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  1. #16

    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: Robert Sweet)

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Sweet View Post
    It appears that Ezra C. Fitch, former president of Waltham Watch Co., patented the Swing-Ring case in 1879. See the patent below........

    Robert
    Well blow me, I looked at that patent when I was researching my article about the development of the waterproof crown that appeared in the Bulletin in December 2010, but I didn't appreciate the significance of the swing ring at the time - I was thinking about something else :-). Interesting guy Ezra Fitch, thanks for drawing the patent to my attention again Robert. I shall have to study it closely, but at first blush it doesn't appear to explain why the ring is hinged to the case rather than just dropping in.

    Ben Hutcherson draws an interesting parallel with English pair-cased watches where the movement is hinged to the case. This looks to me like it was intended for the proud owner to be able to show off the intricate and beautiful movement of his watch without dropping it to the floor of the bar.

    Regards - David

  2. #17
    Registered User Norman Bliss's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: DavidBoettcher)

    The reason for the hinge is to keep the movement lined up with the stem, and secure in the case. Notice the drop in case that Kent showed, the stem was on the inner part of the case, with a cut out in the outer case. No dust or 'wet' resistance, which is the whole point of the swing-out case. Hinges aren't hard to make. As pointed out in the patent, these were designed for people, RR men & travelers, who needed to consult their watches in adverse conditions. Those folks aren't going to be popping their cases open all the time to look at the movement. If they wanted to do that, they'd get screw back cases, which are also pretty good at keeping out dirt. Or they'd get hinged case backs, much easier to open than cases where movements are hinged. Some people got their watches in display back cases.

    As for Ben's watch, that's pretty much the way English cases were made; more a question of 'always done that way' than otherwise. Although Ben's movement is exposed, most English watches, even cheap ones, had an inner brass cover on the movement, making looking at the back much more difficult. I don't think hinges were intended to prevent dropping the movement, you can drop a cased watch as easily as a movement. Trust me, I have too much experience with that
    Norman Bliss

  3. #18
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Wink Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: Norman Bliss)

    The presentation I gave on Inventions in Horology at the Symposium in Houston featured Ezra C. Fitch and his significant pile of inventions along with Charles E. Jacot and Charles E. DeLong. I have since worked up the E. C. Fitch piece into a stand alone presentation. Here are some slides from the Dustproof Case part of the talk.


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    Tom McIntyre Click me.
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  4. #19

    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: doug sinclair)

    Quote Originally Posted by doug sinclair View Post
    How much of a contribution has the swing ring case made to the problem of broken fourth wheel arbors?
    AND dial damage... as well as bent hands
    Chapter 17 North Carolina
    http://www.nawcc-carolina17.org/default.htm
    Chapter 149 Early American Watch Club .. Home of Russ Snyder Illinois CD database and Henry Burgell Serial number Look-up ... excellent research resources!
    http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/ http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/pw_dbresearch.html
    Chapter 149 Mentor List http://www.nawcc-ch149.com/mentor.html

  5. #20
    Registered user. Dch48's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: terry hall)

    My Crescent Street is in a swing out case and I like it except for when I want to adjust the regulator. I'm always afraid of the exposed hands and dial hitting something. I do like that it doesn't have a screw off back though. The way you have to remove the bezel to set the watch is one of the main things I dislike about RR grade watches but I understand why they did it. One RR type watch is enough for me. I prefer Hunting cased watches.

  6. #21

    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: Norman Bliss)

    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Bliss View Post
    Hinges aren't hard to make.
    Hinges aren't hard to make hmmmm? I'm not so sure about that. Britten describes English practice in making a watch case and says "At the turn of the twentieth century the case maker left the making and fitting of the springs, the fitting of the joints, and the polishing of the case to specialists, the springer, the joint finisher, and the polisher." (Case makers in the UK call case hinges "joints" for some obscure reason. He goes on to say:

    "JOINTS. The tubing from which the joints are constructed is made from sheet, because available tubing has insufficient wall thickness in relation to the hole diameter. The sheet or strip is bent at one end until it will enter the correct hole in the draw plate, pulled through to form a large tube and subsequently drawn down to size. Anything over 1/16 inch in diameter cannot be drawn by hand, so a draw bench is needed. The seam of the tube is not soldered together. When the joint is made, however, the seam is laid on the case so that when the joint is soldered the solder will also seal the seam. Once the joint grooves have been filed and the tubing soldered into position in the two parts to be joined there is no possibility of correcting any errors, the joint has to be right first time. The difficulty of making a five knuckle joint can therefore be appreciated. In best quality work the pin is steel and made shorter than the joint. The joint ends are then plugged with the same metal as the case."

    A YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhW33Or3rt0 shows Martin Matthews making an outer case for an 18th-century watch - his family have been making watchcases in this way for nearly 200 years. About two minutes in to the video, Matthews is shown making a hinge/joint in this way. It's not a trivial exercise - but I don't know whether American methods were the same.

    However, I have been thinking about the Fitch patent, and I think the hinge is a natural requirement of the design, and the fact that it locates the movement rotationally is a bonus. Here's my thinking.

    Fitch wants to design a dust proof case. His first idea is to get rid of the rear case joint (and when I say joint I mean joint, not hinge) and make the back and middle part of the case in one piece. His next idea is to screw the bezel onto the case, with a gasket if necessary, to make a dustproof seal. So far, so good. But now he has to locate the movement in the case. Using a carrier ring for the movement is an obvious idea from existing practice. This could be simply dropped into the case, as shown in the advert referred to by Kent

    but Fitch doesn't want the slot in the side of the case that the stem tube (pendant) passes through in that design - he wants the pendant soldered to the outer case, with a cap over the end of it to seal the crown. Without the stem tube being attached to the movement carrier ring, Fitch has two problems 1) how to stop the movement rotating in the case and 2) how to lift the movement out of the case. The movement could be secured rotationally by a slot and key, which would be good engineering practice, but unless the carrier ring was held down by the bezel, or was a very close fit in the case, it would rattle. Holding it down by the bezel would required a very precise dimension from case front to back, which was not possible with the thin shell case construction, and making the carrier ring a very close fit in the case would mean that it was difficult to get out. Using a hinged carrier ring solves both problems. The carrier ring has to be tapered to allow it to swing into the case, and the widest part, which enters the case last, can be made a tight fit in the case so that there are no rattles, and, as a bonus, the hinge stops rotational movement, so no need for a key and slot - two birds killed with one stone.

    The problem of the proximity of the lip you catch with a finger nail to lift open the swing ring to the seconds hand, or the danger of bending the stem if you don't pull it out before trying to swing out the movement, probably never occurred to Fitch - I can't see any reason why the hinge couldn't have been at 6 o'clock, which would have solved both problems: remote from the seconds hand, and no leverage to bend the stem if you forgot to withdraw it.

    Another interesting thing about Fitch's patent is that the screwed bezel and cap over the crown are very similar to the "explorers" watches issued by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) of London, England, from the 1870s. These watches had both the back and bezel screwed on to the middle part of the case, sealed by gaskets, so the movement was secured and removed in the conventional way. There was a cap over the crown exactly as in Fitch's patent. I don't know which came first, but I suspect the RGS watches did - here is a link to one hallmarked 1878/79: http://www.antique-watch.com/des/w5799.html.

    Regards - David

  7. #22

    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: Tom McIntyre)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom McIntyre View Post
    The presentation I gave on Inventions in Horology at the Symposium in Houston featured Ezra C. Fitch and his significant pile of inventions along with Charles E. Jacot and Charles E. DeLong. I have since worked up the E. C. Fitch piece into a stand alone presentation. Here are some slides from the Dustproof Case part of the talk.
    Hi Tom,

    Very nice presentation, thanks for posting it. I would like to hear the dialogue that goes along with it - I'll have to try and make it to one of your talks one day, but you're a long way from Cheshire!

    Regards - David

  8. #23

    Talking Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: DavidBoettcher)

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidBoettcher View Post
    Hinges aren't hard to make hmmmm? I'm not so sure about that. Britten describes English practice in making a watch case and says "At the turn of the twentieth century the case maker left the making and fitting of the springs, the fitting of the joints, and the polishing of the case to specialists, the springer, the joint finisher, and the polisher." ...
    Yes, well ..........

    ........ I thought that the whole English watch industry had been based upon leaving all of the detail work to specialists to be done by hand and that English watch production consisted of moving the parts from one specialist's cottage to another.

    A key feature of American watch production was to simplify the steps, automate where possible and then carry out all of the steps under one roof (or set of roofs).
    Kent
    That guy down in Georgia

  9. #24

    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: Kent)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kent View Post
    Yes, well ..........

    ........ I thought that the whole English watch industry had been based upon leaving all of the detail work to specialists to be done by hand and that English watch production consisted of moving the parts from one specialist's cottage to another.

    A key feature of American watch production was to simplify the steps, automate where possible and then carry out all of the steps under one roof (or set of roofs).
    Hi Kent,

    What you say is right about the English method of making movements, and essentially it never changed, which is why the English watch industry died out.

    But case making was a different matter because of the processes involved, requiring a hearth for smelting the raw material and casting ingots, machinery for rolling the ingots into sheet and bar, lathes larger than watchmakers lathes for turning case parts, soldering irons and pickling baths etc, not the sort of stuff one would want in one's cottage. My understanding is that cases were made in one shop with perhaps half a dozen craftsmen and apprentices, which could turn out complete cases. These workshops would of course have been tiny in comparison to the giant American factories, but I'm not sure that even in those hinge making could have been fully automated. I'm sure that American factories could machine draw the tubing needed for the hinges, and maybe even cut the parts to length automatically, but actually fitting and soldering the parts to the case automatically? I'm not sure. The best description I have seen of American watch case making was in the March/April 2012 Bulletin "A Pictorial View of American Watchcase Factories by Andrew H. Dervan" but even that doesn't go into detail of the actual case making process. If there is a better reference for American (or English come to that) case making I would love to know of it.

    But irrespective of exactly how difficult watch case hinges are to make, I don't think there is any argument that they are more difficult than a simple slot and key, which would be the first choice for preventing rotation, and this doesn't invalidate my conclusion that a hinge was required as part of the method of extracting the movement from Fitch's patent case; that it also provided the necessary prevention of rotation was a bonus, not the prime reason it was there.

    But of course I could be wrong - I often am . . . .

    Regards - David

  10. #25

    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: DavidBoettcher)

    I have searched and searched for a swing-ring watch with a screw cap over the crown just like the one described in Fitch's patent and I can't find one. Does anyone have pictures of one that I could use, or even better still, have one for sale?

    Regards - David

  11. #26

    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: DavidBoettcher)

    Tom, did any of those patents go to Robbins & Avery?

  12. #27
    Registered User Norman Bliss's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: DavidBoettcher)

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidBoettcher View Post
    I have searched and searched for a swing-ring watch with a screw cap over the crown just like the one described in Fitch's patent and I can't find one. Does anyone have pictures of one that I could use, or even better still, have one for sale?

    Regards - David
    It's quite possible the screw down cap wasn't produced. I research & collect chronometers made by John Bliss of NYC in the 1800s. In 1845 Bliss and his first Partner received patent # 4135 covering a new design for chronometer balance wheels to reduce middle temperature error. The patent also had a claim for a new method of fitting balance springs to a chronometer which involved two springs, one below and one above the balance wheel, or a variation where one balance spring was installed concentrically inside the other. All chronometers made by Bliss & Creighton after 1845 have the patented balance wheel, but I have never seen one of their chronometers with the double spring. I suspect it was an idea that didn't work out, but they wanted to secure the rights in case it did.

    In the same way, case manufacturers may have decided the screw cap was more trouble than it was worth, or came up with a better design, such as the felt washer.
    Norman Bliss

  13. #28
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swing Ring Cases - when were they introduced, and why? (RE: Norman Bliss)

    It was produced in both forms. The most common is the screw cap that is attached to the stem. The form with the cap on a short chain attached to the pendant is much less common, but neither are really common. The compression washer with screw down sleeve is fairly common, but easily overlooked at first glance. The knurling is often worn off the sleeve.

    All of Fitch's case patents were assigned to Robbins and Appleton of New York. I did find one D. H. Church patent that was assigned to Robbins and Avery but I think they mostly bought up patents from lone inventors rather than throwing their own property into the common pool. The concept of business conflicts of interest was not well developed in the 19th century but it was a concept.
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