Platform Escapements and Clocks with Balance Wheels

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by ChrisCam, Sep 14, 2019.

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  1. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    Hi, this is an exploratory post to find some general observations from the more experienced on the forum between a clock with a platform escapement and a clock using a balance wheel but not as part of a platform escapement.
    For instance:
    Are platform escapement clocks generally of superior quality / performance?
    Do clocks just using balance wheels usually not run on jewels?
    Why do some clock makers go one way or the other?
    Is one generally more repairable than the other?

    It would be tempting to assume balance wheel clocks are inferior but is this a deluded view?

    Regards
    Chris
     
  2. MARK A. BUTTERWORTH

    MARK A. BUTTERWORTH Registered User
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    Balance wheel clocks came into being in order to make clocks portable. Examples are ships and carriage clocks. Escapements vary a lot in quality with the 11 j Swiss usually considered to be at the top of the quality heap in general off the shelf escapements . A balance escapement inherently is a lot less efficient in power transfer than the pendulum and a pin pallet type loses about 80% of power compared to the pendulum. It also is a lot more complicated to adjust and unless one has some watchmaking skills and know how many clock repairers do more damage than good trying to make adjustments. In terms of accuracy, the astronomical regulators were always pendulum clocks with very long pendulums. Theoretically the possible accuracy increase with the length of a pendulum and the beat rate of a balance.
    Just my opinion
     
  3. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    On this side of the pond a balance wheel escapement clock is something completely different. They predate the invention of the hairspring and the pendulum.

    I still see these headings and go to them expecting to find some fascinating early lantern or a renaissance spring clock.
     
  4. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    Sorry Nick to disappoint, once again I have unwittingly fallen foul of the wrong pond side language. I will look into what you mean though could you help out by what we in the UK should describe a clock's movement which has a 'balance wheel' and not a platform escapement.
    Chris
     
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  5. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    Thanks mark as is often the case it is obvious once told.

    Chris
     
  6. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    Hi nick I have looked around but I think you were just pulling my leg. The early verge escapements used a balance wheel but they are rarer than hens teeth as you must know. Most people when describing a clock on this side of the pond (and i suspect the other side as well) would say something to the effect of mantel clock with balance wheel or something akin to describe it. Common usage as most people would not be considering a verge type escapement unless greatly optimistic.

    Regards
    Chris
     
  7. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I did say they were rare, more common in mainland europe as we were slow to domestic clockmaking and spring clocks in particular.

    What I said was

    I still see these headings and go to them expecting to find some fascinating early lantern or a renaissance spring clock.

    I don't collect modern clocks so I'm not entirely sure what you describe but balance wheel escapement is completely different to platform lever escapement or platform cylinder escapement. Perhaps you are referring to floating balance?
     
  8. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Chris,

    The pin-pallet type of balance wheel running vertically between the plates with conical pivots in steel cups is something more commonly seen here in alarm clocks and similar pieces. The balance wheels Nick refers to are pre-balance spring, (c1675).

    I've been accused of living in the 18th century before now, and I think Nick is happier in the 17th and DeanT in the 16th!

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  9. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    Well we might all agree on the past was in some ways better, but not if you had anything medical.. I was referring only to clocks with a balance wheel being distinct from clocks having a balance wheel as part of a platform. Not yet educated enough on the floating balance but I do know this is distinct as you say from the more basic alarm clock where the balance wheel pivots just sit in the clock plates. The floating balance is suspended I believe on wire. how the floating balance compares to pivots on ruby is another question.

    Regards
    Chris
     
  10. MARK A. BUTTERWORTH

    MARK A. BUTTERWORTH Registered User
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    FWIW The Hermle and Urgos movements that used a helical spring with the balance suspended through a wire are also examples of a pin pallet escapement. The new hairspring style balance is essentially the same mechanism. Highly inefficient but works surprisingly well when properly adjusted
     
  11. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Haven't answered the OP's question. Is a platform escapement clock inherently more accurate than a clock with a balance and hairspring between the plates?
     
  12. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    I think that the answer is "it depends". I'm sure that one could make a "between plates" balance wheel escapement that is just as good as a highly jeweled, precision-made Swiss platform escapement with a temperature compensating balance wheel. One would have to use componenrts of the same quality to make such an escapement. However, in practice, the between plates escapements are almost all rather crudely made, non-jeweled, non-compensating escapements with a balance wheel that might or might not be well poised. These "typical" between plates escapements will clearly be inferior to a typical platform in good condition.

    Uhralt
     
  13. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    In Gazeley's book he makes the point that platforms are best installed horizontally, is this something that might effect these between the plates balance wheels over time?
     
  14. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Yes, the horizontal position is an advantage because, if the balance is not perfectly poised, there is a "heavy" position that is either positioned towards the top of the wheel or towards the bottom. This has a big effect on timekeeping which is is power-dependent (fully wound vs. partially run down).
    Another disadvantage of vertical mounting is that the balance wheel cups and the balance staff will wear unevenly due to the effect of gravity. this will increase friction over time.

    Uhralt
     
  15. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    Thanks Uhralt and have to agree with the majority of your opinion. There are however always certain pros and cons. The main structural weakness of the platform balance staff is likely to be its very thin pinions. nick has pointed out Gazeley view on mounting these horizontally. if vertical i suspect they could be more prone to damage. A balance wheel's pinions in a clock I suspect are stronger but not running on a jewel commonly. for servicability I suspect the good old pendulum escapement is easier than the alarm clock escapement which in turn is easier than the platform escapement. Some early carriage clocks (saw one this morning) were also alarm clocks it would be interesting if these are more or less robust I suspect more elegant but more fragile than those without a platform. As always its my evolving opinion and a generalisation with I suspect several exceptions.

    Chris
     
  16. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    Hi Chris,
    I was focusing on your first question: "Are platform escapement clocks generally of superior quality / performance?" There are of course other factors that may favor simpler escapements, e.g. costs, ease of repair, robustness etc.

    Uhralt
     
  17. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    Thanks Uhralt I realised after I posted the original question it was one of those questions that could best be answered horses for courses. You did answer well the original point but moving on I am currently just starting to look at the jewels in a platform escapment do they typically just allow the pivot's end to ride on them? ...if they do you would be right as to friction / wear consequences when the staff is not horizontal. But thinking some more watches have to cope in all positions so how much of a factor is this on the life / performance of a jeweled balance staff? I suspect Graham will put me right and be in agreement with your comments.
    Regards
    Chris
     
  18. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    If memory serves, the balance spring type of escapement was born from the need for accurate clocks on the ocean. Navigation depended on a reliable time keeping process that could encompass the time shifts encountered when traveling east to west and visa versa. Pendulum clocks just aren't compatible with waves :)
     
  19. ChrisCam

    ChrisCam Registered User
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    #19 ChrisCam, Sep 16, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2019
    Looking at how watches behave (as a generalisation to estrapolate from) they have an optimal position and thus time keeping will be affected with differing positions. There are apparently gravity effects including such upon the hairspring. Also the pivots with the staff horizontal will wear on their side as opposed to their ends which means a new staff as opposed to a repair of shimming up the platform. That being said I wonder if any compensation is needed or can be made for a vertically hung platform escapement. Baring in mind they have been hung in both horizontal (more common) and vertical are there just minor negatives to doing so in reality and / or implications for more expensive / rare clocks? Certainly as I said before I expect the shock resistance to the pivots is reduced when the staff is hung vertically? It could also be that using a platform escapement vertically is just poor design.

    Chris
     

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