• The online Bulletins and Mart and Highlights are currently unavailable due to a failure of a network piece of equipment. We are working to replace it and have the Online publications available as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

In praise of the Elgin Free Sprung 367 Father Time

Dr. Jon

Moderator
NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
6,647
1,004
113
New Hampshire
Country
Region
This is the version of the Father Time Elgin made for Naval service in World War I for navigation. Marvin Whitney mentions these in his two books, Military Timepieces and The Ships Chronometer. The description in his book simply quotes the retail catalog description of these

The Elgin web site, [ELGIN] Elgin Watch Databases mentions the free sprung verssions and states that some have an invar balance spring.

In this regard all of these description are wrong. This watch has a an integral of Guillaume balance. These were very difficult and expensive. The allow content required a specil steel, a work hardening process and a lot of temperature testing. MVT.jpg

This is evident from the location of the cut of the arms on the balance.

The performance data Whitney lists further reinforces this identification. They, the Naval Observatory, rated these watches by the same methods and requirements as marine detent chronometers. The listing from 1918 lists three Elgin Father Time watches with rating numbers below 25 , the maximum allowed with values of 16 to 25 acceptable only in emergency such as World War I.

The Elgins were toward the bottom of the listing but a closer look shows very impressive performance. The US Naval trial number was a complex mix of temperature and daily variation in each phase. The table lists a factor called the temperature constant for each entry. This "constant" includes secondary temperature error value which only a Guillaume balance can achieve, The Elgins did very well on this as well as the best watches, They had more day to day rate variation, about 2 seconds per day for the worst. The best of teh three got a number of 15 + making it eligible for purchase to the same requirement as peacetime marine chronometer, This would have been borderline for Swiss first class chronometer. These watches crushed railroad requirements.

These Elgins, at least the ones I have seen all have this balance, which also has timing nuts on the arm screws. These were either made by Elgin or made to theor specifications,. I beleive Elgin made them since getting this material from Switzerland was difficult at this time. IN addition to dealing with secondary temperature error, the shorter length of the balance arms made it more stable.

The other watches were made by Swiss makers who all competed in the Geneva and Neuchatel chronometer competitions. All of these watches are comparable and probably interchangeable for navigation with full size marine chronometers. These Elgin watches were competitive.

I did a search on these and did not find much. To my knowledge this is first that this information has been posted, but I am sure this has to have been published elsewhere

Does any one have any data or information on how these did at sea for navigation?
 

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,901
3,382
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
... This watch has a an integral of Guillaume balance. These were very difficult and expensive. The allow content required a specil steel, a work hardening process and a lot of temperature testing.
This is evident from the location of the cut of the arms on the balance.
Certainly the location of the cut cannot be the defining characteristic for a Guillaume balance as this is also a distinctive feature of Invar balances as made by Elgin and Hamilton. ( shown are Hamilton 922MP and Elgin gr.446). Are there other characteristics or literature that identify the Father Time balance as a Guillaume balance? Might not a temperature constant also be applied in testing a bimetallic Invar balance?
Ham922_Invar.jpg Elg446_Invar.jpg
 

Dr. Jon

Moderator
NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
6,647
1,004
113
New Hampshire
Country
Region
The cut is definitive but it occurs on a bimetallic balance. For the Elgin 367's the other two factors are that Invar was not in use for balances then and that some of tehese watches tested by the Navy had better compensation than a simple steel bimetallic, indeed teh near perfect performance only achievable with GUillaume at the time.. The position of the cut determines the thermal movement of the bimetallic balance arms.

So it looks like Guillaume, It was made when this was the method in use for high accuracy temperature compensation and they worked like Guillaume in many cases and had near misses, also a Guillaume characteristic. (Looks like duck, swims like a duck flies like a duck....)

The interesting issue to me is why they cut invar balances. I see no purpose and it weakens the balance. These look to be monometallic and should not change shape with temperature and, if invar, not even size. It is reasonable to question teh temperature perormance of the Hamiton 922 MP and Elgin 12 size. They never went to time trials nor did they have railroad inspection.


The effect of cut invar balances is hard to assess now since these watches are all at or near 100 years old and no one at the time did the kind of testing chronometer trials and the Naval Observatory did.

(I may be wrong on this if US Bureau of Standards did this.)
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: John Cote

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,901
3,382
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
Certainly the location of the cut cannot be the defining characteristic for a Guillaume balance as this is also a distinctive feature of Invar balances as made by Elgin and Hamilton.
Having attempted to give myself a quick education on Guillaume balances I begin to wonder if we may be talking about the same thing. Or perhaps others have been a little careless in their use of the Invar name? According to a couple of sources it sounds like Invar was Guillaume’s invention.

Another web page is more careful to differentiate Guillaume’s invention of Invar in 1896 from Anibal in 1900.

As I understand it a Guillaume balance is bi-metallic using his invariant steel alloy with a brass outer band applied to the balance rim. The cut in the balance rim is made further from the arms or even midway between the balance arms. This is the same construction as the Hamilton 922MP and Elgin gr.446 that I showed which claim to use Invar for the steel portions of the balance wheel. Both use standard steel hairsprings. Is it the invariant (or nearly so) alloy used in the balance wheel that differentiates a Guillaume balance from the so-called Invar balance?

The interesting issue to me is why they cut invar balances. I see no purpose and it weakens the balance. These look to be monometallic and should not change shape with temperature and, if invar, not even size.
As I mention above, both are bi-metallic balances using Invar and brass.
 

Dr. Jon

Moderator
NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
6,647
1,004
113
New Hampshire
Country
Region
1) was ignorant and could not tell that the Hamilton 992MP and Elgin 446 were bimetallic. A solid invar balance with cuts did not make sense to me and I see that there really as such thing.

2) Guillaume invented several alloys with differing horological applications. Guillaume and Anibal are the same. They expand with temperature in a manner that makes a brass and alloy balance bend to closely compensate for temperature.

3) Invar is a different alloy that has very little thermal expansion over ambient temperature. This is why he called it "invar". It will work with brass in a bimetallic balance. It went into pendulum rods for precision clocks but it is unstable in dimension, not enough to concern watches even at chronometer level, but enough to make these clocks "Interesting".

I looked at my files on Geneva trials and found that Patek Philippe won an honorable mention with an invar and brass balance in 1916 and a few other low level winners had invar balances in later years. Almost all the Geneva prize watches used Guillaume well into the 1930's. Invar is a very low thermal expansion alloy. When joined to brass on a blaance arm it will bend becuse the brass expands. It works but evidently not much if any better than any other stainless steel.

My understanding is that Guillaume invented three different alloys:


First was Guillaume or Anibal which is for use in bimetallic balances for its special thermal expansion profile

Later can Invar which has very low, near zero thermal expansion. . It was an is used in precision clock pendula. Reiffler developed a heat treat system for it and got better performance than I have seen in modern invar pendulum clocks; but ultimately gave up on it and put the pendulum into a temperature controlled vacuum housing. A few makers used it in bimetallic watch balances where it gave good enouigh results to get honorable mention awards in Geneva trials. It is used today in high end consumer porecision pensulum clocks and for making some kinds of instruments. It is in a very high precision clock made by Harrison followers. WHen I asked teh presenter about the stability of invar he replied that they had found a 100 year old rod.

Third came elinvar. This is a balance spring material with minimal change in elasticity with temperature. This is what Hamilton used with invar solid balances on the 992E and 950E. It also is a Guillaume invention.

The alloys are all nickel iron with the differences being three differing design properties.

Elinvar came well after the the Elgin 367 watches were made. Invar was around but almost exclusively for precision clocks.

I did know about the invar in the 992MP but had not looked into it much. The Geneva trial records show the system of invar and brass was workable with good results, but it seems to have been very rarely used.

These examples leave the Elgin 367 as the only US made Guillaume balance and one of the most thoruoghly tested.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ethan Lipsig

Forum statistics

Threads
168,903
Messages
1,473,849
Members
48,649
Latest member
steveal
Encyclopedia Pages
1,060
Total wiki contributions
2,955
Last update
-