Longines 14K Gold Women’s Watch

Restoration of a vintage cocktail watch

Taking a break from chronograph repairs I moved on to a watch that was just as challenging it its own way. Here I have a Longines women’s watch probably from the 1960’s in a 14k gold case with diamond accents. When I purchased this piece the watch had a damaged dial with a missing crystal and was more or less non-functional.

This was once a beautiful watch…

I managed to coax a few ticks from its heart but when placed on the timegrapher the readout may as well have been a flatline- no amplitude, immeasurable beat error, and no time keeping ability.

This counts as “no reading”

Filled with confidence (but not yet backed with a proven skill set) I powered forward and de-cased the movement. Women’s watches of the period are assembled a bit differently from the men’s in that the movement is snugly secured in the caseback which is then snapped into the case; there are no case screws to lose during this repair.

Solid 14k white gold case though

Once removed, the full extent of the damage to the dial became apparent. A refinishing would certainly be necessary.

The movement was in fine shape although quite dirty. A bit of moisture had entered the movement via the stem tube resulting in some rust but otherwise the movement looked quite good.

The movement looks pretty good
There’s a bit of rust on the keyless works though

Having never worked on this movement before I documented each step during disassembly to ensure the best results during reassembly.

The balance comes out first
Next the crown and ratchet wheels
Bridge removed to expose the gear train
Just the escape wheel and pallet fork are left
Clearly a bit of water damage here
Broken down and ready for cleaning

Once fully disassembled the main components went through the L&R cleaning machine while the balance and cap jewels were cleaned in white spirits. Unfortunately for me, the cap jewels have no tint to them (they are clear) and when immersed in clear liquid they simply disappear before your eyes. I managed to recover the bottom balance cap jewel but was not so lucky regarding the top jewel.

I thought this might be a blessing in disguise when I realized how cheaply a replacement 410 movement could be obtained via eBay and most came with the original dials still attached. I hastily purchased a replacement which would not only supply the missing cap jewel but also the proper Longines crown and a dial in good condition.

Alas, when the package arrived I discovered quickly that the replacement dial was slightly large and wouldn’t fit in the case.

Replacement parts movement being broken down

I set about removing and cleaning the needed cap jewel.

Replacement pink cap jewel on the left, original clear cap jewel on the right

Then treated it along with the pallet and escape wheel with Fix-o-Drop before placing them back in the watch movement.

Epilame treatment for the pallet, escape wheel, and balance jewels

I decided to use the mainspring barrel from the replacement movement as well since the wording on the original barrel was lost during the cleaning process.

The replacement mainspring is wound and ready
Mainspring in the replacement barrel

I retraced my steps during assembly and was ready to test the watch in short order. From there things didn’t go smoothly though. The timegrapher reported an exceptional beat error and very poor amplitude so I removed the balance wheel to examine the hair spring and balance staff for defects.

Balance removed for inspection- it’s even smaller than you think!

With none observable I returned the balance to the movement and double-checked the amount of play in the gear train. No obvious problems came to light until I finally opted to remove balance from the cock for inspection. A tap from my tweezers against the hairspring finally revealed the source of the problem.

Sticky hairspring coils- unseen by the naked eye when the balance was in action

For some reason the coils seemed to be attracted to each other despite repeated cleanings and a run through the demagnetizer. I finally threw in the towel and replaced the complete balance with the one from the parts movement.

Reassembled and ready for casing
Dial side- note the replacement dial washer
It took quite a while to get to this result!

With the movement beating properly I reinstalled the dial which had been refinished by International Dial. I must admit a bit of disappointment regarding the refinishing of the dial but honestly I’m not sure a better job is possible. The text is beyond tiny and for all I know, restoring the maker’s mark needed to be done by hand. Dial condition is certainly something I will consider when making my next vintage purchase though.

I’m nitpicking the dial restoration

Next I installed the replacement crystal. This was a heck of a job because I was unable to procure the proper crystal for the case and had to instead file, sand, and polish to fit the best available alternative. Lot’s of elbow grease involved in that job!

The crystal was a tight fit but I felt adding cement was prudent

Since it’s a mineral glass crystal, I secured it in place with some UV curing cement. This may not have been necessary in the end since the fit was nice and snug but it’s good for my peace of mind.

Curing the cement with a UV flashlight

Lastly the case was given a bit of polish with some Dialux compound. The end product speaks for itself.

My wife is the hand model here
I’m happy with this

Author: JPMoeller

Amateur watchmaker and California resident

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