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Fortis B-42 GMT Automatic - Rebirthing

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bdnica

Usually over the holidays the wife gets dressed up, we go to parties, drink too much, eat great food, overspend and otherwise follow the 'seek pleasure-avoid pain' approach to life.    This year I've decided to do something meaningless and frivolous instead.  

About 15 years ago I bought a Fortis B-42 GMT Automatic (Ref. 650-10-12).  I was in the middle of a project that was going well and felt a small reward was due.  Wanted something solid that could withstand some abuse as the project required some physical interaction in addition to 'provide oversight, guidance and direction' (i.e. there was actual work involved).  It also had to have a GMT complication due to frequent and ongoing travel to multiple destinations.  Finally, it had to be no more than $2k.  That was about the spending limit for 'personal equipment required' without drawing undue scrutiny from our investors.   

I ultimately ordered a Fortis B-42 GMT Automatic.  It hit all the high notes:  solid Swiss ETA 2893-2 movement, Incabloc shocs for extra durability, easy to read GMT dial, 200 meter water resistance, I paid just south of $2k, and most important, women in orbit around the project thought it looked cool!  

This is what it looked like new:

fortis-b-42-gmt.png  fortis-b-42-diver-gmt-3-time-zones-watch fortis-b-42-diver-gmt-3-time-zones-watch 

A short spec sheet:

fortis-b-42-gmt-2.png

And finally, some review propaganda from 2010:

 

"The brilliant B-42 Diver GMT 3 Time Zones Watch is another example of the exceptional construction, characteristic for Fortis Watches. Advanced technologies used in its crafting, combined with reliability are the reason for the company’s popularity and the fact that this company is the official supplier of Russian Cosmonauts, Russian pilots and Swiss Air Force pilots.

The fascinating Fortis B-42 Diver wristwatch is fitted in a three-part case which is made of brushed stainless steel and has the diameter of 42 mm and the thickness of precisely 12.8 mm. This advanced timekeeping instrument possesses a bi-directional turning bezel (60 divisions) with a 24h scale. It also has an enlarged crown with the Fortis logo and a screw-down case back embossed with the emblems of the Russian space authorities. The case back includes a mineral crystal that allows a peak at its awesome automatic mechanical Swiss-made ETA 2893-2 movement, with 21 jewels and 28,800 semi-vibrations per hour. For additional resilience, this movement has the Incabloc shock absorber that guards the jewels.

The mesmerizing silver dial of this fantastic Fortis watch from the B-42 Diver series is guarded with a high-quality, durable sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides. Since this watch has a large case and dial, it also includes improved legibility. It also has a GMT hand with twenty four hour bezel, which allows the wearer to see three different time zones. The dial has a flange with 24 h GMT scale and a date display at the tree o’clock position. In its vicinity, there’s also a triangle that illustrates the direction of rotating the crown for quick adjustment. Besides, there are blue Arabic numbers, as well as the indices with yellow Superluminova. The hour, minute and second hands are blue, its GMT hand has a blue arrow head, whereas the second hand includes a white Superluminova dot.

This nice watch from the B-42 Diver edition of Maritime collection (that also includes the B-42 Marinemaster Chronograph) of Fortis Watches has a neat bracelet made of stainless steel. The silver-colored bracelet is 20 mm wide, of standard men’s length and fastens with a fold-over clasp. This great timepiece is water tight to 200 meters and costs around $2,975."

 

I wore it almost every day for about 7 years.  During office time, hands-on real work time, casual recreation, business meetings, traveling, swimming, etc.  Basically, beat the shit out of the poor thing.  I thought it was bomb proof... it wasn't!  The death knell came when one day the fold-over clasp broke while I was grabbing for something about 12 feet above the ground.  I watched in what seemed to be slow-motion as it fell helplessly toward the cement floor below.  I could almost hear it screaming as it twisted helplessly while falling, 'You bastard!!  After all we've been through together!!  This is how you treat me?!  This is how it all ends?!'  (come to think of it, the experience was somewhat akin to the last communication with my first ex-wife.....)  

'No need to call 911', I said to the horrified crowd that gathered around the carcass.  There'd be no devine intervention... no holiday miracles.... the outcome was certain before it hit the concrete.  A short moment of silence was observed, tears were shed, some prayed to the gods of their choice, then it was back to work.  Life goes on...  The abused and broken timepiece was placed in a mausoleum and sadly, like a drunken one-night stand, quickly forgotten about as if it had never happened.

Until last week when the mausoleum was discovered by the Nica Ninja during an excavation of various boxes and chests buried deep in the bowels of our residence.  The memories came back to me as if it were yesterday.  Once again, a few tears were shed, stories were told and I immediately and without hesitation decided to attempt a resurrection.  My first thought was a human sacrifice - preferably that of a virgin as per Mayan Law.  The Nica Ninja immediately and forcefully forbade any such activities.  Not to mention finding a virgin in this part of the world would have been challenging.  So a more conventional approach was settled on for the remains which are as follows:

IMG-3192.jpg IMG-3193.jpg

IMG-3202.jpg IMG-3194.jpg

IMG-3207.jpg IMG-3196.jpg

IMG-3198.jpg IMG-3186.jpg

IMG-3184.jpg

 

And so it begins.  For anyone who hasn't lost interest and is still reading, a couple of questions:

 

THE CRYSTAL, BEZEL & BEZEL INSERT

Surprisingly, the sapphire crystal is completely intact.  Not a scratch or crack anywhere.  A true testament to the build quality of Fortis at the time.  The bezel is a different story.  The insert is long-gone.  I'm in search now from the 'new' Fortis AD in the US, and also the usual suspects of EBay and Amazon.  So far, no luck.  Any suggestions as to sellers of non-mainstream bezels?  Or who might fabricate one? The original is black, but a blue one the same size from a different model might look kind of cool so am looking for that one as well.

But what about the bezel itself?  As you can see below, it's banged up and out of round.  Anyone have success in re-shaping a steel bezel?  Or know if it is cost-prohibitive to have someone do so?  Am I better off simply looking for a new one?

fullsizeoutput-5a91.jpg

 

THE MOVEMENT

The watch doesn't run at the moment.  The stem and crown seem good.  It pulls out and sets solidly in to each position.  The hands move smoothly to set the time while in the second position.  Likewise, turning counter-clockwise in the first position sets the date in a crisp manner.  Unfortunately, turning clockwise in the first position for the GMT hand isn't quite so pleasant.  It sets... sometimes.  Other times it's somewhat menopausal and difficult to communicate with.  It may be the GMT hand not being attached in a solid manner but not sure.

I'm a rank amateur when it comes to servicing movements.  Have played with and destroyed a few Asian 2824s, but have yet to perform major surgery.  The plan is to remove the movement and repair the watch face.  All the indices are still inside and can be easily reattached.  I can also check to see if the hands have become dislodged or otherwise wanked.  

I'll snoop around the movement for anything obvious but suspect the smart move is to have it repaired and serviced by someone actually competent.  Anyone familiar with or have an experience working on this Swiss ETA 2893-2 movement?  Is it fairly generic or a one-off ETA movement?  Any observations and suggestions are welcome.

THE BRACELET

This was (is?) one of the nicest bracelets I've worn.  It's heavy and solid, but amazingly comfortable.  And I like the look.  I can get a newer (and better!) clasp to attach, but the bracelet itself has 'stretched' and become a bit 'loose'.  I'm not alone in my admiration for this bracelet it seems as they are readily available from numerous sources.  But they're about $400 each and while bringing the dead back to life is never free, budgets (and Latina Ninjas) tend to frown on spending significant money on things already written off as dead.  I've read some stuff here on 'tightening' up bracelets, but this one is a bit different.  Anyone have any suggestions after looking at the design of this one?  I'll wear it loose before paying $400 for a new one, but would love to tighten it up at least a bit.  (It's the holidays, so will avoid the obvious analogy to aging female anatomy....)

IMG-3199.jpg IMG-3190.jpg

 

Given I was just provided instruction in a dialect of Spanish reserved only for those facing serious consequence should they fail to follow the instruction (loosely translates to 'go find something to do before you drive me crazy!'), I think the project is officially underway.  Any observations, suggestions, warnings, insults, sarcasm, etc., are more than welcome.  I'll post updates as things proceed.

And if you're still reading after all this, Happy Holidays to you all.  Thanks for all the entertaining madness this year!

 

 

 

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Glaude

Looking forward to see the rebirth ! :) 

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bdnica

First Update:

 

IMG-3279.jpg

 

Ok, so I know what you're going to say:  "What, this guy removes the bracelet and end links and all of a sudden he's Louis Breguet?!"   Not at all.  His ne'er-do-well brother in law maybe, but not Louis.  But a few things bear mention.  Good news:  the pin I thought had a broken off screw simply had no screw.  However removing the screw from the other pin required several WD40 soaks just to get it turning free.  Even then I couldn't remove the pins despite pushing the balance of force vs. balance care beyond reasonable limits.

Fortunately, I remembered a guy I know who's got this hammer that can do all sorts of cool shit.  Scandinavian guy... calls himself Thor... claims to have some film credits.  Who knows?  But he's usually got some ruin-your-marriage beautiful chica on his arm so maybe he actually does?  Anyway, he's in to watches and owes me a favor.  Called and asked him about the hammer, and he graciously came over and 'poof!' the pins were out!

hammer-of-thor.jpg

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Bad news:  Knew I'd have to get one new pin but both looked pretty trashed... explains the problem that required Thor's involvement.

 

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More bad news:  Despite ready availability, the bloody things cost $35 each!  Not including shipping, duty, customs clearance, etc.  So already knocked $70+ off the budget for two f***ing pins.  An ominous start.

Same issue removing the pins holding the broken clasp.  After several blasts of WD40 I managed to get the screws to turn.  But the pins refuse to leave the premises.

IMG-3297.jpg

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Same on the other piece of the bracelet.

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Soaking in WD40 as I write.  Don't want to bother Thor again.  Besides, these are smaller and more likely to suffer damage from the power of Thor. 

If I can get them out, the bezel and caseback get removed next.

The Nica Ninja, upon learning the price of, in her words, 'two tiny pins' said maybe I should just buy another watch before spending stupid money fixing this one?

:Shocked:

This is a trick right?  A test?  She didn't really give me clearance to buy a new watch did she?  In Spanish it sounded very condescending and sarcastic.  But I can claim misunderstanding and poor use of context and thus blame her if she goes nuclear when a new watch shows up... right?

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TRANSPORTER

Haha, they’re your balls mate!! (Or maybe hers???) 

anyway, back to those pins that you have got out already, have you tried cousins site? I just recently riveted a while Seiko gmt bracelet for a client, only cost me £15 for all rivets required 4 different sizes and I still have spares left.

i know I have purchased some screw in pins like yours before, check your sizes and look on cousins to see what they do, I know Suunto watches use screw end pins on their straps, may be the same size.

i know staying gen is good but sometimes you might have to go aftermarket on parts, keeps the cost down that’s for sure.

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bdnica
On 28/12/2018 at 04:17, TRANSPORTER said:

Haha, they’re your balls mate!! (Or maybe hers???) 

anyway, back to those pins that you have got out already, have you tried cousins site? I just recently riveted a while Seiko gmt bracelet for a client, only cost me £15 for all rivets required 4 different sizes and I still have spares left.

i know I have purchased some screw in pins like yours before, check your sizes and look on cousins to see what they do, I know Suunto watches use screw end pins on their straps, may be the same size.

i know staying gen is good but sometimes you might have to go aftermarket on parts, keeps the cost down that’s for sure.

She's locked them away although I can gain access on occasion... provided I file the proper documentation and follow the procedures & guidelines of course!  

Thanks for the lead on locating alternatives to the screw-in pins.  I've got no problem using aftermarket parts so long as it doesn't deviate from the look.  This is the resurrection of a long-lost friend, not a vintage restore for resale at a huge premium!  Kind of like running in to an old girlfriend who didn't get fat and still looks pretty good... can't expect everything to be the same but the closer to the original version, the better!  Will search Cousin's site today.  Thanks!

Finally figured out why I couldn't get the bracelet off the clasp:

IMG-3297.jpg

Turns out the pins are not removable but permanently attached to the other end piece.  You have to remove BOTH screws from each piece.  Kind of like the Breitling bracelets:

IMG-3337.jpg

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My incompetence has been on full display and all I've managed to accomplish is to take off the bracelet, end links and remove the clasp.  God knows what will happen when the real stuff begins?!

The bezel is not coming off using traditional tactics.  It's not a screwed on bezel, and the blog posts on this model insist it should just 'snap' off.  So far, all I've managed to 'snap' off is the knife from the bezel without it even budging.  I did manage to cut two fingers with the dull knife though.  So there's that.... 

As a result, I made a management decision to remove the caseback and movement today and work on the dial face.  Assuming that doesn't turn in to a tragic nightmare, I'll then try removing the bezel with the movement removed.  

 

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bdnica

Haven't abandoned this project... just waiting on a miracle bezel find to be delivered.  After pestering and badgering a nice guy at Watchbuys (the 'official' US rep for Fortis now), he eventually found an original bezel with insert directly from the Fortis vaults of unloved parts.  And for less than $100!  Because it's a special order and coming from the factory, it's going to be another 30+ days before I see it (not including the customs hassles here of trying to explain what a 'bezel' is for purposes of duty categorization...).  But once that's here, the rest should be relatively smooth.

Thanks @TRANSPORTER for leads on the missing bracelet screws and lug pins & screws.  Acquired and waiting to be reattached.

Disassembling the ETA 2893-2 initially seemed as though a simple clean and lube would be adequate.  Watch a few videos, maybe hassle @GenTLe a couple times (!), and all would be good.  Alas, there is some damage that requires repair and replace that's above my pay grade.  Fortunately, I have a good watchmaker in the region who's verse with standard ETA movements.   He's got most of the parts and is waiting for the arrival of the bezel so all can be completed in one visit to his shop.  Then I'll refinish the case and bracelet and it will be as if I had never tortured and ruined the poor thing. 

Again, this is not a restoration of a grail watch.  Just a nice piece that has historic and sentimental value to me, so expect a pic heavy celebration when finished. 

Yes @GingerBubba I realize our French overlord @Glaude will no doubt demean my efforts at restoration as 'amateur', sniff at the watch as 'pedestrian', and otherwise dismiss the whole exercise as 'existentially meaningless'.  But I'm emotionally and psychologically prepared for that.

 

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