image description

At The Desk of a Watchmaker

Posted by Otis Blank on

Some of you may recognize this as a dismantled Panerai movement, an automatic if I remember correctly.


Recently I spent some time in Scottsdale, Arizona to go see what their monthly Cars and Coffee event had to offer this November. C&C happens to be held right in front of Oliver Smith Jeweler, a fine jewelry and timepiece shop. An event like Scottsdale C&C will draw a fairly large crowd, so naturally Oliver Smith Jeweler had a small display outside to give C&C attendees a taste of what they have to offer. The set of four Hublot’s and the pair of Richard Mille’s they had out were enough to catch my eye and draw me in. Also present at the display was 5 vintage pocketwatches (pictured below) and a watchmaking lathe. This is where I met Benjamin Lam, Watchmaker for OSJ.


The pocket watches Ben had out on Display


Ben Lam has over 30 years experience in watchmaking, he is WOSTEP certified and has taught his great skill at Oklahoma State University’s School of Watchmaking and Microtechnology. After speaking with him for a few minutes about what OSJ had on display that day and about our shared passion for photography,  he invited me to come back later that day to have a look around the shop and see where he does his work. How could I refuse an offer like that?! I came back as discussed and Ben showed me around.


Two great examples of vintage pocket watches to be sure, an unbranded 3 hander and a complicated Drummond & Co.


The first things I was shown were these pocketwatches. The one on the right not only has a chronograph, but a minute repeater complication as well.


His & Hers Rolex Datejusts


Next he showed me some of the watches in for service in their dissassembeled states. When Ben services a watch he dismantles it completely and cleans every part of the piece to make sure it is in top functional condition. Pictured above is a pair of His & Hers Rolex Datejusts and below we have another automatic Panerai (you saw the first in the header image for this article).


An automatic Panerai movement in disassembly.


Next I got to see all of the various tools that Ben works with.


A Balance Spring Vibrating Tool


He has acquired a number of rare and specific tools over his years of watchmaking, one of which is this Balance Spring Vibrating tool used for matching the correct length of  a new Balance Spring when it is needed . The new Balance Spring  is tested and adjusted with the Master Balance wheel on the Vibrating tool to get the correct number of Vibrations, or beats, per hour/minute/second. I was also shown this hand setting tool pictured below.


The Hand-Setting tool that Ben restored to the immaculate condition you see here.


The middle setter is of course used for setting the hands placed in the middle of the watch face and the additional setters are offset for the placement of sub-dial hands and things of that nature.


The Jewel Adjustment tools and the set of heads to go with them.


All the tools in the above photo are used for jewel setting. They can shift the placement jewels on an incredibly precise level, down to hundredths of millimeters. All the various heads you see below the setting tools are for different sizes and types of jewels.


The Lathe used for making a Variety of small parts.


Above is the lathe I mentioned earlier in the post. It is used to create and make Balance Staff, Winding Stem and other Small parts.


Old oil holders used when servicing or assembling a watch.


Ben had drawers full of tools, among them were the oil holders you see above. I was particularly fond of the Enicar branded one.


A collection of movement holders


In another drawer we find an assortment of movement holders and related tools. Below we have a myriad of files and tweezers used for making extremely fine adjustments.


Various files and tweezers


In the below photograph Ben shows me a picture of one of his works in progress, a 6497 movement he skeletonized himself with some of the tools in the photo above. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s complete!


Ben’s hand skeletonized 6497, a work in progress.


Below we have one of Ben’s personal watches, one he created himself by filing with only small needle sized Swiss files by hand, consuming 8 hours of labor time. No Sawing or machine boring was used to create it. The watch is a pocket watch conversion of a piece he acquired in Switzerland. It has a 6497 movement and the face is original to the 60’s pocket watch. He said he also found the case for the watch in Switzerland and the strap on it is a beautiful brown alligator strap from Panerai.


Ben’s Pocketwatch conversion next to my OWWC Aviator SS.


Next I got to see some more gorgeous pocket watches.


The insides of a wonderful Hamilton


The movement finishing is where these vintage pieces really shine.


Another Hamilton also showing its inner workings.


Though I felt as if we had only seen a fraction of what there is to see, it was time to move on to see what the Oliver Smith Jeweler had to offer in the way of new time pieces.


IWC Portugese Perpetual Calender Ref. 5023 in red gold


First I had a look at this beautiful IWC Portugese Perpetual Calender Ref. 5023 in red gold. This watch will theoretically keep accurate time and automatically self adjust the date, meaning it will automatically correctly display the correct date for all months that have 30, 31, or even 28 days in a leap year til the year 2299 if it is serviced and wound properly!


A stunning timepiece by Breguet Tradtion, with its unusual central placement of the mainspring barrel.


Next I was shown this beautiful Breguet Tradition. Breguet is a favorite brand of Ben’s for their brand history, attention to detail, and overall high quality.


The special edition Mille Miglia GT XL made for OSJ by Chopard.


This rare Chopard is one of a series of 30 made specially by Chopard for Oliver Smith Jeweler in celebration of 30 years of business. I personally thought the brown face and strap looked fantastic on this special edition.


The Panerai PAM00341 on my normal sized wrist.


I leave you with this, a wristshot of the ridiculous yet cool 60mm Panerai PAM00341 ‘Egiziano’ on my averaged sized wrist.


Until next time!

– Otis Blank

Leave A Reply