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Are Balance/Escapement English made?

Bernhard J.

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Hi,

My first watch with spring detent escapement is this one. The case clearly is English. The movement seems to be based on a Swiss or French ebauche. Looking at the balance and the escapement, I believe that these were fitted to the movement in England. The dial was presumably also made in England (spelling "Chronometer" instead of "Chronometre"). What do you think?

Cheers, Bernhard

1.jpg 4.jpg 6.jpg 7.jpg
 

gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,
What do you think?
I agree that the case is English, by Joseph and James Hirst, 1857/8, but I think that this movement is almost, if not entirely Swiss, including the detent and the balance, and possibly even the dial and hands. I don't recall having seen a detent foot with that arrangement on an English chronometer, and we know how good some Swiss makers were at producing 'English style' movements.

Regards,

Graham
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi Graham,

I was wondering about the movement, because Swiss makers typically favored the pivot detent escapement over the spring detent escpaement. And because the ebauche is rather average, whereas the escapement and balance are of a completely different class (in my eyes). The detent foot issue is, however, a strong argument.

In a quick search for a detent foot of this shape I was not successful, maybe someone has another or similar example thereof?

Cheers, Bernhard
 

SKennedy

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I don't think I've ever seen one like that. It seems like an excercise in 'how can we make this bit even more difficult to make'.
 
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John Matthews

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I have a slightly later pivoted detent movement signed Moncrieff that has been fitted to a standard Lancashire full-plate frame. It is also of unusual design. Interestingly the dial is identical to yours. I believe, like my example, this 'continental frame' was supplied to an English escapement maker with the instruction to fit a spring detent escapement with a helical balance and that's what he did in the space that was available.

Could this have been a Lepine V movement with a pivoted detent escapement of somewhat earlier date, that was converted and re-cased?

As a matter of interest does the balance cock with the diamond cap (in the English style) stand higher that the train cocks?

John
 

Bernhard J.

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As a matter of interest does the balance cock with the diamond cap (in the English style) stand higher that the train cocks?
Hi John, I will look into that this evening and provide the answer tomorrow.

I do not think that a pivoted detent escapement was originally fitted to the frame, because a recess for the spring mounting block of the detent hairspring would have to be closer to the balance and apparently nothing has been filled in where such a recess would be expected. Unless it was done so well that it is not visible.
 

John Pavlik

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Interesting to say the least …. Is there a helical hairspring or is it flat ? I find the balance cock‘s engraving a stark contrast to the finish of the other cocks & bridges …
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi John,

It is a helical hairspring. And the hairspring block at the balance cock is of very English form, I never saw this like that in any French or Swiss watch (the latter statement not necessarily being of higher relevance).

Cheers, Bernhard
 

Bernhard J.

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I just had a look around in the internet at various Lepine type V movements, either with lever or cylinder escapement. In any case the base plate is significantly different in the vicinity of the balance, with cutouts for either escapement wheel and/or lever, which are not present in the instant base plate. This would seem to suggest not a conversion of an existing base plate, but rather production of a modified "raw" (with respect to the vicinity of the balance) base plate specifically for later fitting of the instant (or any other?) escapement. Has someone ever heard of such "semifinished'" base plates/movements?
 

Dr. Jon

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Interesting timepiece.


I have seen a similar detent in a Jules Jergensen.

Does it have a cuvette. If so what is written on it.
 

gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,
And the hairspring block at the balance cock is of very English form, I never saw this like that in any French or Swiss watch (the latter statement not necessarily being of higher relevance).
It is in the English manner, but there's an example of how good the Swiss variety can be in your post #10 about your Golay in this thread on his Nicole Nielsen by Tom. Look at the balance spring stud; Enrico's opinion is that this ébauche was by LeCoultre.

Regards,

Graham
 

gmorse

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Hi John,

And I notice that it has engraving just on the balance cock, and the endstones are secured from underneath in the Swiss manner.

Regards,

Graham
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi Graham,

No doubt that the Golay watch and the present one used Swiss ebauchs. In case of the Golay watch I do, however, have literature saying that the ebauchs (called "Genre Anglais") were made by Audemar Piguet and fitted with an escapement and balance in England by Charles Hector Golay, respectively a workshop in England employed by him (and with a Willis dial according to the signature on my dial). It even was modified to take the winding work patented by Golay, however, this might have been done in Switzerland already. Insofar I disagree in the detail "LeCoultre", but not in the general finding "Swiss" *.

I did not understand Enrico in that he intended to say that the balance and English lever escapement of the Golay watch were also Swiss-made (by LeCoultre).

The question in both cases would be, whether the watches are real "hybrides" (= the movements made partially in Switzerland and partially in England), or rather English lookalikes more or less completely (minus case) made in Switzerland.

The answer seems (to me) rather clear with respect to the Golay watch (>hybride), but less clear with respect to the instant watch.

Cheers, Bernhard

*However, it might of course be, that a book sponsered by Audemar Piguet tends to keep it secret, in case that Audemar Piguet in those times bought ebauches from LeCoultre and misrepresented them as made by themselves. Or they forgot about it.
 
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Bernhard J.

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Does it have a cuvette. If so what is written on it.
It does, nothing, completely anonymeous and also no kind of feature presentation.

You have a JJ with spring detent escapement? I would love to see a photo. I have one, but with pivot detent and had until today believed that all JJ chronometers had the pivot detent escapement.

Here is my teaser with respect to JJ :D By the way, this chronometer movement was actually not made by JJ themselves but bought in as "JJ Style".

13.jpg
 
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Dr. Jon

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I saw it an an auction. I was highly overbid on it. It was so long ago that the auction house no longer has it on their archive. I saw and held it at the preview.

I have to rely in memory but I recall that it was not on a Geneva ebauche. I was surprised because all the other JJ detents I have seen are pivoted.

Another aspect of your watch is that it is free sprung.

The Swiss almost never did this in the 19th century but they did it on occasion.

The dial is Swiss style in how it is secured.

When this watch was made both the Swiss and English watch industries had enough escapement specialists who could have done this.

My guess is that this was a watchmaker project which could have been done in England or Switzerland. More likely Swiss and possibly a school project. I have a Geneva style pivoted detent in a gilt silver case I am sure was a "project watch".
 

eri231

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I did not understand Enrico in that he intended to say that the balance and English lever escapement of the Golay watch were also Swiss-made (by LeCoultre).
The ebauches were sold without balance, escapement and mainspring, obviously iwas prepared for the expected escapement. If complete of everything the movement was called "Chablon" for example the movements sent to America and encased there.
Regarding Audemars Piguet manufacturer and supplier of ebauches in the U.K. I point out that in 1888 AP had 10 workers and LeCoultre over a hundred workers, in 1911 always AP 20 and LeCoultre 275 employees.
If AP provided ebauches to Golay it was likely that they were from LeCoultre and AP resold them, also because Charles Hector, along with others, was frowned upon by Benjamin LeCoultre because they were accused of divulging the secrets of Swiss complications.
Regards enrico
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi Enrico,

In particular the last mentioned aspect is interesting, similar accusations had been raised by several persons in the time, if I recall correctly. This accusation seems a little bit strange in hindsight at least, since all mechanical details of the complications become evident to any (skilled) watchmaker, who does a service and completely disassembles a complicated movement, thereby analysing the functions of the elements in detail.

For my interest, why were such ebauches less the mainspring? I would not think, that e.g. an English mainspring would differ significantly from a Swiss one of the time (although I would be happy to learn about such differences). Or was this perhaps mainly a matter of tax/duties regulations?

With respect to the Golay watch your thoughts seem to support my "hybride" hypothesis (Swiss ebauche, English balance and escapement). But what do you think about the movement shown in this thread? "Hybride" or completely Swiss (i.e. including balance and escapement)?

Cheers, Bernhard
 

Bernhard J.

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As a matter of interest does the balance cock with the diamond cap (in the English style) stand higher that the train cocks?
Hi John,

No, all stand at equal height and have equal thickness (the diamond cap stone not considered). One would for this reason not really expect a helical hairspring.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

John Matthews

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Bernard - thanks for checking - your answer correctly reflects the reason for my question.

As you have the watches in hand, I'm sure your assessment is correct and it isn't a conversion. From the photographs it looks as if it would be possible, so to humor me, is it possible to post photographs of the 'JJ' pivoted detent and this spring detent escapements in the same orientation?

John
 

gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,
I would not think, that e.g. an English mainspring would differ significantly from a Swiss one of the time (although I would be happy to learn about such differences).
I can think of one difference; the English were very attached to the fusee, whereas the Swiss had by and large abandoned it for the going barrel by this time. The former generally required, (or at least was fitted with), a rather stronger spring than was the case in the latter.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Bernhard J.

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I can think of one difference; the English were very attached to the fusee, whereas the Swiss had by and large abandoned it for the going barrel by this time. The former generally required, (or at least was fitted with), a rather stronger spring than was the case in the latter.
Hi Graham,

But would it not result in a too strong spring in a Swiss ebauch (typically with going barrel), if the ebauches were delivered to England minus the main spring?

Ich can understand the concept of fitting an English balance and escapement to a Swiss ebauche, but why should an English main spring be fitted to a Swiss ebauche? I believe that the English lever escapement or the spring detent escapement do not need higher main spring forces than the clubfoot lever escapement (I might be wrong in that, though).

Cheers, Bernhard
 

eri231

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The ebauches were provided without mainspring for everyone, not just for England. It was an established practice. The English materials were of superior quality, also recognized in Switzerland, many traders imported materials from England, just as, British factories sent the raw material to be processed in Switzerland and then re-imported. The metal alloys used by Guillaume were produced in England, and the hairsprings were also made with wire produced in England.
Sully's mainspring factory in France worked with products imported from England.
Regards enrico
 
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gmorse

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Hi John,
As you have the watches in hand, I'm sure your assessment is correct and it isn't a conversion. From the photographs it looks as if it would be possible, so to humor me, is it possible to post photographs of the 'JJ' pivoted detent and this spring detent escapement
The elongated recesses for the detents are quite similar, it's only the 'ears' on the spring version that would have needed adding.

Regards,

Graham
 

gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,

Blakey was working about 70 years before this watch was made, and I think the technology would have moved on somewhat, with the possible use of more machinery by the 1850s, I'm thinking specifically of rolling mills.

Ich can understand the concept of fitting an English balance and escapement to a Swiss ebauche, but why should an English main spring be fitted to a Swiss ebauche? I believe that the English lever escapement or the spring detent escapement do not need higher main spring forces than the clubfoot lever escapement (I might be wrong in that, though)
I think Enrico has the answer to this, it was all about the quality of the steel, although in a fusee movement there was one extra arbor to contribute additional friction.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Bernhard J.

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Hi John,

What made me wonder all time is the spring detent foot. Typical English ones are quarder-shaped and in most cases fixed to the plate with one single screw and one positioning pin.

If one assumes that the left escapement is a conversion from a pivot detent escapement, wherein the original position of the pivot is taken by the small fixing screw of the spring detent, I would argue that the small fixing screw of the spring detent is by far too far away from the balance to have been the position of a pivot of a pivot detent escapement. A pivot detent with such huge "leverage" would presumably not really work out. In the right photo, see how near the pivot is to the rim of the balance and compare with the left photo.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

Bernhard J.

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Blakey was working about 70 years before this watch was made, and I think the technology would have moved on
Hi Graham,

Sure, but nevertheless a very interesting read, which I just wanted to "pull to the surface" by this occasion, being amazed what one can discover in this forum.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,

Have you looked at Richard Watkins' website? He has some very good articles and translations, his treatise on repeaters is excellent. The book by Blakey is there as well.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Rich Newman

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Bernhard, I asked a colleague to look at the pictures a few days ago and his thoughts are as follows:
- It is a Swiss or French ebauche from the late 1830s or the 1840s, the balance is also Swiss, which implies that the cock may be as well.
- It could have been re-engraved in England, but not necessarily.
- Possible it was recased.
- The dial looks English but the Swiss also made them for the English market. It appears to have two feet which English makers rarely used.
- The ebauche could be Audemars', or D.H. Piguet, Japy, Deloche, D.A. Piguet and few others.
- The detent has an unusual foot.

He suggests to closely examine how the movement was mounted in the case and to post pictures under the dial if possible.
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi Rich,

There are no indications that the movement was recased. I had examined the case closely for traces indicating that mounting screws for a (another) movement were in other positions, but there were none. I agree with the other aspects, noting, however, that the fitting of the diamond capstone seems quite "un-Swiss".

Unfortunately I do not have photos from under the dial, but will be sure to make some in the event that I need to remove the dial (or get too curious :emoji_laughing:). I own most of my watches since decades, i.e. since the pre digital camera era. I just recently began making digital photos for documentation purposes and this only insofar that I do not need to take apart the watches unneccessarily.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

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