Obsolete Watch Parts - I am not a material supplier. I repair watches and precision clocks with balance wheels, and buy and sell vintage watches. I also sell books, used tools, parts, etc that I have on hand. Over the years I have accumulated thousands of movements and hundreds of thousands of parts. If you need a part that is hard to find, I may be able to help. However, consider that I will likely have to spend at least 1/2 hour or more to find it. I love to help people, but I am in business to try to make a small profit. So, expect to pay $15 up for each part that I supply that is not on my parts-for-sale page.
American Pocket Watch Parts - consider that the last American made pocket watch movement, the Hamilton 992B, was sold in the late 60's. Most American pocket watches were thus made 50 to 100 or more years ago. There are a small number of new parts available from material distributors, but only a small number and that is for the war time (WWII) watches that the government had lots of extra parts made. Other than that, there are only used parts and generic parts.
Balance wheels and hairsprings - The complete balance is the heart of the watch and the most fragile, so balance parts are the ones most needed. Suppose you inherit great grandpa's watch and take it to the local "jeweler." He looks at it and says, the balance staff in the balance wheel is broken, you need a new balance wheel. Then you get on the internet and find "WatchDoc." You ask if I can supply you a complete balance for your old Illinois 18-size pocket watch made in 1880. Or, you ask for just a hairspring because the one in your watch is rusted or tangled. Consider the facts, your watch may have been repaired ten or more times over its lifetime. Even if I had a new balance wheel that had been sitting around for 120 years, it would likely not fit! A repairman 100 years ago may not have had the right staff and may have changed the balance jewels to ones with a smaller or larger pivot size to fit the staff he had in stock (those old guys were resourceful). Or even worse, great cousin Harry may have tried to fix the watch 50 years ago, and he had to bend the balance clock to get the staff to work as it was a little long! The bad news is, I do not have a new balance from a time capsule that I can supply for your old watch. The good news is that I can likely fix your old balance wheel. If the staff is broken, I can replace it. If the roller jewel is missing, I can replace that too. If the hairspring is damaged, then that is an expensive problem because the hairspring was custom fitted to each watch. The old watches were split balances with screws. The old steel hairsprings were notorious as to temperature change. So, the balances were made bi-metallic like a thermostat and expand and contract with temperature. The screws were added to allow your watch to keep time in hot and cold conditions. This was all custom done. So, the balance wheel and its adjustment was by far the most expensive part of the watch!! However, I may be able to custom fit a hairspring too, IF we are both lucky. But expect to pay $50 - $100 to repair your balance
Consider the Hamilton 992B, a "modern" pocket watch. Note the balance is not split! This is because the hairspring was of a special metal alloy that did not change "stiffness" or strength with temperature. So, it is possible to change a hairspring on a 992B and the watch will likely keep good time.
Generic pocket watch staffs - When you order an American pocket watch balance staff, you are getting a generic Swiss made part. It is not exactly the same as the original part. I have to look through dozens of generic staffs to find one that will fit properly. Often, I have to put the staff in the lathe and turn down certain dimensions, or grind down and polish the pivots. This is just part of watchmaking, and it is not simple. It requires practice and skills. Now, even a hobbyist can gain these skills over time. But don't expect to do it right the first time you try.
American and Swiss Wrist Watch Parts - It is not well known, but most current Swiss watch companies will not supply parts. They want you to send the watch back to their repair center. Older Swiss mechanical parts can sometimes be found in new or used condition. Case parts such as bezels are mostly not available, they must be taken from another watch. Generic parts such as crowns and crystals can usually, but not always, be obtained.
November 15, 2002