Last update May 7th. 2016

Watchmaker's Cleaning Machine 

May 3rd. 2016

 
No work of a watchmaker is worth a single penny unless the watch movements are fully and properly cleaned. 

Elma cleaning machines are German made, Super Elite model was made in late 1970s.

Through several generations it evolved into a fully automatic machine. 

This, a manual watch cleaning machine that has been a workhorse of the watch industry over many decades, nowadays still used by many a watchmaker.

The basket is three tier device capable of accepting and at the same time cleaning three completely disassembled movements.

Machine has three jars, one used with cleaning fluid, and two with rinse. The end of the cleaning cycle is accomplished in the heating chamber, which is equipped with the 200 W heating element. 

To control the process of cleaning, there is a built in 0-10 minute manually set timer, with alarm.

 
The older of my two ELMA machines has basket frame, and mounting plate, made of metal. 

Typical basket holder and the compartmentalised baskets, out of a whole variety. 

As shown in the second image. 

 
The newer one has both made of plastic. After years of use mounting plate has developed few cracks around the metal sleeve that mounts it on the motor shaft. 

I had no choice but go ahead and replace both, the basket and the mounting plate, for fear of them falling apart. 

No metal ones were available, so I had to purchase the new plastic replacements, shown in the second image.

 
 

For the very small parts there are small baskets with lids, which fit nicely inside of the standard height baskets.

For larger watch parts there is a deep basket which fits the basket holder replacing the standard basket elements, as shown in the second image.

 
One of the accessories made for the Super Elite cleaning machine is ELMA Infrasonic Vibration Unit VK/1, a special holder for the vibrational - infrasonic cleaning of watch movements, which are only partially disassembled.

This unit creates vibrations of about 30 Hz (Cycles/sec) thus producing a strong cleaning effect.

Unit shown was designed for holding and cleaning of three partially disassembled watch movements.

 
The three miniature baskets for holding small sensitive parts of the movement, and below, the three holders of the partially disassembled movements.
 
For larger throughput, there also are units for holding and cleaning six movements, also partially disassembled.
 
Regardless of which method of cleaning one uses, it is important not to allow cleaning solution to froth.

To prevent frothing it is necessary to place wave breakers in the jars. On the bottom of jars, two in each, placed diagonally so that they cannot in any way interfere with the rotation of the basket.

Vertical members standing in the corners, are opposing the current, creating tiny counter swirls in each corner of the jar.  

    
The ELMA ammoniated cleaning concentrate which I am using for cleaning fully disassembled watches. Comes in packages of 1, 2.5 and 10 litres.

Used by mixing with water, tap or demineralised, in ratio of 1 part concentrate and 9 parts water.

Also usable in the ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning fully disassembled watches, watch cases, bracelets etc.

 
It may be worth mentioning, the ELMA Spirol, although not used in the cleaning machine. 

Normally used and kept in a small glass essence jar, a small quantity only, replaced quite frequently. 

Used for degreasing of the escapement parts, like balance spring, balance, pallet or escape wheel, if and when it becomes necessary.

   
Not everything can, nor should be cleaned in the watch cleaning machine. There are bracelets as well as watch cases that very often need thorough cleaning.

For that purpose I am using a professional ultrasonic bath, 120W RMS, 480 W peak power @ 35 kHz, made in Germany by Bandelin. 

The 3 litre ultrasonic bath is equipped with a 140 W heater controlled by thermostat, a 15 minute timer, designed to be used continuous duty, achieved by switching the timer knob to infinite position, 

 
Typical result of a test of an ultrasonic bath showing the effect of micro cavitation. 

Test is performed using a piece of household aluminium foil, as is suggested by the manufacturer4

Test lasted only 60 seconds, with aluminium foil 10 m in thickness and produced the result as shown.

 
Typical accessories for the ultrasound cleaner are various beakers, either glass or plastic. 

For larger items there are stainless steel baskets, which are inserted inside bath.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

References:

1 -   ELMA Super Elite cleaning machine user manual - English language
2 -   Elma watch cleaning concentrate 9-1 - Product info

3 -  

ELMA Spirol Balance spring degreasing agent - Product info

 4 -  

Bandelin Sonorex Super RK 102 H - Ultrasonic cleaning bath data sheet

 5 -  

Bandelin Sonorex Super - User Instructions - English language

 6 -  

Bandelin Sonorex Service Instructions - English language
  
 
 
 

   
 
 
   
   
   
 

 

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