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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi.

I've been working on figuring out how to fix Accutrons for a few months and it's, well... it's a lot harder than I expected. Thus far, I've successfully fixed a few Accutron 218 movements, destroyed a few, and used few others for parts. The fixes seem to be most commonly in the following categories:

1) fixing sticky calander mechanisms (still challenging for me)
2) fixing sticky minute pinion (challenging because of the calender re-assembly)
3) fixing indexing mechanism (double-indexing: easy, anything else: challenging to impossible)
4) fixing problem with the setting level due to over loosening of the setting lever screw
5) replacing coils.

Each time I find it nerve wracking and go through a prolonged period where I'm absolutely certain that not only am I not going to be able to get it back together properly again but that it is humanly impossible to do so. Each time, I run into the same problems with the calander and have to disassemble and reassemble it 10-20 times to get it right. Even when I am successful, I still find it nerve wracking and there's often some little thing that I've damaged like loosening the phosphor on the hands or finding that the calander doesn't seem to advance quite as crisply as before or I've lost a screw and needed to replace it from my dead Accutron parts stash.

The first time, it took me maybe 30 hours over 2 weeks to get a 2182 back together and working (entirely disassembled except for the main gear train). Now, if I need to disassemble and fix a calander or sticky minute pinion, then I can do it in maybe 4 to 8 hours with a little sweating and swearing.

So, I guess I'm wondering: What is the learning curve? Does this get easier (and quicker)?

-abe.
 

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Hi.

I've been working on figuring out how to fix Accutrons for a few months and it's, well... it's a lot harder than I expected. Thus far, I've successfully fixed a few Accutron 218 movements, destroyed a few, and used few others for parts.

I would check if there is a watchmaker in your city that repairs 218 and basically pay him to let you watch. He will probably let you watch for free and you can even make a good friend, I hear that some old watchmakers are really keen to pass the knowledge or just show to the next generation given that nowadays watches are disposable..
 

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I admire your dedication and persistence. I think I'm kinda handy, I built a chopper, did a body off the frame restoration of an old muscle car, built a kit airplane etc. but the little tiny parts in a watch drive me crazy. I want to work on things I can hit with a hammer.
 

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When I was in my teens, many years ago, I received some rudimentary watch & clock service training from the Father of my good friend. Older mechanical watches, especially pocket, were easier to work on IMHO since most parts were a little larger and my eyesight was better. Without the proper equipment and training, I am very hesitant to do anything but battery changes any tweaks to timing the Accutrons. Good luck with your progress!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Thanks for your ideas and encouragement. I'm good friends with my local watch guy. I think I'll ask him for some help or advice. I know that he sends out Accutrons and doesn't do them himself, but perhaps he can give me some tips on general technique.

The Accutron mechanism isn't all that complex, so by this point, I know where everything goes, it's just a lot more difficult to get everything together again with the right fit, tension etc. to make all of the pieces work in harmony. The calander is particularly devious with its spring loaded parts ready to fly off into oblivion at any moment. As for the index mechanism, I've come to believe that its either some extra-terrestrial technology or perhaps the work of magical fairies. I can't possibly believe that it was crafted by human hands.

-abe.

skypilot: I don't know if I'd be more or less confident in an airplane of my own construction. I'd probably think of all of the little rough parts, problem areas and kludges. Perhaps I'll take your advice and try hitting the movement with a hammer to see if that helps. :)
 

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Hey, I have been doing the same thing. I bought my first accutron (214) in march and was terrified by the idea of it ever needing service. During the summer I bought a cheap up/down day/date 218 locally. I had to fix it, so I bought a set of cheap tools. The smallest screw driver was still too big, so I modified it to work. Ever since then I've repaired a few 214s and 218s. I feel pretty confident when taking them apart now. I have made mistakes such as letting a date trip spring fly away from me, bent an indexing wheel (that one really set me off), and broke a jewel off of the pawl finger, each of which I plan to not let happen ever again. When dealing with the main train (which I often find have dried lubricant on them and are in need of cleaning), I came up with some tricks. I use a microscope to set each gear in place. Then I gently set the train bridge on and pick up the movement while holding it together gently. If the index wheel and adjacent gear are not in place, I try again. If they are, and the other two are not, I use a needle with a bent tip to gently nudge the gears to get them to fall into the cap jewels. This takes anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending how the earth is tilted. I also plan on building an enclosed plexi work station with a magnifying glass that I can use to work on the spring loaded date mechanisms. This will end the springs flying away into oblivion, which caused my stomach to drop. I was told to only buy working watches. I have purchased 10 now that are "as is" and have yet to get a faulty coil. When I do get a bad coil, I will try and fix with micro-soldering techniques or conductive adhesive. As far as various symptoms go, the movement doesn't smoothly run due to something in the teeth of the gears, or a need for the cam adjustment screw. I have a 218 that runs great in the morning and early afternoon. In the late evening it will just stop (minute and hour hand stop, but the second hand sweeps smoothly), until I advance the date, so I assume that date spring tension is just enough to overwhelm the movement. We shall see. I hope these tips are helpful. I am curious for more as well, because these watches are fun to work on,

Johnny
 

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Hey, I have been doing the same thing. I bought my first accutron (214) in march and was terrified by the idea of it ever needing service. During the summer I bought a cheap up/down day/date 218 locally. I had to fix it, so I bought a set of cheap tools. The smallest screw driver was still too big, so I modified it to work. Ever since then I've repaired a few 214s and 218s. I feel pretty confident when taking them apart now. I have made mistakes such as letting a date trip spring fly away from me, bent an indexing wheel (that one really set me off), and broke a jewel off of the pawl finger, each of which I plan to not let happen ever again. When dealing with the main train (which I often find have dried lubricant on them and are in need of cleaning), I came up with some tricks. I use a microscope to set each gear in place. Then I gently set the train bridge on and pick up the movement while holding it together gently. If the index wheel and adjacent gear are not in place, I try again. If they are, and the other two are not, I use a needle with a bent tip to gently nudge the gears to get them to fall into the cap jewels. This takes anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending how the earth is tilted. I also plan on building an enclosed plexi work station with a magnifying glass that I can use to work on the spring loaded date mechanisms. This will end the springs flying away into oblivion, which caused my stomach to drop. I was told to only buy working watches. I have purchased 10 now that are "as is" and have yet to get a faulty coil. When I do get a bad coil, I will try and fix with micro-soldering techniques or conductive adhesive. As far as various symptoms go, the movement doesn't smoothly run due to something in the teeth of the gears, or a need for the cam adjustment screw. I have a 218 that runs great in the morning and early afternoon. In the late evening it will just stop (minute and hour hand stop, but the second hand sweeps smoothly), until I advance the date, so I assume that date spring tension is just enough to overwhelm the movement. We shall see. I hope these tips are helpful. I am curious for more as well, because these watches are fun to work on,

Johnny
Good to hear how you have been progressing! Just added a 218 MiLady and a 214 desk clock to my collection. Only repairs I do are crystal and case polishing and battery replacement. :biggrin:
 

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I'd love one of those 214 desk clocks, or one of those heli gauge clocks to put in my Porsche 914 dash to go with the factory VDO's.

Another tip I found to fix a sticky date mechanism is to relax the date detent spring the smallest amount. I read that over time the trip spring succumbs to fatigue and loses it's rigidity. This is the u-shaped one in the top right corner. Remember that it's long edge outward. There is a thread on the orientation of both the spring and arm(?) and a lot of back and forth as to which way they go. Didn't know until I took apart a few watches to be sure.

I'm happy right now because I just got another 218 up/down running. I bought it to sell it, but it's too cool, so I'll swallow the $50.

good luck

-Johnny
 

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Learning to repair watches

I have a comment or two about the learning curve. I have been there, done that over the past two years or more. I want to say right up front that there is a lot more to these things than meets the eye. I have chosen to specialize only in Accutron 214's. Fortunately I have had the benefit of being tutored by a very experienced watchmaker. Even then, there is a lot more to learn than just what can be conveyed in words. Technique is something that you must learn by doing. Of course there are pointers that can be conveyed by verbal and written instructions, but to acquire the "feel" is only possible with experience.

As for tools, there is no substitute for having the very best quality tools available. By that I mean a high quality screwdriver set, and equally as important is the very finest quality tweezers. It took me a while to bring myself to spend a $120 or more for a set of screwdrivers and $40 for one pair of tweezers. But I can tell you from my experience that they are worth every penny, especially the tweezers.

Basic tools required:

1) Highest quality tweezers.
2) Highest quality screwdrivers.
3) A good 10x / 30x stereo microscope with built in light, (about $140).
4) Parts tray with dust cover.
5) An ultrasonic cleaner.
6) Proper cleaning solutions and rinses recommended for watch repair.
7) Proper movement holder for the movement you are working on.
8) Any other specialized tools needed for the particular movement you are working on, like an Index Wheel holder for Accutrons or other tuning fork watches.
9) Highest quality lubricants as recommended by the manufacturer of the watch. I use Moebius oil in my Accutrons.
10) For Accutron tuning fork movements, a variable power supply that is adjustable from 0 - 2.00 volts.
11) An Accutron Test Set, preferably a model 700.
12) A factory service and parts manual for the movement you are working on.
13) Probably the most important is PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE. A successful watch repairer will be a person of a cool disposition, and NO coffee!
14) If you follow these suggestions, and with a lot of patience, practice and study, you will become a successful Accutron repairer.

A great deal of information on learning proper repair procedures of Accutrons and some others can be found at The Accutron Watch Page. Don't make the mistake, as I did initially, of just giving the index mechanism drawings a quick look and just move on. These drawings are right out of the Bulova manuals. I recommend that you study them until you understand them. If they aren't making sense to you then you still don't have it.

The index mechanism is probably the least understood part of all Tuning Fork Accutrons. I will give you a strong hint. The key word is "draw". It has nothing to do with the use of a pencil. Learn what it is, how it works, and how to correctly identify when it is right, and you will have arrived.
 

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Texas Rich, good post! In my teens and early twenties I dabbled some in old escapement watch and clock movements but no longer have the patience, and probably dexterity, to get back into it. I have located a couple competent Accutron service folks - one for 214s and 218s only and the other for all 6 calibers. Both charge reasonable prices. My plan is to get all those needing service attended to in the next year or so. They should then be good-to-go for many years, especially if they are not kept running all the time. The new synthetic lubricants will remain effective much longer than the older lubricants. After that, I probably will no longer even know my own name so it will be someone else's concern. :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Akkatron / Johnny,

Thanks for the write-up of your experience. Your words echo my experience almost exactly, even down to having made the same mistakes (broken pawl jewel and disappearing date trip springs). I posted on another forum ( Accutron Date Indicator Repair Problem - National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Message Board ) about my problems with flying date trip springs and was told that "The calendar mechanisms are quite robust and easy to work on" and that "flying date trip springs should not be an issue". Hmm, well, perhaps, but they're still challenging for me!

Thanks also for the description of your technique for getting the gear train together. I'm a long ways from being comfortable with that and am still likely to botch something about 50% of the time. I recommend this decent, photo-documented write-up of how to reassemble an Accutron 218 gear train:
Third Wheel Installation

Cheers,

-abe.
 

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Another thing,

Never remove the train bridge and setting stem at the same time. The one-way cylindrical setting gear will fall into the front of the movement. This requires removal of the dial, to put the gear back in the proper place. Trust me I tried everything, and because it lines up next to a spring, it's impossible to realign it.

Hope this helps
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hmm, that is good advice. You could almost shorten that to: never remove the train bridge. Which one is the cylindrical setting gear? Do you mean the clutch wheel or the setting lever screw?

Here's another "gotcha":
When removing the crown, never loosen the setting lever screw more than 2 1/2 times or the setting lever will become disengaged from the lever. This requires you to take the hands and dial off, then to disassemble the entire calender just to get at the setting mechanism. When I first started tinkering with Accutrons and made this mistake, I thought: You must be joking - I need to disassemble the entire movement because, in performing a common operation, I turned a screw one turn too many! This seems like a design fault. I love the Accutron and for the most part the movement is a thing of beauty, but surely this can't be a good idea.

-abe.
 

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I mean the clutch wheel with the interesting teeth. Sometimes the gears need to be cleaned if it has been sitting for 30 years. :/
 
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