Yamaki guitars were well made, and many had solid tops. The bracing is a copy of a Martin D28, as is the body size. The scale is a bit shorter than Martin, 640mm vs 645mm. The interior bridge plate is rosewood, indicative of high quality. Cheap guitars have spruce. One thing I don’t like is the thick lacquer on the top. I might strip it off, which should improve the tone. A poor man’s D28 for about $50 after I buy tuners and strings.
Category Archives: Watches
In 1976 I had the good fortune to have lunch with Deiter Rams at the Braun Headquarters in Kronberg, Germany.
Rams gave me a tour of their design department where they were working on the latest Nizo Super 8 movie camera, among other things. I have owned lots of Braun products, like the coffee grinders, and the wall clock and alarm clock, as well as Braun electric shavers. I still own an old series 3000 shaver that continues to work well, but for the fact that I stopped shaving again and grew a beard. I was surprised however, when last week I spotted a Braun wristwatch in a consignment store for $18. I liked the look of it, and being an admirer of Braun products I decided to buy it. I pried the back off with some difficulty and replaced the battery (379) and it began to work. When I did some research I discovered that Rams didn’t design this watch, but it sure looks like something he would have designed.
I asked Rams why all the Braun products came only in white, or black, and he just said that was how it was. In other words, “it is what it is”. I wasn’t sure if I got it back then, but I recently read an excellent explanation of “it is what it is” in “The Log of the Sea of Cortez” about John Steinbeck’s sea voyage to the Gulf of California in 1939 with his friend Ed Ricketts. I am told that Ricketts actually wrote much of that book, but that Steinbeck got all the credit. So I am not sure who wrote the part on “it is what it is”, but it was fascinating nevertheless.
In 1968 I was with my Dad wandering around on our summer holiday in Lake Placid. I hated the place. There was nothing to do but swim, walk around town, or take a boat out, all of them by myself. There were no kids my age except twits at figure skating camp, and they were a closed group. Beside, I was a hockey player and thought boys that figure skated were weird. Perhaps my Dad took pity on me, because for no reason we went into the jewellery shop and he bought me a Bulova Accutron. At the time it was the most accurate watch, and the one used on Apollo missions! I still have that watch, and it works fine, 49 years later. However, it takes a mercury battery, and they are obsolete. If you want a battery for an Accutron now you have to pay $12 plus shipping. As wonderful as the watch is, I’m not so keen that I’d spend $15 or more to run a watch for a year, after which it would need another battery, etc, etc. I have too many other watches to wear. Recently I picked up another one for $4 at a thrift shop:
Yep, the same watch as in the advert up top. Made in 1968 or thereabouts, this was the cheaper baby sister to the Accutron, and it has a Japanese made movement made by Citizen. This is a hybrid between a regular windup watch and an all electric one, having a complete movement minus power spring. Instead of a spring it has a tiny motor. The battery is a standard 1.5 volt affair, still available today. I opened the watch and removed the dead battery which may well have been the original one, since it had the name Caravelle engraved right on it! For $2 I got a pack of 5 alkaline cells, and installed one in the watch. At first it didn’t run, but that was due to the bottom of the cell shorting out against the innards. I put tape on the base of the battery and cut a small slot for the contact, then replaced it in the watch. It started up and has been keeping perfect time ever since. It ticks like a windup watch, too. The question is, which watch proved to be the better one in the long run?
Here’s the Accutron. It said waterproof, and it was – I swam with it for years. I wish I could get a cheap battery for it.
Which brings me to another recent piece of 1968 technology that lives on and on and on…
I took the shell off to clean and adjust this one. The automatic ribbon reversal mechanism on the right side was jamming so the ribbon would get taut at the end and not reverse. After some examination I saw the problem, and fixed it by filing off the point on the plate attached to the ribbon flipper, so it no longer hit the arm it was supposed to push over and thereby flip ribbon direction. Aside from that I blew out the dust and gave it a spray of silicone lube. It’s from Britain, and has many fractions but no exclamation mark. How British – no exclamations… only stiff upper lips, hmmm? I get great results with Olympia portables (the baby ones) by using old mylar ribbons. I drop the spool onto one side and thread the ribbon onto the opposite spool without going through the flipper gates. Half the mylar will fill up one regular empty spool, after which it can be turned over and reused on the bottom section. I’ve tried mylar on some other typewriters and it doesn’t work well on every machine, but works perfectly on these.
From time to time we all undertake tasks that should best be left to those who know how. Yet still we persist with this irrational behaviour. As some people have pointed out, that is what makes us great! Or sometimes we fail…
But, we learn, nevertheless. Yesterday I learned a lot about Seiko watch movement 7006A. The watch, my latest thrift store project – a 1972 Seiko “Monaco” blue face, was all cleaned up and running, but it was losing 5 minutes daily. Since I had figured out how to open the one piece waterproof case already, I decided to speed up the balance wheel a bit. To help me with this task, which from experience I know is very hit and miss without instruments, I found a free watch timing program called Biburo. Further searching provided instructions in English (Biburo is from Japan). I scrounged around for the necessary equipment to make it work, and found an old cheap piezo guitar pickup that conveniently plugged into my Yamaha USB audio interface. When set on full gain it was able to detect the beating of the watch.
Biburo, when you get it right will show the ticks as a series of dots running across a graph. Slanting up means the watch is fast, down is slow. Horizontal is perfect timing.
I tweaked the timing lever a few times and in no time I had the watch running right on time, at least when laid flat. Then I noticed that in the instructions it said that if you had two parallel lines on the screen it meant the watch was out of beat. That is to say, the balance wheel turns unequally in rotating. To adjust this is another simple task, as the Seiko 7006A has a beat adjustment. I began to push this lever a tiny bit, first one way, then another. It didn’t seem to be responding well so I was resolving that I would just leave well enough alone when I noticed the watch had ground to a halt. Nothing would get it to restart. Now I suppose the rational answer is that there was something wrong in there to begin with and whatever I did, that certainly didn’t cause the watch to cease beating. But of course I cursed my luck. Then I decided that, what the hell, I might as well see if I could take it apart and clean it up, and perhaps dislodge whatever dirt or errant tiny hair of dust might have jammed the works.
So I spent the entire day discovering the wonders of Seiko engineering. I must say, it is an amazing machine as watches go, especially the bi-directional auto winding mechanism. However, I wasn’t able to fix it, and after many hours I decided to see if I could swap it out for another 7006A I had in a box. It turned out they were almost the same, except the donor had 19 jewels, versus the 17 on the first. The main difference was that this case being one piece, requires a different way of releasing the stem, and this piece doesn’t come on the regular watch movements. I was able to remove the tiny lever however, and install it in the donor movement, since the base plates were identical.
I’ve got the movement assembled and running, and am testing it now in various positions. It will not be perfect, since it probably needs a total overhaul and cleaning, but at least it still runs, which means I can wear it. If I recover some patience that I exhausted on this, I may strip the original movement down and see if a cleaning and lubrication gets it going again. If it breaks, at least I have learned something about these watches.
I recently acquired two 1970 era Seiko wristwatches in thrifting expeditions. The first was a lovely and elegant Sportsmatic. I wiped it off and have been wearing it for months now. It loses one minute daily, which I can live with. I may crack open the case and adjust it soon however.
The second watch I found last week – a square blue faced gem in a man-sized stainless steel case. I polished the crystal with Brasso, which did an amazing job of removing most every little scratch. It needed a strap though, since the original steel band had been made so small it didn’t fit my man-sized wrist. I then proudly strapped the watch on, only to discover that the second hand sometimes jammed against the minute hand. I would have to open the watch now, but I didn’t know how, since it was not like any watch I’d ever seen. It has two spring clips, which are between the lugs and only visible when the strap is removed. To remove the watch from the case, one pushes in these springs and pries out the case. The case-back is a steel clam-shell affair on which the crystal sits, gasketed to the rim. Once the case is opened the entire top part comes away leaving the watch with the crystal loose on top. I cleaned up the usual gunk and lifted off the crystal to access the hands. With a tiny bit of adjusting I got the second hand to clear the minute hand and assembled the watch. To get it to snap back together I inserted one clip first, turned the watch face down and pressed on the case until the second spring snapped into place. Once you know how, it’s dead simple and very ingenious.
Both watches have a similar auto wind function where the stem only sets the time but does not wind the mainspring. Winding is done by wearing the watch. The stems are made to fit well into the watch cases and thus do not protrude and catch on things the way most watch stems do. I don’t think these were expensive watches, so I admire how well they have lasted, both of them around 40 years old and running quite well.