Why I'm late again -- really!
December 2, 2007 3:06 PM   Subscribe

What can I do about my treasured, repair-resistant wristwatch?

About a year ago, after a very extensive search, I finally found a watch I loved, and I bought it through eBay. Ever since, and despite much work by a reputable, experienced watch repair guy, it's 95% worked, which sadly makes it 100% useless. I love how it looks, so I don't want to give up on it, but I don't know what else to do.

It runs fine on my nightstand for weeks at a time, but when I wear it, it stops. When I've worn it next to another, battery-operated watch, it's stopped within hours or a day or two. Once, when I wore it on its own, it ran for a little over a week. I do wind it fully every morning, and I don't expose it to moisture.

About the watch (here's a photo) (Those hands are a deep teal blue, and the border is mother of pearl.)
-Manual winding
-Not sure of its age - 1940's-1970's?
-That's an inset second hand at the bottom
-The text says "Record Geneve" and "Stotsaker"
-On the back, there's a crown in a circle, 386392, and a few other little marks I can try to make out if it would help.

A bunch of repairs have been done, over the course of several visits, and each time he thought it was fixed, but it never was. Here's what was done:
-overall cleaning and lube
-new stem
-set lever
-mainspring replaced
-balance staff - replaced bent pivot

Most recently, I took it to a different, well-regarded shop (The Watch Hospital, in Boston), told him all of the above, and he said it was reading perfectly and I'd be throwing money away to keep trying. He also said he couldn't gut it and fit in a modern mechanism because of the second hand at the bottom, even though I am willing to give up its function.

So, is there anything left to try? Does the pattern of when it stops indicate the root of the problem? Any other places you'd suggest asking this question? Or, barring that, any creative ideas on how I can enjoy it anyway?
posted by daisyace to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Stupid question, but does it not work because of the orientation it is in when you wear it or is it the motion that does it? If it's the orientation then I would imagine you could check if there's a part shifting out of position in that orientation. If it's a transitory effect from acceleration then I would imagine you are SOL.
posted by frieze at 3:15 PM on December 2, 2007

Maybe it's you. Seriously-- I cannot wear watches because I cause them to stop working in the same way you describe. I have finally come to the conclusion after doing this with, oh, 25 watches or so, that it is me and something about my body chemistry or something that causes the watches to fail. The fact it works on the nightstand but not when you wear it leads me to believe you share the same kryptonite gene.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:17 PM on December 2, 2007

Well, I'll take a stab. There are some old wives' tales about people who stop watches; the usual theory is that they somehow magnetize the guts and stop them.
I can say I've seen people who could not wear a mechanical mechanism watch; that it stops when they wear it & I have no idea why. Have you worn a mechanical winding watch before without problems? If not, maybe you could buy an incredibly cheap winding mechanism watch and see if it stops when you wear it. Just to be doing the experiment.
What a beautiful watch! I hope it works out for you.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 3:30 PM on December 2, 2007

Oh, if the band is very loose causing you to jiggle it around when you get it into position to check the time that could be messing it up. That or exposure to strong magnetic fields (MRI machines, generators, electrically powered trains) could cause problems.
posted by frieze at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2007

Response by poster: I don't think it's me - I have another manually winding watch that I wear without any problems. I haven't deliberately tried different orientations on my nightstand, but I have purposely flipped it over now and then, and I've been inconsistent in how I put it down, and it's still run fine. So, I suspect it may be the motion of wearing it, but the band is not loose. I don't work with any unusual magnetic stuff.
posted by daisyace at 4:01 PM on December 2, 2007

I rather fear it's become a paperweight. Lovely as it is, if it can't tell the time and there's not much show of fixing it, it's gone. I have a very nice mechanical watch sitting in my desk drawer now with the same problem, if that's any consolation.
posted by Wolof at 10:12 PM on December 2, 2007

Best answer: I see that you're in Mass. - if you don't mind driving to southern NH, then try this guy. I own over a dozen vintage watches, and he has done flawless, reliable repair on all of them.
posted by Flakypastry at 3:53 AM on December 3, 2007

Response by poster: At least it would be cool if I shared the kryptonite gene, 45moore45. Thanks for the well-wishing, unprepentanthippie. Flakypastry, your guy is only an hour or so from me. I just told him the story by phone, and he said he'd like to have a look. I'll post a follow-up sooner (if he says don't bother) or later (if he tries and then it takes a while to see if it's really fixed). Thanks all! If anyone else has ideas, I'd still love to hear them, too.
posted by daisyace at 7:49 AM on December 3, 2007

Best answer: I am impressed by your devotion to this beautiful old watch. I don't have an answer for you, but maybe you'll have better luck getting advice on the Timezone forums. That's the big Internet watch geek hangout. They'll know more about the actual watch and may have recommendations on a repair shop.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on December 3, 2007

Response by poster: Great lead, Nelson, thanks. I think I'll let things play out with the guy Flakypastry referred me to first, but it's good to know there's a next avenue of possibility after that one.
posted by daisyace at 7:18 AM on December 4, 2007

Response by poster: Update: The pro that Flakypastry suggested got it working! It took several attempts, since he wanted to try to preserve the original mechanism, and each time, it would work for him, I would wear it, and it would stop again. Finally, he put in a modern (quartz) mechanism, and I got it today. Unlike the previous watch repair person, he was able to fit one in and even retain the second-hand. So, as a purist, I can imagine he's a little disappointed, but as someone who just wants to wear the watch, I'm very happy!
posted by daisyace at 6:23 AM on May 28, 2008

Response by poster: Update II. Turns out, amazingly, it's still having the same problem, even with the all-new mechanism. Still working on it...
posted by daisyace at 4:15 PM on May 30, 2008

Response by poster: Fingers crossed for this being the last update: It's been working for a little over two weeks, and I think it might finally be fixed. It turned out that pressure applied to the back of the watch, and/or shifting the stem such that the mechanism shifted inside the watch body, made it stop. Once I finally figured this out, the problem became reproducible, hence fixable.

Now, if it just keeps working, the next challenge will be to find a nicer ribbon band for it...
posted by daisyace at 6:02 PM on August 27, 2008

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