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Tim Temple watches - Watch glossary
Category: General technical and industrial > Watches
Date & country: 08/11/2007, UK
Words: 241

Self-Winding Watch
Another name for the perpetuelle.

The initial tension imparted by a maker or repairer to the mainspring, so that it never falls completely slack even when technically ‘run down`.   This is done by turning the arbor of the barrel.   Until about 1780 set-up was adjusted by means of a worm between the barrel and the front plate, engagi

A stoppage resulting from a loss of momentum in the balance so that it fails to bridge the gap between one impulse and the next.   This can be caused by an abrupt movement on the wearer's part;  if this turns the body of the watch in the same direction as the rotation of the balance, the latter will

Side Lever
(or English lever).   The type of lever escapement normal in Britain from about 1815 to 1910;  the lever is positioned alongside the escape-wheel rather than between the escape-wheel and the balance.

Single Sunk
Of a dial:  having the subsidiary seconds dial recessed, the remainder of the dial itself being flush.   This arrangement begins to appear in Switzerland in the 1840s and in Britain and America from about 1860.   Swiss dial-makers achieved it by grinding back the dial surface, British and American b

Skeleton Dial
A dial in which as much as possible of the material is cut out to reveal the movement behind (the front plate being similarly cut away).

Spade Hand
An hour hand with a terminal shaped like a playing-card ‘spade`, but somewhat narrower;  widely used in the period 1790-1900.

Spiral Breguet
Not a maker's name (even a forged one), but merely the French term for an overcoil balance-spring;  often stamped or engraved on the cuvette of a watch so fitted.

Spring Detent
The standard escapement for marine chronometers throughout the 19th century, invented by either Arnold or Earnshaw in about 1780.   As the balance swings, a cam on the balance-staff comes up against a light flat spring; on the anti- clockwise arcs this has no effect, but in the other direction the s

Steady Pin
A brass peg on the back of a bridge or cock, mating with a hole in the plate and so ensuring that the bridge etc. is correctly positioned during assembly.

(1)   A precaution against overwinding in fusee watches.  The chain, as it approaches the bottom plate, lifts a spring- loaded arm into the path of a steel cam rigidly fixed to the fusee-cone;  when these two meet, the winding-gear is immobilised.   (2)   A hack mechanism for stopping the train (and

Straight-Line Lever
The 20th-century style of the lever escapement — somewhat confusingly so called, since the lever does not form a straight line but carries the pallet-arm crossways.   (The name results from the fact that the arbors of the balance, lever and escape-wheel all line up in a row.)   This form is actually

Subsidiary Seconds
A small dial for the second-hand, usually at the six o'clock position and (from about 1860) recessed to increase the

Sully, Henry
(1680-1728) English clock- and watchmaker working in France, inventor of the oil-sink and early experimenter with the idea of a precise timekeeper for use in checking a ship's longitude.

Supplementary Arc
The outermost portion of the swing of a balance, before and after its period of interaction with the train.

Sweep Second Hand
A second hand which is centrally mounted so that it sweeps the entire surface of the dial.   The expression is often wrongly applied to the hand on a subsidiary dial.   Thomas Mudge's first lever watch (1759) seems to be the earliest example of a centre second hand.

Switzerland, the recognised mistress of the world in the field of watchmaking, came very late to that distinction. Watchmaking began quite early — Rodolphe Breguet, a direct ancestor of the great Abraham Louis, was already at work in Neuchâtel in 1594 — but for the next 200 years the Swiss were main

Tact, Montre À
A Breguet invention providing a simple and inexpensive means of telling the time from a watch by touch alone.   The wide bezel carries an additional chapter-ring with a projecting knob at each hour.   An extra hand, fitted outside the crystal, revolves over this ring;  it is pushed round manually, n

Third Wheel
The train wheel between the centre wheel and the fourth wheel.   In a full-plate watch it is usually recessed into the front plate.

A fashion of the years 1805-1825.   The fourth wheel is omitted and the escape-wheel, which takes its place and

Three-Quarter Plate
A style of watch that has a back-plate almost complete but cut away at one side to make room for the balance-wheel, which is mounted level with the plate instead of protruding beyond it.   This style was introduced by British makers in about 1820 as a concession to the growing demand for slimmer mov

Timing Screw
One of a number of small screws, often of gold, inserted horizontally in the rim of a compensated balance.   Adjusting these selectively can alter the poise of the balance and may help to correct position errors;  adjusting them uniformly modifies the circumference of the wheel and therefore alters

Tipsy Key
An alternative name for the Breguet key, which incorporated a ratchet so that if turned the wrong way it revolved harmlessly instead of damaging the movement.

An influential family of English watchmakers who specialised in pretentious but well-made products for the rising middle classes.   Morris Tobias worked in Wapping, near the London Docks, from 1794 onwards;  Michael Isaac operated in Liverpool until 1829 and was one of the principal exponents of the

Tompion, Thomas
(1639-1731)   English clock- and watchmaker, who more than anyone else established the supremacy of English watchmaking in the 18th century;   associate of Robert Hooke and maker of the earliest English balance-spring watches; pioneer of the repeater (with Quare) and of the seconds hand.   In the li

Top Plate
Alternative name for front plate.

An invention of Breguet's for minimising positional errors.   The balance-wheel and escape-wheel are mounted on a revolving platform geared to the third wheel so that it makes a complete turn every sixty seconds;  thus any imbalance in the weight-distribution of these parts, which might otherwise af

The circle of divisions on a dial marking the minutes or seconds, usually consisting of radial strokes between a pair of circular lines;  on many late 19th-century Swiss watches the latter are only guides, drawn as faintly as possible.   Dots instead of strokes, with the circles omitted, are sometim

(1)   The sequence of wheels and pinions that transmits the drive from the barrel (or fusee cone) to the controller.   It normally consists of the great wheel, centre wheel, third wheel, fourth wheel and escape-wheel;  each of these carries a pinion to receive the drive from the preceding component.

A malfunction of escapements which deliver the impulse in only one direction, such as the duplex and spring detent. Occasionally the escape-wheel will judder against the controller and deliver impulse twice in one cycle, resulting in a double-length drop.

Turkish Market
From the early 18th century onward, the upper classes in the Ottoman empire developed a liking for European watches, a demand which at first was principally met by London makers;  later on (from about 1800) the Swiss gained possession of the field, still however marking many of their products with p

United States
The beginnings of watchmaking in the United States were hampered by a want of metallurgical skills and raw materials; watches could scarcely be made out of wood, as were some of the earliest American clocks.   Many early ‘watchmakers` imported movements from England.   By 1859, however, the American

Up-And-Down Indicator
An additional hand that shows how far a watch is wound up, usually working on a subsidiary dial placed below the 12 o'clock position.

The oldest and longest-lived of all escapements, invented (probably before 1300) for large wrought-iron church clocks and successfully applied, almost without change, in 18th-century French watches an inch or less in diameter.   Verge watches are notoriously inaccurate, tending to run very fast;  Ca

The long arbor running horizontally between the plates of a verge movement, with the crown-wheel at its inner end and an elongated pinion, engaging with the contrate-wheel, about half-way along its length.   In English and Dutch watches the bearing at the outer end is a plain brass plug, whereas Fre

A modification of the cylinder escapement, invented in the 1750s by Jean André Lepaute and refined by Lépine.   The cylinder is very small and an extended curved flange projects from it on the side where the escape-wheel teeth emerge from it;  the pressure of a tooth against this flange gives an enh

The first of the great U.S. watchmaking firms, originally set up in 1849-50 by Aaron Dennison in partnership with Edward Howard and David Davis.   The enterprise survived several reincarnations, including Appleton, Tracy & Co. (1857;  the name is worth noting because it was revived as a grade-name o

U.S. manufacturer based in Waterbury, CT, originally founded as clockmakers in 1843 and connected with the pioneer American clockmaker Chauncey Jerome (1793-1860).    The Waterbury name dates from 1857 and watchmaking began twenty years later.   Waterbury specialised in cheap watches (as they still

Winding Square
The protruding end of the mainspring arbor, squared off to receive a key, in a key-wound watch.

Winged Cock
A cock with projections (shaped roughly like oak-leaves or stylised wings) on either side of the circular table at the point where it joins the foot;  common on English watches from about 1710 to 1750.

Zech, Jakob
(?-1540) Bohemian craftsman, maker of the earliest precisely datable portable table clock (effectively a very large watch).   Made for King Sigismund I of Poland, it is dated 1525 and has a wrought-iron verge movement with fusee, hour and month hands (but no minute indicator), a disc rotating once a