Rotate Watches SOL Part 3


Rotate Watches SOL closeup

When we left off in Part 2 last week month, it was unknown whether I’d seriously damaged the Rotate Watches “make it yourself” movement. Good news: nope, it’s fine. Bad news: I’m still SOL. Minimal progress and another impasse! Nonetheless, this all took gobs of time and effort. Gather round to hear of my foibles. If you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done . . .

Previously, I was worried sick about the set/wind lever system. It didn’t shift between these two functions with the stem in/out. I’d neglected getting back to customer service with more details. This let me hope that I hadn’t irreparably bunged it all up. I finally sent a short demonstration video off to our heroine and savior Jen, the tireless and cheery one-woman support team.

The simple, anticlimactic answer promptly arrived: tighten the screw that allows stem removal. The instructions, of course, warn about not loosening this too much. Anyway, it worked. Presumably, if I had not been such a
fussbudget, checking function before told to, I’d have tightened that screw in the next couple steps anyway. So this was much ado about nothing.

I still had to cut the replacement stem to length. It later realized that the original stem was likely never cut too short and was a similar victim of my fretting. I refuse to check and find out. Anyway, the first step is loosening that screw I’d just tightened. You may note that the process has lots of repetition. You may note that the process has lots of repetition. Sisyphus levels, almost.

Flip the movement over to loosen that screw to pull the winding stem. Removing the stem while the movement is still upside down can lead to the pinion gear surrounding the stem falling out. Yes, the one I’ve already lost and replaced once already. That one. This immediately happened again, which is how I learned how I lost the first one. I got even more practice reinstalling that gear.

Rotate Watches SOL RTFM
I don’t read so good

Did I mention that the directions warn against overtightening that stem-securing screw too? Somehow that detaches a piece too. Because it holds on . . . hold on, let’s get that stock image again. The part the red arrow points to, Set Lever Ebauches #443. That screw is the mounting and the pivot. Yikes. Yup. Rotate Watches SOL again.

Image courtesy of

That fell out. Getting it back in was a trick. It must be slid under that piece with the green arrow, which happens to be acting as a spring. Since the little peg goes into a slot in a spring, the loose piece becomes ammunition in a  tiny catapult. It wants to shoot the piece into the beyond, much like spring bars do under their own power.

I thought I saw the launched piece land between two floorboards. I really, really didn’t want to go crawling back to Rotate for a third round of free spare parts because I’d screwed up yet again. The shame would be unbearable. I must hide this embarrassment  by finding the piece!

Thus I created a wee archeological dig using another set of tweezers. I excavated ancient crud from the crevice and carefully sifted through it. Old staples, plastic clothing tag sprues, broom bristle fragments, fingernail clippings were all found. But not the little squiggly metal part. Was it magnetic? Dragging magnets yielded nothing. Would a flashlight help, an UV one?

Bad lighting here as the photographer was a bit frazzled

Oops, I found it by the table leg edge. Not so Rotate Watches SOL now, eh Mr. Bond? Back to installation . . .

So after slipping it under one piece and pushing against a spring, just line up the threaded hole over the screw. The screw that tightens from the other side, from the bottom. This took many, many attempts. But I finally emerged victorious.

Rotate Watches SOL again
Back together. Stem still too long.

We’re still at the stem trimming step? I was shy about trimming too much, again. But I’m not doing all this just to end up with a big gap between the case and crown. More repetition, this became like Zeno’s paradox. Clip the stem, insert it, and keep getting closer but never fully there.

Finally it reached the point where cutting a thread pitch risked being too much, but I still minded the gap. I thought I had some sandpaper around last time, but it was nowhere to be found. So I had to use a nail file like a total sissy. It turns out the steel stem end files down nowhere as fast as a fingernail.

Alas, it’s good enough. Open the krazy glue, dip the stem end and thread that crown on for the last time.  Good night, cure overnight.

small tab is small

All this time the movement had just been friction fit into the case. Two little metal tabs need to be screwed in to lock it in place and prevent rotation or shifting. Of course these are tiny little pieces. By this point, I was done with the gloves, regardless of what the directions said.

Yet again, the process was supposed to be one of finesse but really was an infinite number of hapless attempts hoping for the stars to align. Use the tweezer to drop the tab in place. Repeat with the screw, hoping to somehow get it through the loose tab and the threaded hole, then tighten. The final hole in mini-golf, putting through the windmill blades, is a snap in comparison.

The supplied screw driver is truly not up for the job. It doesn’t fit the slot in width or length. Even when magnetized with the help of a refrigerator magnet, the screw would dangle off at wobbly angles instead of being firmly pointable.

The taming of the screw

I quickly lost one screw, and just proceeded with the other one. Eventually I realized that the wound movement’s balance spring had stopped. Yes, the lost screw was jamming it. This was a tense moment, but a tweezer extraction mission led to returned operation. When the screw disappeared again, it was much easier to find it in the same place the second time.

See also the main photo at top!

Rotate had initially offered to replace the “dull” screwdriver. I declined. This was a mistake. However, as these screws are larger than one securing the stem I revisited that cheap Harbor Freight precision screwdriver kit. It worked much better here. I got the hole in one on the first shot!

One down, one out. Why is there a shadow under tab? Come back next week!

Then the second screw shot off somewhere. A repeat search operation couldn’t locate it. So I begged poor Jen at Rotate for help one last time. I tried to coax them to charge me for the amount of nuisance and and profit loss I’m causing. They were having none of it.

Bonus: Vaer sent out a video about what their American assembly entails. Despite being a Vaer fan, I’d have previously scoffed at this. Now, not so much, and I’m not even regulating or testing pressure ratings.

So . . . not done yet. Stay tuned for another exciting chapter of Rotate Watches SOL, or how I learned to stop worrying and screw it up again.


  1. Awesome pics. TTAW should get you one of those overhead-mounted video cameras to follow along with live narration. A few episodes would be OK, a mini-series not so much. 😜

    • The large size of the movement helps. Otherwise this is the result of lots of shots with a cell phone in indirect sunlight, then cropping a lot.
      The reason I didn’t include the short video I had to send to Rotate was that the 30 second clip included jostling, broken narration, audible children playing in the background, and frustrated grunting. It’s a very Mr. Bean production.
      Didn’t you get one of these kits?

      • The more natural the video the better, but I get it. Yes I did get a kit. Looked inside the box, gave my oohs and ahs and thank you’s, then saw your travails and left the box untouched. Thought your video might help me out…get the headphones on, hit play and keep it on constant replay as I grumble through the construction. Either way, I will get to it, my family expects it. Good grief.

        • Except for the crummy screwdriver and overly tight first screw, which are apparently bad luck flukes that I got, it seems that most errors were mine. Despite me saying to read the directions all the way through, my comprehension is poor.

          I should put the following in all caps on every portion: Scroll past the step you are at to see the hints they list afterward. I’m a dope, and noticed them afterward. I’d say that their “tips” to be a bit more crucial than they do.

          It’ll get written up soon but everything is together except for the front and back case covers, which are both pressed in. Ideally they claim this can be done by pressing by hand, but I put all my weight on it to no avail and will be escalating to their alternative methods soon.

          I probably should have rewatched their video too:

    • Yes and no. I was completely unable to press the front case on using means not supplied by Rotate, and by that point I had other concerns about potential errors. Given that this this case design required removal of front and back to remove the movement, I gave up and sent the thing in for inspection and completion. Which they offered and performed free of charge. The customer service, which I think consists entirely on Jennifer in her LA apartment, is dedicated to the customer getting a completed watch no matter how annoying and hapless they may be. And except for shipping the unit back, they never asked for one dime more.
      Anyone doing one of these kits needs to have a case press capable of the massive size case used, which the one I bought at Harbor Freight was not. Their claim that one can do this by hand is rather farcical. What they really need to supply is just the plastic (Delrin? Nylon?) cups for the press in the desired size. With those, it may be possible to bop the front with the crystal and bezel on with hand pressure or a C-clamp or something not requiring a heavy cast assembly. Anyone with a lathe should contact her about that business proposition.

  2. Oscar, you lit up my life for an entire morning with this marvelous series. I was so disappointed not to find Part IV! Even a “Part IIIa: Coda” would have given some closure! I am buying one of these watches for my nephew, an Engineering major and mechanical genius, so I wanted to be sure that they were a legit company and were actually offering a workable project with a real final product. Your posts have reassured me that, speedbumps aside, the Rotate watch is a genuine item. I felt a bit sad while reading, because my dad would have enjoyed your odyssey so much. He died in Jan, 2022; he was an electrical engineer by trade who loved to take things apart, find the problem, and repair it (he was the kind of kid in the 1950s who persistently got in trouble for disassembling any mechanical device his parents purchased). Your hilarious account of building the watch would have really amused him. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and please, consider posting a coda (with a photo of the final product!).

    • I believe my response to Thomas should answer your questions. The Rotate customer service experience is top notch and they (well, more like she, it seems) will send free replacement parts and literally finish assembling the watch should one prove too inept. I speak from experience on this. If I took any photos of the finished product, they are gone now. The watch was passed along to a coworker as, despite being a fine item, it was just too big for me. My notes and memory all got too jumbled during hiatus so unfortunately a finished account would be speculation at this point. I do wish I knew of someone else’s results, as I tend to be methodical and orderly with this sort of thing but it’s possible I am delusional and have just gotten lucky with other things. I did deliberately choose the more difficult kit and it did not underwhelm in delivering a challenge. Thanks for reading!

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