A Tale of Disassembly
Disclaimer: This is a technical write-up. So if that aspect of watches is not your cup of tea, stay tuned, we’re bring something awesome next week!
In the watch industry, there exists a large collection of tools at the disposal of the watch-maker. To give you an idea, there are at least 3 ways to put the case back on a watch case (the lower plate which goes underneath the watch). Each requires a different tool with a different process but with the same end goal. When we started, we never planned to go deep into the ‘disassembly’ routines because it was a complex endeavor and the chance of mistake was high.
In December 2020 (last year), we decided to start our dial engraving (inside the watch) and learned how to work with the ‘insides’ of the watch. It was not pretty at first. Everything required careful handling lest you bend/scratch it the wrong way causing irreparable damage. And watch-making books are not easy to find either. And the icing on the cake? You can’t identify your mistakes properly unless you’re under apprenticeship. Yup, it's hard. So, we went online. A few YouTube videos and forum articles later, we started practicing again.
Needless to say, our customers became ‘field test’ for what we’ve learned. However, with our work ethics, it carried a certain ‘weight’ with it. The desire not to fail. The hectic routine of December, with the ‘I need it ASAP/right now’ customer criteria didn’t help. The end results were satisfactory but we had 2 bad results and it all came down to the ‘hands placement’. Dubbed as the ‘hardest part’ in building a watch, the hands require careful attention because there are so many things that can go wrong. The saving grace in this situation was owning the right tools. Practice is also important but we’ll focus on the hardware at the moment.
To make it easy to understand. We’ll showcase the tools used during the ‘disassembly’ of a watch.
First, the screwdriver. Similar to the types used in eye wares and mobile phones, it allows the removal of the case back with screws. It’s easy to use too much force as a guise of making sure it’s tight. An easy mistake when dealing with a screw diameter of 1 mm.
Then, the most important tools, tweezer & piking tool. They are an all-rounder, from picking up anything small to remove the crown stem and hands (for quartz only). Any aspect of handling is rendered easy with the tweezer. Here, we’ll simply press in the ‘hole’ located on the backside of the movement (the engine of the watch) to remove the crown (labeled). As such, it’s special to us so we engraved on it! Sweet, isn’t it ?
Third, the glass-removal add-on. There are two types of dial placement in the watch case. Front assemble and rear assemble. As it name suggests, in the front assemble, the dial & movement is placed from the top and the glass cover is the final seal in re-assembly. In the rear assemble, the glass is already placed and the dial/movement part is placed from underneath and the case back is the final seal in re-assembly. It’s easier shown than explained.
Our watches are front assemble making disassembly a challenging task. Thus, we made our glass-removal add-on (courtesy of Ridwaan, the technical guru) which uses high pressure to remove the glass cover safely, without scratches, and efficiently. The process is shown below.
Once the glass is removed, the glass ring is removed with a small flat screwdriver and the movement holder is also removed (the white plastic object which holds the movement in one place and protects it again shock damage by filling all empty spaces in the watch case). Then the dial and movement is removed, the movement is dislodged from the dial with a flat screwdriver.
The hands are removed with tweezers. Extra care is taken with the hands because of how fragile it is. The hands are designed to be as light as possible so as to save battery life. There are few design exceptions out there which is prized more for their aesthetics rather than their functionality. Also, automatic movements (as opposed to the quartz movement shown here) are better suited to handle large loads. The watch gears need to placed back in the movement, shown below.
At this point, it’s done but if you want to detach everything, then the case back can be removed. Then, the watch is completely disassembled, baring naked. Later, we’ll show you how the watch is built up again by reversing everything we’ve done above. Next week, we'll feature another signature design. Thanks for reading till now, you’re awesome. Always forward, ARH out.