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The Auburndale Watch Company First American Attempt Toward the Dollar Watch   By:

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CONTRIBUTIONS FROM

THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY:

PAPER 4

THE AUBURNDALE WATCH COMPANY

Edwin A. Battison

THE INVENTION 51 DEVELOPING THE INVENTION 53 THE NEW SPONSOR 57 SUCCESS AND FAILURE 64 THE LESSON 67

By Edwin A. Battison

THE AUBURNDALE WATCH COMPANY:

First American Attempt Toward the Dollar Watch

The life of the pioneer has always been arduous. Not all succeed, and many disappear leaving no trace on the pages of history. Here, painstaking search has uncovered enough of the record to permit us to review the errors of design and manufacture that brought failure to the first attempt to produce a really cheap pocket watch.

This paper is based on a study of the patent model of the Auburndale rotary and other products of the company in the collections of the National Museum, and of other collections, including that of the author. The study comprises part of the background research for the hall of timekeeping in the Museum of History and Technology.

THE AUTHOR: Edwin A. Battison is associate curator of mechanical and civil engineering, Museum of History and Technology, in the Smithsonian Institution's United States National Museum.

The idea of a machine made watch with interchangeable parts had been in the minds of many men for a long time. Several attempts had been made to translate this conception into a reality. Success crowned the efforts of those working near Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1850's. The work done there formed the basis on which American watch making grew to such a point that by the 1870's watches of domestic manufacture had captured nearly all the home market and were reaching out and capturing foreign markets as well. In spite of this great achievement there remained a large untapped potential market for a watch which would combine the virtues of close time keeping and a lower selling price. Only a radical departure in design could achieve this. Rivalry between the several existing companies had already produced an irreducible minimum price on watches of conventional design.

The great obstacle to close rate in a modestly priced watch is the balance wheel. This wheel requires careful adjustment for temperature error and for poise. Of these two disturbing factors poise is the most annoying to the owner because lack of it makes the watch a very erratic timekeeper. A watch in which the parts are not poised is subject to a different rate for every position it is placed in. This position error, as it is called, can and often does cause a most erratic and unpredictable rate. Abraham Louis Breguet, the celebrated Swiss French horologist of Paris is credited with the invention, in 1801,[1] of his tourbillon, a clever way to circumvent this error.

[Illustration: Figure 1. BREGUET'S TOURBILLON. At C is shown the carriage which revolves with pinion B carrying the escapement and balance around the stationary wheel G. (After G. A. Baillie, Watches, their history, decoration, and mechanism , London, Methuen, n.d.)]

His solution was to mount the escapement in a frame or "chariot" which revolved, usually once a minute, so that with each revolution all possible positions were passed through (fig. 1). This gave the watch an average rate which was constant except for variations within the period of revolution of the chariot. Only a very skillful workman could, however, work with the delicacy necessary to produce such a mechanism. The result was that few were made and these were so expensive that it continued to be more practical to poise the parts in a conventional movement. The idea of revolving the entire train of a watch, including the escapement, seems to have evolved surprisingly slowly from Breguet's basic invention of the revolving escapement... Continue reading book >>




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