10th September, 2022 AGM & Bring and Discuss
In September we had our Annual General Meeting followed by a ‘Bring and Discuss’. Last year it had to be held virtually. This year it was going to be in-person with a feeling of celebration from getting through a difficult two years. Alas our venue is in the shadow of Holyrood Palace which was now, regretfully, one of the centres of world attention. The surrounding roads were closed and the streets filled with crowds wishing to be close to the Palace and share in sorrow. Our meeting started with a minutes silence from those who made it to the venue.
The AGM part of the meeting then followed without much ado. We have survived financially, we had a good program of events last season and all committee members were re-elected. We discussed potential improvements to the social side of the group including the re-introduction of a pre-meeting lunch. Much encouraged by the fact that our favourite watering hole has reopened.
Alastair Walker took the honour of being our first speaker in the ‘Bring and Discuss’ event. He had recently repaired a clock with a ‘Mis-en-Marche’ (A lever to start a clock without moving it when the pendulum is inaccessible.) This was compared with the Scottish method of mounting the clock with a shoogly nail. He also showed a year going clock with a perpetual calendar that he has acquired. Photograph below. One of its oddities is that it has 5 spring barrels and only one winder. At least two are geared together in parallel. We look forward to an update with pictures showing the full mechanism.
I then took over and talked about two new clocks that had come my way since I had said that I had enough clocks and wasn’t going to buy any more. I hopefully justified my purchases by explaining the uniqueness of my finds and how entirely different my latest Synchronome is to my others. One of its characteristics is that it was one of the few with a white painted dial. This was a feature in the mid 1920s when there was a shortage of the engraved, silvered dials used before and since. One reason for their short appearance was that the paint would flake off the zinc plated metal base. Mine is a gross example. I picked the members brains for advice on how best to conserve the dial now that it is in this state. A front runner at the moment is to coat the dial with some clear shellac to bond it together. I will research the various options and see if I have the courage to try.
Peter Mehta rounded off the afternoon with the research he had done into the origins of a long case clock that he has recently serviced. An apt title would have been: In search of Raes Land. The clock had been signed by William Ballantyne whose workshop was in Raes Land just a few hundred meters from the meeting venue. Or back then a furlong or so. (Incidentally a furlong was originally the distance that an Ox could plough without needing a rest. Literally a ‘furrow long’) He was active between 1781 and 1806. Alas none of the buildings from that part of the Royal Mile survive to today. However Peter did manage to find references to Raes Land from around 1700. Sometimes the back story is just more interesting than the clock.
My thanks to all those who took part and lifted our spirits with friendly banter.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch.
14th May 2022 IWC Calibre 71/72 ‘Fishtail’ Pocket Watch Movement’ – Owen Gilchrist (BHI Bristol Branch) (Virtual and the Harry Younger Hall)
Scottish Branch Meeting Report May 2022
“IWC Calibre 71/72 ‘Fishtail’ Pocket Watch Movement”
In May 2022 we were delighted to welcome Owen Gilchrist to the meeting hall. Owen had been recruited to give us a talk pre-Covid. This was postponed until now and not held virtually due to the nature of the presentation. Probably a first in the history of the branch Owen was going to describe his ‘Fishtail’ movement by building it in front of us. The parts were brought to the hall in watch part cleaning baskets as if just out of the parts cleaner.
To achieve this Owen also brought a workbench, stool, lights, camera, projector, tools, boxes of spares and other movements to show. Moreover this was all transported from his home near Bristol. He began by describing the movement. Why it was called a ‘Fishtail’ and showing off some of its unique features. It is one of only 1200 of its type produced by IWC and is now over 100 years old. The finish on the parts was exemplary. It was noted that the finish on the escape wheel was different to the others. This had to be for a reason, possibly an indication of it being made with antimagnetic properties.
All parts of the movement carry the last few digits of a common serial number so we can be sure that the parts were all original. The movement also bore 3 IWC patent numbers. Owen has researched these and was amused to find that the features described did not actually all appear in the movement.
Assembly commenced to a hushed audience. So quiet that you could hear a pallet fork drop, also ably demonstrated. This was quickly recovered and the rest of the process continued without incident. I know how hard it can be to assemble anything let alone with an audience. Owens 1000s of previous watch services obviously helped. After demonstrating the completed movement on a watch timer, and many questions, members were able to crowd round and look at some of the other examples brought to the meeting.
The photograph shows members queuing to get a closer look at some of the other movements after the demonstration.
The branch extends its greatest thanks to Owen for such an enjoyable, unique, afternoon.
This was the last meeting in our 21/22 season. The season marked our return to meeting in person, at a new hall, and with a great variety of speakers and topics. Our next meeting will be In September 22 with our AGM followed by a ‘bring and discuss’.
9th April 2022 Ritchie Clocks – Eddy Odell (Professor of oral pathology and medicine KCL) (Virtual and the Harry Younger Hall)
“Ritchie Clocks and the Edinburgh Ring”
In April 2022 we were delighted to welcome Eddy Odell to the meeting hall. When Eddy was asked to give a talk to the branch he was worried that we would know all about his subject. That was very far from the truth. After his talk we knew a lot more but were probably only exposed to a fraction of Eddy’s research.
First founded in 1809 by James Ritchie the company produced turret clocks and sold watches and jewellery. By 1840 the use of electricity in clocks was taking hold and Ritchie’s became leaders in the field. No doubt aided by their family friendships with Alexander Bain – a genius who started life as a shepherd in Caithness, invented the first electric clock and the principles of telegraphy and faxing machines – and Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. On his death in 1849, the business was taken over by a son, Frederick Ritchie.
The time ball above the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh and the time gun at Edinburgh Castle are two of the most famous time signals in the world. The time ball was erected under the leadership of Professor Charles Piazzi Smyth. It became an official signal in March 1854. From the outset, the ball was released by an electric telegraph signal from a clock at the nearby Royal Observatory. The time gun on Edinburgh Castle was introduced in 1861, with automatic firing by a Castle clock that was synchronised by electric telegraph from the Observatory. Frederick made important contributions to the accuracy of both time signals. ‘Dropped Seconds’ being a feature incorporated in the slaved clocks to allow an observer at the master to check that the slave was still correctly locked to the second.
What few of us knew about was just how extensive the system grew in the next few years. It was possible to lease the correct time and have a clock installed at your premises controlled the same way. The Post Office, The Bank of Scotland, The City Chambers, to name a few, were not only linked to ‘the ring’ but many Ritchie slave clock systems also existed around Edinburgh. Most surprising of all, possibly, was a telegraph link to synchronise a time canon in Dundee from Edinburgh.
Very little is known about the whereabouts of any of the original master clocks or slaves. There were possibly some hundreds of items. Eddy would like to track down as many as possible. Alas they were not to a common design but all will have some common DNA about them. Below are 3 pictures which could act as a reference. A pendulum with a bob of coiled wire over a laminated magnet. A movement with unusual contacts. Probably a 4 digit serial number and possibly the emblem with lightning flashes. If anyone wishes to contact me with details I will gladly pass them on.
The branch extends its greatest thanks to Eddy for such an enjoyable, information packed, afternoon.
12th March 2022 ‘Swing Time – Making a Wooden Pendulum Clock’ (Harry Younger Hall) – George Johnston
In March 2022 we were delighted to welcome George Johnston to the meeting hall. George’s talk had been postponed due to the Covid19 Lockdowns. He had requested not to present online as we would miss out on seeing his project clocks in person. I am delighted that we agreed as it was well worth the wait.
He brought two quality wooden clocks of different designs with him. These were set up on a side table. Rarely has a speaker been unable to start his talk due to the oohs and aahs and rapid fire questions from the branch members. Finally after a few “I’ll get to that in my talk” he was able to begin.
Both clocks were based on designs by Clayton Boyer, based in Hawaii. His first is called “Swing Time” and features a 1 second compound pendulum. It is powered by a small geared motor supplied by a hidden 9V battery and tilt switch. The weight of the motor and battery is what drives the clock. This Remontoire is just one of the technical features to raise this clock above the ordinary. Also, the Tic Tac escapement, the frameless construction, the hypocycloidal motion works, the manic 40 degrees of pendulum swing. Not forgetting the tick. The evenness of which is testament to the precision of all the hand cut wheels.
The second clock is called “Deco” after Art Deco. This time it is spring powered with a more conventional ½ second pendulum, anchor escapement, wheels, pinions, frames, but so attractive by the colours of the woods used and quality of finish. At 17 inches high with a 12 inch dial it is a head turner.
The material of choice for most of the parts was a good quality 12mm Birch plywood. George played a video of him cutting a pair of wheels using a sander and a bandsaw. The crossing out performed with a scrollsaw. George did admit that it took a few weeks of fettling to perfect their reliable operation.
The presentation finished with a demonstration of both clocks running and numerous questions on wood choice, finishing, sanding, lubrication and much more.
The branch extends its greatest thanks to George for his time and effort in producing a memorable demonstration of craftsmanship.
12th February 2022 The Binns Clock (Virtual and the Harry Younger Hall) – Mark Crangle (Cumbria Clock Co)
In February 2022 we had our first, in-person meeting for 2 years. We hope that this will now be the norm. It was also our first meeting in our new meeting hall just off Edinburgh’s ‘Royal Mile’. It was well attended with the new hall offering space to distance, and with members adopting masks, it gave a feeling of security.
We were delighted to welcome Mark Crangle of the Cumbria Clock Company. Mark had led the restoration of the ‘Binns’ Clock at the West end of Edinburgh’s Princess Street. A popular landmark since the 1960’s. Binns was a prestigious department store, later owned by the House of Fraser. Mark had done extensive research on the public clocks of Edinburgh and what led up to the commissioning of the new clock.
The new clock came about because of traffic increases at the West End requiring the removal of the original Pillar clock. The roads were redesigned as the old Edinburgh tram system gave way to the Motor car. The clock was paid for by Hugh Fraser at a cost of over £1000. A tidy sum in the 1950s but they did own Harrods back then.
The clock was built by the Synchronome Company of London and its basic structure is a 6 foot by 6 foot cast bronze box placed some 40 feet above the pavement at the corner site. In addition to quarter chimes it was graced by pipers, in highland dress, parading along a circular track at the base of the clock. An unexplained quirk being that these marched to the tunes of “Scotland the Brave”, at 7 mins 36 seconds after the hour and to “Caller Herrin” at 37 minutes 36 seconds. Answers on a postcard please. It was driven by a, still existing, Synchronome master clock with impulse movements for each dial.
The new clock was not universally popular with the locals. Its six lots of musical chimes per hour were considered intrusive and attempts were made to silence the clock. However, its popularity grew and it became a rendezvous point in the days before social media and instant communications. Over the years it was modified as parts wore out and, in its final form, the hands were driven by synchronous motors. The music generator was lost and the paint faded and flaked.
The Edinburgh branch of Frasers is no more and the building is now occupied by the Johnnie Walker whisky experience. They decided to get the clock restored and done in time for St Valentine’s Day 2021. Mark went into detail about the issues the clock had and the restoration process. The photograph shows the restored clock in all its splendour ready for another 60 years.
As a bonus Mark went on to describe some of the work he did on the Westminster ‘Great’ clock. A subject that could fill several afternoons in its own right. The enthusiastic question and answer session covered subjects from tuning bell hammers to experiences abseiling down church towers to overhaul the turret clocks.
The branch extends its greatest thanks to Mark for his generous time and effort in producing a fantastic restart to our in-person program.
Richard Thomson – Branch Secretary
8th January 2022 Bring & Discuss (Virtual)
Scottish Branch Meeting Report January 2022
In January 2022 we had another virtual meeting. A new variant scuppered our plans to meet in person. Fingers crossed for next month.
The meeting was a ‘Bring and Discuss’ always popular and this continued to be the case. It kicked off with a presentation by Zen Chowaniec of tales from his workbench. A Fusee click failure was first up and in Zens normal high standard of presentation I learnt all that I now know about Fusees. This fitted perfectly with Arthur Jones current issues with a Fusee mechanism and discussion ensued about the correct method of setting up a Fusee on rebuild. Zen progressed onto two clocks with different striking faults and how they were diagnosed and repaired.
Next up, Peter Mehta gave us a cautionary tale about the transport of a long case clock mechanism in an open crate. Fortunately Peter had photographed the mechanism before transport and had something to work off when making, from scratch, the now missing parts. The rackstop and a pawl. All credit to Peter as a photograph is a long way off a dimensioned blueprint.
Mark Baird gave us an update on his Rose Engine. He has made considerable progress since November and is now able to do trial engravings. He described the issues to date and pointed out defects in the final engravings. It is thought that this could be down to vibration from the stepper motors. After comments from the group he is off to investigate alternative drive modules and software tweaks for the steppers.
Ken Russell gave an interesting talk on his experiments to produce an automaton shoulder joint that can both raise its arms and swing them to-and-fro. He showed his experimental mechanism and described the various issues encountered. He had hit a wall where the joint failed to produce the fully controlled movements desired. The issues would only get worse when clothing would be added in a final model. After suggestions from the group he may revisit the concept.
The last hour of the meeting was a presentation from Marcus Bowman which started with his uses of plastics in his business. This covered how to machine Nylon (if you really have to) using solid carbide cutters. These were highly polished in an attempt to stop the nylon from grabbing. The tool bits used were borrowed from those normally used for aluminium. He also described using Delron, Corian, Staron and other plastics. He then brought us up to date on 3D printing and the now affordable resin printers. He showed parts he had made with fused filament printing and contrasted them with parts made by his resin printer. The parts all needed some post printing fettling but he was able to make a working anchor escapement. Both the anchor and the escape wheel in resin which could not be done using filament. Indeed he had gone on to make a complete working clock. Balance spring et al. There was a lot of content and information to absorb. Design, slicing, washing, curing, first layer issues software and much more.
The branch extends its thanks to all the contributors for the fascinating afternoon.
11th December 2021 The Branch Christmas Lunch was held at Giulianos, 18-19 Union Place, Edinburgh, EH13NQ.
Scottish Branch Meeting Report 13th November 2021
In November 21 we had possibly our last ’Virtual Only’ meeting of this era. In December it is planned to have the branch Christmas dinner and then January’s meeting should be our first In-Person meeting since the pandemic changed everything.
The meeting was a ‘Bring and Discuss’ always popular and this continued to be the case. It kicked off with presentations by two members of their ‘lockdown’ projects. David Walker had made a very good job of his Rokr wooden kit clock. He was full of praise for the quality of the Rokr laser cut parts and the end result is a working clock with around 8 hours duration. He described the finishing of the parts by hand and the staining and waxing used. He also experimented with various lubricants as traditional clock oil would only aid in wetting the timber. There are around 50 kits in the range and were endorsed as being good Christmas gifts.
The second project, by Bill Lomond, was also a wooden clock but of very different design. It used an electrically maintained pendulum and two pawls to drive a gathering wheel similar to a Bulle clock but vertical. Two videos were played of it in operation. Plugged into the national grid continuous operation was possible. There were many fewer parts but they were all hand sawn from planks of timer. Namely Oak and Beech Plywood. Bill explained the need to balance the hands carefully to avoid unintentional gains and losses of time as the hands are free to rotate at most times.
Tomek Borkowy described his ‘Marriage Watches’. These are more common in the USA and Europe than the UK. They originate from the desire to use pocket watch movements whose cases have been melted down. These are turned into unusual wrist watches with glass fronts and backs. Sometimes needing new dials if the movement is rotated 90 degrees for the crown wheel to exit the side. Tomek has built a network of talented crafts people from Bulgaria to China to assist with production.
Mark Baird described his lockdown project, a Rose Engine. Realising that an original Rose Engine was never going to appear by magic in his workshop and not wanting to simply CNC patterns he has opted to make his own. This will however be an updated design where it is possible to use CAD to view the finished pattern before engraving. A large degree of operation will still be done manually but two of the basic degrees of freedom of the work piece will be stepper motor driven. Much effort has gone into using ball screw shafts to reduce backlash to 0.2mm. This is a grand project with many stages still to go. The branch looks forward to future updates.
Our final presentation of the day was Thomas Meine who talked about Timex electric and electronic watches. In their heyday Timex made over a billion watches between 1950 and 1980. Some 133,000 per day average. Very few still survive in collectors condition as there were priced to wear and were replaced when worn-out. At first the battery was just used to replace the power from the mainspring. Later on more electronics were added but they still retained a balance wheel and hairspring. It was simply maintained in motion by electricity. Thus daily winding was superseded by changing the battery after 18 months. This led to the crown wheel being largely hidden or moved to the back. A refinement of this was made by Junghans, a similar concept but with 17 jewels and by Bulova who replaced the balance with a tuning fork.
9th October 2021 The Venus Tablets of Ammisaduqa (Virtual) – Bruce Vickery
BHI Scotland Branch Meeting report Saturday 9th Oct 2021 at 2:00 PM
The October meeting was a talk by a long time branch member Dr Bruce Vickery. His subject was “The Venus Tablets of Ammisaduqa” This was the result of many years of original research by him to solve a problem that had troubled academics for over 100 years.
As usual with these things the path into this field was not direct nor necessarily planned the way it turned out. As an interest in retirement Bruce wanted to calculate planetary motion from the known laws of motion. This led to a book Astronomical Algorithms by Jean Meeus. Using his skills in C# he converted the books formulae to code to calculate planetary motion. This was then applied to solve the long standing puzzle.
The Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa is the record of astronomical observations of Venus, as preserved in a cuneiform tablet dating from the second millennium BC. It is believed that this astronomical record was first compiled during the reign of King Ammisaduqa in Babylonia. Thus, the origin of the text is probably dated to around the mid-seventeenth century BC. The tablet recorded the rise times of Venus and its first and last visibility on the horizon before or after sunrise and sunset (the heliacal risings and settings of Venus) in the form of lunar dates. These observations are recorded for a period of 21 years. The task was to find a match between these observations and those calculated from first principles. If a match were to be found, then the 21-year period could be assigned to a start date using today’s Gregorian calendar.
Because of the highly cyclic nature of the orbits involved there were potential solutions every 8 years. The skill was to use statistical analysis to identify which harmonic was the correct one. The satisfying answer was 11th March 1645 BC, probably.
As a side note these observations also possibly record the major eruptions of the Santorini and Aniakchak volcanoes. That, of course, would be the subject of further research.
The branch extends its thanks to Bruce for a glimpse of some original work, using modern tools, to solve long standing riddles.
Scottish Branch Meeting Report 11/09/2021
In September we had our Annual General Meeting followed by a ‘Bring and Discuss’. As per last year both had to be held virtually. 17 members joined in and there was much to discuss. The branches continued health was in evidence and many constructive comments were made on the future venue choices, events, and proposals for a new funding plan. The committee hopes to have developed plans in place by the next meeting on several of the issues.
The bring and discuss was started off by Zen Chowaniec, who gave another fine presentation. He started with two book reviews. “Barographs by Philip R Collins” ISBN: 978-0-948382-17-8 and “Bench Practices for Watch and Clockmakers” by Henry B. Fried. ISBN-10 096562191X. Both were considered to be of great merit.
He continued with two items from his repair bench. A Gathering Pallet Repair with the regrinding of the Pallet faces. Then beat setting on a twin train Elliot Mantle Clock. The latter along the lines of there must be an easier way. Good discussion followed on the tools used and the best ways to sharpen a graver.
Our second contribution was by Arthur Jones who had made his own Clock Spring Winder. Construction, improvements and a video of it in use were presented. A really useful and functional tool was produced for a grand total of £34.98. Music to our Scottish hearts. Sources of material included a broken hand drill and off cuts from scrapped exhausts at a local garage. The end result was well rated by some members who could see how it overcame issues with the well known commercial offering.
Lastly, there were two requests from members. The first wanted access to a Eureka 5 glass case to aid with the recreation of one. Mark Baird hopes to be able to get access to the one at Upton Hall to get some measurements and pass them on. The second request was for a good home for copies of the HJ from 1965 to 2009. If anyone can help with either, please contact the secretary to be put in touch.
The attached picture is Arthur Jones’ home-brewed Clock Spring Winder tool.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch.
9th June 2021 Bring and Discuss was held at 19:30 via Zoom.
We had an extra virtual bring and discuss meeting. 6 presenters stepped forward to provide a very interesting evening. In part the meeting was held to explore the use of Zoom in place of our usual Jitsi Meet app and to try out a weekday evening spot. In order of presentation:
1. Zen Chowaniec “Tavern Clocks”
Zen managed to link together defects in Carriage Clock contrate wheels (crown gears), false teeth and two book reviews. A significant achievement. Oh yes and Tavern Clocks he had worked on.
2. John Mason “Questions on Smiths Enfield repairs”
John talked about the clocks serviced in the local ‘mens shed’ and in particular defects he had found in Smiths Enfield Clocks. This prompted rather useful discussion on barrel spring inspection, cleaning, replacement methods and general fault diagnosis.
3. Brian Fagg. “Swedish Tram Clock”
Brian showed us two huge scale pocket watches. We could have been forgiven for thinking that these were shop display items but were in fact Swedish Tram Clocks. Discussion followed about what solvents may remove dried ink from a barograph mechanism. Water and mild solvents have been unsuccessful.
4. Peter Mehta. “Mora Clocks”
Peter introduced us to Mora clocks, made in Sweden. One example dating from 1851. The case styles being of two distinct types, male and female. He also told us the charming tale of John Duncan’s mothers successful attempt to win the freedom of her son who was held in Russian jail by Czar Alexander 1st. She sent him a gift of stockings to keep out the Russian winter.!
5. Simon Davidson. “Deck Watches”
Simon showed us two deck watches from his collection. Both employed the same Detent escapement as a full sized marine chronometer. They were used on deck for doing observations after being synchronised with the master chronometer on board. Thus they were more portable (think pocket watch) but without the long term stability.
6. Last but not least Kenneth Russell “Step Drills”
Ken extolled the virtues of step drills to the group. These are cone shaped drills whose size increases in discrete steps of typically 2 mm at a time. Thus a single short drill bit can be used to bore holes from 4 mm to 20 mm all without a tool change.
My great thanks to all those that presented and to those that turned up to listen, ask the questions and debate the answers.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch.
Saturday 8th May 2021 – Simon Davidson ‘Maritime Chronometers: Their use on long voyages from 1770 – 1820 by the East India Company & the Royal Navy.’ This was a change to the program. Technical issues prevented Owen Gilchrist from giving his talk on IWC Watches. This is now rescheduled for May 2022
Aside from a long career in the pharmaceutical industry, Simon has had a 25 year research interest in Marine Chronometers and their practical history and employment. He has published four papers in this sphere of interest. His interest in horology started at a young age when pocket money was used to start collecting, his interest and collection only growing with age and knowledge.
Marine chronometers are a fascinating field. They were the pinnacle of technology in their day. They could also save your life. The story of John Harrison, the H4 tested in 1765, and the 1714 longitude prize are well known. Less well known is what happened next. Simon took us through their adoption by the East India Company in the period 1770 – 1792. East India Ship captains not only had to know how to navigate using one but were required to provide their own prior to commission. This is in contrast to the Royal Navy who only issued them by default to their captains in 1820 onwards. Thus clockmakers had a much closer relationship with East India Co. captains than with the Navy.
We were also taken through the design of dials in that period and how they evolved. Plus some pointers on how to spot the quality of the movement and common modifications. Simons’ collection of chronometers has been well researched. One made by Charles Young in 1811 has the original logs which show how the rate of the chronometer varied. This chronometer could easily have been lost when in 1825 the HEICS Dunira was stuck and demasted by a typhoon in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Another by Thomas Earnshaw 1805 served on many Royal Navy ships over its one hundred year service life. The voyages ranged from coastal surveys to Anti-Slavery patrols to transatlantic cable laying. All of which relied, to a great extent, on its accuracy.
This report only scratches the surface of what we learned in the talk and the Q&A that followed. The branch extends its great thanks to Simon for giving us an excellent talk. With particular thanks for agreeing to talk at such short notice as our intended speaker had to reschedule.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch
10 April 2021 – Colin Graham. ‘Online Selling – Stay Safe, Make Money & Keep Horology Alive’
In April we had a presentation by Colin Graham BHI Scotland Branch ‘Online Selling – Stay Safe, Make Money & Keep Horology Alive’
Colin has a long history of using the internet and believes that he was probably the first Internet user in his town of Selkirk. What is certain is that he has more experience than other branch members of trading on the web. Both with his website www.colinswatches.com and a much used eBay store selling horological related items. We were keen to learn how to emulate him safely.
He started by asking the question of how to address the loss of skills we see in horology. True the web can be a great source for knowledge and the BHI run some excellent distance learning courses but there still is a need for hands on training and one to one instruction. He pointed out that some, once common parts, are now just unobtainable. (This is not just restricted to horology. As a kid I made flying models from Balsa wood, tissue & dope. Later I made ham radios. Now these pastimes still exist but only by buying the latest premade drone or transceiver. It’s all about buying product with no skills required to create.)
He discussed the four online majors he has used. Catawiki, Etsy, Amazon and eBay. The last two needed no introduction but hopefully I’m not alone in never hearing of Catawiki before. As a seller it was explained that you need to get the pricing correct and not to forget postage, and the fees that all the platforms charge for their service. As a buyer he explained the ways to pay safely and not have any nasty surprises. He illustrated his safety talk by showing examples of fakes and how to spot them. He also helped translate some of the descriptions used which should ring alarm bells about the quality of the item and its provenance.
I took away at least two bits of sage advice: When selling know your subject. It will let you get the right price and good feedback from the buyer. Also never buy anything after the third Gin n’ Tonic in an evening!
The branch extends its great thanks to Colin for giving us an excellent contribution to this years events.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch.
13 March 2021 – speaker Dr Zen Chowaniec “A little Horological Dentistry”
As could be guessed from the title Zens focus was on gear teeth and how to repair them. He had previously given a presentation on his repairs to a Junghans 3 train bracket clock in early 2020. Sadly this clock experienced more gear issues and was returned by the customer as “Not Working”. Even more stressing was that the new issue was, in part, a failure of some of the previous repair work. This was to do with the rather unusual winding arrangement used in these clocks.
He presented a forensic diagnosis of the issues and what had caused the original and new failures. There is a design issue with the original clock and other examples have displayed the same issues. Rather than the normal click arrangement using a sawtooth shaped ratchet the going train uses a click pushed into a gear wheel. Fig 1 vs Fig 2. The stresses in this design are not well handled by the tooth shape. To make matters worse the number of teeth used on each gear ensured that the wear was not spread evenly over all the teeth.
Repairs were carried out by cutting new gears. This was complicated by the originals not being either Cycloidal or Involute but something in-between. Zen explained the differences in tooth shape and how he calculated the design of the new gears by calculating the Module or the Diametral Pitch. (Metric Vs Imperial systems) Once designed he was able to cut new gears by combining his mill drill and a dividing head. I fear that his description hid a great deal of exacting work that would challenge most others. He extended his thanks to Archie McQuater and Brian Cathcart for advice and encouragement and recommended Malcolm Wilds book “Wheel and Pinion Cutting in Horology”
The branch extends its great thanks to Zen for giving us another excellent contribution to this years events.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch.
Fig 1 Conventional Ratchet Arrangement
Fig 2 Junghans Click
13 February 2021 – speaker Tomek Borkowy. ‘It’s All About Watches’
This month we had a presentation by Tomek Borkowy ‘It’s all about Watches’.
The title came from the Polish watch festival. This festival celebrates the rebirth of the Polish watch industry after the dark days in 1983 when the Polish watchmaking school was closed. The festival has had 4 editions. The last in Sept 2020 had to be virtual for the obvious reasons.
Firstly a little background. Tomek is an actor and producer / theatre director. Despite appearing in Taggart, Lovejoy, Dr Who and more in this country he is probably better known in his native Poland where he appeared in a TV series ‘Dom’ which ran over 20 years. He left Poland and adopted Edinburgh as his home town in the early 80s. Being a famous son of Poland he was invited to the first Festival as a guest and is now an ambassador for the event.
He presented a series of images that he had taken when attending the events and talked about the well known to the west brands, Omega, Longines, Victorinox that attended, and also the home grown products Balticus (now for sale in the UK) Czasownia, Polpora which are certainly less well known but of a very high standard.
Indeed there are some very high end producers now making bespoke timepieces retailing for 10s of thousands dollars. As Poland is an East meets West place the festival also attracted some top Russian brands. Sturmanskie not only brought their Pilot Chronograph with a picture of a cosmonaut on the back they brought the real life cosmonaut ( Mirosław Hermaszewski) to pose with it and sign autographs. The picture shows Hermaszewski left and our speaker right.
It is always nice to meet members and find out a little about them. Tomek briefly mentioned his own design of wrist watches and the sourcing of cases for them. This could easily form a presentation in its own right some day.
The branch extends its great thanks to Tomek for giving us a taste of what we have missed in the way of live events this past year.
9 January 2021 – Bring and Discuss
This month we had a virtual bring and discuss. 4 presenters stepped forward to provide an interesting afternoon. It was our best attended and longest meeting in this new era of isolation.
1. Zen Chowaniec “Two Marine Chronometers from the 1980s”
Zen showed us two marine chronometers that he had collected at auctions. The first was a quartz movement which looked fairly typical of 1980s zero jewel quartz movements complete with wall mounting hook and single ‘C’ cell power. It was cased to look like a regular Marine chronometer and was supplied as conforming to the relevant standards of accuracy. The second, dated 1982, provided a striking contrast. It was a Russian ‘Pilot’ (Poljot) brand made in the same group as Sekonda watches the First Moscow Watch Factory (1st MWF Kirova). The mechanism was an epic gold plated brass one with chronometer escapement and chain fuse.
2. John Mason “Questions on French Clock repairs”
John joined us for the first time from his home in Aberdeenshire. He has been busy restoring some French clocks and was keen to get some advice on working with these mechanisms. Well ask a group of experts for an opinion and it gets quite lively. The subjects covered ranged from just how lose should the beat adjustment be to how long will ammonia cleaning solution last. I’m the last to know, or take sides, but feel safe in saying that if ammonia is used then do it in a well ventilated space.
3. And from Germany, Thomas Meine. ‘Magnetism and watches and how to solve it’
Thomas gave us a presentation on how magnetism affects quartz and mechanical watch types. I did not know that quartz watches can stop if subjected to 1000 Gauss. (Gauss is the cgs unit of measurement of a magnetic field. The Earth’s magnetic field measures about 0.5 gauss, a small iron magnet has a field of about 100 gauss, a small neodymium-iron-boron (NIB) magnet has a field of about 2,000 gauss) Mechanical watches can be badly affected by much lower field strengths. For example by sitting beside a bookshelf loudspeaker. The primary weakness is the hairspring that can be made to stick together and effectively shorten making the watch run fast. Some advice was given on selecting a demagnetiser. As ever you get what you pay for and caution was expressed at using the lower priced units (£5 from China) as these can do more harm than good. Note: An ‘antimagnetic’ watch is only protected to 60.3 gauss. DIN8309. However some luxury brands can be much much higher.
4. Last but not least Kenneth Russell “Brass Screwdrivers”
Ken joined us for the first time and showed us the brass screwdrivers he had made for working on clocks. Typical steel precision screwdrivers had been modified by replacing the steel blades with hand filed brass inserts. These will cause a lot less distress to blued steel screws. Thus retaining the original beauty and rust proofing that the blueing provides.
My great thanks to all those that presented and to those that turned up to listen and ask the questions and debate the answers.
12 December 2020 – speaker Lyndsay McGill, Curator, Renaissance & Early Modern History, Department of Scottish History & Archaeology, National Museum of Scotland. ‘Andrew Purdoune: An Early Scottish Maker of Lantern Clocks’
This month we had the pleasure of welcoming Lyndsay McGill, Curator, Renaissance & Early Modern History, Department of Scottish History & Archaeology, National Museum of Scotland. To give us a virtual lecture on ‘Andrew Purdoune: An Early Scottish Maker of Lantern Clocks’
Andrew Purdoune was a Glasgow based Clockmaker in the mid 17th Century. Lyndsay took us through the research that she had carried out, in 2018, after discovering a clock of his in the National Museum of Scotland collection. It posed an intriguing question. Was Andrew Purdoune the First Scottish clockmaker?
She gave us a brief overview of father and son Humphry and Richard Mills work and that of John Alexander. All clockmakers of that early period. Were this lantern clock of Andrews made in London? An analysis of the engraving on the dial showed strong similarities to that of, a most definitive Scottish item, a Silver Quaich design of the period. With references to the ‘Tulip Mania’ of the 1630s. Tulips, then as now, coming from Holland. Indeed Andrew was shown to have travelled to the low countries to study the latest in clock technology. Christiaan Huygens, of course, invented the pendulum clock there in 1656.
For me the talk was packed full of references to things partly forgotten and old Scots texts that were a delight to have deciphered for us. I spent some time afterwards just looking up who Hammermen were (and are) Who was a cordiner (cordwainer) and why they should not be confused with a cobbler. Even the fee of £5 for looking after the Glasgow Tolbooth clock for a year, (According to the National archives around £550 in todays terms.) was fascinating. The branch extends the greatest thanks to Lyndsay for her time and rounding off this year on a high.
14 November 2020 – Bring and Discuss
This month we had a virtual bring and discuss. 3 presenters stepped forward to provide an interesting afternoon.
1. Peter Mehta “A novel repair technique during lockdown”
Peter talked about restoring a wall clock that had been so badly water damaged that many would have binned the remains. The clock had lost most of its octagonal wooden moulding around the dial. An artist acquaintance had been able to reconstruct this using ‘DAS’ modelling clay and remarkable wood like staining to recreate the missing pieces. He also talked about his use of the new type of UV curing glues to repair the rating nut thread that had sheared off.
2. Zen Chowaniec “Three Repair Projects”
a. Reinstatement of Calendar Wheel on a French Ormolu Two Train Mantel Clock
b. Repairs to a Twin Fusee Verge Bracket Clock
c. New Barrel Arbor Hooks for HAC Arts & Crafts Period Mantel Clock.
Zen showed a considerable amount of skill in different techniques to affect these repairs. The first two also required a good understanding of how the items were supposed to operate to diagnose the repairs required. There followed a lively discussion on the relative methods of blackening hands in preference to the ‘bluing’ technique that is hard to make even on old hands. Dipping hot hands in old engine oil and chemical blackening both had good support from the group.
3. A new friend of the branch from Germany, Thomas Meine.
One of the benefits of a virtual meeting was that we were able to be joined by Thomas from his home in Frankfurt. Thomas collects watches of all types and has written a couple of books on the subject and another on radioactive dials. He wanted to ask the group about one of his watches ‘made’ in Inverness by Fehrenbach & Boch. in 1868 (Fig 1.)
The feeling was that it was probably made in London as it has London hallmarks and had been engraved for the retailer. The spelling of the second name could be an error. If any HJ reader can recognise the movement or know more about the retailer please get in touch. Lastly he talked about an adjustable table for adjusting the beat in clocks. An idea now taken up by the Bavarian clockmakers school.
10 October 2020 – speaker Ashley Strachan. ‘A Tale of Four Repeating Pocket Watches’
Ashley gave our last ‘in person’ presentation back in March just as the world was changing. Some members were unable to attend as a result so he graciously agreed to give his talk again this season. This time it was in full virtual mode. Not content with his previous presentation he did a complete rewrite and covered his subject from a totally different angle.
We were treated to a potted history of how repeaters originated and of the different types. I noted that in 1687 King James II ran a competition. There were two entrants Tompion and Barlow. Barlow won with his single button design to trigger the striking. This did remind me of the recently announced “Earthshot Prize”
Ashley then described in detail his 4 watches, their origins and faults on acquisition. The oldest is a 1720’s Bordier a Geneva – Quarter Repeater – Silver pair case with champlevé dial, retailed by Kaltenbrunner, Prague. This is shown in Fig 1.
His second oldest is a 1760’s Jean Antoine Lepine – Quarter Repeater – Gilt case with diamonds and rubies and enamel dial. This is shown in Fig 2.
This was followed by a 1824 Robert Bryson Qtr. Repeat “Pendant Gong” and last, but by no means least, an 1830 Lepine Qtr. Repeat “Slider Gong”
He admitted that he did have an eye to their investment potential but took daily pleasure from seeing them and was sympathetically restoring them to a running order as time allows. He paid tribute to the assistance given by another member Jurgen Tubbecke in tackling some of the trickier repairs.
He concluded his presentation by talking about a 5th watch bought off a well known auction site and the issue of it not turning up. It was good to know that the full refund operation kicked in so rapidly and prevented a very bad day indeed.
Thank you Ashley for starting our season with such a high standard of talk.”
The 2020/21 programme of events began with the Branch AGM followed by a Bring and Discuss session. For the programme for the coming year see under the EVENTS tab
Minutes of 2020 AGM (Draft)
The Annual General Meeting of the BHI Scotland Branch was held virtually on Saturday 12th September 2020 at 2.00pm. 18 Branch members attended.
- Minutes of Branch AGM 12th January 2019
- Matters arising
- Chairman’s Report
- Secretary’s Report
- Treasurer’s Report
- Election of Committee
- Approval of Minutes, Reports and Elections
Alastair Walker, Tomek Borkowy
2) Minutes of Branch AGM 12th January 2019
Approval of minutes under item i) of the agenda.
3) Matters Arising – None
4) Chairman’s Report (Matthew Richards)
This meeting marks our first AGM at its new time in September. Although it’s been an interesting journey from the January 2019 AGM I feel that the Branch remains in good shape.
Our initial meetings of 2019 were of their usual high standard, but unfortunately we were soon into COVID and had to cancel the meetings in April and May 2020. To protect our members, and because of the uncertainty around the future, we decided that at least the first few meetings of this new season would be held virtually. This was at Richard Thomson’s suggestion and I welcome him to the committee and also thank him for recommending Jitsi, the meeting platform we are using for our virtual meetings.
We still don’t know how COVID will evolve, but until the Museum of Edinburgh reopens and it is safe to hold meetings in person we will continue to hold them virtually. I hope that members find them easy to access, but please let us know of any problems. Thanks to the entire committee for their work and dedication.
At the last AGM I took over from Ashley and would like to thank him. He was a great Chairman and remains a very welcome visitor to the Branch whether attending or giving one of his always fascinating talks.
I’d also like to extend thanks to all our loyal members, without whom the Branch would not exist. Your support, particularly in these challenging times, is much appreciated.
Lastly, I’m sad to remind members that Zen is stepping down as Secretary after spending huge amounts of his time on Branch matters over the last six years. We were incredibly lucky to have him as secretary and he has done an outstanding job in all aspects of the role.
He will be hugely missed. My heartfelt thanks go to him for all of the work that he has put in over the years and for ensuring a seamless transfer to Mark Baird and Richard Thomson.
How Mark and Richard share the work may well evolve in future but initially Mark will deal with membership matters whilst Richard will deal with meetings and speakers. Thanks to both of you for taking on these roles.
Approval of Chairman’s Report under item i) of the agenda.
5) Secretary’s Report (Zen Chowaniec)
Branch membership stands at 70 (6 Fellows, 6 Members, 58 Associates) with 22 Friends. Since the last AGM our membership has grown by six (Associates) and seven Friends (six of whom were recruited at the Edinburgh Antiques, Vintage and Collectors Fair in May 2019. Two members resigned from the BHI but retained their contact with the Branch as Friends. Sadly, there were five deaths in this period, including Bill Borthwick, Frank Briglmen, Colin Campbell, Ian Hair and John Redfern.
The Branch’s 2019/20 programme comprised 10 events including, for the first time, a Christmas lunch in December. The April and May meetings had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Details of our 2020/21 programme are shown
In January 2020 the Canons’ Gait informed us that the function room the Branch had been using for its meetings since 2012 would no longer be available to us from March onwards. After reviewing several alternatives the Museum of Edinburgh was chosen as the new venue. Located at 142 Canongate, EH8 8DD, a short walk from the old venue down the Royal Mile, it retains good visitor access by public or private transport and offers better facilities for our speakers, but now at a cost of £75 + VAT (£90) per meeting (the Canons’ Gait was free). We continue to use the Canons’ Gait for lunch for the time being.
The forced cancellation of our April and May events due to the coronavirus pandemic led the Branch Committee to explore the possibility of holding Branch meetings virtually. This was found to work very well and in consequence all future meetings will be held virtually until such time as we can return safely to the Museum of Edinburgh.
Although the social aspect of our meetings is important the great advantage of holding them virtually is that, for the first time, everyone in the Branch should be able to take part irrespective of their location.
We now have a ‘Webmaster’ (Peter Mehta) to update the data on the Branch’s website. Mark Baird has undertaken to revamp the site including removal of the historical (and confusing) reference to ‘East of Scotland’ in the domain name. It is proposed to change the web hosting company from GoDaddy to WordPress as the latter includes regular maintenance of the website software by the provider (hitherto a source of some difficulty for the Branch).
Approval of Secretary’s Report under item i) of the agenda.
6) Treasurer’s Report (Frank DiCarlo)
Summary of Accounts for 2019:
- Branch financial status remains healthy but diminishing year on year.
- Overall Balance is £4,516.96 when all commitments are paid.
– Change in year was minus £283.04, this was dominated by Speakers fees.
- Main income was meeting subs at £364
- Main outgoings were:
– Speakers fees (£293)
– Domain name for website (£131)
– Secretary Expenses
- Accounts for 2018 and 2019 were Reviewed and Approved by Colin Graham of “colinswatches”.
- 2020 was a short year with only three meetings and a finishing balance of £4,380.25. Volunteer to review Accounts requested.
Note: At present, the main financial concerns for the future are:-
– likely rental costs for meeting place.
– external (online) Speaker costs, with no income from Subs.
Approval of Treasurer’s Report under item i) of the agenda.
7) Election of Committee
Zen Chowaniec (Branch Secretary) and Bill Lamond stood down from the Committee.
Election of New BHI Scotland Branch Secretary
Richard Thomson was elected unopposed as Branch Secretary. Membership matters will be devolved to Mark Baird.
Election of Rest of Committee
Mathew Richards (Chairman), Mark Baird (Vice-Chairman and Membership Secretary), Frank DiCarlo (Treasurer) and Paul Wood agreed to remain on the Committee for another year.
Peter Mehta (Webmaster) is an ex-officio member of the Branch Committee and agreed to continue in that role.
Approval of elections under item i) of the agenda.
9) Approval of Minutes, Reports and Elections
In a departure from previous practice approval of the 2019 AGM Minutes, 2020 AGM Reports and elections to the Branch Committee was undertaken collectively at the end of the meeting. Approved by Duncan Massie, seconded by Peter Mehta.
Zen Chowaniec, Retiring Branch Secretary