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Levees invisibles - to make a Thomas Russell tick again

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Hi again!
This time I've got a Thomas Russell pocket watch, SN 81189, made around 1889.
Bought in non working condition and actually, there was no picture of the movement either.
For parts or repair then...

Here it is disasembled. This is a fairly young English full plate, with English lever escapement, and they were no longer installing fusees in them. On initial examination I found a glued hairspring (oil) and broken pallet arbor pivot.

Damn it... I hate broken pivots, mainly because I have no means to repair them.
What I decided to do was to take an arbor as close as possible and reshape one end...
It also needed filing down half of the arbor to fit the hole in the pallet fork.

Very close and the pallets are on correct height as well.
You can also see the barrel parts on this photo - this watch winds in reverse direction and has a transmission gear for reversed barrel action.

Assembling is fairly easy, just make sure not to lose the pins.
Why didn't they yet switch to screws in 1889

The pivot I made is not very bad as well
The watch has an 'undersprung' compensation balance and gold plated gears.

On the dial side you can now put the 3rd gear and train bridge, cannon pinion and motion works, as well as the pinned ratchet wheel...

I also reglued the subdial.
Now - the movement was ready, but...

...it would not work! You can see it works, but it would stop quickly after giving the balance a twist.
I spent some time disassembling, checking, reassembling, I replaced the broken balance jewel screw and broke the other as well checking balance bearings, I checked the sideshake of the pallet fork and slightly broached the top bearing (notice the new arbor's top pivot is a bit broader then the old one), straihtened the bent banking pins - no effect at all. In fact, it even got worse after all the 'correctons' and by evening, the watch would not tick at all.

Looking from the side, I noticed the safety pin was likely touching the roller table, so I even tried to bend it a bit, but still - no effect.
Also at long last - I noticed by switching the fork (balance off), that the entry pallet would not engage properly - the fork had a tendency to rebounce to the other side instead of locking. If there's a watchmaker reading - yes, you got it.
But it took me another afternoon to understand the problem - I got enlightened the next day at work...

Day 2:

Discouraged, I took the watch apart completely, so first I had to find all the parts again.
Unfortunately I damaged one screw holding the hinge - it turned out to be very soft...

This watch has some interesting features you'll now see below - the hairspring stud is screw-in type and the potence has a slide in cap jewel, for example.

But back to the problem - like I said, next day at work, whe I was doing another repeated, boring job, it finally came to me, that riveting the arbor could have bent the entire fork, displacing the entry palet (exit pallet's position is fixed because of the pin in the fork, assuring proper allignment of the parts).

That's it - I tapped gently and I thought I filed the arbor down enough, but the metal there is very thin and it actually did bend. I disassembled the fork again and put the pallets' assembly back on the arbor.
The only way to bend this back I could thin of was to hit the center of the part (with the arbor in) over a hole on a staking set. Again - I tapped gently just a few times and it got nicely flat in this spot again.

Assembled again - it works very well. Consistently, with high, steady amplitude and in all positions.
Wow - so much time spent on figuring out a simple escapement malfunction made me now understand the meaning of 'levees visibles'...

This is a shot of a Zenth movement with two holes in the pilar plate. The holes were drilled to allow easy observation of escapement's action. Such watches were sometimes marked 'levees visibles' on Swiss casebacks and truly it's a good idea - if this watch had such holes, I'd probably get to the bottom of the problem much quicker.
But it does not and with the parts just placed on the top plate - it looked like correct engagement (as parts are tilted in place being just in one of their bearings).

Just to summarize - riveting the arbor I bent the fork moving the entry pallet away from the escape wheel.
Because of that, the escape wheel teeth would not lock on the entry pallet, but press the impulse surface and bounce the fork back.
With balance on, the fork could nit be bounced back, instead the escape wheel would push the pallet pressing the safety pin hard against the roller table stoping the balance wheel.

The case is original, made in Chester in 1889, sterling silver...

The S/N of the case matches the movement and dial.

The 9 jewel movement...

And the dial side.
This is not the top quality Russell watch, but still a not bad one. This time the 4th pinion is jewelled both sides, in addition to the traditoinal 7 jewels used in a lever watch.
All in all - a good end for a lesson - I got some more skills and the watch - despite it had to 'suffer' much more than it would in hands of a fully equipped and trained watchmaker - is ticking again.
I'll have to pay more attention to micrometrical staff width differences, no doubt, but I still wish I could just re-pivot the old one. Would have taken less time and no damage would be don eto the fork, but... I guess I have to enjoy what I managed to achieve anyway.
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Updated 04-23-2017 at 02:46 PM by pmwas



  1. Roy Horrorlogic's Avatar
    As someone with minimal abilities in the discipline, I am immensely impressed by anyone who can accomplish this sort of renovation. With boxes full of pieces of all kinds accumulated but untouched over several decades... well, you can imagine.