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Waltham Patent Compensating Balance (Woerd)

KipW

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More or less happened upon this patent whilst searching for others and wondered if/when it was actually used? The design is by Charles Woerd (US pat#203976, dated May 21st, 1878) and it sure seemed like a shrewd technical treatment of issues with heat and cold compensation "in the day". The provided drawing is, I suspect, a bit misleading in that I can't really "see" what's shown by examining a balance with the naked eye. So - I'm forced to wonder if this type is what Waltham referred to when their literature mentioned "patent" balance? Was it as Woerd intended or further modified or not really used as designed? Sure would appreciate any enlightenment on the subject (and whether other makers had similar approaches, while we're at it) - THANKS!

Balance 1 .jpg Balance 2.jpg Balance 3 .jpg Balance 4 .jpg Woerd-Waltham Patent Compensation Balance Construction.jpg
 

Ethan Lipsig

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KipW, Woerd's balance was only used in what I think was one run of 120 Model 1872 American Watch Co. movements (100 hunters, 20 OFs). Those 120 movements were all marked Woerd's Pat. Compensating Balance, but few of them have that balance, either because it was never installed or the balance was replaced. I have one of the 100 hunters. It doesn't have the Woerd's balance.

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Clint Geller

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Here is another example from the same run of a hundred hunting case movements at SN 999,901 that actually has Woerd's special balance. I understand that there is also a run of about 20 open face movements that carry the patent marking, but I'm not sure anyone has seen an open face example with the balance in it. There is also an earlier run of 60 hunters at SN 871,101 which do not carry the patent marking, but one or two examples of which are known to have Woerd's balance. Tom McIntyre discusses the subject on his website.

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KipW

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All well and good - but WHY wasn't it used more commonly? Was it defective in execution, too expensive to manufacture, or what? Also - aside from the sawtooth rim, was the use of nuts on studs a dead-end, relative to the common balance screws we see. I also noticed a later Waltham patent (US Pat#474590, May 10, 1892, D. Church) referring to a way to manufacture balances with "hardened" rims. the trick it appears was to make the blank holes in the steel portion larger than the threaded holes in the brass portion. I guess THIS is the design Waltham meant when they lauded their "patent' balance?
 

Chris Radek

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This is fascinating and the balance is certainly beautiful. Does it work?

The patent says it can give essentially perfect compensation, instead of being correct at only two points. Perfectly matching, that is, the characteristic of a steel spring, which "is not certainly known."

It also says that the right number of cuts can be "easily found" during adjustment. But the number of cuts is of course fixed at time of manufacture. And the clues for manufacture are really fuzzy: 1/6th of the circumference seems about right, and I prefer 50/50 copper/zinc, but whatever, you try making one!

Also, whatever is supposed to be self-evident from Figs 1 & 2 is not clear to me at all. A lot of the patent seems to be wishful thinking.

Do we have real numbers from old or modern-day tests of these balances?
 

gmorse

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Hi KipW,
Also - aside from the sawtooth rim, was the use of nuts on studs a dead-end, relative to the common balance screws we see.
This was a common method of fitting the quarter screws in better English watches by the likes of Victor Kullberg, Hector Golay and Nicole Nielsen.

Does it work?
Chris,

I'm not sure that it did, since the behaviour of the bimetallic rim in changing temperatures is pretty much linear, whereas the rate of change in the elasticity of the steel spring isn't. See David Boettcher's discussion on this.

Regards,

Graham
 

KipW

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Gmorse - I suspect that nuts on studs was not a clearly superior set-up and just as clearly screws were cheaper.

Chris - READ the October 82 bulletin article on this! There were tests. Woerds balance did work better than contemporary solid or compensating balances. The "sawtooth" notion prevented "sliding distortion" evident in other bi-metallic balances of the time. Not perfect (as if anything ever is) but better.

I'm convinced that the real problem was putting the Woerd balance into production with the necessary precision and at a competitive price.
 

musicguy

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Thanks KipW and (Clint for the photograph example).
This thread was is really an interesting one.


Rob
 
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Dave Coatsworth

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My understanding is that many of Woerd's balances were replaced. If they were indeed better timekeepers, why would the already manufactured balances be replaced with a traditional balance?

Here is the replacement balance out of one I owned (#999987). Note what appear to be rivets (or plugs) at the 90 degree positions.

Waltham999987Balance.jpg
 
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KipW

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Dave - that balance doesn't look like the 'sawtooth" type. The rivets at 90-degrees might have been a modification of a conventional compensating balance to try and emulate the so-called advantages of the Woerd sawtooth...just sayin'! Also - could it be that the reason for the replacement of the sawtooth was issues with the stud and nut part? (They look HEAVY, and there aren't many of them. Maybe they came loose in service?) OR- Woerd never got his royalty payments and demanded it. (Or- people just didn't like/trust them...like the "'whiplash" part of Reed regulators - which seem to be constantly removed for various irrational and irritating reasons.)



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Clint Geller

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Certainly, Woerd's balance didn't live up to Woerd's expectations in reducing the middle temperature error, and watches with this balance also likely suffered from increased isochronal errors due to the heavy weights at the end of the balance arms. Tom DeFazio wrote a Bulletin article in which he analyzed these issues. If vander Woerd hadn't been the important person he was, this particular invention of his would likely never have seen the light of day. Nevertheless, I believe a watch with a Woerd's balance won a bronze medal at an international timing competiton somewhere.
 

KipW

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Clint - perhaps the subsequent patent balance (US Pat#474590, May 10, 1892, D. Church) did the job better and cheaper? By then Woerd had moved on, but it's curious that he never refined or attempted to improve this sawtooth type balance. Do you happen to have a link to Tom DeFazio's bulletin article?
 

Clint Geller

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Clint - perhaps the subsequent patent balance (US Pat#474590, May 10, 1892, D. Church) did the job better and cheaper? By then Woerd had moved on, but it's curious that he never refined or attempted to improve this sawtooth type balance. Do you happen to have a link to Tom DeFazio's bulletin article?
Kip, I'm not familiar with Church's patent balance, but I don't believe Woerd's balance was retired because something better had come along. Woerd's balance was clearly an added expense and it didn't live up to its billing. End of story. It was always a very limited experiment that was abandoned after a short period.

I searched both on "Woerd" and "DeFazio" in the Bulletin search tool and nothing relevant came up. I suspect the article was published in either the late 1990s or the early 2000's though.
 
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KipW

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Clint - sorry for the confusion - Church's patent was for the manufacture of a compensating balance...not the design of one.
 

Tom McIntyre

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Joe Brown had a watch from the 871,000 run with the patent balance. His writeup is what led Tom DeFazio to point out that the design depended on having enough mass out past the sawtooth region. Those are the compensation screws out there.

Compensation screws should not be used for timing purposes on any balance. The nuts on the studss are for timing. Those are located as near as possible to the temperature neutral position. If that is not done, it is nearly impossible to have temperature compensation with isochonism. Compensation screws are always screwed down tight on a well made watch. Timing screws or timing nuts are screwed in or out for adjusting timing.

There was no experimental evidence to show that the device worked but it did take a special medal for Woerd personally at the Paris Exibition of 1878. I think having the ego to go to Paris with his personal exhibit led to Ezra Fitch and Duane Church being put in charge of design operation by R.E. Robbins and Woerd's departure shortly afterward for the U.S. Watch Co.

My friend Len Dionne who was Edwin Land's private builder at Polaroid, was interested in the design and borrowed Joe Browns so that he could make one for himself. Len thought that part of the behavior was due to the alloys used. The "copper" part of the triangular laminae are closer to brazing rod than the normal balance copper.

The balance that Len made is the only one I have with the balance but I have one other with the balance that was normally used when they stopped shippping the sawtooth. Many think that the "replacement" balance also has the different alloy composition. I also have an open face example with the same, non-sawtooth, balance. Note that Len used an 1872 Woerd marked movement for his project. He only did that because the movement was already fitted with a lower grade balance cock.

As mentioned those are on my web site at AWCo Web

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Jerry Treiman

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Do you happen to have a link to Tom DeFazio's bulletin article?
Are you thinking of his article in the June 2004 Bulletin (whole number 359) - "Charles Vander Woerd's and a Similar Patek, Philippe & Co. Compensation Balance: How Do They Perform?" It begins on p.303 of that issue.
 

Clint Geller

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Are you thinking of his article in the June 2004 Bulletin (whole number 359) - "Charles Vander Woerd's and a Similar Patek, Philippe & Co. Compensation Balance: How Do They Perform?" It begins on p.303 of that issue.
When I searched the Bulletin index on "DeFazio," nothing relevant came up. Once I saw the article, I realized I needed to search on "De Fazio," with a space in the middle. Then the right article came up. I was the reviewer who checked Tom's mathematical analysis.
 
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Clint Geller

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Joe Brown had a watch from the 871,000 run with the patent balance. His writeup is what led Tom DeFazio to point out that the design depended on having enough mass out past the sawtooth region. Those are the compensation screws out there.

Compensation screws should not be used for timing purposes on any balance. The nuts on the studss are for timing. Those are located as near as possible to the temperature neutral position. If that is not done, it is nearly impossible to have temperature compensation with isochonism. Compensation screws are always screwed down tight on a well made watch. Timing screws or timing nuts are screwed in or out for adjusting timing.

There was no experimental evidence to show that the device worked but it did take a special medal for Woerd personally at the Paris Exibition of 1878. I think having the ego to go to Paris with his personal exhibit led to Ezra Fitch and Duane Church being put in charge of design operation by R.E. Robbins and Woerd's departure shortly afterward for the U.S. Watch Co.

My friend Len Dionne who was Edwin Land's private builder at Polaroid, was interested in the design and borrowed Joe Browns so that he could make one for himself. Len thought that part of the behavior was due to the alloys used. The "copper" part of the triangular laminae are closer to brazing rod than the normal balance copper.

The balance that Len made is the only one I have with the balance but I have one other with the balance that was normally used when they stopped shippping the sawtooth. Many think that the "replacement" balance also has the different alloy composition. I also have an open face example with the same, non-sawtooth, balance. Note that Len used an 1872 Woerd marked movement for his project. He only did that because the movement was already fitted with a lower grade balance cock.

As mentioned those are on my web site at AWCo Web

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Tom, do we know what the compositions are, either of the standard copper alloy or Woerd's special alloy, that were used for balance wheel laminae? If they are copper-zinc binary alloys, then these alloys would both be considered brass, though the relative proportions of copper and zinc in brass can vary over a wide range.
 
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Tom McIntyre

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I do not know, but Len did the analysis and spoke about it at one of our MIT meetings where he talked about his project. My only recollection is that he said it was like brazing rod and that is what he used in his model. He made that balance from a disk of steel by cutting the indentations and then casting the alloy around it before machining the balance from the prepared blank, finishing it and making the holes. He did not make the compensation screws as large as those used by Woerd. I think those were existing screws he selected, not being a glutton for punishment.

I had a set of examples from one of the WWII chronometer makers that showed all the steps in machining a balance.
 

KipW

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De Fazio's article is not a quick or easy read - but the takeaway for me was the large weights were indeed responsible for most issues with Woerd's balance. I find it of great interest that 'harmony' with the hairspring has so much to do with it as well. Since monometallic balances and "invar"-type hairsprings arrived on the scene and seem to offer better solutions to these knowns issues - the sawtooth is just a footnote in horological history. BUT - one can't help but wonder what some refinement and further development of the concept might have led to.
 
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KipW

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Apparently, the so-called "ovalising" balance of the Hamilton marine chronometer (on the right) was/is at/near the best solution.

escape-wheel.jpg
 
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Tom McIntyre

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The Guillaume balance with properties to mirror the thermal effects on the steel hairspring were likely the purest solution.

The Hamilton with stainless steel rim and invar arm plus elinvar hairspring was very good.

The competing Elgin chronometers used Guillaume balances as did those by Nardin and others from Europe.
 
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Tom McIntyre

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Here is the Hamilton "at work"
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and here is the Elgin.
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Clint Geller

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I tend to agree that a material solution that obviates the need for an engineering fix to compensate for the deficiencies of other materials, is superior to the engineering fix. But of course, as a materials physicist, I may be biased. :)
 

Tom McIntyre

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I am old enough to remember when you had to keep quartz oscillators in a temperature controlled oven to keep them on time.

Dr. Jon may want to chip in with words of wisdom on the use of silicon for balances and springs. Shades of Arnold & Dent. :rolleyes:
 

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