How’s that for Workmanship:
The ETA 2830


This is indirectly motivated by a post by Justin Time (LT)

Posted by John Raba on March 19, 1998 at 13:42:45:

I will take Justin Time’s advice and add this small contribution to the forum. This is a long post so relax, grab some pretzels and a beer and listen to my little tale. Every word of it is true. Really!

I have what I consider a slightly interesting story about a watch that was given to me about three months ago. I will also be confessing to having not paid enough attention to the many educational and astute posts on this forum.

The watch is a old Bucherer 18k gold round automatic dress watch my Dad gave me. Most of you probably have never heard of it. It was manufactured in Switzerland by the huge Bucherer jewelry store chain. They tell me the watch was actually made by them in their factory. The movement they used was an ordinary 21 jewel ETA 2830.

I have coveted this watch every day since my Dad bought it for himself during after a trip to Europe with my mom. That was approximately 1973. This watch is an officially certified chronometer. In a way, it was my Dad’s purchase of this watch he bought in Switzerland that really nurtured my interest in mechanical watches. Over the years I would occasionally get to hold his watch. This only served to ignite my desire further. When My Dad told me he was going to give it to me I almost exploded. He called me up one Saturday and said to come over to pick it up. When I arrived my mom carefully handed me the watch and informed me that it had been recently serviced. When I asked what she meant by “recently” I was told, “I don’t know, a little more than five years ago”. I just smiled at her knowing what needed to be done. I believe that was the first time the piece had ever been serviced before. Just once in 25 years. When she gave me the watch it was running. She had apparently wound it for me before I had arrived to pick it up. When I finally got home I immediately cleaned the watch. It appeared my Dad had never cleaned the exterior. It had gunk all over it. After I had finished cleaning the watch I began to observe and appreciate closely the simple elegance of this solid gold dress watch. Mainly I was happy to have my Dad’s watch that he was not active enough to wear anymore. I am very close to him and having his watch in working condition for some reason is very important to me. Anyway, this watch is a very clean and simple and classic watch. It’s condition could be characterized as near mint to mint given its age. The dial was absolutely without any blemish or discoloration. The amazing part I thought was that its accuracy was 20 seconds slow per day. Not bad for such an old watch. Well, although it was hard to do I had to part with it so it could be cleaned, oiled and timed properly. This process took an agonizing two weeks. I actually bought another watch just to get me through this two week delay. I was later to trade this new watch in for my Breitling. That, and how my wife let me get away with that, is another story.

In any event, when I finally got my treasure back I was quick to time it and see how well the watch maker had done. I timed the watch and found it to be about ten seconds slow per day. A pretty good improvement for a fairly old watch. The watch maker had also informed me that the movement in the watch was an ETA 2830, 21 jewel automatic day date. Bucherer later confirmed the watch was indeed 25 years old. Well, I took it back to see if it could be timed a little better. It took the watch maker about forty five minutes to do this while I waited. When he finished he brought it out to me and said the movement was adjusted to five positions and temperature and was tested digitally at under two seconds fast per day. I was impressed although I thought I had no chance of seeing this watch achieve those results once worn on my wrist. He performed this additional work for no extra charge. Over a short period of time, however, I noticed a small problem. The watch seemed to stop for no apparent reason after running for several hours. Pulling the crown out and pushing it back in seemed to get it going again. To fast forward a bit, the problem was that I had never paid enough attention to posts on this forum on how to start an automatic watch. I never fully wound the watch and was not active enough to prevent it from eventually stopping. Once I fully wound the Bucherer, and got more active, the problem disappeared. The accuracy of the timepiece remained an unanswered question.

Eventually my curiosity had to be satisfied and I was compelled to see just how accurate a timepiece I now had. To this day I find it difficult to understand what I observed given what little I think I know about mechanical watches. This “original” ETA 2830 movement has only been cleaned and oiled twice now in twenty five years. All the parts are original. My Dad wore it daily until about three years ago. It was the only watch he owned. My Dad has worn this watch bird hunting, deer hunting, fishing, at work and cutting and working around the lawn. I was later to realize my real purpose in life was to cut the yard for my dad so he could watch in amusement while drinking “cool” (read not cold) beer on the back porch every spring and summer. My dad is German. He still speaks the language fluently. My European friends may understand about drinking room temperature beer. You really have to live in a much cooler climate than Texas to make that palatable.

Anyway, twenty five years of wear and tear with virtually no maintenance should have reduced this ETA movement to mere dust. It did not. To my complete amazement the watch gains 1 second every 34 hours. This has been consistent. I have also been testing it regarding what positional changes have on its accuracy. So far they have none that I can measure. I keep shaking me head every time I think about it. I know this watch is not a Rolex or a PP or a JLC. It has been said on this forum, however, that the real test of the workmanship of a movement is whether it will operate reliably within tolerances after years of use. It would appear that this ETA 2830 has passed that test rather well. This incredible accuracy is really just a bonus for me though. The feeling I have wearing the watch my dad wore all those years fills me with a great amount of satisfaction and pride. Knowing that both he and it are still ticking makes me smile every time I think about it. He is 85 years old. How is that for workmanship.

Keep it together folks and lets all try to remember what is really important. Good evening all.

John Raba