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A very bad day for servicing a verge watch (a story with a happy end)

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I've got to share a thought with you - it's not so bad to have a bad day. It gets much, much worse, when you don't know you're having one.
This simple thought occured to me yesterday when I was working on another verge watch that I recently bought.
Of course, feeling bad or mentally slow I'd not take up a task of taing apart and putting back together a nice old verge. Problem is, I felt as good as I can ever feel that evening.

And so the horror begins...

The watch is one I bought from Dave - hasn't been on his site very long as this was love at first sight.
It's an English verge from circa 1830, so it was made in the similar time my (presumed) Japy French watch from the previous thread:


This too is a simple verge watch with not too many parts in it.
Dave described it as having a 'sliping mainspring', but this in fact was a slipping escapament.
That's bad in a verge watch when the escapament 'slips', by which I mean it lets the train go freely in an uncontrolled way for some time before locking the escape wheel again.
I was told this means it's heavily worn or damaged.
Also, I noticed it was terribly out of beat.

I turned the hairspring collet and the watch started ticking with low amplitude, stopping in some positions.
Also, when I rocked it to get a higher amplitude, I noticed the escapement still 'lets go' the train when swinging far.

Still, at the point I thought it could be a straightforward cleaning job. I was so wrong!

As you can see, one of the pallets is badly worn, the hairspring is bad and could be broken (and just pinned back in place without beat adjustment) and the staff is bent (and so is the top pivot).
As well - the 'banking' pin in the top plate was loose.
Notice this banking pin was beautifully made - inserted before gilding I think and then eavened to the surface of the plate and gilded with it. In this watch, however, it had signs od bending and it was loose.

The good thing about this very long and thin balance staff in verge watches is that the pivots are less likely to break if you accidentally press the balance, because the entire staff is quite elastic. However, you can just bend the whole staff instead and that's what had happened here some time.

Getting on with the watche's design we have:

A press-in outer escape wheel bearing, mainspring with a round hook at the outer end that comes in the wall of the mainspring barrel and English style fusee, held together with a pin.
Notice that the barrel cover is not where it seems to be at the first sight!

Now - assembling.
First I decided to secure the banking pin in the plate by punching it.
The result? Damn it... I thought I hit very gently and yet - due to the small surface under a thin tool tip, the efect was far greater than I intended.
Luckily it's all hidden under the potence...

Also, I said I prefer pinned fusee than the French style with friction ring, but...
I have to take that back now. Putting the pin back is a nightmare and you should take a new pin and cut it every time.
Unfortunately, I added a new scratch on the fusee gear, when my (blunt, luckily) tool slipped off the taper pin.
I could say someone had made a much worse scratch before me, but still, I'm angry.
I've not had such bad tool slip for a long time...

Having finished with the fusee and the banking pin (both sub-optimal result), let's see the dial side and the escape wheel.

I also included the top side bridges for contrast. This watch has a beautifully finished top side and badly finished dial side. There used to be some gilt, likely, but it washed away almost entirely and the parts have a dull, matt brass look. The escape wheel seems gold plated, but it's not attahced to the staff as nicely as in the French watch of mine. Just punched on the pinion, no sophistication at all.

Time to put this watch together.
I begin with the potence and escape wheel, then the dial plate, top side.
I think the train bridge on the other side can wait, so that you assemble the 4th and 3rd gear later, but usually I don't find them a trouble while assembling full plate watches.

As for the chain - I very much like to just wrap it around the fusee, where it has a nice tendency to stay, and then 'rewind' it to the barrel. This works in a verge watch, surely won't work in a lever one.

There... ow it's just the regulator and balance assembly. Looking at the regulator, do you remember Quake? Ooooh, that takes me back

After assembling the balance I noticed the banking pin now touches the balance staff and needs to be filed down a bit (should have NOT touched it, definitely!!!), so I pulled the balance off the movement and...

Now I needed a new hairspring. If I weren't p*** off, I'd even call the old one a work of art.
Now, it's not what you think - I did remove the hairspring form the stud. It's only that someone had once bent the regulator pins towards each other, and so in this watch you have to slip the hairspring between them every time, and this was the time I've forgotten about it.

Anyway - the new hairspring looked quite similar to the old one, so I just pinned it to the collet and the watch started off nicely.
After taking the whole watch apart, filin the tpi of the pin and re-assembling, but I did not take any pictures of that process...

Interestingly, with this very length it runs quite accurately, loosing two minutes in first 12 hours and additional four in nex 8h on weaker spring. So in the en I could say it's loosing about 15-20 minutes a day in center regulator position - probably best result I could hope for (much worse would be if it was gaining, obviously).

The dial side, the hands and the dust cover, and... back to it's nice, silver hunting case!

The movement is a BEAUTY! It might be tremendously worn inside, but it's so beautiful outside!
It's marked Jas Windsor London 1714 and Frederick Shelong (?) one the top side.
The hands are clearly American, but leaving so long in America one can get a bit americanised, right?
So I think they stay, why not ?

The last part of my job was to make a pusher for my case.
Below you can see a pusher made form a 18 s movement pilar (1), old worn wristwatch crown (2) and a long thread left of a long, adjustable winding stem. The thread I cut in two pieces, one acts as the thin part of the pusher, the other joins the crown and the pilar.

As you can see - it's almost like on my 'fabulous' technical drawing
A tad too long, but I don't want to shorten the crown's thread, looks good enough.

I simply drilled the pilar, filed down one end, filed the wristwatch crown to the desired diameter and joined it all together with the pieces of the stem. I wish I had a lathe - making a pusher on a lathe should be easy, but since I don't have a lathe, any pushers and a good pusher source, I think this might work for me.

Looks not bad.
In fact, it's a very handsome watch. Clearly, it has never been moisted and it was kept dry, but on the other hand, it appears to have been used a lot and the escapement is probably just very much worn.
It works with low, but steady anplitude and appears to be pretty consistent regardless of positions.
another issue is that the fusee chain might be a bit too short, it get's dangerously close to it's end when the fusee is locked by the top plate's lever. Way too short for comfort, as I'm not sure if it's the lock or the chain that limits the winding. I think it's the lock, but that's very close in this one.
I'm now testing it for power reserve to see if it will run for a whole day on one winding. so far so good

All in all - I definitely had a bad day and the hairspring onlt 'crowned' it.
Luckily I got myself a beautifuly looking, working English verge and the damage I've done is not very significant.

As for comparison - I definitely like the looks of this English movement much more than the French one, but 'technically' I consider the French one superior. So in this game it's a draw so far.

I hope I'll see more of these watches soon, they are adorable!!!

EDIT 04-02-2017

I noticed that the watch would start stopping in vertical positions after 21 hours and stopped completely after over 23 hours. The chain was almost off the fusee, though, so it had very little resevr eleft anyway, and it seems the power reserve of this watch won't be much over 24 hours anyway.

So I partly disassembled it to add some more tension to the spring, so that it would pull nicely to the very end of the chain.

Also, I took pictures of the hairspring.
The hairspring stud is a bit askew, so the hairspring needed some more corections,as I noticed the outer coil might touch the stud ocasionally. As a result, the amplitude grew a bit, and the rate slowed down a bit, confirming my suspicions. I guess the hairspring will have to be shortened a bit when the watch stops, at this moment it's 10 minutes behind after 3.5 hours.
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Updated 04-02-2017 at 06:35 AM by pmwas



  1. ANDY YALE's Avatar
    I've got a hairspring just like yours, spiraled up. Where did you get the replacement?
  2. pmwas's Avatar
    I 'made' one. From my American parts stock I took one that seemed similar and cut out the inner coils.
  3. Skutt50's Avatar
    Congratulations on a nice functioning verge watch!

    Some comments:
    I think you were "lucky" in finding a bent balance arbor. In my experience these arbors are hardened to the point where they will break instead of bending. Could "lack of hardening" possibly explain the wear of the paddle?

    The hairspring looks bad however it could be fixed. You could try to draw it in reverse. Even if it does not come back completely to its original flat, the final touch can be done with a pair of tweezers......

    If you decide to continue with the new hairspring, you don't need to cut it! Just re-pin it and leave the excess like you often see on cylinder escapements.

    Your concern regarding the stop works is quite valid. I have had some movements with this problem and the first thing to check is that the last turn of the chain is close to the edge of the barrel. If not the chain will have the wrong angle and will not engage the top plate lever untill one turn too late. Also check that the chain does not wind a double turn at the end. This can occur if the top plate lever is not properly adjusted.

    Normally the chain should rest half or at least a quarter of a turn on the barrel when the winding is stopped. How to correct? Well I only see two possibilities: Extend/new chain or adjust the stop lever to lock one turn early!

    Good luck with your verge.
  4. pmwas's Avatar
    Yes, I always repin not cut, unless I make major adjustments.
    The stop works... I'll have to check again. The power reserve is close to 24h now, so I think the chain is a tad short, though.
    Thanks for this extended comment - much obliged !!!