A Collection of Model Escapements

By W. H. Samelius

Director, Elgin Watchmakers College

Hobbies - The Magazine for Collectors, January, 1938

      Some years ago I began to collect antique clocks; it was my desire to secure clocks with unusual escapements. I found some, but in showing them to my friends it was always a problem to explain the action of the escapement, because the mechanisms were located out of sight between the movement plates. I then decided it would be educational to construct clocks with the escapement in plain view, or we might say, to build a clock inside out. This started my collection of model escapements. The plates for the models are 6" x 4", the train and escapements are gold plated, steel work polished and screw heads blued. The plates are friction silver plated making a good background and the unit attractive.

      The models in my collection are all built to run 30 hours on one winding, and in all there are forty different escapements. Most of them were on exhibit at A Century of Progress in 1933-1934 and also at the Pan American Exposition at Dallas, Tex. The collection includes facsimiles of clock escapements built by masters dating back to the 12th century.

      The earliest clock recorded, by Henry DeVick, used the Verge and Folliot. This clock was erected in the Tower of the Royal Palace in Paris for King Charles V, in the early part of the 13th century. It was Galileo, (Italy, 1581) mathematician and scientist, however, who discovered the laws of the pendulum and designed the first escapement for maintaining pendulum motion.

      Simon Douw, Rotterdam, patented the slow motion pendulum in 1658. Guliemus Clement, London, invented the anchor recoil escapement in 1675.

      Henry Sully, (England, 1680-1728) invented the horizontal pendulum. This pendulum is very similar to the walking beam of a steam engine. This clock was designed for marine purposes.

      Antonie Thourt, (Paris, 1692-1767) invented the single impulse and detent escapement. Was appointed clockmaker to the Duke of Orleans in 1750.

      Huygens, (1657) scientist and mathematician, converted the verge escapement in such a way that a pendulum could be used. He is credited with building the first pendulum clock.

      Dr. Robert Hooke, England, was the first to apply a hairspring to the pocket watch. Instead of a fine steel spring he used a pig bristle.

      Thos. Mudge (England, 1715-1794) designed our earliest gravity escapement. His invention is still used for tower clocks.

      Furgeson's One Wheel Clock (England, 1710) consisted of one wheel, a double escapement and a pendulum about 14 feet long.

      Jean Andre LaPoute (Montwide, 1709) attained considerable eminence as a clockmaker. Invented the pin wheel escapement which is still in use today.

      Jean Babtiste Dutertre (England, 1673-1751) invented the dead beat escapement and the mercurial pendulum. This escapement has the ability of going with light force and is not subject to the variations of time due to the variations of force. This escapement has been and is more universally used for timekeepers than any other escapement.

      C. McDonald (London) invented the single impulse escapement in 1850.

      Joseph Ives, Bristol, invented the squirrel cage escapement in 1850.

      Coles (England, 1880) invented an escapement where the pendulum is given impulse by two springs. The escape wheel raises the prring and the pundulum, at the end of the excursion, releases one of the springs, getting its impulse for the return trip in that manner. The escape wheel raises the opposite spring to be released when the pendulum reaches the end of its excursion on that side.

      The Flying Pendulum (U. S. A., 1860.) This is a pendulum bob suspended by means of a string, maintaining a circular motion by crank placed directly under the pendulum.

      Interrupted Flying Pendulum; patented in England in 1865, consists of a small ball suspended to the end of a string which is attached to the arm of a revolving center post, and as this arm revolves the pendulum bob is thrown from the center which is interrupted by an upright post. The ball entwines itself around the post, unwinds and then travles to the opposite post, repeating the motion.

      The Bobbing Pendulum (U. S. A., 1880-1890.) The bob is suspended to a helical spring and the bobbing motion is maintained by cleverly converting our regular lever escapement. This system is mostly used on small novelty clocks.

      Italian Noiseless Clock Escapement (1850) Did not employ the regular escape wheel and pallet; the pendulum was kept in motion by means of a small crank and connecting rod.

      Among the other ingenious escapements there is a pendulum that is driven at its lowest extremity by means of a chronometer escapement. Another that is driven by means of a lever escapement. Then we have one that might be called a mixed escapement embodying the principles of the chronometer and the lever escapement.

      A three tooth escapement, the see-saw escapement, where a steel ball is caused to run back and forth in a trough which is raised and lowered as the ball reaches the end of its excursion. The flying pendulum, consisting of two steel balls, attached to arms, and constructed the same as a governor on a steam engine. These governors will maintain constant motion and are used in connection with large telescopes in our observatories. This mechanism is so constructed that it would cause the telescope to maintain a steady motion in the opposite direction the earth is traveling. By this means it is possible to take long observations or photographs of the various constellations.

Model Escapements from the collection of W. H. Samelius

Submitted by: Samuel Kirk (2006-07-02 12:03:39)