Something Interesting at the British Museum

I visited the British Museum a few weeks ago while in London for a conference. Amongst their collection was this interesting item: a fully functioning crown and verge movement.

In the secong photo you can see the "foliot" bar with the two weights and attached to a circular ring.

Originally there was no ring and the movement of the bar with the weights could be quite erratic. Hence the name foliot from the French "fol" (mad).

However the movement of this "balance spring" was still not entirely stable and was affected significantly by gravitiy. It was only with the use of a pig's bristle acting as a sping that made a major improvement in function.

The crown or escape wheel is seen in most of the photos and the upper verge in some. The lower verge is seen with difficulty in the first photo.

The drive is a fuse type.

I believe this an original movement and not a copy.

The machining is quite crude.

The other interesting feature which you will see by their absence are hands (look Ma, no hands!)

These movements did not have any. They struck the approximate time to mark some religious daily event.

It was only later that the hour hand was added and much later with an improvement of the movement's precision that a minute hand was added (with the appropriate gearing , of course).

Something Interesting at the British Museum

 

Something Interesting at the British Museum

 

 

Something Interesting at the British Museum

 

Something Interesting at the British Museum

 

Something Interesting at the British Museum

If you are in London, their watch and clock section is definitly woth a visit.

 

Thanks JB, its very cool and educational.
06/21/2016 - 05:48

I love seeing how movement designs evolve over time!

Re: Thanks JB, its very cool and educational.
06/21/2016 - 15:24

Thanks, Dan,

You might enjoy "Timepieces, Masterpieces of Chronometry" by David Christianson; Firefly Books. Excellent history of clocks and watches, lavishly illustrated and an easy read.

Joseph

Added to my Amazon list JB, merci beaucoup mon ami! (nt)
06/22/2016 - 14:43
good to know, should be in London in a month or so
06/21/2016 - 09:47

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Re: good to know, should be in London in a month or so
06/21/2016 - 15:28

An excellent collection, Alex.

Their watches were not on display at the time of my visit. They were redoing the exhition case. But lots to see!

There is an interesting long-case clock that allowed one to tell the time at night. The numerals of the dial were translucent and there was a candle behind the dial to create back lighting and display the numbers.

Unfortunately the combination of a hot candle and a wooden case had unfortunate consequences on many occasions.

Joseph

Can you give us an idea of the age and size, Joseph?
06/21/2016 - 19:21

Thanks for sharing these very helpful pics showing the workings of the grand-daddy of mechanical timekeeping.  Do you know the material used for the chain?

Anyone wanting to look inside V&C verge watches can check here and here.

Can you give us an idea of the age and size, Joseph?

Re: Can you give us an idea of the age and size, Joseph?
06/21/2016 - 23:06

Hi dean,

At first I thought it was leather. You can see the material clearly in the photo of the fusée. But I believe it was actually cat gut.

The chain was not introduced until 1625 in Switzerland.

I don't know the date of this particular model but given that it looks more like a balance wheel than the original foliot movements and that the weights are notched into it rather than susupended, I would say it is from the late 16th early 17th century.

I'll have a look next time I'm there (probably Nov/Dec laugh

Joseph