Waterproofing replicas part 1
I lost my old watch to a swimming incident – see the story here. I almost never take off my watch. I sleep with it, I shower with it, I swim with it. It is there. I feel naked without a watch. The previous one served me for 23 years. I wanted to procure another one that would last me for just as long or longer. I need it to be water resistant and reasonably rugged. I figured that going for an automatic watch would remove the hassle of changing the batteries every three or four years. Also the craftsmanship of these higher-end watches is just amazing. I cannot afford a Patek Phillipe, but I could go for sort of Rolex / Breitling / … category. I do not like Rolexes. It is a personal thing, for sure. I don’t think there is anything wrong with them, the craftsmanship is certainly exquisite. But I just associate them with a sort of gaudy bling. I could afford a used Submariner but I just don’t like them enough. I also really dislike the magnifying glass over the date window. I understand why it is there, I just don’t like it. A personal thing, as I said. So I decided a Breitling would be the way to go. They are steeped in tradition and have this ruggedness about them that I like. My requirements were: water resistance, automatic movement, date and, if possible, a day indicator. I would like the GMT hand (that is – a second time zone indicator), but all GMT Breitlings I could find were either too expensive for me or not water resistant enough.
I bought a nice Breitling SuperOcean (SO) and was quite content with it. It fulfills my requirements: water resistant to 500m, day and date display, automatic. It also has a chronograph which I could do without – I don’t much care about them. The previous watch had a stopwatch too, but I probably used it twice on purpose in 23 years I had it. But the only SO that had a day display also had a chronograph, so I figured, why not. My SO is quite cool and stylish at the same time. Certainly worth the investment.
I then started worrying – I am about to go to Brazil on a consulting gig and I just attended a Conference where Bob Arno presented his stuff. I saw him literally steal a shirt from someone’s back in front of a live audience! In that process he also ‘stole’ a large number of watches, to demonstrate how easy it is. And it seems very easy. Takes a few seconds. I noticed he only ‘stole’ the watches with a a buckle, not the ones with a steel strap or a deployment clasp. So at first I thought, well, as long as I have the steel bracelet I am fine, right? Right? So, I went and asked Bob. It turns out I was wrong. Watches on steel bracelets are also exceedingly easy to steal, but you need to break the bracelet lugs to do it. It is not hard, but mr. Arno does not do it in demonstration settings. I realised I was screwed. Well, I figured, I need a replica watch to wear while I am in Rio. It makes no sense to walk around with 5000 GBP strapped on my wrist in slightly shady places. So, I started looking into replica watches. I figured I do not have to buy another SuperOcean, I can buy whatever I pleased. I can actually go for a GMT watch, because replicas are pretty much the same price in the same category, regardless of what you pick.
The journey starts
I googled replica forums and to my astonishment discovered that this is a huge market with many message boards and millions of users. It was surprisingly difficult to find “reputable” replica sellers. I then found two sellers with good reputation among forum dwellers, went to their websites and looked around. I could go for anything I wanted, there are literally thousands of options.
I had to decide on a brand. I thought I wouldn’t go for a Breitling, I have a genuine SO already. I decided not to go for Rolex because that is just sad. If I don’t want the genuine, I certainly do not want the fake one. I excluded Patek Phillipe because the whole point of PP is that it is practically forever. It is something you hand down generation to generation. What would be the point of having a replica of an eternal watch that will die in a few years? Also, I would feel really fake wearing a PP replica. I cannot afford the genuine one. And even if I could, how could I justify it? They cost as much as a new luxury car. You could buy a house in rural Slovenia for the same amount of money. No, I did not want PP. And I excluded any of the boutique brands, or brands where the genuine watch would not cost a lot more than a replica (for example Nomos). So I came across Omega. I was not enchanted by their regular offerings. The speedmaster has a chronograph, meh. The Seamaster is kinda quirky. But the Planet Ocean series, that is very nice. And what is more, they have a GMT version. Hmm. That could work. In the end I ended up buying two watches in the space of a month from two different sellers. They are both Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT (PO GMT, for short) replicas of varying quality.
The first one I bought was quite cheap. It has a DG2813 movement (23 jewells, 21,000 bph). This particular movement was made by the Beijing Watch Factory (or so the seller claimed. No way for me to check). It keeps time well enough (-5s / day) and they cut some corners making it – the steel bracelet does not have screws but pins, the lugs are 22mm instead of 21mm (as in the original PO GMT), the crystal is mineral glass, not sapphire and the lume is sub-par. Still, it cost only $150 (compared to the genuine PO GMT which costs about $8000). I read about the movement and realised that you probably get what you pay for. So, I figured, why not get another, they are cheap anyway. As a spare, so to speak. I got to another reputable site (the first one did not have what I was looking for) and got a slightly more expensive replica with many perks.
The more expensive one has the ETA2836.2 GMT (26 jewells, 28,800 bph) movement inside. The seller has been very firm in claiming that this is an actual ETA movement, but I suspect it was not made in Switzerland, because almost none of the movements in replicas are. For those of you interested in this kind of thing, ETA is a Swiss manufacturer of movements. It is part of the Swatch group and produces about 5 million movements per year. Most swiss makers use their movements (Breitling for example used ETA movements until recently. Omega too). There are two issues, though. ETA is clamping down on selling their movements outside of the Swatch group and they want to know where their movements are going. They certainly would not like to put them in replicas that infringe the copyrights of ETA’s own partners. So, the Chinese have started making ‘perfect’ replicas of ETA movements. They are not perfect, really, but they are quite close. You can look at in-depth comparison here (The post is made by Christian Danneman a master watchmaker). So my ‘ETA’ is probably a Seagull , but it could be still quite well made. This replica also keeps adequate time (again, the timekeeper shows -5s / day), but that one is also a lot easier to adjust, which I will do soon. It has screws in the bracelet and sapphire crystal and is nicely lumed. Not as nicely as the genuine watch, but there are almost no watches that are as bright as genuine Omegas.
Both watches are nice for the price, and they have one function that I find very very useful for my use case – they have a GMT hand. Once I got them, I almost stopped wearing my Breitling. I have so many meetings with people from the States that I really need the GMT ability.
It is one of those things – once you start using it, you cannot imagine how to do without. I realised that I don’t need the Breitling after all, but I do need the PO GMT. So, I went and bought the genuine Planet Ocean and am selling the Breitling (see my listing on eBay).
In that way, I am solving many issues at the same time. I felt slightly uncomfortable wearing a replica and not having the genuine watch – In my head, I can rationalize wearing the replica in situations where the genuine should not be used, but only if I have the genuine watch. In that respect, I figure I am not defrauding Omega nearly as much, just protecting my investment. I mean, by law, I was in the clear before – The UK law prosecutes the sellers, but not the buyers of replicas. But now all is fine, I think. I still need to sell the Breitling, though :).
On a side-note. I do not know what people have been smoking, but there is absolutely no way one can mistake the PO GMT replica for a genuine one. Even by simply looking at the face. The crystal is brighter, the hands movement smoother on the gen. If you try to wind it, it becomes clear as day which is which (genuine is buttery smooth. You almost doubt you are winding it, whereas the DG2813 feels as if you are dragging something through broken glass). The bezel on the genuine is (a) liquid metal and (b) bidirectional which are both no-shows on the replica. Once you turn the case around it also becomes clear which is which. The markings of the Omega 8605 are there on replicas, but there is no mistaking things like the Silicon balance wheel and spring, etc. Also, mine keeps perfect time. 0 seconds gained or lost in the past six days. It is a marvel of engineering.
I still have a problem, though.
I am still going to Brazil in the (Brazillian) summer and I will probably do at least some swimming in the sea. The genuine watch is water resistant to ridiculous 60ATM (600m) meaning that I would probably be crushed by the oceanic pressure much sooner than my watch would be. But the replicas are about as water resistant as paper towels. So – I am going to Brazil where I will be swimming in the sea, but my genuine watch will be waiting for me at home. Hmm… The only solution: WATERPROOF ALL THE WATCHES!
What do I need to do? I need to do a bit of reading. Check. A very good guide is here.
I need to:
1. Seal the (front and back) crystals with G-S Glue.
2. Seal the Helium release valve with marine Epoxy (I don’t need the HeV and frankly neither does the 99.9% of the worlds population. If you are interested in what its purpose is, look here. As is usually the case, if you have to look it up, then you probably don’t need it).
3. Rub silicon grease on the crown and stem of the watch.
4. Immerse back basket in silicone.
5. Have it tested.
Off we go. I need the following:
- Case opener
- Marine epoxy
- G-S glue
- silicon grease
- silicon pad
- fine brushes
- pegwood sticks
- movement cushion
The DG2813 PO GMT Replica
Let’s start with the DG2813. Here is my workbench at the lab, with everything I need nicely arranged.
I first need to open the watch. I use the Jaxa wrench, displayed on the right in the picture above. The back comes off easily enough. And sure enough the gasket is completely dry.
I remove the gasket with tweezers and put it into silicone grease to soak. I remove the rotor, the stem and the little screws holding the movement in place.
I then realise that I have no idea how to remove the movement. It usually just pops out in the videos I’ve seen. Not here, though. Hmm. I attempt to pry it out, but to no avail. I do not want to use too much force. I then google disassembly of DG2813 but find very unhelpful posts (mostly with the movement already out). I google disassembly of replica watches, but cannot find any that show my particular model. I am stuck. Oh well, I figure, I will not glue the front glass, hoping that it is already tight enough and that I will fill the HeV with movement in place. If testing shows that the watch is not water tight, I will have another go at removing the movement.
I mix the marine epoxy.
I prepare the watch by putting sellotape over the movement, being careful not to touch any moving parts. Let me be clear – if this didn’t cost less than a hundred Euros, I would be more careful, but I figure, why not, even if I break it, I have a spare replica. I would not dream of doing that to a genuine watch, but then again the genuine does not need this treatment anyway and also has a 5-year warranty, so if anything happens to the gen, I am straight to the Omega service centre.
I use a bamboo stick to fill the HeV with epoxy with the valve unscrewed. Then, I screw it back in and remove the excess epoxy before it hardens. I remove the tape and end up with a nicely filled hole with not too much epoxy residue.
I need to clean up the epoxy that is stuck in the gasket groove. I use the pegwood sticks for that and after it is almost clean, I use the little watchmakers brushes. I then grease the groove with Silicone and put silicone grease into the stem tunnel. Here is a photo of the epoxy seal from a different angle and the grooves are nicely greased.
I then turn to the display glass in the back, which I can seal with the g-s glue. I apply the glue with a needle applicator, but it still flows a little too freely. You can see the residue on the glass and a little spiderweb tendril of glue crossing it.
I then greased the crown and the o-ring in the crown with silicone grease…
…inserted it back into the movement, re-attached the rotor, and took the gasket from the silicone bath and put it into the groove.
And screwed the back back on.
I checked whether the stem is sitting nicely and whether it still works (it seems that many people are too forceful with the clutch holding the stem in place and they disrupt the winding or the date mechanism when they take the stem out. Luckily that was not a problem for me. Everything still works.
The only thing still needed is to take the watch to the watchmaker to test for water resistance.
UPDATE 1. Next day, I went to a local watchmakers. They first said that they do not have the equipment to test to 600m. I assured them that 10ATM / 100m would do nicely. It passed! The watch is resistant to 100m, which means I can go swimming with it. Yay!
UPDATE 2. I searched for a while on how to remove the movement from the case. It turns out I was almost there. You need to remove the three screws, but also the three oblong washers and then the movement falls out. To see what I am talking about, check this thread on replica-watch.info.
In the next post, I will do the same for the ETA2836-2 replica. Stay tuned.