June 2013 Update

I haven’t made a post since April, and so as my exams have just finished I’ll give a quick update.

Since April; I’ve finished my studies at the British School of Watchmaking and I’ve got a new job in the watch industry.

I’ve also ordered a new lathe, watch timing machine and ultrasonic cleaner as well as pretty much else in between, and so now I’m set up to be able to completely service almost every kind of watch, and handcraft nearly everything I could ever want to from home.

lathe and timing machine

I ordered a Chinese Sincere branded lathe. It arrived pretty dirty and in need of a fair bit of adjustment, but once sorted it’s performance is almost indestinquishable from a Swiss one, but for 10% of the price

watchmaking setup at home

This is the set-up I have at home at the moment

And then in May/June I had my BHI practical exams for the 2nd year. I serviced an Eta 7001 for the Mechanical servicing exam, which seemed to go well, and I also retook the previous year’s Quartz servicing exam to see if I could get a better mark than last year (I had already passed it). That exam didn’t work out as well as it should have done in the end though.

Then there was the 2nd year BHI constructing clock components exam. This is a 3 week exam, although in practice I only had a week to complete it. As my situation changed I had to rush out and order my lathe and other tools and they did not arrive until part way through the exam period.

It took me close to 100 hours to complete, which included a 23 hour non-stop marathon at the end. Overall though I was very pleased with the results, and although there are some areas I am not as happy as I could be with, I think that it was pretty much the best effort I could have made. At the moment I do actually feel more confident about the quality of this piece than I did about last year’s exam (1st Year Practical Exam), although only time will tell if that is well placed.

I’ve taken notes and 150 odd photos of the process but I won’t post a write up until after I’ve been given my results (in mid August hopefully).

cock and plate

Every year the 2nd Year BHI pratical exam requires all students to make a cock and plate, although the dimensions and overall look are always slightly different

cock and plate

There are 4 main parts; the brass plate, the steel arbor, the blued screw and the brass cock. Out of these it’s the cock which is by far the most difficult and time-consuming and alone took me around 40-50 hours to finish.

cock and plate

The curves on the cock are really tough to get right. There’s 3 in total; the outside one that’s the most visible in the photo, then the smaller one at the tip near the arbor, and then the inside one which is underneath and allows the length of the arbor to be visible. Then you have to add a 45 degree chamfer to them!

8 Responses

  1. DanielB says:

    Colin, great to hear from you. Happy for you re your new tools. Look forward to your assessment of the lathe with more hours of use. Your balance cock looks really well finished from the pictures!!!

    I also just finished my exams. I made the mistake of doing too many exams. I wrote the theory exam, serviced the quartz and the mechanical watches and then built the first and second year practice pieces. It was too much with not enough practice. I cannot say if I will pass any save for the theory, in which I did ok. I would not recommend it to anyone unless they are well advanced and work in watch service already. Cheers!

  2. Colin Colin says:

    Hey Daniel, thanks for your message and kind comments!

    I was quite pleased with how the piece turned out, although looking at some of the photos I’ve taken there are quite a few areas that I’m not as happy as I could be with. But thats the nature of a timed exam, and you have to know when to quit.

    It does sound like you have taken on quite a lot this year. With practice the servicing exams are like second nature, and I am sure they are very straightforward for people already in the industry. Unfortunately not everyone, myself included, has that kind of experience behind them.

    The theory and practical pieces are something that everyone struggles with I think, so if you manage to even scrape a pass in those you should really pat yourself on the back.

    You will get some general feedback after the exams, and the BHI are always encouraging in showing that people often do considerably better the 2nd time around, and so even if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped then just take it as a good practice for next time

    Anyway keep at it, it’s a long hard slog but with persistance you’ll get there in the end! Colin

  3. Robert says:

    Glad to hear your exams are finished. I’m going to be taking my exams soon. I was wondering what your assessment of the new lathe is since I’m considering purchasing a new one myself. Thanks, and congratulations!

    • Colin Colin says:

      Thanks Robert.

      For the money, which for me was around $2,800 including postage, the lathe is really pretty good. I had to spend at least 2 full days stripping it down, cleaning it and adjusting it, and perhaps after a week of use I had become pretty familiar with its quirks enough for it to function for me as well as a Bergeon lathe. The lathe comes without instructions, although it’s fairly intuitive if you’ve used a similiar one before.

      For me to get a Bergeon lathe with the same tools and add-ons would probably have cost $15-20,000.

      You can probably get a decent 2nd hand lathe for less, but it’s a bit of a gamble unless you can inspect it in person and you know what you’re looking at. Buying a 2nd hand lathe on-line is generally very expensive, and so local auctions are a better bet. Better still would be to get to know a watchmaker who is retiring who would be happy to help out.

      I ummed and arred about buying a lathe for a while, as it’s a hefty investment and to be honest not a great deal of use outside of the exams at the moment. But for me I asked myself whether I wanted to be a watch technician or a watch maker, and if you want to be a maker, then a lathe is a necessity. The value doesn’t depreciate massively either which is a bonus.

      Let me know what you decide on.

  4. James says:

    Hi, any chance you could let me know where you ordered your lathe from? I’ve searched to no avail… would really appreciate your help

    • Colin Colin says:

      Hi James,

      I ordered it through eBay. The user name of the guy was sincereclocks and he’s based in China. If you do an advanced search on ebay using just the username you should be able to find him.

      I hope that helps.

      Colin

  5. Richard says:

    Hi Colin,
    Now you’ve had the Chinese lathe for a while, what’s your opinion of it now? Even though it needed some work, any second hand lathe would need the same unless a premium is paid from a dealer. I’m very tempted to follow your route. Does it have a wheel cutting attachment?

    Best regards
    Richard

    • Colin Colin says:

      Hi Richard, thanks for your comment.

      My opinion of the lathe hasn’t changed. It does it’s job perfectly well. There is a wheel cutting attachment for it, although it was the one thing that I didn’t buy. Be be honest if you’re going to cut small wheels to a high precision, then you’d probably need a sturdier medium sized lathe. Although if you had the patience I’m sure you could cut a wheel accurately if you made each pass with just a minor adjustment to depth. I hope that helps!

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