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'Ensign killer' - the Waltham keyless works...

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The term 'Ensign killer' referred to (possibly among the others) an American naval fighter, the famous F4U Corsair.

(photo- Wikipedia)

A deadly, well built weapon, had a certain inconvenience, namely the cockpit positined very much in the back, making take offs and landings way more difficult, especially for rookies...
Now you'll ask, what the heck does it have to do with a Waltham watch?
Not much, but in today's presentation I'm showing another 'Ensing killer', the Waltham's infamous pendant-set keyless works from late 19th Century.
It was widely used in Waltham's smaller calibers (3/0-6s) and is known to cause trouble.
Not in everyday use, where it prooves very good, but during servicing...

I marked above (quite clearly) a V shaped spring. If you still have it after disassembling, you were both very careful and lucky. I was careful, but still the keyless works 'exploded'as I tried to remove this spring.
Luckily, all pieces landed within my desk.

To start now - the Waltham's simple idea for a safety barrel.
As you may notice, I started to like my mainspring winders a lot, but they certainly do have a disadvantage - the inner coil straightens as the mainspring hops in the barrel, and needs to be re-shaped...

As you can also see, the 1st gear, driven by the INNER (not outer) end of the mainspring, turns around the barrel arbor (pretty much like in a going barrel). So it does NOT have a function of motor barrels (that allow proper jewelling of the 1st gear arbor), it's just a safety barrel that will not allow damage to the escapement and gear train if the mainspring breaks or is released without control.

Now the keyless works...

The whole clutch gear, winding pinion, stem and pusher assembly needs to be inserted together, as one piece.
Then you can screw on the intersetting gear from the other side, to secure it in place (the intersetting gear screw goes in the hole in the steel plate that holds the keyless works assembly...).

Now you have the setting lever, clutch lever and the dangerous spring.
What i do is I engage the setting lever end of this V shape spring, hold that with the other side of my tweezer, and energize the spring engaging the clutch lever end.

This is quite stable and shouldn't go anywhere when you let go.
So you can just put the steel cover plate on.
As for the barrel - it's a bit of a problem, because when you put the ratchet wheel first, there is truly no way to engage it with the barrel arbor (as the click spring will push it to the side), on the other hand, the click is under the barrel and can't be mounted later.
What I did is I put the ratchet wheel on the arbor and inserted the whole assembly, holding the click in 'release' position with another tool, with success. Still, that's another difficulty in this model...

The gear train is very typical, all gears made of brass in this 7j grade.
After the train, you can assemble the remainder of the keyless works on the dial side.

The dial screws are on the side of the movement.

The rest of the assembling is quite easy.
As for quality and finish - it's just a basic, 7 jewel grade, so obviously the finish is low grade.
What I did not like is how loose the plates are on the pillar plate. Funny, normally I'd complain on the tight fitted plates, these are a tad loose and wooble when being screwed down. Not very pleasant.

The watch is a very attractive one...

...,housed in a lovely Keystone case.

Cleaned up well and works nicely, shame about the deep scratches areoun the case screw...
In fact, if you know how to handle the spring mentioned, it's not THAT difficult, but it's very easy to lose a part while working on it. I don't like this design very much, though I admit it works very well.
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  1. Dave Coatsworth's Avatar
    A pretty little watch, Paul. Nice to see an example with the case, dial and hands all together. Good write-up and good explanation of 'the spring'.
  2. pmwas's Avatar
    The moment I saw the listing I knew it was mine.
    It's a beautiful watch