Once you have removed a watch movement from its case it is not recommend to place this on a desk or other flat service. Mainly due to contamination but mainly due to the potential risk of damaging a protruding parts. It is therefore common practice to use a movement holder to safely secure the movement for working on.
There are two main varieties of watch movement holders. Universal movement holders which can be adjusted to suit the movement in hand. Size/movement specific types which are also known as movement rings.
The standard universal holder type is made of stainless steel and uses a vice type mechanism to secure the movement from two sides. This can be tightened and expanded as required. They also have the added benefit of being reversible so that the other side of the movement holder can cater for different sized movements.
The larger side being more suited to pocket watch sized movements.
Although the universal movement holder is very flexible there is one issue I have experienced with smaller movements. Due to the fact that the holder needs to be clamped more to grip a smaller movement. The legs of the movement holder are connected to the vice component griping the movement. The more closed the vice is the smaller the footprint of the movement holder feet. This makes the holder much less stable. This can cause the holder to easily topple over if you apply too much pressure on one side without counter weight on the other. It means your second hand needs to be apply pressure on the opposite side and/or you rotate the movement to maximise support.
Bergeon and Horotec seem to be the two main movement holder manufacturers but in my experience it’s the Bergeon option that most watchmakers seem to use. This comes in two varieties:
- Bergeon 4040 Movement Holder (8 3/4 – 19 Ligne)
- Bergeon 4040-P Movement Holder (8 3/4 – 19 Ligne)
The only difference being that the 4040-P model is made from carbon fibre rather than stainless steel so it has a little more give when tightening around a movement and less likely to scratch it. They are also priced the same. Frustratingly I only discovered this after I had ordered the standard 4040 model.
- Basic Variety = from £5
- Branded Variety = around £19
Unless you only plan to work with only a few different watch calibres (in which case you should buy a branded movement ring for those calibres) then a universal movement holder is your best bet. The Bergeon 4040-P Movement Holder is your best option, the risk to the movement from a budget option movement holder is just not worth the saving in my opinion.
There are also movement rings which are not universal as they are based on various (ligne) sizes to match the size of the movement. They are a moulded tube like shape with a notch for the winding stem to sit in to. These are not adjustable and only offer a gentle grip as they allow the movement to site flush in the top of the ring. These are very low cost and come in plastic and metal varieties.
Ligne is used in Swiss watchmaking as a form of measurement, mainly to gauge the thickness of a movement.
Then you have the higher end movement rings, made by the big watch tool manufacturers and watch brands specifically for a movement caliber. These are much more precision tools and come with hand pushers for hand setting and chronograph function checking. Very handy when you want to test the movement without needing to re-attach the pusher buttons and winding stem.
I’ve yet to use a non-universal movement holder as I’ve only just procured a budget one, but will report back once I’ve given it a good test run.
Bergeon, Horotec, AF Switzerland and Horia are the main movement ring manufacturers depending on the movement you require.
- Basic Variety = from £2
- Branded Variety = from £20 up to £200+
Definitely a worthy investment once you start working regularly on the same movement calibers. As with the movement holder a branded option is the way to go as this is a key tool you will use constantly.
If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.