Naissance d’Une Montre 2 – Chapter 4: The Complete Watchmaker

Naissance d’Une Montre
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Naissance d’Une Montre 2: Many, if not most, watchmakers today are simply the last in the long chain of specialists required to make a modern watch – assembling, rather than making, pre-fabricated parts into a working machine. However, complete watchmakers have to be able to calculate, design and make those parts, each requiring different skills. They also need very broad knowledge, ranging from mathematics to metallurgy. Below are some of the techniques and tools that complete watchmakers need to master to make watches in the traditional way. Here Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3.

Dominique Buser turns the blanks for the screws on the workshop’s Schäublin 70 lathe, and cuts the threads using a die.

Screws with a twist

Screws were one of the first industrial commodities to be standardised and all of the screws used in watchmaking today conform to the Swiss watch industry’s NIHS standards.

The screws are screwed into a holder while diamond polishing paste is prepared on a tin plate. The heads of the screws are ground flat and polished to a mirror finish.

Today it’s almost unheard of for a watch manufacturer to make its own screws, when screws of every pitch and dimension are available for a few cents.

The screws are screwed into a holder while the diamond polishing paste is prepared on a tin plate. The heads of the screws are ground flat and polished to a mirror finish.

Yet it is important for the complete watchmaker to know how to make screws in case they have to, for example, replace a non-standard screw in an antique watch.

The screws are screwed into a holder while the diamond polishing paste is prepared on a tin plate. The heads of the screws are ground flat and polished to a mirror finish.

Bent springs

Abraham-Louis Breguet is credited with the discovery that if you bend the outer end of a flat balance spring up over the plane of the spring and towards its centre, it allows the spring to expand and contract more concentrically. This is important, because a spring that wobbles from side to side as it oscillates disturbs the rate and amplitude of the balance, especially one with a relatively slow frequency.

Buser and Devanthey chose a Phillips terminal curve from the different available patterns for the hairspring of Naissance d’une Montre 2.

Several watchmakers have since improved on the Breguet overcoil, by bending the end of the spring in a varity of calculated shapes designed for different balance frequencies and inertias.

Bending the terminal curve of a hairspring, determining its proper length, and fitting it to the balance are jobs that require such a delicate touch that they have traditionally been done by women.

Taking a bow

The Jacot tool is one of the most iconic watchmaking tools, especially when powered by hand with a horsehair bowstring wrapped around a ferrule.

The Jacot tool, complete with bow, would be instantly familiar to a watchmaker of the 18th century.

The latter is a small lathe that has been used for centuries for delicate work on tiny parts, mainly the pivots of wheel shafts and arbors.

Dominic Buser rotates the spindle of the Jacot tool with a bow while burnishing and rounding a pivot for one of the train wheels.

These are the hardened tips that turn in, or on, the jewel bearings, and are critical to the precision, reliability and longevity of the movement.

The pivot is held in a clip rotated by a shaft of the spindle. Nylon has replaced horsehair in modern bowstrings.

Pivots are also one of the most fragile parts and often the first to break if the watch receives a severe shock. The pivots have to have extremely precise dimensions, and be hard, straight and smooth to perform reliably.

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