Jewelry Sales And Service

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    Watch Making History

    Watch Making History

    Before wrist watches became ubiquitous in our society, pocket watches were the standard for personal timekeeping. The first pocket watch is said to have been made in Germany towards the end of the fifteenth century. Bearing a close resemblance to the traditional clock, early pocket watches operated in very much the same manner as their clock cousins. A deviation from traditional clock designs, pocket watches used the combination of a mainspring, hairspring and a balance wheel. This is in contrast to traditional clock designs that used a swinging pendulum and counter weights.

    Like today’s wrist watches, pocket watches consist of two main components, the inner works and a metal case. Many different metals were used for early pocket watch cases including gold and silver. The case was usually of a two piece clamshell design. The cases of early watches were not very impervious to dirt and moisture which meant the watches needed a good bit regular cleaning. As time went on, other less expensive metals were used for case works including mild steel and pot metal.

    The inner works of the early pocket watch contained a number of gears and wheels held in place between two metal plates. The lower plate or pillar plate rests next to the dial while the upper plate might have come in two pieces though the best made watches utilized a single piece upper plate. The plates were precisely drilled and bored to hold the other components in the proper place. To prevent wear of the moving parts, hard gemstones were used with the moving pegs or axles. There were four wheels in the works known as the barrel wheel, the first wheel, the second wheel and the third wheel. The barrel wheel is used as the attachment for the mainspring.

    The motion is transmitted by the uncoiling of the spring and is regulated by the escapement which is kept moving by the combined action of the mainspring and the hairspring providing an oscillating movement. The wheel which has sixty gear teeth around the circumference engages the escapement wheel and transmits motion to the minute hand. It also meshes into the pinion of the center wheel which transmits motion to the hour hand. Movement is controlled by a lever which is connected to the hairspring. By moving the lever to the left or the right the tension of the hairspring is increased or reduced.

    The plates of the works were made from plate stock of steel or brass and would go through a series of machining operations that would include being placed on a pantograph machine which would exactly copy dimensions from a master part to the part being machined. After machining the plates would be polished using several types of abrasive materials like emery. Gemstones like garnet, rubies, sapphires and diamond. Garnets would be cut with diamond points into tiny disks and would then be set in tiny plates of gold. The intricate process of assembly the works required precisely made screws and other components that would often be plated or heat treated by hand. The small gears were stamped from brass using very precisely made dies and springs were formed from fine spring wire.

    Dial faces were similarly stamped out of a base metal, enameled and the markings stenciled in place and the dial would be fired again. Once fully assembled, the finished watch was subjected to cold temperatures of around forty degrees Fahrenheit and then exposed to higher temperatures up to around one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. This process was undoubtedly used to test the watch in different temperature extremes to ensure consistent operation.