HOW TO remove and replace hands and dial

Tools required:

An overiew of the tools required to safely take off hands and putting them back The tips of the tools in more detail

 

Taking the hands off

The choice is yours: India Made or PRESTO handslifter, please click on the picture to read the pros and cons of each tool. Use a proper lifting tool, do not simply try to lift the hands with a screw driver. The pressure between hands tubes and cannon pinion is normally pretty high. You will simply end up with ruined hands and or dial if you try to lift off hands with inappropriate tools. Of course there are more tools out there, see www.ofrei.com or www.nam-hing.com for a watch tool selection.


A. Using an India Made pantograph style Handslifter

  1. Place the protective plastic sheet over the dial, the cannon pinion (the protruding tube on which the hour and minute hand sit) will go into the slot that you cut out. Turn the crown and align all hands. I assume here that your watch is not running and that you started the watch work while the mainspring was unwound. There is a way to unwind the mainspring, it requires a bit practice, find the description here. If that sounds too adventurous to you, why not simply brew a cup of coffee and browse PMWF for while until the watch has stopped. Even if you started your "hands off" project with a fully unwound mainspring, the moving while opening the watch might have rewound the spring and a clean movement could well run for an hour or two. If you do not want to unload the mainspring via the click, then simply cover the open watch and wait.

  2. If you prefer the India Made handslifter (pantograph style), mount the movement into a movement holder. Make sure the movement sits reasonably tight but without squeezing any parts on the side of the movement.  I am very careful and do not want to leave marks on the movement by tightening the movement holder too firmly.

  3. My tutor actually introduced me to these pantograph style lifters. I had always used the PRESTO before. Consider covering the claws of the India Made lifter with protective tape or polish them with an Arkansas stone. The claws from the factory might have very sharp edges and scratch your (black and glossy) dials.
    The biggest advantage of the India Made lifter is, that one actually controls the lifting force while pulling its handle.

    Push down to open the claws. Position the prong on the cannon pinion and keep it there Hold the lifter steady on the cannon pinion with the left. Pull up with the right hand (or vice versa for lefties). Control your pull to avoid the hands flying off too fast

  4. If you are working on a chronograph or a watch with registers (sub dials), remove the plastic sheet and continue to lift off those smaller hands. If the register is recessed (which is quite often the case) then I found that there was not enough space to go under the small hands with the India Made lifter.
    I have always preferred to use the Chrono Wheel lifters (red pair in first picture) to lift off sub second and chrono hour and minute hands.

  5. The hands are off now and you place them in a safe container! Many hands have been cracked while laying on the workpad! I prefer to use RUBIS plastic tweezers for hands. Others might prefer brass tweezers. Be careful if you use steel tweezers, scratches on the side of the hands are quite visible. Especially for WIS that always seem to have a "loupe in their face".

 

B. Removing the hands with the PRESTO handslifter

  1. Place the protective sheet on the dial.

  2. Check the dial for the best location to place the two white feet of the PRESTO lifter. This is very important. You do not want to press down on any decoration on the dial, I even keep them away from writing. If the paint is old, it might crack under the pressure. And this is maybe the tricky part about using the PRESTO. Without practice it is fairly hard to keep the PRESTO with reasonable pressure on its feet while squeezing it to lift the hands. I think that the PRESTO handslifter have probably a too high spring power and I really sometimes wish my lifter would be softer. I do not know, but maybe there are different spring loads available. Turn the crown and align all hands. I assume here that your watch is not running and that you started the watch work while the mainspring was unwound. There is a way to unwind the mainspring, it requires a bit practice, find the description here. If that sounds too adventurous to you, why not simply brew a cup of coffee and browse PMWF for while until the watch has stopped. Even if you started your "hands off" project with a fully unwound mainspring, the moving while opening the watch might have rewound the spring and a clean movement could well run for an hour or two. If you do not want to unload the mainspring via the click, then simply cover the open watch and wait.

  3. The two pictures below will show you how to operate the PRESTO lifter:

    The PRESTO lifter is open with no pressure. Find the right position on the dial where it is safe to place those two white feet. Be careful not to scratch the dial, the steel claws are pretty sharp! A last note, since I took those pictures myself, I am holding the PRESTO with the left hand. Normally you would hold the movement or the movement holder with the left hand and the lifter with the right hand. And that in my opinion is also the beauty of using the PRESTO, the lifting is actually a single hand operation. The trick using the PRESTO opener is to hold it steadily while squeezing it. You do not want its white feet to press too hard on the dial. Careful, the characteristics of this openers is a sharp decline in spring force once the hands are pulled off the cannon pinion. Many dials have been scratched this way with the claws "carving" because the PRESTO lifter slipped after the hands were off.

     

  4. If you are working on a chronograph or a watch with registers (sub dials), remove the plastic sheet and continue to lift off those smaller hands. If the register is recessed (which is quite often the case) then I found that there was not enough space to go under the small hands with the India Made lifter.
    I have always preferred to use the Chrono Wheel lifters (red pair in first picture) to lift off sub second and chrono hour and minute hands.

  5. The hands are off now and you place them in a safe container! Many hands have been cracked while laying on the workpad! I prefer to use RUBIS plastic tweezers for hands. Others might prefer brass tweezers. Be careful if you use steel tweezers, scratches on the side of the hands are quite visible. Especially for WIS that always seem to have a "loupe in their face".

Remove the dial

  1. Put on Finger Cots now. Especially if you have a black and glossy dial, you do not want to leave prints. Also finger prints on the side of the movement or rotor can turn into hard to remove stains after the watch is closed. If you do not have finger cots handy, please be sure your hands are fat free. Wash them frequently with soap. Soap will bind the skin fat.

  2. Carefully turn the watch over and place it on the movement pad or a similar suited not too hard (you can make your own pad with a piece of leather) and clean surface.

  3. Locate the dial feet. Dials are usual held in place by dial feet, most of the time too sticks that fit into holes of the bottom plate and are secured by dial feet screws that normally feature an eccentric collar. Often you will find these dial feet levers:

    Example of ETA 2824 Dial Feet Levers

    I often use the chrono wheel lifters to push those levers back in. The levers will rotate inwards and the dial feet are free. Note: sometimes the dial feet are a bit bent and despite removed dial feet screws the dial will not budge. Please be careful now and use an appropriate flat tool (The chrono wheel lifters plastic tweezers - some simply use a small screw driver) to softly wiggle up the dial. Most of the time, this feel free the dial and it can be lifted off.
    Dials are mounted in a variety of ways. It would go far beyond the scope of this article to illustrate all the different ways dials are fixed to the movements. The list below might help to spot the dial feet or how the dial is mounted to the bottom plate.

  4. The dial is off now and you should be careful now: the hour wheel and that little spring that sits on the hour wheel and under the dial could fall off if you turn the watch around now without you noticing. Trust me, the red color is appropriate here. You will thank me for not having to go under the table again with your magnetic sweeper...

    The spring on the hour wheel just below the dial is so light, it can fly off while you hold the movement dial up and quickly walk to another work place. It happened to me when opening watches and taking movement shots and tried to use the last day light and quickly walked to the window... and of course, if you take the dial off and turn the watch over, these two parts will most likely fall off.

     

  5. Before you do anything else, take a picture from the bottom plate (like in the thumbnail just above). Again, trust me, you will be happy to have a visual comparison of how the setting mechanism or calendar mechanism looked when they were properly assembled.

  6. Now we are basically finished. Hands are off, dial is off and we can get a clear look now at the calendar mechanism (given of course the watch has a date) and the setting mechanism and keyless works (winding). Take my word for it, document every stage of your watch work. I have many times been very happy to go back to the PC and look at a high resolution picture to see how the calendar mechanism was assembled before I disassembled it. Calendar mechanism are always a bit tricky for the beginner (I count myself happily into that category with my very limited practical experience) but with the help of the pictures and a bit of mechanical imagination, you will be able to put that calendar mechanism back together.

    Keyless works and setting mechanism are far more straight forward in my opinion. You simply insert the crown and push and pull and will immediately see how the different levers and springs and wheels work together.

Putting the dial back on and install the hands

  1. Make sure the hour wheel and its spring sit in place.

  2. Locate the openings for the dial feet and put the dial back on (you are wearing finger cots and have clean fingers, right?).

  3. Turn the movement over and place it dial down on the movement pad.

  4. Tighten the dial feet screws or pull those dial feet levers out until the grip the dial feet properly.

  5. The dial is fixed now and we turn the watch dial up and place it onto the movement pad again. For Handwind watches, putting on the hands is fairly straight forward. Simply align hour hand and minute hand exactly to the full hour (any hour index will do to align them). Press them down firmly with your handsetting tool and at the end, install the second hand.

  6. Wind the crown and try to find the date change click as exactly as you can.

  7. Install the hour hand, but do not press it fully down yet.

  8. Check whether the hour hand is exactly at the 12 o'clock position for the date change.

  9. Mount the minute hand and check whether the date change is reasonably* close to 12 o'clock

    Date change accuracy - What is reasonable?
    For those that are doing this watch work now, try to remember how many times you complained on a watch forum about the date setting at 11:55 PM or 12:05 AM. Now I hope you will realize that a watch company is not able to have the date set at exactly 12:00 especially if the watch is inexpensive. It is simply impossible to achieve this accuracy with low price watches. Also if your watch has a black dial, you are probably not willing to take that minute and hour hand off again and again. The risk of scratch a black glossy dial will simply increase your tolerance for a little date changing inaccuracy.
    Trick
    Most calendar mechanisms will change the date if you go back to 16:00 hours or 4 PM and then move forward to midnight again instead of going 24 hours forward to check the proper date change position of the hands.

    If you are not satisfied, take off the minute hand, eventually also the hour hand and put on the hands again. Once you found a date change position that satisfies your need for date setting accuracy, you take the minute hand off and press the hour hand tightly down with the hand setting tool. It is very important to test and see whether the hour hand moves over the dial keeping a same distance to the dial and to have enough play to go over applied indices or sub registers.

  10. Mount the minute hand and press it firmly down with the handsetting tool. With some watches I found the opening in the Bergeon Handsetting tool (see tool overview picture) to small to allow to press the hands down. For those cases my "Stuttgarter Hof" ball pen with removed cartridge comes in very handy. Just please make sure that the opening of your plastic ball pen does not have any sharp edges, especially if you are dealing with gold-plated hands.

  11. Another red step: many people (including myself at the beginning) are so happy the hands are back with the date changing reasonably accurate that they forget to check whether hour and minute hand move freely over 12 hours. It is really annoying to close the watch just to find that the hour hand is pointing up and obstructing the minute hand or that the minute hand gets stuck on an applied index. Take your time here to check, it is a good investment. Opening the watch again and take the hands off again will take a lot longer.

  12. Mount the second hand. Here you will not have any positional problems, simply locate the pinion from the second wheel (I am always wearing a loupe doing this) and carefully place the second hand onto that pinion. I often use my plastic tweezers to align the second hand and position the opening of the hand tube. Then you can basically use the handsetting tool - the side with the small opening, that is why I marked mine with a red dot on one side - or any other suitable (not the ball pen, the opening could fold the second hand) pushing tool. Be of course extra careful with painted hands.

  13. Again, make sure the second hand moves freely over the minute hand. Note that if the minute hand is not mounted horizontally, the obstructing might take place at another minute location. Take your time to do these checks, it is worth it.

  14. Check the dial for dust and finger prints, use RODICO to remove them. I once blew out the luminous dot of a second hand trying to use my dust blower. Be careful, do not use the dust blower too close to the hands and with too much pressure.

  15. If your watch has sub registers, mount those hands now. Normally you would not use the handsetting tool for those tiny hands. I normally use plastic tweezers. I am sure everybody has there tricks here. Make sure that the small hands have enough play over the dial surface.

Wish you good luck with all your watch works. Simply remember, being stressed or trying to finish something under stress is not a good idea. I prefer to do watch work in the morning after I had enough sleep. Also drink a caffeine free coffee for breakfast. Being a bit too sleep is better for watch work then having caffeine jittering hands! Go slow and go far and fast or as the Italian saying goes "Chi va piano va sano e lontano" (who goes slow goes healthily and far) - this is very true for all watch works!