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7,673 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If you could upgrade a cheap Chinese ultrasonic to an Elma S-30H.

Or, a Weishi 1900 to an MTG-5000A.

Or, buy an Elma Td30 Dryer.

Or keep saving for i dunno how long and get a Elmasolvex SE....which is probably overkill....

Which would you do?

1900 is good but I feel like a more accurate system would be nice. I've no idea if the mic or system is that much better. But we all know that nice tools lead to a more enjoyable process. This is I'm thinking the least necessary.

The cleaning process could be quieter and so an ultrasonic that is slightly more costly I would assume would do a more efficient clean and in a less ear shattering way than the grindy sound of what I use.

A dryer would be really useful for after the parts come out of the US.

But at 1.7k...which for me is simply not doable but those solvex machines look the **** so....maybe I just sell everything!

Other than that it would be minor upgrades to drivers, oiling pots, tweezers I have covered...erm stuff like broaches and maybe a staking set as there are times where my Seitz and Zuklie jewelling tools aren't of course appropriate.

With the 5500 and 5700 crystal and caseback remover and my BM-1 microscope I don't think this needs any attention....I was looking at a zoom microscope like the amscope sm-6T I think it's called....but no point I reckon.

If I've missed something let me know but I do wonder about the cleaning process and having a more quality timegrapher a lot at the moment.. even the MTG-9000A but....well I can barely afford the 5000 would involve selling the 1900 for whatever it fetches. Maybe the zuklie or Seitz but I need to work out which tool has the most useful set for me....and after selling a few watches and it barely denting any debt I wonder if really I would benefit in doing something like this instead of trying to find a different watch...

4,527 Posts
I've got;

Timegrapher 1000 (I have a Vibrograf but never use that)

Cleaning machine from the 1920s. I replaced the drier jar with another jar of solution

Movement holders from decades ago
Same with tweezers - I only really used one pair
No ultrasonic machine - they certainly don't help clean movement parts but I have a 'secret' solution I soak parts in before they go through the cleaning machine solutions
Brushing out bracelets, cases etc in solutions is better than ultrasonics
No drier - they self dry
Staking set - decades old
My Chinese Bergeon copy 6 watch winder does still go(just) so I replaced it with the same typed last year. The first one did a good 5/6
Microscope - I have a good one but have never used it. 20 x eyeglass is more than good enough

The above list is atypical off the watchmakers I know here. We know what works and how to use it properly. If we thought buying X would help us get jobs done better / faster we'd lay out the $$ but there is no point.

Special Member
10,789 Posts
It's a cost/benefit weigh-off imo.

If this is what one loves and does full time then I believe it definitely pays in the long run and it's unlikely you'll ever need another one.

4,233 Posts
I use a couple of these Guy:

These "WatchMaster" machines are great little ultra sonic parts cleaners and have a built in heated spin dryer. You can usually pick up a decent one complete for $500 to $750. The one one the left is the "WT" model. the one on the right is the "WT Mark II" and is the updated version with a better heater. If your looking into these stay away from the "A-1" model. it has electrical issues.

34,493 Posts
Quality tools are great and a necessity often but just as important is the man wielding the tools (imo), if I was to go out and buy the very best equipment available I still wouldent be able to to produce the same quality of work some of you guys produce with the kit you have.

I suppose in a way its like watches you could spend £10k for the best or £1k for a very decent one but the resulting reliability and time keeping wouldent be 10 times better or ten times worse :)

7,673 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I have a us with temp setting but it still means that once the jars are removed I have to dry them. I think the cheapest most sensible thing is to get a dedicated dryer. This will be useful to speed up relumes.

Or do what Michael says but that's far too sensible! :)

Thanks guys. And Tom they look cool but I don't want to worry about condition and if one will turn up. Will keep an eye out tho.

5,973 Posts
Quality tools are great and a necessity often but just as important is the man wielding the tools (imo), if I was to go out and buy the very best equipment available I still wouldent be able to to produce the same quality of work some of you guys produce with the kit you have.

I suppose in a way its like watches you could spend £10k for the best or £1k for a very decent one but the resulting reliability and time keeping wouldent be 10 times better or ten times worse :)
To true John, reminds me of the British motorcycle industry (probably applies to all industries post WW2) using knackered old machine tools where the operators got to know how to give them a tweak to keep the end result in tolerance.

Special Member
1,316 Posts
So don't bother with better equipment if not good enough?

If it does the job sufficiently, then upgrading is fluff. So you have to wait a bit for lume jobs to dry, big deal. If you’re doing this for money still then I get that you have to spend money to make money, but you reach a point of diminishing returns for one, and if the funds really aren’t there without assuming debt then that’s just and unwise proposition

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713 Posts
Speaking from experience, I have found:

1 - Ultrasonic

When I first started out (back in 2012) one of the first bits of kit I bought was an ultrasonic cleaner from Maplins (remember them!!). It cost about £70 and had a heater (ON/OFF) and a timer (max 480 seconds).

I used this for 100's of hours and it NEVER failed me.

Last year I upgraded to an Elma ultrasonic (S10 H).

I must say I felt a bit guilty at the time, because this effectively consigned the old one to the bench (in sporting terms).

When I first used the Elma, my guilt subsided immediately. Temperature control from cold to 80 degrees or so. Time control from 1 minute to run forever and a sweep mode that means the 'sweet' spot moves around in the bath.

It is an order of magnitude better. Yes - its expensive, but this is a professional bit of kit that does (and I hope will do) the job for many years.

2 - Cleaning machine

For the first couple of years or so, I used to clean all parts (case, bracelet and most movement parts) in the ultrasonic.

But, I found that the water based cleaning agent I was using could attack certain parts (on the mainplate in particular) - causing tarnishing and sometime serious corrosion.

I also had on a few occasions pinions separating from their respective wheels.

From this point on I stopped cleaning movement parts in the ultrasonic and moved to hand cleaning them.

I found this worked for me - it got me really close to each part, and in doing so I could appreciate each part and ensure that it really was clean. I did this cleaning under a 2nd hand stereo zoom microcope.

I'd wanted to try out a 'proper' cleaning machine for quite some time. A) to see what the difference it would make and B) so I could start to use cleaning solvents.

Last year I bought a VERY old cleaning machine (from the '60's or earlier) and restored it to life. This allowed me to start using L&R cleaning solvents and also see the difference in this cleaning process over what I had been doing.

Being non water based meant that all parts (bar the balance/hairspring and the pallet forks) could now be cleaned without fear of corrosion.

The baskets meant that I could separate the respective parts, grouping them so screws don't get mixed up etc.

And the heater element meant that after rinsing, the parts could be hot-air dried.

Given how meticulous I was (and still am) with hand cleaning everything, I can't say that the cleaner has dramatically improved things.

However, I'm pleased that I'm now using the L&R cleaning solvents and being able to clean an entire movement in one go is a real bonus. It is quicker, though I still give most parts a wash in Renata before, and a micro clean / inpsect afterwards (Renata again followed by rodico).

Shortly after restoring the vintage cleaning machine, I purchased an Elma cleaning machine (the ElmaSolvex SE).

Visually this is like going from the Cutty Sark to the Starship Enterpise. But, to all intents & purposes it still does the same job.

The are four cleaning jars, I have two with cleaning solvent and two with rinse. It has a timer (with cutoff) and variable speed control. And the hot air drier also has a fan and cutoff.

Its not fully automatic, which means it needs to be attended to cycle through the various stages (clean, spin, clean, spin, rinse, spin, rinse, spin, dry) which all told takes about 25 minutes.

But while this is taking place I'm ususally cleaning the case conponents in the ultrasonic, so its not dead time.

3 - Magnification

I started out with two loupes (1.5 and 3). I surprised myself by being able to keep the loupe in my eye without much trouble - I felt like a 'real' watchmaker!!

But, I found there was always a risk that the loupe might drop out, onto what I was working on.

I found myself to be quite proficient with the loupe, and this allowed me to progress through a variety of procedures from cleaning, hand fitting, movement stripdowns & rebuilds and even onto luming.

At one of the watch fairs, I saw a stereo zoom microscope that had come off an electronics assembly line. It was old and the eye piece optics were scratched, but as soon as I started to use it I realised what a game changer this was going to be.

I was able to see everything (upto x40 magnification) and in particular this allowed me to see the pinions and where they were in relation to the bridge that I was trying to fit.

Up until this point I had been unable to re-fit a 7Axx main bridge, despite numerous attempts (over a nearly 2 year period). A week after getting the microscope and within a matter of minutes I had the bridge back on. The reason I'd been failing was that quite simply I'd been unable to see exactly what was going on (under the bridge) and had been effectively poking around hoping I could tease each pinion into place.

I can't recommend highly enough a stereo zoom microscope for this hobby. For dissasembly, cleaning and inpection, assembly and in particular oiling.

Last year I upgraded my microscope to a Leica S6.

The optical clarity is superb and the amount of light, lack of spherical aberations (at high zoom) makes looking through it a pleasure.

Given how much time I spend with this device I felt it well worth the investment.

4 - Timing & Regulation

I started out working on quartz watches (the 7T34, then the 7Axx, then the 754x, then the H55x and several others).

I liked these because they tended to be binary: working or not working. If they worked then they kept time. If they didn't then I would strip, clean, rebuild and usually end up with it working.

I switched to mechanical watches after buying a non working 7005 based watch (again at one of the watch fairs).

It had a snapped hairspring, which I fixed by swapping in a donor balance. I serviced the whole movement, learning about left handed screws in the process, and was proud when the watch burst into life.

Over the course of the next 9 months my focus switched from quartz to mechanicals and I ended up investing in a Timegrapher (the Weishi 1900).

And I immediately found out the difference between a watch that ticks and one that runs properly!!

I found this an invaluable tool to measure my abilities against. The objective to take a watch that was either running (badly) or not at all, and then improve this - looking for stability of trace and amplitude.

The 1900 comes with a pickup microphone stand that can be orientated in one of 6 positions (by hand). This to measure the isochronism of the movement (how it behaves in each position - to mimic how it will be positioned as it worn).

Last year I invested (long term investment) in a MTG-5000 Timegrapher that can automatically test in the 6 positions meaning I can run a full test automatically without having to keep manually changing the pickup head orientation. It also has a printer so I can print (and keep) the results.

More recently I purchased the Horotec FlashTest for quartz movements.

This is a great bit of kit especially for quartz movements whose rate can be adjusted (such as the 7Axx series). It can also measure coil resistance, battery charge, plus a few other things I've not yet tried.

5 - Staking & Jewelling

Like many hobbyists I'm always searching ebay for 2nd hand watchmakers tools (becase the new ones are so very expensive).

A couple of years ago I picked up a Seitz Jewelling kit.

At the time I didn't have a specific need for it, but I 'knew' that it would prove useful. Within a matter of months I had a need to replace a cracked jewel in a chronograph bridge - after researching how I should use the kit I'd bought I found this very easy.

Since then I've used it numerous times, and use it most frequently to up-jewel the 6139 movements I work on. Reaming out the mainplate and fitting the jewels is a simple process with the equipment designed specifically for this job.

More recently (and yes, at one of the watch fairs) I bought a Boley staking set - the full set including the extra jewelling press (which I don't need as I have the Seitz kit, but its still nice to have).

You might think this wouldn't be necessary owning the Seitz kit, but while there are things they have in common, there are significant differences.

I have used the Boley kit to re-stake a number of parts that without it would have been impossible.

Has it paid for itself yet? No, but it will.

So, there you have it. My first hand experiences gained over 7 years and probably 1000's of hours.

2,207 Posts
Interesting write up Simon, thanks for sharing, some food for thought.

I’m in your boat a bit Guy, have tools but always wonder what if they were better? Recently I got the chance to put my Weishi1900 directly up against an Elma Watchmatic. (Using the ETA2892A2 Longines that I was working on). Moving back and forth between one machine and the other produced about a 5 to 10 deg difference, with the Elma showing the slightly higher number more often than not. That was in multiple positions. So my guess is TG, yes but put it nearer the bottom of your list.

I’d spend the money (but killing any debt first if you possibly can) on upgrading the cleaning cycle. After all, for me at least that is the process that normally takes the longest. If you can save 25% on your cleaning time and have the parts come out dry too that would be an investment worth making. The one thing you can’t buy is more time (he says, on a forum full of people with dozens of watches!) so any savings you can make are valuable.

I’d also maybe get some fancy pants auto-oilers, but that’s just me.
*edit: Actually, what is you guys who have them opinion of auto-oilers? Waste of time or good tool?

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