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English PW Regulating continental verges

gwynplaine19

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Feb 8, 2014
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Dear forum, it's been almost a year since I joined :), and I'm returning to the very first topic that I posted, which is regarding how to set up verge balance/escapement with a small twist.

I've been going over my collection of both English and continental verges (French and Swiss) and trying to get them to keep as accurate time as possible.

An interesting observation and a question start to emerge. While the English ones are not equipped with screws to adjust depthing and drop (hope now I finally get these two terms right), I was able to get them to keep reasonably good time, say within 10 minutes a day by taking them apart, adjusting the depthing, and in a couple of cases, leveraging the previously unused part of the hairspring (most of the ones I have tended to run fast). This would cut down the previous error, usually gaining of more than 1 minute an hour.

On the other side, for the continental ones, while it seems theoretically possible to adjust depthing and drop without taking the watch apart, I have had almost the exact opposite experience. The problems seem to be similar, the watches tend to gain significantly, more than 1 minute per hour, but whatever amount of adjustment either from the outside or with the watch taken apart, and using every millimeter of hairspring left, I could not get these to be much better.

With depthing, what I have tried was to get the escapement wheel to go in as deep into the flags on the verge as it would literally stop the watch and then just back out the tiniest turn on the screw. I do seem to get a higher amplitude of the balance, but it doesn't seem to help with the gain as I would have expected. I have not tried adjusting the drop, as I don't quite understand how it is supposed to work. I have read W.J Gazeley's "Clock & Watch Escapements, which seems to say that on some older verges, the balance will be slanted one way or another to get the right drop, but I don't seem to really understand exactly how that affects the speed.

So net-net, questions to the groups are:
1. Have I tried everything without going to the extreme, e.g., putting in a new hairspring (assuming existing ones have not been cut short in the past)? Also I would love comments on whether I have done it right with depthing adjustment
2. Should I try to adjust the drop, and if so, how does it exactly affect the speed?
3. I guess, ultimately, is this a futile attempt--from reading one of the thread, I understand that most of the gaining stems from the flags getting worn, so maybe nothing here would really work?

Many thanks!

Alex
 

Skutt50

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Mar 14, 2008
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I have worked on a few Verge watches over the years and even if I managed to adjust them down to a few minutes in one position, when I move them into different positions the timekeeping was not that good anymore. If you managed to get them down to one minute in different postitions I think you have done a very good job!

Just a small question. When you adjusted the hair spring length, did you also adjust the beat? If not the watch may run but the tic-tac will be a bit uneven!
 

gwynplaine19

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Feb 8, 2014
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Hi! I guess I wasn't clear about the rate--the best that I can do was a few minutes per day as you mentioned--I guess with differing strength of the mainspring, even the fusee was not able to equalize enough. The one minute was more about when they were gaining, they would gain more than one minute per hour.

As to the hairspring, yes, when I adjust, I would adjust the collet, so as to maintain the angle of the flags to the verge--the ones with the banking pin in correct positions are easier to maintain the right position, and otherwise, it's a bit of a trial and error.
 

Skutt50

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Mar 14, 2008
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When I started with Verges I did some reading and there is a tool that was used to properly pre set the mainspring.

If I remember right it was like a rod with a movable weight at the end. This tool was somehow mounted on the drum and by observing when the weight was lifted one could adjust the pre-set to make the watch run more accurate! I never bothered about this!

Perhaps that would improve your movement some!?!?
 

gmorse

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Jan 7, 2011
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Hi,

The tool is a clamp mounted on one end of a rod and a weight which slides on the rod and can be locked at any position. The clamp is attached to the fusee square and with the watch unwound, (but with some setup), the sliding weight is adjusted so that it just balances the mainspring pull. The test is done again with the watch fully wound; if the spring and the fusee profile are properly matched, the weight should be close to the same position along the rod for both tests. However, this seldom happens!

When considering fusees and mainsprings, bear in mind the following:

The original fusee profile would not have been calculated mathematically with reference to the mainspring power curve, but often only corresponded to the shape of the maker's thumb.

The power curves of mainsprings were anything but consistent, even within the same batch of steel.

The mainspring will have been replaced several times in the life of a 200 year old watch, without necessarily taking the trouble to match it to the fusee with the tool described above.

From this you can see that there are several variables, and you have little or no control over most of them!

When you add to this the likelihood of pitted flags, worn escape wheel teeth, worn verge pivots, etc, etc, etc, a compromise is very often all you can hope for.

Continental verges often had a flag angle of 110 degrees or even more, which was meant to increase balance amplitude, but this led to increased friction at the pivots and a greater tendency for the escapement to "set". English practice was to make a flag angle of 90 to 100 degrees.

Regards,

Graham
 

gwynplaine19

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Feb 8, 2014
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Thanks both. I think perhaps on this, less is more, and the wisdom of my watchmaker--whose motto is always "oh it runs!"--is what I should go with. I have also had the frustration of making things go even faster after tinkering with the set up and not able to get it back for hours, days or ever...

I have also read on one of the canonical watch repair works that one could "grind" down the hairspring just a bit to slow down the rate, but I have not yet dared to try it :)
 

gmorse

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Jan 7, 2011
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Hi gwynplaine19,

Thanks both. I think perhaps on this, less is more, and the wisdom of my watchmaker--whose motto is always "oh it runs!"--is what I should go with. I have also had the frustration of making things go even faster after tinkering with the set up and not able to get it back for hours, days or ever...

I have also read on one of the canonical watch repair works that one could "grind" down the hairspring just a bit to slow down the rate, but I have not yet dared to try it :)
I think you're very sensible to follow your watchmaker's maxim with these older watches.

As for reducing the height of the hairspring, (as suggested by De Carle), that was a possibility when a replacement hairspring was readily available in case the original one was wrecked in the process, but as it isn't reversible, and hairsprings for these old watches aren't stocked by the materials houses any more, I think it best not to go that route!

Regards,

Graham
 

Skutt50

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Mar 14, 2008
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I agree with Graham above.

There is another possibility that you could explore. If the adjustment pins are very tight you could gap them slightly. That would slow down the rate and can easily be reversed.
 

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