Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

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Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by 28800bph » Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:33 pm

Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Image
Christopher Ward C6 Kingfisher - liquid filled case by jp28800, on Flickr

I own a Sinn UX and like the look of its liquid filled case. It made me wish all my quartz watches were liquid filled. The only other watch available on the market with this feature is the Bell & Ross Hydromax, also ~$2000. Of course this concept only works with quartz, as the balance wheel of a mechanical watch cannot oscillate properly in a viscous fluid.

The thing I like most about a liquid filled case is the incredible visibility at extreme angles and underwater. The liquid has the same refractive index as sapphire, so the hands appear to float on the top surface of the crystal. Also, there is no possibility of moisture condensation on the inner crystal, and the tick noise of the quartz movement is almost entirely dampened. And since liquids are incompressible, my Sinn UX case is rated to 12000 meters.

There is just one problem -- the battery change on my UX must be done in Frankfurt every 7 years. Here is the notice on the US authorized dealer website.
Under no circumstances should anyone other than Sinn attempt to open the case on an oil filled watch. Only Sinn in Germany has the equipment to properly service the watch because of the oil filled case. Our US service center RGM (as well as other watch repair centers in North America) cannot provide service for this model or change the battery, and to attempt to do so will damage the watch.
So I took that as an engineering challenge. How hard could it be? What fluid do they use? They used to use a silicone oil, but it discolored over the course of a few years and created a lot of warranty issues. Then Sinn made the switch to an unnamed fluorinated liquid. Since the whole battery and movement are submerged, the liquid must be a dielectric (insulator). The only fluorinated dielectric fluids are made by 3M and Solvay, and are marketed as Fluorinert and Galden respectively. These are "perfluorinated" hydrocarbons, which means all the hydrogen is replaced by fluorine. This fluorine functionality makes a compound extremely inert. For example, Teflon is perfluorinated polyethylene plastic.

There are several grades of 3M Fluorinert with differing viscosities and vapor pressures. I selected one grade with properties similar to water. The molecular structure is like octane (petrol/gasoline), but with all the hydrogen atoms replaced with fluorine atoms. It is odorless, crystal clear, and nontoxic for ingestion -- though not recommended to drink! It can hold back 35000 volts over a 0.1 inch gap, so you can immerse electronics directly. Price is on the order of $1000 per gallon which works out to a few dollars per watch case.

I purchased some Fluorinert and tested a spare Ronda 715 movement in the fluid and found that it runs great while fully submersed. The Ronda 715 in the C6 Kingfisher watch actually has more torque than the ETA 955.652 Thermoline in the Sinn.

Image
Ronda 715 movement running submerged in 3M Fluorinert fluid by jp28800, on Flickr

Two other problems needed to be solved: how to case the watch in liquid without an air bubble, and how to accommodate thermal expansion of the liquid.

Many years ago I ran an R&D program on capacitor development for military applications. Capacitors are filled with electrolyte liquid and do not contain any air bubbles. They are filled by vacuum impregnation. So it's easy to replicate this at home with some parts from Amazon.com: a vacuum pump, manifold gauge, and vacuum chamber. Here is the setup.

Image
Vacuum impregnation setup in my workshop by jp28800, on Flickr

I opened the caseback of the watch, submerged it in a small container, and put this container in the chamber. When I pulled a vacuum to 27 inHg, the air was sucked out of the watch completely. You can see the bubbles rising in the photo:

Image
Vacuum chamber - bubbles rise from vacuum impregnation by jp28800, on Flickr

I released the vacuum, opened the chamber, then screwed on the case finger tight while still submerged. Then I removed the watch and was able to tighten all the way with a case wrench.

How do you accommodate for thermal expansion of the fluid? Out of curiosity I looked up patents from Sinn, and I found the one from Lothar Schmidt (Sinn CEO) for HYDRO technology. I think the title says it all: DE19647439 (A1) "Diver's watch used for serious underwater use"

The UX is rated to operate from -20 to 60°C. Over this wide temperature range, the fluid contained inside the case will change volume by 10% due to thermal expansion. Since liquids are incompressible, this would destroy a traditional watch case -- the crystal would blow out from any slight changes in liquid volume. On the UX, the case back has a large movable piston with an o-ring seal, just as described in the patent. The piston allows the fluid to expand and contract to adjust internal fluid volume and equalize with outside pressure. Here is the drawing from the patent. The red arrow shows the edge of the piston [14], the crystal is [4], caseback [1], case [2], movement [6], o-ring [20], fluid on dial [9], fluid behind movement [23].

Image
UX Back by West Shore, on Flickr

And the red arrow on the photo below shows the same piston edge on the case back. I notice the piston has a very slight wobble due to the dimensional tolerance of the gap. So far I have exercised my UX from -10 to 30°C, and I notice the vertical travel in the piston when I look very closely.

Image
UX back by West Shore, on Flickr

I came up with a different way to account for thermal expansion, a much more simple solution to implement. I won't reveal it here, as I am considering filing a patent application...

Here are some photos of the project and the finished watch.

Image
Vacuum pump - Interdynamics VCP-10 by jp28800, on Flickr

Image
Manifold Gauge by jp28800, on Flickr

Image
Christopher Ward C6 Kingfisher - liquid filled case by jp28800, on Flickr

Image
Christopher Ward C6 Kingfisher - liquid filled case by jp28800, on Flickr

Image
Christopher Ward C6 Kingfisher - liquid filled case by jp28800, on Flickr

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by galewis » Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:51 pm

Genius! Where should I send my C6? :D

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by wymore » Sat Sep 04, 2010 3:06 pm

One thing you didn't mention on here was replacing the movement on the 715 Li. Did you end up doing that as well, and if so, how difficult was that?

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by danny_n » Sat Sep 04, 2010 3:51 pm

Most interesting - if a little baffling for my unscientific mind! CW should be getting you on board!!

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by downer » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:15 pm

:rate10:

Fascinating post. Thanks for taking the time to show us what you did. Although it is mostly beyond my understanding, I found it interesting and informative. Congratulations for a sucessful project. =D>

Great photography too!
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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by Richard » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:23 pm

Very nice, I like the look of that C6.

Completely baffled that one would come up with a project like this.
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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by androo » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:48 pm

Hats off to you sir. I am very impressed. Makes my putting a watch together look like a 3 year old with a 2 piece jigsaw puzzle =D>

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by Mortis » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:56 pm

Absolutely great post; thank you.
What a clever chappie you are!
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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by rygel16th » Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:23 pm

That has got to be one of the most interesting posts I've read on any forum since I started collecting. Thanks for taking the time to write it up and post the pictures.

As someone said above, let us know when you start taking orders. You might have an interesting side business opening up. :D

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by Loddonite » Sat Sep 04, 2010 8:36 pm

A genius bit of modding. Thanks for taking the time to put the post together. I love the way the dial appears to be on the surface of the crystal...
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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by Kip » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:03 am

Exceptional post of a fantastic project.

I am with Dom...love the way the dial looks to be on the surface.

Quite ingenius the way you figured all this out in my book. You are hereby commended! :pal:

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by alphajet » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:48 am

Amazing post, congratulations a great project. :shock:

It would be interesting to know how the fluid has effected the accuracy and also the second hand alignment and jumping that has been the subject of a few topic's on the forum. :?
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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by wilko » Sun Sep 05, 2010 5:26 am

i doth my proverbial to you sir.pure genius :D

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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by Rick » Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:25 pm

What a fantastic posting!!! I really enjoyed reading this.
To be done here on this forum and to one of CWs watches to.
I take my hat off to you Mate.
The pictures look great,gives the C6 a very unique look indeed
I'm wondering how long it will be before you get asked to do others.
Very well done and I hope it continues to give you many years of good service.
Thank you very much for taking so much time and effort to do it,a great achievement.
Brilliant!!!!!
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Re: Liquid filled watch case: How I modified my Kingfisher C6

Post by paw3001 » Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:54 pm

You Sir are too bloomin' clever by half! :gott:

What a fantastic post and idea with some out of this world shots of the finished C6. If anyone can make me buy a quartz watch it's you!

CW needs to be calling you up because I think we have just found the best idea for the 2010/11 Forum LE. :D

Well done that Man! =D> :prost: =D>
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