Horological Association of Maryland, Inc.

September 2007

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PRESIDENT:                       DAVE GRAU,      tictocfinewatches@verizon.net

V. PRESIDENT:                  AL TAKATSCH,   al_taka@yahoo.com

SECRETARY:                      JOHN REILLY,     jrol@aol.com

TREASURER:                     STAN CRAIG,      no e-mail

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS:   EARL KNIGHT,   earljan@hughes.net



JERRY KINCAID (07)                      tictoctwo@aol.com

BRETT LOUIS (07)                         blouis@hst.nasa.gov

DAN SPATH (07)                           daspath@verizon.net

GEORGE TRESANSKY (07)           geotnant@aol.com

JACK KENNAN (08)                       jgkennan@webtv.net                   

GEORGE PAINTER (08)                gpainter@adelphia.net


Hoping to make these “messages from the President” of horological interest, I thought I’d focus this article on watch and clock oils of the past and a look at a future.  Some of these lubricants are not easily obtainable and must be manufactured at the bench.  Although I cannot vouch for their reliability, value, or what will happen over time, I will say that they are, if anything, uh, let me search for the right word— interesting (?).


Here are some ideas for three different kinds of watchmaker’s oil that you can make at home.  The source is that old favorite, "The Household Cyclopedia" (1881).

1. Expose the finest porpoise oil to the lowest natural temperature attainable. It will separate into two portions, a thick, solid mass at the bottom, and a thin, oily supernatant liquid. This is to be poured off while at the low temperature named, and is then fit for use.

2. Put into a glass flask, a portion of any fine oil, with 7 or 8 times its weight of alcohol, and heat the mixture almost to boiling; decant the clear upper stratum of fluid, and suffer [this is what you’ll be doing if you actually made this stuff] it to cool; a solid portion of fatty matter separates, which is to be removed, and then the alcoholic solution evaporated in a retort or basin, until reduced to one-fifth of its bulk. The fluid part of the oil will be deposited. It should be colorless and tasteless [always be sure to taste your watch oil prior to use], almost free from smell, without action on infusion of litmus, having the consistence of white olive oil, and not easily congealable.

3. Take a white glass bottle of pure olive or almond oil, put into it a coiled strip of lead, and expose it to the sun's rays until a white curdy matter ceases to be deposited.  Olive oil was the watchmaker’s oil of choice in the early 1800s.


Sperm Whale Oil

Then there’s the famous sperm whale oil.  The oil came from Spermaceti.



Spermaceti is the semi liquid, waxy substance found in spermaceti organ in the head of the Sperm Whale.  Early whalers thought this was the semen of the whale (hence, the name “Sperm Whale”) which it was of course, not.  Before the whale dives, cold water is brought through the organ and the wax is solidified.  The increase in specific density generates a down force (approx 40 kg equiv) and allows the whale effortless sinking.  The head of a sperm whale yields 2,000 gallons of oil equivalent to a weight of 8 tons.  In 1957 the oil sold for $5/oz.  Expensive stuff, its use is banned world wide.


Can A Clock or Watch be Created that Doesn’t Need Oil?

Actually, John Harrison (1693-1776) a British clockmaker who solved the problem of determining longitude at sea, designed a clock that didn’t need oiling.  The use of oil at the time was problematic as they were often made out of, as discussed earlier in this article, concoctions of plant (nut oils or olive oils) and animal fats (whale). These oils would often foul up the workings of a clock. In order to avoid using any of these oils, and to reduce maintenance, Harrison carved some parts out of lignum vitae - a tropical hardwood that exudes its own grease.  He also replaced the steel parts of sea-going clocks with brass to prevent rusting at sea.


Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 998C Watch Movement (2007)

Jaeger-LeCoultre recently announced the first watch movement needing no lubrication, the Calibre 998C.


An article on this movement can be found at http://www.europastar.com/europastar/magazine/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003638738


Here is the description (from the aforementioned article) of the materials used for the movement that eliminate the need for lubrication:


The regulating organ
Let’s begin by detailing the procedures and the choices that led to the elimination of all lubrication, and in particular, that of the regulating organ, at the heart of the endeavor. Traditionally, the jeweled regulating organ is lubricated with a fine oil placed on five oiling points. In the new Calibre 998C, four special materials have been combined in order to eliminate the need for lubricating these points: Easium™ carbonitride, black mono-crystalline diamond, silicon, and molybdenum bisulfide.
The material Easium™, used notably in the nuclear industry, made its entry into the world of watches because of its very high degree of hardness and its exceptional tribological properties, which means the very low friction coefficient, or rubbing factor, of its surface. The use of Easium™ is the subject of the first of six patents that cover the Master Compressor Extreme LAB. This material replaces the traditional jewels, made of rubies, which require oiling. The Easium™ also works in conjunction with another material, molybdenum bisulfide, which also has a very low rubbing factor. The molybdenum bisulfide is used to coat the burnished steel pivots of the balance staff, which turn inside the Easium™ bearings, thus no lubrication is needed. The two bearings turning the tourbillon carriage are also made of Easium™.
Close by, the traditional ruby pallet stones have been replaced by another material: mono-crystalline black diamond. Composed of 100 percent carbon atoms, this synthetic diamond is the hardest material in the world, and it also has a very low rubbing factor. Thus, no lubrication is required when the diamond touches the silicon teeth of the escape wheel. Not only is the wheel lighter (this is important because of inertia since it stops and starts incessantly), but also because of its revisited shape, the silicon wheel works better when combined with the diamond.


Gear and winding systems
Let’s leave the regulating organ and take a look at the gear trains. Here, too, we see that the pivots have been coated with the molybdenum bisulfide compound. However, the jewels of the moving gears have been preserved because, with their weaker rotational speeds compared to the regulating organ, the interaction of the jewels and the molybdenum bisulfide allows optimal operation without the addition of oil.
Let’s now pass to the winding system, beginning with the barrel. Traditionally, grease is added to the barrel for two reasons: first, the grease helps to prevent the wear on the spring whose spirals rub against each other; and secondly, it lets the bride slide smoothly inside the drum.
In the Extreme LAB, it has been possible to eliminate these various grease points thanks to the use of graphite powder. Placed inside the barrel, the graphite adheres to the spring’s spirals, letting them slide smoothly against each other, without rubbing. Graphite, also made of carbon atoms, is a very stable material, whose molecular structure takes the form of a stack of micro-platelets. It has the advantage of being basically unchangeable over time, regardless of the temperature and hygrometry levels. The grease points inside the winding and time-setting mechanism have also been eliminated, since the entire mechanism has been coated with Nickel-PTFE.
Optimal performance of the oscillating weight is also assured by ceramic ball bearings (used by Jaeger-LeCoultre since 2002), while friction has been reduced even more by using new materials to create the oscillating weight itself.



We’ve moved from the use of olive oil and lubricant from the skulls of sperm whales, to synthetic oils, to the creation of a movement that does not require lubrication.  Watch and clockmakers of the not so distant past, when it came to lubrication, were in a “hunter and gatherer” stage of development.  Today, we find ourselves in an era that makes use of high-tech synthetic materials that no longer require the use of lubrication.  I wonder how long it will be until the first self-cleaning mechanical watch is invented!


If you have ideas for topics for articles, or would like to contribute your own article to the newsletter, please let me know.


See you at the lather workshop at the Senior Center in Ellicott City on September 23 from noon – 5pm.



Dave Grau

Business Meeting Minutes Sept. 10, 2007 

Before the meeting 12 members met at Stella Notte restaurant for an award ceremony according to my notes for Stan Craig.  Tom Koluch had asked me to give a short speech about Stan’s contributions to the Association.  While waiting for dinner to arrive Dave Grau opened the ceremony with some comments about Stan and then asked me to say a few words.  I gave my speech.  I’ll spare you all the details except to say that my closing comment that Stan has not only been our treasurer for the past 10 or more years but he has also been our treasure, and that I mean sincerely.  With that said Dave handed me the award plaque to read on Stan’s behalf.  I was so intent on reading the context of the plaque that I did not read the name at the top.  In fact as I read it I was thinking that they got the facts all wrong.  It was at this point that George Tresansky pointed out the name at the top of the plaque – John Reilly.  What a shock, they really got me completely blind-sided.  I was almost moved to tears, but held on.  I understand that the subterfuge was engineered by George Painter.  Thanks to all the members for the award for ‘outstanding service’ and in particular to Tom Koluch for initiating it.

Click Here for Pictures


Business Meeting: 


Old Business:  Dan Spath reported on the doings of the recent annual AWCI meeting of August 2, 3 & 4.  Dan said that the meeting was quite hectic and not without controversy as one of the members, Doug Stewart, was reprimanded for some comments he made in an e-mail about one of the other board members.  Doug has always been outspoken and maybe a little too direct but his comments are always made with the association’s interest at heart.  It seems that Jim Lubic snubbed some women on his staff by not recognizing them, so a couple of members gave them their due with gifts of a new car (radio controlled) and a music disc.  I’m sure Jim was amused.


The association is about ready to release the much awaited 21st century clockmakers exam.  I’m sure it will be as well received as the 21st century watch maker’s exam.  Some members tried to get a count on the number of persons that have taken the watch makers exam, but the figure was so staggering that no one has yet compiled it.


Our own Dan Spath was elected to be the Affiliate Chapter president with Gene Bertram as vice president.  Gene will write the first article for the Horological Times and Dan will do the rest.  Congratulations Dan – we are sure you will do a great job!  Meantime if you have some burning issues that you would like to see addressed in the Affiliate Chapter column please pass them on to Dan for consideration


The AWCI dues for the coming year will be raised to $125.00.  No doubt that will cause problems for some.


If you have questions about the meeting please bring them to the next meeting so Dan can address them.



Dave opened the floor for nominations for the election of officers and directors that will be on the October ballot for the November elections. It looks like the seats will go uncontested for all of the offices.  The nominees are: Dave Grau for President, Stan Craig for Treasurer, Earl Knight for Sergeant-at-Arms and Dave Hannemann for Secretary.  Al Takatsch was nominated for Vice President and he volunteered to continue to do the set up for the Newsletter.  As you may have noticed the newsletter is decidedly more professional looking in recent months since Al took on this responsibility.


The two Board members whose terms expire this November are Brett Louis and George Tresansky, both accepted the nomination to renew their terms for two years.  The remaining directors, Jerry Kincaid and George Painter have one more year to serve on their present term.


The Ballots will go out with the October Newsletter.  Even though the officers and directors will be uncontested, I urge you to cast votes to show support for the candidates.


The drawing was won by Stan Craig and the meeting adjourned at 9 PM.  It was followed by a brief break and Bob Rothen was introduced to give his talk on the care and maintenance of a lathe.


Bob showed slides of a number of lathes, mostly 8mm, and an array of attachments.  I’m sure Bob has every one of the attachments and worse yet knows how to use all of them.

You see that’s my problem.  I will pay $150 for an attachment after having seen some fancy advertisement with a shinny part sitting next to it presumably made with the attachment.  Then I set it aside for 6 months until I need it to make a part like right now!  And of course, at this point, there is no time to read the directions so I fiddle with it for an hour or two and conclude that it doesn’t work and throw it back in the box where it sits for the next 6 years.   Then another accessory comes along that is supposed to be better and I buy it and sell the old one for $2.50 at the Woodsboro mart.  Not Bob.  He reads the directions, putters with it for a day or two and when the time comes to use it he’s ready.  Disgusting!  But it does confirm what I have suspected about Bob for some time now – He’s not a carbon based unit.


It was a very informative talk with great slides and will be followed by hands-on at our half-day workshop on the 23rd of September from 1 PM until 5 PM at the usual place, Howard Co. Sr. Center.  At this workshop, Bob will demonstrate how to take apart, adjust, oil and reassemble the lathe.  You are invited to bring your lathe and follow along.

I have the first part of that sequence down pretty pat, disassembly; it’s the rest where I need help.  So I will bring my parts and see you there. 


Regards, John Reilly



VP Ramblings

Another fine meeting is under our belts and we all look forward to the next. Bob Rothen will help us tune up our Watchmakers Lathes and go over its proper operation at the next workshop, so much to learn and so little time. Look forward to it Bob.


Our Dinner get together Celebrated Stan Craig to such a point that I began to doubt who the dinner was for. John Rielly, the Secret Guest of Honor, made such a eloquent speech about the year’s of service to HAM that Stan began to blush. What a setup! Makes you wonder who will be next?


The nominations of officers went quite smoothly, I especially enjoyed Dave Hannemann’s nomination and acceptance for the Secretary’s position. Were he actually there I’m sure he would have had several words of encouragement for us all.

If voted in I’ll continue as VP (so far an easy job) and continue as Webmaster of our Website. With the Secretary’s approval I will continue to publish the Newsletter on our Website and email the members. All I’ll need are the Minutes and other tidbits of information.


Here is a link to the AWCI Board Meeting Dan Spath talked about at the September meeting. Its filled with interesting viewpoints on how headquarters prefers to run the organization.

Click Here


AWCI members not renewing so far has decreased the total membership to a little over 3000 in 2007. To continue having its doors open AWCI has increased fee’s for declining Horological Times Advertisers and is raising membership dues to $125.00 to members that are left.

Problem Solved?

To be continued....




Meeting Dates


September 23, Lathe Workshop
We scheduled an all-day meeting for the Autumnal Equinox (Sept. 23, a Sunday) from noon to 5 PM at the Sr. Center.
October 8, Workshop
October 22, Workshop
November 12, Business
Nevember 26, Workshop
December  Board of Directors Meeting Only

Horological Association of Maryland, Inc.
Secretary Kevin Casker kcasker@gmail.com
Webmaster David Grau dg33@verizon.net