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A Mainspring for This and a Staff for That

From Horology magazine, August, 1938

A Mainspring for This and a Staff for That

An interesting incident which occurred at the counter of a prominent material house discloses a lack of mechanical knowledge on the part of some of the men in the practice of horology. There was nothing unusual about the customer who came in with his hand bag and opened it on the counter. From it he extracted a number of jobbing envelopes on which were written notations about the materials he was supposed to get. One of the envelopes was marked "balance staff" and contained a pocket watch while another was marked "mainspring" and held a baguette. The watches were still in their cases, probably just as the jeweler had received them from his retail customers.

"A mainspring for this and a staff for that," the customer asked. No further particulars were given the clerk. Promptly, the material man glanced at the names on the dials of the watches and going to his cabinets came back with one factory sealed, square, cellophane envelope containing a mainspring and a balanced staff wrapped in tissue paper.


It was evident that this particular horologist did not even suspect that several different strengths of mainsprings were available for the same watch. Neither did he seem to be aware of the fact that balance staffs were made with more than one pivot size. However, this did not concern him. His sole interest seemed to be concentrated on one point, the material had to be genuine if he was to sell it to the customers of the reputable establishment which he conducted. 


Later, upon entering into conversation with the writer, the material man stated that horologists fail to take full advantage of the helpful literature and catalogs distributed by various manufacturers. He said that so few seem to realize the importance of gauging a mainspring with a micrometer and ordering the correct strength instead of asking for a mainspring for a -- size watch. He mentioned instances where horologists refer to the measurements of mainsprings as mere numbers, not knowing the difference between the inch, metric and Dennison systems, and frequently ask for a spring one degree stronger or weaker. 

It is a known fact that the stronger mainsprings are sold in the largest quantities because they will drive the watches in spite of other difficulties. Balance staffs with small pivots are generally preferred, whether or not they fit the jewels properly, just so they enter the holes easily.

Likewise, the jewels with large holes are in the greatest demand so that the staff pivots will be sure to drop in freely.

The younger generation of horologists has recently shown a greater tendency toward study and search for knowledge. There can be no doubt that, at least in part, this is due to the horological legislation impending in almost every state.

Many of the older men, however, feel that inasmuch as they have no immediate plans for moving their businesses they are satisfied to continue the primitive methods which they learned, not in a reputable school but from some individual who did not make good at the bench and thought was more qualified to teach. 


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