Everything You Need to Know Before Oiling your Seiko Watch
If you want to learn more about best practices for dismantling, cleaning, and reassembling a watch, you are in the right place. This is intended to be a guide that will be helpful for Seiko modding beginners.
It is our utmost advice that you take the time to obtain the essential tools and set up a suitable space to do any of the work we describe below.
Not only for better results, it's a matter of enjoying the activity and avoiding unnecessary hassle from awkward unforeseen situations.
Why and When do you Need to Oil a Watch?
In the past, purely animal and vegetable oil was used to lubricate watch movements.
You may have heard or maybe experienced a smell of fish when opening an old wrist or pocket watch, this is because they used to use whale sperm as a lubricant. Though it really worked well considering the resources at the time, organic lubricants would gum up with time.
This stuff was used to oil guns, sewing machines, and of course, watches. Source: Wikipedia
Today the norm is to utilize synthetic oils that don't gum up at all, but dry up and evaporate once it reaches end-of-life. So, we must pay attention since this dehydration may cause too much friction between the many moving parts in a watch, causing metal shearing and gunk to build up.
When is it time to lubricate?
A mechanical watch is by definition numerous parts connected to one another, and this mechanical action naturally generates friction. By using lubrication, the rubbing parts function with less friction and extends its lifespan – much like what oiling a car engine does.
Oiling is something essential for car engines and watch movements. Source: Machinery Lubrication
The typical symptoms of a Seiko diver watch that indicate it needs to be oiled is running slow and falling accuracy. Also, a watch with dried up or no oil will function with its rubbing parts building dirt and causing the metal to shear.
By opening the case to access the movement, you can observe the dry and crusty jewels with traces of old oil with dirt as well as worn metal plates and other pieces.
All Seiko divers or similarly respected timepieces have scheduled service intervals, and it is then when oiling is typically done.
Preventive maintenance is better than having to fix a damaged watch. Source: Yeoman Seiko
If you bought a used watch or are unsure of when the last service was completed, we suggest you get your watch overhauled for it to work at its best as you wear it. The watch gets completely dis-assembled, cleaned and lubricated with new oil following the manufacturers specifications.
Of course, if an overhaul is not possible, or you dislike the idea, a simple DIY oiling is another option. This ‘quick fix’ may help if what you want is to mainly keep track of time – possibly dismissing additional features, such as the day/date and timer.
It's unwise to lubricate your watch if it is not properly cleaned before the oiling.
Whether it's a complete disassembling or a superficial lubrication, it is important to thoroughly clean a watch to eliminate trapped dirt and debris PRIOR to any new oil being applied. The cleaning process prevents the new oil from spreading around the movement and making the watch run poorly.
Which oils to use
We also strongly suggest you get the right oils for the job.
Even if good quality oils seem expensive, it is far more expensive to have the watch functioning poorly or needing to re-do the service too soon. Check the Seiko modding guide or the manufacturer’s technical guide to learn which one to use and how much.
Always double check the date! Source: No BS Watchmaker
Oils have expiration dates, so double check these dates when buying. It is key to check the expiration date of lubricants when buying since these lose effectiveness with time and shortens the service cycle.
General maintenance and oiling your watch is serious work.
You will need secure and steady hands to access oiling parts that require 50X magnification to be handled correctly. Making mistakes on the procedures, the tools, and/or the lubricant chosen could mean the difference between a couple years service cycle versus an eight year or more service cycle.
The Most Commonly Used Oils
Currently there are several types and brands of lubricants in the market, and each manufacturer use different categorizations, yet these are the four most adopted brands by the watch industry:
MOEBIUS 9010 – This is the light synthetic oil most commonly used in the industry. For both high speed and low torque/pressure areas, its also applied to balance cap jewels, train gear, pivots, pallet jewels, escape wheel, and seconds wheel.
Source: Eternal Tools
HP 1000 or HP 1300 – (AKA Moebius 9104) where HP stands for High Pressure, this lubricant is a heavy synthetic oil. It is commonly used for low speed areas with high pressure/torque. The HP 1000/1300 is commonly used to lubricate the center wheel, third wheel, barrel arbors and oscillating weight.
KLUBER P125 – A very thick lubricant, like a breaking grease, is used to lubricate the mainspring barrel in automatic and manual wind watches.
MOEBIUS 8200 – The lubricant of choice for setting systems of older watches, this thick lubricant is like a greasy paste that is usually applied onto the entire length of the mainspring.
Some Preparations for the Task
Workspace: Provide yourself a clean, illuminated, flat surface to work upon. For Seiko modding beginners, the kitchen table will do just fine. A good tip is to lay down on the table surface a fine piece of white fabric (like a plain white bed sheet) to do your work on. This cloth surface prevents parts from bouncing away and becoming lost, and allows the tiny screws and other minimal pieces to be seen easily.
Source: Nathan Goodrich, 4:44PM
Screw-driver set: A good set of watchmakers’ screwdrivers is crucial. Can't do any watch maintenance without these. We recommend you buy a set of official watchmakers’ screwdrivers, even a beginners set, since these end up being much better than non-specific ones. These tools are designed to be held with three fingers to turn the screw in a precise and clean manner.
Parts Tray: To avoid the bad habit of placing parts on the table or bench, risking to lose something, we strongly recommend utilizing an inexpensive compartmented box or tray found in department stores.
But you can also use an empty egg carton, or the fridge’s ice tray to place the parts in order from left to right as you disassemble the watch. This way, you can just go in reverse order to reassemble knowing the order of the parts. Numbering the egg or ice cube compartments is a good tip too.
Best for eggs, and watch parts.
Tweezers: Trying to handle or remove small part without using tweezers is almost impossible. Tweezers are easily found at department stores, but we suggest you get yourself a good set of official watchmakers’ tweezers.
Oilers: You can find common oilers in any watch supply and spare parts store. These are simple gadgets that get the job done. Precision-tip oilers have a curved and shaped tip to dispense a specific amount of lubricant in precise spots.
A good practice is to clean the oiler tips with Rodico spongy/foam between uses.
Some Tools You'll Need
Bezel Opener Tool
A great Seiko mods tool to remove and change the bezel of your watch. Fits comfortably in your hand, giving you more leverage as you slot the blade between the bezel and case.
Bergeon 6033 Rodico Cleaning Putty
Got a fingerprint on your dial? Need to lift those tiny watch hands? Remove excess oil? Clean stains? Rodico 6033 is a special cleaning putty essential for any watchmaker.
Bergeon 7024 Anti Magnetic Tweezers:
The Bergeon 7024 tweezers made in Switzerland are high quality, professional stainless steel tweezers that are non-magnetic (i.e safe to work around movements). An essential part of any watch modder's toolkit.
Parts of the Watch that Need to be Oiled
Every part of the watch where you see a jewel is a place needing to be oiled because of its friction with a wheel or gear pivot running through it.
The most critical components of your watch that need regular oiling for a proper watch function are the escape wheel, the balance staff, and the pallet fork. But nevertheless, some surfaces of your watch should not have any contact with any oil to avoid malfunction.
Parts of a watch movement. Source: Britannica
More specifically, it would be critical that the gears and the hairsprings stay clean of any oil, otherwise these need to be removed and cleaned, or even replaced.
To re-oil Mainsprings, first clean using a cloth and then apply oil to the length of the mainspring. Also the jewels of the Oscillating Weight must be lubricated as well. Finally, the clutch gets oiled by lubricating both the flat side of the steam and the clutch’s ending tip.
Overall, the general rule is:
On high-speed low torque wheels - USE MOEBIUS 9010
On low-speed high torque wheels- USE HP 1300
And if it's metal on metal (like a setting system) – USE HP 1300
Watch Service & Maintenance Best Practices
These days, watches are greased with synthetic oil, which does not gum up like natural oils do. When synthetic oil reaches the end of its useful life, it simply evaporates.
Epilame is a product that can assist you keep the oil where you want it. It's frequently utilized on high-speed locations like the escape wheel and pallet for jewels, as well as the balance cap jewels.
Even if it's not considered an oil or a lubricant, the FIXODROP EPILAME is a substance used to change the surface tension on a part, so that the oil doesn't run off or spread.
Epilame - keeps oil where it needs to be. Source: HS Walsh
Epilame is usually worn over the escape wheel, the pallet fork jewels/stones, over the tip of the seconds wheel, on the cap jewels, and finally over the reverser wheels.
We strongly suggest studying the Manufacturer’s documents as a great resource for proper timepiece maintenance.
Lubrication should not be anywhere else other than inside the cup, where the pivot is. Any oil spilled outside the cup will cause lubrication to unwantedly spread to other parts, and build up dirt.
You’d rather go for consistent renewal of small quantities of oil, than inconsistent applications of large amounts of oil.
Try to avoid contaminating the oil in its original bottle by miss-manipulation, for this you need to be very neat handling the oilers and the bottle lid.
Be aware of the expiration date when you are purchasing oil.
The specific design of mechanical watch movements demands the use of lubricants to diminish the erosion of the moving parts that makes them wear out.
There are more than 50 points of contact that should be oiled in a common wrist watch and the more complexities on the watch, the more parts that need lubrication.
With this Seiko modding guide, you will know more about how to clean and oil a watch. Seiko modding for beginners can be a lot of fun, if you have the correct information.
Similarly, as any mechanical car engine needs an oil change, mechanical watches need regular lubrication and cleaning, as well as a programmed complete oil change or "overhaul" as watchmakers call it.
It is important not to over or under lubricate a watch, to avoid trouble ahead. We suggest consulting the manufacturer’s technical papers to learn the specific lubricating requirements of your watch.
For some of the best Seiko mod parts out there, have a look at our website. We have Seiko mod tools for almost any Seiko diver, and loads more!