Four years before stepping over the precipice and into a horological rabbit hole, I bought the last watch I would ever own. A watch for life. The occasion was my 40th birthday and the watch was a Citizen Promaster PMT56-2731: eco-drive, perpetual calendar to February 2100 (I figured that would see me out), titanium-case, 200m water resistance.
The watch was fairly chunky at 40mm diameter, not including the crown guards, but without too much heft thanks to the light weight, titanium construction. The solar-powered movement promised that it would run and run, never needing a replacement battery. The Duratec finishing promised resistance to dings; the sapphire crystal, resistance to scratches. What more could a fella want? I can’t remember exactly how I found my way to this Japan-Domestic-Market-only model because this was 2004, a full four years before I really started to become properly interested in watches. I bought the watch from Higuchi-inc, one of the pioneering watch dealers in Japan who was prepared to sell directly to customers outside Japan and at a time when the Yen-to-pound exchange rate was in my favour.
Of course, as should be evident, this was not to be the last watch I would ever buy. It was not a watch for life. Why? Because less than four years into my ownership, it stopped working. This failure required two visits to Citizen UK, initially to replace the capacitor, which had failed, and on the second occasion, when the capacitor change had not completely resolved the issue, the entire movement. My frustration at its fragility was compounded by the fact that the klutzes at the Citizen service centre returned my watch with scratches to the bezel and upper case, the result of their attempts to open the case from the crystal side, this being a watch with a unibody, monocoque construction. I was so disillusioned that I sold the watch and set about finding a replacement, the process of which triggered the sequence of events that brings me to where I find myself today.
Some of you may have noticed that on occasions, I indulge myself in horological reminiscences (see for example here and here) and the present post will provide another example. A couple of months ago, I spotted an auction on Yahoo Japan for a 稼働品 シチズン パーペチュアルカレンダー エコドライブ E766-T001203 チタン メンズ 稼働品 中古品. The E766-T001203 reference is the official Citizen model number of the PMT56-2731. The pertinent parts of the Japanese language script refer to ‘working item’ and ‘Citizen Perpetual Calendar Eco Drive’. In a moment of impulse, I threw my hat into the ring and won the auction for probably more than was wise but rushes of blood to the head and all that. As it turned out, upon receipt of the watch, the ‘working item’ part of the description flattered to deceive. The watch was in a state not dissimilar to my old watch prior to its first trip to the wizards at Citizen UK. Reminiscence indeed.
On the upside, the watch presented quite nicely, aside from a minor mark on the bezel adjacent to the 8 marker and some abrasion to the embossing on the case back. The watch case was also pretty dirty, as evidenced by the belly button fluff around the recessed button at the 2 o’clock position.
The most likely causes of the stopped movement were either a completely discharged capacitor, in which case an extended period of exposure to light should resolve the issue (it didn’t) or a failed capacitor. This being a monocoque case, the only way to gain access to the movement is through the crystal side of the case and that requires removal of the bezel.
Conveniently, there are four slots machined into the upper part of the case at 3, 6, 9 and 12 to provide access to a case opening tool.
The bezel lifted easily on one side, exposing the white nylon gasket that provides a seal between the bezel and the case.
A little gentle prising and the whole bezel + crystal assembly lifts away from the case.
Before the movement can be removed, we have first to remove the crown and stem. This is achieved by depressing the stem release lever located midway between the 3 and 4 markers.
I have a feeling that someone has been here before. Note the smear of lubricant between the 10 and 11 at the edge of the dial and the spot of gunk sitting on the end of the hour hand.
The movement can now be tipped out.
With its nooks and crannies exposed, we can see now just how grubby the case has become. The movement sits in a circular plastic support and needs to be removed from that in order to gain access to the capacitor.
With that done and the movement sitting dial down in a movement holder, we can survey the rear of the movement.
Replacing the capacitor is not really any more challenging, once we’ve got to this stage, than changing an ordinary battery in a regular quartz movement. The only detail that we have to pay particular attention to is to remember to locate the tab on the bottom of the capacitor into the slot in the mainplate when refitting the new part. You can see the tab in the photo above, just below the half-way point on the right hand side of the capacitor. The removal and reinstallation process is illustrated below, clockwise from top left.
With the movement reinstalled into its plastic tray, its revival is evident in the different position of the hands compared to the earlier photos.
The lower part of the case, the bracelet, crown and pusher, have all have a full wash and brush-up but I’ve taken a more measured approach to the bezel to avoid damaging the captured chapter ring.
As part of that process, I have given the pusher tube at the 2 o’clock position a thorough clean.
Interestingly, the pusher sports no fewer than three gaskets.
With a dab or two of silicone grease on the gaskets, the pusher finds its way back into position.
The case is now ready to receive the revived movement, and so in it goes, followed by the crown and stem.
Those of you who are familiar with these eco drive movements will surmise that I have executed the all-reset procedure, followed by a hand realignment.
Before refitting the bezel + crystal assembly, I need to figure out what size of nylon gasket to buy.
In the absence of either the correct part number or, if I had it, any means to source an original part, I opted to measure the old gasket and buy a couple of generic nylon gaskets, hedging my bets on the correct size. Following a bit of trial and error, I settled upon a 3.40 x 1.25 x 0.4 mm and fitted it to the bezel prior to pressing the assembly back into the case.
With the cleaned bracelet refitted, I can once more enjoy the last watch I will ever own, a full 18 years after this model first found its way into its daily routine on my wrist.