Now and then NWC mag likes to read the latest court cases relating to Rolex watch thefts. Not only is Rolex the best selling brand (over 3K) in the UK by a long way, but it is the most targeted by thieves. Why? Simple really, they can offload stolen Rolex watches quicker than any other make. Even without paperwork.
Here are some recent cases;
A woman approached a pensioner guy in Poole, a wealthy town in Dorset. She chatted for a bit, probably clocked the watch was a Sub with a green bezel and grabbed his arm. She escaped in a grey car, probably driven by her crime partner. It’s possible they saw the watch in a shop, or have seen the guy locally before.
Verdict; be careful not to wear your Rolex while out for a casual walk, especially in summer when you might have a short sleeve shirt on. Save it for special occasions.
EAST GRINSTEAD HEIST
Another female thief, this time in East Grinstead. Again a fairly affluent area, so always be wary of people watching you, or asking about your watch in such areas. Notice the thief chose Waitrose, targeting wealthier customers.
She approached the woman as she was distracted by packing shopping. Young woman, plder victim, so helpless as regards defending herself. She chatted, went for the charity hug, and stole her Rolex. Note the thief using the charity worker disguise with clipboard and hooded anorak, which helps them hide their faces on CCTV.
Verdict; never speak to or engage with so-called charity workers in public. Don’t wear your Rolex to go supermarket shopping, there are too many chancers walking the aisles looking for older, vulnerable people.
Probably the most scary type of thief is the semi-pro Rolex or luxury watch gang. They are usually violent drug dealers, and like to scope out people’s houses, drive around wealthy areas and love to follow older victims home.
This Manchester gang broke into a house in Hale, which is the wealthiest part of Greater Manchester. Yep, richer than Wilmslow. They separated the wife from her husband, hit the man, located a rare Rolex and left rapidly. They ambushed another guy as he arrived home by car from the supermarket. Stole a valuable Rolex.
In both cases, the victims believed they were targeted and followed, possibly for some time. That is highly likely.
What’s also likely is that inside info has been passed onto the gang by someone working in a Manchester watch dealership, which is very difficult to prove, but the most likely explanation of how the gang were able to plan a breakfast time raid on someone. Not only did they know the address, who lived at the address etc. but they knew the Rolex was upstairs – how do you acquire information like that? Not at Waitrose most likely.
Verdict: Think carefully about who you are buying a watch from and how much data you trade to make the purchase. You can’t avoid giving your address, but avoid younger staff members, or flash git shop workers who seem to live a luxury lifestyle on car wash wages. They might well trade your data for a cash bribe, it doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
It’s always great to find a watch brand just down the road, and Manchester based LPW have a great looking Sellita powered dive watch on the Kickstarter launch pad, ready for take-off when the Coronavirus dies down a bit.
This is a dream project, like so many watch manufacturing micro-brands today, driven by the founder’s passion for watches and bringing the best elements of classic inspiration together with modern CAD design and low volume production methods. Fact is, you can find movement, crystal, case and strap suppliers online fairly easily – what you need is that old magic ingredient; charisma.
For us, the Luna One in pale, kinda eerie blue dial guise, is something that stands out from many other Kickstarter watch projects. It has all that you want from a watch that can venture into water; 200m depth resistance, screw down crown, domeed sapphire crystal and a 316L steel, 40mm wide case. There’s plenty of superluminova on the hands and markers that really stands out as well.
A deep dish dial, and a 120 click unidirectional bezel finishes off the 70s retro dive watch look perfectly. The best bit? LPW reckon they can ship this beauty out of the door for £549, which considering the spec is remarkable value. Let’s be honest, there are plenty of Kickstarter watches around that retail for £600 or so and feature Seiko/Ronda quartz movements.
The virus has delayed things a little at LPW, but as soon as they get closer to retailing, we will let you know. Meanwhile you can join the mailing list for updates and early bird discounts if you like this one.
Is it worth servicing older watches made by the lesser known Swiss brands? That is a question that every jeweller, watch trader and antique dealer should ask themselves, because generally the answer is a firm No. Given that a decent watchmaker will charge about £150 as a minimum for a stripdown of a mechanical movement, plus cleaning, oiling and re-assembly then you’re looking at spending three times the resale value of an old Montine, Regency, Lucerne, Hudson, Precimax, Superoma etc.
So what is the solution when you buy a 60s/70s watch on ebay, Gumtree or at a watch fair and then find it starts/stops, or simply runs for a few seconds and then freezes? Well quite often all that watch needs is a basic clean, bit of an overnight soak for the movement perhaps and some TLC with an oiler to get it running again. It may not run a full 30 hours and keep time to within 1 minute, but you will have a running watch to wear and enjoy. Or sell on/swap if you’re a budget level collector.
OK then, here’s a little run through the typical problems with this non-ticking, fully wound-up, Regency watch, and how I got it running again;
First off, remove the dreadful, dirt-encrusted expander bracelet and bin it. Don’t think you can pick the skin and filth out from the links, or toothbrush it. Just not worth it. Buy a basic leather strap from ebay for £5 instead.
Two, remove most of the dirt around the caseback before opening the case. You don’t want more crud falling in. Note that there is hair around the winding crown and stem by the way.
Depress the release button and carefully remove the stem. Get this in a chemical bath to loosen the decades of grime.
Having taken some movement photos, I image matched the pics on google to find out which movement with the ETA1080 being the most similar looking. Good news. Next step, use the crystal grabber to remove the scratched glass, then tease off the hands using the correct tools and the dial protector.
Store the hands carefully in a plastic tray, and add the two movement holding screws in another compartment. Prise off the bezel and pop the movement forward like a pocket watch. This was a difficult job, as dirt had seized the bezel on tight. I used some ether and a brush to loosen it – protecting the dial from the excess ether by the way – then dribbled some watch oil onto a super thin screwdriver to work my way into the tiny gap.
Next remove the balance cock and hairspring, and put this delicate part in a separate chemical bath away from the main movement. Why you ask? The reason I do that is my watch repair tutor, Ernie, told me years ago that when you bathe the entire movement bits of crud go all over the show and some can stick to the hairspring. If the hairspring’s coils stick together then there’s a good chance the watch will not run properly, so it is worth cleaning it separately.
Be ultra careful with the hairspring, so easy to twist or break it free from the screw-in pin, and while the balance bridge is out clean the bottom jewel with a blower, once it has had a nice overnight soak in the bath.
Now add a tiny smidge of oil to the pallet stones, and to the end jewel on the base plate before putting the balance back in. If you can reach in to place a little oil between the hour wheel and the back of the dial, plus lube any exposed, non jewel staffs, then it is worth doing. Don’t go mad with oil, less is more.
Use the blower gently on the hairspring before re-assembly. Inspect all the parts and the movement carefully with your magnifying glass or loupe. Take your time, it is easy to damage these parts and as this is where the watch has the LEAST power, and so it is where it requires the most attention to ensure all is clean, dust-free, lightly lubed and in perfect symmetry.
Clean the stem and crown and place a dab of oil on the stem, before sliding that back in. Now check the movement winds before doing anything else. Does the hairspring move side-to-side with a nice beat? If there’s a problem, it’s time to strip it right down, or bin the watch in the parts drawer. Assuming all feels fine, remove the stem again, put the movement back in the watch case and screw down the two retaining screws. Clamp the movement securely while you do all this.
OK, refit the bezel, now that it’s been cleaned up. Should press on, you may need a polybag and a caseback press to align it and press it on properly. Take your time to make sure all is 100% straight before screwing down the caseback press and applying pressure. The polythene bag protects the dial a bit if the thing slips. Sometimes.
Now you can fit the hands again. Generally the hour hand needs the most pressure, but you’ll know everything is sitting well if the second hand goes on the cannon pinion nicely. Turn the movement upside down to make sure the hands stay on OK. If not, keep trying. Then test the hands clear each other by pulling the crown out and setting the time.
Use the blower on the dial, maybe a soft brush to get rid of dust. Don’t try to clean the dial using any solvents. It will strip the paint. Replace the caseback and measure your old crystal. This Regency had a 308 fitted and I didn’t have one in my spares stock, but I used extra pressure on a 320 and made it fit on. Occasionally that causes a crack and goodbye crystal, but this Regency, like many 60s/70s watches has shallow bezel, so an oversized crystal stays in under extra tension. I went for a high dome too – may as well with low value watches. Just my preference.
Now clean the holes in the lugs with a cocktail stick, then fit new pins plus a strap. Voila, you have a half decent vintage watch, which when fully wound, ran for 26 hours on the bench. Result. On the down side, this all took about two hours of work, plus overnight chemical baths. It is a fair bit of work for something that still might NOT cure all the ills within a 50 year old watch, but altogether more affordable.
So, total parts budget? £5 strap and a £1 crystal – only because I bought a joblot of 50 crystals for £45 a few years back. Labour costs? Well if I was charging a trade price that would be £30 for 2 hours. That’s still a total of £36, which is roughly the resale value of the watch at an antique fair, so like many things classic and vintage, you do this work for love, not money!
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; firstname.lastname@example.org and send as many photos as possible for a quote on repairs.