Budget Watch Collecting/Timex movement clean and lube

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Generic instructions for cleaning a Timex pinlever mechanical or a similar non-jeweled movement. This is a modification from the official 1966 Timex service manual procedure. If using these steps on a non-Timex, you need to handle the mainspring differently--Timex has a lubricating coating that isn't removed by watch cleaning solutions. Other watches will either need the mainspring to be re-lubricated (preferably) or at least removed prior to cleaning so the existing lube isn't washed away.

This is essentially a rough draft. If you have questions, please ask in the discussion section.

Most "overwound" "wound too tight" or similar mechanical watches are just dirty. Timex are particularly easy to clean, since little disassembly is needed.


Case knife

Jeweler's screwdrivers


Watch oil

Oiler (or blunted insulin syringe)

I'd use household ammonia for about 5-10 minutes, followed by Ronsonol lighter fluid (Naphtha) as a rinse. I personally use L and R cleaning fluids in an L and R machine, but that's a bit extreme for normal people (I work on a couple of watches a week, and do mostly jeweled movements). Frequently naptha itself will work, but sometimes it won't remove heavy deposits. Some have had success with shampoo or dish soap and water--However I recommend rinsing in Naphtha after any water-based solution.

If the watch is not a Timex, let down the mainspring. There should be a medium sized gear near the stem meshing with a larger one at the mainspring. One of these gears will have the "click", the device that keeps the mainspring from unwinding at the stem. Wind the stem a tiny bit and hold pressure, and with a small screwdriver hold the click so it does not mesh with the gears. Slowly let the stem unwind--if you begin to lose your grip, let the click go while you get your grip back.

On most watches, remove the back, then remove the stem. In some cases the "stem hole" is between case and back, on these you will not need to remove the stem before moving the movement


Most Timex movements have a lever holding the stem, and you just back off the screw that holds the lever, don't completely remove it. Others have a lever that needs to be lifted off the stem--In this case, prying down with a screwdriver here will lift the lever off the stem.


Other movements may have a screw or button close to where the stem enters the movement--buttons get pushed, screws get backed out while trying to wiggle the stem out--stop when the stem comes out, you don't want to completely undo this screw. A few movements can only be removed through the front, with a variety of methods of dealing with the stem. In some the back will come off to release the stem, some the bezel is removed and the stem is between the bezel and main case. In a few a special wrench is needed to unscrew the crown.

Remove the second hand if it's got one. I use a hand puller, it can be done with screwdrivers or tweezers. Before you remove hands, cut a slot in a piece of paper, and slide it over the dial, with the post for the hands in the slot. Try very hard to avoid bending the second hand pivot when you pull up, especially if you are using screwdrivers--Pry evenly on both sides at the same time.

Remove the dial. On a Timex and some other pinlevers, you can leave the hour and minute hands attached, on others you must remove the minute hand. Timex dials are held on by tabs that bend over the movement plate--Bend these as little as possible, and you can usually remove the dial while only bending two tabs. (If you have to remove the dial again, try to remember to bend other tabs the next time)


Other types may have posts that go through the plate with screws either at the top of the movement or along the side. (Adapting these instructions to other watches you probably want to remove the minute hand first, most are built differently than Timex)

On a Timex, I prefer to start with a partially wound watch, if it is fully wound, that's OK.

If you are doing a Timex automatic movement, you'll need to remove the rotor. There are two holes in the rotor to access 2 screws. Once these screws are removed, slide the rotor off sideways. Lifting will damage the cam follower.

The official Timex procedure says to remove the balance, but unless you're used to working with watches I think this step is more trouble than it is worth--Timing is guaranteed to be off by a good bit if you do this. I've had success with no further disassembly during cleaning, I now back the balance screw off a little bit.


For non-Timex watches with a balance cock, I will remove that. Carefully remove the cock and the balance without over-stretching or kinking the hairspring.

A critical difference between Timex and other brands is the mainspring. Timex has a permanent coating on the mainspring that both lubricates and protects from rust. This allows Timex mainsprings to go through a cleaning machine without harm. Other brands lack this coating-if you clean without re-lubricating the mainspring it is almost certain to rust and break in a fairly short time. Because of this, you will also need to disassemble far enough to remove the mainsspring on non-Timex. Sometimes this can be done with little disassembly, other times it will require a complete teardown. It is better to leave a non-Timex mainspring uncleaned than to clean it without re-lubricating it.

To remove the Timex balance you'll need to remove the little tapered brass peg where the hairspring attaches to the plate of the watch. Push the thin side with a screwdriver then remove with tweezers


don't lose it.

Put the rest of the movement (as well as the balance if you've removed it) in the cleaner, ans swish it around for 5-10 minutes. If you use ammonia, follow with a Ronsonol rinse. The watch can sit in Ronsonol for a long time, don't go too long in ammonia, it will attack brass or copper parts. If the ammonia starts to turn blue, that is a sign it is attacking, remove the movement immediately and rinse. Dry thoroughly.

If you did not remove the balance, remove the balance screw now. Fill it 3/4 full with watch oil. Fill the cup on the other side of the balance with about the same amount of oil--This will be the hardest part if you didn't remove the balance. Be really careful so you don't damage the hairspring, but you should be able to get just enough clearance to get oil into that cup. Don't get oil on the hairspring--if you do, you will need to clean the oil off somehow, and the easiest method might be to re-clean the whole movement again.

If you did remove the balance, replace it now, and get the balance screw in but not tight. The impulse peg of the balance wheel has to be on the same side as the fork--If you completely removed the balance you can rotate it around where it needs to be before you re-pin the hairspring, otherwise you just have to be careful. Tighten the balance screw so there is no play in the balance, but NO FARTHER!) If you removed the balance, re-pin the hairspring-This is easier if you use a bit of cleaning putty or similar (Handi-Tac, blue-tac or other "thumbtack replacement" putties are decent substitutes for Rodico cleaning putty) to hold the balance in place.

TimexMovement3521.jpg TimexMovement524.jpg

The watch should start here, although the balance might not swing very far without oil. (This assumes the watch was wound when you started) If it doesn't start, make sure the balance screw isn't too tight, and gently turn the balance in both directions--If you feel _any_ resistance, stop--You've probably got the fork and impulse pin on opposite sides, fix that before continuing.

Oil all the pivots on both sides, with the smallest drops of oil you can. Some watchmakers advocate not oiling the fork pivots.


Oil the impulse pin on the balance, and 3 teeth of the escape wheel. Don't oil the other movement gears, but do oil the gears on the outside of the plate and the ones the stem touches. The movement should be running well at this point, with at LEAST 1/2 turn of the balance at each cycle. I'd let it run for at least 20 minutes or so, ideally with a cover so dust doesn't fall on it.

If you did not remove the hands, set the hands to exactly midnight and replace the dial. If you did remove all the hands, make sure the hour and minute wheels are in place, as well as the dial washer. Replace the hour hand, set it to an exact hour, then set the minute hand pointing to 12. Replace the second hand. Temporarily install the stem, set the watch and make sure the hands don't drag or foul on anything. Remove the stem, re-case the movement, re-install the stem.