Sunday, April 9, 2023

MECHA HOROLOGY - Resurrecting a Classic Field Watch

A few weeks ago, Matt Leiderman of Leiderman Rods shared a series of Instagram posts on his work rebuilding a classic co-branded Hamilton with Orvis field watch and the process was so intriguing, I asked if he'd share here as well.  Little did I know then, Matt would kick off a re-named Instagram page on his watch adventures with Mecha Horology which is a fun rabbit hole if you're a "watch geek" at all.

Matt wrote...  "In 2012, I bought my first nicer watch (a Sinn 556i for any watch geeks out there) and remember making the comment to my wife soon after that “I could see getting more into watches…”  In hindsight, that was quite the understatement.  Over the last decade I’ve enjoyed collecting watches, learning about vintage timepieces, meeting like-minded friends, and just finding yet another collecting avenue to pursue.  

I always had the idea in the back of my head to explore the watchmaking and repair side of the hobby but couldn’t make the time commitment to learn.  This past year, I started tinkering a bit with some junk movements.  Seeing how they were assembled and how the parts so precisely went together.  What started as an innocent curiosity led to me diving head first into learning watch repair and investing heavily in the professional quality tools and bench-time needed to do work at a high level. 

I have been doing repair and service work for clients for about eight months now and have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.  Mechanical watch servicing involves a full disassembly of the entire movement, a specialized cleaning process, and reassembly using appropriate lubricants in (most importantly) appropriate quantities.  Lack of cleaning and lubrication can lead to wear in the watch parts and poor performance.  Over time, oils will accumulate grit and wear away high friction areas.  Watches are built to exacting tolerances and the slightest deviation can wreak havoc on a watch’s performance.  I will admit, I was previously an “I’ll fix it when it breaks” consumer, but now seeing the damage caused by lack of maintenance and the headache it can be to replace worn out parts my opinion has changed to one more in favor of preventative maintenance especially for heavily worn or very old timepieces.  

I recently acquired this Hamilton Watch Co. field watch that was sold, and co-branded, through Orvis in the 1980s.  It is a smaller watch by today’s standards at 34mm but in the field watch style.  You don’t want a big watch to get in the way but rather something simple that just legibly tells the time.  I wanted to chronicle the restoration of the watch for my fly fishing friends as I’ve talked watches with many of them over the years and this watch in particular may be of interest to a fly fishing audience.  The watch arrived running poorly, missing its original hands, the movement was quite dirty, and it had a badly scratched acrylic crystal.

The basic steps required to complete this restoration included:

  • Disassembly of the case and movement
  • Cleaning of the case in an ultrasonic cleaner
  • Disassembly of the movements and cleaning in a watch parts cleaning machine
  • Reassembly of the movement and swapping a new mainspring
  • Regulation of the movement to keep accurate time within a few seconds a day
  • Reluming of replacement original-style hands to match the dial
  • Replacement of the acrylic crystal
  • Reassembly of the watch

I was also able to source an original 1960's Army watch strap which likely would have shipped on this model due to Hamilton’s army contract through the Vietnam era.

In the end, we started with a well loved but neglected watch.  Through a little TLC it again is ready for some light adventuring…   

If you are interested in this Hamilton-Orvis watch it is available for purchase at $550 and is offered with a 1 year warranty on the work completed. 

If you have a watch that needs some attention and have struggled to find someone to get it serviced, I may be able to help with getting that old watch back on your wrist. 

Please check out my newly rebranded “other” Instagram page, Mecha Horology, where I tend to post information regarding my watch collecting journey and updates to my watch servicing adventures."

And, now on to the Hamilton and Orvis field watch rebuild...

Really, what can't Matt Leiderman do?  And, his excellent photographs just make it all that much better.

Visit the Leiderman Rods website and follow along on both of his Instagram pages for Leiderman Rods and Mecha Horology.

1 comment:

Mojohand said...

Being a glass geek AND a watch geek, this article tickled all my soft spots. Awesome.