Invar Balances on Prestige US watches

Dr. Jon

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Jerry Trieman posted examples of US prestige watches with invar bimetallic balances in the thread on Elgin 367 freesprung watches. This leads to two questions:

1) Why did they use invar instead of Guillaume or Anibel?

This (Guillaume) was the go to technology for high performance time keeping and by doing this Hamilton and Elgin could have mentioned that they were using the system that won most of the prizes in timing competitions.

2) Why did Elgin, having used Guillame, or something very similar, with remarkable success with the US Navy with 367's, change to invar later for their prestige line.
 

SpringDriven

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Invar, for invariable, was an alloy resistant to temperature change, and used with a similar hairspring. Elinvar, elastic invariable.

A steel hairspring was used with a Guillaume balance. Therefore an Invar balance wheel and Elinvar hairsping combined together would be superior technology requiring no compensation for temperature, which the Guillaume balance still had to deal with temperature compensation due to the steel hairsping.
 

Dr. Jon

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True but I intend this thread to discuss the use of invar with brass balance wheels. These were cut and worked with steel balance springs.

The superiority of the invar-elinvar system and its issues is a topic for another thread.
 

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thesnark17

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To sum that thread up, it suggests that the definition of a Guillaume Balance wheel is as follows:

A bimetallic cut wheel, with the following features:
- Brass on the outside
- Anibal alloy on the inside (apparently this is not the same material as Invar, but very similar)
- The cuts halfway around the wheel, resulting in 4 short arms
- Extensive proprietary working and heat treating (I understand that the rejection rate in this part of the process was very high)

A standard STEEL hairspring is utilized with this wheel.

Consequently any other material used for hairsprings would make that wheel not a "Guillaume Balance Wheel" (although related). Also the use of Invar would be disqualifying.

A "Guillaume Balance Wheel" is not made of Guillaume (at least we hope not!!), it is named after Guillaume.

---

My thoughts follow.

The point of the design is to compensate for the steel hairspring by designing a balance that varies exactly opposite to it - the exact same principle as the standard bimetallic wheel, only with improved materials. This was the right course of action at that time as steel hairsprings were still the only really good ones in Dr. Guillaume's era. The design principles for his balance are very different from those of later balances designed for the much smaller variations of later alloy hairsprings.

So the use of Hamilton's Elinvar, Elgin's Elginium Y, and other similar materials in hairsprings is disqualifying, though the balances themselves could look very similar, being the next generation of the same idea. The balance design elements would have needed to be adjusted to work well with hairsprings that have less change with temperature (but still some change), and that is probably why they used Invar instead of Anibal. There did not need to be as much change, so they could use a non-varying alloy with brass. (I assume that Anibal was a varying alloy, otherwise what would be the point of it? Dr. Guillaume had Invar at the same time that he used Anibal.)

The use of a non-varying balance was pointless until there was a non-varying hairspring to pair with it. This is why Dr. Guillaume did not just make solid Invar balances and have done with it.

The Elgin 540 is another watch which has a Brass/Invar balance that apparently is not a GBW because it uses Invar and a white hairspring.

Was the paper referenced in the other thread ever submitted to/published by the Bulletin?
 
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Dr. Jon

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I had seen the thread and forgotten about it.

My interest is is why neither Hamilton nor Elgin adopted the GBW for their prestige watches and feature this in marketing. We know Hamilton ultimately contracted with Guillaume for elinvar balance springs.

I am also intersted in the relation between the balances in free sprung 376 Father Time watches and Guillaume.
 

thesnark17

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This page from Hamilton Technical Data 113 shows what Hamilton thought they were gaining by using Invar in these balances.


I quote:
"Now the finest watches are equipped with invar bimetallic balances which may be adjusted to decrease the middle temperature error."

I suspect the primary issue with the GBW was that it was so hit-or-miss in its results (considered on a per-wheel basis). Presumably invar gave more consistent improvements with less work.
 

Dr. Jon

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That is a very interesting document. It shows a balance different from both invar and Anibel and it is very evasive Some Anibel balances were close to perfect. There is not much, if any, data on how bad a bad one was, but a lot of GBW eqeuipped watches were marked and sold as "extra" or "special" adjusted.

We also do not know whether invar brass balances were any more consistent.

The previous speculation is as good as any but cost was not a major factor on these watches, and they could have latched on to the prestige of genuine a GBW.

I doubt many customers would have known a good GBW from a poor one.
 

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