Deconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge Movement

Disclaimer: no living V&C's were harmed in the making of this article.  The victim was a previously-stripped parts watch.

Deconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge Movement

Deconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge Movement

Deconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge Movement

Deconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge Movement

Deconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge MovementDeconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge Movement

Very cool step-by-step deconstruct Dean, thanks!
07/11/2015 - 02:28

I'm looking forward to a view of the reconstruction angel  Very well done!

Re: Very cool step-by-step deconstruct Dean, thanks!
07/11/2015 - 04:23

Exactly. Even I can take things apart. LOL

Dave

First I have to make adjustments
07/11/2015 - 18:32

To improve accuracy within an acceptable +/- 15 minutes per day cryingFirst I have to adjust it!

That's why quarter repeaters were more common for a time
07/12/2015 - 02:33

There was no need for it to chime to the minute, when the time keeping of the watch was not accurate enough.  :-)

Dean, have you set up a workshop and working on that balance spring?  You have definitely gone beyond basic watch assembly/dis-assembly!

Re: Deconstructing an 1840s V&C Verge Movement
07/11/2015 - 14:19

When one thinks that many of the parts were entirely hand-made it is truly a wonderful work of art!

Dave

A journey well worth taking - excellent views!...
07/11/2015 - 15:09

Dean, thank you for the interesting scans and graphics beautifully captured through the lens.

Best wishes

Tony

Part II, the Escapement
07/11/2015 - 21:34

Part II, the Escapement

Part II, the Escapement

Part II, the Escapement

The polished steel cap you see above, moved to reveal the underlying pivot hole, is a spring for the balance wheel's lower pivot; very rudimentary shock protection.  The upper pivot rested in a polished steel coqueret (missing on this watch, along with the regulator) on the decorated balance cock.

Although this style of caliber is often called "full plate", it does have a single bringe as seen below.  This facilitated positioning the 3rd and 4th wheels once the crown wheel was in place.

Part II, the EscapementPart II, the EscapementPart II, the Escapement

And here are more detailed pictures of the mainspring and fusee cone.  The ratchet click to hold tension on the mainspring is positioned underneath the fusee rather than on the mainspring barrel as with more modern watches.  It is the one part that shows signs of crude workmanship but is hidden and nevertheless functional.  On top of the fusee is a polished steel plate with a right-angle stop that acted to prevent overwinding, replaced in later times with the familiar Geneva stop works.  The mainspring barrel arbor has a very simple directional hook which would tension the spring when turned in the correct direction, but slip harmlessly if wound the wrong way.

Part II, the Escapement

Part II, the Escapement

Part II, the Escapement

 

Re: Part II, the Escapement
07/12/2015 - 02:19

This is fascinating stuff! I wonder how many hours it would take to make the individual parts and how they were made. Probably in a book somewhere...

Dave

tbis is really great - thanks.
07/12/2015 - 15:48

I appreciate the disclaimer, as well. PETW (People for the Ethical Treatment of Watches)mould have been most displeased. 

Along with the wonderment of what it must have been like to construct one of these while making the individual parts by hand 175 years ago, I am just amazed at the beauty of that "skeletonized" decorative/protective cover for the mainspring. As discussed in another thread, this is both beauty and function. Thank you for the great pictures. 

Part III, V&C of the 1840s
07/12/2015 - 20:25

Having a tangible object from the past in hand always leads to thoughts of a shared connection with those who also touched it in the distant past.  The discovery of initials "AS" scratched on the bottom plate suggests an identity; was this a factory technician or farmer repassient?  I hope the latter, which casts me back to our time wandering the Jura Trail and spotting those isolated houses with tell-tale rows of windows along the top floors, well above basement stables.

The year 1839 was one of the most significant for Vacheron & Constantin, and indeed Swiss watchmaking in its entirety, according to the Annales of Charles Constantin.  It was the year that Georges-Auguste Leschot signed a contract with the Manufacture to develop and perfect the machinery for volume production of lever and cylinder escapements to compliment new standardized base plates; the so-called Vacheron calibres.  So the death knell of the verge was sounded even while this watch was in production!

The promise of Leschot's devices spurred V&C to expand their markets in South America and Europe.  In 1840, Jaques Barthélémy Vacheron advised a prospective merchant of their revolutionary promise:

We are busy on an entirely different “systémer” of manufacture and watchmaking.  To achieve the goal that we propose, we feel it is necessary to make the blanks ourselves, so as to obtain perfect regularity which leads to ease and economy in all details of the establishment, also new methods of which we are the authors, which will allow us to supply you with better watches than those of our second quality, at lower prices.

However, it wasn't until 1842 that the machinery was sufficiently perfected to please Monsieur Leschot that new production commenced.  Soon after, in 1844, Vacheron & Constantin rented new premises previously occupied by the local police; the old fortified tower known to all Genevois as the Tour de l'Ile.  This year also marked the entry of the young Charles-César Vacheron into the firm, allowing his father Jaques Barthélémy to finally retire.

The 1840s was a very hectic decade for the Manufacture.  Aside from the bustle of industry, there were political upheavals.  The Sonderbundskrieg of 1846 saw troops exchanging fire with citizens in the shadows of the Tour de l'Ile, when a canon shot crashed through the second floor wall!  In fact, all of Europe was experiencing a wave of democratic revolutions in some part attributed to the impact of technology on the working class.  Peace was finally restored in Switzerland in 1848 with the signing of their Federal Constitution.

Part III, V&C of the 1840s

After a busy week...
07/13/2015 - 14:33

...I am finally getting the chance to read this thoroughly entertaining and instructive thread, Dean.  I love the third part where we get some background history.  Clever of you to lead with some tantalizing images of the dismantled watch and then delve into the historical context.  You are honing your storytelling skills well.  I look forward to more.

Best,

Robert

you actually took the chain apart?!!!! Thanks for this entertaining journey
07/13/2015 - 15:11

.

There's a time and a place for everything - and this is it!...
07/13/2015 - 20:52

Dean, put your hammer down and take a break......you deserve it!

A wonderful and extremely enjoyable insight into the destruction industry.

Another, priceless, informative cycle of events.

With greatful thanks. 

Tony

Hi Tony, how has your summer been so far?
07/14/2015 - 04:23

Hope you have been enjoying good weather.  If I appear at bit stir-crazy its because the outside air is so fouled by forest fire smoke that its difficult to go outside sad.

Hi Tony, how has your summer been so far?

Fortunately, Dean, we are not suffering like yourselves...
07/14/2015 - 14:23

I think the title of the song 'things ain't what they used to be' sums-up things perfectly.

Yes, we've had the odd burst of warm, sunny, weather but it all leaves alot to be desired. Lot's of  'cloud screen' and chilly winds!

I'm wondering how you manage to cope with such a smoke-filled atmosphere?

My good wishes to the family - hopefully you're all keeping well.

Regards

Tony

I would recommend a move to Southwest Florida, but...
07/16/2015 - 21:09

Dean would have to trade in his mountineering gear for diving gear.  Trade your hiking boots for some swamp exploration gear.  We don't get many fires.  the odd hurricance, but... yeah.... those are somewhat bad.  We would welcome you Dean.  We seem to see mostly Ontarians and Québécoise, but you would be most welcome to be sure.