Surprisingly Good Watches by Unheralded Makers a very unusual chronograph

Ethan Lipsig

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Since many of us have heard at least something about obscure makers, we should perhaps refocus this thread from unkown makers to little-known makers, as determined by a paucity of prior posting to this message board about that maker. I will nominate my L. Huguenin two-train, jump-1/4-second rattrapante as an example. Quite a few Huguenins were in the watch business, but there isn't a single thread on the L. Huguenin on this message board.

My L. Huguenin dates back to around 1880. It is in a heavy, worn 57mm 18k hunter case (the case weighs 63.7 DWT, about $3800 in net scrap value, before adjustment down for crystals, springs, and any weights.

The movement is lovely, but far more complicated than a "normal" rattrapante.

The watch works well and keeps time despite having some winding issues that over $1,000 in repairs have not yet fixed. It still is being worked on.

IMG_2705.JPG IMG_2706.JPG IMG_2708.JPG IMG_2709.JPG IMG_2702.JPG IMG_2703.JPG IMG_2699.JPG IMG_3688.JPG IMG_6898.JPG
 

gmorse

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Hi D.th.munroe,

I would call it a rattrapante with foudroyante. to be fancy

Unless I'm wrong on that term?
If the small seconds hand goes round in one second, stopping at each quarter second, that is indeed a foudroyante.

Regards,

Graham
 

Ethan Lipsig

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It is a foudroyante.
 

Dr. Jon

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Interesting watch. Does the jumping 1/4 second hand return to zero on command? If you stop the split second sweep hand does the jumper stop?
 

gmorse

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Hi Dr. Jon,

Does the jumping 1/4 second hand return to zero on command? If you stop the split second sweep hand does the jumper stop?
As far as I can see, there's no provision to disconnect that flying seconds hand from the going train, or any sign of a heart-shaped cam to reset it to zero, so it appears that it wouldn't stop.

Regards,

Graham
 

Ethan Lipsig

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This watch has been with my excellent, but very busy, watchmaker for several years. I no longer recall how the second hand functions.
 

gmorse

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Hi Enrico,

Yes, I can see that's the flyback for the centre seconds, but how does that connect with the flying seconds?

Regards,

Graham
 

eri231

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it's a guess, because you don't see how the reset works. I have seen other similar movements, but not all of them have a reset , or a reset star
regards enrico

IMG_6898.JPG
 

gmorse

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Hi Enrico,

Ah, I see, the four arms on the flying seconds arbor are hidden away between the plates, (blue circle), so very hard to see what else is under there.

IMG_6898_edit.jpg

Regards,

Graham
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Graham and Enrico, please explain in layman's terms what the two of you have been talking about.
 

Dr. Jon

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From what I can see, it looks to me that this is really a foudroyante with a reset rather than the more typical chronograph. There is no visible pivoted gear to engage the seconds hand from the main train. It is all done with the second train.

My guess is that since the jumper arbor is geared to the sweep seconds, both reset together. I think of the sweep second hand as the register for the jump seconds hand.

I am still looking for the way the split stop works. I think that is the function of the second ratchet wheel to the right.
 

gmorse

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Hi Ethan,

Graham and Enrico, please explain in layman's terms what the two of you have been talking about.
Sorry, we've lapsed into tech-speak.

In a chronograph, whether it has one or two sweep centre hands, (a 'rattrapante' like yours), the sweep hand(s) can be started, stopped and reset to zero without affecting the rest of the timekeeping train. There's a mechanism to engage with the train on starting, (by moving a wheel to connect the centre to the 4th wheel normally), another to disengage on stopping, (moving the connecting wheel away again and usually incorporating a brake), and a third to reset to zero, (bringing a lever sharply into contact with a heart-shaped cam on the centre seconds arbor, which is arranged to force the hand to zero). You can see the heart-shaped cam and the flyback lever, with its tiny roller on the end, in the centre of Enrico's post #11. With a split second instrument, there's another start, braking and cam arrangement for separating and re-joining the two 'split' hands.

There are obviously mechanisms to prevent any of this happening out of sequence, for instance applying the flyback lever with the hand still running or with the brake still on, would be potentially damaging. This is the function of the two wheels under the dial near the top in Enrico's post #13. These ratchet tooth wheels conceal underneath them structures called pillar wheels which allow the various levers to move in and out of the spaces between the pillars in a strict sequence. These wheels are more often mounted the other way up, with the ratchet wheels underneath, as in this example which shows the mechanism more clearly. The wheels are rotated or indexed by the push pieces in the case band.

IMG_0324.JPG

The small 'sub-seconds' hand at 6 in the commoner chronographs is like the seconds hand in a plain watch, it's always running when the watch is going. However, the question here is whether this particular type of hand, which runs at a much higher speed of one revolution per second, behaves in the same way, or is linked to the start, stop and reset functions of the sweep centre hand(s), which is much less common.

Hope this illuminates somewhat.

Regards,

Graham
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Many thanks, Graham.
 

John Matthews

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the question here is whether this particular type of hand, which runs at a much higher speed of one revolution per second, behaves in the same way, or is linked to the start, stop and reset functions of the sweep centre hand(s), which is much less common.
Practically, I would have thought if your were using the timing function all you would need to do is focus on observing the position of the jump sub-seconds dial at the point when you stopped the sweep second - I really cannot see the point of stopping the jump sub second hand - has anyone seen an example?

John
 

Dr. Jon

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I'll try another take.

The chronograph was we know it today was patented by Adolph Nicole in 1862. As Graham wrote it operates by moving a gear to engage the center seconds hand with the driving train of the watch. This invention has two major advantages of all two train forms of independent seconds watches and made them obsolete.

The first benefit is that only one mainspring is needed to to do all the chronograph things.

The second is that when the chronograph is not running its parts are disengaged from the watch drive train. Functions like stop and start can be done without disturbing the regular time running of the watch. This is why chronographs typically have a continuously running sub seconds hand.

The drive on an independent seconds hand watch is delicate and this Huguenin is the only one I have seen that had a reset. This ability to reset easily is what finished off the the independent seconds watch as a tool for timing events.

The problem resetting a foudroyante is that independent seconds watches engage the seconds and/or jumps seconds with a small arm on a gear that rests on a second pinion mounted to the escape wheel. This train is stopped by holding it away from this pinion. I suspect that makers feared that a reset might put too much force on this element so rarely tried to do it.

The split action is usually fairly simple. The split hand rides with the primary seconds hand via a spring that holds it on synch. It is stopped by a clamp that closes to hold a wheel attached to this seconds second hand, The spring the auxiliary hand in synch is weak enough that the hand then slides against its block on the primary seconds hands.

Obsoleting the two train watch left makers with some very fine movements they could no longer sell.

What Hugeinin did was to take the risks to the foudroyante because that was the only way to sell one of these very expensive but obsolete movements.
 

John Matthews

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Practically, I would have thought if your were using the timing function all you would need to do is focus on observing the position of the jump sub-seconds dial at the point when you stopped the sweep second - I really cannot see the point of stopping the jump sub second hand
Apology - Sorry, my statement was completely illogical.

Clearly, for the jumping split-second dial to be of any significance in a timing sequence, it must have been at stationary at the start of the timing, ideally at zero.

Ethan - was the watch functioning correctly when the photographs in your original post (#4) were taken?

I am wondering how to interpret the third photograph; the sweep second hand is at zero and the jump split-second hand at 0.75s.

John
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Ethan - was the watch functioning correctly when the photographs in your original post (#4) were taken?
Except for the winding problems, I think it was functioning properly, but I haven't seen the watch for years.
 

gmorse

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Hi John,

I am wondering how to interpret the third photograph; the sweep second hand is at zero and the jump split-second hand at 0.75s.
Ah, but one of the rattrapante centre seconds hands isn't at zero, it's at 0.75 second before.

Regards,

Graham
 

John Matthews

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Ethan - thank you for your quick response.

Graham - a very good point - but I still don't fully understand what has been captured in the photograph. It must because I don't understanding of the rattrapante functionality.

I thought with a rattrapante chronograph, when the timing event is initiated by one button, both sweep second hands rotate together, but by operating a second button the rattrapante hand can be stopped independently of the other, when that button is depressed again, the rattrapante hand 'catches up' with the rotating hand. This function can be activated repeatedly. Depressing the first button stops both hands, depressing that button a second time resets both hands to zero. I didn't think it was possible to re-zero the rattrapante hand independently.

If my understanding is correct what has been captured is not impossible, but it does rather specific conditions.
  • if the jump sub second hand works with the rattrapante hand, it has been stopped and the photograph was taken when the other hand was precisely at zero (either the instant captured by the camera, or it had been stopped at zero - by pressing the first button after a single depression of the second).
  • if the jump sub second hand works with the non-rattrapante hand, the rattrapante hand has been stopped precisely at zero.
I have to admit I am also having difficulty understanding what type of events you would time with a watch having this functionality and not having a minute counter. I cannot get my head around timing sub-minute events and my understanding of a rattrapante - I must be missing something.

rattrapante from rattrapage = to catch-up [FR]
foudroyante from foudroyer = to strike down [FR]

John
 

gmorse

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Hi John,

Without having had the opportunity to work on one of these, quite rare, movements, I think some input from dshumans or Philip Poniz would be informative.

Regards,

Graham
 

Dr. Jon

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Graham makes a good suggestion.
I was checking my new found powers and find I can't move part of a thread. If I could I would move the discussion on Ethan's foudroyante to Phil's complicated watch section and continue discussion of it there. So, can those of us who have made comments simply copy (and edits as desired ) them and put them in a new thread there?
 

John Matthews

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Jon - I think the way Graham has posted, the named contributors will receive an alert to this thread ..

John
 

Philip Poniz

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THE SEARCH FOR THE ELUSIVE LÉOPOLD HUGUENIN


Bringing this thread up here, Jon, brought back long forgotten memories. It is a long story of unusual discoveries but also of frustrations and disappointments.

Signature.jpg

I got interested in Léopold Huguenin a long time ago. It was because of the surprising differences found in his independent-seconds watches versus all the others. I started putting my thoughts on paper, when I stopped writing, it was over 7000 words, too much for a thread. I will now go over the main aspects of its mechanics and the whole story will be published soon in our Bulletin.

All the photos come from a Huguenin watch formerly in the James Arthur Collection[1]. The movement is in almost perfect condition, it looks like it has never been cleaned. James Arthur built a special display case for it with magnifying lenses on both sides, clearly wanting to have a good look at the front and the back of the movement. The dial was not installed, it came along in a box. The case is engraved “James Arthur, 1902”. Most likely, Mr. Arthur bought just the movement in 1902, probably directly from a wholesaler, and had a special case made for it.

Huguenin used an Adrien Philippe of Patek Philippe tandem winding “slipping-spring” system. Almost all other stem wound independent seconds watches used a differential system.

The sweep second arbor in regular watches is always driven by some sort of a toothed gear. Not here! The chronograph arbors of Huguenins are seemingly disconnected from the train! That’s probably the reason for the confusions in the above threads.

Gearless chronograph arbor.jpg

Huguenin invented (or used an existing) ingenious way of driving it gearlessly. This construction allowed him to make independent seconds watches with return to zero.
He also made it in the style of the flying tourbillon – supported only from one side.

For zeroing the quarter jump seconds he found two solutions; one like in the Ethan’s watch with a sharp prong jumping between the fly’s arms stopping the quarter-second hand. This is the most common. There is another system which I found only in two watches - a Louis Audemars featured in Hartmut Zantke book, p. 359, and in the James Arthur watch. In these two watches, the stop lever looks like a jump lever in a modern repeater for the hour star.

The split-seconds hammer is spring-loaded with a hairspring which is quite rare.

Split hammer.jpg

Regular independent seconds mechanisms utilize the escape wheel as the junction between the two trains. In Huguenin’s watches, the secondary train meets the going train at the tail of the pallet fork!

Stop machanism.jpg

His escapement, at first glance, looks like a regular lever escapement. It is not. The seconds’ train delivers an additional lift to the pallet fork. Whatever power Huguenin lost by using the pallet fork as a stop for the seconds, he re-gained by this additional lift. An unorthodox but brilliant idea!

Additional impulse.jpg

I have seen a few dozen independent seconds Huguenins, some while working at Sotheby’s, Antiquorum, or P&Co. A number of them came through my restoration studio, the last one left a couple of months ago. They all showed characteristics from the 1870’s to 1890’s.

I had no idea who might have been the actual maker of the movements. For auction catalogues and private collections I was describing them as a special caliber made in Le Locle to the specifications of one of the most important USA watch wholesalers, L. Strasburger.

A few years later I was hired as an expert witness to a law suit involving hundreds of watches. One of them was a Léopold Huguenin. I needed to have a better idea than just who was selling them and for how much.

Once, when I was at Le Locle doing research on Philippe DuBois, I spent a day browsing through their Huguenins. It was a tough decision – it was fall and I was looking forward to do one of my favorite fall activities there - hiking the mountains to hunt for wild mushrooms and berries. Yet, I stayed in the archives. At least the evening was nice, along with the friends I was to hike with, in a small place serving local food and wine. Swiss wine can be pretty good.

Back in Geneva, I pulled out all my Huguenin type independent-seconds notes to figure out common characteristics and to find the person who was behind the clever, unorthodox design of the mechanism. The results of that quest, and many more details of Huguenin’s watches, you will find in my upcoming paper.

Philip Poniz

______________________
[1] The keynote lecture of the annual Ward Francillion Horological Seminar is called James Arthur Lecture. His collection, along with $110,000 endowment he gave to the New York University in 1925.
 

Tom McIntyre

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My mind is fuzzy after 50 years of looking at these wonderful watches. I recall seeing what I felt had to be the most extreme Independent Dead Seconds watch with split second operation (I. did not know any of the French terms back then). That one had start stop and catch up action on the both dead second hands and also on the pair of 1/4 second hands.

It is possible that I am just fantasizing, but the visual image is clear in my mind. Is such a watch known to exist?
 
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