Week 10, Days 3 & 4 (Staffing Project, Tribology and Lubrication)

Oh man. The staffing project that I mentioned on Tuesday? Well, for whatever reason, I was having a rough week this week and screwed up big time(s).

The watch that I am working on has an Incabloc shock system in it. There are multiple kinds of shock systems in wristwatches, but Incabloc is the most common.

WP_20140716_13_40_33_ProDo you see the gold wire rim that is surrounding the balance jewel on the balance bridge? That is an Incabloc setting. The purpose of the Incabloc (I’ll be using IB for the rest of the post) is to allow some movement for the pivot of the balance wheel in a situation where there is shock to the watch (this can be clapping at a concert, the watch falling of a dresser, a sudden stop in your car, etc). Without shock protection, pivots are more likely to break. Every pivot doesn’t need shock protection-if a gear train wheel has a broken pivot, it is a simple replacement job. When a balance staff breaks on a watch, the procedure can be a lot more time consuming (see any of my posts in the “Poising” category for a refresher of how to replace a staff).

So, why the trouble? An IB staffing job is pretty much the same until you are putting the roller table back on. Instead of pressing the table onto the staff, you press the staff onto the table. I did not know this. I ended up crushing my first roller table. I then butterfingered my tweezers and flung the second one across the room to be lost to the ether. The third one I did correctly, but I either ended up stretching it out (or it was already stretched out since it had been used before).

The correct process for doing this involves turning the roller table upside down on either your bench block or staking tool, then placing the balance wheel on top of it and lightly pressing it together. After you get everything together, it is smooth sailing from there.

I managed to get the wheel reassembled, put back in the watch and it worked! When I took it up to be inspected and Mr. Poye asked me if I had cleaned it. He told me to clean it because I was going to oil it and eventually time it.

One of the words in the title of this post is Tribology. Tribology is the science of friction and wear. Watchmakers continually struggle with ways to reduce friction in a watch. The more friction that is eliminated, the less wear and tear on parts and there is an increase in efficiency. Modern watchmaking companies employ various methods of friction reduction-Silicon Parts, Diamond Coated Parts, Sealing watches in a vacuum and so on. While all of those things are very very cool, they are also expensive and take a long time to trickle down into more affordable watches. The most common way of dealing with friction is proper lubrication.

Lubrication can be broken down into two general categories-Grease and Oil.


Oil Cup on left, Moebius Oil in the enter, KT-22 Grease on Right. Dip Oilers in foreground

For now, we are following the KISS principle with the number of lubricants we are using (2) and the areas that we are greasing versus oiling. There are many, many, many different kinds of greases and oils, and lots of debates about how much and where to apply it, but we have plenty of time to worry about that later.

Here are the areas that get lubrication:

  • Grease
    • Winding Stem (all parts that interact with something
    • Clutch Wheel teeth and groove where clutch lever interacts with clutch wheel
    • Clutch lever spring
    • Setting lever
    • Minute Wheel Post
    • Cannon Pinion
    • Winding pinion
    • Barrel Arbor (except for pivots)
    • Barrel Arbor holes in
      • Barrel and Barrel Cap
      • Plates and Bridges
    • Crown Wheel (inside of the hole where it goes around the washer)
  • Oil
    • Third Wheel Pinions
    • Fourth Wheel Pinions
    • Escape Wheel Pinions
    • Impulse face of the Pallet Fork Jewels
    • Balance Wheel Pinions

You never, ever, ever oil the Pallet Fork Pinions. Since the pallet fork pinions do not make a full rotation (instead they go back and forth), the oil will not have a chance to move around fully and will eventually gum up the pallet fork and stop the watch from working.

There are a lot of nuances to oiling and greasing that are hard to put into words (at least at this point), but needless to say, it is easy to over oil/grease something. If you apply too much, you have to strip the movement down, clean it, and start again.

When applying oil to cap jewels or shock protected jewels, there are certain steps to follow.

WP_20140717_10_06_55_ProTop left is a cap jewel. You have to make sure that these are removed prior to cleaning so the old oil is removed. The screws are pretty tiny and you need to make sure that you don’t fling them around.

WP_20140717_10_17_11_ProKind of blurry, but there is the same cap jewel screw. Its head is just a little over a mm in width.

If you look at the list of parts to oil, you’ll notice I said the impulse faces of the pallet fork. There are two ways to do this. You can either oil them before you insert them into the watch (which is hard for me at this point because you have to get the pallet fork in the watch without it touching anything, have it set in in its jewels perfectly and set the bridge on there without disturbing the fork), or you can oil them after they are in the watch (which is hard to do because you have to go through holes in the movement plate to get at it).

WP_20140717_16_31_48_ProClick on the picture to get a bigger view. You see those two holes to the left of the minute wheel? Those clear jewels that are visible are the pallet for jewels. The impulse face is the short, angled ends that will interact with the escape wheel teeth. It took me about ten tries to get it without getting oil on the wrong parts of the jewels.

Needless to say, oiling is an art. Obviously I won’t get it perfectly my first time, or even my first few times. I’m looking forward to finishing up this first watch because I will have my lesson on timing watches after I am done with my first oiling job. Then it will be full on overhauling from here on out (strip down, clean, re-assemble, oil and time it out).



3 responses to “Week 10, Days 3 & 4 (Staffing Project, Tribology and Lubrication)

  1. Pingback: Semester 2, Week 3, Days 4 & 5 (More ETA movements) | watchmaking journey·

  2. Hey man! I really like this blog of yours. I realize this is an old post but hopefully you will see this. Don’t know if you’ve come around to re-visit lubrication in your education yet but 8000 is a bad choice for escapement lubrication. I tried using it when I started out but it migrates and splashes around in general when the watch is in operation. Try Moebius 9415. One more thing worthy of mention is that the holes under the pallet jewels are not for lubrication, only for inspection of drop and lock. Try oiling the pallets without the balance installed, from the top of the movement. You might have to bend an oiler to get a good view of what you are doing. Angle the movement so that you can see light reflected in the impulse Surface of the exit stone, that way you can see the oiler getting closer.

    Keep on posting! It’s a nice read! šŸ™‚

    Best /Karl

    • Karl,

      Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it.

      I have moved a bit further along in school (in fact, I should be graduating around October!!) and have had some more lessons on lubrication.

      As I said in my initial post, my teacher wanted to K.I.S.S. when it came to lubrication and make sure we got the technique and basic theory down before throwing more and more lubricants at us.

      Since then, we have added D-5, 9010, a couple of greases for auto-mainsprings and have talked about 9415 and I’ll be learning how to use Epilame over the next few weeks.

      I agree with your views on 8000, it is splashy.

      In a lot of the autos I did, I was able to oil the pallets before putting the balance in, and in all the timers I did (oh man, I am so behind on my posting…), I was able to do that no problem. It’s still a habit for me to try and oil the pallets through the holes because it is very simple and easy for me to do, but I am making the transition.

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