Watches REALLY close
text and videos by Richard Freilich

Watches closeup REALLY close up

A few years ago I saw a stereo dissecting microscope  in my watchmaker's shop.  Ever since then I've been intrigued by the thought of looking at watches under high magnification.  A 10x loupe is about my limit for usable eye magnification and even that get fatiguing after a minute or so..  I have a small, hand held microscope but am afraid to use it with watches for fear of damaging a balance -- hand eye coordination, already at a premium with me, goes out the window at high magnification.  Intel made a USB computer microscope that was discontinued a few years ago.  I recall a closeout sale from a discount computer e-tailer but they were sold out before  I could place an order.  An Ebay search found several Intel microscopes at various prices but  before pulling he trigger on a bid I did a Google search for "Intel computer microscope" and found a BNIB for about $60 shipped.

So the microscope arrived a bout 2 weeks ago, right about the same time I ordered a NOS Borel from Reto.  This one has an ETA 2824-2 movement and a beautiful sun=ray pattern dial with gold marker  and hands.  I've been collecting and playing with watches for years and can't resist opening the back and seeing whatever there is to be seen.  Emailing back and forth with Reto regarding the state of the oil in a 20 year old NOS watch (it's fine)  Reto mentioned that viewing a balance pivot in it's jewel at 40x was quite amazing.  At that point I hadn't taken the Intel microscope out of the box but it was on my desk and installed in no time flat!  This microscope is a toy and has limitations. I'm a kid and easily amused so consider the thing well worth the price I paid.

The first clip is the balance jewel at 50X.  You can see the lyre shaped Incabloc spring.  The balance staff pivot is the rhythmic waggle or sway that you see in the middle of the jewel

The Balance Staff Pivot at 60 times magnification! AVI, 25 seconds, 745 KB

You might need a DiVX Codec to play the files

The next clip is the balance jewel at 200X. Focus backlash is a real problem as is the very small depth of field at such high magnification.  The rhythmic waggle of the balance staff is clearly visible.  I tried adjusting the focus during the recording butte movement was too annoying.  This is about the beset I could do at 200x:

The balance Wheel Jewel 200 times magnified! AVI, 13 seconds, 480 KB

You might need a DiVX Codec to play the files

Finally, my favorite clip is the walking minute hand at 60X  Hope you enjoy it.

The Walking Video Hand! AVI, 25 seconds, ca. 600 KB

You might need a DiVX Codec to play the files

Video added August 18th 2004, thank you Richard for great videos and text!