Restoration: Bulova Art Deco

 In Watchmaking

Bulova is an American brand that we don’t see too often in Europe. The brand is probably best known for the Accutron, the electronic tuning fork watch of the 50s. In the 1930s and 1940s however, Bulova was known for rectangular gold-filled watches. They continued to produce similar models until the 1960s. This is a “21st Century” art deco style watch with a 10K rolled gold plated case. Vintage Bulova watches have a date code that you can use to date a model. The date code is L7 which dates this Bulova art deco to 1957.

The movement is the in-house Bulova 11AC. The watch didn’t run and the crystal was in a bad shape.

Disassembly

Remove any power from the mainspring. Hold the crown between your thumb and index finger and move the click away from the ratchet wheel. Slowly, let the crown slip between your fingers.

Remove the balance and the pallets. Then, turn the movement around and remove the cannon pinion. With the cannon installed, you can’t remove the center wheel later on.

Bulova art deco

Balance and pallets removed. 1 of the wheel train bridge screws is missing (red arrow)

Lift the ratchet wheel and the crown wheel with its shim. Remove the barrel bridge.

Lift the wheel train bridge to expose the wheel train or gear train.

Bulova art deco

The barrel bridge (with the ratchet wheel and crown wheel) and the wheel train bridge removed

Lift the wheels of the wheel train. After that, you can lift the main barrel and turn the movement around.

Bulova art deco

No parts left on this side of the movement

Lift the set lever spring first and then you can remove the remaining keyless works and the motion works.

Bulova art deco

Dial side of the movement stripped of parts

Pre-clean all the jewel holes and the pallets (pallet stones and fork) with a peg wood. Clean all the parts in the watch cleaning machine.

Assembly

Start with the main barrel. Replace the wheels of the gear train in the correct position (start with the escape wheel and work towards the center wheel). Refit the wheel train bridge and guide the pinions of the gear train in the correct position. You can do that by applying a little pressure on the bridge with a peg wood and navigate the wheels with a pair of tweezers or an old oiler.

I lubricate the jewel holes with Moebius 9010, except for the center wheel. The center wheel is lubricated with HP1300 or D5.

Bulova art deco

Balance, gear train and the wheel train bridge reassembled

Reinstall the barrel bridge, the crown wheel with its shim and the ratchet wheel. Don’t forget to slightly lubricate the shim with HP1300 or D5.

Bulova art deco

The barrel bridge, crown wheel and the ratchet wheel reinstalled

Turn the movement around and refit the motion works and the keyless works. I lubricate the keyless works and the cannon pinion with Moebius 9501.

Don’t lubricate the pallets bearing jewel on the dial side of the movement.

Bulova art deco

Keyless works and motion works installed. Except for the hour wheel and its washer

Turn the movement around again and reinstall the pallets and the balance. Lubricate the pallets exit stone with Moebius 9415. Don’t lubricate the bearing jewel in the pallets cock.

Reinstall the balance and test how the movement is running.

I noticed that the balance wheel was unstable. It looked like the balance staff had too much clearance or endshake. The balance staff, however, was still in an excellent condition.

When I investigated further, I noticed that the jewel holes and capstones didn’t really fit into the block. My guess is that someone lost a jewel hole or capstone (or both) and tried to replace it with something different. KIF antishock parts aren’t documented as the Incabloc parts are. I tried to figure out which parts to order for this movement but I couldn’t find any clear answers. That’s probably the reason why someone tried to use the wrong parts for this movement.

In the end, I ordered several donor movements from the Philippines that included an 11AC as well. I checked the pictures for the same KIF antishock system and luckily they were all still there. I cleaned and lubricated the jewel holes and the capstones from the donor movement and fitted them in this one.

Bulova art deco

Bulova 11AC running as it should

I refitted the hands and recased it. While the parts were being cleaned in the cleaning machine, I polished the crystal. If you’d like to know how to do that, I wrote an article on how to polish a watch crystal.

Bulova art deco

This Bulova art deco watch looks and runs great again

What do you think of this Bulova art deco watch? Do you have a similar watch? Let me know in the comments below.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Buy Vintage Watches OnlineEmre Kiris