Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Watch Revival (Number 2)

Welcome to the second of our posts about mechanical watch revival.

Crispin Jones (Mr Jones) has been attending evening classes in watchmaking at Epping Forest Horological Club learning the skills of mechanical watch servicing and repair. In this second post, Crispin works on a Waltham Silver Trench Watch from 1914, firstly describing a little of its history:

This is another trench watch, but this time from an American maker - Waltham. American watches were extremely high quality (much higher quality than Swiss in their time). They took the best elements of the English watch (high quality engineering, top quality materials) but dropped the hand-made craftsman element. The American watch industry focused on very high quality, repeatable manufacturing, mainly using stamping presses to create the parts. They used semi-skilled labour and invested a great deal of time and attention on the machinery. American watches were more expensive than the hand-made watches from Europe, but they kept much better time too.

The American watch industry did something else very different from the European - they separated the manufacture of case and movement. Instead they made their movements interchangeable (at least within individual brand), so you could select the movement that you wanted and pair it with the case you wanted (or could afford). The retailer then assembled the watch for you. I guess if you had a sudden windfall that you could pop back to the jewellers and have your existing watch recased in a new, more expensive case. This is quite different from the English tradition where watch  movements were passed to casemakers, who in turn made a case that would fit just that specific movement (and no other!) 

The winding crown and tube is quite distinctive on American watches because it's a little more prominent than on a Swiss watch of this era. This is because the crown and tube are used to house part of the winding stem that is not removed when the movement is inserted into a case.

I brought this watch as a pair on ebay with another Swiss trench watch. The watch wasn't working when I got it and was in a pretty filthy condition, with the case badly tarnished as you can see in the pictures.

We can date this watch accurately because of the hallmark on the caseback. Hallmarks are one of the earliest forms of consumer protection (dating back to the 1400s). The hallmarks guarantee that the precious metal used in the item is of the stated quality, in this case that it is Silver.

The marks here show the following:
• At the top is the the lion passant (walking) used to denote sterling silver (that is silver of 92.5% purity also called 925, or Sterling silver).
• On the left is the anchor which is the mark for the Birmingham Assay office (the office that has certified the silver)
• On the right is the date letter "r" for 1916 / 17
• Underneath is the makers mark "A.L.D" which stands for Aaron Lufkin Dennison who was the founder of the Dennison Watch Case company. 

Also we can date the watch movement from the serial number: 20278575
There is a database maintained here that tells us: that the movement is a size 3/0 and was made sometime after 1907 (this movement is know simply as a "1907" which was the year it was first produced) and that it has 7 jewels.

It was clear from stripping the watch that the problem was the mainspring was broken. Fortunately it's still possible to buy new (old stock) Waltham mainsprings. Additionally a neat feature of American watches is the motor-barrel that is designed to prevent the sudden release of energy that occurs when a spring breaks from damaging the rest of the watch. 

I cleaned the case by gently rubbing the tarnish with a fibreglass scratch brush, wetted down with soap and water. I had to re-glue part of the dial that had chopped (near the 8 hour marker). The parts of the movement were cleaned in the rotary cleaner and then the watch was reassembled.

It's testament to the quality of manufacturing that the parts of this watch fit together beautifully - everything drops into place neatly (the only part that's a bit fiddly is the negative set keyless mechanism, this is what marries up to the winding stem that is part of the case) . Even though this watch is nearly 100 years old and it was some way below the top grade, there isn't significant wear to any of the pivots or metal bushings.

Once assembled and oiled (and rather to my surprise) it ran very strongly. I gave it to my girlfriend to wear for a few days to see that it was keeping time on the wrist and happily all seems good with it. My timing machine is being repaired at the moment, so I'm not able to test the exact +- seconds per day, but I'm confident it's running to within than a minute / day.

I love that the movement of the watch has blued screws - that is the steel screws are polished and then heated until the steel changes to an iridescent blue. This isn't entirely for decoration - the bluing process also hardens the screws to the right kind of hardness (somewhere below glass-hard, which would make them too brittle and too mild-steel which would be too soft). The blues screws show the attention to detail that went into the Waltham watches - this movement would have been (I believe) the cheapest that they produced with only seven jewels and no adjustments, yet they still felt it was important to ensure that the screws were correctly tempered. The strong running of the watch today is also testament to this uncompromising quest for the best.

Friday, 25 May 2012

June newsletter

Untitled Document

Summer has finally arrived here in London (hopefully it has with you too).

We've been busy the past few months and we'd like to share a few of the things we've been working on.

We'd also like to let you know that we're now on twitter, say hello @MrJonesWatches

Invitation to Diamonds are… 31st May at the Oxo Tower
This year is the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (her 60th year on the throne) and to celebrate we're holding a special evening opening at our shop in the Oxo Tower on Thursday 31st May from 7pm - 9pm.
The workspace units in the Oxo Tower are exclusively available to independent designers and designer-makers, so it's a great place to find something a little bit different. Everyone will be open late on the night and we'll be delighted to share a glass of wine with you, please pop in and say hello!
Thursday 31st May, 7pm - 9pm.
Mr Jones Design
Unit 1.11 Oxo Tower Wharf
London SE1 9PH
Full details about the event here. Click for Google map

We've been writing a new blog (which we're aiming to update every week with something interesting) here are the first few entries:

Crispin Jones (Mr Jones) has been studying mechanical watch repair - in this post he shows the stages of cleaning and assembling a first world war 'trench watch'
This post has the story of the design of our Cyclops watch - it was inspired by a 1970s watch: the Chromachron.
We have quite a collection of watches here in the studio, here's a little bit about one of them - a 1970s steering wheel watch.

Mr Jones Watches is a division of Mr Jones Design Limited. Company number: 6528758. Registered in England.

Cyclops Summer Nights (unisex)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Archive Design Watch - Old England Steering Wheel watch

We have an archive of watches here at the office. Archive is of course a grand word to describe a quantity of watches way beyond what one person would ever need. The majority of the watches that we have here are of little monetary value. However, they are interesting pieces either because of their design, or because of the insight they give into the time when they were made. I think the guiding rule when buying anything old (watch or otherwise) is that it should be of it's time and give some insight into the culture and values of that era.

This wheel watch is a good example of this (and is a great, bizarre design). The watch is a brash expression of male machismo from the 1970s. I think it's interesting to read the watch in terms of general car ownership in the UK: cars was the preserve of the wealthy before the second world war. Post-war austerity meant that it took until the 50s and 60s for the car to become widely affordable in the UK and initially it was seen a form of practical family transport, an alternative to the railways.


This watch is part of the second wave of car ownership: the car isn't just a means of transporting a family around, but has become something for young men to aspire to. And to show off in.

This watch is branded IAM, for Institute of Advanced Motorists. The IAM is open to all drivers who have passed an advanced driving test, this in turn entitles the driver to a lower insurance premium (I believe, as a life-long non-driver I'm somewhat vague on the details here...)

Of course one imagines the true appeal of the IAM is for members to be able to bask in the satisfaction of their membership and the proof it gives of their status as an advanced driver (not like all the other idiots on the roads!) The watch is a great way of displaying membership of this association. One can imagine the conversations, "oh, my watch? Yes I am a member as it happens…"

The wheel watch was made by Old England, who were a subsidiary of Accurist (recently relaunched) Old England created fashion watches in the late 60s and they produced a large range of these wheel watches, some of which you can see here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Cyclops Development

Welcome to this, the first of our new series of posts about watch design development. Throughout this blog, we plan to take you through Crispin Jones' (AKA Mr Jones) inspiration and design processes, revisiting our existing designs, and learning about how watch designs are developed. In this first post, Crispin talks us through The Cyclops watch. Cyclops has been our most popular model since it was released in 2009.

The inspiration for the design of Cyclops came from another watch - the Chromachron designed by Tian Harlan. Harlan is an artist not a watchmaker.

My understanding is that Harlan created a sculpture for the 1972 Munich Olympics that was the precursor for the Chromachron watch (but I'm unsure on this as I've never seen any images of this clock). Munich was the true design olympics, the quality of graphic design and the artworks commissioned have never been equalled. 

Tian Harlan believes that we don't really need all the precise time information that surrounds us. Indeed he believes that the rigid structure that timekeeping imposes on our lives is a negative phenomena and one that should be resisted. The Chromachron assigns a colour to each hour and has a wedge shaped hour hand that you read the time from. Time telling is slightly more approximate than with a conventional watch (you can tell the time to within about 5 minutes, rather than to the exact second).

Harlan's philosophy is quite playful (if a little disingenuous), in the little book that serves as the packaging for the watch he writes:

Everybody has a watch.
But nobody has time.
Because time runs away in seconds.
It is time for another watch: The Colour-Time-Watch.
The day has 12 colours.
According to the light from morning until evening.
Each colour is an hour.
Each colour part is part of an hour.
Suddenly the moment matters.
All at once it is shortly before yellow.
And no longer five to twelve.

Before I started designing watches, I wore a Chromachron (this was the first watch I wore after many years without one). I discovered the watch online and really fell in love with it - both the visual appearance and the philosophy. The watch I wore was one of the 1980s quartz reissues, but pictured here is an original 1970s mechanical version. In 2009 I was thinking about the new designs and wanted to make my homage to the Chromachron. 

Pictured above is the first page of sketches I did for the Cyclops design - one of the colour palettes is from the Chromachron, but I decided quite quickly that I wanted to use my own palette. My plan with the design originally was to have a white dot for the hour hand (See picture below). The time would be read from the eclipse shape that this dot formed with the coloured hour circle. We sampled this, but the illusion of the hour marker blending into the dial was not very convincing (the white of the hand was different from the white of the dial, so visually you didn't perceive the colour shape, but rather just saw the dot).

I adapted the design so that the hour marker was a ring - this gave a much stronger sense of the colour shape formed between the hour hand and the circle (and this gives the time information). What I like about the Chromachron (and what I hoped to achieve with Cyclops) is that you can learn to read the time quite intuitively. You don't have the extra layer of cognitive processing that you need with a digital watch where you need to 'read' the time, instead you can read the time with a glance. Oddly because you don't 'read' the time in a conventional way I found it difficult to verbalise the time when asked it by someone else, "shortly before yellow" can be quite a disconcerting answer!

So there you have it. We hope this gives you something of an insight into our design inspiration and development. Next week we will be talking about another of our unique watches, so stay tuned...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Watch Revival (Number 1)

Hello and welcome to the first of our new series of posts about mechanical watch revival. Within this series, we plan to take you through the basics of bringing mechanical wristwatches back into service. We currently only make battery-powered quartz watches, but are very interested in the history of mechanical watches (which are powered by winding up the mainspring). Join us as we learn about the process of servicing these timepieces, perhaps picking up new skills as we go.

Crispin Jones (AKA Mr Jones) has been attending evening classes in watchmaking at Epping Forest Horological Club for about six months now (watchmaking is essentially watch servicing and repairing). We are planning to produce some mechanical watches in the future, so this course provides a good grounding in the principals. In this first post, Crispin works on a French "Trench Watch", firstly describing a little of the history behind it.

Trench Watches are amongst the very earliest wristwatches that were produced for men. The practicality of wearing a watch on ones wrist first caught on amongst the military during the Boer war (1899 - 1902). This military adoption of the wristwatch became more widespread during the first world war, hence the term Trench watch as a catch-all for these early wristwatches. Wristwatches for ladies existed earlier - there was a fashion for them from about the 1890s, but this seems to have been a passing fad.

The Trench Watch movement is a basic mechanical watch, the wearer needs to wind it up every day. The winding tightens the coils of the mainspring that provide the motive power - basically this spring is allowed to slowly unwind and this energy is used to move the hands. 

Mechanical watches should be serviced every three - five years, servicing involves disassembling the watch, cleaning all the parts, reassembling and applying a little oil to the the moving parts (the watch movement was designed to be serviced in this way). This probably seemed like a scam dreamt up by watchmakers to earn money, but as the parts of the watch are constantly in motion for all the time between services it doesn't seem so unreasonable. Of course human nature means that most people wore their watch until it stopped working, at which point they took it in for repair (or brought a new, more fashionable one). I suspect that this is what happened to this watch.

About this watch:

This watch came from ebay in France, although it is not hallmarked (as would be a silver watch sold in England from this period), so we cannot date it exactly, however I am confident it derives from the first world war. It bears signs of being for military use: it has an (overprinted) 24 hour dial and you can see the remnants of the radium lume that allowed the time to be read in the dark. The style of the movement and the porcelain dial further serve to place it to within the first 30 years of the 20th century.

I was drawn to this particular watch as an archetype of the early, military watch. The size of the watch is slightly smaller than would generally be considered a man's watch these days at 32mm, but it sits nicely on the wrist.  

What I did (with some help) to repair the watch:

I should say at the start that I'm not trying to provide technical instruction here - it's more a record of what we did to get the watch back to life and I have omitted some stages. The watch was not working when I received it, and indeed it had lost the winding stem and crown. I purchased a mixed lot of winding stems (from here) and managed to find one that fitted (it was the second one that I tried, so I got very lucky!).

I disassembled the watch completely (this part is generally quite straightforward). You can see (almost) all the parts laid out in the photo above, this sequence represents the third time I'd reassembled the watch and for expediency I left the mainspring inside the mainspring barrel (middle row, extreme left) and also the balance spring attached to the balance cock (top row, the lower piece to the left of the dial). 

I cleaned it in a rotary cleaning machine: you load the parts into a little metal basket and then spin them for several minutes in the cleaning solutions (I'll get some shots of this for the next watch, so you'll have to imagine this for now if you've never seen one). The parts are then spun dry in a little heater. After this the jewel holes are "pegged out" this basically means you twiddle a little stick inside them to remove any dried on oil residue that the cleaning machine didn't shift.

After cleaning I reassembled and oiled the watch. The watch has a tiny amount of oil applied to the jewel holes where the pivots of the wheels rotate (the jewels are synthetic rubies, so not of any value!). The oil is applied when the watch is assembled - a single, very small drop of oil is applied with a flat piece of metal called an oiler. You aim the drop of oil at the gap between the wheel pivot and the edge of the jewel and capillary action draws the oil into place. The oil then forms a thin layer that allows the pivot to rotate freely within the hole. The pivots are specially shaped to prevent the oil simply running away and dispersing through the watch.

The first time I assembled the watch, it all worked fine however there was a problem with the mainspring inside the barrel: when you wound the watch up the mainspring would not catch at the end of it's winding (basically it was loose inside of the barrel). This meant that the watch couldn't be fully wound. My tutor Richard helped me put a new bend in the end of the winding spring, you can see this in the photo. This hook allows the spring to catch onto a little protrusion inside the mainspring barrel, the second photo shows the spring wound into the barrel, Richard has an oiler in his right hand and (I guess) has just applied some grease to the coils of the mainspring before closing the barrel. 

Once assembled and oiled I hooked the watch up to a timing machine that acoustically processes the "tick-tock" noise to judge how well the watch is keeping time. By adjusting the regulator needle on the balance I managed to get this watch to the the point where it was +-12 seconds per day which is considered excellent performance for a watch of this age and quality of manufacture (this was not an especially expensive watch when new).  

I've worn the watch out and about several times, it runs very well and should be good for plenty more years of service. 

Date: around WWI (1914 - 18)
Movement size: 12 ligne (27.07mm)
Watch size: 33mm diameter
Jewels: 15
Made in: possibly France or Switzerland
Features: stem wind and set / sub seconds at 6 o'clock / 24 hour markings on dial

The movement is nicely finished under the dial (this type of finish is called perlage). This is a side of the movement that would never ben seen by the customer, so shows that there was some pride in the overall quality the movement.

On the dial side there is a Swiss patent number 51482, which relates to the crown mechanism without setting lever spring. Patent filed 05-03-1910 by Fontainemelon Horlogerie, CH (FHF)