The Mechanical Movement

How The Mechanical Movement Works And Which Innovations Were Decisive

The caliber or movement is the mechanism which is responsible for the drive and the time display inside a watch. The following article explains how the mechanical movement of manual elevators or automatic watches works and which were the decisive steps in its development.

First of all, the most important thing about the function of a mechanical scale: the mechanical clockwork reaches from the energy store through several gear wheel stages, the so-called gear train, and an inhibition to the gear regulator called the balance. From the train, a branch leads to the outside hands. This so-called pointer movement, with the exception of the hands, is also inside a watch, but often, like the elevator weights, is not counted as a movement. A detailed description of the function can be found here on page 2 of the article.

A Pioneer For The Mechanical Movement

The year 1717 was probably not particularly pleasant for a number of members of the watchmaking community. At that time the book “Règle artificielle du temps”, written by the English mathematician and watchmaker Henry Sully in Versailles, was published. He vehemently complained in chapters VII and VIII about a number of his professional colleagues. They were so wicked, bad, and insolent to put on their products the names of the best artists of Europe, only to have a good deal of sales. What would happen in the following centuries in the field of forgeries and imitations still, Sully presumably did not even even dream.

Of course, Sully’s achievements for the world of watchmaking are by no means exhaustive in his literary work. Many handmade inventions, including oil reduction, have contributed decisively to the further development of watchmaking. The first use of the term caliber for the Uhwerk probably goes back to Henry Sully. As early as 1715 he described the arrangement and the dimensions of the various parts of the work (columns, wheels, spring house, etc.). The form, size, and nature of the work allowed conclusions to be drawn about the origin of a watch or the name of its builder, thus ultimately enabling precise identification. The well-known caliber “Jones” (IWC), “Jürgensen” or “Glashütte” are typical examples of this.

In principle, the categorization and classification of the movement has not changed much.The name of the manufacturer still stands in the foreground. However, this alone is no longer enough to define a certain caliber unequivocally. For this reason, a number, combination of letters, or the combination of both are usually used. With the help of such a caliber designation (eg Eta 2892-A2, Sellita SW500, or Patek Philippe CHR 29-535 PS Q) it is possible to order spare parts. Today you can be absolutely sure that they fit exactly and only have to be installed. Occasional adjustments have been the order of the day.

How The Mechanical Clocks Come To Their Names

The size is closely related to the calibers. It is the diameter of the housing which, for example, plays a decisive role in the new development of mechanical watches. For some time, the Swiss watchmaking industry has presented the factory figures in metric dimensions (mm). Sizes of round clockworks refer to their diameter, in the case of formworks are called length and width. They alone are now crucial for the exact measurement of a movement. This is not affected by the fact that in the traditional watchmaking trade the line (“‘) is still in use. This old clock unit, derived from the “Pied du Roi”, the royal foot, corresponds to 2,2558 mm.

Mechanics Do Not Have To Be Round

In the case of the caliber forms the round is certainly the most used. To be distinguished from this are the so-called shape calibers, which comprise all other species (oval, rectangular, rod-shaped, barrel-shaped). According to the shape and arrangement of the bridges and globes, the watchmaking process is divided between bridges, in which each organ of the movement is mounted under its own bridge or its own cloister. Whether the bridges are straight or curved is ultimately only an aesthetic question. This does not affect the function.

In the case of calibers with three-quarter bridge, for example Glashütter movements, all the organs, with the exception of the anchor wheel and the balance, are arranged under a bridge covering approximately ¾ of the work surface.

French Mechanics For The Pocket Watch And For The Watch

The Brückenkaliber go back to the French watchmaker Jean Antoine Lépine (1720-1814).He thereby replaced the customary movements of the time with two plates, supported by pillars. Brückenkaliber were produced as of 1789 in Geneva as standard. At the beginning of the 19th century, almost all high-quality pocket watches were built in the new bridge construction.

The Lépine caliber is also used in the watch industry but also refers to works in which the second wheel is arranged in a line with the elevator shaft. This type of construction is usually found in works for the “open” pocket watch with a crown at the twelfth and smaller second at the six. On occasion, there was and there is also the Lépine caliber watch. They have the small second at the Nine or the Crown at the Twelve.

With Savonnette calibers, the second wheel is at a 90 degree angle to the elevator shaft.This arrangement was and is customary in clockwork for hand-held pocket watches or wrist watches with a small second at the six. A mechanical movement can only begin to tick if it has been carefully assembled and thoroughly checked for its function. In the case of very fine watches, a watchmaker is often responsible for the whole oeuvre. The standard production of standard clockworks, on the other hand, takes place predominantly on tapes. At the same time, the workers add only a part or a few components. The final is for skilled artisans. The power for the drive required to run the wheels is provided by the feather house. If the watch is pulled over the crown, the ratchet wheel (3) is moved via the elevator shaft (1) and the elevator wheels (2). It turns the spring core (4) and thus pulls the tension spring into the spring housing (5). The spring feeds the stored energy via the externally geared spring housing (5) to the minute wheel (6), the floor wheel (7) and the second wheel (8).

This Is How Mechanical Watches Work

This increases the speed: the minute wheel (6) rotates once an hour. It carries the minute hand and drives the hour hand over a submission. The second wheel (8) rotates once a minute and drives the second hand. The following parts are part of the inhibition. They ensure that the gear runs at the right speed. The second wheel (8) drives the armature wheel (9); there is a pulse to the armature (10), which pulse is passed on to the balance (11). Thereafter, the anchor, which moves back and forth like a seesaw, blocks the anchor wheel. The balance rotates, but is then retracted by the spiral spring (12). In doing so, it moves back the anchor, which now releases the anchor wheel a small distance, which gives the armature the next impulse with its rotation. Because of the jerky braking and acceleration of the armature wheel, the second hand of a mechanical clock also moves step by step. Accordingly, one second corresponds to the 86,400th part of a mean solar day or, according to current definition, 9,192,631,770 vibrations in the electron envelope of an atom of the element cesium 133.

What Exactly Is This – The Tension Spring?

The tension spring is actually not more than an elastic band. Their material must be hard, tough and elastic, it must not deform even in the case of full pull. Modern metal alloys such as chromium nickel (Inox) or Nivaflex (cobalt, nickel and chromium) ensure this. Today’s materials allow the change between clamping and unloading 10,000 to 20,000 times without wear. In addition, they enable a much more uniform power discharge than earlier steel springs.

However, you can not see the tension spring: it is concealed in the feather house, a flat housing with a toothed ring, which rests on the spring shaft. This is connected by a hook to the tension spring and thus transfers the lift energy to the spring. When the tension is released, the tension spring is placed against the wall of the spring housing, causing it to move, which is transmitted to the gear train through the toothed rim.

To avoid overstretching of the tension spring, equip it with a fuse, which differs from automatic to manual elevators. In automatic watches, the end of the tension spring is equipped with a particularly strong piece of stainless steel (so-called slip clutch), which allows it to slip easily through the spring block without tensioning the tension spring. In the case of manual elevators, the spring end hangs into the spring housing wall thanks to a hook, thus forcing the standstill.

How Is The Time From The Clockwork To The Dial?

First, over the front long pin of the minute wheel shaft. It rotates around its own axis within 60 minutes, so it can display the sequence of an hour with a pointer. This time interval is, however, too short for practice, since the user of a watch would also like to know the hour of the day. A counter is therefore required, which adds the elapsed hours. This function takes over the pointer. It usually reduces the number of revolutions of the minute wheel to 1/12, which leads to a revolution of the hour hand within 12 hours. There are, of course, also clockworks, for example for time zone clocks, which allow the hour hand to be rotated about its axis within 24 hours.

Decisive For The Success Of The Mechanical Watches: The Functions Of The Crown

The pointer movement, however, has yet another important task: in conjunction with the pointer system, the hour and minute hands can be precisely aligned over the drawn crown.

In its normal position, the crown serves the already mentioned tensioning of the tension spring. The wristwatch owes its breakthrough to the everyday mass product thanks to the fact that the crown can be placed and lifted over the crown. In order to be able to imagine the groundbreaking importance of the elevator and the pointer system by means of the crown, one has only to remember the situation before this invention.

The Modern Crown Lift – A Truly Ingenious Invention

With the help of a small key, elevator and pointer position were performed. In order to wind up, the back cover of the pocket watch usually had to be opened, and the pointer position required removal of the glass. But these procedures were the least problem. In the 17th, 18th or early 19th century, people still had plenty of time. Stones of offense were the little keys, by means of which the energy of the mechanics was supplied. They were all too easily lost. Tightening was therefore often associated with previous searching. To the watchmaker, therefore, the appeal was directed to finally introduce useful elevator alternatives. This desire, not the demand for more comfort, had already inspired the watchmaking autodidacts, Abraham Louis Perrelet, to violent activities. In 1770, the fruits of his work came to light: pocket watches with an automatic lift, where the natural movement of the body caused the raising. It can be seen that the approaches to solution initially proceeded in a completely different direction than the assumed one.

Before The Crown There Was The Automatic Watch

In the late 18th century, there were other alternatives for the pocket watch in addition to the automatic drive in order to be able to tension the tension spring without the use of a key, for example, turn-on loops or pump lifts with the aid of a movable strap button. These functions were not crowned by sustainable success.

On March 25, 1838, the company of Le Brassus, the Louis Audemars (1782-1833), who died in 1833, presented her first pocket watch with crown lift. With her, the pointer could also be placed over the crown, if a slide had been operated on the right of it. In the following years the sons of Louis Audemars sought to perfect this invention, probably made by Thomas Prest in 1820.

Charles Antoine LeCoultre (1803-1881) did not leave this problem. Towards 1847, he presented the most successful version of Prent and Audemars’ developments. At the beginning, a pusher applied to the right of the crown had to be actuated at the same time.However, later versions of this mechanics could also be switched, as is customary today, by simply pulling out the crown.

Happy Ending For The Mechanical Movement

The acknowledged optimal system, however, comes from Jean Adrien Philippe. It was based on designs by Breguet and by Adolphe Nicole. After twenty years of development, Philippe received a patent on his crown elevation on September 27, 1861, which also permitted the production of particularly flat works. This relates, in particular, to the transmission wheel, which is rotatably mounted on the winding shaft and which is coupled by means of wolf teeth to the pointer drive (sliding mechanism) displaceable on the shaft.

Above all the comfortable “empty” reverse rotation of the crown brought the desired perfection of the crown elevation, which has proven itself in the abundance of manual winding and automatic mechanisms.

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