintage wind-up, or automatic watch that you would like to have fettled, then send a DM on Twitter @warrWatchCo anytime. Prices start at £35 for a basic clean, plus insured post of £6.50.

Or you can email; warringtonwatchco@outlook.com and send as many photos as possible for a quote on repairs.