You are right, it seems that mostly only the best watchmakers are willing to work on a Pierce chrono. (And by all accounts, that clearly describes Jesse.)
Pierce used an all in-house movement with a then-unusual clutch. Evidently today many other Chronos use a variation of the same clutch, supposedly starting with Seiko in 1968 or 69. I believe only the very earliest Pierce examples from the 1930s used a piece of round leather to act as a friction disk/washer of the clutch. I think before WWII they had replaced this with a plastic or rubber gasket/washer -- and in the long run that was likely even messier than the early leather ones. I own an early 1930's example but my others are from the 40s or 50s. The good news is that the leather on the early ones can be replaced with a rubber gasket also... as long as some tinker-er has not messed it up in the last 70 years.
After finding the following post on the internet a year or 2 ago, I stopped being afraid of them:I disassembled a Pierce 134 recently because I simply was curious how it is
designed. No plastics with one exception: I found a (formerly) soft plastic
washer within the clutch. First I thought that someone tried to make the
chrono function by odd means, and left it out. The chrono worked without
the washer, but ran not synchronously with the sub second.
So this washer was likely applied to provide sufficient friction with low axial
pressure. And if it becomes hard, the clutch may slip (like without washer).
But it is no problem to cut a replacement from e.g. thin silicone-rubber
gasket material. As everything in this mechanism is adjustable by screws,
even the thickness of this washer is of minor importance.
Else everything is made for eternity, and I guess most not working samples
don't due to misadjustment or missing parts.
Regards, Roland Ranfft
When pushed a bit as to why most watch repair guys won't work on Pierce chronos, this was his response:Simply because they are too lazy to analyze the function. The many
adustment devices for the travels of levers and springs make the movement
appear complicated, but it is actually simple, and it is kind of comfort that
everything is adjustable to get it running even with distorted or wrong parts.
Regards, Roland Ranfft
I have shared a few emails with Jesse about my examples, and my hope is that he will not mind the frustration.
I owe him a phone call.