We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: It’s much easier to work on nice watches than cheap watches. Whether the watch is an Illinois Bunn Special or our Rolex 3035 from the pawn shop, nice watches were designed with service in mind. Makers of high-grade watches assume that people will love the watch, take good care of it, keep it for decades, and then pass it along to someone who would cherish it anew.
This Rolex 3035 is an easy one to work on compared to other automatic, quick-set date watch movements, such as an ETA 2824-2. For example, the 3035 has relatively few parts, although it doesn’t look like it when they’re piled up.
Likewise, the 3035 has big screws with flat, cylindrical heads and deep slots—much like pocket watch screws. Such screws are easy to handle and to tighten. An ETA 2824-2, in contrast, has fiddly, tiny screws with thin, domed heads, so the screwdriver blade has a small surface contact area. And don’t get me started with Seiko’s cursed and afflicted screws.
The watch was in pretty good shape overall. The hands show their age, but they don’t look too bad.
I’m not sure what caused these spiral scratches on the ratchet wheel.
There’s one big ol’ scratch (that didn’t photograph well) trailing away from the screw hole. Those automatic bridge screws are tight, so I’m guessing a screwdriver slipped.
It’s important to keep the dial clean and safe.
In a bizarre video, an ostensibly professional watchmaker in a commercial repair environment removes the dial and flops it face down on the bench. It’s at around the 40 second mark, but you can see the still image of the dial below.
Seriously, people. That’s a great way to scuff the applied markers and chip off lume dots.
Mark at the inestimable Watch Repair Channel has a three-part series on servicing a movement in this family if you’re looking to chisel open your own watch.
Date Disk Drama
The watch kept respectable time, so it could have gone without a service. Here are the rates from Part 1.
But the amplitude wasn’t fantastic. It would average around 275 degrees DU and DD, which is a little low for a quality watch like this. A new mainspring and fresh oils would certainly kick that up a bit.
The other reason to open this fellow up is to repair the date wheel. Before buying any watch in a pawn shop, you need to inspect it with a cold eye. When testing it, I noticed that the date wouldn’t quick-set through all the days—the calendar disk would hang up on 12. I showed the saleswomen, who shrugged and said “Oh, that’s just how these are sometimes.” Such is the nature of negotiating at pawn shops. With more hemming, hawing, and haggling, I got some more knocked off.
I suspected that a tooth on the calendar disk (aka date disk) was chipped. Yup—look at the tooth for 12.
This is why the date won’t quick-set: the setting wheel can’t contact the tooth.
And this is also why, once the day gets to around 29 or 20, the watch won’t change the date via the normal movement of the hands. You can see that the date wheel can’t push the disk at 12, which is roughly when 29 shows in the dial’s date window.
I would like to get a genuine Rolex calendar wheel: it would fit better and look nicer. These come up for sale occasionally on eBay or The Rolex Forum, which is possibly the world’s most frenetic watch forum.
But in the meantime, I’ll get a basic aftermarket calendar wheel so I can wear the watch.
Swapping wheels is quick and easy, but finding a good aftermarket one is harder than I thought. The first one I ordered (not pictured) was completely wrong: the eBay seller sent a 3135 wheel. Grrr.
The second wheel, below on the right, wasn’t good enough. Such is the world of cheap, made-in-China aftermarket parts.
Compared to the genuine wheel on the left, the aftermarket wheel on the right is much brighter and has thicker numbers. The quality of the printing—fuzzy lines and pudgy numbers—is not as good. The font isn’t exactly right, but it is close enough.
The big problem, though, is that the numbers are off-centered. The numbers should be in the exact center of the tooth. If you draw a line from the tooth’s center through the number, it should bisect the number.
If you look back to the genuine wheel, you’ll see that the numbers are centered like this. As a result, the numbers will be centered in the dial’s date window: not too high, not loo low.
Check out this wheel. The numbers ride high relative to the tooth. For example, check out day 25: the middle of the number is higher than the middle of the tooth. As a result, we would expect the numbers to appear too high in the date window.
Indeed, if we sit the dial back on the movement, the number is too high. The 30 touches the top of the window.
If we advance the hands to the next day, it looks even worse for 31, which is partly cut off.
Grrr. The date disk drama continues. If I’m going to get something aftermarket, I thought I’d get something flamboyant: a roulette disk.
This wheel is nicely centered and will be a nice placeholder until I can get my mitts on a genuine replacement.
Adjusting to 6 Positions
As for the movement itself, the usual cleaning and oiling and assembling magic happened. The watch got a new mainspring and a trip to the demagnetizer, and after a day or so, it was time to check the rates.
Before adjusting, we usually list the good and bad omens. For this watch, the omens are all good.
- It’s a reasonably new watch (by the standards of the pocket watches we usually work on) in nice condition
- The 3035 has a free-sprung balance, overcoil alloy hairspring, alloy balance wheel, and most everything you’d want in a watch designed to keep good time across positions
- This watch kept pretty good time before service, so unless I messed it up, it ought to run at least as well now
And indeed, the watch, with no adjusting, was essentially perfect: between +1 and -2 in all 6 positions. Here are the timing machine readings for all 6 positions.
Notice that the amplitude is now over 290 DU and DD and over 270 in the vertical positions—a much better result. When the positions vary between +1 and -2 seconds, it’s time to call it a day.
So far, so good: the last step is cleaning and polishing the case, and then this watch is ready to wear.