No announcement yet.

New member - fire damaged watches

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • New member - fire damaged watches

    Hi - I've joined up because I think watches are a beautiful thing and I have a bunch of family watches that survived a fire (sort of) that I'd like advice about. From left to right - ladies Mido, Oris, Tissot, ? unsure but I think its quite old - has a mother of pearl dial and enameled outer ring and the back of the watch has several hallmarks in the metal that I can't quite read, Men's Damas I think the case is gold or good quality gold plate as it has no wear to it at all but the gold plated strap has wear, Pontifa gold (?rolled) watch on a chain and then a little gold pocket watch with enamel around the outside and a fully enamelled blue back.

    They are all in a sorry state. The Tissot is in the best condition but not working. My personal favourite is the Damas - that's the one I'd really like to get repaired/restored if at all possible.

    Can anyone provide any suggestions of who in Auckland could have a look at these for me? Is it worth bothering with any of these? They have sentimental value.

  • #2
    Depending on where you are, maybe for this query, try PWC, you will want to talk to Col'n or Shay... I don't know if they will be a lot of help, but they at least will provide honest/quality advice.

    Precision Watch Company
    5 Totara Avenue
    New Lynn
    Auckland 0600

    Ph: 09 827 5709

    Timekeeper Watch Club
    New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, Earth


    • #3
      Hi Samski,

      Glad a new member has joined Timekeeper—welcome to the forum! ...Watches are indeed beautiful things. How people connect to their watches is beautiful too, sometimes inspiringly beautiful, other times poignantly so. You mentioned that these damaged watches are of sentimental value, meaning that you have a connection to the location of the fire. Sorry to hear of such experience, and hope that you and yours have recovered from the incident.

      With fires, it is rather ironic that, often, the damages from the heat and flames are less than those caused by water. So, from the one photo that you posted above, I can’t tell whether there is still water or moisture inside the watches. Because you said they have a sentimental value, I take it to mean that you won’t be discarding these seven pieces.

      Originally posted by Samski View Post

      If you think there is a chance of the internals being wet or moist, the very first thing to do, regardless of whether you plan to restore them, is to prevent further corrosion. You can visit an experienced watchmaker, let them know you suspect there has been moisture intrusion, and ask them to open and dry the internal components. This is a minor job for them, but will require you to leave the watches with the repairer, so that the internal components can be dried in their drying cabinet or whatever other means they may use. This over can take a couple of days, and at minimal charge, if any—good watchmakers should not be charging you for such assistance.

      If you are confident there is no moisture inside, the above can be skipped.

      Second, let’s consider what to do with these. We here on TKNZ may have a little more experience with watches than you do, know a wee bit more, and the watchmaker you visit would know quite a bit more. However, none of us know more than you about on thing—how much these seven are worth to you. You did say that they have sentimental value, but that value tends to exist on a continuum, and even I myself attach different levels of sentimental value to individual pieces that I own.

      In your case, if you feel the seven have sentimental value, then I would advise keeping them, functional or otherwise. And yes, I do mean they can be kept and cherished without being functional time-telling devices. Before helping you answer, “Is it worth bothering with any of these?”, I’d like for you to keep in mind three things.
      1. Vintage watches in these states can never be brought back to being exactly like they were when new, or to use the cliché “former glory”. Many new to vintage watches are unaware of this, but old timepieces are unlike old houses or classic car, both of which can be fully renovated, salvaged, and rebuilt to be like-new again. Vintage watches are more like old paintings—you can clean them, re-frame them, even very carefully retouch them, but anything more will destroy their worth as a artifact of time. With watches, the more you do to them to change them, the more of their history is lost, and the less they are worth.
      2. Like used cars (this time), the amount of money spent on repairing or overhaul is not the dollar amount that will increase its market value. A freshly serviced watch might sell for 20% more, e.g. running with no service history $100 but service it and it might sell for $120. A typical overhaul cost $180-$250 or more, depending on where you get it done.
      3. This is my personal opinion, not shared by all, but here it is… I have a friend, now in his 70s, who is a retired watchmaker in Auckland. When I take a watch to him and ask him to help overhaul the movement, he would always ask, “Are you going to wear it? ...I can do it for you, but you should wear it.” ...He would also remark, “You should wear it, or find someone else to wear it.” ...When my friend knows that a watch he is servicing is going to be worn and enjoyed, he can commit his heart into the work that he does... Watches, we believe, are made to be worn, and a happy vintage piece is one that gets worn every now and then. This can be as infrequent as once a month or every six weeks.
      If you won’t be wearing these watches, or (I assume you are male, because the rest of us are) you don’t have anyone in mind to wear the ladies watches, it is best to leave them as they are. Keep them in this condition until such time that you decide to wear them, or someone else, even a later generation, decides to wear them, then get them serviced.

      The photo that you’ve uploaded is, unfortunately, too low resolution for me to make out details. I can give a brief view, however.

      These three, as you know, are ladies watches. The Mido and Oris are likely under 30mm case diameter, while the Tissot might be 30+mm. The Mido is likely 1940s, and if just above the sub-second it says “Super Automatic”, then it is an automatic “bumper” movement—a good grade caliber produced by A Schild, exclusively for Mido. The Oris is likely 1970s, manual-wind 17 jewels movement, though you understand that during the 70s, Oris was a budget watch brand whose main strength was price, with somewhat compromised quality.

      The third is the Tissot, likely 1970s, and automatic self-winding. I cannot comment on the movement until I see a clearer picture. Quality should be very good for the era, however. You say that it is not working—have you tried hand-winding it?

      Give the crown 20 or so turns, and see whether it starts up. In the photo, I see a slight discolouration of the Date wheel, and this could indicate a presence of rush inside the movement. However, if it runs, you can check to see whether the hands can be turned.

      In the used market, none of these three are of any significant value, despite all three being Swiss firms still in existence and Oris being in the pseudo-luxury segment. I view the Ladies vintage watch market as being heavily a buyers’ market—massive supply and low demand (unless it’s a Rolex or Omega). It’s a tough place of watches like these three you have to sell in.

      Lastly, the Damas

      As far as I know, Damas was not actually itself a watch company, but a brand owned by a Swiss watch assembler, Beguelin & Cie, who sold watches during the 1950-60s under a number of brand names. Let’s just say simply that it is a defunct brand with nearly zero history. So, despite some Damas models that I’ve seen being fitted with quality movements and some in precious metal, the vintage market doesn’t give these much value. Generally, if such a watch finds its way to a watchmaker, it usually gets dissembled for movement parts and, for gold cases, the case would be sold as gold scrap.

      This is speaking as general case, of course, and not saying that your specimen is not worth keeping. On the contrary, your example should definitely be kept for its personal significance to you. You did say also that this watch is your favourite among the set? I can see how its dial and hands must have been very nice prior to the fire.

      Are you aware though that many other vintage watches of the 1960s share this aesthetic as your Damas? The style was in vogue during that the early-1960s, and that was likely why this Damas was designed as such. So, you have an option of keeping the Damas for its sentimental value, and finding another watch similar to this style, in good condition to wear.

      So, reading this far, I hope you have answered for yourself, “Is it worth bothering with any of these?” ...Whatever you decide to do in the end, please don’t forget to address the issue of whether the watches are still moist inside, and deal with this as explained, regardless of whether you choose to undertake further work with them.
      Last edited by Don; 27-11-19, 08:12.
      On the instruments we entrust to pace our lives, to bear witness to our days, and to be the keepers of the most precious thing we have... time.


      • #4
        Thank you Don.

        Yes some of these definitely got wet during the firefighting. They are well dry now. I do remember that in particular the pocket watches were wet and weren't all foggy and corroded like they are now, but unfortunately drying out watches was low on our list of priorities at the time. We lost my Mum in that fire.

        Actually I'm a woman (really are you guys all guys?) and the first three of the watches were hers. Of the ladies watches, the Tissot is the only one I'd probably wear if it worked, I can't turn the crown - maybe it got wet also and has seized up.

        The little enameled wrist watch next up in the photo with the mother or pearl face is in a silver case - I took a close look and its hallmarked. Its my english great aunts and would be from 1940s or earlier even from my guess.

        The Damas was my grandfathers. I like it the best and I would wear it. I'm tall so a man's watch actually looks better on me anyhow and its about 32mm across so its a good size. So this is the one I'd look at reviving if possible, unless it was in the too hard basket, in which case maybe the Tissot. I really like the look of those vintage men's watches like Roamers, Cyma etc and thought if I can get this one revived then it's extra nice as its from family. If its all too hard then I will look for something else to buy that's a slim vintage men's watch maybe.

        The Damas gold plate or whatever it is made from is in really good condition, no wear at all its just filthy. There is no crystal, the hands move when I turn the crown, the front of the watch says Damas, 17 jewels, waterproof, incabloc It has a nice circluar texture pattern on the dial (if you get what I mean). The back has a crest and says Damas Swiss 4045 with a serial number 811461. and around the outside it says unbreakable, mainspring, waterproof, antimagnetic, steel back, incabloc, Yes I will keep all of these even in this state for now, but I would like to revive one of them for the purpose of wearing it. The Damas is my first pick.

        ​​​​​​​ Click image for larger version

Name:	damas1.jpg
Views:	177
Size:	67.1 KB
ID:	54856 Click image for larger version

Name:	damas2.jpg
Views:	160
Size:	55.2 KB
ID:	54857 .


        • #5
          I’m very sorry for your loss, Samski. In my life, I have never had to endure a house fire, let alone one that takes away a loved one. I cannot begin to imagine what that must have been like for you. Again, thank you for sharing these watches with us in spite of them being connected to the event.

          In my limited grasp of such experience, I admire you for even considering doing anything with these seven. The act reflects how you are open and have a willingness to incorporate your past, even the painful bits, into your present and future. These are the kind of strength and resolve not everybody has, and I am sure, will prepare you well for all things to come.

          On a lighter note, yes, we are all guys here. Offline, we have no trouble finding and retaining female significant other, but on this forum—where our dashingly handsome looks mean poop —we can’t seem to attract nor keep female members. So, please rest in knowing, at least, that you’re not here due to some deceitful pick-up plot ...That aside, let’s get to your watch.

          I’m late in replying as I had to spend time researching. Watches of the 1950s are not my area of focus, so I don’t have off-the-top-of-the-head knowledge. It was difficult to find information on any Damas, likely due to the brand being what I said in my previous post. From what I’ve come across, it seems Damas, despite having no history to sell, was during the 1950s and 60s pitching itself at a quality range market.

          I see this from the way their parent company tried to include features that were seen, in the 50s, as being desirable—satisfactory grade movement and specifications, quality case (sometimes made of gold, rolled gold, or thicker gold plating), and style elements on their dial that mimic quality range. Today, we see this type of practice in what the watch industry call boutique brand or micro-brand. In modern time, these types of companies do precisely that, and order in, then assemble, components that are desired by the watch enthusiast circle—movements (Swiss made if they can afford) with higher beat rate, hand-winding, hacking, big chunky case with a high water-resistance rating and fancy case back motif, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, a dial that mimics the aesthetic of desirable watches, and nice straps—then market it. Damas was a sort of micro-brand, if you like, of mid-20th Century.

          I have a feeling that some of these watches, like the Mido and Damas, were likely purchased outside of New Zealand, perhaps in Europe? Your Damas is likely from the 1950s, and at 32-33 mm, would have been the standard gents size of the period. This size is actually perfect for any lady, I think, as standard ladies watches today are either this size or larger—anywhere up to 38 mm. So, in the modern day, a lady does not need to have large wrist at all to wear vintage gents’ watch from any period of the last century.

          The movement inside is likely a manual-winding ETA 1080, and looks like this…

          If you have been interested in watches, you may know that ETA SA is a Swiss ébauches and movement producer, and today, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Swatch Group—another name that you may have heard of. Anyway, the 1950s, when your Damas was likely produced, the ETA 1080 was a mainstream level manual-wind with the essential features required of that era. When this caliber was released in 1950, ETA did not make any automatic self-winding movement, and they actually used the 1080 as the base for their first automatic, the ETA 1256.

          What you read on the dial of your Damas, “17 Jewels” and “Incabloc” are both related to its ETA movement. The latter, also stamped on the case back, is in reference to the movement’s anti-shock device, which in the image above is the jewel capped in a gold bracket seen above the +/- symbols. On the case back are various attributes of the watch “when new”, and here, please disregard the “waterproof”, which is no longer applicable. “Steel Back” means that the case back, i.e. the polished metal back, is made of steel, while the rest of the case is non-steel, which could imply gold, rolled gold, or base metal (e.g. brass) plated with gold.

          A watchmaker can tell you more precisely what the case is made from. The fact that there seem to be little wear could still be consistent with thick plated gold—40 micron plating will actually last a long time before brassing. The nice circular texture on the dial was made by using a mechanical engraving machine, a guilloche tool, and this type of texture dial is called guilloche dial. Not all that common today, though still found on some watches. However, these modern dials are not carved in that fashion, but are rather printed or stamped out that way.

          Guilloche-inspired pattern can be seen on one of my watches here…

          Your Tissot Automatic will need to be taken to a professional to see what the problem may be. That person can tell you what the options for remedy are, and it is likely an overhaul will be needed before you can enjoy it. Once serviced, this can certainly be something you can wear, with proper care and precaution required of a vintage of course. As for the Damas, it is not in the too hard basket yet, though that would needs to be confirmed by a repairer.

          If you’d like the piece working again before considering further course of action, a watchmaker can clean this up for you. The latter would involve, again, overhaul and parts replacement. As part of the procedure, the dial can be cleaned up as much as possible without totally scraping clean the original. When you get the watch back, it can be worn, and you can then decide whether the dial should be sent away for a total redial, knowing that this will strip the metal clean, everything gone along with it, before repainting and rewriting the dial to whatever ability the repairer may have (or you are willing to pay for).

          Normally, I’d recommend leaving something like this as is, to preserve history, but in your particular case, only you would know what feels right—no one can make that decision for you. All the same, I’d recommend doing this in two steps, and not all all-the-way from the beginning. Don't let anyone rush you into such process. Watchmakers in NZ will need to send the dial overseas for redial work anyway, so it matters little when that part of the work occurs.
          Last edited by Don; 28-11-19, 18:42.
          On the instruments we entrust to pace our lives, to bear witness to our days, and to be the keepers of the most precious thing we have... time.


          • #6
            Hi Samski, and welcome to the forum. There is not much I can add to Don’s informative post except my own condolences for your loss. If you find that your Damas Watch has a 1080 movement in it but is damaged, I have a spare one here you are welcome to have. Good luck in your quest.
            Preparation and planning prevent piss poor performance


            • #7

              Condolences Samski.

              You have received extraordinarily high quality advice above.

              Let us know how things turn out, please,

              Originally posted by Samski View Post
              We lost my Mum in that fire..
              Timekeeper Watch Club
              New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, Earth