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Haute Horlogerie Discussion

Discussion area for watches, clocks and all other timekeepers.
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Sunrise and Sunset

#136

Post by sistem_32 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:36 pm

Sunrise and sunset indicators aren't uncommon on smartwatches from the likes of Suunto and Garmin, but they're uncommon in the world of mechanical horology. I just happened across one in the form of this Martin Braun "EOS" from 2002.

Image

Time of sunrise is displayed on the left and time of sunset on the right by the interesting mechanisms visible at the bottom. They might appear complicated at first , but they're actually quite simple; the pear-shaped cams rotate at constant rates, pushing the hands up and down. Because the times of sunrise and sunset are unique to a specific location, the cams must be produced with a similarly unique shape. The watch pictured above is accurate for the city of Wiesbaden. If you happen to live in Wiesbaden, that watch is actually a lot in an upcoming Sotheby's auction, estimate set at 2500-4500 GBP. Details here.

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The only other mechanical sunrise/sunset watch I know of is the Krayon "Everywhere" (you didn't know Crayola had an HH department, did you?). The Everywhere is able to tell the time of sunrise and sunset anywhere in the world, based on a set of data provided by the user. Despite its technological superiority, I think it looks cluttered compared to the EOS.

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The Mostyn Tompion

#137

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:55 pm

Thomas Tompion is one of the most important horologists in history, widely considered to be the "father of English watchmaking." Over his long career, spanning across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he produced thousands of watches and clocks. In this early age of mechanical horology, many of his pieces performed essential roles for their owners; take for instance two longcase clocks which are still used in the Royal Observatory. One of his most prominent pieces is a table clock called the "Mostyn Tompion." It was originally commissioned by King George III in 1689, but it ultimately found its way into the family of the Barons Mostyn, hence its name. It's a year-going grande sonnerie clock, meaning that it only needs to be wound once a year and that in addition to telling time in the conventional fashion it chimes the hours, half-hours, and quarter-hours. It also shows the day of the week.

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Its year-long power supply is achieved by huge mainsprings and significant gear reductions. Since so much energy needs to be stored up, winding the clock is quite an ordeal--instead of a winding key, the clock uses a crank! Here are two pages from the Mostyn family record, in which the sixth Baron Mostyn recounts winding the clock on Christmas Day of 1961 and 1962.

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And here are various pictures of the clock's mechanism: note the large fusee and chain and the Verge escapement.

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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#138

Post by ManOnTime » Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:57 pm

Love reading these. Keep them coming.
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Re: The Mostyn Tompion

#139

Post by PetWatch » Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:06 pm

sistem_32 wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:55 pm
Thomas Tompion is one of the most important horologists in history, widely considered to be the "father of English watchmaking." Over his long career, spanning across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he produced thousands of watches and clocks. In this early age of mechanical horology, many of his pieces performed essential roles for their owners; take for instance two longcase clocks which are still used in the Royal Observatory. One of his most prominent pieces is a table clock called the "Mostyn Tompion." It was originally commissioned by King George III in 1689, but it ultimately found its way into the family of the Barons Mostyn, hence its name. It's a year-going grande sonnerie clock, meaning that it only needs to be wound once a year and that in addition to telling time in the conventional fashion it chimes the hours, half-hours, and quarter-hours. It also shows the day of the week.

Image

Image

Its year-long power supply is achieved by huge mainsprings and significant gear reductions. Since so much energy needs to be stored up, winding the clock is quite an ordeal--instead of a winding key, the clock uses a crank! Here are two pages from the Mostyn family record, in which the sixth Baron Mostyn recounts winding the clock on Christmas Day of 1961 and 1962.
I would imagine winding once a year to be possibly record setting for the period, don't know. Wonder what the accuracy was at the end of the year, measured in hours or days?
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Re: The Mostyn Tompion

#140

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:16 pm

PetWatch wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:06 pm
sistem_32 wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:55 pm
Thomas Tompion is one of the most important horologists in history, widely considered to be the "father of English watchmaking." Over his long career, spanning across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he produced thousands of watches and clocks. In this early age of mechanical horology, many of his pieces performed essential roles for their owners; take for instance two longcase clocks which are still used in the Royal Observatory. One of his most prominent pieces is a table clock called the "Mostyn Tompion." It was originally commissioned by King George III in 1689, but it ultimately found its way into the family of the Barons Mostyn, hence its name. It's a year-going grande sonnerie clock, meaning that it only needs to be wound once a year and that in addition to telling time in the conventional fashion it chimes the hours, half-hours, and quarter-hours. It also shows the day of the week.

Its year-long power supply is achieved by huge mainsprings and significant gear reductions. Since so much energy needs to be stored up, winding the clock is quite an ordeal--instead of a winding key, the clock uses a crank! Here are two pages from the Mostyn family record, in which the sixth Baron Mostyn recounts winding the clock on Christmas Day of 1961 and 1962.
I would imagine winding once a year to be possibly record setting for the period, don't know. Wonder what the accuracy was at the end of the year, measured in hours or days?
The British Museum can answer both those questions. Here's an excerpt from the curator's notes on the clock (taken from Clocks, by David Thompson):

"In the late seventeenth century, English weight-driven year-going clocks were extremely rare, while spring-driven clocks of such long duration were non-existent. However, year-going spring clocks had been made in earlier times, and notable surviving examples are the silver-cased clock by Johann Sayler of Ulm made in about 1630 and the clock by Johannes Buschmann made in 1652 for Augustus, Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Wolfenbüttel. That is not to say that Tompion had any knowledge of these clocks."

Regarding its accuracy:

"Tompion's year-going clock marks the pinnacle of his achievement as a practical clockmaker. To make a clock that will perform efficiently for such a long period on a single wind is a most demanding challenge for even the most accomplished of makers. To increase the duration of clocks, extra wheels have to be added in the going train and this necessitates an increase in the strength of the mainspring. The result is that, if the proportions of the wheels and pinions are not of the most elegant, and if the forms of the teeth are anything but perfect, then the power needed to drive the machine becomes prohibitive. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the making of such clocks was limited to a tiny number of craftsmen and that Thomas Tompion was the first in England to meet the challenge.

The year-duration going train consists of a fusee and great wheel which drives a six-wheel train terminating with a verge escapement of very small proportions, controlled by a short bob pendulum with spring suspension and a rise and fall mechanism.
The striking train is similarly extensive and here Tompion meets another daunting challenge. The striking train of an ordinary eight-day clock strikes 156 blows on the bell in a twenty-four-hour period or 1,092 blows in seven days. Tompion's year clock, therefore, has to strike the bell 56,940 times. In reality this clock runs for thirteen months and Tompion has even provided extra capacity so that the striking train can, be used as part of the quarter-repeat system as well which means that the clock can actually strike over 60,000 times on a single wind.

...

From 1793 the Mostyn family kept a written record of the clock's performance over each year, noting the names of those present at the annual winding ceremony. Although there are some gaps when the clock lay dormant or the record was not made, it does give an interesting insight into its performance. For instance, the record for 17 September 1884 reads: 'The clock was satisfactorily wound at 9.45pm by Robert Walpole Esq., L.E. Bligh Esq. and Lord and Lady Mostyn for the first time after their arrival at Mostyn Hall. It had not run down but had lost 2 hours'."
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Re: The Mostyn Tompion

#141

Post by ManOnTime » Sat Sep 21, 2019 4:11 pm

sistem_32 wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:16 pm
It had not run down but had lost 2 hours'."
If that's 2 hours over 365 days, that's 19.73 seconds a day. Damned impressive!
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Montre à Tact

#142

Post by sistem_32 » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:23 pm

In 2014 a Kickstarter brand called Eone released its first (and so far only) model, called "Bradley." It displays the time through two steel balls which are carried by magnets around the case, allowing it to be read by the visually impaired. It was heralded as a great innovation--A Blog to Watch called it "ingenious" and "genuinely new." But in fact it's nothing of the sort; it belongs to a family of watches called "montre à tact."

Montre à tact, literally translated as "tactile watches," are watches that can be read by touch. The first à tact watch was invented in 1795 by none other than Abraham Louis Breguet (it does seem that in horology "all roads lead to Breguet").

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At the time it was considered rude to check the time in company. Breguet's à tact watch was the solution to this problem; its wearer could discreetly check the time without taking the watch out of his pocket (or hers; the watch above was made for Mrs. Napoleon Bonaparte). Thus the à tact watch lent its wearer tact. Note the studs ringing the watch, which serve as tactile hour markers. Interestingly, the visual dial of the watch is very small and contained inside the case (the below watch was also owned by a Bonaparte, specifically Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia).

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One needn't go back all the way to the eighteenth century to find examples of à tact watches. Here's an example from the mid-nineteenth century:

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And in modern times Anderson Genève satisfies the market with his artistic montre à tact line.

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It just goes to show that you can't believe everything you read, even in the field of horology!
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Queen Charlotte's Lever Watch

#143

Post by sistem_32 » Sun Sep 29, 2019 1:32 pm

The lever escapement, used in the vast majority of modern watches (and many clocks besides), was invented in 1755 by Thomas Mudge. Mudge was trained by George Graham, who was trained by Tompion. He set up shop in the traditional location of his masters, Fleet Street, in 1748, and quickly established himself as the eminent watchmaker of the times. Before the lever escapement, the best escapement was the detent escapement, but this was tricky to manufacture on a scale small enough to fit into a watch, and therefore was reserved for precision chronometers. More common was the cylinder escapement, invented by Tompion and perfected by Graham. While it was an improvement over the verge escapement, its predecessor and the first sprung escapement, it had a number of serious flaws. Most notably, the teeth of the escape wheel are constantly in contact with the oscillator, causing an unacceptable amount of friction.

The lever escapement improved upon the cylinder escapement in pretty much every way. First of all, it's a "detached" escapement, meaning that the oscillator only comes into contact with the escape wheel to deliver its impulse, resolving the greatest problem with the cylinder escapement. It's also a self-starting escapement, a feature which I'm sure you have utilized many times with watches of your own; from an unwound state, you need only give the watch a gentle shake to restart the escapement.

You might recall a list of five requirements for a good escapement set out by George Daniels, which I discussed in my post about the co-axial escapement. Those requirements are:
1: Impulse to the oscillator at both vibrations of each oscillation.
2: Impulse delivered tangentially with minimum friction.
3: After impulse the oscillator to be free to complete the vibration without further contact with the escapement.
4: The oscillator to be self-starting while winding the mainspring from the run-down condition.
5: The oscillator to restart after being accidentally stopped.
The two attributes I described above satisfy requirements 3 and 4. The lever escapement also satisfies 1 and 5. It fails to satisfy 2 (hence the creation of the co-axial escapement), but nevertheless it makes a very serviceable escapement and can be regulated to a very close rate.

The first watch to incorporate the lever escapement was made in 1770 for King George III, who gifted it to Queen Charlotte. Unfortunately, despite its historical importance, I could only find a few pictures of it.

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Here is a video from the Royal Collection Trust illustrating the operation of the watch.
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Tourbillon vs. Carrousel

#144

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 2:44 pm

Much ado is made over the tourbillon in haute horlogerie. Its name means "whirlwind," and it was patented in 1801 by Abraham-Louis Breguet. It was invented to counteract the "positional error" caused by gravity in the pocket watches of the day. A pocket watch is, of course, carried upright, which means the escapement has a "heavy spot" at the bottom, causing variation. By rotating the escapement at a fixed rate, this variation is averaged out, so it doesn't affect timekeeping. Here's an early Breguet tourbillon watch.

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Wristwatches, however, do not sit upright. They move about with their wearers' wrists, assuming many odd positions throughout the day. You might think this would render a single-axis tourbillon useless, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The Councours International de Chronométrie Le Locle, a widely recognized chronometry competition, shows that tourbillon watches consistently outperform regular ones, even when moved through a variety of positions. There do exist double and even triple-axis tourbillons though, like Vianney Halter's Deep Space Tourbillon, which I wrote about here.

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The tourbillon has a cousin, the carrousel, invented in 1892 by Danish watchmaker Bahne Bonniksen. The carrousel serves exactly the same purpose as the tourbillon, but it accomplishes it in a slightly different way. Whereas the tourbillon is connected to the barrel by only one gear train, the carrousel is connected by two, one to drive the escapement, the other to drive (and regulate) its rotation. This means that, unlike in a tourbillon, the escapement can run without rotating. Blancpain produces a watch incorporating both a tourbillon and a carrousel in order to contrast them.

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Here's a 3D comparison of the two technologies.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#145

Post by PetWatch » Mon Oct 07, 2019 6:44 pm

This is the most interesting, informative and educational thread about horological fine craftsmanship and history that I have had the pleasure of reading, and will continue to do so. Well done sistem_32!
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#146

Post by sistem_32 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:30 am

Thanks for the kind words. I'm always glad to share my knowledge. In fact, this thread has inspired me to learn a good deal about the field that I wouldn't have otherwise! Here's to many more happy months (hopefully years!) of HH goodness.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#147

Post by ManOnTime » Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:21 pm

I have really enjoyed this thread, and it has obviously taken a lot of time and effort. I'm honored @sistem_32 would choose this place to share his knowledge.

As a small thank you, I've made this thread a "sticky". It'll remain at the top of this section.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#148

Post by sistem_32 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:07 pm

Aw shucks. All I can say is that the enjoyment I get from this community is more than enough compensation for my toils. Let's move right along with a discussion of engine turning, or "guilloché." The terms are used fairly interchangeably, but technically guilloché is a style of decoration produced by engine turning. The process dates way back to the sixteenth century, about a century after the invention of the first metal cutting lathes. Here's one of the earliest depictions of an ornamental lathe, which appeared in a machining manual published in 1578.
Ornamental_Lathe.PNG
Ornamental_Lathe.PNG (384.56 KiB) Viewed 278 times
Until the beginning of the eighteenth century, guilloché was used only on wood. Even when it was finally introduced on metal, it was predominantly reserved to snuffboxes. However, with improvements in technology and the advent of a method of applying enamel to guilloché products, it soon gained popularity.

Image

In fact, it was applied to all sorts of items we might not think of today, such as cups, kettles, and dressing cases. It first appeared in the field of horology in the 1780s, when it was adopted by Abraham-Louis Breguet. He was drawn to it for more than aesthetic reasons; it protected polished surfaces from wear and made his dials less reflective, and therefore easier to read. It can also be used to clearly delineate different portions of the dial, allowing for more elegant hands. Here's an early Breguet with an engine turned dial and case.
1786__0.jpg
1786__0.jpg (162.66 KiB) Viewed 278 times
Engine turning machines have evolved a good deal since the ornamental lathes of the sixteenth century. A more modern form is the rose engine lathe, invented in the late nineteenth century. Karl Fabergé's famous jeweled eggs, for example, were decorated on a rose engine. It uses pre-cut disks, called "rose barrels" or "rosettes," to form its patterns, as you can see in this video from RGM Watches, an American independent brand. While you're at it, check out this fascinating series of videos from Roger Smith, protégé of George Daniels, which describe his (and Daniels') process for producing an engine turned dial. It's broken into five parts: one, two, three, four, five.

Image

One of the modern masters of guilloché is Kari Voutilainen. Many of his pieces display wild patterns and colors, like his Vingt-8 or his TP1 pocket watch, which he contributed to this year's Onlywatch auction.

Image
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Sapphire

#149

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Oct 12, 2019 7:54 pm

Sapphire is a very common material in all strata of watchmaking. It's rated 9/10 on Moh's hardness scale, just below diamond. That makes it a very good material for making crystals out of, as it's practically impossible to scratch (mineral crystal, for comparison, rates at about 5-7 on Moh's scale). The harder a material is, however, the more brittle it is. Sapphire is very, very difficult to machine. Naturally, the haute horlogerie industry has taken this as a challenge. Who can incorporate the most sapphire, in the most complex shapes, into their watches?

The first contender is MB&F, with their sapphire-cased HM6 models. These feature many complex curves and domes, supposedly inspired by twentieth-century Greyhound buses. It takes 350 hours to complete one case.

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But this is kiddy stuff. All they've really done is bolt two sheets of sapphire to the real, metal case. The next step is removing the metal case entirely.

Somewhat surprisingly, that step has been taken by Bell & Ross. Their BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is cased entirely in sapphire.

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The case is composed of five pieces, held together with beefy screws. The movements bridges have also been skeletonized to give an even better view. But still this is not enough; Richard Mille has gone one better.

Why go to all the trouble of skeletonizing bridges when you can make them completely transparent? That's that Richard Mille has done with their RM 56-02. To start with, its case is composed of three blocks of sapphire and held together with their signature spline screws. But possibly more significantly, many of its bridges are also made of sapphire. To top it all off, its movement is suspended in the case by an 0.35mm cable, wound around a series of pulleys, for maximum visibility. It would also provide extreme shock protection, except for the fragility of the case. It takes 960 hours to produce the case and an additional 400 hours to produce all the bridges.

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Of course, there's a reason why most brands don't get fancy with sapphire--the cost. The HM6, a limited edition of only ten pieces, had a retail price of $350,000; the BR-X1 sold for €350,000; and the RM 56-02 sold for over $2,000,000.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#150

Post by tjcdas » Sat Oct 12, 2019 10:49 pm

sistem_32 wrote:
Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:07 pm
Aw shucks. All I can say is that the enjoyment I get from this community is more than enough compensation for my toils. Let's move right along with a discussion of engine turning, or "guilloché." The terms are used fairly interchangeably, but technically guilloché is a style of decoration produced by engine turning. The process dates way back to the sixteenth century, about a century after the invention of the first metal cutting lathes. Here's one of the earliest depictions of an ornamental lathe, which appeared in a machining manual published in 1578.

Ornamental_Lathe.PNG

Until the beginning of the eighteenth century, guilloché was used only on wood. Even when it was finally introduced on metal, it was predominantly reserved to snuffboxes. However, with improvements in technology and the advent of a method of applying enamel to guilloché products, it soon gained popularity.

Image

In fact, it was applied to all sorts of items we might not think of today, such as cups, kettles, and dressing cases. It first appeared in the field of horology in the 1780s, when it was adopted by Abraham-Louis Breguet. He was drawn to it for more than aesthetic reasons; it protected polished surfaces from wear and made his dials less reflective, and therefore easier to read. It can also be used to clearly delineate different portions of the dial, allowing for more elegant hands. Here's an early Breguet with an engine turned dial and case.

1786__0.jpg

Engine turning machines have evolved a good deal since the ornamental lathes of the sixteenth century. A more modern form is the rose engine lathe, invented in the late nineteenth century. Karl Fabergé's famous jeweled eggs, for example, were decorated on a rose engine. It uses pre-cut disks, called "rose barrels" or "rosettes," to form its patterns, as you can see in this video from RGM Watches, an American independent brand. While you're at it, check out this fascinating series of videos from Roger Smith, protégé of George Daniels, which describe his (and Daniels') process for producing an engine turned dial. It's broken into five parts: one, two, three, four, five.

Image

One of the modern masters of guilloché is Kari Voutilainen. Many of his pieces display wild patterns and colors, like his Vingt-8 or his TP1 pocket watch, which he contributed to this year's Onlywatch auction.

Image
Amazing video!
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