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Thread: Making my vintage Amphibia dive proof.

  1. #1
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    Making my vintage Amphibia dive proof.

    I've decided to put the fabled Amphibia design to the test and see if I could get my vintage version through a pressure test so I could take it swimming. I'm not sure of the age but it has a 17J movement and CCCP on the dial so 70s or early 80s?

    First step was to dismantle it and look at the seals and the state of the surfaces on the caseback and case, as I know corrosion here can be as dangerous as a faulty seal.



    Overall not too bad, the seal seems undamaged and the marks on the case and caseback surfaces look like they would clean off without leaving pitting. The o-ring in the crown looks OK.

    The bad news comes with the crystal, which just pops out. Turns out it is clearly a cosmetic replacement only, being only 0.75mm thick whereas the proper ones are 3mm I think. Researching the forum I found some sources for the crystal, including this one:

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/120701622670

    I have read about the metal ring for the crystal. I don't know whether I need one or not - any advice welcome. I've also read about using 'special glue' for the crystal, although I have watched one being press-fitted on YouTube. Again, advice appreciated. I don't have a press but I could take it to a local watchmaker to fit if it is simple.

    I'll probably order the crystal shortly and then post here with how I get on. Comments or guidance would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Not a clue mate but by the angles on the case that looks like an old Soviet albatross model? Might be worth confirming that a new crystal actually fits the case. I'd be surprised if it does.

    I'd be interested in your results when you get it put together though.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by howie77 View Post
    Not a clue mate but by the angles on the case that looks like an old Soviet albatross model? Might be worth confirming that a new crystal actually fits the case. I'd be surprised if it does.

    I'd be interested in your results if you get up it put together though.
    Thanks, very helpful (sounds like you have more of a clue than me :) ).

    Off to look up Albatross Vostoks.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by alfat33 View Post
    Thanks, very helpful (sounds like you have more of a clue than me :) ).

    Off to look up Albatross Vostoks.
    Not sure about that! I once had a pair of nice old stock USSR models using the case, same 17 jewel manual wind, sold them off when I lost interest in it all though.

    I'll try and find the pics.

    WUS Russian forum would be worth a search?

  5. #5
    Found them, these were mine. Wonder what happened to them.








  6. #6
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    Thanks, they look great. Googling around I couldn't be sure if this case shape is what makes the watch an Albatros, but I can see from yours it is. I saw some still had Amphibia dials, like this one which is cited as an Albatros (and mine).





    Does that mean these have got replacement dials, or just that some had Amphibia dials when new?

  7. #7
    Grand Master
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    Alfat, I have plenty of metal rimmed crystals in stock, if you can't find one just let me know diameter/ height I might be able to help.


    mike

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    Alfat, I have plenty of metal rimmed crystals in stock, if you can't find one just let me know diameter/ height I might be able to help.


    mike
    Thanks Mike, that's brilliant of you. I'll measure up my case in the next few days now that Howie has pointed me in the right direction.

    I gather you know a bit about diving but it's a well kept secret ;).

  9. #9
    Master Lampoc's Avatar
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    "Albatros" was just a name used on some of the dials instead of the more common Amphibia. All Vostok Amphibia cases are categorised by a 3 digit prefix - yours being either a 470 (brushed finished) or the identical 320 (polished).

    You should use a proper Amphibia crystal as it's been designed to flex at pressure and increase the seal at the same time. The crystals are universal between all Amphibias and you can pick up new seals, crystals and tension rings at Meranom.com for about 10.

    My favourite Vostok by the way - here's some (I actually have a few more) of my current 470/320 collection:

    Last edited by Lampoc; 24th July 2017 at 21:42.

  10. #10
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    Thanks Lampoc. That's a nice collection. I recognise a couple very similar to mine. As well as the history and the case shape, the very thin bezel appealed to me as well. Mind you, I've only just realised that my dial has neither Albatros nor Amphibia printed on it, only Antimagnetic and Made in USSR (and Vostok).

    I've seen the crystal and seal pack on Meranom, thanks. I think I need some silicone grease as well. While I'm waiting for all that to arrive I'll see if I can clean up the case carefully.

  11. #11
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    Best way to measure the crystal is with a digital vernier caliper. If yours has shrunk fractionally it'll obviously read a tad low, but they're suppled in variations of 0.1mm so it'll give you guidance for what to buy. I usually by two and find which one fits best, acrylic crystals are quite cheap and I always end up using the spare eventually.

    If I`ve understood correctly you need to determine whether the original had a tension ring or not. I`d expect a dive watch to have a tension ring but I could be wrong, I`ve no experience with these watches.

    If mike can sort you out with a crystal that's great, but if you have to buy I suggest having a look at what Cousins stock. For a diver it needs to be a thick one, I know they do a range of thicker crystals but I think they all have tension rings. If you're watch definitely didn`t have a tension ring crystal it may be possible to buy a bigger size and remove the tension ring.........you're into the realms of fannying around at this stage.

    As for the pitting, hopefully the seal will compress against it and get a seal. If not, a tiny bead of blue hylomar can be used to good effect, but if the sealing's compromised you may have problems getting the desired WR. When I've used tricks like these it's to get minimal WR on an old waterproof dress watch, obviously a diver will be more challenging.

    I don`t know whether it's possible to get a new seal, or whether Cousins have anything generic that may work.......good luck!

    Brendan Hoey may be able to offer advice if you're still struggling.

    Paul

    Edit: Just seen above post, crystal + seal kit's way to go.....beats fannying about!
    Last edited by walkerwek1958; 25th July 2017 at 13:12.

  12. #12
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    Thanks Paul, kind of you to post so comprehensively. I have a digital calliper but I can't measure the original crystal as it is completely the wrong one and practically fell out. That said, if they are all standard I should be OK, but I'll measure the aperture in the case first just to be sure, before ordering from Meranom (as they seem to be the only people who include the tension ring).

    Does the tension ring go inside the crystal? Before or after it is pressed in? From what I've read all of the Amphibias use the tension ring.

    As for seals, the back seems very straightforward and the kit also includes an o-ring for the crown and a couple of other small seals that I haven't figured out yet. I still can't quite believe that the crystal will seal against the case without any other sealing required. I know the Amphibia model of sealing increasing with pressure, but I'm thinking that at 1 ATM, the slightest gap between case and crystal will allow water to seep in. I guess it comes down to fitting the crystal properly to a very clean case.

    I appreciate all of you being patient with my DIY efforts.

  13. #13
    Master Lampoc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alfat33 View Post
    Thanks Paul, kind of you to post so comprehensively. I have a digital calliper but I can't measure the original crystal as it is completely the wrong one and practically fell out. That said, if they are all standard I should be OK, but I'll measure the aperture in the case first just to be sure, before ordering from Meranom (as they seem to be the only people who include the tension ring).

    Does the tension ring go inside the crystal? Before or after it is pressed in? From what I've read all of the Amphibias use the tension ring.

    As for seals, the back seems very straightforward and the kit also includes an o-ring for the crown and a couple of other small seals that I haven't figured out yet. I still can't quite believe that the crystal will seal against the case without any other sealing required. I know the Amphibia model of sealing increasing with pressure, but I'm thinking that at 1 ATM, the slightest gap between case and crystal will allow water to seep in. I guess it comes down to fitting the crystal properly to a very clean case.

    I appreciate all of you being patient with my DIY efforts.
    Yes, tension ring goes inside the crystal before it is pressed in - and these crystals take quite a bit of pressing, especially on the older models. I believe one of the gaskets goes inside the crown tube as a dust barrier but is only used on older models. The others are obviously for the crown/caseback.

    I have loads of Amphibia spares right now - I'd be happy to send you all the brand new bits you need and you can pay once you're happy they all fit. I'll even chuck in some silicon grease :D

  14. #14
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    Provided the crystal is a tight fit, and the surrounding metal is clean and smooth, the plastic crystal will form a watertight seal. As pressure increases the domed crystal is forced against the watch case.

    You'll need some type of press to get the crystal into the case, if it goes in using thumb pressure it's unlikely to be tight enough.........unless you've got extremely strong thumbs!

    Paul

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lampoc View Post
    I have loads of Amphibia spares right now - I'd be happy to send you all the brand new bits you need and you can pay once you're happy they all fit. I'll even chuck in some silicon grease :D
    Hi Lampoc, that is very kind of you and I think I will take you up on your offer as long as you let me pay up front. And I already have some grease on the way :). I'll PM you tomorrow. Thanks again.

  16. #16
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    I thought I'd better get the case properly cleaned up. Closer inspection shows that there is actually some corrosion where the caseback seal goes, near the locating slot for the caseback.



    I can't really leave this as is, but I don't want to change the case (cheating) or pay for it to be laser welded etc. (I've spent enough recently on repairs worth more than the watch). I might fill it with some waterproof resin/superglue stuff I have, to give the seal and grease a flat surface to act on. It depends whether I'm going to try for a 200m pressure test, or just to use it for swimming once in a while.

    I guess this shows that at least the watch was probably used in salt water in the past, but perhaps not regularly regreased/resealed. It also shows a slight design flaw in that the locating slots on both sides are prone to let a bit of water under the edge of the seal. Being a wide seal it has stopped any damage to the movement, but allowed this corrosion over time.

    Lampoc has kindly dispatched a crystal and some seals, which I'll pick up tomorrow. He generously only wanted a fundraiser donation in return which I've made and matched (thanks James - top man).

  17. #17
    Grand Master
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    Try to get a seal first, if it works all good, if not clean out the corrosion and dap a bit of liquid steel in there and flat it off.

    dont forget the seal is rubber/nitrile, they are very accommodating.


    mike

  18. #18
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    Thanks Mike, I will give that a try.

    I just googled liquid steel and came up with 2 different products. One would fill in the corrosion nicely. I think the other would probably make the local mermaids sit up and take notice when I swim by - I'll try not to order the wrong one.

  19. #19
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    A quick update, only to say that I am waiting for a crystal press now. Won't get it until Monday :(. Haven't given up though.

  20. #20
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    The crystal press arrived, and with some advice from Lampoc and a YouTube video I managed to fit the crystal back into the case very simply in the end. The metal tension ring is flat until you click it into place in the crystal. Once the crystal is pressed in, the ring flexes in on itself to tension the crystal from the inside.



    Doesn't that crystal look nice?



    Now for a test - I put the crown and case back seals in place with a little silicon grease, but not the movement, tightened everything up and dropped it in a glass of room temperature water.



    An hour later I fished it out, dried it off and everything looks fine - no condensation or any other sign of water coming in. Next step is to put the movement back in and decide if I'm going to pressure test it, but for now I'm feeling quite pleased.

  21. #21
    Master Lampoc's Avatar
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    Looking good! Are you going to risk 50 bar again? ;)

  22. #22
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    Not 50 or 85! Maybe 10 :)

    I've fully reassembled it now. Looking much nicer, I hadn't appreciated how much the bigger domed crystal would improve the appearance. On the minus side - 3 attempts so far to remove all the dust on the dial, a little better every time.



    I'll drop it back in the water, at least I can rescue it if there is a problem.

  23. #23
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    Nice job, well done!

    mike

  24. #24
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    Well it passed another 30 minute dunk test. Time to treat myself to a decent strap - maybe a vintage style Tropic like this one:

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/132288595886

    Thanks again to all on the thread who helped. It's a real testament to the designer and makers of these watches that a crystal fitted to a 40 year old case by an amateur like me can give any water resistance at all.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by seadog1408 View Post
    Nice job, well done!

    mike
    Thanks Mike, I really appreciate your help.

  26. #26
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    Well I had to finish the job and treat it to a new strap.


  27. #27
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    Making my vintage Amphibia dive proof.

    I've discovered that I managed to magnetise the b****** while doing all this (gaining 3 minutes a day and deflecting my iPhone compass) . Off to eBay for the worlds cheapest and most badly made Tianjiu demagnetiser. Thankfully there is a very good YouTube video explaining what to do with it, with some good tips. It's not just a 'look inside', the title is misleading.

    https://youtu.be/81Vuhe-ytz4

    Now demagnetised (doesn't deflect compass) and I'm checking the timing. One week away from jumping in the sea with it.

  28. #28
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    Just to finish the story for anyone who is interested.





    My underwater photography isn't up to much but at least I know the watch is good down to 3m.

    Thanks again to all who helped.

  29. #29
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    Congratulations and well done.

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