Time & Clocks Dictionary
Waggon Spring Clock: A clock which has a heavy leaf spring, like a half-elliptic road spring of a motor-car, instead of a clock spring, to drive it. The spring is fixed across the bottom of the case. Invented by an American, Joseph Ives, about 1818, and only made in the U.S.A.
Wallace Collection: Famous art collection in Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, which includes some fine French clocks.
Wandering Hour Dial: Seventeenth century watch dial without hands. There is a semi-circular slot marked O-I-II-III-IV along the bottom edge for quarter hours, and 0 to 60 along the top edge for minutes. An appropriate numeral indicating the hour moves around this slot. Similar to NIGHT CLOCK dial.
Watch: The watch or 'portable clock' became possible when the MAINSPRING was invented to replace the WEIGHT. Earliest were probably Italian, but the only survivors are German of about 1540 and French of 1551. These were ball shaped (wrongly called NUREMBERG EGGS), but were soon displaced by drum-shaped or oval ones of about 2 in. diameter. They had VERGE ESCAPEMENTS with DUMBELL BALANCE Or BALANCE WHEEL. Iron or steel was used for construction before about 1560 and brass afterwards. After the long waistcoat was popularized in 1675, watches went into waistcoat pockets. The BALANCE SPRING was incorporated in most watches after 1700 making them more accurate and encouraging minute hands. The CYLINDER ESCAPEMENT replaced the VERGE for about 150 years and encouraged seconds hands. LEVER ESCAPEMENTS Came into general use after about 1825 until today almost all watches have them. The rate of manufacture was stepped up by the LEPINE CALIBRE era of cheap watches by the methods of ROSKOPF and WATERBURY, until today watches are produced by semiautomatic processes in many tens of millions a year. The WRISTWATCH is comparatively recent, having become popular only in the last 50 years. An average wrist-watch has about 130 parts which require about 1,400 machining operations in manufacture. See Thinnest Watch and Smallest Watch.
Watch Paper: Printed or otherwise decorated paper or cambric placed in the back of the PAIR CASE Of a watch to prevent chafing. Nearly all watchmakers had their own designs, which included pictures of beauties of the time, EQUATION OF TIME tables, advertisements, mottoes, etc.
Watch Timer: An instrument, the RATE RECORDER; or a skilled man, the watch ADJUSTER.
Watch Train: An old name for the series of gears responsible for timekeeping of a clock, i.e. the GOING TRAIN.
Watchmaker: Originally a craftsman who made watches and clocks-the timekeeping part of a clock was then also called 'the watch'. Now a repairer or retailer.
Watchman's Clock: Clock to indicate the time at which a night watchman makes his rounds. Invented by Whitehurst of Derby in 1750, whose version had a large rotating disc with pegs round its edge. The watchman struck a lever which pushed in a peg at the time of his visit. In the modern version the watchman carries a small TIME RECORDER. There are keys chained in the places he must visit. On his rounds he inserts each key and turns it, which gives a time indication and the key number on a paper tape sealed in the recorder.
Water Clock: The earliest were Egyptian stone bowls with sloping sides and with a leak hole near the bottom. After filling, the decreasing water level inside shows the passing hours. Different scales are for the different TEMPORAL HOURS Of different months. Introduced into Rome and Greece s.c. and gradually made more and more elaborate in the early centuries A.D., with floats that moved, figures pointing to scales, and mechanisms striking bells, but not much improved in accuracy. Reached its culmination in the elaborate clock Of SU SUNG in China. See Sinking Bowl.
Waterbury Watch: One of the first cheap watches, made in the U.S.A. from 1880 to 1898. The time it took to wind a Waterbury used to be a Music Hall joke.
Waterproof: An unsealed watch case 'breathes', drawing in air when cold and expelling it when warm. It may draw in perspiration from the wrist or moisture from the air, which is deposited on steel parts and rusts them. A water-sealed case prevents this and also stops hairs and dust (which can be harder than steel) being drawn in and forming a grinding paste with the oil. The first waterproof pocket watch was the EXPLORER'S WATCH and first waterproof wrist-watch one by Rolex. Most 'waterproof' watches are not intended to be used under water and should be called 'water resistant'. Special ones are made for skin diving and tested to the equivalent of 600 ft. and more. Waterproofing can deteriorate through wear and non-replacement of sealing washers. Even a truly waterproof watch may show a milky moisture deposit on the glass in cold weather from air sealed in it. The main sealing places are at the back of the case, the glass, and the winding button. See Diver's Watch.
Webster Collection: Fine collection of clocks and watches including many FORM WATCHES, broken up and sold on the death of Percy Webster, their owner, in 1954.
Weight: Every mechanical clock before about 1450 was driven by a weight hanging from a rope wound round a drum or BARREL. Weights have continued in use to the present time because they give more even power than springs. Early weights were of stone. Later, cast iron and lead (enclosed in brass until the end of the eighteenth century for the best clocks) were used.
Wells Cathedral Clock: Large iron clock made before 1392 and now in the SCIENCE MUSEUM, London, which strikes (being controlled by one of the earliest LOCKING PLATES) and chimes. Converted to ANCHOR AND PENDULUM in the seventeenth century. Both Wells and SALISBURY clocks, which are very similar, may have been made under the instruction of Bishop Erghum, from Bruges, who was at Salisbury from 1375-85 (see Lightfoot). The clock once operated JACK BLANDIFER and the other AUTOMATA in the cathedral but was removed in 1835 in favour of a new MOVEMENT.
Westminster Chime: Familiar chime of the WESTMINSTER PALACE CLOCK ('Big Ben') which was taken from the fifth bar of Handel's Messiah, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth', and modified by Mr Crotch and Dr Jowett originally for St Mary's Church, Cambridge, in 1793-4.
Westminster Palace Clock: The clock popularly known as 'BIG BEN', in a tower of the Palace of Westminster, the official name for the Houses of Parliament. The first clock there was in a tower built about 1365. It struck a great bell every hour. This was followed by another in a new tower after the Commonwealth, striking on GREAT TOM. When the tower of the present Westminster Palace was nearly finished in 1844, the architect, Sir Charles Barry, wrote to B. L. VULLIAMY for plans of a clock. Another prominent maker, E. 7. Dent, objected and asked also to be allowed to tender. It was then decided to ask the Astronomer Royal, G. B. AIRY, to draw up a specification, and submit it to Vulliamy, Dent, and Whitehurst of Derby, for tender. Most clockmakers thought Airy's condition, that the first blow of each hour should be accurate to a second, impossible for so huge a clock. They included Vulliamy, who withdrew. Dent won the contract and Airy asked Lord Grimthorpe to supervise the making of the clock. Grimthorpe, a ruthless and sharp-tongued lawyer, was also a brilliant amateur clockmaker. During the 15 years of design and construction, Dent died and his stepson Frederick Dent was appointed after a legal battle. There were wars with the architect, Astronomer Royal (who resigned from the committee), bell founders, authorities, and other clockmakers; there were intrigues, and litigation. Grimthorpe received no payment and had been far-sighted enough to have a contract at the beginning giving him real power, with the result, he said, '. . . every possible attempt was made to get rid of both it and me. No official who joined in those attempts cared three half-pence how the clock was made. Luckily I did care. . . .' The final cost of the clock including £750 for recasting Big Ben, the bell, was under £6,000. The cost of the iron frame provided by the architect was about £6,600! The clock was set working in 1859 and proved the most accurate large clock ever made. It has Grimthorpe's GRAVITY ESCAPEMENT, and a Two SECONDS PENDULUM weighing about 700lb. The three weights for timekeeping, striking and chiming, weigh 11 cwt., 11 tons, and 11 tons respectively. The MOVEMENT looks like an elderly printing press and is 16 ft. long by 5 ft. 6 in. wide. Since 1913 it has been wound electrically. Winding by hand used to take over 30 hours a week. At one stage, Grimthorpe considered AUTOMATIC WINDING operated by the weight of people walking over Westminster Bridge. It is connected electrically to the ROYAL OBSERVATORY for time checking and also to the firm of E. Dent & Co., who still look after it. The dials are nearly 221 ft. in diameter, the centres being 180 ft. from the ground. The minute hands are 14 ft. long and weigh 2 cwt. each. The minute spaces are one foot square. Until 1900 the dials were lit by gas burners; now lighting is fluorescent.
Wetherfield Collection: Famous collection of clocks, containing the 'RECORD' TOMPION, amassed by David Wetherfield, a coal merchant, over 30 years, and offered for auction in 1928 after his death, but sold privately to Francis Mallet for £30,000.
Wheel: One of the larger gears in a watch or clock; usually made of brass and pierced to give it four spokes, called 'crossings'. The teeth of small gears are of cycloidal form because the common involute gear is unsuccessful on a small scale. See Pinion.
Wheel Barometer: Mercury barometer in which a small weight on a cord over a wheel rested on the surface of the mercury and turned a hand over a dial. Early clockmakers also made barometers.
Willard H. Wheeler Collection: U.S.A. private watch collection sold at Sothebys, London, for a total of £27,760 in 1961.
Wilsdorf Collection: The collection Of ENAMELLED WATCHES made by H. Wilsdorf in Geneva.
Winding Button: The button or 'crown' of a watch used for winding and hand setting through the KEYLESS work.
Winding Square: Square-ended ARBOR to take a winding key. Winding was through the centre of the single hand on early watches, then through a hole in the dial, but this was superseded by KEYLESS WINDING. Some weight clocks and all spring clocks have winding squares in the dial or on the back of the MOVEMENT, one for the GOING TRAIN, One for STRIKING, and One for CHIMING. Some clock-winding holes had grooved, decorative rings around them, once supposed (wrongly) to assist drunken clock winders! See Tipsy Key.
Wooden Clock: Clock with main parts of wood, including the PLATES, WHEELS and DIAL. The earliest were probably BLACK FOREST CLOCKS from about 1680. The first PRECISION CLOCK made by James or John HARRISON, in Yorkshire, was wooden and was claimed to keep time to one second a month for 10 years! Mass production of cheap wooden clocks was started in the U.S.A. in 1809 by Eh TERRY, Seth THOMAS, and Silas Hoadley. These were often sold without cases, which were added by local cabinet makers. Terry even made wooden TOWER CLOCKS, one being in the Congregational Church at Terryville, Connecticut. There is a Russian wooden watch in the Zwinger Museum, Dresden.
Woodpecker Escapement: Form of PIN WHEEL ESCAPEMENT in some early nineteenth century Austrian clocks to provide DEAD BEAT seconds with a half-seconds PENDULUM. One of two impulse PALLETS is hinged to prevent IMPULSE in one direction. Also called 'coup perdu.
World Clock: Clock with a WORLD TIME DIAL. Often included in ASTRONOMICAL CLOCKS. There is a clock in the Zwinger Museum, Dresden, made in 1690 by Andreas Gartner, which shows the time in all latitudes on 360 supplementary dials!
World Time Dial: Clock or watch showing time of day in different parts of the world. As the Earth turns in 24 hrs., an hour hand turning once in this time over a 24-hr. dial is necessary. The main countries or towns of the world are marked round the BEZEL or an extra dial, that can be rotated. If the timepiece is in London and showing the time there, the bezel is turned by hand until the point on it marked 'London' is opposite the hour hand. To know the hour in another place, it is then only necessary to read it on the 24-hr. dial opposite the place name. As TIME ZONES vary by whole hours, an ordinary minute hand will give minutes for all zones, i.e. if it is 16.20 hr. G.M.T. in London, it is 11.20 in New York, 17.20 in Paris, and 19.20 in Leningrad. Several countries, including India and Central Australia, vary by half an hour from the Standard Time, however; an adjustment must be made for this, as well as for local variations such as BRITISH SUMMER TIME. Another form of world time dial is to have a model of the globe, or a drum or band carrying a map, revolving once in 24 hrs. A stationary ring around the equator is marked in hours from 1 to 24, so the place is found on the globe, the time there read on the ring, and the adjustment made for local variations of time zones, which can also be marked on the globe. Other versions are a stationary map of the world with a moving band indicating the hours, and a stationary map with actual time in DIGITAL INDICATION on the main countries in numerals.
Wrist-Chronometer: A wrist-watch that has obtained a RATING CERTIFICATE according to the Swiss definition.
Wrist-Watch: A watch was very occasionally worn attached to the wrist by ladies of the eighteenth century as a novelty. C. Girard Perregaux made Swiss wrist-watches for German Naval Officers in 1880, but did not put them on the market until after 1904. Benson introduced them in England in 1885, but they did not begin to be popular until about 1910. They were thought to be effeminate, but the First World War gave them a big stimulus when soldiers found them really practical. Many special wrist-watch STRAPS were made to hold small pocket watches. More and more special MOVEMENTS and CASES were designed, however, until today the world output of wristwatches is 86 million yearly.