Friday, June 19, 2009

Back from the Dead

My wonderful wife gave me an antique pocket watch this past Christmas. It is a Waltham model 1857, manufactured in 1872. Waltham was the premier American watch manufacturer at the time, and the model 1857 was the finest grade of its day. It is a massive size 18, key-wind and key-set, with 17 jewels. The pictures speak for themselves:




I have always been fascinated with pocket watches, and the tiny mechanical wonders which make them run. My watch ran for a brief period, but stopped one day and would not start again. I had it cleaned and lubricated by a local jeweler who specializes in antique watch repair. After a week under his care, my watch once again ran perfectly, the tiny flywheel spinning like mad and the escapement making the beautiful ticking sound absent in any modern timepiece.

In late April, my family went to Chesapeake to visit Mrs. Polymath's family at her brother's house. They have a large pool in the back yard. Number 1 son, not heeding his non-swimsuited father's admonition to stay away from the deep end (and especially the diving board), could not wait for the rest of the family. His six-year-old brain decided its desire to jump in alone was greater than any notion of punishment or perception of danger. The water was cold and over his head. The former lifeguard in me thought in an instant "reach-throw-row-go!" There was no pole or rope, so I ran over to the ladder on the side. Getting my shoes wet standing on the topmost rung and leaning out as far as possible, I was a few inches short of reaching him. I could see in his eyes that he was panicking. I had no choice but to jump in and grab him.

He was fine, and I would gladly sacrifice anything to protect his life. I did not think about it at the time, but I had my watch, cell phone, wallet, etc. in my pockets. The wallet was fine after a little drying. The phone was fried. My watch was still running. I immediately opened its case front and back, the crystal, and the cover over the "works." I tried to get as much of the water out of it as possible, and set it in the sun to dry.

Eventually, the watch slowed and finally stopped. I returned to the jeweler's, sure that it was ruined. He said it was repairable, but would take a long time in order to disassemble and clean all the tiny parts. He also mentioned that the hairspring may break, and finding a new one would be difficult because of the watch's age.

The hairspring did not break. My watch was repaired, and has been keeping good time for the two and a half days I have had it back. I will never again take it anywhere near a swimming pool!

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