This page is dedicated to keeping a live record/plan of the steps required to built a custom watch. The exact amount of customization is not set, right now the focus will be on the watch case. After that, perhaps I can move to modifying the movement bridges.
My first custom watch was a ETA 6498 with most of the other components from Ofrei. It’s only custom as much as it is one of a kind. There was zero machining and not a style that I had much influence over. This time will be different, but the 6498/97 is still my movement of choice for simplicity.
I went on eBay and picked up two 6498 equivalent movements from old pocket watches. I also got something a little different – a Gruen Veri-thin. This 15 jewel movement is thinner and very well finished. I think it will be a good one for a future build when I have more confidence.
Here are the 3 movements, arranged in my perceived level of decoration.
I originally measured the movement’s dimensions with a digital caliper, but realized that I could also just grab a drawing from the internet. So… That was easy.
My sketchbook is full of different case designs, many of them too complex for me to construct. Knowing that I will be working with simple tools, I started to condense some of my better ideas into a feasible design.
First things first, the size of the watch is the most noted aspect. For such a large movement, the case will have to match the heft. When I think about popular large watch cases, I think the Panerai Radiomir, the Bell & Ross Altimeter, or the U-Boat… U-Boat. The Radiomir design was actually based on a pocket watch so at one point it housed a decorated 6497. For that reason, there are still tons of homage watches using that design. There’s no point copying a copy! The U-boat is just too clunky, though I wouldn’t mind building one eventually. That just leaves the Bell & Ross Altimeter design. It’s perfectly suited to the large movement.
The Altimeter design really simplifies the case construction. The four screw bolts won’t be just decoration; they will be the actual case screws. Four screws may not be ideal for a good tight seal, but I don’t think I will be subjecting my first custom watch to a lot of water. The original Bell & Ross design is a top loader. The case is a box with the face bezel as the lid. This creates a very streamlined design, but not without its issues. First, the case would need a way to access the stem release screw on the movement, hence the novel “do not unscrew” screw on the Bell & Ross case back. Second, for me to create this design