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Watch Education Traveling Watchmaking With HSNY

Saturday, February 18th, Philadelphia hosted two of the Horological Society of New York’s traveling education classes. The HSNY is the oldest watchmaking guild in the United States, established in 1866 and open to watchmakers. In the 1950s, the HSNY taught watchmaking classes at New York City public schools. Today, they host lectures open to the public, and offer a series of education classes which now travel around the United States.

Watchmaking 101

If you can’t make it to New York for one of their regular watchmaking classes, their traveling education courses are the perfect way to get hands on use of watchmaking tools and learning how a movement works. In a small, intimate space, a group of about eight people work with two experienced watchmakers to learn about horology.

Vincent Robert, a watchmaker and Director of Traveling Education with HSNY was found alongside watchmaker Steven Eagle, the Director of Education of HSNY to answer questions on the movement and demonstrate the precise hand coordination needed to avoid damaging movements.

The Movement

For the class, everyone was set up with their own stations featuring the tools they would need and the ETA 6497 manual winding movement. The movement features hours, minutes and off-centered seconds. To allow for a large movement to work on, the dimensions are 36.6mm x 4.5mm high and it is made of 78 components, most of which the class learns to disassemble and reassemble.

This movement is one of the first watchmakers train on. It allows them to practice taking apart and putting back together a simple movement, mastering the ins and outs and minute details before moving on to a more complicated movement.

The Class

For just over 4 hours, eight students disassembled and reassembled the ETA 6497, beating at 18’000 VpH. There were some frustrations but luckily there were no missing parts at the end, and each movement started beating again when the balance spring was put back into place.

There were 8 custom built benches, giving each student their own work space and mimicking how a watchmaker would sit; chin a fists distance away from the desk and arms firmly planted on the table top to provide stability.

The class started with an introduction to HSNY, the instructors and the different types of watches. No matter the type of watch, they all need a power source and regulation. One basic principle learned in the class was that if you could understand this movement, you understood the basic mechanical watchmaking in all watches.

  • Diameter : Teeth ratio leads to specific speed of a hand
  • Each wheel is connected to a pinion rather than wheel to wheel
  • Jewels reduce the friction in the movement and help transmit a better supply of energy
    • Ruby is the 2nd hardest material after a diamond – the harder the material, the less friction
  • Accuracy comes from when vibrations are equal to each other
    • The higher the frequency the finer the sweep seconds
    • A higher frequency recovers quicker from shock than lower

Once the fundamentals have been gone over, the class gets into formation. The benches are designed to put watchmakers close to the watch; from there a loupe is used to see the fine details.

The students learned to release the stored energy, remove the bridges, wheels and crown with the help of Steven and Vincent. The most important part of the class was keeping all the parts segmented out, and knowing which was the top or bottom. Once everything had been removed, it was up to the students to put everything back in the proper order without bending or losing anything.

Just kidding, Steven and Vincent were on hand, walking the class through the right way of putting pieces together. At some points, the room was so concentrated you could hear a screw drop (no screws were lost in the class!). Although it was skipped in the class, while putting things back together Vincent talked about the different lubrication used in watches to avoid friction. When the lubricants give in, they become abrasive and lead to the watch needing service.

If you can’t make it to New York for one of the HSNY classes, their Traveling Education classes are highly recommended. It’s not every day you get to sit in a room with watchmakers and learn how to take apart and put back together a manual wind movement on your own! To find a class near you, find HSNY Traveling Education online. On their website you can also find a schedule of upcoming meetings and learn how to become a member.

About Emily Smith
Emily loves the history of watches and loves learning how they work. While she enjoys the look of vintage watches, she is excited to learn about new models and to build her collection.

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