Our Restoration Process
What makes us different than many other watch and clock sellers that you see on the internet, is our level of commitment to the restoration process. We purposely set our standards high so that our customers can rely upon Father Time Antiques to deliver only the best available in the Vintage and Antique watch market. The first step in the process is to select only the watches and clocks that are in the best "as found" condition. In order to do this we work with contacts all over the globe who are constantly on the look out for prime pieces that we can restore and then offer to our customer base. We also attend regional, and national, watch and clock shows under the aegis of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors organization. We have been members of this seminal organization since 1980 and have done business with dealers around the world for over 36 years. We also comb the internet looking for those choice pieces that have not been on the market for many generations and, because we are a "bricks and mortar" store, we can also acquire timepieces over the counter from private collections and past customers.
Once we have acquired a choice watch or clock the process begins in earnest. The piece is inspected by our head watch maker and he decides what will be needed to fully restore the particular timepiece. Then it is completely disassembled and visually inspected under a ten power loupe with great attention to wear, finish, proper function, alignment, originality of parts, and strength. He produces a timing tape, as a diagnostic, if the watch is functional, so that it can be compared with the final timing tape once the restoration has been completed. The piece is then estimated for cost and time to complete. Then the parts are sourced and ordered. We only use original parts for those timepieces for which parts are available, and for those watches or clocks that do not have available parts we can fabricate parts. Parts sourcing is a full time job that our Store Manager, Chuck, has on his plate everyday. We sometimes have to scour the globe to find an elusive part to restore a precious watch or clock. I can remember parts coming from every corner of the globe this year. This extensive search can take several weeks (in most cases), to several months in the extreme.
While parts are being sourced our clock maker and watch maker are busy polishing and restoring cases, replacing crystals, refinishing dials, and cleaning movements so, that the minute the correct parts arrive, they can begin the task of bringing the timepiece back to life. Whether the timepiece is one of ours, or a customer's, they all receive only the highest quality of restoration that we can deliver.
When parts have been acquired we start the restoration process in earnest. First the parts are examined to determine if they are correct for the particular timepiece at hand, and then they are positioned in the movement to determine proper fit. Then the movement is completely disassembled including all cap jewels, plates, screws, bridges, mainsprings, levers, springs, staffs, gears, pinions, and any other removable part. The various components are carefully separated and compartmentalized for cleaning. The cleaning process uses various chemicals to remove old oils and dirt that may have accumulated in the movement. Once the first cycle of the cleaning process has been completed the hole jewels and caps jewels are inspected for a spotless appearance. Many times very old, hardened oil, will still leave a residue, even after cleaning, especially on the surface of the caps jewels and in the hole jewel recesses. The watchmaker will then use French pegwood to manually remove this residue and then the chemical cleaning process is repeated to make sure the jewels are spotless. Once the watchmaker is happy with the the cleaning process he starts the assembly of the movement. First the front plate of the movement is positioned in a movement holder to support the assembly procedure and then he begins the assembly of the gear train, gear by gear. Once the train is in place (in the front plate), he positions and aligns the back plate and then he checks the freedom of movement of the gear train by apply a small force with his tweezers to the main wheel. If the train moves freely he can proceed to the next step of installing the mainspring and its barrel. The mainspring is first inspected for wear and loss of strength and, if found wanting, is replaced with a new original specification spring. The spring is then lubricated over its entire length and installed in the barrel bottom. Now the mainspring arbor is installed with attention to the proper positioning of the hook and engagement of the arbor. Then the barrel lid is positioned and closed tight. The mainspring, in its barrel, is now ready for installation into the movement. Once the barrel has been installed the watch maker's attention is on the assembly and proper adjustment of the escapement. Then the entire movement is properly oiled and wound. This is the moment of truth. If the watch or clock has been properly assembled, and all the parts are in their proper positions, the timepiece will start to tick. The next few steps in the restoration process really separates the amateur from the professional. The proper adjustment of the hairspring, the balance staff, the roller jewel, banking pins, and regulator are all critical. In a watch the first step is to properly poise the balance wheel, especially if the restoration required the installation of a new balance staff. The watch maker accomplishes this by placing the pivots of the balance wheel on a poising tool. The parallel ruby jaws of this tool provide a level and perfectly smooth surface for the pivots to rest on. If there is a heavy spot on the perimeter of the balance wheel it will cause the wheel to revolve on the poising tool indicating where the heavy part of the wheel may be. Just like balancing a tire on an automobile with small lead weights that can affect the true running of the tire, the watch maker uses very small weights to bring the balance wheel into a poised state. He uses tiny little gold washers that are place under the heads of the screws on the perimeter of the balance wheel. These washers are rated in terms of seconds per day as to how they affect the overall timing rate of the watch. The proof of the pudding is the fact that no matter how it is placed on the poising tool, after being properly balanced, it will not favor a heavier or lighter portion of the wheel. Once the balance wheel is properly poised the watch maker can place it into the watch and put it into action. Now the task becomes regulation. By placing the watch into the jaws of the Vibrograph he can immediately tell if the watch is running fast or slow and make the proper adjustment to the regulator. He can also tell if the banking is correct and if the watch is in-beat.
At every step we examine and inspect our work so that, when the work is done, it has been completed to the best of our ability. Our one year warranty, for parts and labor, is further insurance that, if something was missed, or if there is a subsequent part failure, it will be covered.