Hare-brained schemes and cunning plans are all very well but all too often they fall victim to the law of unintended consequences. My recent ill-thought out flight of fancy to inject a bit of zip into a 6105 diver’s watch presented a conundrum, the satisfactory solution to which has taken a further three full months to resolve. In case, dear reader, you have forgot, to shoe-horn a high-beat 6146 into a 6105 case results in an unfortunate protuberance to the rear: a balance running at 36000 bph requires a mainspring of greater stiffness but to wind such a mainspring, an automatic watch needs a rotor of increased mass, and a rotor of increased mass will necessarily need to be of more substantial dimensions. The mid case and case back of my 6105-8000 is designed to accommodate the autowinder bearing assembly and rotor of the 21600 bph family of 61 series movements and the case back lacks sufficient internal clearance to provide the necessary room for the thicker rotor required of the 6146.
You may be able to appreciate the problem in comparing the following views of a 6105-8000 fitted with an original and correct 6105A (upper) with my high beat 6105-8000 special fitted with its 6146 Grand Seiko movement (lower).
You may discern in the lower photograph that not only is the rotor thicker on the 6146 but it is mounted higher on a thicker bearing. A better perspective is provided in the animated gif below.
My holding solution back in June was to fit a case back from a 7548-7000 whose requirement to accommodate the off-centre battery of that hefty quartz diver’s watch means that it possesses the required internal clearances to permit the unimpeded operation of the rotor attached to my 6146.
A comparison of the internal landscape of the original 6105 case back (below,left) with that of the 7548-7000 (below, right) makes it clear how in particular the latter provides room for the thicker outside edge of the winding weight.
While this holding compromise allowed me to wear the watch, the case back itself jarred badly with the rest of the watch.
Not only is the style a clear decade or so younger than the rest of the watch, belonging to the era of the 6309 and to the later 200 m diver’s, but the text marks it out furthermore as being a completely foreign attachment to this pre-quartz era watch.
Of course, inappropriate markings can be removed and so that it what I elected to do (or rather have done, having called upon the expert services of a local mechanical engineer) as the first in a series of attempts to find some sort of permanent solution to my conundrum.
One appealing element of this modified back is that in profile, it is clearly providing, Tardis-like, the required additional interior space without significant increases in its external dimensions.
So, what other possible options might there be? Two occurred to me at the time, one obvious and plausible and the second a bit of a long shot. A movement as fetching as the 6146 surely deserves a window through which to admire it and so some sort of display back seemed like an excellent idea. The problem of course is finding one that fits the case, not only in terms of the tap of its thread and its diameter but critically in its ability to clear the rotor. A seemingly infinite variety of Seiko 5 watches are fitted with display backs, most of which appear superficially to be the same in design and dimensions. Two such examples are illustrated below.
The first case back I tried was a back from a 7S36-04N0 and at first it looked like it might do the trick but two issues eventually ruled it out. The first was that not only must the tap of the thread be compatible, and the diameter be sufficiently generous to cover fully the case back gasket but the interior lip must also sit correctly against the case ring.
In this case, the inner lip of the case back sits atop the ring rather than nestling around its outside with the result that the case back won’t screw fully in and therefore will not properly compress the gasket. In the photo below, we can see how the case back lip of the original 6105 case back sits comfortably outside the case ring (upper), but in the case of the display back, the diameter of the lip is too small and the back sits on top of the case ring rather than outside and so the case spring is then not able to do its job (lower).
Having been thwarted, I threw good money after bad and tried another back from a different model with the same result and so at that point I abandoned the idea of a display back and settled instead on seeing if I could have a custom case back made. My mechanical engineer colleague offered to help and having taken measurements of the original back, machined a back from spare stainless steel stock but with the interior dimensions taken from the 7548 back. This is what he came up with:
So job done then. Well, yes, but I still rather fancied the idea of a display back and so, throwing caution to the wind, bought my third Seiko display case back, hoping that the dimensions of this one might somehow work. The third back was from a 7S36-03D0 and superficially looked no different to the other two. However, a glimmer of hope was ignited by the fact that its inner lip was of the correct diameter to sit outside the case ring, and was therefore of the correct diameter to properly compress the case ring spring as the back is screwed down.
A test fit confirmed too that the internal dimensions were sufficiently generous not to impede the operation of the autowinder mechanism and so I set about some further minor modifications to complete the job. The first of these was to reduce the height of the internal lip on the threaded part to match that of the original case back. In the photo below, you can see the difference in profiles between the two.
Here is the case back again but with the height of the lip reduced appropriately.
If the text on that 7548 case back jarred, then so too does the text on the inner surface of the glass window. I thought about trying to remove the printed lettering with the window in place but this required much use of Polywatch and elbow grease with the inevitable consequence being contamination of the groove holding the glass with Polywatch gloop. So, instead, I pressed out the window with my crystal press and cleaned off the text without too much difficulty and without any unnecessary mess.
With the glass now sterilised, and pressed back into position, we are ready to fit the back.
Somehow, this works and so for the moment I think that this one is now settled, with the added bonus of the custom-machined back as a fall back. Two more to finish.
Sometimes, following one’s nose can get you into trouble, leading to a minor cascade of self-created problems the solution to which can appear to stretch further and further out of reach. In this case, I think we’ve ended up with a result that rather better suits the spirit of this particular project than if those unforeseen challenges had not presented themselves. I am rather chuffed.
Bill Dykes said:
When I feel a little stressed and need calming I often turn to reading classical and modern poetry by the fire in my library. It soothes and entertains me. Your articles have the same effect. Thank you.
Your appreciation is greatly appreciated and your comment made me smile. Thank you.
Pete white said:
Very nice work mate, I have many projects sitting ready to be finished, I really like the exhibition back, really finishes it off nicely. Now it’s time to try and explain to the wife that I need more time at the “bench” and less DIY’ing
L C OKelly said:
I second what Bill Dykes said although he said it far better than I could. Your articles help me live out my creative mechanical problem solving aspirations vicariously. Esp the ones involving old Seiko divers. Great that you have access to a “tame” mechanical engineer who obviously shares your interest in creating odd problem solving parts.
Incidentally what type of machinery would said engineer use to create such a case-back? Particularly the threaded area and the opener slots?
Thank you for your comment. I always value the feedback that comes through the comments facility so keep ’em coming!
As to the engineer, regrettably, he has now moved on to pastures new and I may need to find someone else to help me out on those infrequent occasions I need someone with proper engineering expertise.
In the case of the custom watch back, I believe he did the whole thing on a good old fashioned machinists lathe. I was not available to observe and so can provide no additional detail I’m afraid.
Chris Taylor said:
Not so much a comment as a request for general help. Martin my horological life started with a spring powered anchor escapement eight day kitchen type clock. Next I made a Grandfather type clock, weight driven, anchor escapement, including the case. Lovely. Then I believe I got involved in Seiko 66, 7002, 6309 and now finally a 6119C-8600. Consequence being I purchased a Timegrapher 1000 and discovered I had cleaned and reassembled a mess! Low amplitude, mouse tracks everywhere on the screen. I also purchased an ultrasonic cleaner. My questions are : Do you recommend a lowpower binocular microscope so one may really inspect the essential parts for problems? Is 10 x low enough, up to 30x? I have also been through purgatory disassembling and attempting to re assemble the diashock assemblies. HELP!!! Thanking you hopefully in advance, with admiration, Chris Taylor.
Chris, you don’t mention what approach you have been taking to cleaning prior to your purchase of a Timegrapher but I assume from what you say that you were not using an ultrasonic cleaner, nor presumably proper watchmaker’s cleaning and rinsing solutions. A common initial approach of budding dabblers is to rinse in lighter fluid but this can only ever remove a relatively small amount surface dirt and contamination and will never properly deal with the more ingrained dirt, especially around pivots and bearings. For some time, I worked with just an ultrasonic bath and watchmakers solutions and now I combine that with a proper watchmakers cleaning machine and manual intervention where required.
Regardless of your cleaning technique, inspection is vital to check for damage or contamination of jewels, bearings, pinions, wheel teeth and so on, but in my experience, you should be able to discern most problems using a standard watch makers loupe. I have a number ranging from about x5 to x15 and have never felt the need to buy a binocular magnifier (although I would not say no if someone offered me one!). The trick I believe, it to be meticulous, proceed in a measured, unhurried fashion, avoid rash decision making and practice, practice, practice. My learning curve has lasted 8 years or so and I am still learning (and I hope still improving). When I first started, I found Diashock settings tremendously challenging; now they are entirely routine. I still struggle with Diafix sometimes, but not to the point that I dread them any more.
I hope that helps.
Impressive work. Is there any seal or gasket between the glass and caseback? Is any glue used to attach it or just pressure fitted? I’m thinking of getting one for a King Seiko to preserve the gold medallion (seller from Japan makes them custom) but I’m a little worried about moisture. I can’t see any gasket on those. Another option would be a modern 7s26 caseback, if there is one in the right dimensions. Thanks
The one shown is from a modern 7s and so has a plastic gasket into which the glass is pressed. I do have one of those Yahoo Japan display backs also, bought for a GS 6146 but have not yet used it or even taken a close look.
Hi, im interested to fit a display caseback to my KS45/GS45 watches, do you happen to know the dimensions of the threading? If there is a modern caseback with a low profile (for the manual calibers) that would fit that could be a cheap solution.
It seems most Seiko case backs share the same dimensions? But as your article describes in detail, this is only one of the parameters.
I know custom made come up on YJ regulary, but they fetch high prices.
This information would be invaluable to many collector who want to do the same. Yobokies also has a custom made display case, but it has a higher profile for automatic calibers.
To perserve the gold medallions and display the beautiful movements should be a high priority on any KS/GS collectors list!
It is not my experience that most Seiko case backs share the same dimensions and for those that share the same thread pitch and diameter, there are other considerations such as the dimensions of the sealing surface against which the gasket sits.
As to the KS/GS 45’s, I am afraid that I don’t know the case back dimensions and am not equipped to find out what they are any better than anyone else. As you say, the obvious option is a YJ back but they are expensive and not especially brilliant quality. Sorry not to be of much help!