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What (type of) day is it?

The Greenwich Meridian is an axial line drawn from North to South, passing through Greenwich, London, England. This is zero longitude and is the beginning of the first time zone (Western European Time Zone).

While we’re on the subject of meridians and such like, here’s an interesting definition for you to commit to memory: the difference between the true (also called real) solar day and the mean solar day.

The true solar day is the time it takes for the transit of the sun to pass travel from any given meridian back to the same point in the sky. The true solar day fluctuates in length because of the rotation and tilted ecliptic of the earth. The mean solar day is an average of the true solar day taken over a year, and works out at roughly 24 hours. The equation of time is the difference between the real solar day and the mean solar day at any point. At most the true solar day is 16:25 ahead of the true solar day, and at its furthest behind, it is 14:15 off the pace.

Some watches – very high-end watches – feature a complication displaying the difference between the mean solar day and the true solar day. Normally, this feature takes the form of a sub-dial that appears to be running either fast or slow depending on the time of year. It is functionally useless, but an unbelievably advanced complication for the purist to enjoy.

The equation of time can be mapped out on a graph, showing the position of the sun in the sky when viewed from a fixed point on every day of the year. If you had a camera trained on the heavens and took the same picture every day at the same time and then overlaid your results, you would see a bottom-heavy figure of eight pattern. In terms of complication manufacture, this pattern is (rather ingeniously) translated into a cam that mirrors the varying speed of the sun’s transit, resulting in an apparently simple display.

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Training Day

There are so many different ways to set up a watch depending on its intended functions that it is often hard to give a definitive answer to a question such as: how many gear trains does a movement have?

Unfortunately, it isn’t acceptable to shrug and mutter some lame excuse about why it is so difficult to say, when asked this question, so you need an answer that is serviceable and explicable at least.

It isn’t like someone with a gun to your head has a golden envelope containing the definitive answer, and is insisting your answer matches theirs. If you can answer confidently and justify your reasoning, no one in their right mind will blow your brains out.

However, if you ever find yourself in the above situation, you probably aren’t dealing with someone in their right mind…

Here we go: a simple movement has FIVE gear trains and they are:

THE MOTION WORK is a 12/1 reduction train responsible for moving the hands (not to be confused with the hand setting train, which drives the motion work). The motion work consists of the cannon pinion, minute wheel and hour wheel.

THE WINDING TRAIN consists of the crown, stem, winding pinion, crown wheel (any additional parts such as the intermediate or auxiliary wheels) the ratchet wheel and the barrel arbour.

THE HAND SETTING TRAIN is the keyless work (see older post To Key or not to Key), when the crown is moved into the setting position (usually the furthest it can be pulled out). The Hand Setting Train engages with the motion work by way of the intermediate wheel.

THE TIME TRAIN consists of the barrel and centre wheel pinion.

THE COUNTING TRAIN consists of the centre wheel, third wheel pinion, third wheel, fourth wheel pinion, fourth wheel and the escape wheel pinion.

Now, it is acceptable to roll the counting train and time train together under the heading The Going Train. Dropping your answer from 5 to 4 is justifiable, but it is preferable to show your awareness of the possible division of the going train.

Just to clarify, THE GOING TRAIN thus consists of: the barrel, centre wheel pinion, centre wheel, third wheel pinion, third wheel, fourth wheel pinion, fourth wheel and the escape wheel pinion.

I hope that helped clear up this issue.

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What is the difference between a chronograph and a chronometer?

A chronograph is a watch that tells the time and records elapsed time on demand. Basically, it is a watch with a stopwatch integrated into the movement.

It is not necessarily a chronometer and the two terms should NEVER be confused. For a watch to be a chronometer it must meet a certain standard in terms of accuracy.

A chronometer is a watch of exceptional isochronism, measured by a series of positional and situational tests and overseen by an independent body, such as COSC (Control Officiale Suisse de Chronometers).

The COSC test lasts for 15 days and tests the watch’s timekeeping abilities in a variety of positions common during wear, and in varying temperatures to ensure the watch will be a consistent timekeeper in all states.

The standard set by COSC requires the mean rate of a watch to be within +6 seconds and -4 seconds per day.

REMEMBER: Chronometer and Chronograph are separate terms, but a chronograph can be a chronometer if it passes the requisite tests.

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The Hairspring

The active length of the hairspring is from the pinning point at the collet to the counting point or index pins. The active length of the hairspring is altered by the movement of the curb pins along the end curve. Simply put, a shorter hairspring takes less time to return to complete one full oscillation than a longer hairspring. The position of the curb pins denotes the active end of the hairspring, effectively varying its length. By making the spring shorter (by moving the curb pins closer to the two 45 degree bends in the hairspring), the timing speeds up, and similarly by making the spring longer (by moving the curb pins closer to the stud), the timing slows down.

Also known as a ‘terminal curve’, the end curve follows the two 45 degree bends in a hairspring that enable the hairspring to pass cleanly through the curb pins. The end curve connects to the stud and the movement of the curb pins along the end curve alter the ‘active length’ of the hairspring, which is how the watch is regulated. By making the spring shorter, the timing speeds up, and similarly by making the spring longer (by moving the curb pins closer to the stud), the timing slows down.

The end curve can also refer to the bend in the centre of the hairspring where it attaches to a collet.

Index pins restrict the active length of the hairspring. By making the spring shorter (by moving the index pins towards the two 45 degree bends in the hairspring, that mark the start of the end, or terminal, curve), the timing speeds up, and similarly by making the spring longer (by moving the curb pins closer to the stud), the timing slows down.

The result of wide index pins will cause a loss at low amplitude (curb pin error) as the spring will not have enough power to touch either of the curb pins and thus take its timing point from the stud, which increases the active length of the hairspring making the watch run slow.

The travel of the lever from the banking pin to the point when the guard pin makes contact with the safety roller.

This can occur during the supplementary arc when the watch receives a shock.

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To Key or not to key

The keyless work is used for winding the watch. It is thus named because it is the successor to key-wound movements. Originally, movements had to be wound by a separate key that was inserted into the back of the watch to wind the mainspring. Similarly, hands were once set by the same key, which could be placed on a square flange atop the hands and rotated to the correct time. This technology was used in the days of pocket watches. You know the classic Albert Chain worn by gents of the time? Well, if you look closely, the chain has 2 ends. The pocket watch was attached to one end and kept in the left hand pocket of a waistcoat, and the key, along with a fob bearing the owner’s initials, was attached to the other end and kept in the right hand pocket.

Nowadays, many watch chains have just one end, because keys are redundant thanks to the integration of the following parts that make-up the (standard) keyless work:

1. Winding Stem
2. Winding Pinion
3. Sliding Pinion
4. Yoke
5. Yoke Spring
6. Setting Lever
7. Setting Lever spring
8. Setting wheel/intermediate wheel
9. Minute Wheel
10. Canon Pinion
11. Hour Wheel
12. Crown Wheel
13. Ratchet Wheel
14. Barrel Arbour
15. Mainspring

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