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Executive Decision...


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After putting about a dozen 'vintage Frankensteins' together using genuine rolex 15xx movements since 1997 ('explorer 1016'), I have made an 'Executive Decision':
No More projects using genuine rolex movements.  


Why not?
1...Because (imho) it is a major waste of time and $$ even when taking into account that I can do all the work myself.  Anyone paying someone to put one of these watches together will have to pay more, sometimes a lot more.  
2...Frankensteins are expensive to begin with because of the high cost of genuine movements, movement parts, and service, especially today.
3...To be 'worthy' of the genuine movement these projects more times than not end up with high $$ cases, dials etc. instead of lower $$ cartel parts that most of the time can be modified to pass muster.
4...Where can you go to sell a Frankenstein with a genuine movement when you need $$ etc?  You might be able to sell it to an RWG etc. member and get most of your 'investment' back but not always and there is the chance the watch will end up being sold as 'genuine' after it passes through a few owners.  Not good.


So...my last Frankenstein project using a genuine rolex 15xx movement is going to be taken apart...a '1655' with an aftmkt GMT conversion.  The movement will be going back in the watch it came out of (1603 DJ) and an ETA 2846 with a China GMT conversion will be put in the case.  The '1655' with a genuine movement might sell for $3000 and it is basically fake! but the DJ will probably sell for $3000 (at today's prices) and it is all genuine.  
After the '1655' is taken apart I will have one F-stein left...a DW 1680 case with a rolex 1570/75 and genuine 'Mark 1' Lemrich dial.  I put it together in March 2011  to keep the dial and movement clean and it will stay that way for now.

I have a J$W '1655' case and rolex 1575 with all nos GMT parts so the case will be sold or an ETA put in it.  The GMT movement will probably be sold at a watch show etc.

 

All the basically useless information above was presented for only one reason...
My (free and worthless) advice to anyone contemplating a vintage 'four digit' Frankenstein with a genuine rolex movement should realistically price it all out before starting the project and decide if it is worth the $$ and effort to go through with it.  

A rule of thumb on projects like this is after it is all added together...add 30% or 40% just to be safe.

 

Also...take into account that when I bought the parts for all of these Frankenstein projects, a rolex 1520/1560/1570 movement could be purchased for $500 to $800 (often as a running watch) and a very good aftmkt case and dial was around $1000 or $1500.  Now the same three components will cost $3000 to $4000 not counting labor.  

One example...I paid $575 for the complete running 1603 DJ in May 2015 that supplied the movement in the '1655' project and the only thing wrong with it was a rusty stem stuck in the main plate.  It needed c/o, a stem, and a mainspring, about $25 my cost.

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Thanks for all the great advice! BUT if you want to sell the the gen or replica with the 15xx GMT conversion for 3K I'd be ready and willing!

 

It's an odd one. I have couple frankens with great cases and dials that I'd love to put gen movements into. My rationale here is to invest in what I have instead of buying more fakery. It's probably time for me to have a gen first policy right? No need to answer that I know it's the right thing.

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"... if you want to sell the gen or replica with the 15xx GMT conversion for 3K I'd be ready and willing!"

 

Thanks, I appreciate it.  

Btw, the '1655' has two problems that have bothered me...

1...The date flips part of the way at midnight but is always centered by 8 or 9am.

2...It is not a hack movement and afaik all 1655 models were.

This has no effect on the way it runs but it has always bothered me a little bit.  It has a folded oyster and 'lume dot' SS hand so it mimics a 1973 or a year or two later model.  Earlier models had straight SS hands, no lume dot.

The 1655 was introduced in 1970/71 (I've seen both dates claimed) and by 1972 all 15xx were supposedly hack movements.  From what I have read, 15xx hack movements started showing up in the late 1960s on some models. 

Who knows for sure?  Not me.

 

Over the last 10 or 15 years with genuine rolex movement and parts prices escalating yearly, I just cannot recommend putting a 15xx movement in a project watch.  This is mainly because I have genuine cases, dials etc. for the extra movements stored in cans.  I am very slow putting watch projects together and this summer I'll be putting an Asian GMT conversion in a nos ETA 2846 to put in the '1655' case after the 'shortcut' GMT movement is removed.  Until then, the '1655' will still be together to protect the movement.

 

My J$W '1655' case is a problem though because it is such a nice case that it 'deserves' a genuine movement like I stated in the first post.  The question is...would the J$W case with a genuine 1575 GMT movement be worth as much as the case, dial, hands, movement etc. sold one at a time?  Here is a guess at what these parts would sell for:

1...Genuine 1575 GMT hack movement in 90% condition with fresh c/o and new mainspring...about $4500 today going by similar movements sold on eBay.  Very few have been for sale with one on eBay now for $4950 with 'blistered' plates, number 224974170550.  One in pretty good condition sold for $4850 on April 7, 2022 and it probably would need to be c/o.  Mine is low mileage and looks like new plus c/o with new mainspring and all the genuine GMT parts are nos.

Genuine Factory Rolex 1570 1575 Caliber GMT Complete Watch Movement w/ Date Disc | eBay

2...Used J$W case complete in 90% condition with genuine case tube and crown...$750.

3...New J$W dial and hand set...about $300.

4...Aftmkt (Mary) fold-oyster with genuine clasp and WSO 580 hoods...$400.

5...Labor (free to me but not on projects put together for sale)...$250.

Total...$6200.

Imho it would be very, very hard to get $6200 for the finished watch.

 

 

"I have couple frankens with great cases and dials that I'd love to put gen movements into. My rationale here is to invest in what I have instead of buying more fakery."

 

Nothing wrong with that as long as the individual parts hold most of their value.  Today's high prices might make it a bit risky if prices happen to fall.  Looks like gasoline prices are holding up though.  Ha!

Regular gas is $4.28 around here.  Ha!  Not so funny.

 

 

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Frankens were never a sane financial investment for the reasons stated. But for those who either have very deep pockets (to pay a watchsmith to assemble the watch for you) or the skills to do the work themselves, they remain the most cost effective way to the look & feel of the real thing. Of course, alot depends on the percentage of gen parts used & the quality of the work involved in the assembly.

 

Placing a gen movement into a rep/aftermarket case with a rep/aftermarket dial/handset does not make alot of sense because it will have little effect on the look & feel of the franken. On the other hand, powering a gen dial/handset in a rep/aftermarket case with a gen movement takes the enterprise to a much higher level since what you see & feel is gen.

 

Of course, when dealing with vintage Rolex components, maintenance is & will be an ongoing dilemma since costs are constantly escalating & supplies -- those that remain available -- are tightly controlled by the mothership.

 

I think if you have the passion, knowledge, will & cash, frankens are the only affordable way to experience vintage Daytonas, SDs, Subs & GMTs.

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Having done the franken route with gen movements back in the 2006-9 period, I've definitely quit that path. I built a 5508 with case and dial from NDTrading and a not quite correct 1520 movement from an Air King. I paid $880 for the AK and surprisingly it came with 7835 bracelet with 571 ends- whoppee!  I spent $2500 putting the watch together including a service in there. I picked up a couple of gen T-16 crystals in the day for $100 each or so- gone are those days! I could work on making sure that the watch is WR, but I just don't see the point. I do have an older AK with a 1530 movement which would be correct for the 5508, but I haven't gotten around to swapping them out. The older AK with a gold plated case- maybe I paid $1000-1100. I just don't remember. 

Second watch is a 1803 watch in SS. Picked up a 1556 movement on the bay with a silver day and date wheel for a good price, a redone white dial with silver stick markers and got a 16000 DJ case that Phong modified to accept the 1556 movement. A white dialed 1803 in SS. I love the watch- it flies below the radar. I'm wearing it on a 93150 and call it the Sportman's Day Date. Once again I spent around $2500 putting the watch together. 

For all around beatability, I like my two DJ frankens- a 16014 and a 16013, both with 2836-2 swiss movements. There are WR tested watches and are great at $500 each 

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RWG is the paper and my posts on this subject are just the pencil that started writing the story.  Freddy and Alligoat have sharpened the pencil and turned the page.  Where I only expressed my side of the story, their comments show valid reasons both for and against assembling Frankensteins in general.

I fully agree with both.  I am not moving over to 'anti-Frankensteinism' but have moved slowly away from 'chasing the dream' of the 'non rolex' rolex.  Slowly being the key word.

 

"Placing a gen movement into a rep/aftermarket case with a rep/aftermarket dial/handset does not make a lot of sense because it will have little effect on the look & feel of the franken. On the other hand, powering a gen dial/handset in a rep/aftermarket case with a gen movement takes the enterprise to a much higher level since what you see & feel is gen."

And...

"Second watch is an 1803 watch in SS. Picked up a 1556 movement on the bay with a silver day and date wheel for a good price, a redone white dial with silver stick markers and got a 16000 DJ case that Phong modified to accept the 1556 movement. A white dialed 1803 in SS. I love the watch- it flies below the radar. I'm wearing it on a 93150 and call it the Sportman's Day Date."

 

Two very good reasons for 'chasing the dream' and I appreciate it.  I still feel the same way about it but time has slowed me down a little and I have pulled back on projects.  Besides that, it is the beginning of Summertime!, the grass and weeds are growing, and the porches need painting.  Tending to it all will be taking up a lot of my 'spare' time for the next six months.

 

Looking back at my opening post...maybe it was really (subconsciously?) aimed at members, forum surfers etc. who have entered the replica scene in the past few years and want to put a 'Four Digit Frankenstein' watch together with a genuine movement etc. but do not realize the pitfalls lurking in these projects and the $$ it takes to put one together today.  I should have stated this up front but left it out.  After all, guys like us who are 'addicted' to this 'hobby' are undeterred by the difficulties and cost of these endeavors. 

 

Below is a repost about the actual cost of an F-stein '5513' project I put together 10 or 11 years ago.  It ended up costing about $1300.  Compare it to how much the same watch would cost today.  Double at least, maybe triple. 

Btw, it is still apart in the same box.

Thanks for the replies, the more the merrier!

 

Here is the info on one of my MBK 5513 projects a few years ago, 2011 or 2012 iirc (I have posted this before).  It ended up costing about $1300.  I still have it but it is apart right now.
$300 or less for case (can not remember exact $$, got it from a member)
$102 for Yuki dial
$25 for TC tube and crown
$12 for ST hands
$650 for 26 jewel rolex 1520 hack mvt
$20 for mainspring etc.
$0 for c/o  (did it myself)
$85 for fake 358 hoods and put together '93150' bracelet, also have a folded oyster from 'Mary' that adds up to about the same
$12 for GS crystal
$68 for ST bezel kit (better fit than MBK bez with the GS crystal that was used)
$25 misc...spring bars, gaskets, case screws etc.

 

 

 

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Speaking of MBW, I recently picked up an MBW 1680 from a fellow who wasn't happy with it- couldn't get a gen crystal to fit. This is a later 1680- says 1680 on the case- 5513 like the earlier ones but still has the L462xxx SN. Lugholes were close to gen spec. I installed a 702 tube and crown, trimmed the cgs in the process and had the 2846-2 which I had waiting for such a project serviced and installed the silver dwo. I've sent the MBW white dial and hands off to be relumed and have installed a gen crystal and bezel insert while I wait. Also have a gen 93150 with 580 ends ready to go. I picked up most of the parts 10-12 years ago maybe longer so prices were reasonable.

MBW 1680 with swiss 2836-2 and white dial- $350

2846-2- $80 plus $200 to service

DWO- $25

702 crown and tube- $100

gen 93150 and 580 ends- $400- c. 2006-8

relume- $100-$150

insert- $80- service insert bought in the late 2000s

crystal- maybe $50- they were cheap 15 years ago

 

So, I have $1400 in this watch give or take and an extra swiss eta 2836-2 which is running fine for another project.

This is all I'm going to do these days- a good looking rep with a swiss eta and gen parts if I have them. 

But typically my Rolex reps these days runs $400-700 with a few mods. It's a rep, not a franken!

 

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"Speaking of MBW, I recently picked up an MBW 1680 from a fellow who wasn't happy with it- couldn't get a gen crystal to fit."

 

All my MBK cases have oem spec 28.2mm OD case necks. The crystal retaining bezel is 30.15mm ID and I mostly use ST or Clark bezel kits with GS crystals.  Never used a genuine crystal on one though.

 

"But typically my Rolex reps these days runs $400-700 with a few mods. It's a rep, not a franken!"

 

That is a very reasonable amount ($1400) to spend on a high quality watch project today, especially with that parts list.  Besides that, if you drop it, chances are it will be fine.  Can't say that for a 50 year old rolex 15xx movement with ruby rotor bearings and a winding weight that is just barely rivetted to the rotor axle.

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:crazy:   'Executive Decision' Finalized:  

 

Thought it over and decided to take the movement out of the 'shortcut 1655' and remove all GMT conversion parts...center wheel, CP, hour wheel, 24H wheel etc. and put it back to a regular date movement.  I'll have to press another minute wheel post in the main plate but hopefully that will go smoothly.  This movement will go back in the 1603 DJ it originally came out of...pretty nice, no case corrosion at all with a good black dial.

 

Here are the details about changing the 1570/75 date movement over to a 'shortcut' GMT if anyone missed it or cares.

Building an MBW Sub + 'shortcut' rlx 1560/70 GMT conversions... - Page 2 - The Rolex Area - RWG   

Start with post number 8.

 

Next, I'll put another 'combo' swiss ETA movement together similar to my JMB '1016' project using swiss ETA 2836 main plates, hour wheel, CP etc. and 2846 escapement (21600 bph) with an Asian GMT conversion with non-adjustable 24H hand.  This will go with the 'shortcut 1655' case/dial set to make a relatively low $$ '1655' for daily wear.  Better than the average GMT type replica with a DG 3804 or Asian ETA clone...imho.

 

Here is the info on the JMB '1016' with the combo ETA 2824/2846 movement: 

JMB '1016' project update... - The Rolex Area - RWG

The GMT conversion will be using 2836 plates with 2846 escapement instead of 2824 plates with 2846 escapement.

 

Last, I will put another 'shortcut' GMT movement together using a complete rolex 1570/75 hack movement, J$W case, dial etc to wear, sell, trade, or give away.  It will make a first class watch and the 'shortcut' GMT conversion has been fully tested over the past year.  They get a bad rap but some of them are pretty good...imho.

 

This will leave me with a full set of nos genuine GMT conversion parts and I have a spare 1570/75 hack movement to make a 'correct' 1575 GMT movement for $ale or trade ($4K to $5K at today's prices).

A genuine 1565/75 converted to GMT using all genuine parts is exactly the same as a movement that originally came in a 'four digit' GMT watch as long as the serial number starts with the letter 'D'.  The serial number makes little difference on a 50+ year old movement unless someone comes up with the original chronometer certificate/documents with the movement and case serial numbers to prove it is not original to a particular GMT watch.  Not many of these documents still exist and not many really care today.  

 

Update 5-19-22

Been digging through rlx 15xx movements and parts...

The 1570/75 hack movement that was mounted in the J$W '1655' case (mentioned above) before I got it has the minute wheel axle removed and was previously in the '1655' case with the Asian GMT shortcut parts but it did not have the taller genuine center wheel/canon pinion/hour wheel, or a 24H wheel bushing like I used in the 'shortcut 1655'.  Because of this, the 24 hour hand was too close to the dial and the 12H and  M hands were also too close together.  Without the bushing there is also the chance of the 24H wheel slipping out of mesh allowing the 24H hand to get out of correspondence with the 12H time.

So...this is the movement I'll put back in the '1655' with the shortcut parts and genuine GMT hour wheel, CP etc.  This will make a good watch without using any more genuine GMT parts to convert a 1565/75 to GMT because NOS genuine 1565/75 GMT conversion parts are getting hard to find and high $$, especially a complete set.

 

How did I get the '1655' case?

An RWG member and I made a trade in 2011...a Yuki '1680' I got from 'Stilty' for the '1655' case and dial plus extra $$ for the 1570 movement.  The movement looks good and since the minute wheel axle has already been removed, I'll c/o the movement and put it back in the J$W case.

 

Comments welcome.   :bye2:

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