Blancpain Calibre R540 9ct dress watch Service & Restoration

This week I decided to feature the restoration of this Blancpain Calibre R540 watch. I could not resist a “before and after” shot in the introduction, but the transformation on this watch is far from being just cosmetic. As you will see there was quite a lot of work required to bring the watch up to a fine condition. It has been a very interesting project, and it has been a pleasure to work on a vintage piece by such a prestigious manufacturer in the history of horology.

Blancpain Calibre R540 Service

Before I commence the restoration, I place the watch on my timegrapher, to get an idea of what I will be up against. The watch is running, which is a good sign, but the inconsistent trace on the screen shows the watch is not running correctly and will definitely need some work.

Also, as I wind the watch, I noticed that the crown is slipping after a few turns, so the watch cannot be fully wound. This will need to be addressed.

I open the case, and here it is, Blancpain’s Calibre R540, which was adjusted in 3 positions out of the factory. This movement layout looked familiar to me, it is because it is based on an ebauche by ETA. This is good news as you will see later in the service that a number of parts will require replacement.Blancpain-Calibre-R540

 

 

The case back shows the stamp of British Case maker Dennison. The case is 9ct gold, and the caseback bears the UK hallmark of the Birmingham Assay Office , as well as some engraved “signature” marks left by at least two watchmakers who worked on this watch in the past.

 

 

The case back shows the stamp of British Case maker Dennison. The case is 9ct gold, and the caseback bears the UK hallmark of the Birmingham Assay Office , as well as some engraved “signature” marks left by at least two watchmakers who worked on this watch in the past.

I then remove the movement from the case. The dial is in poor condition, and I will not be able to clean it up to a good standard because of the significant damage. A lot of grime, pitting, inconsistent discoloration, and look at the 9 marker… it must have fallen in the past, and has been glued up on the dial very badly.

I want to restore this watch to the best possible condition, so on this occasion I opted to send the dial to a highly regarded dial restoration specialist for a refurbishment.

In the meantime, I can press on with the service and sorting out the mechanical issues with the watch.

I start with the dial side of the movement.

I disassemble the hour and minute wheels and the setting wheel.

And I progress with disassembly of the keyless work.

After inspection of the components below, I find several issues.

The winding pinion is very worn, which explains the “slipping” sensation experienced when winding the watch. Thankfully, I have a spare in much better condition in my parts box from an old ETA movement, so after cleaning it will solve this issue.

There is a lot of oxidation on the setting lever and its screw. This also needs to be addressed.

I proceed with the removal of the rust and polishing of the parts.

With these snags suitably taken care of, this completes the disassembly of the dial side of the movement.

I now move on to the other side, starting by removing the balance wheel and balance cock assembly.

I proceed with the removal of the ratchet wheel, crown wheel, barrel bridge and train bridge. As I remove the wheels one by one, another issue comes to the surface: there is significant damage on one of the spokes of the 4th wheel, no wonder the watch was not running very well.

Thankfully, it is easy to address this issue on this occasion with a spare wheel from my parts box from a compatible ETA movement.

So quite a few issues, but no show stoppers, and here we are now with the movement fully stripped.Calibre-R540-disassembled

And the parts after an ultrasonic clean, ready for assembly.

I start by assembling the barrel, mainspring and barrel arbor.

I then lubricate the balance cap jewels, I like to get both sides done first before proceeding with the assembly of the movement. The little pink dot you see beside the movement is the cap jewel located in its setting (chaton) after lubrication.

I then re-assemble the keyless work.

And move on to the other side of the movement to build the train.

I assemble the barrel, and all the train wheels and their respective bridges. It is at this point that I encounter another issue. At this stage, a slight pressure on the barrel should make the train go very freely, but in this case it feels very tight. I proceed to checking the endshake (the play for want of a better word) of all the wheels of the train. They are all good except on the fourth wheel which is a little tight.

I use my jewelling tool to move the 4th wheel jewel on the train bridge. We are talking in the order of a couple of a hundreds of a millimetre here.

And after adjusting the height of the jewel I am now very happy with the endshake on the 4th wheel, and the train moves freely as I would expect, so I proceed with the lubrication of the train.

I then assemble the escapement and the ratchet and intermediate wheels. We now have a running movement, and it is running very well indeed, with good amplitude, and small positional error. At this stage I proceed with a coarse regulation of the rate (I will fine tune later once the watch is fully assembled in its case and has been running for some time).

I now come back to the dial side to finish the assembly of the movement with the cannon pinion and minute wheel, and their bridge (not on the photo).
With the movement now serviced and running very well, I turn my attention to the case. It is not in bad condition, but there are some light scratches which I decide to polish. As I said before, my objective on this restoration is to bring the watch back to an excellent standard.

 

So after some polishing, and an ultrasonic clean of the polished parts…

 

 

 

 

We have a much improved appearance for the case. This is a macro shot of the same lug as above after polishing.

 

 

 

 

 

I then polish the crystal, and place the project on hold for a couple of days until I receive the restore dial.

 

 

 

And a couple of days later, the restored dial is delivered. What a transformation, they have done an outstanding job in my opinion.

 

 

The quality of the print is excellent.

 

 

 

And the nasty 9’o clock marker is looking very smart indeed!

 

 

So I can now complete this project, my last intervention is the replacement of the movement clamps and screw (there was only one in there, two are required).

 

 

The beautiful restored dial is installed, and the original hands are carefully fitted.

And this is the completed project, I think it looks absolutely stunning. It has been a real delight to work on this watch and return it to its former glory.

 

 

 

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