Home Forums General Discussion Forum Buying a pocket watch to repair

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      Hi all i repair clocks only for a hobby, i have seen on the forum all you pocket watch professionals, and i watched bob repair dvd,
      which inspired me to undertake a repair of my own, my question is which is a easy pocket watch to strip down and rebuild and what tools
      are required solely for pocket watches thanking you all in advance.

      Kind regards



        Hi John,

        Tim here, nice to meet you.

        Try and do a search on the forum…the topic has had extensive exposure on the tools needed. However, I’ll post a partial beginner’s list here for you. I would recommend any size 12 – 18 American pocket watches. Look on the http://www.pocketwatchdatabase.com for the menu top right, starting with “Ball” and you’ll see all the others available. Look on eBay for “American Pocket Watch Parts or Repair” to get one. Try and get one that ticks and then stops. That way you can be reasonably sure the watch will have all its parts. Here’s the list: (PS – you should spend no more than 40 – 50 bucks for a starter watch)

        Mainspring letdown tool(s)
        A quality case knife
        A rubber case opener
        Tweezers (at least 2)
        Mainspring winder with various size barrels
        Pocket watch cup holders to work on the watch, various (Did you quote this as movement rest set?
        Rodico, Pithwood Logs, Pegwood
        An electric demagnetizer
        The grease/oil used to lubricate pocket watches. Thick clock oil. Mainspring grease. Mobius watch grease. Spade oiler
        A hand held blower (squeeze type)
        A watchmaker-grade aluminum and brass hammer
        A watch hand puller
        Cannon pinion puller
        Staking set
        Roller Remover
        The following books: Donald Decarles – Watch repair,
        Henry Fried – Watch repair, Chicago School of Watch Making
        A quality screwdriver set

        John, this is what “I” started out with, and there are differing opinions on what to get. Watch Bob’s videos again and make notes of all the tools he used. That was 25 years ago, so things like boxwood sawdust might be an older technique that many watchmakers don’t use.

        Finally, WATCH OUT for the “bug”. I started out wanting to learn clocks, and I got sucked into pocket watches. It is now a full-time addiction!



        chris mabbott

          John, get yourself an American 16s 15-17 jewels model.
          Make sure it’s complete, as in a good face, correct hands and a case. Also if it runs, better. You want a not too complicated first, so just a service is needed to familiarize yourself.

          If you search the forum for tools, there are many comprehensive lists/topics on this subject.

          Keep us informed on your progress..


            Hi Tim and Chris thank your excellent advice and quick response (i have cancelled the ton of sawdust)
            Paul you mentioned that a 17 jewel watch, is this because less wear or just quality, here in the U.K.
            17 jewel are expensive i saw a Waltham 16s traveler star pocket watch only 7 jewels will this do for my
            first experiment once again guys thanks for your input i don’t not want to a pest.

            Kind regards


            chris mabbott

              John, please pester away, that’s what this place is for, anyway, if you start to bug people, we’ll just ignore you, like our wives do 😆

              Yes, the seven jewel will be ok too. It can be a bit tricky when starting, to get a lower jewel count watch which uses steel or brass for the pivots to fit into, if these are worn, which they usually are, it involves rebushing the plate, re drilling the pivot hole, getting everything in perfect alignment etc etc, which is complicated.

              That being said if you get a fully jeweled watch, you can have cracked or broken jewels, which are either pushed/friction fit with a special jeweling tool, or they have a very fine lip of brass that is burnished over to hold the jewel in the setting. These are called rubbed in jewels.

              Either way, if you become addicted to this, you will eventually be forced into learning both methods, which sound, when you’re new, quite daunting, but really, once you have the tools and a few tries, aren’t that bad.

              So to answer your question, it would probably be better to get the highest jewel count watch that is economically feasable for you to practice on.

              A 16 size watch is a good starter, mainly because of its size and that they are usually a 3/4 bridge, or finger bridge, which equals more visibility and are less fidly to put back together. There is also less chance that you might accidently break a pivot on reassembly.

              18 size, which are usually full plate and a bugger to put together, have less visibility and you can break pivots very easilly, just ask me, I still do it 👿

              If you’re going for a euro watch, make sure that you can find out what make and model/caliber it is, just in case you need parts, springs whatever. Old Swiss/Brit models can be a pain to find out what the hell they are, not impossible, but very difficult.
              Try to avoid cylinder escapements as these are also hard to work on when you’re new..

              Hope this helps, and feel free to ask or share your own insights, we don’t bite….hard 😆



                I don’t think you could really pester any more than me…just ask Chris.

                My first was an 11 jewel Illinois, and it worked out well.

                In a phone call with Bob Tascione, I asked him, “Am I to understand that, after watching your videos, I’ll be able to work on ANY American made pocket watch?” to which he replied, “Yep.” And he was right.

                Jump in, my friend, there’s plenty of room and I don’t mind bumping elbows.


                Tim :)


                  Welcome and don’t every think you are pestering us here.
                  In fact,..if you don’t tell us how you’re doing,..we’ll probably pester you !

                  This forum is ALL ABOUT HELPING EACH OTHER !

                  There,…I’ve said it.

                  Best of luck mate,..and let us know how it goes …


                  bernie weishapl

                    Welcome to the forum. Don’t ever worry about pestering on here. My very first watch was a 16s 7j Elgin. It was a working watch with a good face and hands. I took this watch down a dozen times when I started back in the 80’s. I still have that watch. 😆 You have gotten good advice and I do agree a working watch would be best and you can get those for $20 to $30 sometimes on ebay. If I had a apprentice I would have him work on a 7j waltham or elgin because parts are fairly easy to get and if you happen to break something or ruin it learning you are not out much. Once you can take it down and get fairly good at it then you can start doing the more desirable watches especially if you are like me now and collect them.

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