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Haute Horlogerie Discussion

Discussion area for watches, clocks and all other timekeepers.
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JLC Atmos

#121

Post by sistem_32 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:49 pm

A much more ubiquitous, but no less interesting, desk clock is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos. It's powered by the slight fluctuations in temperature that occur throughout the day. Ethylene chloride gas, sealed in the bellows at the back of the clock, expands and contracts as the temperature changes. This moves the bellows in and out, which in turn pulls a chain which winds the movement.

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The standard Atmos is encased in a rather humdrum brass frame, but JLC have produced several special editions, like the one above, which give a much clearer view of the clock's mechanism. They also liberate the bellows from its conventional capsule.

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The white circle at the very top is a bubble level. It's very important for the clock to remain level as it also uses quite a unique and delicate escapement. The disk suspended from the bottom of the movement is effectively a huge balance wheel, which oscillates only twice per minute. Here's a better view of the escapement; the balance spring can be seen at the top of the balance wheel's shaft.

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Since its invention in 1928 the Atmos has remained more or less unchanged, and I suspect that it will remain unchanged and in production for a long time hence. While not as actively amusing as the Time Fast D8, it still presents a passively entertaining spectacle. When you think about it, the Atmos is probably as close to a perpetual motion machine as we're going to get, and you know how much we humans like those.
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Breguet Marie Antoinette Grande Complication

#122

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Aug 17, 2019 7:02 pm

Queen Marie Antoinette was a great admirer of Abraham-Louis Breguet's work, owning many of his pieces. In 1783 an anonymous figure commissioned the ultimate Breguet watch as a gift for the Queen, imposing no deadline or fixed budget. It took a total of 44 years to design and produce the piece, which unfortunately wasn't completed until 34 years after the Queen's death (and 4 years after Breguet's). Even more unfortunately, the piece was stolen from an exhibition in Jerusalum in 1983, so there are very few, if any, pictures of it. However, under the guidance of the Swatch Group, Breguet took up the challenge of replicating it in 2004, completing the replica in 2008. As luck would have it, the original was recovered in 2007 and is now back in safe hands.

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I'll repeat Breguet's list of complications: "...a minute repeater that on command strikes hours, quarters and minutes as well as a full perpetual calendar showing the date, the day and the month at two, six and eight o’clock respectively. At ten o’clock, an equation-of-time display expresses the difference between civil and solar time. At centre, jumping hours and a minute hand accompany a large independent seconds hand, the forerunner to the chronograph hand, while a subdial for the running seconds is situated at six o’clock. A 48-hour power-reserve indicator and a bimetallic thermometer are positioned side by side." An impressive list! In fact, the watch stood as the most complicated watch in the world for 77 years. I particularly like the jumping hour hand. Believe it or not, the watch is also an automatic; it's wound by a hammer system like the one I wrote about here.

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I have to say, I'm not a big fan of the watch's dial design. The stacked indicators at the ten and two lead to hands crossing each other at unpleasant angles and the transparent dial is impossible to read. Luckily there's a porcelain dial on standby, though I doubt whether it'll ever have an opportunity to strut its stuff.

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Charles Frodsham

#123

Post by sistem_32 » Wed Aug 21, 2019 7:59 pm

Today I was reminded by this video of Charles Frodsham & Co., a rather extraordinary brand. Frodsham was born in 1810 to a family with a history of watchmaking. He apprenticed with his father at a young age, established business in 1834, and went on to become one of the most important horologists in England. He purchased the entire business of John Arnold and began operations in the Arnold workshop in 1844. Throughout his life he made many important contributions to horology and received many distinctions, even becoming "Superintendent and Keeper of Her Majesty’s Clocks at Buckingham Palace." He died in 1871.

The name Charles Frodsham & Co. was established in 1884 and trading has continued under it up until the present day, making it the "longest continuously trading firm of chronometer manufacturers in the world." It's been a long time since they've produced any original watches, though, preferring to focus on the likes of car clocks and antiquarian horology. Some of their recent projects have been the reproduction of Harrison's H4 and the production of the first ever physical version of his H3.

In 2003, however, the owners of the brand decided to design and produce their own wristwatch, not imposing any time restraints. After 15 years of development the watch was finally released as the Double Impulse Chronometer Wristwatch. The watch is recognizably English, but also clearly modern. I particularly like the crown between the two and three and the fact that the hands are the same length. Unfortunately for the slender of wrist (like myself) the case is a substantial 42.2mm in diameter. On a suitable wrist though, the watch looks great and has exceptional presence. It's available in a range of materials; I think steel looks best and best suits its modern yet antiquarian theme.

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Despite the watch's excellent exterior, the movement, completely designed and manufactured in-house, is the real star. It uses the Daniels dual impulse escapement (my favorite!) from his Space Traveler's watches, which I wrote about here. The movement of the Frodsham follows roughly the same parallel design of the Daniels, except that it only displays mean solar time.

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Frodsham & Co. only produce about a dozen watches per year. I'm very glad that they're satisfied with this number; a watch like this should remain exclusive, in accordance with the principles of Daniels. Here is a photo of all the components that go into the Double Impulse Chronometer--when you see them all laid out like this it makes sense why it takes so long to produce a single watch!

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Harrison's H4

#124

Post by sistem_32 » Sun Aug 25, 2019 4:25 pm

As I haven't really talked much about antiquarian horology here and it came up in my last post I figured I'd dedicate a post to Harrison's H4, his second to last timepiece and the one most resembling a modern watch. If you're not familiar with Harrison and his enormous historical significance, I recommend reading the magnificently titled "Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time" by Dava Sobel. In short, he was born in 1693 to a carpenter, taught himself horology, and invented the first marine chronometer suitable for accurately calculating longitude, making navigation a much more certain exercise. His ultimate goal was to collect the £20,000 prize offered by the Board of Longitude for the first person to devise such a device, but the Board was very reluctant to recognize his accomplishment. In the end, the prize was never awarded to anyone.

H1, H2, and H3 were bizarre colossi of clocks, completely unlike anything produced before or since. H4, however, was much more in line with the contemporary standard. It resembles a very large pocket watch, about the size of your hand.

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Produced over six years, the watch is relatively complex even by today's standards. It's equipped with a fusee and remontoire to ensure constant force is applied to the movement. The escapement is a heavily modified verge (the verge was the very first mechanical escapement and the standard in Harrison's day). Its most remarkable features are its extremely small diamond pallets. In fact, experts still aren't sure how Harrison might have achieved such precision with the tools available at the time. The watch was demonstrated to be capable of an accuracy of about +/- 2.66 seconds per day. This level of accuracy is quite adequate for the accurate calculation of longitude over extended voyages

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In 1997 the celebrated watchmaker Derek Pratt undertook to replicate H4. This was no easy task, as Harrison made no effort to document any detail of the mechanism. Unfortunately Pratt died before he could finish the watch, but the project was carried on by Charles Frodsham & Co. and completed in 2014. For some reason they're reluctant to put good pictures on their website, but I found the best I could.

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Every detail of the watch has been exquisitely finished. In fact, its hands are the most finely detailed I've ever seen, despite apparently being themed after a pineapple.

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The video at the top if this page provides a much more detailed view of the workings along with explanations of each major component and footage of the watch running. It's really an extremely interesting piece of engineering, especially considering its age.
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Harrison's H3

#125

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Aug 31, 2019 4:57 pm

At first I wasn't planning on writing about Harrison's other chronometers, but after reading a bit more about H3 I discovered that it's actually a lot more significant than I thought. It was the first horological device to incorporate many important concepts, some having a huge effect on our modern world.

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Harrison started work on H3 in 1740 and didn't complete it until 1757. This long development time might partially be because of a false start; he initially used a bar balance until he realized that it could be affected by the roll of a ship. This led to his adopting a circular balance for the first time. Actually, H3 uses two huge circular balances, each almost a full foot in diameter. It's equipped with a grasshopper escapement, which is quite complicated compared to a modern lever or co-axial escapement. Here's a simulation illustrating how it works. Like H4, it's equipped with a fusee and chain and remontoire to ensure constant force throughout the mechanism. Unfortunately, Harrison was simply unable to persuade H3's massive balances to keep good time. Here's a video of a replica of clock, made by Frodsham & Co., running.

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But H3's properties as a timekeeper are not its most interesting aspect. It is primarily important for the introduction of two extremely important technologies: the bimetallic strip and the caged roller bearing.

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The bimetallic strip, or "Thermometer Kirb," as Harrison called it, is composed of strips of brass and steel riveted together inside the voluptuous frame pictured above. As the temperature changes the two metals expand or contract at different rates, causing the strip to bow. Harrison utilized this action to compensate the escapement for changes in temperature. The concept of the bimetallic strip has since been used in many different ways, for example, as a thermometer in the Daniels Grande Complication and in the more mundane role of an automatic kettle switch.

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The caged roller bearing is, of course, the most important innovation. It was the genesis of today's caged ball bearing, an absolutely essential concept to almost every kind of mechanical device. What more remains to be said?
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Hautlence HL Sphere

#126

Post by sistem_32 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 7:14 pm

I've written about Hautlence once before in this thread highlighting their innovative movements, particularly their "half-trailing hours" movement, which they share with H. Moser & Cie. At this year's Baselworld they released a new watch, their "HL Sphere," whose movement tops the half-trailing hours movement by a long shot. It displays the hour on a titanium sphere, which rotates through 450 degrees in a right angle on the hour.

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You can get some idea of how this seemingly impossible mechanism works by inspecting how the sphere connects to the movement, i.e., through a sort of zig-zag slot running around it.

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In fact, the sphere is composed of two halves screwed onto a roughly spherical mechanism, a system of four conical gears and two spindles, which are inclined at an angle of 21 degrees. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this mechanism is that it is apparently general to all sorts of shapes, not just spheres. Next year Hautlence plans to release another watch using this base movement with the hours represented on a different shape. Place your bets.

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You can see a large-scale model of this mechanism here, along with footage of the watch running.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#127

Post by ManOnTime » Mon Sep 02, 2019 8:06 pm

Simply amazing.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#128

Post by sistem_32 » Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:22 am

Breaking news: for the second anniversary of The Naked Watchmaker, they've released a host of new deconstructions and interviews. One of the deconstructions features the remarkable Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5347, which I previously wrote about here. Take a look!

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Sarpaneva Watches

#129

Post by sistem_32 » Sat Sep 07, 2019 6:53 pm

Stepan Sarpaneva, Finnish founder of Sarpaneva Watches, is one of my favorite independent watchmakers. His brand is underpinned by two distinctive design features. The first is the knobbled shape of his cases, inspired by the kickstart pinion of an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle. In fact, his first piece, the "Time Tramp," was actually constructed in said pinion (unfortunately, this is the best picture I could find of it).

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The other is his rather ubiquitous portrait of the man in the moon. He describes its expression as one of "aristocratic melancholy, with a bit of indecision as to whether he is happy or sad in nature," which he apparently considers representative of the Finnish attitude.

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In addition to producing many (highly limited) pieces under his own name, Sarpaneva also collaborates with other independent brands like MB&F, though usually the collaboration only goes as far as the borrowing of the moon medallion.

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Like MB&F, Sarpaneva utilizes a solid, machinable luminescent substance in some of his designs. It is used to great effect in pieces like this one.

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Unfortunately, so far Sarpaneva hasn't gone far in terms of horological innovation, although his recently released "Lunations" model shows promise.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#130

Post by sistem_32 » Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:57 pm

I've previously expressed my dislike for Jacob & Co., and their "Astronomia" line is no exception. Its movement, while an extraordinary feat of engineering, makes a ridiculous wristwatch.

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The escapement is mounted in a double axis tourbillon, but the entire movement is also pivoted in the center and makes a complete rotation every ten minutes. The dial, therefore, has to rotate slightly counterclockwise to remain upright. Anyway, the point isn't so much the watch itself but something I found online. Somebody under the pseudonym "mcmaven" has apparently reverse engineered the Astronomia movement and produced a scaled up version which can be 3D printed!

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What's more, he has very decently made the files available for free here. If you have access to a 3D printer, this might be a very fun project. I'm considering making a copy myself. Here's a timelapse of the working mechanism; it makes quite an exciting wall clock.

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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#131

Post by TheJohnP » Thu Sep 12, 2019 9:21 am

sistem_32 wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:57 pm
I've previously expressed my dislike for Jacob & Co., and their "Astronomia" line is no exception. Its movement, while an extraordinary feat of engineering, makes a ridiculous wristwatch.

Image

The escapement is mounted in a double axis tourbillon, but the entire movement is also pivoted in the center and makes a complete rotation every ten minutes. The dial, therefore, has to rotate slightly counterclockwise to remain upright. Anyway, the point isn't so much the watch itself but something I found online. Somebody under the pseudonym "mcmaven" has apparently reverse engineered the Astronomia movement and produced a scaled up version which can be 3D printed!

Image

Image

What's more, he has very decently made the files available for free here. If you have access to a 3D printer, this might be a very fun project. I'm considering making a copy myself. Here's a timelapse of the working mechanism; it makes quite an exciting wall clock.


Paging @Sporkboy
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Habring Uhrentechnik

#132

Post by sistem_32 » Mon Sep 16, 2019 6:43 pm

I recently learned of a small brand called Habring Uhrentechnik, founded, owned, and operated by Maria and Richard Habring. Their collection is composed of eleven pieces, from a simple three-hander to a minute repeater. Their flagship model, the Perpetual-Doppel, combines a perpetual calendar with an unusual monopusher rattrapante chronograph.

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Their less complicated pieces similarly pay homage to antiquity: they produce three models with jumping seconds, one of which is even equipped with a subdial that marks out eighths of a second. These watches have been recognized on numerous occasions by the GPHG.

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If you're in NYC, the Horological Society of New York is hosting a lecture by the Habrings titled "How Can A Small Family Business Afford to Design and Produce A Proprietary Watch Movement?" on October 7th. Details here.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#133

Post by ManOnTime » Mon Sep 16, 2019 6:53 pm

Wow! That watch is stunning. I'm definitely going to check out their work.
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#134

Post by TheJohnP » Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:52 pm

I've had my eye on Habring2 for some time.
But my wallet runs to the hills everytime I take a glance.

http://www.habring2.com/index.php/en/
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Re: Haute Horlogerie Discussion

#135

Post by ManOnTime » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:28 pm

TheJohnP wrote:
Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:52 pm
I've had my eye on Habring2 for some time.
But my wallet runs to the hills everytime I take a glance.

http://www.habring2.com/index.php/en/

I could hear muffled laughter. I thought it was Mrs.MoT in the other room. Turns out it was my wallet in my back pocket.
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