The Mechanical Wristwatch

How does it work? Who makes the movements? How has the technology developed?

At the beginning of the 20th century, the (mechanical) wristwatch was still in its infancy. Especially the watchmakers were in the weather against the new watch. But also the specialist trade was not necessarily enthusiastic. 1915 known an aged and experienced seller that the wristwatch is generally required despite all the deficiencies that have been imposed and that one has to respect the taste of the public. Nevertheless, he considered the preference for the mechanical wristwatch to be an aberration of the feminine taste, because the wrist was certainly the most inappropriate place to fasten a watch. He also complained about the faulty course of this timepiece. However, he continued to see that this evil was not very great for the ladies in this area, because it does not need to know the time in seconds.

For the gentlemen, however, only well-executed movements with anchor inhibition could be questioned, which kept the time in general well. But regrettably, the latter would not have found too much spread, since the manufacturers would attach more importance to the decoration and valuable execution of the housing because of the greater profit.

The mechanical wristwatch: from the exotic to the indispensable cultural object

The wristwatch has developed into a cultural object that is no longer indispensable. And the renaissance of mechanical time measurement after the quartz crisis shows that traditional values are high in the course of watch lovers despite electronic precision. Since the invention of the mechanical Räderuhr, with the exception of technical improvements and miniaturisation, nothing has changed in the functioning of the ticking clockwork around the year 1300, apart from the technological improvement and miniaturization. Therefore, it can be said that there is probably no machine, because as such, a mechanical movement can be described, which can look back on such a long probation period and optimization process.

What’s in the mechanical wristwatch?

The mechanical movement is composed of the Ébauche (French: Ebauche), the inhibition (French: Echappement), the balance with spiral spring, the tension spring, the dial and the hands together. The Ébauche, comparable to the engine of a car without carburetor, ignition and distributor, is a complete movement without inhibition, balance, spiral spring, tension spring, dial and pointer. It is available without or with pressed-in bearing blocks. It is composed of at least sixty different parts.

In the year 1960 alone, the Swiss blanks holding Ebauches SA (AS, ETA, FEF, Felsa, FHF, Landeron, Peseux, Valjoux, Venus and others) could provide 220 different mechanical calibres with manual or automatic lift. Even then there was a multitude of automatic clocks and hand-wound clocks.

Where do the mechanical movements come from?

Meanwhile, both the number of blanks manufacturers and the number of available mechanical calibers has drastically decreased. Among the most important manufacturers of cheap and saleable Ebauches for wrist watches are today in Switzerland ETA, Sellita and Soprod.

They deliver their products to different customers at home and abroad. However, the ETA 2013, which is estimated to be more or less dependent on the drip of approximately 80 percent of the Swiss federal manufacturers, decided to severely limit their willingness to deliver. For the decision of the Swiss Wettbewerbskomission (WEKO), which allowed a reduction in deliveries to half up to the year 2019, you can find out here. Since June 2016, it has been announced that the Swatch Group is now trying to sell more movements to the competition. According to the “New Zürcher Zeitung”, the competition authority Weko the relaxation desired by the Swatch Group.

For example, the more exclusive calibre for mechanical wrist watches is the Parmigiani daughter Vaucher or the now-under-Japanese citizen roofed la Joux-Perret SA. The so-called “Etablisseure” put clocks from purchased parts together and bring them under their own name into the trade, which ultimately means that the same works can be found in wristwatches of different watch brands. The most rare factories are to be distinguished. But this image-rich title is often abused today.

Which wrist watch manufacturers are also clockwork factories?

The manufactory can only be called by the regulations, who manufactures at least one watch completely, i.e. also the associated Ébauche. The number of manufactories with more or less own mechanical calibers has risen steadily over the past few years – partly spurred by the ETA initiative to gradually return blanks deliveries to manufacturers outside the Swatch Group. Today, among others, are Audemars Piguet, Breguet (formerly Lemania-Blanks Fabrik), Breitling, Cartier, Chopard, Corum, Eterna, Frédérique constant, Girard-Perregaux, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Maurice Lacroix, Montblanc, Omega, Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Rolex, Tag Heuer, Ulysse Nardin, Vacheron Constantin and Zenith.

Exclusive, that is, foreign manufactured but sold only under its own signature, works offer for example Chronoswiss, Hermès or Harry Winston. In Germany act A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte original, Moritz Grossmann and Nomos as real manufactories. Not to mention the Japanese Works Giants Citizen and Seiko.

Look back: The origin of the mechanical wristwatch

An essential precondition for the birth of the wristwatch, or rather its predecessor, was the progress of the watchmakers in technical, artisanal and technological view. Technical developments, including the important invention of the tension spring, led to the portable clock. The perfection of handicraft skills brought with it an increasing miniaturisation of the clocks. Technological evolution, among other things, gave a higher degree of suitability for everyday life and more precision.

It all started in France in the late 15th century, where springs were used for the first time. In connection with the first pocket watch, the name Peter Henlein from Nuremberg is again and again. A certain Johannes Cocleusim writes about him in the appendix of a Nuremberg World description from the year 1511, the “Cosmographia Pomponii melae”, the following: “Every day you invent finer things. Thus, Peter Henlein (in the original text Peter Hele), an even young man, produces works that even admire the most erudite mathematicians, because from a little iron he produces clocks equipped with many wheels, which, as one might turn, without any weight 40 hours of showing and hitting, even if you’re stuck in your bosom or purse. ” However, according to his research, Enrico Morpurgo is of the opinion that there are already 1475 portable mechanical watches in Italy. From there to the wristwatch, which began its triumphant triumph in the 20th century, is a further path. But there has been little change in the basic function of a manual-lift work over the centuries.

How does a normal manual lift work?

The construction of a classic hand-wound work is most likely to be traced when one meets its most important organs, which are held together by the “frame” (motherboard 100, Spring House Bridge 105, Wheel Factory bridge 110, balance clamp 122, Anchor clamp 125), in eight Essential function groups (the numbers indicated refer to those in the exploded images):

The regulating system, consisting of balance (719) with Balance wave (723), Spiral Spring (719) and a Gear regulation device (302, 311), usually called the rear.

The mechanical propulsion system, consisting of the complete spring-loaded (185, 190), the Spring (195) and the spiral-wound coil Spring (770).

The transmission system, usually consisting of a set of three (tooth) wheels including the associated drives, the pendulum (201), the small Bodenrad (210) and the Sekundenrad (224).

The distribution system (inhibition) consisting of wheel (wheel) with drive (705), the armature with shaft (710) and the lever disc pressed onto the balance shaft (730).

The lift system, consisting of lift shaft with Crown (401), sliding (clutch) drive (407), lift (clutch) wheel (410), Crown (420), the wheel (415) mounted on the spring shaft and the locking cone (425) and locking Cone Spring (430) Together.

The pointer control system, consisting of lift shaft with Crown (401) and sliding (clutch) drive (407) analogous to the lift, adjustment or angle lever (443), adjustment or angle lever spring (445), clutch lever or seesaw (435) and pointer Wheel (450).

The pointer movement, consisting of minute tube (240), interchangeable with drive (260) and hour (250).

The organs for time display, consisting of pointers and dial.

The above-mentioned components lead in their functional interaction to a classic hand-wound work, as it was used in millions of wristwatches and still finds. It has 17 stones. This number is absolutely sufficient for proper operation. More stones can, but do not necessarily have to be sensible and quality-enhancing. Under no circumstances can you be dazzled by many stones. They do not necessarily guarantee special quality. On the contrary, even works of inferior quality, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, sometimes had a lot of “jewels”. However, most of them did not sit where they were needed. GLb

Continuously updated article, first posted online in September 2012.

Tags: automatic watches, Citizen watches, Manufactory caliber, Parmigiani, Rolex, Swiss watches, watch hand lift

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