Classic watches, watchmaking, antique tools, history, vintage ephemera and more!
Learn about mechanical timepieces and how they work, the history of the American watch industry and especially all about the Elgin National Watch Company! Check back for new content daily.
Although this is technically a blog, the content is not generally in a time-based sequence. You can find interesting items throughout. Down the page some is an alphabetical word cloud of keywords used here. A great way to dig in is to look through those topics and click anything you find interesting. You'll see all the relevant content.
Here are a few of my favorites!
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Why are pliers, tweezers, and many other horologist's tools so often covered with rust? Every workman knows that the answer may be moist, perspiring hands. Watch parts also are exposed to this annoying cause of rust and many a good repair job is ruined by moisture that is deposited on repair parts from the horologist's perspiring hands.
This problem was solved by a Swiss chemist who developed a soap which the horologist could use in place of ordinary soap and which would keep his hands dry all day. He need only wash his hands twice daily with this soap and they would remain comfortably and safely dry.
Swiss watch factories soon recognized the advantages of supplying this soap to their men. Bulova, Gruen, Longines, Omega, Movado, Tavannes, Patek-Philippe are all using it now in their factories in Switzerland.
An American trade journal recently called the attention of American watchmakers to the merits of this anti-rust soap.
Swartchild & Co., after tests that proved to their satisfaction the unquestionable merit of the soap, obtained from the inventor and manufacturer the exclusive right to distribute the soap in the United States. Every horologist can now avail himself of this excellent protection for his watch parts and also his tools.
Marshall Introduces New Cement for Unbreakable Crystals
C. & E. Marshall Co., is now offering to the trade a new cement called Permatex Unbreakable Crystal Cement. This cement is specially made for greatest efficiency with unbreakable crystals. It is guaranteed to keep crystals from coming loose from bezels. This unusual adhesiveness to both the bezel and the crystal is due to the fact that Permatex cement remains in a semi-plastic state and compensates for any slight expansion or contraction due to extreme conditions of heat or cold.
"The 75th Anniversary Elgins, recently introduced to the trade, are, we believe, the most exceptional timepieces ever created in Elgin's 75 years of American watchmaking tradition and progress.
These superlative watches divide themselves into four classifications: Diamond Set Elgins; Lord and Lady Elgins; Elgin "De Luxe" models of 17 jewels; and EIgins of 15 jewels and less. Each of these groups numbers new models of remarkable beauty and advance styling. And all are constructed in strict accordance with Elgin's latest standards of exacting technical design. For example, all the Lord and Lady Elgins are now being equipped with Elgin's exclusive Elginium hairsprings and Beryl-X balances. As for price - every Elgin Anniversary timepiece bears a most attractive consumer price tag - yet gives dealers a full profit margin."
The fluorescent mercury tube is entirely different in principle and effect from the ordinary incandescent lamp bulb. It never becomes hot and it radiates almost no heat whatever-a factor that increases comfort considerably, helping to keep the workman and the surface of his bench cool. The mercury tube is 18" long and sheds light from its entire surface. It burns only 15 watts but produces a very powerful diffused light, almost like daylight, which illuminates the entire bench.
While it gives a far greater volume of light than ordinary lamps, the mercury tube is without dazzle or glare and one can look directly at the lighted tube without discomfort or squinting. An ideal lamp for the watchmaker because it reduces eyestrain and improves visibility.
Credit for making fluorescent mercury light available to horologists goes to Swartchild & Company. Their new improved Triumph Bench Lamp is designed and manufactured exclusively for horologists. It is solidly constructed, is statuary bronze plated, and requires only a small space for fastening it back of the bench. Naturally it can be adjusted to any position.
The Hamilton Watch Company, now announcing introduction of 1940 models, is keynoting Fall promotions this year on the theme of "Pre-proven rightness".
Emphasizing the point that new numbers planned for distribution to the trade by September first provide the retail jeweler with everything he needs to satisfy all the demands of fine watch markets, sales director W. R. Atkinson has summarized the reasoning behind the coming campaign as follows: "First, Hamilton's new watches have been made up in grades and price ranges that have fully demonstrated their sales appeal many times over. And, second, the addition of these fulfills the need for a complete Hamilton family from highest to popular-priced fine watch quality. Thus, we are affording the retailer his much desired opportunity to concentrate on one line of watches completely, rather than on several lines incompletely."
Popular Hamilton grades 911, 180, 987, 995, and 997 are all represented in the new group.
Horology, Los Angeles, Calif.
If I may be permitted, I would like to say a few words in regard to Mr. Arthur Des Jarlais' article in the February number of Horology, together with editor's note in which Mr. Des Jarlais condemns the efficiency of mainspring winders and describes his method of winding mainsprings.
We have often heard the remark by watchmakers that they wished the maker of a certain watch had to repair it. For me the same thing goes with mainspring winders and their use. We are all aware that there is an adjustable bracelet mainspring winder on the market which (if the mainspring barrel is not too small) works very well on barrels up to about 6/0 size.
Next we will say comes the 0 size.
If there has ever been a mainspring winder on the market that can be used successfully for 0 size barrels, personally I have never seen it. I have a mainspring winder of a well known make for the larger size watches. It has about eight interchangeable barrels and three arbors.
On an 0 size barrel the tool is useless to me, and, due to the freak sizes of the barrels, I often find it useless on watches of larger size.
Until there is some satisfactory improvement in mainspring winders, I for one, feel we might be better off to throw away the winders we have bought to use on the larger size watches and use Mr. Des Jarlais' method.
A year ago the horologists of only three or four states were actively engaged in trying to put licensing laws through their respective legislatures. In one state, Wisconsin, they succeeded.
Even though the Wisconsin law has been in effect only a short time, its benefits are already noticeable. Besides raising the standard of workmanship and producing better horologists, certain provisions of the law have eliminated unfair and unethical business practices which have been the bane of the jewelry business for a hundred years. Today there is no advertising of prices for watch repairs in Wisconsin.
With the enthusiasm created by the knowledge of a working example, horologists in nearly every state are organizing to work for the passage of similar laws. It is only a question of time until most states will adopt them.
When the Horological Institute of America meets in Washington next May, one of the chief topics for consideration will be licensing legislation. With the characteristic foresight of this institution the question of uniformity of standards and reciprocal recognition of certificates is to be discussed.
Undoubtedly it would be well to give this matter serious thought before too many licensing laws are passed. In other professions there are reciprocal arrangements by which a person licensed in one state, may, upon moving to another state, be granted a certificate without examination, provided the standard of examination in both states is equally high.
It is to be recognized, however, that sometimes local conditions interfere with with the drafting of uniform legislation by requiring bills to be drawn up according to specified codes. Many persons have suggested that the certificates of the Horological Institute of America be recognized by the various state boards. This seems to be a matter for legal minds to consider, that is, whether or not it would be constitutional.
One thing is certain. Licensing legislation for horologists is an accomplished fact. Its spread to other states must inevitably follow.
Here are the five most popular posts, most viewed, posts from this blog. Most posts get views in the low double digits, over long periods. For whatever reason, these and few more are viewed in the double digits everyday.
5. What Type of Wristwatch Does Barack Obama Wear
4. Lookup Elgin Serial Numbers
3. Elgin Serial Number Beginning with a Letter
2. Elgin Serial Numbers Lookup
And the most popular...
1. How To Open A Pocketwatch Case
A common problem with antique parts is that whatever identification they had has been lost over time. A box of random parts has little value if they can not be identified.
There were some momentary interruptions in the availability of the Elgin production data website as I updated it with a new feature. There is now a tool for looking up and identifying unknown balance staffs by their dimensions.
[UPDATE: I corrected this URL, sorry...]
There are a handful of makes I have yet to include, but will soon. The data will also improve otherwise, over time. The database includes about a thousand balance staff measurements.
This one was made about 1928 and has had a new Masonic dial added, and the hands touched up with something blue (paint?). Original blue hands, screws, and other blue steel parts, are blued by a heating process.
This one was made about 1925, and helps make an important point.
People often write to me about an old watch that "runs fine" except for... Something. It's missing a hand, it doesn't set, whatever... But it "runs fine." Watches are also listed on eBay, described as "running." This would seem to mean that the watch winds up, ticks, and possibly keeps time within a few minutes a day.
But an old watch has likely not been cleaned in decades. Perhaps even a century. Such a watch will have stale oil that is doing nothing - in fact doing harm. And it will have particles of dirt inside, sticking in the gummy oil and forming an abrasive. An old watch, not serviced, may run fine now, but running it is just like running a car without oil. The dirt will quickly wear down baring parts and create a real problem by ruining something.
The center pivot, the hole in the main plate where the center wheel turns, at some point was ground out of round by running this watch without servicing it.
What to do? The main plate is all but ruined. But someone, likely long ago, re-shaped the pivot using a punch to deform the plate around the edge of the hole.
Notice the pits left around the center on the dial side of the lower plate.
I left this fix as-is. As an antique, this watch, now cleaned and lubricated with modern oil, now runs fine, for occasional use.
"The advertising program of The Elgin National Watch Company, for example, is one of the most comprehensive we have ever conducted. And it is gratifying to note that jewelers are making exceptionally strong efforts to cash in on it to the full"
"In this connection, one retailer - Sallans of Detroit - has instituted a program of dominant color advertising in newspapers. The ads in this effective campaign tie in closely with our own nattional program. They are of 5 column by 18 inches in size, and gain their distinction not only by their brilliant use of color but by their excellent makeup as well. Appearing as they do, right at the time the Elgin National Advertising program is gathering momentum, these advertisements cannot help but register a noteworthy sales boom for Sallans." Mr. Brodsky also pointed out that "even these retailers who are not featuring such spectacular tie-in advertisements as Sallans, are doing a far more intensive job of advertising than is customary. Requests for free mats of ready-to-run newspaper advertisements have hit new highs this year," he said.
"And it is significant that we are experiencing a great increase in requests for the advertisements which feature our 17, 19 and 21 jeweled models. Not only do retailers apparently expect an increase in the number of units they will sell this year, but also a step-up in the quality of merchandise desired."
Lemoyne, Pa. - Swinging a twentyfour pound brass ball for its pendulum, the last of the Daniel Drawbaugh electric clocks, built more than fifty years ago, still is keeping regular time in a corner of a jeweler's office here.
Encased in solid walnut, the clock is one of a half-dozen Drawbaugh built in his Eberly Mills workshop, and the only one of its kind that is known to have turned its wheels for more than forty years of existence.
All six clocks were of the "grandfather cabinet" design and operated on wet batteries, using approximately 5 cents a year of electricity.
The timepiece is virtually the same, if not the identical clock, Drawbaugh exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876 while the patents for which he had applied were still pending.
Said by some persons to have been the "real inventor" of the telephone, Drawbaugh constructed the clocks piece-by-piece, each part molded by hand.
W. H. Samelius, Chairman
Science of Horology and Technical Board
The Tourbillion, one of the many inventions of Breguet, was expected to lessen or do away with position error. It was constructed in such a way that the balance and entire escapement revolved within a cage several times during the hour.
Kidney-piece. A cam shaped like a kidney used in clocks to denote the difference between true and mean solar time.
Isochronism may be attained by reforming overcoil of hairspring, by increasing or decreasing the angle of draw on the pallets, by using a shorter or longer hairspring, by closing the regulator pins, by changing the mainspring.
A watch cannot show good rates when pivets are poorly polished, out of round, ends not flat or when pivots are not of equal size. When the balance hole jewels are of poor quality, too thick or too thin. Holes not concentric, jewels out of flat or cap jewels pitted. When the hairspring is poorly circled, out of center, out of flat or has uneven development.
When the regulating pins are too far apart. If the balance is magnetized, poorly fitted roller jewel or a rough fork slot, even if the escapement and train is in perfect order.
Many workmen, in replacing a balance staff. drive out the old staff from the balance wheel. Some turn off the staking before removing the staff, a still better plan is to turn down the hub of the staff so as to remove the staff from the lower side of the wheel. This method will save much time in trueing and poising the balance.
In order to adjust an escapement intelligently theory alone will not make a good workman. Practice without theory may do after a fashion. A thorough knowledge of the nature of its functions is essential and with theory and practice, the two united will go to make a rapid and skillful workman.
An 18-size mainspring, when wound, will lift about a one pound weight when suspended from a cord wound on a barrel and at the end of 24 hours a good mainspring should lift about 3/4 pound.
.00010 inch added to or deducted from the thickness of an 18-S hairspring makes a difference of approximately 6 minutes in time for 24 hours.
The Duplex escapement acquired its name from the fact that in original form it had two escape wheels, hence the application of the Latin word "Duplex." This escapement was invented by Dutertre, a French watchmaker, about 1750.
An adjusted watch is a watch that is in perfect order. Literally this is true for this is what "adjusted" means what it attempts to secure.
The word "adjusted" is derived from Latin "ad justus," meaning just right.
When a watch is "just right" it is what we call a naturally adjusted watch and needs no adjustments by the adjuster.
The balance hole jewel and the cap jewel should be from .01 mm. to .02 mm. apart. When the upper side of the hole jewel is convex, capillary attraction will hold the oil around the pivot until the last atom of oil is exhausted.
In all, there are fifty-five wheels in the train and the clock is driven by a synchronous electric motor. In setting the hands to time, they are all controlled simultaneously from one setting post. The clock was designed and constructed by Norman Utz and Eldon Zeaske, students of the Elgin Watchmakers' College.
This one is in a new to mint gold hunter case, made about 1891.
The logo on the dial is a bit unusual, although I have seen it before. These dials were hand-painted, so I sometimes wonder if certain workers got to do the logo in certain ways.
It's often found in a decorative hunting case like this one, made about 1904.
With hunter cases, it is critical to press the crown in when closing it rather than "snapping" it shut. Otherwise, the latch part quickly wears and the front will no longer stay closed. In most instances this is unrepairable. Hardly a week goes by that I am not asked about this trouble.
By D. L. THOMPSON
The definition of watchmaker is, "one whose occupation is to make or repair watches." Many may, without compunction, claim this distinction.
Horologist is, undoubtedly, a more intriguing word than watchmaker, and, while the latter title may be more understandable to the English speaking public, both are misnomers when applied to the average workman engaged in the repair of watches.
In order to conscientiously apply either of these names to ourselves we should be able to construct a watch in its entirety and be equipped to make any part thereof for replacement purposes. Many workmen, given the proper tools, could do this but it is neither expected nor required of us in this modern age.
What then is the present requirement in order that we may call ourselves Horologists? The minimum requirement is that we must be able to fit and adjust any of the replacement parts that may be needed in repairing a watch to return it to its original condition and usefulness, and, further, we should be able to make certain parts such as staffs, springs, stems, and screws equal in appearance and utility to the original ones being replaced. This may sound simple in its statement but in practical work it is far from simple as it requires knowledge and ability equal to that of the designer and maker of the watch if it is to be returned to its original condition and if we have pride in our work this should be our aim.
How is such knowledge and ability to be attained? There are two ways and they are: attendance at a recognized Horological School, where the instructors are Certified watchmakers and men of broad knowledge of the art, and for a sufficient length of time to thoroughly learn the work; and, by serving an apprenticeship of not less than three years under the instruction of a recognized Master watchmaker who has the ability and equipment to impart his knowledge to the student. Either of these alternatives must be supplemented with a wide study of all branches of the art.
The novice, whether in school or shop, should first be given a course in applied mechanics, starting with a consideration of the mechanical powers which are: the lever; the wheel and axle; the pulley; the inclined plane; the wedge; and the screw. These are the elementary contrivances of which all machines are composed. A condensed course in Horological drafting covering theory of design should follow in order to give the student a further insight into the mechanical planning and some of the mathematical aspects of the design of watches and clocks. A well planned course of practical work in turning, milling, grinding and polishing, and watch tool making, going through the actual process of making a clock with dead beat escapement, should then be given. All this, of course, for the purpose of building a firm foundation upon which the name of Horologist is to later soundly rest.
With such a foundation laid the student, if his marks are satisfactory in this work, is well started on the long road to receiving his diploma, Horologist, which will be regarded with confidence by the public and which will be a constant source of pride to him. Only after such groundwork has been given is the student really prepared to begin the study of horology. With this firm foundation in mechanics the novice will progress rapidly in the art as he will have had impressed on his mind the why and wherefore of the mechanical movements and construction of the clock and it remains only that he be taught the construction of the watch and the modern methods of repair and adjustment. This in conjunction with a sufficient length of time spent in applying the knowledge he has gained so as to attain proficiency in the work should give him sufficient instruction to entitle him to receive the coveted appellation, Horologist.
What has been said above may seem to be unnecessary to some but many of the older watchmakers who did not have this sort of training will readily admit that their progress and proficiency would have been enhanced immeasurably had they received such training.
While the present-day watchmaker, generally, is not called upon to manufacture watches he should have a complete knowledge of all the details entering into their construction and it will be seen from the above that there is a wide field of study to be engaged in in order for one to be. able, rightfully, to earn the title of Horologist and it is such knowledge that places one in the professional class, which implies a measure of learning above the average.
There is much being written today on the value of a high-school and college education and there is no doubt that both of these are highly desirable but it is a comfort to the novice with less than a high-school education to know that intelligence is congenital. Some of the greatest inventors of our age have been watchmakers and men of little education who have given us the most valuable of our machines and conveniences. Edison is an outstanding example of a self-educated man and his name will doubtless be remembered when those of his contemporary college presidents have been forgotten. Edison was a student all his life and his success was due to not being satisfied with knowing just enough about anything but by learning all there was to know about the things he put his mind and hand to. Let the young apprentice, whether he has much or little education, take his cue from Edison and in connection with the training he is receiving make an exploration or research into all departments of the art of horology.
The United Horological Association of America has a growing library of practical books on Horology which it will loan to members, the only requirement being the payment of postage both ways. Some State Associations of Watchmakers, who are affiliated with the United Horological Association, have junior, or apprentice memberships and such members may obtain these books through some senior member. The National Association has, also, a large selection of works on Horology, by well known writers, which are for sale. See the Book Page of THE AMERICAN HOROLOGIST. If the book you want is not listed there it can be obtained for you.
Watchmaking cannot, of course, be learned from books but there is much horological lore that can be obtained in no other way.
This one, made about 1921, in an open case nickel case is quite typical.
There's a fair amount of cracking in the dial, but it just adds to the character and history of the watch, in my opinion.
By JACOB L. HAGELOW
ALTHOUGH this job is not an everyday occurrence, the man at the bench will, however, find it necessary from time to time to make a barrel cover. How often does he, after having supposedly made all necessary repairs and cleaned a watch, find upon reassembling same, that the cover on the barrel will not hold tight? True enough a barrel contractor often does the trick. In many instances though, results are obtained that are not satisfactory and the only alternative is a new cover.
Before work on this cover is started, inspect the recess in the barrel to make sure it is in good condition. Most likely you will find it rough or worn, which, of course, must be corrected first. This can be done by cementing the barrel with the recess for the cover out, on a cement chuck. Care must be exercised to get same to run true in the round end flat. Good results can be obtained for this operation by holding a pointed peg wood in the hole for the arbor and on the tee rest, and with the lathe running at a fairly good rate of speed. With a graver then it is an easy matter to recut the old recess, slightly on a taper inward to insure a snap fit. The cover then is made to fit this new recess.
In measuring for this cover as is shown in the drawing, the first dimension that is needed is the total outside thickness of the barrel or the A measurement. Now we must have the thickness of the lower boss and the barrel arbor, or B plus C respectively. A then minus B plus C will give us D, or the upper bearing. The depth of the recess is then measured for the E dimension, and this subtracted from D will give us F, or the height of the boss. To give the barrel arbor endshake, deduct about .03 millimeter from the height of the boss.
Now that these calculations have been made, we can proceed with the work. Rough out a brass disk large enough for the cover and slightly thicker than is the cover plus the boss. This is then cemented on a cement chuck and faced off flat. The stock is then cut back the F measurement, leaving the boss slightly smaller than is the diameter of the arbor.
From Horology magazine, December, 1937
We have within our trade the Retail Jewelers' Association and a number of Trade unions. Each of these organizations have an individual aim the essence of which is protection against any encroachment by one another. There has until recently appeared no organization that was dedicated to the welfare of the entire trade.
Under the leadership of men trained in the commercial as well as the scientific end of the business the United Horological Association of America was formed in May of '34, in Washington, D. C.
The purpose of this group was to enhance the value of those engaged in the practice of Horology, which is in itself the cornerstone of a successful business. Gathered from all corners of the land, these men planned an Association that would inspire in our business a confidence such as is enjoyed by other businesses.
It was apparent to all present that the Horological end of the jewelry business could go further to re-establish this than any other branch of the business. Therefore, with this in mind, these men set about to lay tentative plans that could be placed before a convention or congress of watchmakers at a later date for their consideration. This was held in St. Louis in April, 1935. There, before hundreds of representatives of this business, men who own their own stores, men who work for others and men who conduct trade shops, these plans were laid. They were subjected to the severest scrutiny and revised to the requirements necessary to fulfill the motive of the organizers.
The United Horological Association of America affords a common ground upon which the thoroughly trained man and those whom are less enlightened, may review the requirements of a real Horologist. Its prime function is to better educate the man and train him to serve his public with greater efficiency. To eliminate incompetency in this work will go a long way toward restoring the confidence of the customer. Honesty in reporting estimates to the customer and taking time enough to properly explain the work necessary also, begets confidence. Explain the intricacies of the modern watch and the unusual skill necessary to the proper care of the tiny pivots and the hairspring. Call attention to the fact that on account of these it is quite a different problem from the ordinary hammer and tong mechanic.
The U. H. A. A. is establishing through its member associations a course of illustrated lectures that if attended and given· the proper attention will in themselves be virtually a course of instruction to the man who desires to really know.
These instructions and lectures are being planned by such men as Mr. Samelius of the Elgin School of Horology, who together with the others of the technical staff of the U. H. A. A. are devoting a great deal of time to this work. It is the hope of these men that every watchmaker in America avail himself of the opportunities this affords and become more skilled and competent, to the end that the public that are our severest critics may be better served.
To this end it is suggested that every watchmaker join with his fellow craftsman in his community and together they band themselves into local guilds, with the object of availing themselves of these wonderful lectures. For further information in this respect, you may address National Executive Secretary.
The paint is pretty worn as it is not "baked in" like the dial's usual markings. This is typical also, especially if the watch has spent any time at all with its crystal missing.
By HENRI GRUSIN
Watchmaker for Seventy-Two Years
By ZELMA LARGE HOUSER
His attitude toward his years is unlike that of some of the men and the women who are getting on. We have all cringed and shuddered when some of our dear ones have made remarks like this: "1 am living beyond my time. I'll soon be dead and out of the way." How refreshing it is to hear G. Anderson, as they all call him in his home town, hopefully talking about the affairs of current politics and evincing such an interest that we feel that he expects to outlive most of his hearers. He may do so.
How did this old gentleman manage to live so long and happily when he continually spent long hours at the repairing bench? Bodies give out after years of toil and strain. To begin with, he inherited a good constitution, and he did not endanger it by silly excesses or by foolish fears and worries. Some daily habits and wholesome thinking lend a help, and he took advantage of this aid. He has always had an idea that rich food cause sickness, and he is careful not to eat butter with meat, always taking care that he stops eating before he is entirely satisfied. This is not so easy. It is wonderful, though, not to have indigestion.
One of the trade magazines was recently trying to find the oldest active watchmaker in the country. There were several who were in their seventies and eighties, but G. Anderson seems to be the only one up to the present time of the contest who is still keeping the pace. Does he like this contest? He does not. He abhors the competition, and his son carries it on secretly, because he is himself very proud of his sire and of the long service to the public. When the father fell at his home a few days ago, and had to spend a few days at home because of a minor injury, he hastened to caution his son and his daughter-inlaw: "Now be sure not to let that paper get hold of this."
This is part one of five.
This is the first part of a series of four on the straight line engine.
And one on hand engraving...
If one clicks through from looking up a movement serial number, to the grade details, there is now a link to the parts page.
This new information includes staff dimension data that is a bit messy in linking up to the better known parts data from the service manuals. The dimension listing are mostly observed "in the wild" as it were, rather than factory specs.
The part number shown are just balance staffs, so far. More is coming!
By W. H. SAMELIUS
DURING the year 1580, Galileo observed a swinging chandelier in the Cathedral of Pisa. By counting his pulse beats and watching the motion of the chandelier, he observed that whether the chandelier swung in a short or long arc, the duration of time was the same. From this he got the conception of the pendulum, being a mathematician, he discovered the laws of the pendulum. Up to this time, the verge escapement, or foliott was used and the arrangement of the escapement was such that it was not suitable for delivering motion to the pendulum. Among Galileo's earliest statements he said no doubt some genius would invent an escapement that could deliver motion to the pendulum.
In the year 1657, Huygens, a Dutch astronomer and mathematician cleverly converted the verge escapement in such a way that it would drive a suspended pendulum, which was our first pendulum clock, however, before Huygens had perfected his clock, Galileo had a conception and made drawings of a single impulse escapement that would maintain pendulum motion. He did not live, however, to construct the clock but in later years, his son took up the work and built a clock from the original drawings. A duplicate of that model is now housed in a British museum. When Galileo designed his single impulse escapement, he little dreamed that the basic principles would hold superior through centuries to come.
In 1749, Thomas Earnshaw of England, is credited with inventing a chronometer escapement. Some years later the British government offered a prize of £20,000 for a timepiece which would run so accurate that it would be possible to determine the correct longitude at sea. John Harrison of England was awarded this prize. His timepiece was controlled by a single impulse or chronometer escapement and today our pocket chronometers and marine chronometers are also constructed along the same lines.
In 1750, one of our foremost horologists, F. Berthoud of France, designed and built an escapement for clocks, the escapement being placed at the lower end of a pivoted pendulum. Attached to the extreme lower end of the pendulum rod was a plate having a small recess into which the escape wheel teeth dropped, giving motion to the pendulum.
Attached to the left side of the locking lever is a small weight which causes the locking lever to drop back into its proper position, engaging the next tooth of the escape wheel. The depth of the lock is controlled by a banking screw.
Comparing this escapement with our chronometer escapements of today, we find the impulse roller and the balance staff takes place of the impulse plate at the lower end of the pendulum.
The unlocking jewel in the chronometer is in the form of a lever and the locking jewel in our modern chronometer is in the form of a lever also. Both these clocks of similar construction were made. We can take it for granted however, that a heavy pendulum swinging on pivots would create considerable friction, consequently requiring a great deal of power to maintain motion causing early wear and making the clock short lived.
Comparing these escapements with Galileo's conception, we find the same basic principles employed. A diagram of his work and a short biography will be found in the American Horologist, April, 1936, issue.
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- Elgin Grade 466
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- Do You Know?
- Unusual Electric Clock Showing International Time
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- An Horologist
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- Watchmaker for Seventy-Two Years
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- The Rose Engine
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