I do think that horology represents all that is good and fine in our universe. The engineering, precision, imagination, artistry, skills, ingenuity, and patience which have gone into the design and development of mechanical movements represent one of humanity’s greatest achievements.
My grandfather was a watchmaker (I have his certificate as a member of the British Horological Society hanging in my study) and as a teenager I wanted to follow in his footsteps. However, at the time (the 1970’s) the Swiss mechanical watch industry was being decimated by the introduction of the quartz watch movement, and my grandfather could not see a future for anybody wishing to service or build mechanical watches. He advised that I avoid the industry and I eventually chose civil engineering, but my interest in and enjoyment of mechanical watches remained.
As it turned out my grandfather was wrong and the mechanical watch clung to survival. Over the past 15 years or so it has enjoyed a renaissance, and, with a certain irony, the various service centres with whom I deal are now short of qualified watch technicians.
So it was that about four years ago I came across an online course in watch maintenance and repair. The idea stirred my latent interest and I decided to take the plunge, and six (on occasion frustrating) months later and I am reasonably proficient at servicing the basic mechanical movement. Ultimately I would like to become proficient at servicing the more complicated movements such as chronographs and moonphases, as these types of watches constitute my main interest as a collector. I have obtained a couple of cheap movements to practice on, but so far my results have been variable and not quite up to scratch. However, and believing that you don’t improve unless you step out of your comfort zone, I had been keeping an eye out for a suitable restoration project when at the beginning of 2015 a really tatty (and hence cheap) Omega Cosmic Moonphase appeared on eBay.
One of my all-time favourite watches, the Omega Cosmic Moonphase, dates from the late 1940s. Typical of vintage watches they are relatively compact compared to modern counterparts, but still manage to display the day, date, month, and phase of the moon in a clear and concise way, and the dial itself is a work of art.
As can be seen from the before and after photograph it was in a sorry state. The dial and sub dials would need to go to a specialist for restoration, but I was going to attempt to service the movement and polish the case myself.
Two months later and the reassembled watch is a handsome piece of work (even if I say so myself). The specialist has done a really good job on the dials and I’ve made a decent effort polishing the case. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the watch to run consistently as no matter what I did it was losing about 10 minutes a day. Eventually I admitted defeat and sent the watch to a specialist who suggested that I may have used lubricants inconsistent with the age of the watch. With this in mind (and being a sucker for a rescue case) I have now sourced another Omega Cosmic Moonphase in need of a little TLC and will make another effort, this time with the correct lubricant.
My restored Omega Cosmic Moonphase looks fantastic, runs beautifully, and I try to wear it at least once a week. It’s one of life’s great pleasures to give a new lease of life to an old watch and it provides encouragement as I start the restoration journey for the second one.