Although the title of this blog does not identify its main source of horological inspiration, it is fair to say that by a comfortable, indeed overwhelming, margin, the focus of attention for this watch fettler has been vintage Seiko watches dating from the period 1959 to about 1979. The documented exploration herein of the riches of Seiko output from this wonderful period is saved from complete one-track-mindedness by regular forays into other pastures that have included content featuring watches from Breitling, CWC, Girard-Perregaux, Omega, Rolex, Silvana, Tudor, Orient and Citizen as well as one or two boutique brands (Precista and MkII) and a small handful of no-name self-builds. One of these minor players has recently found itself the subject of a burgeoning curiosity, to the extent that since mid-January 2022, it has been the sole focus of my purchasing attention. This influx of fresh blood covers a period from the early 1960s to approximately the middle of the following decade. The selection of power units includes hand-wind and automatic mechanical movements as well as a diversity of movements powered by electromotive force.
This present article concerns one of their older number: a Citizen Ace Para Water, dating from October 1962. This particular example is a variation of the original Para Water of 1959 whose claim to fame is that, by a few months, it pipped Seiko’s Cronos Seahorse to the title of Japan’s first waterproof watch.
This glossy-black-dialed variant of the Citizen Ace A1307051 is properly, genuinely charismatic in the flesh, with the gorgeous, honeyed tritium lume on the hands and dial only further enhancing the effect. I’ll assess further the condition of the dial shortly but externally, the watch presents extremely well, aided by the very crisp and still very present case back wording and iconography. The three-part case construction is a hybrid of old and new technologies, featuring rubber gasketry at all potential ports of potential entry, but a press-fit case back and with the movement and dial suspended within the case from the top rather than inserted from the bottom. Removing the movement from the case requires both the bezel and case back to be removed. Starting with the former, we see that the acrylic crystal features a flat rim emerging from the bottom edge of the dome and it is this rim that forms the waterproof seal with the flat rubber gasket beneath.
The crystal was stuck by surface tension to the gasket and required some gentle prising to release it.
The movement cannot at this stage be liberated because it is secured from beneath by a pair of case screws and also the dial edge sits beneath the case ring and crystal gasket that provide the basis of the water-proofing of the crystal. Let’s remove the case back and take a look at the movement.
This is a development of the 9200 caliber originally used in the Citizen Deluxe models released in 1958. The versions fitted to the Ace models run at 18000 bph and were made with either 21 or 23 jewels, with caliber numbers 921x, 923x and 924x depending on minor variations in specification. The only identifying mark on this particular movement is the number 210 on the train wheel bridge but I don’t think this is a reference to the model number because the 9210 should be fitted with a stop seconds lever, which this movement does not possess. Perhaps it references the date of manufacture, October 1962, as suggested by the serial number inscribed on the case back. I think it most likely that this is an example of the 9230-21 caliber.
Externally, the movement is fairly clean and looks to have been well-maintained, with largely undamaged screw heads and neatly circular oil droplets beneath the Parashock and Profix cap jewels.
I note though the unmatched pair of casing screws, one of which quite badly corroded.
Removing the movement requires that both casing screws be removed and the upper case ring and crystal gasket extracted. Of course, the crown and stem also need to come out.
At this point, the complete movement, dial and hands can be lifted out of the mid-case from the top.
The dial is in very nice but not mint condition. The lettering in its central part is immaculate, but a significant number of the minute markers, particularly between the 3 and 10, have been worn away. There are also some marks towards the edge of the central area that may have been caused by the minute hand coming into contact with the dial. But overall, it is rich with lustrous character.
Under slightly less forgiving lighting and freed from the cover of the dial, the movement reveals a degree of tarnish, some patchy scuffing to one or two of the bridges and a conspicuous splodge of yellow/green deposit on outer edge of the dial side of the main plate.
Nevertheless, everything appears to be present and nothing is obviously broken. It just looks like it needs a good clean and a little care and attention. Deconstruction of the movement begins with removal of the Parashock and Profix settings on the train side of the movement, prior to removing the balance.
The ratchet wheel screw is left-hand-threaded and so care needs to be taken not to shear the head from the shaft in the mistaken impression that lefty-loosy and righty tighty! The screw head, unhelpfully contains no clues (such as the triple slot used on a number of Seiko movements).
The first real clue that this is anything other than a bog-standard hand-wind movement presents itself once the barrel bridge has been removed.
Firstly, there is no centre wheel, but instead the barrel transfers its power via an off-centre second wheel and pinion and thence on to the upper of two separate third wheels mounted on a single pinion. The second wheel engages with the central pinion of the third wheel which rotates the upper third wheel to which it is fixed.
This upper wheel transfers its power to a central sweep seconds pinion which, in push-me-pull-you fashion, engages simultaneously with the freely-rotating lower third wheel.
If you look closely at the sweep seconds pinion, you may notice that the shaft at the top is bent. This will need rectifying before reassembly. Back to our lines of communication: the lower third wheel whispers to the fourth wheel which passes the message onwards to the escapement and balance.
In the absence of a centrally-mounted the centre wheel, it is the job of the lower pinion of the second wheel to mesh with a driving wheel mounted on the dial side of the movement and to which the cannon pinion is fitted.
We have met variations of this type of going train twice before: once in a Citizen 52-series movement fitted to a 1967 Super Crystal Date Parawater and the other in a Seiko 5106-powered Seikomatic-P, also from 1967. An exploded view of the 9200 movement is shown in the figure below:
The final task for this side is to open the barrel and remove the mainspring. We can see that, in common with Seiko, Citizen favoured lubricating their mainsprings with fairly liberal lashings of molybdenum grease.
Once extracted, the mainspring appears to be in good health.
Prior to loading the movement parts into the watch cleaning machine, I undertook a close inspection of all of the jewelled bearings. All but one appeared to be in good condition, the exception being a chipped bearing serving the second wheel in the barrel bridge.
My recent Citizen purchasing frenzy had secured a small number of sacrificial parts donor watches and from this selection I was able to farm a replacement jewel. The replacement process requires first that the old jewel be removed, using a jeweling tool, and the undamaged replacement fitted using the reverse of the extraction process (clockwise from top left, below).
This marks the half-way point in the revival of this lovely old thing and probably also the point to take a break, have a cup of tea and allow one’s mind to wander, carefully avoiding any rumination over the state of the planet. More in part 2, to follow.