The now you see it, now you don’t moment last month was one of those occasions where one’s ability to take setbacks on the chin must come to the fore. I think an expletive escaped, but then the realization started to set in that all that work was probably for naught. As I made my way down four flights of stairs, and back through the house to the rear, I wondered to what extent I might learn from this incident. Certainly, I will think twice about taking photos of watches on a window ledge on a windy day but as seems often to be the case, the silver lining within the cloud can be teased out with a spot of determination. That silver lining in my case is usually that I learn something new about the workings of watch movements.
Somewhat to my surprise, as I retrieved my watch from its resting place in a gravel-filled drainage channel, I saw that it was still ticking. Diashock protection at this point seemed no small boast. The exterior of the watch sported two beefy gouges in the upper right lug together with numerous chips in the crystal, suggesting that it had ricocheted into the channel following impact on the concrete surface of the back yard.
The fact that it was ticking turned out to misrepresent the initial suggestion that the movement had escaped unscathed, with the timegrapher revealing a very substantial beat error. I thought at first that the stud holder lever had been knocked out of position but no amount of adjustment could eliminate the beat error. In fact, no amount of adjustment made any impression at all on the beat error. Time to take a look at the balance hairspring.
This would account for the beat error then! If anyone has any doubts about the potential damage a 25 foot drop onto concrete can inflict upon a watch movement, then the photo above should serve as a cautionary example. You will notice that far from retaining any degree of homogeneity in the spacing between adjacent coils, the compression caused by the impact has distorted the spring to such an extent that no amount of adjustment is going to save it (at least not from these hands). The only route to salvation (assuming there was no damage elsewhere in the movement) would be to replace the balance wheel and hairspring. This being my first exposure to a 45 series high-beat movement, I had no spare parts at all, and given its higher end status in the vintage Seiko arsenal, I did not hold out much hope that Cousins was going to be of much help (quickly confirmed). Happily, by some miracle, a trusty watch parts supplier in Northern Ireland reported stock and I quickly placed an order, two days before Christmas day. For those of you who reminisce fondly of how much better things were in the olden days, I can pretty much guarantee that an order placed on the 23rd December for an obscure Japanese watch part from a fairly remote supplier would not result in it landing in your paws the following day (Christmas Eve) if such an order had been placed, say, in the 1970’s (everyone would have been on strike, probably, or taking a mandatory extended tea break).
Anyway, my shiny new balance wheel arrived on the 24th December (as well as a new crystal from Cousins, the third purchased for this project).
The fitting of this new balance wheel required some painstaking adjustment of the terminal coil, a process I am becoming increasingly familiar with but one that I do not enjoy that much. It seems something of a black art to get right without an experienced watchmaker standing over my shoulder issuing instructions, but somehow I manage to form the coil to run true through the regulator pins throughout its travel. A quick test suggests that the movement is now running correctly again, with beat error down to a couple of tenths of a millisecond. I’ll regulate it properly once I’ve established what can be done about the damaged case.
On the subject of the case, I considered three possibilities: 1) Leave it be, and let the scars serve as a reminder of my folly 2); employ an expert to laser weld and refinish the case; 3) source a replacement case. Option 1), I dismissed out of hand: I do not need reminding thank you very much and I knew that if I left it in that state, I would probably not wear it, defeating the point of all the effort that had been expended up to this point. Option 2) I explored, going so far as to contact a company in Bristol who do laser welding and have a lapping machine but the case shape is too complicated and they declined (I suspect the cost might have ruled this out in any case, but worth a try). And so, I was left with option 3). In all the time I’ve trawled Yahoo Japan auctions, I’ve never seen a 45xx-7000 case for sale and so the only solution was to find a cosmetically challenged, preferably non-functioning complete watch whose case was unpolished and in as good a condition as possible. The dated 4502’s tend to fetch strong money, even with flaws but the no-date 45-7000’s sometimes sneak through in poor condition for lowly amounts. One such caught my eye over the Christmas break but I was distracted at the critical moment and missed my chance to snag it. So I had to trawl again for a suitable candidate and eventually my patience paid off with a 45-7000 whose dial was damaged but whose case looked very nice indeed:
Happily my bid won out and I snagged it for less than the watch I had missed. Two weeks later, it landed:
You can see that the case looks very nice, possibly nicer even than the case was on my ill-fated 4502, but the dial is toast and the movement exceedingly tarnished. The latter will hopefully prove useful at some point in the future as a parts donor, going some considerable way to off-setting the modest expense of buying this second sacrificial watch.
Top to tail, the two cases look essentially identical in term of shape and dimensions, with the 45-7000 having slightly more refined, less beefy lines in profile. I suspect these minor differences may just be sample variation rather than any actual difference in the case design between the two models (4502 top, 45 bottom):
The same stuff is plastered all over the movement and I don’t relish the prospect of removing it given the elbow grease I had to expend on the case. In other respects though, the case is excellent, largely free of corrosion, with sharp lines and with no major dings.