Classic watches, watchmaking, antique tools, history, vintage ephemera and more!

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Watch Parts

As replacement parts rapidly become more and more scarce, hardly a week goes by that I don't get an email asking if I could sell such-and-such replacement part. These inquiries come from a variety of folks ranging from people attempting their own watch repair, to experienced watch makers that perhaps don't usually work on antiques.

There's a few reasons I never sell watch parts. One is that it's not like I can just go to a nicely labeled cabinet and pull out the right thing. With antiques, that is almost impossible. For example, this picture shows what I was up against today trying to locate a suitable replacement jewel for a certain pocketwatch.

Another reason I don't want to deal with selling parts is that many folks seeking them don't fully realize that unlike modern products, parts frequently do not just drop into an antique watch. Even original factory made parts (assuming the labels on their packaging are even correct) quite often need to be adjusted to work.

This factory made, Elgin, replacement staff for example badly needed to be polished, tip to tip, before use in a repair.

One other parts complication, especially on very old watches, is that even factory made watches like Elgins, Walthams and Hamiltons have a deep and long history of prior repairs. It is very common that an older watch may contain hand-made replacement parts, which sometimes cause a factory replacement for some other piece to be no longer suitable.

I sometimes get asked why this work is called "watchmaking" and not simply "watch repair," and all this is one of the reasons. To fit a replacement part it is necessary to fully understand the mechanical principles of the watch's design, and be comfortable altering, or fabricating, replacement parts as needed and as suitable to the watch in hand, with respect for its engineering and individual history.

One of the basic rules of this work is that existing components should never be altered to for a replacement part. Every watch has been serviced before. And every watch is different. One has to be ready for anything.

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