A Vintage Tool

Balance-Spring Vibrating Tool Circa 1930

A Vintage Tool

I had the opportunity to acquire this fascinating vintage tool, having previously observed it in use at a Manufacture in Villeret.  It is a balance-spring vibrating tool, otherwise known as a vibrator...but don't Google that!

A Vintage Tool

Today the worker who uses this tool is often called a régleuse so it was interesting to learn from the Dictionnaire professionnel illustré de l’horlogerie that term actually refers to someone who times or regulates a finished watch movement (not surprising upon reflection, as the feminine of régleur).  The more accurate description of the trade is Poseuse de spiraux.
The Poseuse de spiraux had a delicate job with many tasks, including; selecting the balance spring, pinning it up to the inner collet, centering and truing the spring, poising the balance, determining the count-point (where this tool is used), forming a terminal coil, then pinning up the balance-spring to the outer stud. The English would refer to the same worker as a "springer".

A Vintage Tool
This vibrating tool is circa 1930 and inscribed with the brand F. Schneider-Robert of Chaux-de-Fonds. It came with the original fitted box. As mentioned, the vibrating tool was used to "count" the balance-spring; that is, to determine the point where it oscillates in harmony with the reference balance of the tool.
The tool consists of a reference balance on a platform and a scaffold above. The test balance is suspended from the scaffold by its balance spring, held by a fine-point clamp, so that one arm of the balance wheel is directly in line with one of the arm of the reference balance. To impart motion to the reference and test balances together, the platform and scaffold are made to rotate using a lever and spring in the base of the tool.

A Vintage Tool
Once both balances are vibrating, they are observed to determine how close the test balance is to being synchronized with the reference balance. To alter the frequency of the test balance, the length of the balance spring is made shorter or longer by moving the attachment point at the clamp. When they remain synchronized for a specified period, the initial vibrating point has been determined. The excess hairspring is cut away, leaving enough to form the terminal curve and pin to the stud. Amusingly, I found many tiny snips of hairsprings at the bottom of the case.

A Vintage Tool
This vibrator is fixed at 18,000 vph. Their rate was periodically certified by an Observatory, hence the individual serial number. The reference balance can be completely removed from the tool, perhaps for shipping.

This YouTube clip from the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP) shows the tool in operation:

A Vintage Tool
fascinating as always. thank you!
11/18/2013 - 18:51
Большое спасибо
11/19/2013 - 06:48
I hope that Google Translate has said what I meant...thanks! cheeky
perfect :)
11/19/2013 - 16:58
though you can also say "merci" - I am French, living in Moscow for seven years))
LOL, I should have followed your motto
11/19/2013 - 18:11
"Trust but Verify" angel
Very cool!
11/19/2013 - 05:32
Thanks for the interesting post, Dean. Regards, Tony C.
Thanks Tony
11/19/2013 - 07:17
Digging around on the 'net revealed that for Geneva in the year 1917, one required 2 years of school to commence work as a poseuse de spiraux... This V&C ad from 1956 advertises for both "une poseuse de spiraux Breguet" (women-only need apply) and "un horloger régleur" for men. The poseuse de spiraux could specialize in the flat, helical or Breguet hairspring.  Forming the raised overcoil of a Breguet hairspring must have commanded great skill.
Very Cool Tool :-)
11/19/2013 - 13:24
Thanks for sharing this with us, but more importantly explaining so clearly how it is used!  yes  BR, Dan
Good advice - don't touch a search engine!...
11/19/2013 - 16:20
Dean, a most interesting look at a balance spring vibrating tool supported by some good copy. Tell me, have you used library pictures? I found the YouTube film fascinating and that inturn made me think if this process could be computerised in some way? As always - appreciate hearing what you've got to say. Thanks. Tony
Re: Good advice - don't touch a search engine!...
11/19/2013 - 18:56
It's interesting, Tony, that when the Americans really got into mass production of watches; unlike the Europeans, at least initially, the had someone assigned as "a springer". He never saw the watch until it came to him to adjust and insert and regulate the balance. That, apparently was his sole function. When done, he passed the watch along to the next person. Sounds like the assembly line was developed before Henry Ford :-) Joseph
An enjoyable read
11/20/2013 - 18:53
Thanks Dean
I've got to go find my photo of Daniel Roth....
11/20/2013 - 22:26
using this tool in the making of the Jean Daniel Nicolas tourbillon...... Bill
Please find them Bill
11/20/2013 - 23:15
meanwhile, here are some pics from 2009 of Mr. Roth working with the tool, posted by AndrewD at Purists: