KEYLESS WATCHES A watch may be made to wind without a key in several ways.
One plan is to put a kind of gathering click to the handle knob, which pushes in and takes hold of a ratchet set on the barrel, or the fusee if there is one, and winds it up as you pull the handle out again. But this was very liable to get out of order, and was also objectionable because it pumped air into the watch, which produced condensation of moisture; and the following plan (ﬁg. 78) was invented by a foreigner and adopted by Dent and some other makers: d is a wheel set on a ratchet on the barrel arbor, so that it will only turn the barrel the right way (there is not room to introduce this machinery in fusee watches of the common size); c in the left hand ﬁgure is an intermediate oblique bevelled wheel between d and a pinion b on the handle. It is evident therefore that if you turn the handle a the right way you will wind up the watch, and if you turn it the wrong way you will do no harm. But besides this you can set the hands by the handle; for there is a small wheel e on the hand arbor with another f by the side of it on a lever fgh, by which that intermediate wheel can be thrown into gear with d as well as e, the lever coming through the side of the watch-case; and then it is clear that by turning the handle either way you can turn the hands. If you have to turn the same way as serves to wind the watch you do also wind it a little (and therefore if it is fully wound you cannot set the hands that way); but if the other way, then you do not move the barrel, as the wheel d slips on the ratchet. Another keyless watch, by Mr. Kulberg, described imperfectly in the Horological Journal of April 1869, appears to be now more generally used than that just described. I cannot aﬀord space here for more than a statement of its principle, and a fuller description would be of no particular use to anybody. The wheel d in the last ﬁgure is driven by the pinion b in the pendant, without the oblique bevelled wheel, and that wheel d (for setting) drives another, and that other the centre or cannon pinion of the minute hand, in much the same way as in Dent’s when pushed into gear. But the winding is done diﬀerently. The wheel d is set on what is called a platform, having a sideway motion something like a remontoire frame in a large clock; and the ﬁrst thing turning the knob and wheel does is to move the platform a little (when it is not pushed into gear for setting) so as to move itself into gear with the fusee, which it then proceeds to wind. The platform is kept out of the way generally by a spring, so that neither the fusee nor the centre pinion is touched by either of the wheels on the platform. Mr. A. L. Dennison patented another keyless watch, which is fully described in his Speciﬁcation, No. 356 of 1872. There are also other methods (see Horological Journal, April 1874). The advantages of these modes of winding and hand-setting are that the watch has never to be opened, which lets air and dust in, and so the back requires no hinge, which never works quite air-tight, but snaps on as a separate piece; and also that the inner case or ‘dome’ is saved.
Self-winding watch.—Napoleon I. had a watch which wound itself up as he walked, by means of a weighted lever with a slight spring under it, which danced up and down at every step, and had a click taking into a ratchet on the barrel. Pedometer.—A similar lever may be made to drive a train like a watch train, but without any escapement, and then it in fact counts the number of your steps and indicates them on a dial. You can adjust it for the number of steps which you usually take in a mile, and then it measures the distance you walk, in a rough and approximate way; but it ought to be understood that it is really nothing but a step-counter, and unless it is properly adjusted, and you are walking at the rate for which it is set, it is worth nothing for measuring distances accurately. Stop watches.—It is sometimes convenient to have the means of marking a short interval between two observations with a watch, or to mark the exact time of an observation without looking oﬀ the thing you are watching. Several contrivances have been invented for this, most or all of them involving some kind of duplication of the seconds hand. In one there are two seconds hands on concentric arbors connected by a very weak spiral spring, and when you push in a pin one of them is stopped, while the other will go on for some seconds without the connecting spring having force enough to stop the watch. But this is clearly objectionable, and a better plan is to have the two hands or their arbors connected by a sort of eccentric or heart-shaped piece acted on by a spring which brings them together again either forward or backward, through whichever is less than half a revolution. Several watches of diﬀerent constructions, on this split-seconds plan were exhibited in 1851, and others have been invented since, called ‘chronographs,’ and other names. One of them is of this kind, so far as I can describe it here. Pushing in a pin for a moment drives on a ratchet wheel with a few square teeth half a tooth-space; and that raises (as we may say) a spring lever, which carries a pinion with a disc or ‘roller’ on it (which is always going with the train) into frictional contact with another disc on the arbor of the extra seconds hand, which is thus set going with the train. Pushing in the pin a second time drives the ratchet wheel another half space, and so lets the lever fall again, into a space between two teeth, and takes the discs out of contact, and might leave the hand standing at whatever point it has reached: which might be useful for some purposes, but is not in fact done; because it is of more consequence to have the hand returned to 0, and you can look where it has reached before returning it. That is done thus:—the second movement of the pin also brings a ‘jumper’ spring to bear on the heart-shaped piece which is ﬁxed on the hand arbor (as before described), and so sends it backward or forward to 0 according as it is left before or after 30 sec., or half way round the dial. In watches of this kind, at least in some shown to me by Lund & Blockley of Pall Mall, the stop-seconds hand is central, which gives it the beneﬁt of the full size of the dial, and enables the space of each ordinary minute
to be subdivided into fractions of a second corresponding to the time of vibration of the balance. For this reason also a single beat escapement, like the chronometer or lever-chronometer or duplex, is not so good for these split-seconds as a double beat one, such as the lever or horizontal or the old vertical, in which the scapewheel moves equally for every beat of the balance, and not only for alternate ones. The falling of a small time-ball in a suitable frame (see p. 115) is easily made to push in the pin the ﬁrst time, and when you take up the watch afterwards you see by the diﬀerence between the two seconds hands how much it is before or after Greenwich time. There is also another perfectly diﬀerent plan, which enables you to make a mark on the dial at the exact time when you push in the pin at the time of observation. In ﬁg. 79, DD is the dial of a large watch, with the seconds hand EAB in the middle: the hand is double, and the lower piece of it ends in a little spoon with some thick ink in it and a hole in the bottom through which a point from the upper hand EAB can pass and make a mark on the dial. That hand is pulled down very suddenly by a lever DPC which slips over a stop of a shape diﬃcult to describe, being pushed in by the knob K, and is immediately thrown out of contact again with the link AC, by means of which it pulls down the hand. Dials of watches and of small clocks are either made of gold or silver (which soon tarnishes) or of copper covered with enamel, which is a kind of glass. Such dials with black hands are more distinct than any other kind, and if the black ﬁgures are burnt in with black enamel, the dials would be everlasting and never want painting. I noticed the absurdity of gold hands on gilt dials before, at p. 96. Some of the public clocks in Paris have enamelled dials, which are far more expensive than white glass ones would be. Watch cases.—I am not aware that there is anything else of a rudimentary character, or belonging to the principles of watchmaking, which requires notice. Minute details of watchmaking can be learnt by nothing but experience; whereas clockmaking is easily learnt by any person of mechanical ability. Case-making is not horology, and I have nothing to say about it, except that the cases of what are called hunting watches, which ﬂy open with a spring when you press the handle, cannot be so close against air and dirt, as those which snap tight together. Persons who are afraid of breaking their watch-glasses, may be tolerably safe with ‘half hunting watches,’ which have only a small and strong glass in the middle of the cap, which may then ﬁt tight, and need never be opened except when the hands want altering. The closeness of the case makes a great diﬀerence in the time a watch will go without cleaning. They generally want at least cleaning about every two years; though very good ones, with all the escapement work jewelled and well-made, will go 4 or 5 years with no material variation of rate, which I think may be regarded as one of the greatest triumphs of mechanical art. At the same time it should be remembered that letting either watches or clocks go too long without being cleaned and oiled is very bad economy; for
as soon as the oil is all gone wearing out of the pivots begins. American watch-factories.—In the Horological Journal for April 1869, and January 1873, there are accounts of some of these factories, where watches are made by machinery, so that every piece will ﬁt every watch of the same pattern; on the same principle as Hobbs’s locks. There can be no doubt in the mind of any one who understands machinery that this is the best, as well as the cheapest way of making machines which require precision and uniformity. Adjustments will after all have to be made by hand, and a machine which has always to be in motion is not quite on a level with a lock. The degree to which machine-making of machinery can be carried cannot be deﬁned `a priori. To a certain extent the same thing is done at the celebrated watch-factory of Messrs. Rotherham at Coventry, and also at Prescott in Lancashire, where watch ‘movements,’ i.e. the train set in the frame, are chieﬂy made. I can give no description of the American machinery here, but its elements are stamping plates and the holes in them and the wheels, and then cutting the teeth of many wheels together. Although labour is dearer in America than here, this machinery enables them to undersell English watches of the same quality, as the Swiss also do with cheaper labour and more organization, though with less use of machinery; and if our English makers do not bestir themselves they will lose the trade in all but the best watches, as they have already lost that of both cheap and ornamental clocks.