Hi Guys, my day job is Mr. Minit, so I get to pressure test a variety of watches on a daily basis, and really the short answer is a BellMatic, like any other watch is only waterproof if ALL the seals are in good condition, and I don't just mean the visible o ring on the caseback. The crystal needs to be correctly fitted, especially if it has been replaced and the crowns also. The only way to know without turning your precious Bell into an anchor, is a pressure test. When I buy a new watch, (well an old new watch) the first thing I do is pressure test it, then fit a new o-ring to the caseback regardless of the result. O- Rings are cheap insurance. Anyway thats my 20 cents worth, (not really a short answer!)
i take it you refer to my question to you and am delighted that others did already have the same question in mind as well, very informative, thank you very much.
BTW: has anyone got a good address for servicing and restoration of bells in Europe, preferably in Germany or Switzerland? Private persons would be great, since there is more enthusiasm (a lot of the time lots of knowledge) to the bells, i think.
And where would I get the "tools" for opening and handling the bells?
I can highly recommend my watchmaker here in Malta, S. Demanuele (google it), the guy's name is Charles, email [email protected].
He's fixed 3 of my bellmatics so far, and none cost more than 25eu. He is more than happy to ship overseas and is trustworthy.
If you intend to email him, tell him you know Dave with the Breitling .. I'm sure he'll work out who I am!
Before 1970 the case back said water proof, during 1970 it could be either, after 1970 it said water resistant.
Most important is the gasket face for the back. I see many expensive ones for sale which have bad corrosion on the gasket face and they just won't seal properly. The red arrows show an example with corrosion that will cause leaks. Even if you don't get the watch wet, this is not good because sweat/humidity will get in and sometimes you will see condensation inside. That's never good. It's worth always checking this before buying a watch, its a guaranteed problem.
I've got some great watches for you to buy! Cheap, honest! Just some gasket remnants on the back, gov.
I've attached a bigger picture of a watch case i worked on, before, during machining, and after. Its pretty clear this is not gasket, and its very common problem, particularity from humid places like Asia. This was about as bad as the corrosion gets before machining won't save you.
I machined 0.25mm off the gasket face in the end, to present a solid face for the gasket. I could not take any more off, because the case back gets too close to the automatic weight. I had to leave some pitting, but at least the gasket face was intact enough to keep water out.
As I suggested, buyer beware. I certainly won't pay much for a watch that shows this damage. its a good indication of watch condition on parts not visible too. Not always, but usually.
Initially, I never bothered trying to make watches water resistant. I felt you are kind of daft to submerge a vintage watch that was never mean to be a diver. Then I did up a watch for a friend, and he kept it on while washing and it steamed up. I was sure it would be the buttons, but to cut a long story short, I ended up making an adapter so i could connect a syringe onto one of the button stems. Put the other button in (with the back screwed on) and submerge under water, and pressurize the case (using the syringe full of air) and bubbles just flowed out round that gasket face. The buttons were fine, and i could swap the syringe to the other button to check that both buttons were airtight. I left the movement out of the case of course, just the button pushed in the case so it was sealed. Quite a simple means to check your watch case for water resistance.
I think the reason the corrosion is so common, is that some people have very acidic skin and some people don't. This acidity along with sweat in humid countries, attack the gasket face and eventually create little tracks that allow atmosphere inside the case. Even though I could see the corroded pits on my mates watch, I didn't think it would cause problems as the damage seemed so slight. I always wore a bellmatic and untill then, never had a problem myself. Except one time later, when working hard on a hot day, I did get condensation on another watch which had a little bit of corrosion on that gasket face. So now I always make sure the gasket and buttons seal, using the syringe trick.
Posted my first Bell-Matic on here back in 2017,[Link],ever since then have learned all about the different models by going back through all the fantastic posts on here from over the years with huge amounts of great information
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