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WORLDWIDE Chapter 149 Message Board Forum Index » The Watch Collectors' Journal » Jon Weber--new discovery-Guillaume balance
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Jon Weber--new discovery-Guillaume balance
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2021 5:24 pm Reply with quote
Chapter President
Joined: 02 Dec 2002
Posts: 27182
Location: Boston, Ma

For those not familiar with Guillaume or integral Balances

PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2021 11:33 am Reply with quote Edit/Delete this post Delete this post View IP address of poster
Dr. Jon
Chapter Member

Joined: 29 Nov 2008
Posts: 128
Location: New Hampshire

Usual brass and steel bimetallic cut balances change their second moment of inertia (The factor that controls the running rate of the watch) in a non linear manner,a kind of curve. This was known to Swiss theorists as "The Dent Anomaly"

They knew that such a balance exactly compensates for temperature at only two points and I beleive is fast between those points and slow outside them. The difference between the rates at the correction points and that between them was called "Middle Temperature" error)

They also observed from hundreds of observatory trials that palladium had much better temperature compensation although it was worse in enough other ways that palladium balance spring watches never got top scores in the trials.

These scores accounted for four aspects of accuracy:

1) Uniformity of rate under a single set of conditions (position and temperature)
2) Uniformity or rate with varying position
3) Uniformity of rate at three temperature
4) Recovery of initial rate after temperature extremes

The temperature factor was designed to penalize for middle temperature error. The rate errors that caused this were usually noticeable only observatory trials. It was too small to be an issue for railroad timekeeping, so US makers ignored it.

Guillaume experimented with nickel steel alloys and found one that enabled bimetallic balances to have minimal and often un-measurable middle temperature errors. In addition, they were much less susceptible to rust, more rigid than regular balances and worked with hard steel springs. The hard steel and more rigid balance, due to shorter unsupported balance arms led to better position rates and reduced rate variation, a win,win,win.

The alloy composition was public; Guillaume patented it. The trick was that balances needed a very specific work hardening level, which probably varied with minor deviations from the alloy formula) to achieve the best results. It was not well established so those who competed do so by making dozens of watches and selected the best performers by test and submitting these for competition. Watches with these balances won all the top prizes from the late 1880's until well after World War I.

To my knowledge the free sprung Elgin Father Time watches are the only American pocket watches that had these balances. I am sure Elgin and the US Naval Observatory worked together on this and must have been a very big thing then, Whitney probably got there after the people at the observatory who did this work had retired. At any rate, his book is very dismissive of these watches.

Wayne Schlitt mis-identiified these as Invar. on his very useful web site Invar was another alloy discovered by Guillaume. It is so called because it has very little expansion with temperatures over a range around room temperature

Invar balances are mono metallic and when cut are cut at 90 degrees to the arms. They work with elinvar (Another Guillaume alloy) springs. These springs have very good temperature performance but are soft and hard to handle without damaging them.

(Hamilton gave up on Elinvar for their own super elinvar which was much better)

The Elgin father Time free sprung balances I have seen are cut like Swiss Guillaume, about 30 degrees from the arms and work with steel springs. Also, the records in Whitney's book on the Ship's Chronometer are typical and unique to Guillaume balance where the work hardening it correct.

Elgin not only used the alloy and the cutting protocol, but also seems to have gotten the hardening right on at least a few. This is as well as any of the top Swiss makers did.

All the Best

Jon "the truth" Hanson,
'playing" with watches now for 70 years
Founder and President of Chapter 149--the leading horological collectors' club!
American Horologe Co -- America's Most Respected Name
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Jon Weber--new discovery-Guillaume balance
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