Must see: Peter Litherland 1792 Rack Lever Patent.... The Actual Document!

Allan C. Purcell

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Today I have transcribed the chronometers listed by Tony Mercer in his book "Chronometers Makers of the World". His list is not in chronological order, and some do not have full numbers, so one or two are not listed by me. Though it must be said the firm's serial numbers hold true.

So here is the update.
 

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Allan C. Purcell

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The Litherland list is coming along and as we thought the serial numbers carry on for all three firms. To be honest it was always the same firm, with small changes of the names. Going through the file this week there are a couple that stand out. Numbers 5225 and 5403. 5225 is engraved Litherland, Davis & Co, which by number puts it in the dates of 1809/10, plum in the middle of the Litherland, Whiteside & Co. era. See photograph on page 4. 5403 was sold by Gardiner & Houlgate 2015 and they said it had a Savage two-pin escapement, that too would have been made 1809/10. I have since seen the movement, and it is a Rack lever with no slides. ( I did not see a side view, so it could have been converted to a Savage later) I hope a member now owns the watch and lets us know.

Allan.
 

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Allan C. Purcell

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Today 5206 turned up from "Pieces of Time" Rack W/S, 30 tooth escape wheel and inside the cape the number. Also on this cap is the word Patentees. I have this on others by Litherland and Whiteside, and as I have no proof that Roskell or anyone else bought the Patent, I have come to the conclusion Litherland & Whiteside kept them. After all, they were still in the family in 1963, or later. Photographs of the watch 5206 on page 20. I will go back and look at my photograph file for Patentee on their watches and include them on the serial file later.

Regards,

Allan.
 

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Allan C. Purcell

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I had a look through the photograph file for the word "PATENTEES" and only found number 3333 on the cock. A lot of the movements on the serial numbers file have no dust caps now, and Patentees could well have been on there. The small amount of information on these two watches, indicate to me that around the time Peter Litherland died, there was a gap where the firm carried on using Litherland and Co. I then think they realised the advantage they had holding the patent, and let it be known with the word Patentees. Open to questions here.

Allan
 

Andrew Wilde

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Hi Allan,
Here's Litherland Davies & Co, 20996, for the file. I re-discovered it this afternoon in my box of loose Massey movements. It's a Massey 3. Small size, approx 37.5mm across the dial plate, which is also marked T+S, I assume for the frame maker. It has a broken balance pivot but is otherwise sound (it can be coaxed into running in certain positions). Not sure of the jewel count, but those two visible jewels on the dial plate are both capped.
Cheers ... Andy

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John Matthews

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Andy,

I believe T+S on the pillar plate is possible the mark of Thomas Scarisbrick of Prescot active 1841/71. There are a number of candidates for this mark and TS so I cannot be certain.

John
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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I have at last numbered the pages and sorted out the spelling, the Davies other than Davis, well spotted by one of our members, for others who noticed that you should have said something. Plus we have another cock with the crown on it, but looks to have been made for another firm. There will be more information on that watch soon, I hope. There is a photograph and the serial number is 94. (Page 23)

Allan.
 

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Allan C. Purcell

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Today I have some really good news, I was given access to an important collection of Liverpool watches, that have not been seen for over forty years.
So I spent a large part of last evening sorting out the Litherland company watches and photographing them in a way you would like to see. If you want to skip over the information, you can look at most of these watches on pages 27 & 28 though that is not all of them, the rest are scattered among the other pages.

I now consider the file is finished for now, though for my own interest I will keep it up to date.

Enjoy,

Allan.
 

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Mechmusicmuseum

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Today I have some really good news, I was given access to an important collection of Liverpool watches, that have not been seen for over forty years.
So I spent a large part of last evening sorting out the Litherland company watches and photographing them in a way you would like to see. If you want to skip over the information, you can look at most of these watches on pages 27 & 28 though that is not all of them, the rest are scattered among the other pages.

I now consider the file is finished for now, though for my own interest I will keep it up to date.

Enjoy,

Allan.
Many fine watches there, Alan. The ones you note from Skinner in 2010 were part of my collection. I sold them when I needed some extra funds for a museum we set up in Revelstoke BC, Canada, Quite a few did not sell and I still have those.
Someone earlier in this thread mentioned my article in AHS journal in 2010. That article was intended to be a guide to dating Litherland watches, but the AHS editor at the time refused to publish my dating chart because it didn't look 'professional enough', so he got David Penney to make a squiggle with a half-inch wide brush and a few dates and numbers scattered around. Had they published the chart as I submitted it, collectors would have been able to date their orphaned movements within a year or so.
I don't have the chart I submitted, but I do have an earlier version of it, attached here, in the hope that it might be useful to someone.
The most interesting area is serial numbers 9000 - 12000, dating from the time that Davies replaced Whiteside in the firm. I think he must have been as interested in experimenting as Peter had been, as in that number range they made Savage 2-Pin escapements, Massey's variations I - V (though no IV that I could find), a single cylinder escapement (I still have it) and several other oddities.

Good luck with the research. I did all that stuff in the Liverpool Public Library poring over Gore and other directories. We could handle the original ones back then. I was intending writing a definitive work on Liverpool watchmaking with my friend and collaborator Roger Carrington, but before we got half way there, Roger sadly died and I never went any further with it after that.

Best wishes

David Evans Litherland GraphSecond try.jpg
 

Allan C. Purcell

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[/QUOTE]

Dear David,
It's very nice of you to take the time to look at those who follow, at the moment your article and that of Vaudrey Mercer are at my side as I write. I feel there is still a huge amount of information still to be found about this firm. I use any of these charts (files) I put on here to try and find that information, and the response from members is usually the answer. The great advantage of this NAWCC site is you can search and make mistakes, learn from them, and correct them all within a few minutes. Advantages we did not have all those years ago. When you think of writing to the AHS or any other journal, it takes months, of in and here, and after it´s published you are lucky if you get a couple of letters in reply. This particular piece is going well, and the members are enjoying it, and they all seem to have a pocket watch from the Litherland companies. Last evening I was at the DGC meeting in Recklinghausen, the first in 19 months, it was a piece of fresh air. There was no one to listen to, we sat at different tables, and went from one to the other refreshing our friendships and talking about new finds. I am surprised we are not still there.

Thank you again for your interest,

Allan.
 

Mechmusicmuseum

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Dear Allan

I have mountains of unpublished original research about the Liverpool watchmaking industry - would you be interested in acquiring it? Would have to be mailed to you as far too much to digitise. Do you have Microsoft Access database? I have a lot of watch details stored on it which you would be welcome to have if any use to you.

Regards

David
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Dear David,

that is really very kind of you, I will of course pay for the postage unless it´s a container. Alternately I do have addresses in the UK, which could be sent to. (I live in Germany). I could then pick it up when in England. My family and friends live in Cheshire and Lancashire. Microsoft is not a problem.

Here is my e-mail address- allan.purcell@web.de

Kind Regards,

Allan.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Chamberlain uses a diagram that was in Berthoud's book, written much later, but it was Chamberlain, not Berthoud who identified the escapement as Hautefeuille's. Further, Chamberlain wrote that Berthoud's illustration was the earliest he found and his references include the original Hautefeuille article.
Hi Jon,
I am still working on that file given to me by David Evens on his Litherland collection, which was started in c1974, along with Roger Carrington. With a little luck, it could be on the board tomorrow. While doing so I came across this Rack Lever in Gerd Ahrens books on his lifelong collection.

It is signed Bonna Fréres á Genéve Genf. um, 1790. Two years before Peter Litherlands Patent. ( Um is about) plus the case is a marriage. I wondered if you had seen this. I would appreciate your remarks.

Allan.

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Dr. Jon

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These are far outside my knowledge but since the case is not original the dating is open to question. Ahrens seems to have been a shrewd collector so he had a reason to buy this.

I have the book set but I had not looked at this entry. Ehren's description states that the firm of this name was founded in the early 19th century.

From what little I know and see in the catalog entry this is not a candidate for a predecessor to Litherland but it is interesting on several points:

It has a large balance and probably a very slow train.

If the diagram is correct for this watch, it is an English style rack made in Geneva.

For me to seriously regard this as a precourser to Litherland I would have to see a more "Continental" style to the lever. It may indedd have such but I suspect that if it did the diagram woudl ahv eshown it of they woudk ahve photographed it.

Since the OP asked by view here it is. I await better informed views than mine.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Since the OP asked my view here it is. I await better-informed views than mine.

I think that sums it very well, my thoughts were on the same line. Jon if you go back to the beginning of the chapter, he has diagrams of the early STR´s. Pages 258/259. One is a watch by Vulliamy, case hallmark 1767 with that diagram:???: The other, for Geroge Graham. I think the editors have a lot to answer for. (See book one)




Allan.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Today I have at last made a file from the information I recieved from David Evans. The two files will be posted together. For those who are interested, we are looking for photographs for some of the serial numbers on the David Evans file. I have had no luck looking for them, I think it´s a case of the owners (Still alive) to help us here. One day I will try and put them both together.

Allan
 

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Dr. Jon

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My view on the rack lever, at least the Litherland type is heretical.
I beleive that it was in response the the widespread introduction of draw into detached levers. Litherland's patent fits in this period and makes sense given the theory extant. He was restoring dead beat and safety together, which the lever was losing with the adoption of draw.

1) Keeping a watch running was much more important to a maker than accuracy. Unless used for marine navigation there were not pressing needs for accuracy nor were there readily available time standards.
2) Most makers were very familiar with friction rest escapements and friction rest did nto bother them.
3) The escapements that came as improvement of the verge, virguile double virguile, duplex, and cylinder all were dead beat including most early levers. They probably considered recoil a more serious defect than friction
4) Litherland was solving a different problem from what D Hautifeulle was thinking about.
 

gmorse

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Hi Jon,
I beleive that it was in response the the widespread introduction of draw into detached levers. Litherland's patent fits in this period and makes sense given the theory extant. He was restoring dead beat and safety together, which the lever was losing with the adoption of draw.
Yes, draw was certainly a consideration, but its significance wasn't more widely understood until some years after George Savage applied it in his two-pin levers from 1812 and wasn't adopted by Edward Massey until the 18-teens or into the 1820s, when the first English levers gradually started to appear. That's 20 or 30 years after 1791/2 when Peter Litherland took out his patents.

I think that a lever with draw, to pull the lever into the bankings, was a contribution to safety, not a reduction in it.

Regards,

Graham
 

John Matthews

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My view on the rack lever, at least the Litherland type is heretical.
I beleive that it was in response the the widespread introduction of draw into detached levers. Litherland's patent fits in this period and makes sense given the theory extant. He was restoring dead beat and safety together, which the lever was losing with the adoption of draw.
Jon - I don't entirely follow this statement.

I believe it was Emery's later levers with club tooth escapes when draw was first used and according to Jonathan Betts it was those of John Leroux around 1786 where the use of draw was refined.

If I understand you correctly, you are proposing that Litherland took a position that was at odds (heretical) with a commonly held (extant) theory at the time he introduced his patent, specifically, the benefit of draw in detached levers. It seems to me that the phrase 'widespread introduction of draw into detached levers' can only refer to 'theoretical discussions' not the watches that were being produced at that time in England. I maintain a very large photographic database of English watches which I sort by keywords, including escapement. Of the watches which date from the final quarter of the C18th and the first decade of the C19th, 65% are verge, 20% cylinder, 10% rack and 5% the rest. I don't have any 'detached levers'

There may have been discussion regarding the benefit of draw from the performance of the very few detached levers that were being produced. There might have been many more theoretical discussions. However, I am struggling to understand the significance of 'widespread introduction of draw' as it relates to an escapement that certainly was not 'widespread'.

Do you have any evidence in the form of historical data to support your hypothesis?

John
 

Dr. Jon

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I do not have much if any hard historic evidence. I doubt anyone does. For technology this old it is all speculation but I suggest my theory is lot more sound than any suggesting D' Hautefuelle's invention.

My view comes from my long study of the development of the lever and that with few exceptions fefw levers to the time of Litherland had draw. Chapiro's articles cover this well. I suspect the draw in most ear;y levers is a later addition.

The rack starts to appear as more levers start to have draw.

The way I look at is that draw, is that using spring power to pull the lever into lock has to reverse the train to unlock it. The desirability of avoiding recoil is evidenced by the variety of escapements invented then to do this.

I tried to get into the mindset of watchmakers of that time. It is an interesting exercise but one that has to be practiced with humility. I am less skilled and have a much more extensive education than they had and the benefit of many lessons from about 100 years of tiem trials which were a lifetime ahead of his time.

With these caveats I beleive Litherland saw doing away draw as a the major benefit of the lever dead beat.

In this mis appreciation of the importance of freedom he was in good company. Mudge, who invented the lever, saw its detachment as being of less value than constant force. One can think of draw as very un-constant force. It is at least arguable that Litherland saw more constant force via a rack as being the key to accuracy. At this time

Here is a transcription of the Litherland Patent claim. It is from "Peter Litherland, Liverpool and the Rack Lever" by David Evans in the AHS journal Mafch 2010 P 93.

Being a patent it is public information so no copyright issue here especially for one this old,


A N E N T I R E N E W E S C A P E M E N T T O B E
A P P L I E D T O W A T C H E S O R C L O C K S ,
O R D I A L S C A L L E D W A T C H E S O R
C L O C K S , F O R T H E U S E B O T H OF SEA
A N D L A N D , W H I C H A C T S U P O N A N
E N T I R E N E W PRINCIPLE, P R O D U C I N G
G R E A T E R CERTAINTY OF T I M E T H A N
A N Y H I T H E R T O I N V E N T E D , B E I N G
M O R E SIMPLE A N D LESS LIABLE T O BE
O U T OF REPAIR, A N D WHEN REPAIRED
EFFECTED WITH LESS DANGER T O T H E
M E C H A N I C A L PRINCIPLES O N W H I C H
IT IS C O N S T R U C T E D , T H A N F O R M E R
WATCHES, &c

He is claiming better time keeping certainty. This is an interesting word choice instead of accuracy, it is very "safe" escapement as well as more reliability and ease of repair. The patent claims capability for longitude so he was not backing down on accuracy.

The claim on repair is interesting in that it shows he valued the lever for it ability to let the repairer remove and replace the balance without letting down the power, something fairly easy to do on a lever, very doable, but risky, in a detent and impossible on any other friction rest escapement.

I interpret the claim that he was getting the best of both, removable balance and self starting from the lever, recoil-less operation and safety.
 

John Matthews

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I don't believe Graham is suggesting that no one was making lever watches with draw, but that they were 'luxury goods' for a privileged few, expensive and they certainly were not widespread ...

"the introduction of the lever escapement, first realised by Thomas Mudge in the 1770s, Josiah Emery and others made an extremely limited number of high quality lever watches in the initial period of development between 1782 and 1805.' Camerer Cuss (2009)"​
As Chamberlin records the ~30 watches made by Emery cost 150 guineas each. To put this in context, in 1798 it is estimated by Weiss that 120,000 watches were finished in Clerkenwell, each year. How many levers with draw would have been made in 1798? Perhaps ~100. More specifically, how many levers, with draw, would have been purchased by Litherland's target market? I suspect <<10.

We can, I believe, infer some characteristics of Litherland' target market form the advert placed by Litherland, Whiteside & Banning in March 1793 ...
'"The front page advert reproduced on the next page from Gore's Liverpool General Advertiser 29August 1793 (No 1444, Vol XXVII) situated amongst mostly shipping reports, gives an important insight into the perceived market for the new 'Patent' watches that the firm of Litherland, Whiteside and Banning sought. From the published list of watches and prices, it is obvious that most if not all the different variations of layout and finish found in surviving examples were available from the beginning ....
... the advert of the 14 March 1793 issue of Gores was the first to be placed by the firm. smaller, and without the list of watches, it instead promotes the maker's second's beating variant with pirouette (shown in the 1792 Patent) as being 'particularly useful for all astronomical and nautical purposes" Penney June 2012.
1628685955528.png

It is my belief that Litherland driver was to produce an accurate and reliable watch that he was able to advertise as A PATENTED HORIZONTAL LEVER WATCH (with all the marketing advantage that carried) having a target price of ~£5, the price of a typical Liverpool watch at the time (price quoted by Dennis Moore in 2001). The suggestion by David Evans (2010) that while Litherland was experimenting with lever designs he "was unable to devise a suitable safety action, so in desperation geared the balance to the pallet lever. Having tried it, he found it worked remarkably well", makes a lot of sense to me.

John
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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The point has been made by Dr Jon, that Litherland would have known about Draw. If the French knew, why not Litherland. We will probably never know. The only fact here is we know that some of Emery´s lever watches had Draw, c1778.

Most of the time of late, I have spent looking for information and photographs of the Litherland firm from 1792 to 1887, and in fact, I have found some, only today I found an unrecorded Earnshaw Detent 2 day marine sold by Litherland and Davies & Co. c1840 Page 935, in the AHS, Summer, 1976. (785/17250). Slowly I am going through the indexes of all the copies of the AHS. We have to remember there was little interest in the firm at the time and think it is fair to say the talk given by Vaudrey Mercer ( AHS June 1961) started that interest, though David Evens and Roger Carrington had also started their research into Liverpool watches in general. The talk to BHI though was on Thursday 26th October 1961. please see the letter below.





Allan.

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Allan C. Purcell

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gmorse

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Hi John,
I don't believe Graham is suggesting that no one was making lever watches with draw, but that they were 'luxury goods' for a privileged few, expensive and they certainly were not widespread ...
I think a reading of pages 112 to 121 of 'Watches' by Clutton and Daniels regarding the numbers of lever watches made prior to 1800 and also the use of draw would be worthwhile.

Regards,

Graham
 

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Most of what I think I know about draw is from Clutton and Daniels and Chapiro. I drew my dating from what I read of Breguet. His early levers did not have draw.

We have very little reliable information of draw in early levers and I suspect many which did not intially have draw got it later.
We focus on levers but at this time friction rest escapements were in vogue. Cook had returned from his third voyage with the friction rest remontoir constant force Kendal timepiece the only one reliable after his detent chronometers had all failed.

The lever has lot of development going on in this era, and there are lots of ways it was failing before it got "debugged"

Litherland's rack is an attempt to lock the mechanism to make it more robust.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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I did read the pages of the Clutton & Daniels 112 to 121 but then found the answer on page 122. John Leroux 1785. So I would say Draw would have been common knowledge, in the watch trade. by 1792. It´s a small titbit like this, that makes this board so interesting. I wonder Graham if you have seen any Litherland watches we could post above?

Regards,

Allan.
 

John Matthews

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I think a reading of pages 112 to 121 of 'Watches' by Clutton and Daniels regarding the numbers of lever watches made prior to 1800 and also the use of draw would be worthwhile.
Graham - I find Clutton and Daniels confirms my views.

Clearly, the concept of draw will have been known to Litherland. However, " When compared with the production of chronometers the number of lever watches produced in England up to the end of the eighteenth century was very small." Inspection of the black and white representations of the early levers presented in figures 41 to 48 shows a level of complexity that is in marked contrast to the rack lever in figure 48. Litherland successfully "invented and (or just) patented" an escapement that was new to the 'mass market' and was (relatively) cheap to produce.

Two sentences ring particularly true to me ....

"By the end of the eighteenth century the detached lever in England had virtually ceased to be made."

and when describing Litherland's rack ....

"The performance was no better than a good cylinder watch but was undoubtedly easier to produce than any previous escapement except the verge, and was popular for cheap watches"
John
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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" By the end of the eighteenth century, the detached lever in England had virtually ceased to be made"

He actually wrote, "But by 1800 they had been firmly driven from the field by the manifestly superior timekeeping od Arnold´s pocket chronometers: coupled with the technical difficulty of making them. For the next fifteen years, apart from some late efforts by Grant and Taylor just after the turn of the century," It seems fairly certain that no Lever escapement watches were made in England until 1815"

I think he meant detached Levers. (Roskell & Litherland had sold 27,000 Rack Levers by 1815)

They may have toned it down for their book "WATCHES" Though when Cecil Clutton wrote of his own collection, there was no stopping him.

The man who wrote that carried on with,

"It then re-appeared as a relatively cheap watch: better than a verge, but inferior to the duplex or detent escapements. Judging by quality, it seems to have rated about equal with the cylinder, and in these early years, it was never considered worthy of a compensation balance.

The escapement might be one of three types; the single roller, the Savage two-pin. or Massey´s escapement.
(1815)?

It seems not to be known who introduced the single roller escapement into England; or even who invented it. I put forward the suggestion that it was invented by Breguet. ....It gets even worse, and that is from the man who owned the Emery above.

George Savage´s two-pin escapement is really no more than a refinement of the single roller and is visually quite difficult to distinguish from it. He seems to have introduced it in about 1820. Although examples continued to be made well into the nineteenth century its influence was negligible and I have not thought it necessary to own one.

He does us one favour in his book, he does not mention the Rack Lever.

Collector´s Collection

Cecil Clutton

Regards,

Allan
 

Dr. Jon

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I also checked Camerer Cuss's book, and found some discussion of how draw affected the thinking of watchmakers.

There were a few makers in the early 1800's who made good levers one in particular was Hewett but I cannot find my references to him.

My view on this history is also affected by my study of the Breguet Lepine lever. It was popular to about 1800-1820 and then went out of use except for a brief revival in the late 1800's.

These elements suggest a massive rethink on the lever at the time its need for draw was becoming clear.
 

gmorse

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Hi all,

Just to be clear, although Chamberlain states that Emery used draw, Clutton & Daniels in 'Watches' were clear that he didn't, and so was Betts in Part 3, 'The Lever Escapement' of his AH articles on Josiah Emery in Autumn 1996. Remember that Chamberlain was writing in the early 1940s, before much of the research available to the later authors.

Regards,

Graham
 

Allan C. Purcell

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These elements suggest a massive rethink on the lever at the time its need for draw was becoming clear.
In 2018 I bought a Robert Roskell pocket watch movement 28015 c1820. This movement had a double roller lever escapement, this then was disputed, the reasons given are of little importance, but at the time I have to say I was disappointed. I then went back to the source, Thomas Mudge, and worked my way from there back to Roskell in 1820. It may save you some time, and also point you into other facets of the lever escapüement.
I found out then, that all the early detached levers had a double roller lever escapement, I now think Roskell was following that thread, and I also believe that is why the single Roller lever was not used before 1821. Don´t forget Laroux.

Best wishes,

Allan.
 

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