Vacheron CHRONOMETRE BULLETTIN, identification of the balance wheel

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by michael-35, Sep 26, 2018.

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  1. michael-35

    michael-35 Registered User

    May 4, 2016
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    Good evening (or afternoon),
    I usually read your forum without posting but today I have a question and not have found yet nothing on internet.
    I'm describing this interesting Vacheron & Constantin from 1906 inscribed "CHRONOMETRE BULLETIN DE 1.ERE CLASSE DE L’OBSERVATOIRE DE GENEVE”.
    I can't recognize which kind of balance is, because I see only partial inlay on the circumference and isn't a usual bimetallic balance right?

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    IMG_0744.JPG IMG_0747.JPG
     
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  2. Ethan Lipsig

    Ethan Lipsig Registered User
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    I cannot answer your question, but I have a reasonably similar observatory grade V&C with a serial number not too far from your watch's serial number (mine is #366,507). My watch is marked "Integral Balance." The auction house from which I bought this watch noted that "the mark 'Integral Balance' is not typically seen on the few Vacheron-Guillaume watches that do come to market, and rarely is any balance reference seen on other Guillaume balance watches regardless of the maker. [Nevertheless, I have a Paul Ditisheim marked 'Compensateur Guillaume'.] . . . The purpose of the Guillaume type compound balance was to eliminate middle temperature error by use of a balance of specific form with Invar alloy interior to the bimetallic strip, thus the watch would keep excellent time no matter what the normal ambient temperature fluctuations."

    Another collector told me that an "Integral Balance" is an improved version of the original Guillaume Balance. He said the original version used Anibal, whereas the improved version -- the Integral Balance -- used Invar instead and an Elinvar hairspring.

    In short, V&C did use special balances in observatory grade watches, but usually did not inscribe that information on the watch. Therefore, your watch could have a special balance. If it does, I am guessing it would be a Guillaume Balance or an Integral Balance.
     
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  3. michael-35

    michael-35 Registered User

    May 4, 2016
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    Hi Ethan,
    thank you for reply. Yesterday evening I've "googled" about Guillaume's Integral balance (Crausaz and Paillard balancers too) through web and auction houses, but unfortunately I'vent found nothing similar.
    Hi had also requested the Vacheron certificate but there's nothing written about it and also an important expert said isn't a Guillaume balance. So I'm personally and professionally curious what is that balanceo_O .
     
  4. Warwian

    Warwian Registered User

    Nov 2, 2015
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    Very nice watch, Michael! In 1906, the nickel-steel/brass balances (such as the ones made by Ferrier & Vaucher - which we now refer to as Guillaume balances, and the ones made by C. Crausaz) had not fully replaced the "normal" steel/brass bimetallic compensation balances as the dominant solution yet. If it was tested in 1906, there would have been a good chance that it used a "normal" steel/brass bimetallic compensation balance, and based on the picture, I would agree with the "important expert" that this doesn't use a Guillaume balance. If you own the watch, I would contact Bernard working with the archives of the Geneva observatory today and simply ask to purchase an extract of its testing results. The balance type should be listed there.
    Obviously, an observatory chronometer tested in the first class would have used a very good steel/brass bimetallic compensation balance, so perhaps "normal" or "usual" is the wrong word to use. ;)

    Regarding its testing in general, I cannot find any results for 327965 in the data I have available. However, I can find 327964 (tested in 1905 and 1907 in Geneva) and 327962 (tested in 1905 in Geneva) etc. The data I have available is mostly focused on the chronometers with good enough results to participate in the competition part of the testing, referred to as being part of the "classes". Non-competition watches were referred to as "non-classes".
    My bet is that this is likely a "non-classes" chronometer, which received a bulletin, but that did not reach the results necessary to compete. Only the observatory records can confirm this, however.

    Regarding the integral vs Guillaume balance discussion:

    In an article by Guillaume himself, "Les Ferro-Nickels et leurs applications dans l'Horlogerie de la Chronometrie", published in Annales Francaises de Chronometrie, he states the following:

    ... "avait un chronometre qui venait de terminer ses epreuves a l'Observatoire de Neuchatel, et qui avait montre l'erreur secondaire habituelle de 2 a 3 secondes. Je lui proposal de remplacer le balancier de ce chronomatre par un balancier qui devait corriger l'erreur secondaire, ce qu'il accepta. Le nouveau balancier donnait la compensation prevue, et depuis lors, tous les chronometres de premier ordre sont minis de balanciers semblables. J'ai nomme cet organe balancier integral, mais le nom de balancier Guillaume a prevalu. En 1897, Paul Perret, regleur a la Chaux-de-Fonds, me demanda un echantillon d'invar. J'avais une certain quantite de cat alliage, lamina en fil de 6 mm. de diametre. Je lui en envoyai un morceau. Une quinzaine de jours plus lard, it m'ecrivit pour me demander un echantillon semblable des dix-sept alliages qua j'avais etudies, et dont it avait ete" ...

    Above, he is saying that he named his invention "balancier integral", but that the name "balancier Guillaume" (Guillaume balance) prevailed.

    In a text about the life and achievements of Guillaume, "Charles-Edouard Guillaume : 1861-1938", published in "Bulletin de la Société Neuchâteloise des Sciences Naturelles", the author, Adrien Jaquerod, states the following:

    "Le balancier bimétallique acier-laiton est employé depuis plus d'un siècle à compenser l'effet de la température sur la marche des montres. Il laisse cependant subsister une « erreur secondaire» qui fait que, si la marche est correcte à 0° et 30° par exemple, elle présente vers 15° une avance de 3 à 4 secondes par jour. Guidé par une théorie délicate, Guillaume attaque le problème de la suppression de cette erreur secondaire, problème célèbre dans les annales de la Chronometrie. Il réalise un ferronickel à 42% Ni possédant une courbe de dilatation anormale, tournant sa concavité vers l'axe des températures; cet alliage, combiné au laiton pour former un bilame, doit résoudre le problème — et le résout effectivement. Guillaume nomme balancier intégral l'organe réglant ainsi constitué. Les chronométriers, les techniciens, ont tôt fait de le baptiser «balancier Guillaume », et le nom lui est resté."

    Based on the statements above, I am fairly convinced that the terms were used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

    Regarding the usage of invar in the construction of Guillaume balances, I will refer to a translation made by tick talk here on the forum of a letter sent by Guillaume:

    The term Guillaume Balance Wheel is only to be associated with a laminated, cut, compensating balance wheel controlled by a balance spring made of plain steel and known to be affected by temperature changes and magnetism. Using the name Invar or Elinvar associated with the Guillaume Balance Wheel is erroneous. If the inside of the balance wheel is made of Invar and/or controlled by an Elinvar balance spring it is no longer a Guillaume Balance Wheel.

    The alloy used in the construction of Guillaule balances was anibal (acier nickel pour balanciers), not invar or elinvar.

    I think all the confusion in terms of naming was caused by the workers at the observatories, and the manufacturers of the watches. When the manufacturers submitted their watches and had to describe their balances, perhaps some manufacturers used the term "Integral balance", as this is what Guillaume himself referred to his invention as, and some manufacturers used the more generic term "Guillaume balance" (perhaps also as a way to honor Guillaume)? If I am not mistaken, the workers at the observatory used the descriptions supplied by the maker, or the person who submitted the watch. Perhaps some makers of nickel steel balances, authorized by Guillaume, referred to their products as "Guillaume balances", and some as "Integral balances". I guess we will never know.

    Regarding anibal, Guillaume initially referred to this alloy as "Guillaume", which may have contributed to some of the confusion:

    "Dans la même ligne, se trouve un alliage à 45 p. 100 de nickel, qui possède la dilatation du platine, et qui, universellement connu sous le nom de platinite, a servi à conduire le courant dans des milliards de lampes à incandescence. Ensuite, vient l'alliage qui forme la partie interne du balancier intégral. Plusieurs fois, au milieu d une conférence consacrée à ce dernier, je me suis arrêté parce que j'avais oublié de lui trouver un nom. Alors, faute de mieux, je l'appelai tout simplement le métal Guillaume. Je viens d'avoir un moment pour y penser, et j'ai été tout surpris de découvrir comment une appellation rationnelle s'établit d'elle-même. Ecrivons acier au nickel pour balanciers. En prenant une syllabe dans chacun des mots principaux, on constitue l'appellation anibal. Voilà donc le nom que je propose. Il rappelle, à une lettre près, le nom d'un grand conquérant; cela n'est pas fait pour déplaire à un inventeur." (from "La terminologie des aciers au nickel", published in La Federation Horlogerie and written by Guillaume himself)
     
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  5. michael-35

    michael-35 Registered User

    May 4, 2016
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    Hi Warwian,
    thanks for you interesting reply and for posting tick talk's quote. I'm enthusiastic with your suggestion however, unfortunately the watch isn't mine.
    I'm describing it for an auction house and my intention is to do a deep search to show (in the space of the brief description I have) the right technical data. (My intention is to enhance too mine knowledge).

    About such configuration of the balance with only partial brass insert could has a name?
     
  6. Warwian

    Warwian Registered User

    Nov 2, 2015
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    Dp
    Do you have a better picture of the balance assembly?
     
  7. michael-35

    michael-35 Registered User

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    Right now no. I'm working on the picture.
    I've tried to zoom the part in the attachment.

    IMG_0744-2.jpg
     
  8. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    It appears to me that this balance is closer to Woerd's Patent Balance than it is to Guillaume.

    Woerd's balance made a big splash at the Paris International Exposition in 1878 where he was a warded a bronze medal for his efforts. Woerd's balance also has a brass lamina over a portion of the arm.In the case of Woerd it is a serrated inlay. In both cases the compensation weights are shifted a bit further to the end of the arc than on standard balances.
     
  9. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    #9 tick talk, Sep 28, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2018
    Fascinating to note how the brass is only partially overlaid on the alloy. Another angle would be helpful, but it appears the alloy may be solid from the halfway point to the cut ends.

    Is this the Woerd's Patent you refer too?

    Bonhams Woerd's Balance.png
     
  10. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Yes, it is. Here is my example with the balance made by my friend Len Dionne from scratch.
    IMG_0704.JPG
     
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  11. michael-35

    michael-35 Registered User

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    Hi, thanks for your suggestion. I've found the Woerd's patent and it's close similar and viewing yours friend (incredible work) there are some difference as have you said before. Could be an evolution, or just simplification? Because making such insert as Woerd's balance isn't too hard...?
     
  12. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Len Dionne was Edwin Land's model machinist at Polaroid Corporation, so he might have been able to do things others might find very difficult. The balance was made by starting with a steel cylinder and cutting a disk off the end. The serrations were then cut into the perimeter and a bronze alloy essentially the same as brazing rod was overlaid filling the recesses. Then the inner recess was cut and the arms cut. After that the weight holes are cut and threaded and finally, the arms were cut. He actually made 3 tries before he got one with the performance he wanted.

    He, of course, saved the original balance with the watch just in case some later owner might want to restore it.

    Woerd was apparently concerned that a laminate balance had inner creep. I am pretty sure Woerd never did any experiments to determine if that defect was real.

    He was attempting to reduce middle temperature error with the design but I suspect it was not all that convincing to many watchmakers and it was quickly abandoned by Waltham. Waltham made 120 sets of plates with the engraving for Woerd's patent and probably experimented with the balance on 10 or so watches that were not marked. I think most people believe that no more than 20 or so were actually sold. It could possibly be as many as 50.
     
  13. michael-35

    michael-35 Registered User

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    Thanks for all these information. Very interesting and useful. :)
     

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