Tiffany Hunter-cased Simple Chronograph, circa 1880

For quite a while I have wanted a pocketwatch suitable for regular use. My requirements evolved over time to the following:

-- stem winding and setting
-- relatively simple for better reliability
-- straightforward but beautiful dial
-- full hunter-case for protection in the pocket and handling
-- historical value but not great historical significance (the watch should be a superior reflection of its place in watchmaking history, without being strictly a museum piece)
-- especially, a lovely and beautifully-executed movement
-- the whole in proper condition to enjoy in normal use

I wasn't seeking any particular brand or age or material, but not surprisingly I casually looked around for a couple of years before stumbling into my suitable pocketwatch. The watch which turned up is of medium size (50mm diameter), with a heavy 18k pink gold hunter case (with no inscription). A light press inwards on the crown releases the front cover which springs and stays open at almost exactly 90 degrees for easy viewing. The dial is smooth matte-white fired enamel, featuring a sunken seconds subdial, fine thin Roman numerals, a perfect chapter ring indicating 1/5th seconds and small red Arabics for the minutes. The hands are my favorite chronometer (spade) style and are (at least presently) purplish-black. As it turns out my watch is a simple one-minute chronograph, the only complication I would consider for this project, and one which brings significant extra attraction to the movement.

Click the pictures for even larger!

According to the seller this watch was from the estate of noted American clockmaker Dana Blackwell. Underneath the rear cover is a glazed cuvette so one can safely enjoy the movement. Both this and the crystal have had their original thin glass replaced with modern acrylic, somewhat less historically authentic but far more practical.

Unimpeded view through the cuvette:

The unique and unsigned 17-ligne (about 39mm) movement is a model of then-contemporary haute horology, featuring blued-steel overcoil hairspring, split bimetallic balance and a modern lever escapement with counterpoise. The harmonious layout is esentially a nickeled half bridge with separate cocks for the escape and and fourth wheels and the chronograph seconds, all finished in wide, soft Geneva waves and circular damaskeening.

Almost the entire chronograph works are on top of the movement, and the arrangement is amongst the most serene and understandable I have ever seen! All these steel parts are brushed on top with polished anglage and sides, and with thoroughly polished screws and countersinks. The placement and shapes of the springs is I think truly artistic, and the whole seems to function quite well after some 130 years:

This view highlights the exceptional bridge finish and steelwork, and details the pink-gold wheels:

Incredible design of the carrier for the clutch wheel:

At center is the armature which presses the heart-cam (right, under numbered bridge) resetting the chronograph seconds. Underneath is the spring-loaded brake for this same wheel, operated when the attached teardrop finger drops into an entry in the controlling column-wheel (bottom, slightly left):

The golf-club shaped parts are the counterpoise which is attached to the anchor, below.

Closeup showing the entry pallet and polished bridge:

Please check out the rest of my watch Articles and pics:

I hope you enjoyed this!

February 3, 2010

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