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Transcript of Observatory Chronometre
In conclusion, it must be acknowledged that Guillaume's balance designs did, over the course of time, progress further
and establish themselves as preferred for chronometry,
especially after 1912 when he modified the formula for his elinvar balance-spring with the addition of chromium and reached, in his own words,
"very close to perfection"
Still, as late as 1922 a watch with Crausaz nickel/steel
balance was awarded a Class A certificate at Kew...
alongside fifty other Swiss chronometers fitted
with Guillaume's balance!
While Guillaume was a scientist that applied his
discoveries to horology, Crausaz and Paillard were
always and forever
balances, striving to keep up with the rapid
advances in metallurgy. The lesson is proven
once again; that surprising and significant
innovations often come from outsiders importing
new ideas from other fields.
Tick Talk ©2014
Investigating an Observatory Chronometre
1909 Concours de Geneve
1908 Vacheron & Constantin Pocket Watch
Vacheron & Constantin, Geneve, very fine 18K gold keyless pocket chronometer submitted to observatory trials in 1909, cased in 1910, and sold in 1913 to Paccard & Cie.
Case: four body, massive, polished
back cover. Gold
engraved with a dedication dated: 1888-1913.
Dial: three piece, double-sunk white enamel with Empire numerals and subsidiary seconds. Gold spade hands.
Movement: RA 22’’’ AB, gilt brass, 21 jewels, straight line lever escapement,
brass and steel-nickel balance, blued steel balance spring with terminal curve and swan neck micrometric index regulator.
Signed on dial, case and movement.
Diam. 54 mm.
1909 Bulletin de Marche
"A. Alexis Grenier Souvenir de M.M. Paccard & Cie 1888-1913"
Information is scarce on Monsieur Grenier, however, we know that private bank Paccard & Cie were financiers to Vacheron & Constantin in 1820/21 and were the Geneva agents for a large bond issue in 1888 on behalf of the Franco-Swiss Financial Company. The dates inscribed upon this watch signify a celebration of 25 years which, along with the importance of the timepiece, suggests that Monsieur Grenier was a highly-placed director or associate of the firm.
With 686 points out of a possible 1000, this chronometer was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Geneva Observatory timing contest of 1909, as adjusted by Ch. Batifolier. The watch was 48th out of 102 classified with more than 600 points; the first one with 825 and the last one with 608. Batifolier was especially renowned at Vacheron & Constantin after he obtained the Premiers Prix for the M
at the Geneva Observatory Trials of 1898.
While many are familiar with Charles-Édouard Guillaume's work in bimetallic temperature-compensating balances, that of Constant Crausaz remains, for the most part, lost to memory. Yet, the historical record seems to indicate that Crausaz was active with bimetallic balance designs from an early date. For example, he is listed as an exhibitor in compensating balances at the 1878 Paris Exposition, with a shop on rue Berthelier in Geneva. In 1879, M. Crausaz was appointed to teach on the principles of compensating balances at Geneva's Ecoles d'Horlogerie.
Where Crusaz is most frequently mentioned is in association with Charles-Auguste Paillard and his work with palladium as a suitable non-magnetic metal for use in balances and balance-springs.
Crausaz watches are now quite scarce. A search of the major auction house archives will reveal a few of his Observatory prize watches manufactured between 1900 and 1910, from the
of Vacheron & Constantin, Patek Philippe and Haas Neuveux. It seems fair to assert that, as Paillard's palladium construction fell into disfavour, Crausaz diverted his research to steel/nickel alloys in an effort to keep pace with Guillaume.
Charles-Édouard Guillaume was a physicist who began working on temperature-compensating alloys from 1891, in aid of Geodesy and Metrology (Earth sciences and measurement), following-up on the research of Henri Sainte-Claire-Deville. By 1896 he was collaborating with Swiss manufacturers to apply his findings to horology. He first developed the Anibal (steel/nickel)-brass composite balance wheel, which was commercially referred to as a "Guillaume balance". This was followed by Invar bimetallic balance and Elinvar balance spring. In 1920, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for creating these miraculous metals. Balances with those new alloys he referred to as "Integral Balance". In his Nobel address, Guillaume humorously suggested one “slight defect” with the widespread use of these alloys in chronometers; the régleur may no longer be required!
In correspondence with the English chronometer maker Robert Gardner in 1901, Guillaume was very specific about the proper use of his terminology:
"The term "Guillaume Balance Wheel" is only to be associated with a laminated (brass on the outside and Anibal on the inside), cut, compensating balance wheel controlled by a balance spring made of plain steel and known to be affected by temperature changes and magnetism. Using the name Invar or Elinvar associated with the Guillaume balance wheel is erroneous. If the inside of the balance wheel is made of Invar and/or controlled by an Elinvar balance spring it is no longer a Guillaume balance wheel."
The Observatoire de Geneve began conducting chronometer trials in 1772, on an as-needed basis, only six years after the first trials at Greenwich. They revolutionized Observatory competitions in 1874 by introducing an annual timing contest, or Concours, with a points system. Watches which successfully passed 45 days of testing were issued a Bulletin de Marche, certifying the results obtained. Watches which scored more than 2/3 of the available points were eligible for further awards. 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honourable Mention prizes were granted for the best timekeeping within the categories of marine chronometer, deck or pocket chronometer, and chronometer with complications. Manufacturers and adjusters also competed for recognition through special prizes awarded for excellence during the competition. Most significant for 1909, the total points available increased from 300 to 1000.
"...A few years after the commencement of his labours, a balance appeared in observatory competitions, bearing the name of its manufacturer, Mr. Crausaz, which, if my information is correct, is consistent with the balance that I have written on. I raised no protest, arguing that the time is too precious to be spent in vain claims of priority, and that, moreover, I who described the new balance while assuring myself no industrial protection, had left the door wide open to manufacturers who thought proper to be interested.
It was much later that in order to satisfy a desire expressed by some chronometer makers, I undertook, with the assistance of the Société de Commentry-Fourchambault & Decazeville for the metallurgical part, and the Société des fabriques de spiraux for the watch part, long experiments in order to give the balance rim greater elasticity . The invention of the balance had cost me a few calculations using the newly discovered properties
of nickel steels, the experiments to increase the rigidity of the balance were, however, quite expensive, and it was natural to seek, in an industrial operation, payment of the expenditure incurred, which is why the Société des fabriques de spiraux reserved this production and some details are still kept secret. This company has
kept my name to the new balance.
In a recent publication, attached to the Traité d’horlogerie de Grossmann père et fils, it seemed preferable to give the balance a name recalling its essential property, which is to ensure full compensation at all temperatures. I have therefore referred to as an Integral Balance, and in a statistical summary of the use of the balance, I attached, in observatory reports, the Crausaz balance "to Guillaume balance", that is the reason that this statistic represents a constant progress in the use of the Integral Balance, while the report by Dr. Arndt shows a slight drop of the Guillaume balance. Your journal has kindly given a statistically correct report for Hamburg in the recent article devoted to this observatory contest (October 1911).
It is not for me to make a comparison between the results provided by the Integral Balance system, they are constructed by the factories of Mr Crausaz or by other manufacturers. The rank occupied in the contest of chronometers fitted with these various balances in this regard is the best touchstone. But I thought to act in the interest of fairness, recalling, with a brief historical note, that under various names, these balances use
the same fundamental properties of alloys, and work according to the same calculation published in your journal a little over thirteen years ago..."
Please accept, Mr. Editor , etc. . Ch.-Ed. Guillaume 29 August 1912
STANDARDS OF COMPETITION FOR 1909 : 1927
The results are presented in this form:
Daily mean deviation = m
Mean deviation by position = p
Error compensation = c
Rate resumption = r
Method of calculation points:
2 categories; A and B, but only one formula for both categories.
The category is defined by the diameter of the chronometer.
Class A diameter is less than 43 millimeters.
Category B is larger than 43 millimeters.
A new formula is applied in order to better distinguish the competitors.
The old formula is still present in the results.
The values m, d, c and r are expressed in hundredths of a second.
Total = 300 points (0.75-m) * 400 / 3 + (2.5-p) * 40 + (0.20-c) * 350 + (5.0-r) * 6
Absolute perfection 300 points
New formula as of 1909:
Total = 1000 points (0.50-m) * 600 + (2.0-p) * 150 + (0.150-c) * 2000 + (2.5-r) * 40
Absolute perfection 1000 points
Research Into Non-Magnetic Metals
From Secrets of Vacheron Constantin by Franco Cologni:
"Although innumerable wristwatches in the first half of the twentieth century were still vulnerable to the pull of the magnetic fields around metallic structures, electrical installations and the new invention of television, the technical staff at Vacheron Constantin had for many years known how to protect the balances, balance springs, and escapements of their chronometers. In 1846, they had equipped a watch with an experimental bronze balance spring and balance. In 1862, when the firm was a member of a body dedicated to research into non-magnetic materials, it created its first watches with balance springs made of palladium, followed in 1885 by a movement in which the balance, balance spring, lever body, and wheel were made of a palladium alloy, the lever itself being in bronze and the escape wheel in gold.
In the closing years of the nineteenth century, the firm used balances and balance springs made by a specialist firm, the Usine génévoise de dégrossisage d’or, a move which gained them numerous awards at the chronometer competitions of the Geneva Observatory."
V&C with palladium
Guillaume's Letter on Crausaz