A Brotherhood…A Brotherhood? Hmmmmm…

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  • #49694
    maitai11
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 62
    • Total Posts: 428

    Hi Guys,

    It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been around, and I do miss being here as much as I was before…I chalk it up to having a difficult year in dealing with emergency surgery, a 2nd planned procedure, and, well, just life, I suppose. After being out of work three or so months, getting back into the swing of things, along with the routine of life has been more difficult than I would have thought. But that’s OK, because we just press on and do the best we can.

    I also miss interacting with so many good souls here on the board. I do hope everyone here is doing well; that their horology endeavor perseveres, and that their families are all doing well, too.

    Over the last several months, I have had occasion to work on a Waltham Seaside 6s pocket watch for my sister’s father-in-law. This was what I considered to be a high-stakes job which, in my estimation, any result other than a complete servicing and repair would have been unacceptable. However, I’d had some great successes prior to this, and felt I was up to the task. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In the first place, this was a small watch – smaller than any I had worked on prior to this – and in fact, I recently read that the 6s Waltham Seaside, in fact, was a woman’s-grade watch when considering the size. Boy, did that ever hit home. I diagnosed the watch as having a missing roller jewel, with cracked upper and lower balance jewels (all four, two cap, two hole,) as well as the obligatory mainspring change, which, in this case, the original mainspring was very, very badly set. To complicate matters, I had never done a roller jewel – or a motor barrel spring change out – and the upper and lower balance jewels turned out to be a nightmare to change. The new ones were rusty. They were the wrong size. The wrong shape. I ended up throwing away the first set due to thinking the box was empty, when in reality, they were taped on the inside. The roller jewel, while I did complete the task, was a monumental one. I believe I wrote asking for some advice prior to working on it. And, for the newbies, if you’ve never worked on a motor barrel mainspring, watch out. That thing had me bouncing off the walls in sheer frustration.

    I sent up several flares seeking customized, personal advice from a couple brothers. One, my actual blood brother (Joe,) the other, a good friend. They both helped me and did some “hand holding” when I really needed it. I combed the internet, read books, reached out to friends and brother Joe alike, and Joe actually bailed me out on that motor barrel spring in the end. I tried several different things several different ways.

    I basically exhausted every last drop of what limited skills and experience I had available. You could’ve squeezed blood from a stone before you’d have had any more from me. I was completely spent. Literally physically and mentally exhausted.

    And, I really needed some help. I needed someone with the skills to help me out of an increasingly bad situation.

    I sent up another three flares. I was upping the urgency because the complexity of the repair required it. I contacted three of the most qualified watchmakers I knew here on the board. I really had no other resources than that – it was all I knew.

    I was looking for someone to help me complete the job. I had already acquiesced and admitted to myself, and to others that I was in over my head. I asked the three watchmakers if they could see their way clear to helping a brother out on this job. I have to admit, and state here today, that I was a bit more than shocked and disappointed at the answer. The only other experience of a brotherhood/sisterhood is the family unit concept, which most or all of us know (I’m including sisters here, too,) and also that of the fire service. I also think that most, if not all the people I know, would say that the brotherhood of the fire service is a special bond between people who have a common purpose, where they help each other out when absolutely necessary, and in many cases, when it isn’t absolutely necessary, but where a brother or sister firefighter simply sees the need and offers some form of help.

    There have been times here on the forum, where I have called this group of folks in the horological community a brotherhood. Others have used the same terminology. Only I’m not so sure that’s the appropriate term to use anymore. I’ll say more at the end of this post.

    Of the three watchmakers I asked to assist, none would. I was willing to pay what it cost – I was very up front about that. I was willing to do it on their timetable. I was willing to do whatever it took to get this job done.

    I couldn’t even get placed on a waiting list.

    Now, I am not trying to bash anyone – or this forum (Bob, what you have is really, really great here.) This is a wonderful place. There are wonderful people here. But, perhaps, just maybe, maybe we should be calling what we do something other than a “brotherhood.” One giving craftsman offered to make me a set of hand lifters and the hairspring collet removal tool like the one Bob shows in his video. I was fortunate – he did exactly what he said he would, and didn’t take anything in return, save postage – even though I offered to pay for his time. I later found out that he was chastised for doing that for me – that somehow him doing a good deed for me wasn’t really helping me out, but instead, he was somehow stealing away from me the opportunity for me to learn how to make my own tools.

    I do not have a lathe, or other metal fabricating tools. Though there are many fabricators on the board, it’s not something I do. I’m aware that there are instructions out there saying something to the effect of, “Just chuck up a piece of wire stock in your jaws and turn it down at a moderate speed until you reach .02 mm, then burnish…” I get it. But that’s not me, nor do I have the wherewithal to do something like that at this time. I don’t see what’s wrong with a brother watchmaker (I’ll use that term in this case) who is willing to help me out by making a specialty tool here or there. In fact, I believe it’s just the opposite. I wouldn’t be where I was today without people like him. He gave, and he gave out of his big, open heart. I just don’t see what’s wrong with that. Furthermore, having everyone shut down and keep that kind of stuff to themselves does not lend itself to any kind of brotherhood that I know of.

    I am aware of several arguments out there that say to never work on a family members timepiece. I am also aware of some people who refuse to work on a piece after another watchmaker has worked on it, as if it’s been afflicted with some kind of contagious plague or something. Me, personally, I would have to disagree on both counts. Watchmaking isn’t the only thing I’d ever do for a family member – and whether or not it’s a successful job is really neither here nor there. It’s that family supports family wherever it can – and the idea that a watchmaker wouldn’t touch a job someone else has started, again, has no basis or connection that I know of in any brotherhood.

    There may be those of you who disagree with me. I understand that and welcome anyone else’s opinion or viewpoint on the matter.

    Tomorrow, I will box up the parts of the watch, carefully labeled and sectioned off in a four-week pillbox container with a message to the next watchmaker about the various issues with this particular watch. This was the last thing I’d ever wanted for my sister, or her father-in-law. Doing this will allow them to move on, and I’ll do the same. They have no ill will toward me, but rather, a very understanding take on the whole situation. For my part, I am absolutely devastated. I feel badly about it, very badly. But, I feel almost as bad, or even worse that when the chips were down, the crickets chirped and those whom I’ve looked up to for the last couple years would not even put me on a full-paying customer’s list.

    But, maybe, just maybe, we should take a moment to think about what the term brotherhood really means, and perhaps about whether or not it’s appropriate to use in our situation. I know that is exactly what I’m going to do. I’m not trying to make anyone do anything they don’t want to do. By all means, if you feel it’s appropriate, you’ll never hear from me in dissent. However, to me, a brotherhood means that, when the chips are down and a brother or sister needs help, they get it. Not for free. Not to the head of the line. Not in consideration before any other full-price paying customer. But, they get it. And, in that regard, if that’s not going to be how things go, then I think I’ll refrain from using the word “brotherhood,” and perhaps focus on what a great place this is for a treasure trove of information, a welcoming group of people, and a place to share information and wins – even losses – with the people who frequent the board.

    Thank you for listening and I’m sorry this was so long a post.

    Until next time, take good care.

    All the best,

    Tim :)

    #63381
    stevefitzwater
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 48
    • Total Posts: 385

    Tim, being away from the hobby for health issues, and still being in reality new to the hobby (only 4 yrs), I have found I lose a lot of the touch, and hand skills that I had prior. Simple things took forever and drove me crazy, but as I kept at it, I was able to gain it back and started learning new skills. You went through a couple hard hits to your health, give your hobby time to recover, when I used to play football, the coaches always told me, if you take 3 days off training, it takes 7 days to get back to that level you were at prior to taking those 3 days off, working on watches, and small one especially takes a very steady hand, trust me I am working on some extremely small ones, Waltham 400 series, 670, and 678 series, all small bracelet watches, they drive me crazy, but they are my personal watches for my collection, so I endure and I find that the skills I learn on these make a 18s pocket watch feel like working on a 18 wheeler, they require such a soft touch and if you breathe to hard, you sound the alarm and start a grid search looking for that part you just sent into the black hole.

    I guess what I am saying, is instead of looking at this as something that has to be done in a specified time table (unless they need it back ASAP), hang on to it and develop the skills by picking up some parts movements of the same watch and practice on, or by just working on a 18s pocket watch to get your confidence back up, then work on it again.

    Right now I have 12 movements in a drawer that are “wait until I learn movements” from still needing the acquire the tools to getting more time on practice movements. This is a very unforgiving hobby, and if you rush through something, you make things worse and get frustrated, slow down, put the movement away and find a movement that you like to work on, then come back to it.

    Now that I am done with the pep talk, what model Waltham is it, and I will check for parts, I might have a complete balance I would be willing to send to you, or what ever part set you needed. This is just a hobby for me, I buy a watch, find out what is wrong, then either buy a parts movement, or order parts, so I have some Waltham movements that I simply have no more use for, once I have a restored Model in my collection, I move on to the next one, the only exception is the Waltham Jewel Series, I like these movements, I have 8 right now and 4 or 5 part movements.

    A lot of watchmakers employ the same teaching as they were taught under Tim, which is “I will tell you how, but you must do it yourself so you learn”. While I have never asked anyone to complete a job for me, I am sure I would get the same response. and William lives 3 hrs north of me. While I am sure he would give me any advice and share any knowledge, I doubt he would take over a job I had started.

    So unless they need that watch repaired by a certain date, hang on to it, and learn the skills, by reading, watch youtube videos, or ask another watchmaker, but do not give up.

    #63382
    arutha
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 85
    • Total Posts: 1536

    Tim,
    I have found in this game the best thing to do is not to rely on anyone but yourself. I know this may sound a bit harsh but you must remember that for whatever reason people have their own problems and they are not always up for taking on other peoples. Like Steve said, box it up and wait for a parts movement or wait until you have the skills to do the job. By all means ask if anyone can help but dont depend on it.
    I also have plenty of projects stuffed away in boxes, some are where I know I will have difficulty finding parts and some are down to not having the skills.
    A case in point, I bought my wife a Tissot watch at a boot sale for just £2.50. It would only run for a few seconds. I stripped and cleaned it and then couldnt remember how it went back together. It stayed like that for two years until I started doing watches again a few months back. I got that watch out again recently and it fell back together. I have also done the same with a couple of clocks that I had serviced but still had problems. Put it away until you are ready for it. The time will come when you will do it and then wonder what all the fuss was about :)
    Just keep on keeping on, it gets easier :)
    Paul.

    #63383
    maitai11
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 62
    • Total Posts: 428

    Steve,

    Thank you very much for your insight and offer of assistance. You’ve provided me with yet again more arrows for the quiver when we talk about just what a normal process is, and how it unfolds. Of particular note was that part about losing your skills after not doing it for a time. Just ask any trumpet player (I actually bought on a few years back -) if they miss a day, no problem. Two days, and it takes them awhile to warm up. Three days, their in trouble. And, beyond that, it’s kind of like starting all over again, because that’s just how it is with trumpet playing. I do hope you’re getting along with your medical issues.

    I would have loved to have been able to hold on to that watch until I acquired the necessary skills, but it just was not possible. As it was, I had already been providing my sister with courtesy updates on what the hold up was, where we were in the process, etc., and I had made some promises to her on a couple different things that required me to attach some sort of reasonable timeline to get it back to her, and by extension, to her father-in-law. I brought that watch home with me, and after about six weeks of recovery time, began working on it in earnest. I could bore you with why this didn’t work out, etc., but I think some of the things you said came into play. So, what I’m getting at is, five months is more than enough for anyone to have a timepiece that isn’t one of their own, and BELIEVE ME, I have those coffee can watches awaiting the day that I have the skills for THOSE watches. It just wasn’t possible to hold on to this one ad infinitum.

    Thank you very much for your offer of digging up some parts for me. I bought four Waltham Seaside-grade watches, and either the parts were unusable, or simply didn’t fit. Even though they were of the same grade, there were some key minor differences – some workable, some not – that prevented me from using them. Think about that. Four different parts watches and not a usable one. It was just one more kick in the teeth. So, thank you very, very much for your willingness to help, and I certainly would count that as a brotherly thing to do for another watchmaker.

    But I gotta say: Your story about how other watchmakers were taught, and how some are predisposed to not touch any watch someone else has been struggling with is just hurtful. Not you, Steve, but if what you’re saying is true, then the practice. I’m going to make a public vow right here and now that if I have the wherewithal to help someone else out with a watch they’re having a hard time with, then they are welcome to get my information from Bob, and contact me. Will I do it for them? I might just do that. Will I try and have them grind it out themselves for a time? Probably. But I will never not help someone who genuinely needs the help. This has just been too painful. I don’t want anyone else to feel it. Now, I’m a newer guy, but that may not matter. If I’m able to help, I will. Period.

    Steve, there’s something special about what you’ve done in reaching out like this. Thank you very, very much.

    Same goes for you, Paul.

    That part about relying on others…I totally agree with you that whatever I’m working on, I should absolutely do EVERYTHING, and I mean everything that I can think of, has been suggested by others to do, or through research and boards like this one, to get a “helping hand” from afar otherwise. So, in that sense, I totally agree. But I will say that after those things have been done, it should be more than OK to reach out, send up a flare, and get some help. Being the guy who never, ever asks for help, and just grinds it out? Can’t say I agree 100%, but that’s OK, I totally respect your viewpoint.

    And, like with Steve’s thing about coffee cans, I get it. I really, really do.

    Thanks for chipping in here and saying your two cents, Paul, I truly appreciate you taking the time to help by the support you’ve shown.

    Regards,

    Tim :)

    #63384
    stevefitzwater
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 48
    • Total Posts: 385

    One of the reasons I like Walthams is they really pioneered the “inter changeability of watch parts” so I am concerned when you say you got parts movements and the parts did not match, I have watches that were made 1890s and used parts movements from 1930’s and never had anything that I would call did not match.

    What model was the watch, if your not sure, what was the S/N?

    Now when you start to get into the 50’s and newer, you actualy getting A Schild or other swiss movements.. so this could be where the complications arose from, and to be honest, I have a dozen or so of them from lots I have purchased, and they are a real pain to find parts for.

    #63385
    namonllor1953
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 21
    • Total Posts: 152

    Hi Tim,

    I’m going to chime in here as respectfully as I can, in hopes of not pissing anyone off.
    You talk about A Brotherhood and how it sort of left a less than pleasurable taste in your mouth…
    Well, In your post you state that you considered it to be a High stakes job…that some guys held your hand trying to help… and finally that you exhausted every last drop of what limited skills and experience you had.
    Now for the diplomacy part…
    Someone once shared a secret with me…He said “…you are where you are because of decisions you made. If the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence, maybe it’s time to water your lawn.
    Strap my face to the side of a hog and let him roll in the mud….He was right. I had been going like gang busters and not been honest with myself.

    I have always loved your enthusiasim. Truth be told though, you had been around less than 3 months and you were talking about making a buck at this. That took me back a bit.
    I guess what I’m tryin’ to say is Easy Does It, Go slow, Go far. and if the grass is greener ont he other side of the fence……….I’ll lend you my hose.

    Be well and take care of yourself.

    #63386
    maitai11
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 62
    • Total Posts: 428

    Ren,

    In my original post, I voiced that the viewpoints of others would be accepted, even if they disagreed. You’ve now given yours, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have thought that it’d be you hurling accusations. But I respect your opinion, though I don’t entirely agree with it. But still that doesn’t reconcile with the other part of you I know…

    You were one of the ones who reached out and helped me before.

    #63387
    c.kelly
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 38
    • Total Posts: 164

    Hi,
    I saw this post a few minutes ago and started to reply then waited for a bit to think about what I should say. Don’t want to offend anyone and I am not going to talk about who helped or didn’t. I can see why people might be reluctant to work on a watch that someone else has had trouble with. Let’s realize this watch could be over 100 years old and been worked on maybe 20-30 times by people of different skill levels. Since you say parts from donor movements didn’t fit it’s possible that modifications have been made to the movement itself that means replacement parts don’t fit properly.
    Working after someone else can be its own challenge. I just rebuilt a Rolex GMT 3135 that someone had attempted a repair on. The pallet fork was broke, automatic drive wheel worm out, barrel arbor cracked on one side, stem broken, hairspring bent and movement was in pieces and rusty. There were even parts in the boxes that didn’t belong to the watch. Needless to say the owner was smiling when he got it back ticking away.
    Now saying all that I would be glad to take a look at this box of parts and donor parts and see if I can get you going again. I’ll make no promises as I haven’t seen the watch but it seems that out of 4 donor movements we should be able to get one good watch going and if not I just checked and can find several examples of that movement going for fairly cheap so more parts are available. It may be too late but if so I offered.

    #63388
    maitai11
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 62
    • Total Posts: 428

    c_kelly,

    We haven’t yet met, but I am happy to meet your acquaintance. I appreciate that you’ve actually done this kind of thing where another watchmaker tried and, for whatever reason, was unable to complete the job. To me, it says you’re so much more than a watchmaker with skills. Your ability to look at a situation and determine whether or not you can help is unique in and of itself.

    Thank you very much for your offer of assistance. I’ll let you know if the watch comes back my way. As it is now, it’s been carefully packed up and shipped off back to my sister. As I’ve said in previous posts, it was long overdue, and needed to be returned to her, so I did what I thought was the best thing, and that was to return it so she could let someone else have a shot at it. She should get it tomorrow.

    But that’s OK, because I’ve met you in the process, and it seems to me people like you are few and far between, in terms of your willingness to help out in these situations. I’d say that’s pretty valuable right there, and I’ll almost guarantee the person who got that Rolex back would agree.

    Thank you very, very much for your offer of assistance. I look forward to more interactions on the board.

    Best,

    Tim

    #63389
    c.kelly
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 38
    • Total Posts: 164

    Hi,
    Thanks for your kind words. I just felt your pain/frustration. I also don’t have a lathe and have seen where I could use one at times. The first watchmaker I really first met however also did not use a lathe and had been in business since the 40’s. He just ordered the parts he needed. Right now I do the same. Who knows, in the years to come you might just program what you need into your computer and a 3d printer will build the part to exact specifications and there would be no need for the lathe.
    I don’t post as much over here as I used to. There are a bunch of good people here but over the years it seems to me that most of the topics here deal with clocks and pocket watches and I am just more interested in wristwatches so I have been spending more time over at watchrepairtalk forums. I do come back here every week or so and look at the topics to see if anything attracts my attention as I did last night. By the way the Rolex I repaired was really a 3185 instead of 3135 as I said last night. The 3135 is the base movement but the gmt is a little different under the dial.
    Anyway if I can help just let me know.

    #63390
    stevefitzwater
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 48
    • Total Posts: 385

    c-Kelly it is nice to see another experienced watch person on the forums, nothing against clock or pocket watches, just it seems I am working on wrist watches pretty much all the time lately, and me being an apprentice level at best, I look forward to picking your brain!

    I miss Chris dry humor, where did he get off to?

    #63391
    c.kelly
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 38
    • Total Posts: 164

    Hi,
    It’s good to hear from you as well Steve. I actually enjoy helping out if I can and look through the topics posted to see if I can offer a bit of help. I enjoy the puzzle and detective aspect of figuring what went wrong and what can be done to fix the problem. Like in the earlier example I mentioned about working on the Rolex it was obvious that the automatic wind stopped working. Then the first owner rather than having watch fixed just started winding manually. The threads wore out on the crown but he still kept going until water got into the watch. After that it became a train wreck and someone tried to repair watch and did more damage. They bent the hairspring in my opinion by not rotating the balance cock when they tried to remove balance. This caused the balance to stay in place as they were lifting causing spring to be bent upwards, and caused me to fuss just a bit when I saw it as this was a part that was in a green and white Rolex box so I thought they had ordered a new on and I was assuming it was the one good part on the watch. Thinking about it I’ll post some of the pictures on this site just to give you all an idea as to what I’m talking about.
    Charles K

    #63392
    maitai11
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 62
    • Total Posts: 428

    Charles,

    Would love to see some of those pictures you speak of. Sounds like you did a great job! Also, Charles, I want you to know I really support the spirit with which you approach helping others. I actually have an automatic wristwatch (skeleton, no date, just hours, minutes, and seconds) that I purchased specifically to learn about working with smaller parts. I have yet to begin working on it, though, and perhaps may buy some broken down ones, first, that don’t have too complex a problem to repair. I think your interest in wristwatches is a refreshing point of view to add to the mix.

    And, Steve:

    You really hit the nail right on the hear about going back to larger watches after working on smaller ones, and noticing a difference. A day and a half ago, I picked up my Elgin size 16 that I had shelved, and started working on it. I need to replace the balance staff (broke the original when I dropped it at the hospital,) then I’ll also replace the mainspring, etc. Going from a size 0 to a size 16 is an AMAZING difference. All of a sudden, I feel more capable, and better suited to take these types of bigger watches on. I’m relishing the time spent on this one, making sure it’s cleaned and ready to be reassembled in the next few days or so. It is just so satisfying. A welcome change after weeks of letdowns, mental pressure, etc.

    Thank you again, gentlemen, I look forward to interacting with you more as time passes.

    Kind regards,

    Tim :)

    #63393
    randy
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 39
    • Total Posts: 594

    Hey Tim,
    Did you email me about this…and I missed the message ?
    I know that you and I talked about this at length in a few phone calls.
    Sorry if you did, and I missed it.
    Life’s been a bit hectic lately.

    Best

    Randy

    #63394
    maitai11
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 62
    • Total Posts: 428

    Hi Randy,

    Ah, hectic is right word, my friend! I will send you one on your private account. Thanks for stopping by :)

    Best,

    Tim :)

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maitai11A Brotherhood…A Brotherhood? Hmmmmm…