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Rohloff oil- an alternative that worked for me

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This is the Muppets thread. And this is not quite the post you might be expecting.

I went swimming with a Seiko 5 automatic watch just before Christmas, and I ended up getting water in the works having inadvertently the crown not fully pressed home before I got in the water. The result after 45 minutes swimming was a watch that had stopped and that had a small amount of water in the works. When I got home, I removed the back and dried the watch out for 24 hours on the boiler. It looked fine, and I got it running again, but it would stop randomly when wearing. It was at this point I noticed (through the glass back plate) that the oscillating weight that winds the watch when moving was sticking and jamming stuck unless shaken with force. Removing the back again and turning that part with a screwdriver showed clear resistance at certain points of rotation. The rotor sits on a tiny ball brace with 5 bearings.

Hmmm, what to do? Seiko 5 are wonderful and reliable mechanical timepieces. But also wonderfully affordable. This means repair/service in a workshop would cost me close to the price of a replacement watch. And a new replacement would come with guarantee. So what about servicing it myself? Worse case, I would kill a watch that was no longer working. Technically, the watch was repairable, but otherwise an economic write-off.

Just like this forum, there are lively forums of kindred spirits discussing lube for watches. With watch lube costing $1500 a liter others had posed the same question given that a thimble of the recommended stuff costs over $20:

Forget our gripes on the cost of Rohloff oil. My one liter of Rohloff Speedhub oil Art. No. 8404 was bagged for a measly EUR44 when on special at Starbike a while back. On one of the forums I had looked for guidance somebody suggested they used full synthetic Mobil 1 on watch servicing. As Mobil 1 has been touted as a 'possible' alternative to Rohloff Speedhub oil my reckoning was that the Rohloff oil from my bike shed might just work as an alternative to the alternative of the Moebius Synt-HP 1300 recommended watch bearing lubricant. Rohloff oil is clearly a bargain at this price point!

I removed the oscillating rotor weight from my watch, and using a pin, extracted a single drop from my Rohloff Speedoil bottle and carefully applied to the bearing mechanism, manually turning to ensure all balls came into contact. After that I removed excess oil from that one drop from the rotor itself, and carefully fitted back into the watch.

That was a week ago. The watch and wearer's wallet are since fully recovered from this delicate operation. 10 year old watch self winds and correct to within about 5 seconds a day as it had prior to the water ingress, and the moths nesting in-between banknotes in my wallet were able to go undisturbed as a result.

The moral of the story is, Rohloff oil (if compared with Moebius Synt-HP 1300) is NOT expensive at all and might have more unexplored uses than just in our hub of choice. And curiosity certainly hasn't killed my cat quite yet... :o

Anyone else used their Rohloff Speedhub oil as an alternative to other oils? What did you use it for- and was it worth it?

My Seiko takes batteries.  I am impressed you are using a mechanical.  I think I put my last mechanical in storage in the late 1980s.

Andre Jute:
I congratulate you on your innovation, Steve. I too have a Seiko 5 in my collection. I bought it as presumably new old stock in Singapore. It was pretty awful for the first week, sticking and stopping randomly, so bad that I put it away until I could catch the town's best jeweler (a neighbor) in a good mood and ask him if the thing was worth salvaging. Recently, locked-down and bored, I sorted my newest watches to new sharkskin straps and tried it again, and it worked with all the aplomb the 7S26 movement is known for. It seems that I wore it just long enough for the movement to free itself up and run itself in, and gave up on it one day too soon.

A tip: The relatively new Seiko aftermarket/movements NH35 with date and NH36 with day and date are a direct drop-in replacement for the 7S26, or at most you have to shift the date ring(s) a wee bit if your Seiko 5 has the 4 o'clock crown; instructions on the net. I have a handful of watches with these movements, including some I made myself, and they're superb. I also bought a spare movement for less than thirty euro landed from China, intending to put the spare into the Seiko 5.

If you're interest in the genesis of the ball bearing rotor, look at my Eternamatic 3000 at

George: I don't pedal fast enough to need a chronograph, but I have several that came among the complications on my flying watches. You might like the circular slide rule bezel around my long-serving Citizen Navihawk at the same link.

I have no clue what a Seiko 5 is.

I have a Seiko automatic winder that I bought new in early 70s.  It still works, but I do not recall why I quit wearing it.  In late 80s I was wearing a Jubilee diving watch and when it quit working I started wearing a Casio that was both digital and analog.  Marked 6106-8629.  Ever since then I always wore electric watches, usually Casios but also have the Seiko pilots watch in the photo above.

Have a second Seiko automatic winder that I bought used, I think from the 70s.  I wore it enough to know that it worked, put it in my travel kit because I traveled a lot for work and wanted a spare.  I really did not want to be traveling for work and have my watch battery die with no backup, this Seiko was my backup.  Marked 6106-7739.

Andre Jute:

--- Quote from: mickeg on January 26, 2022, 11:07:05 PM ---I have no clue what a Seiko 5 is.
--- End quote ---

It's Seiko's idea of a young man's first mechanical watch in a digital world. It is probably the most successful watch range of all time, with tens of millions sold.

Here's an independent catalogue that lists 2613 different Seiko 5 models, open at the page which shows my 38SNKL:
Go to that site's home page to discover the aims of the Seiko 5 range back when it all started in 1963. Steve may know quite a bit more than I do, because my natural "home" in the Seiko family is the upmarket sister brand Orient, from whom I currently have two cushion tonneau dress watches and a diver; for strictly tool watches, either mechanical or digital, I like Citizen and their movement brand Miyota from I coincidentally have a Miyota 8285 mechanical movement currently on my wrist.

I happened on an image of the design of the Seiko 5 38SNxx in a lament about designs Seiko stopped making, searched for the best-looking one for a few months, bought one a dealer found for me to see what it was like in the metal, with the intention of buying a couple of the others of the same design in different colors, perhaps all-silver and stainless with black dial, but, as I mentioned above, mine when it arrived didn't work so well (and had a pressed rather than machined clasp, which, for the kind of money a rare Seiko 5 now costs, is not good enough), and I didn't discover until very recently that it was merely running in and would become a good timekeeper. My watches get worn at most three times a year, for a week, so the oils dry out from disuse, and sometimes NOS watches arrive needing a complete strip down and soaking in oil, entirely beyond my eyesight and costing more than the watch is worth to have professionally done; I don't like electrical watch winders for the usual technical reasons, the main one being that their regular movement wears shafts and gears unnaturally and in the same place.


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