Making Has Changed
Author: Mitch Endick
wristwatches became ubiquitous in our society, pocket watches were
the standard for personal timekeeping. The first pocket watch is
thought 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.
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
todays wristwatches, pocket watches consist of two main
components, the inner works and a metal case. Many different metals
were used for early pocket watchcases including gold and silver. The
case was usually of a two piece clamshell design. The cases of early
watches were 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.
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.
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 that is kept moving by the combined action of the
mainspring and the hairspring providing an oscillating movement. The
wheel that 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 that transmits motion to
the hour hand.
controlled by a lever that 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
garnet, rubies, sapphires and diamond. Garnets would be cut with
diamond points into tiny disks and would then be set in tiny plates
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.
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.
other consumer products, the way in which modern wrist watches are
manufactured has undergone incredible changes since the Industrial
Revolution that broke during the turn of twentieth century. This
important period in world history ushered in entirely new ways to
mass produce products for a growing world population. In every facet
of manufacturing there were incredible technological advances that
improved efficiencies and helped reduce production costs.
Most of us
have heard about the way Henry Ford changed the way automobiles were
built by developing the production line assembly method. Cars would
constantly roll off the Ford assembly line, as workers would fit
various parts to the chassis in a precise order and within a
What few of us
think about are the other changes that made this type manufacturing
operation possible. Critical to the success of the mass production
line was the development of standardized parts, components that are
nearly identical to each other.
Prior to the
development of mass production assembly lines, most mechanical
assemblies, including watches were built from components that were
made individually most often by different producers. This meant that
very often, parts from one machine be it a car, locomotive or sewing
machine, could be not be used on another machine.
As other watch
producers adopted the practice of parts standardization and
integrated quality control, the reliability of wrist watches was
greatly increased. The use of standardized components meant that
those parts that subject to wear did so in more consistent and
predictable way, requiring far less maintenance and repair than those
timepieces assembled as one of kind items.