Requiem for a Mangled Tissot 17.5 Aquasport Wristwatch

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When fishing for watches on eBay, you occasionally gamble. You see a watch for sale for cheap by a seller who can’t open it and doesn’t know how to describe it. “Hmm,” you think, “this might be a steal.”

So it was with this Tissot Aquasport, which I got for nearly nothing. It was listed as “not working” and had only a couple bad pictures. Tissot made excellent watches way back when—and still does—so I took a gamble on it.

Clearly, this crystal is in grim condition. But the case is solid stainless steel, not a common thing for that time period.

The dial looks incredible—an even, aged look. The varnish is flaking off, which is bad functionally (the flakes will eventually flake off and fly around in the case) but cool aesthetically. Check out the shapes of the numbers—very stylish.

This is an Aquasport model. I’m not sure why it is called that. The case has a screwed-on back, but there’s nothing special about the crystal or crown that would make this watch any more water-resistant than any other wristwatch of the time.

Not A Second to Spare?

Perhaps the cool dial distracted me from an obvious problem—where’s the second hand? The dial has a seconds track, after all, so where is that guy?

Uh oh. This watch has been amputated.

All the parts for the sweep seconds complication are gone: the pinion for the seconds hand, the driving wheel that moves the pinion, and the pinion’s bridge and screw.

The pivot that holds the pinion driving wheel is bent, too. Whoever stripped off the driving wheel mangled it.

What a bummer—no wonder the watch was so cheap.

The Hunt Is On

I bought this watch well over a year ago, and I’ve been hunting for replacement parts since then with no luck. This movement is one of the Tissot 17.5 family of movements, probably the 17.5-23. These old Tissot movements are apparently freakishly obscure. None of the usual haunts has replacement parts for the sweep second complication.

While waiting, I serviced the watch. It keeps respectable time, but I held off on adjusting it until I can find the sweep-second parts. The watch’s amplitude will change when those parts are gone—with less friction comes higher amplitude, so there’s no point to adjusting until the watch is complete.

As we’ve said before, adjusting is something you do to a watch that runs well. No good can come from tweaking the balance wheel or hairspring for a watch that’s missing parts.

But after waiting and waiting and waiting, it was time to let go of the dream. This watch will just have to live with 2 hands for a while. Speaking of the hands, they have an oddly appealing look—tarnished and rough. You either love or hate hands and dials that are this aged, I suppose.

Polishing the Case

I scrubbed the case and renewed its brushed finish. The case was dinged and scratched, and the original brushing was worn away. The case back got a nice circular finish by spinning the piece in the Foredom polishing lathe and using a rubber abrasive block.

The main case itself was brushed using an abrasive wheel for matte finishes. The sides of the case got a straight grain. Then I attached the case to the lathe and gave a circular grain to the bezel and lug tops. The case still has its nicks and dings, but the brushing gives it a silky feel and conceals most of the dents. A new crystal completes it nicely.

Waiting on the Transplant List

For now, this watch is like a patient on the kidney transplant list. I don’t know when I’ll find the replacement parts, but until then it will keep on doing its thing until a donor is found.

This watch won’t tell the time to the second, but it does look sharp.