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John H King Silver Fusee Watch 1877 (second watch)

Sooth

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Hello fellow watch lovers,

I am still working on the Rose & Son Verge Fusee watch (see my other thread) but that project has been on pause because I happened to buy another watch, and it will at minimum need a key, so I wanted to wait to place my parts order.

This is a watch that I happened to run across for a song (under 100$ including free shipping). It did not have a lot of photos with the listing, but I decided to take a chance on it. The maker's name engraved on the backplate reads John H King Corporation Street Middlesborough. The place today is now Corporation Rd, and the city does not have the "o" in it. If anyone knows the street number for the address I'd love to have that info. The movement is numbered 4766, and so is the silver case, along with English silver hallmarks for 1877.

PC110091.JPG

Note: The movement does also have a dust cover with it.

I received it today after some confusing issues with the Global Shipping Program, but I won't get into that.

The watch appears to be in exceptional condition. There are a few scratches on the case and some very minimal dents, but I'm very pleased. It does run, but it will not hold any tension on the mainspring. The set-up wheel is ok, so I suspect that the fusee click is broken or missing. Hopefully that will not be an extremely complex repair as I'm still just dipping my toe into watches.

PC110095.JPG
Note: it does have the seconds hand with it.

Balance looks fine, hairspring is fine, fusee chain is fine, the blued steel screws are in beautiful shape. I have not taken anything apart other than removing the hands and the dial.

The crystal that came with it turned out to be plastic, yellowed, and scratched, as well as loose fitting, so it popped right out. I had some fun going though old spare crystals from my grandfather's old stock, and got to use his rather archaic crystal fitting tool. I will post it here as I'm sure some of you will find it highly amusing. It almost looks like a medieval torture device. I was happy that I was able to fit the crystal without breaking it, but I did try with a chipped one first just to get a feel for how much to tighten down the glass.

PC110098.JPG

PC110099.JPG

The only flaws with the watch that I could find so far:
- the beautiful blued steel hands are fairly rusty and will need attention
- the bail is crooked (the entire assembly) but I don't think I want to attempt to fix it as I'm more worried about breaking it
- what I thought was a water stain on the seconds dial is in fact a chip (possibly repaired in the past)
- the top stem (don't know the proper term) has a push-button to open the case back for winding. The hinged lid does not freely swing open, but the lid is also not sprung, it opens only to about 90 degrees (as I believe is normal). I don't know if the hinge could maybe be oiled?
Basically nothing serious so far, but I have not looked at the internal parts yet.

PC110101.JPG

PC110102.JPG
 
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gmorse

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Hi Sooth,

You've discovered how easy it is to catch the bug!

The set-up wheel is ok, so I suspect that the fusee click is broken or missing. Hopefully that will not be an extremely complex repair as I'm still just dipping my toe into watches.
Fusee clicks are fairly straightforward, but were often neglected and not cleaned and lubricated during routine servicing because the fusee components are held together by a collet and cross pin in the base, underneath the great wheel, which has to be removed in order to inspect the assembly. If you find that the click isn't functional, it may also be that the ratchet wheel is heavily worn, so that will not be so simple to fix. At this date I expect the fusee will be fitted with maintaining power, involving an extra, thin ratchet wheel fitted between the fusee cone and the great wheel, with an external click mounted between the plates next to it.

The only flaws with the watch that I could find so far:
- the beautiful blued steel hands are fairly rusty and will need attention
- the bail is crooked (the entire assembly) but I don't think I want to attempt to fix it as I'm more worried about breaking it
- what I thought was a water stain on the seconds dial is in fact a chip (possibly repaired in the past)
- the top stem (don't know the proper term) has a push-button to open the case back for winding. The hinged lid does not freely swing open, but the lid is also not sprung, it opens only to about 90 degrees (as I believe is normal). I don't know if the hinge could maybe be oiled?
The old, yellowed crystal which you've very prudently discarded was probably some form of celluloid, and one of its less desirable properties was that it generated a gas that was corrosive as it deteriorated. By the way it was also very flammable. The hands look as though they're restorable but you must be careful as they're quite fragile.

Not sure what you mean by the bail, I can't see anything obviously distorted.

That mark on the dial is indeed an old repair and could be improved.

The stem carrying the bow is known as the pendant, and the back lids weren't always fitted with a fly spring in the same way as hunter case lids were. A simple cleaning may improve this. A lot of gunk can accumulate in the hinges.

The watch wasn't made in Middlesborough but probably in Coventry, and there may be some initials stamped in the pillar (front) plate under the dial for the movement makers. The case maker in London was probably Joseph Hurst in Clerkenwell.

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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1880 Directory listed under jeweller & clock/watch maker. He retailed the watch and probably received it ready to go.

1639262653248.png

Was it 'street' in 1877 maybe it was, maybe an engraver's error.

I suspect Coventry finished, if there are any initials on the underside of the dust cap, that might help. If there are, post a photograph please.

John
 

Sooth

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Given the overall well-cared for condition, I'm not too sure what the problem with the click or ratchet wheel may be. We will find out eventually (likely in a few weeks).

The bail itself (the hoop) is not bent or distorted, rather it's the pendant stem that is about 2-3 degrees out of square. It's not perpendicular to the case if looking at it from the top down. It's not a big deal, I'm just not sure why it's crooked.

PC110106.JPG

John: it may well have always been "Road". Spelling mistakes were not uncommon on clocks and I assume watches are the same story.

You've discovered how easy it is to catch the bug!
I refuse to acknowledge this ;)

The case maker initials under the hallmarks is indeed J H, so Joseph Hurst would make sense.

PC110001.JPG

Under the dial I can see 16 x 0 with a 2 under the zero. Conveniently the rear of the dial has some scribbles which include "66" which would match the 4766 serial number, I assume.

PC110103.JPG

The condition of the screws and all the bluing is just beautiful. I like how the set up ratchet is blued only in the dished centre.

PC110104.JPG
 

Sooth

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Graham, I will add that this case does indeed have a spring for the catch as well as a spring for the lid. The lid spring is a bit rusty but is functional. I assume it's just dirt and old polish within the hinge. I would guess that the ultrasonic would be the ideal tool here, but I don't have one. Should I try to flush the hinge with a solvent? Maybe lacquer thinner or lighter fluid?
 

John Matthews

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Sad no cap marks.

1639291788295.png

The case mark is that of the Joseph Hirst. The Hirst Brothers took over from James Thickbottom and James Hirst (possibly Joseph's father) ~1846. By 1877 address was be 13 Arlington Street, Clerkenwell. At that address Hirst Brothers traded as watch case makers in 1875. By 1882 they had moved into the wholesale & manufacture of silver jewellery, particularly Spring Purses. Business dissolved in 1887, then the brothers were Joseph, James (jnr?) and George, latter continues the business alone until ~1889.

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
The bail itself (the hoop) is not bent or distorted, rather it's the pendant stem that is about 2-3 degrees out of square. It's not perpendicular to the case if looking at it from the top down. It's not a big deal, I'm just not sure why it's crooked.
Pendants and bows were vulnerable and were sometimes twisted or bent in use, indeed they were not infrequently replaced altogether.

The case maker initials under the hallmarks is indeed J H, so Joseph Hurst would make sense.
As John has commented, this mark is for the Hirst Brothers; I was misled by the appearance in your first picture of what seemed to be a cartouche around the initials. The font, cartouche, (or lack of one, known as 'incuse'), and even the position of the period between the letters are all important in distinguishing between different makers with the same initials. No two makers could register the same marks at the same time. (It was Alford Thickbroom by the way).

I will add that this case does indeed have a spring for the catch as well as a spring for the lid. The lid spring is a bit rusty but is functional. I assume it's just dirt and old polish within the hinge. I would guess that the ultrasonic would be the ideal tool here, but I don't have one. Should I try to flush the hinge with a solvent? Maybe lacquer thinner or lighter fluid?
Cleaning the case may ease the spring(s), although these are often found to be rusted due to their vulnerable position in the case band and the difficulty of removing them if the tiny retaining screws are also rusty. Colman's fuel or a similar light naphtha will do very well, but mustn't be used in an ultrasonic.

The fusee components, including the maintaining power, are like this. The maintaining power wheel is the steel one on the right, with two clicks. Yours does have this mechanism.

DSC00779.JPG DSC00780.JPG

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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(It was Alford Thickbroom by the way).
Graham - no, this is James not Alford. The partnership between Alford and James at 10 Galway Street was dissolved in 1837 when they went their separate ways.

John
 

novicetimekeeper

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What is that bit on the balance cock that needed a cutout in the dustcover? I have not noticed one of those before.
 

gmorse

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Hi Nick,
What is that bit on the balance cock that needed a cutout in the dustcover? I have not noticed one of those before.
That's the piece of the cock table which carries the stud. It's a bit different from the more common narrow diamond-shaped stud.

Regards,

Graham
 

Sooth

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Thanks for all the replies. One other thought occurred to me. I suppose the click spring(s) may be broken rather than the click. I am familiar with the maintaining power arrangement (from working on clocks) and Graham, you are correct that this watch has the feature. Were 2 internal clicks always used? If 2 clicks were used, then I would assume that the watch could still be wound with one being broken. In this scenario, when I try to wind the watch, I can do a full revolution with a key, I feel the spring tensioning, but there is no sound, and no feel of anything wanting to grab to hold the pressure of the spring.

I'm itching to take the watch apart to find out, but at the same time I want to wait because I already have too many other projects started and all my little parts bowls are full.
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
...you are correct that this watch has the feature. Were 2 internal clicks always used? If 2 clicks were used, then I would assume that the watch could still be wound with one being broken. In this scenario, when I try to wind the watch, I can do a full revolution with a key, I feel the spring tensioning, but there is no sound, and no feel of anything wanting to grab to hold the pressure of the spring.
Yes, Harrison's maintaining power in watches like this normally has two clicks, but if it hasn't been cleaned and lubricated for many decades, the ancient oils and greases, (now probably looking like green varnish), can stop the clicks from engaging properly. If you're lucky, that will be the extent of the problem.

You may occasionally find marks under the cock foot or on the inside of the pillar plate, but the dial side is the most usual place, if there are any marks at all. As yours has the Lancashire gauge diameter and pillar height stamped on the dial side, I'd expect any other marks to be there as well.

Regards,

Graham
 

Sooth

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I've gone ahead and restored the hands. The photos are a bit out of focus, as my lighting is not the best, and my digital camera is quite old.

Before:
PC110005.JPG

PC110006.JPG

After:
PC120016.JPG

I believe the seconds hand is not original. The back of it looks like brass, so I believe it's painted black. I did not touch the seconds hand.
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
OK so I took out the barrel to inspect the spring. Looks good, blued steel. Is it generally recommended to replace the old springs (even if still serviceable) when it comes to fusee watches?
There isn't a simple answer to this. Does the spring expand to at least three times the ID of the barrel when you take it out? If it does, you should be OK to reuse it. However, I really wouldn't advise you to acquire NOS blue steel springs, because they'll have been in their restraints for many decades and even if they aren't obviously set when you release them, there's a strong chance that they'll fail when you wind them, which as you know is bad news for the train wheels.

Although the fusee profiles were adjusted for specific blue steel springs, the risk of breakage is just too great and modern alloy springs in as close as you can get to the same dimensions will do well enough; the amount of initial setup on the barrel can be adjusted to give reasonable results as a rule. Verges are much more influenced by mainspring power for their rate than are levers, and tend to have fairly thick springs.

An exception is if you find a spring with a signature and/or a date scratched on it, which is much better left for historical reasons, even if it is set, but these are quite rare and anyway are more often found on watches much older than this.

Regards.

Graham
 

Sooth

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Graham, Timesavers has a suitable spring, but it doesn't really specify if these are new white alloy or old stock. I would assume they are new. So for 5$ I think I will replace it. This watch is a lever type, and the original spring is about 2.64mm x 0.192mm so the closest one I can buy is 2.6 x 0.19 which is pretty much exactly what's needed for this watch. As with the Rose & Son, it will have the wrong type of end and both stock springs will be a bit too long so I can easily anneal and remake hole-ends on these. I just placed the order.
 

Sooth

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Well, bad news. Looks like both clicks are completely mangled. I suspect someone tried to wind the watch backwards. Given how tiny these are, it's not surprising they failed. Is there a tutorial or easy way to make these? I'm not averse to giving it a shot, but they're SOOOOOO tiny.


PC130026.JPG

The internal clicksprings are fine, and what may look like one or two broken outer teeth is just dirt.
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
Looks like both clicks are completely mangled. I suspect someone tried to wind the watch backwards.
Yes, that's almost certainly what's happened, it's quite common to find this sort of damage. You're fortunate that this is a steel wheel, some were brass and wouldn't have stood up to the maltreatment so well. These clicks are quite a fiddle to make, and they have to be riveted in so that they're secure but can still turn freely.

I turn them from silver steel rod, (O1 or similar), making the rivet first and then filing them up as far as possible while they're still on the rod before finally parting them off. You need some very fine files and a way of holding them securely after they're parted off for this, escapement files are best and a small pin vice will hold them. The steel should be hard enough to work properly but still soft enough to allow the riveting.

Regards,

Graham
 
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gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
Could they be made from 2 parts (internal pin riveted on both sides) or is that not recommended
Yes, I expect they could, but they must be no thicker than the ring which includes their springs, so any rivets must be finished flush. I think it's probably easier to make the rivet in one piece with the click in the traditional manner.

Regards,

Graham
 

Sooth

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Well, I've been fiddling with this one for a while, and after several hours of tweaking and filing, I think I have managed to make one of the two clicks. In a previous comment I thought it may be easier to make these in two pieces, but that would NOT be possible, since the shape of the click is filed right up to the edge of the pin/rivet, so this would not work at all in 2 pieces.

I made-up some small buttons with pins to as close as possible to the dimensions with my lathe (within about 0.01mm), and hopefully this will work out nicely. I'm a touch worried about how to rivet these and leave enough play, considering that the actual wheel is almost as thin as paper.

Here are some progress pictures.

P1030042.JPG

P1030041.JPG

P1030043.JPG
 
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gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
I'm a touch worried about how to rivet these and leave enough play, considering that the actual wheel is almost as thin as paper.
That's good work! The rivet needs to be just flush with the surface of the wheel, and if it's a reasonably close fit in the hole in the wheel whilst not tight, a gentle tap in the centre with a small domed punch should be enough to hold it in place but still allow it to turn. If you overdo this and the click won't turn freely, there's no alternative to punching it out and starting all over again. Once the fusee is all assembled, the click shouldn't be able to escape from the hole anyway. Lubricate the rubbing surfaces with KT22 or similar grease, and use a brass or better still a copper pin to secure the collet; it will make it easier to dismantle again, hopefully by someone else in a few decades time!

Regards,

Graham
 
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Sooth

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Well, after a lot of work, careful nitpicking and adjusting, the repair is done.

P1080046.JPG

I am looking forward to reassembling this watch, as I'm fairly sure it will run well (it's overall in excellent/clean shape) but I'm waiting for a new spring and parts order. It's been in the mail since mid December. I was hoping it would have arrived by now. This watch does still have a functional original blued steel spring, but it seems like the general consensus is that it's safer to replace these when possible.
 

Chris Radek

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Wonderful! A repair to be proud of!

I would not replace an original mainspring that's in good shape after 150 years and may have had your fusee cut exactly to match it. Don't borrow trouble.

However, I do like to wind the spring in the barrel to full wind outside the watch a few times before reassembly. If there's a problem with a hook you don't want to find that while it's got the chain attached. I like to put the arbor in a lathe collet, with the tailstock set so it can't come out even if it slips, and hold the barrel while winding it to full wind a few times by turning the lathe headstock.
 

Sooth

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Hmmmmmm... sounds like we're back to the same argument/question again. And I do see that Graham has given a thumbs-up on that as well. Replace the spring or don't replace the spring? Maybe photos would help?

The new spring is already in the mail, but it's only a 5$ investment. I do plan to use this watch on occasion, so if a new spring is safer/more reliable, then I may prefer to go new (just because fusee chains and watch parts are more delicate). On the other hand, having worked for a decade with clocks, I have never really had issues with reusing 100-year-old springs. Some suffer from a bit of "set" and perform less well, but none have ever broken on me (with clocks that are in constant use). I am not generally a fan of "always replace mainsprings".

So again, based on photos, past experience, and with the knowledge that I do have an identical new spring (which will need shortening and a hole-end put in) on the way already... keep or replace?

P1090049.JPG

P1090050.JPG
Note: the spring is not conical here, I'm just pushing it to show that lovely blue colour ;)
 

novicetimekeeper

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Is that 3x the barrel diameter? I think I'd be pleased with that. (I know nothing though, don't mind me)
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,

I do like to keep the 'original' spring if it's in good condition, as yours appears to be, and even if it's marginal but has a signature, but I won't use a 'NOS' blue steel spring. These have sat in their original constraints and packaging for many decades now, and can suffer catastrophic failure when fitted and wound, which is why Chris' advice to wind it first out of the movement is such a good idea. You'll have noted that Chris did put a caveat on his preference that the spring must be in a good state. However, his observation that the fusee profile would have been made to fit the spring is probably less important. The maker of the fusee probably didn't apply much science, (if any!), to the shape, it was made to a pattern based on experience, and also, the spring in front of you has a good chance of being a replacement itself, from an earlier repair.

Judging from your picture, I'd say the the spring is very close to three times the barrel ID.

Regards,

Graham
 

Sooth

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Ok we'll see how it goes with the old spring. It seems to function well. I have the watch largely reassembled, but is there a trick to reinstalling the fusee chain? From what I remember seeing, it's best to wind it onto the barrel, then hook the end onto the cone, but it's... quite tricky. Without tension on the chain, it's slipping loose and then getting itself caught under the barrel.

I'm sure this has been asked before, so I will poke around.
 

Sooth

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Watch is back together and ticking. I had some trouble with the balance wheel/cock, but I think I have it close to how it should be. The issue is it was shimmed. I kept the thin paper/tissue shim and I think I have it back where it was. The balance is moving to around 1/3 of a circle (so like... 120 degrees roughly by eye). Not sure if that's about correct or not, but at the beginning it was barely moving 5-10 degrees.
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
I had some trouble with the balance wheel/cock, but I think I have it close to how it should be. The issue is it was shimmed. I kept the thin paper/tissue shim and I think I have it back where it was. The balance is moving to around 1/3 of a circle (so like... 120 degrees roughly by eye). Not sure if that's about correct or not, but at the beginning it was barely moving 5-10 degrees.
Well done again!

The chain can be installed in several ways, but they fall into two groups; either you wind it all onto the barrel, keeping some tension on it with a finger before hooking it into the fusee, or wind it all onto the fusee first and then hooking onto the barrel. Remember that the barbed hook goes on the barrel and the plain hook on the fusee. With the second method you can then use the barrel setup ratchet and click to apply tension as the watch runs, but be careful if there isn't much of the barrel arbor square showing above the ratchet wheel to make a secure hold for the pin vice. Earlier fusee watches with a worm and wheel arrangement are easier, (as long as you have a key small enough for the worm/tangent screw).

An English lever like this should have rather more amplitude, something in the region of 240˚ to 270˚ in each direction ideally, but there may be several reasons why you're not achieving this; the balance staff may still be a little tight, it may be out of beat, the balance spring may be rubbing, out of flat or out of round, etc. If you press lightly on the balance cock whilst the watch is running, and there's a noticeable slowing, it suggests that the staff is tight in its end-shakes, so try increasing the shim thickness for a start and see if it improves. Shimming the balance cock is only a temporary test, and it doesn't do anything irreversible to the fabric of the movement, which is desirable.

Regards,

Graham
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,

It's worth having a close look at the state of the balance staff pivots and the endstones, because over time the tips can become flattened, which can have a surprisingly big effect on running in horizontal positions. How you could go about correcting any problems in this area is a matter for discussion; the 'standard' method of correcting flattened tips involves the use of a Jacot tool, which I'm pretty sure won't be in your tool-kit!

Regards,

Graham
 

Sooth

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The watch seems to run ok laying flat, but will not run if it's held vertically. The balance slows and then fully stops. It runs equally well dial up or dial down. If I do press lightly on the balance cock as you mentioned the balance does slow or stop, but to me this doesn't make much sense, because if I look at it from the side, it looks like there's some play if I flip the watch over 180 (end shake). The hairspring is not rubbing against anything, and the balance wheel is also not rubbing against anything.

I ended up removing all shims. The way the original shim was placed would make the pivot end dip down a bit closer to the back plate. I tried a few shim positions and none seemed to improve the functionality of the watch.

I can definitely have a look at the balance cock jewel/setting as I did not really clean this. I was hoping to avoid unpinning the hairspring.

I did have a look to see if the pin location was properly oriented for the lever, and it did look fine at a casual inspection, but I did not closely examine the angles. It's possible that there's a small bit of beat error, but right now it seems more like not enough power is making it to the escapement.

I did notice that the fusee pivot was rebushed at some point (not all that elegantly). I did not really check this bearing with the fusee cone to see how nice the fit was, or if it's too tight. Do clearances for watches work much the same as clock movements (with some degree or slop being desirable)?
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
If I do press lightly on the balance cock as you mentioned the balance does slow or stop, but to me this doesn't make much sense, because if I look at it from the side, it looks like there's some play if I flip the watch over 180 (end shake). The hairspring is not rubbing against anything, and the balance wheel is also not rubbing against anything.
The lower fusee pivot, (the one at the great wheel end), often shows wear as it's under more pressure, but the state of the pivots and holes at the other end of the train will clearly have more effect. The centre arbor hole in the pillar plate is another area of wear. I'd certainly look again at the the balance pivots and jewels, preferably under good magnification, because dirt and old oil can accumulate under the endstones and seriously affect the balance action if the jewels aren't scrupulously clean.

Do clearances for watches work much the same as clock movements (with some degree or slop being desirable)?
Yes, the clearances are much the same although much smaller, particularly in jewel holes.

Regards,

Graham
 

Bernhard J.

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Although a little bit late to mention, but I would inspect the complete chain, element by element (and not only the hooks) closely. If the chain breaks, this is not good, neither for the train, nor for the clicks in the fusee.

Great work and great thread, I love it!

Cheers, Bernhard
 
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Sooth

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Graham, I suspect that you are correct regarding the balance pivots. Upon close inspection the pivots on this watch are more like two cones rather than the more usual wheel pivot, and the ends are somewhat flattened. I think for now, I will leave the watch as-is. It is repaired, cleaned, and partially functional, but I may need to return to it once I have more experience, or find out more info about the Jacot tool, or see if someone could do that work for me.

I will leave this project here, and I can always revisit it later. I'm pleased with the overall results and learned a lot while working on this watch.

I will end with a final glamour shot of the reassembled watch. I suspect that these hands may not be original as they are both a bit short, but I absolutely love the look of them. The hour hand especially.

P1140055.JPG
 
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gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
Upon close inspection the pivots on this watch are more like two cones rather than the more usual wheel pivot, and the ends are somewhat flattened.
Well, you'll lose nothing by putting it aside for now, and you've gained quite a lot of knowledge in the process I think.

The balance pivots are, (or should be), a cylindrical portion that runs in the hole, smoothly swept into the rest of the staff in a curved 'cone', sometimes with a backslope as in the first of these examples. Two are cylinders but the principle is the same.

DSCF7538.JPG DSCF7874.JPG DSCF3254.JPG

Regards,

Graham
 

roughbarked

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Them darned pivots can sure fool ya. Unless you take the time to not only look but feel.
My boss told me that basketball and guitar pickin' ain't gonna help yer watchmaking.
If you can feel it then you already know it needs a closer look. In time, you won't need your spectacles, you'll do it all by feel.
 

gmorse

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Hi Sooth,
Now I'm wondering if the pivots are broken? But then how did the watch run for hours somewhat decently?
They can run after a fashion in certain positions even when a pivot is damaged, it depends on which one. A good close look is needed!

Regards,

Graham
 

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