Home Forums General Discussion Forum Stubborn Agassiz Winding Stem

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      Greeting folks,
      I’m new here, but not to the hobby (in my case) of watch repair. I purchased a set from Bob T. when he lived very close to where I do. Heck, that was over 15 years ago, VHS tapes course. I enjoyed the heck out of them, and learned a lot, as I gradually got over the initial fear of opening up a watch. I used to me a member of the NAWCC, but let that membership lapse as other things took priority in my life. I wasn’t making a lot of time for watches. I have a small collection of some pretty nice ones, with American RR watches making up the most. So I retain an interest in horology, at least as far as maintaining timekeeping antiquities. Anyway, thanks for the lessons and for running this site, Bob. I’ll definitely pop in now and then.

      Problem du jour: I remember Bob mentioning Agassiz in one of the VHS lessons when making an named example of a quality Swiss maker. I am now in possession of a beautiful Agassiz (old style straight bridges) ladies pendant watch (18K/cobalt guilloche/diamonds) that I bought with the intention of selling over the Holidays. Well, as I started to get my auction blurb going, I noticed that I couldn’t get the crown to pull out into winding position. There are no buttons, nail-sets, pins, etc., with which to engage the setting. It must be a “conventional” pendant setting type. I am loathe to open this one up, because it has a mint guilloche dial. It’s so gorgeous that I’m afraid to be the first one to mar it in what’s probably a 100 year-old plus life.

      My question is: Does anyone have any tips on convincing this stem set to give in to my demands? I’m trying to avoid tearing it down, but will if need be. The other problem there is that even when I loosen the detent screw 2 full turns the stem will not pull out of the movement and case. There are no signs of any type of rust anywhere in the watch. And, as I said, the watch is near mint and a stunner. Any help is appreciated.


        Update: I took the watch over to a friend’s house yesterday to make some comparisons. He owns a few Agassiz movements from the same era (straight bridges) that should have similar setting mechanisms. My friend was able to get the hands to move a bit by holding the crown out firmly once he felt it click (rather weakly). So it looks like the problem is in the detent/setting lever interface. According to his parts list images, the lever has a little protrusion on the top that the detent should go past and lock in setting position. Somehow it’s not pulling out far enough to engage fully and move the detent over the top of the setting lever lock. It looks like I’ll at least be removing the dial (Oh so carefully) and getting a better look at what’s happening.
        Step one: My friend told me that, since the dial is a snap-on type w/bezel, I should be able to back out the detent screw a little more than the two turns that I’ve done so far. This is due to the dial having more give if it’s pushed from behind from an over-loosened detent screw. I don’t want to crack this dial.
        Bob, (or anyone else) have any idea how many turns of the detent screw it should take to get the stem to release? I may have mentioned in my original post, that I seem to remember 1 1/2 being the “magic number”. Thanks.

        Bob Tascione

          It’s really good to see you up here “MrRoundel” and that you still have your passion for watches!
          You’re right about how long it’s been. I sold that house about 16 years ago and if I remember correctly you came by when it was in escrow!

          You have a beautiful movement/watch there. If you have a chance and the time to post another pic up here I would sure like to see an image of the face.
          You could continue loosening the screw and if you feel any resistance at all just ease the dial up a little bit by gently prying it up to allow more room. My feeling is that removing and then replacing the stem won’t really fix the setting problem (unless you get really lucky) and that you’ll need to remove the dial anyway. Since the dial can be easily removed with the movement cased then I would probably take a look underneath just to see what’s going on. Once you get that dial off you should be able to determine exactly what the problem is.
          Welcome to the forum and hope to see you up here often!


            Thanks for your response, Bob. I figured that you might know these watches pretty well. You are correct that I was going to have to remove the dial in order to fix the problem, which I did. I only removed the minute hand and then took the hour wheel up with the dial and hand. Sure enough, once I got some grease where it needed to be, I was able to get the watch in setting position. After a short, and premature, celebration, I started the process of replacing the dial. That’s not going entirely as planned. Perhaps as expected, but not as planned. ;-) This may be being made more difficult because of the hand/hour wheel still being attached. The friction fit dial is fit to very close tolerances and is being a real bear to try to get to seat. I ended up removing the movement in the hopes that the dial would snap on and stay on while I re-cased but that didn’t seem to be the case. It doesn’t help not having finger cots(?) to have on my finger tips so I don’t print up the dial, which I will show below. Getting the movement back in wasn’t that easy either, as it’s a bit on the small size, actually 9 1/2 ligne. If it wasn’t for the necessity of it, I wouldn’t be “re-wading” into watch-work on such a small, and rather valuable, piece. I was quite relieved to get the movement back in and the case screws tightened.
            I’ve now walked away and ate a little lunch so I’ll be back to this job soon. I’m thinking that I should probably remove the hour setup from the dial so that I don’t have an additional thing to get to line up/catch under the dial. I’ll try using my hand remover and hope that the hand will release from the hour wheel easily. My brow is sweating already.
            Do you have any suggestion on seating that dial? I was able to get it aligned correctly, but it still wouldn’t set down. While the hour hand was able to be set, perhaps the our wheel/intermediate wheel junction was askew, causing it to fight the dial going level. If you have any additional suggestions, I’m all eyes. Thanks.
            BTW:MrRoundel is derived from my initials BMW. The BMW automobile’s badge is known as a roundel.

            Let me know if these jpg’s are too big and if there’s a suggested maximum size. Thanks.

            Bob Tascione

              Beautiful watch MrRoundel! Thanks for posting the additional pics.
              Yes I was wondering how you came up with that user name. :D
              If you’re nervous about removing the hour hand you can always place the dial into position with wheel/hand attached and with the movement in setting position turn the crown back and forth until the hour hand begins responding. You’ll know things are engaged at that point. You probably noticed that there is some type of locating setup like a pin along the rim which corresponds with a slot on the dial rim. The fit between the pin and slot can sometimes be tight requiring the dial to be worked down over it. If the dial is positioned correctly then it should be a matter of working the dial down by pressing gently while moving along the perimeter of the dial until it’s seated. If you’re feeling any resistance then you may want to check the underside of the dial to see if there’s any impression or mark from something pressing against it. If you suspect something is hitting… like a post that may have backed out a little, then you can put a tiny dab of grease on the back of the dial where you think contact is being made and after testing again see if an impression was made in the grease.
              Please let us know if this helps (or if it doesn’t).


                Well, success at last. And yes, the dial was fit just as you said it was. This watch has very close tolerances everywhere. Even the stem needed to be moved a micron or so in order to properly engage the detent.

                After taking a break, and sleeping on it, I went back at it this morning. After successful placement of the stem, I grabbed the dial and set her in place. I gently maneuvered the dial around to line up with the “pin”, pushed the dial rim from the opposite side to get it to clear the lip, pressed the area above the pin and she snapped home. I then just made sure that it was equally set all around, installed the minute hand, and away she went. Many thanks for your help, Bob. I’ll be popping in now and again and contributing what I can.

                Note: I had purchased special plastic-tipped tweasers for a couple of bucks at Harbor freight that I’d planned to use for handling watch batteries. It came in very handy for grabbing this guilloche dial without much fear of damaging it.

                Happy Holidays

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