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I’m looking to build a franken sub big crown - either 6538 or 5510 and was hoping for some help with the following:

 

  • Ideally I want to use as many gen parts as possible - where the best places to find these (dial, bezel, movement, etc)?
  • Are the "refinished" dials that Minh has actually genuine dials that have been reapplied, or are they 100% rep?
  • It seems genuine cases are hard to come by - are Phongs cases sill considered the best? Are there other manufacturers that can match a gen case
  • I'm leaning towards the 5510 based on the movement as it's newer and probably easier to find parts for. Anything else I should consider?

 

 

Edited by one80
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Welcome aboard! Finding genuine parts is pretty tough these days- they're either expensive or very expensive fakes. Your best bet is to accept that you're building a replica and go from there. Dials are fake, not refinished, cases are good but once again, not real and Phongs stuff if expensive. Minh Quy can be tricky to deal with and you have to watch him. Ruby's watch is ok but may not have what you want. I've done watches with real rolex movements, but I'm finished with that- it's getting too hard to keep those watches going, parts are hard to get. A 1030 movement for a 6538 is very delicate so you can hardly wear the watch for fear of breaking it. A 1530 movement for a 5510 is a little more readily available but still tough to find parts for. You're better off putting a slow beat eta in there since they're dependable and easier to find parts for. It all comes down to getting a nice case and dial and putting something together that looks properly aged and convincing- that's the key to building a good rep! 

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Thanks for the reply.

 

Since posting my original query I've been thinking about purchasing a complete watch from either MQ or Phong, where it comes with the genuine movement, and slowly changing the parts over to gen as/when I can find them.

 

Any thoughts on who would be a better option if I went down that path?

The dial's MQ has appear better, but there are a lot of comments (including above) that he can be difficult to deal with...

 

Appreciate that the gen parts are going to be expensive, but I have my heart set on getting something that is as close to gen as possible.

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I'd suggest looking in the sales section here and on a few of the other rep forums and see what is available. You'd be surprised what guys can build using rep parts and say an eta movement. And it will be maybe 1/4 or 1/3 of the price of a Phong. And you can't go swimming with a Phong or an MQ when you've spent $5,500 on the watch- you could easily ruin the movement if you get it wet. And once again, I'd definitely stay away from a 6538 with a 1030 movement. Phong doesn't have a price for the 6538 probably because it's so hard to find those movements these days. But you know it will be more than the 5510 at $5500.

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Alligoat is 100% right...using a genuine rlx movement is stepping off the deep end imho.

 

You might read about my trials and tribulations in "Building an MBW Sub + 'shortcut' rlx 1560/70 GMT conversions..." at the top of the rolex section.

 

Rolex = No Parts and not much $ervice available.  That's why many of us are here.   :prop:

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+1 the 4-digit era stuff is simply no longer worth it at today's prices or parts availability.  The glory days of 2008-2013 are gone.  It used to be easy to pick up complete Rolex donor watches with 15xx movements for under $2500.  Those watches have now doubled.  And the 10xx series movements, too much trouble. 

 

The questions you must answer are:

 

1.) Are you trying to fool a real Rolex guru/enthusiast. (which is not going to happen, the jig is up, even the $30-40K vintage models on eBay are know to be Frankensteins and only fool newbies)

2.) Do you care what anyone really thinks?

3.) Are you simply doing it for a look/aesthetic you like?

 

Hopefully #3 is where your mind is at.  At which point, find the dial that most appeals to you, a good case, and power it with whatever works. 

 

I have reached the age/stage in life where I am totally truthful about my Frankenbuilds.  Even at "Official" watch get togethers.  "Yeah, I built this out of parts, it is powered by an ETA 2782....Pretty cool right?"  More times than not, people are more blown away by the fact that I created it, and ask if I can build one for them!!!! 

 

The vintage Rolex appeal is in the aesthetics not the mechanics.

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"The vintage Rolex appeal is in the aesthetics not the mechanics."
 

A perceptive statement.

We are always looking for the best case, dial, hands, bracelet etc because we already know what the best movement for most projects is...usually a swiss ETA of some sort.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/24/2021 at 7:00 PM, Ronin said:

+1 the 4-digit era stuff is simply no longer worth it at today's prices or parts availability.  The glory days of 2008-2013 are gone.  It used to be easy to pick up complete Rolex donor watches with 15xx movements for under $2500.  Those watches have now doubled.  And the 10xx series movements, too much trouble. 

The vintage Rolex appeal is in the aesthetics not the mechanics.

 

The glory days of vintage Rolex sportwatch franken-building are definitely history. But I disagree that Rolex movements are inherently problematic, or more so than ETAs and other modern mechanics. Properly assembled and maintained, Rolex calibers are nearly bulletproof. That is one of the reasons they remain so highly valued by collectors and watchmakers alike. I do not have a single gen Rolex movement that I have serviced that has either failed or not generally met its time-keeping design specs. And I believe some of them are now hitting the 20-year mark for wrist- &/or winder-time, if my own time-keeping skills are correct.

 

On the other hand, with Rolex virtually beheading anyone within their service network for selling parts to anyone outside the network (i.e., any of us amateur watchsmiths) and with OEM Rolex parts prices far out of reach now anyway, I would not recommend entry into the gen or franken Rolex arena today unless you are extremely well-heeled, patient, have alot of free time on your hands & enjoy the search.

 

As to one80's goal of building a 6538/5510, were it me, I would 1st decide how much I can realistically afford to spend on a franken that may or may not maintain (or increase) value over time.

If my break-off point is below $5k, I would find a reasonably accurate rep (with accurate case dimensions/construction) and replace the crown/tube, crystal & bracelet with gens (though you will need a bit of luck locating an appropriate gen bracelet for a reasonable amount).

If my break-off point is above $5k, I would start with a franken from Phong or MQ & have the watch properly serviced upon receipt (I have seen some truly scary things inside their watches). Then, depending on the overall condition of the watch (after a proper service) & the list of gen parts that are either in poor condition, aftermarkets or replicas, begin your search for OEM gen replacements. Be patient as the cost & time required will likely be severe & measured in many months &/or years.

 

Unfortunately, I think you are about 10 years too late to begin such a quest, but, as they say, there are exceptions to every rule & good things come to those who wait.

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"Properly assembled and maintained, Rolex calibers are nearly bulletproof."

 

I agree 100% especially the 1530 base models. 

My gripe is their parts policy.  It is extremely simple though...No Parts For You!  Not Now, Not Ever.

I like the 1030 models just fine and still have watches with them but do not wear them, never did.  I bought them at bargain prices (compared to today) and still have them.

 

The 'shortcut 1655'  mentioned above was a major hassle to stick together but that was because it was a project using a non genuine GMT conversion plus having to repair the base movement.  That said, it has been running flawlessly for a few months since it was put in running condition back before the GMT kit was added and put in a case.  Matter of fact I've decided to leave it in the cartel case and replace the high mileage 1520 auto-wind assembly with a proper low mileage 1570 awa.  It will probably quit running now.  :animal_rooster:

 

One thing I do not like about 1530 base movements is they did not put a jewel or bushing in the main plate side for the main spring arbor.  If it goes dry it will wear out of round and allow the MS barrel to drag on the plate.  I do not know how long it would take without service but I have seen a few.  The reverser arbors, intermediate winding wheel arbors, and winding rotor jewels/arbors also need attention every few years.

arbor = axle

 

 

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AWA's.  I am on my second 1570 awa in my 1680 😞 ... I see tons of awa's for 3xxx series Rolex movements, but it is getting rare to see 15xx.

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"AWA's.  I am on my second 1570 awa in my 1680 😞 ... I see tons of awa's for 3xxx series Rolex movements, but it is getting rare to see 15xx."

 

Yep, they are getting hard to find. 

I had to scrounge up the 1520 signed awa in the '1655' out of parts from eBay and it was past its prime.  The 1570 signed awa I'm putting in it came from a 1603 and all is well except the rotor axle is loose in the weight.  I'll use the rotor from the 1520 awa in it because it has a new rotor axle.  I bought a few sets of reversers on eBay with good luck but awa plates or rotors are too much $$ for me now unless I really get in a jam.  All the watch traders around here are out of 15xx rlx movement parts or holding on to what they have left.

 

One good thing about the 15xx awa is they can be brought back to life as long as the plates and rotor are good.  You can replace the rotor axle, reverser/intermediate wheel jewels, im wheel, and reversers to make it like new.  The only factory parts needed are the reversers because the others are available from the aftmkt .  A while back I saw brand new aftmkt red anodized reverser bodies for sale without the inner ratchet wheel but they were $100 each.  Too much moola for half a reverser imho.  In 1995 they were $25 new for a set...one red body and one ratchet wheel.  I should have loaded up on them back then.

 

I no longer see many 1030 parts for sale on eBay.  One hard to find part is the rotor bearing p/n 7004 and they do not show up for sale often if ever.  

 

I hope I have not scared 'one80' away with my Voice of Doom.   

It ain't really that bad.   :frusty:

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On 4/4/2021 at 12:28 PM, freddy333 said:

 

The glory days of vintage Rolex sportwatch franken-building are definitely history. But I disagree that Rolex movements are inherently problematic, or more so than ETAs and other modern mechanics. Properly assembled and maintained, Rolex calibers are nearly bulletproof. That is one of the reasons they remain so highly valued by collectors and watchmakers alike. I do not have a single gen Rolex movement that I have serviced that has either failed or not generally met its time-keeping design specs. And I believe some of them are now hitting the 20-year mark for wrist- &/or winder-time, if my own time-keeping skills are correct.

 

On the other hand, with Rolex virtually beheading anyone within their service network for selling parts to anyone outside the network (i.e., any of us amateur watchsmiths) and with OEM Rolex parts prices far out of reach now anyway, I would not recommend entry into the gen or franken Rolex arena today unless you are extremely well-heeled, patient, have alot of free time on your hands & enjoy the search.

 

As to one80's goal of building a 6538/5510, were it me, I would 1st decide how much I can realistically afford to spend on a franken that may or may not maintain (or increase) value over time.

If my break-off point is below $5k, I would find a reasonably accurate rep (with accurate case dimensions/construction) and replace the crown/tube, crystal & bracelet with gens (though you will need a bit of luck locating an appropriate gen bracelet for a reasonable amount).

If my break-off point is above $5k, I would start with a franken from Phong or MQ & have the watch properly serviced upon receipt (I have seen some truly scary things inside their watches). Then, depending on the overall condition of the watch (after a proper service) & the list of gen parts that are either in poor condition, aftermarkets or replicas, begin your search for OEM gen replacements. Be patient as the cost & time required will likely be severe & measured in many months &/or years.

 

Unfortunately, I think you are about 10 years too late to begin such a quest, but, as they say, there are exceptions to every rule & good things come to those who wait.

 

I'm happy to send >$5k for a nice franken.

My thinking is that I'll be unlikely to be in a position to buy a 6538/5510 with papers, provenance etc, but I can get something close, even if not 100% gen parts. And even the parts alone will probably not depreciate over time (based on the last 5-10 years).

 

 

 

On 4/6/2021 at 2:37 AM, automatico said:

I hope I have not scared 'one80' away with my Voice of Doom.   

It ain't really that bad.   :frusty:

 

Ha! No, I'm still not scared off... yet 😉

 

 

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10 hours ago, one80 said:

I'm happy to send >$5k for a nice franken.

My thinking is that I'll be unlikely to be in a position to buy a 6538/5510 with papers, provenance etc, but I can get something close, even if not 100% gen parts. And even the parts alone will probably not depreciate over time (based on the last 5-10 years).

 

I know $5,000 sounds like a lot of money.  But it's barely scratching the surface to get a reasonably good franken.  Mine is based on a MQ case (yes he was a major PITA to work with) and runs an ETA 2846 movement.

 

In rough terms:

 

Case    $1,000

Crystal  $700 - $1,000  (gen T17 Superdome)

Bezel   $350

Insert   $300 (rep)   $2,000 (MKIII gen)

Crown  $800

Tube     $200

Band     $250  (rep Yuki)    $2,500 (gen)

Dial        $1,000 (MQ)

Hands   $300 (rep)   $1,000 (gen)

 

You're already into it for $6,700 plus and that's with a dial any expert can pick out at arm's length and no movement.  Throw in a gen ETA 2846 for $300 and then wrestle with having your $1,000 case machined for the correct stem height.  Bear in mind, are you SURE you're sticking with the MQ dial and its thickness?  Or will you eventually move to a Dark Lord dial and its thickness, if you can find one?  They're not the same and your machined case won't accommodate both with a correct stem height.  The difference is small, but are you going to cut the feet off a $1,000 dial and use dots?  Now start looking for flat gilt hands to match the dial.  A member here just finished a project to create nearly perfect hands, and might still have some for sale for the ETA.  Otherwise you're into it another $1,000 for good ones.  But then the gen spec hands won't fit the cannon pinion on an ETA movement unless you broach/stake the hell out of them, then they rub the minutes hand.  

 

So you get it all put together and tweaked, 3 or 4 or 5 trips to different modders to get it tweaked JUST right.  Then you start watching for a Dark Lord dial.  Yes they're worth it, they're made on gen plates with gen pads and gen techniques.  Mine is.  For all intents and purposes they are gen dials.  Once you find one, you send it off to the best modder you can find and pray he'll be able to modify the case to accept the dial, then you wrestle with cutting the feet off a gen 6538 dial to mate to the ETA movement.  Now we're getting into the realm of ethics.  Or you find someone with the skill to drill your ETA main plate to accept the dial feet, which is ridiculously easy to screw up.  Now you're servicing your movement again, and you realize... now my dial/movement depth is wrong for how I had the case machined to accept the ETA plus MQ dial with its feet cut off and dial dots.  Your new stem height is too high.  DAMN.  Now what do you do?!

 

So eventually, after a few expensive mistakes down rabbit holes, you wind up with an aesthetically perfect Big Crown running an ETA movement, put together the right way, and it runs great.  It's 7 or 8 years later, and wow does it sparkle on your wrist.  But now you realize it looks too "new".  This watch is supposed to be 60 years old and it obviously isn't.  So now do you start to age your creation?  Are you willing to use it HARD and acquire real patina?  Do you beat it up to gather artificial damage?  Or do you put it on a shelf as a perfect, shiny bauble because nobody will believe a 60 year old watch can look that pristine?

 

The question is, who do you want to please?  You, or other people?  Welcome to the world of franken Big Crowns.  

 

sunset.jpg

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1 hour ago, Nanuq said:

 

I know $5,000 sounds like a lot of money.  But it's barely scratching the surface to get a reasonably good franken.  Mine is based on a MQ case (yes he was a major PITA to work with) and runs an ETA 2846 movement.

 

In rough terms:

 

Case    $1,000

Crystal  $700 - $1,000  (gen T17 Superdome)

Bezel   $350

Insert   $300 (rep)   $2,000 (MKIII gen)

Crown  $800

Tube     $200

Band     $250  (rep Yuki)    $2,500 (gen)

Dial        $1,000 (MQ)

Hands   $300 (rep)   $1,000 (gen)

 

You're already into it for $6,700 plus and that's with a dial any expert can pick out at arm's length and no movement.  Throw in a gen ETA 2846 for $300 and then wrestle with having your $1,000 case machined for the correct stem height.  Bear in mind, are you SURE you're sticking with the MQ dial and its thickness?  Or will you eventually move to a Dark Lord dial and its thickness, if you can find one?  They're not the same and your machined case won't accommodate both with a correct stem height.  The difference is small, but are you going to cut the feet off a $1,000 dial and use dots?  Now start looking for flat gilt hands to match the dial.  A member here just finished a project to create nearly perfect hands, and might still have some for sale for the ETA.  Otherwise you're into it another $1,000 for good ones.  But then the gen spec hands won't fit the cannon pinion on an ETA movement unless you broach/stake the hell out of them, then they rub the minutes hand.  

 

So you get it all put together and tweaked, 3 or 4 or 5 trips to different modders to get it tweaked JUST right.  Then you start watching for a Dark Lord dial.  Yes they're worth it, they're made on gen plates with gen pads and gen techniques.  Mine is.  For all intents and purposes they are gen dials.  Once you find one, you send it off to the best modder you can find and pray he'll be able to modify the case to accept the dial, then you wrestle with cutting the feet off a gen 6538 dial to mate to the ETA movement.  Now we're getting into the realm of ethics.  Or you find someone with the skill to drill your ETA main plate to accept the dial feet, which is ridiculously easy to screw up.  Now you're servicing your movement again, and you realize... now my dial/movement depth is wrong for how I had the case machined to accept the ETA plus MQ dial with its feet cut off and dial dots.  Your new stem height is too high.  DAMN.  Now what do you do?!

 

So eventually, after a few expensive mistakes down rabbit holes, you wind up with an aesthetically perfect Big Crown running an ETA movement, put together the right way, and it runs great.  It's 7 or 8 years later, and wow does it sparkle on your wrist.  But now you realize it looks too "new".  This watch is supposed to be 60 years old and it obviously isn't.  So now do you start to age your creation?  Are you willing to use it HARD and acquire real patina?  Do you beat it up to gather artificial damage?  Or do you put it on a shelf as a perfect, shiny bauble because nobody will believe a 60 year old watch can look that pristine?

 

The question is, who do you want to please?  You, or other people?  Welcome to the world of franken Big Crowns.  

 

sunset.jpg

 

 

I appreciate you taking the time to write that.

Sadly, this sounds like exactly the sort of overly complicated, expensive and difficult journey I'd subject myself (and my family) to...

 

A few questions, being new to this:

  • Would a genuine 1520 movement reduce the amount of modification needed to the hands and dial (if using a Phong/MQ/Ruby case)?
  • Assuming a 1520, what would be needed to swap from a MQ to a Dark Lord dial down the track? Is that the same as you've noted above for an ETA?
  • Who has the best red triangle inserts?
  • And lastly, how does one find the Dark Lord??

 

BTW - that is a lovely watch you have there too.

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"But then the gen spec hands won't fit the cannon pinion on an ETA movement unless you broach/stake the hell out of them, then they rub the minutes hand."

 

Info is from my notes, no guarantees:

 

Rlx 15xx hand sizes:  H 1.20mm  M .80mm  SS .20mm

iirc cal 1030 hands are the same or very close to 15xx.

 

ETA 28xx:  H 1.50mm   M .90mm  SS .25mm 

Mvt diameter is a hair less than 26.0mm.

 

Rlx 15xx movement thickness;

No date...5.75mm

Date...6.3mm

GMT...6.45m

Day/Date...7.0mm

All are 28.5mm max diameter.  Cal 1030 is 28.5mm also.

 

 

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18 hours ago, Nanuq said:

Then you start watching for a Dark Lord dial.....For all intents and purposes they are gen dials.  Once you find one, you send it off to the best modder you can find and pray he'll be able to modify the case to accept the dial, then you wrestle with cutting the feet off a gen 6538 dial to mate to the ETA movement.  Now we're getting into the realm of ethics.  Or you find someone with the skill to drill your ETA main plate to accept the dial feet, which is ridiculously easy to screw up.

 

I have no direct, hands-on experience with Dark Lord dials, but if the OEM printing is removed from a gen dial, then, according to Rolex (they make the rules), it is no longer a gen dial, at least for the purposes of resale or provenance, regardless of how well the aftermarket printing may be. So I would have no problem removing the dial feet if that makes it easier to complete a project with a credible-looking dial.

16 hours ago, one80 said:
  • Would a genuine 1520 movement reduce the amount of modification needed to the hands and dial (if using a Phong/MQ/Ruby case)?
  • Assuming a 1520, what would be needed to swap from a MQ to a Dark Lord dial down the track? Is that the same as you've noted above for an ETA?

 

In my experience, Phong's cases are variable, sometimes gen parts fit, sometimes not. That said, if you are competent with a dremel, you can usually (not always) make something fit.

On the other hand, I have never had any problem with MQ's cases--they accept any gen part that fits a gen case. And that is the beauty of the better aftermarket cases--they are generally perfect clones of the gen, so assembling a franken out of 100% gen parts is a no-brainer. The problem (with gen/clone aftermarket cases) arises if you want to substitute aftermarket/rep parts for gens. Say you have an MQ dial & case & you want to use an ETA movement. You have a problem, because the dial feet do not fit the movement & must be removed/replaced with dial dots (unless you want to disassemble the movement, drill the appropriate holes in the pillar plate & hope none of the dial feet contact any of the moving parts).

 

Also, if you use a gen movement, gen hands fit as well. No modding required. But, of course, the trade-off is finding the gen movement & hands. Although difficult & definitely costly, if you have patience & determination, they can be had. You just have to decide whether your goal is a good-looking, reasonably priced mostly aftermarket franken, or a mostly gen cost no object long-term project.

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Yes it's true gilt relief, made by the Dark Lord using a genuine Rolex pad on a genuine vintage 6538 dial blank that he stripped, using the original factory ink technique.

 

IMG_3679.JPG

 

1.JPG

 

6.jpg

 

7.jpg

 

See if you notice the error in the 2nd picture, that he corrected by the time he made the dial in picture #3.  These photos

are of his earlier and later efforts.  

 

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