Precision Is Not A Dream Past And Present Of The Balance Spring (1)

An element with a mass of only a few grams converts the clock from a mechanical decoration to a scientific instrument. The time measurement is accurate enough to help navigators explore the ocean, and then bring humans into space. The balance wheel The story of Balance Spring / Hairspring is a wonderful adventure.

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   At the beginning of chaos, there was only darkness and emptiness in the heavens and the earth; the creation of watchmaking, the vital coil spring had not yet emerged. As early as the Renaissance, in order to more or less regulate the rate of clockwork, watchmakers were exhausted, and their silks turned gray. At that time, most of the pocket watches were hanging around the neck, or wrapped around the waist, and were rarely at rest. The oscillator was constantly disturbed, so the accuracy of the travel time was really dare not be complimented. The hairspring is born from bristles, and the expression ‘thin as hair’ is not exaggerated. Before the invention of this exquisite metal element (shaped like the mainspring of an Archimedes spiral), when the balance wheel completed half-cycle oscillation, it was reset by virtue of the elastic swing of the bristles. This is an often overlooked fact. Therefore, the early ‘Verge Escapement’ relied on organic matter to maintain oscillations: this is inevitably disturbing, because small changes in atmospheric humidity are enough to affect the operation of the mechanism. The so-called loss is thousands of miles.

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Revolutionary innovation
   This mechanism of mixed metal and organic hair is neither mature nor practical, but it has successfully stirred the interest of scientists and scholars in the seventeenth century (called the ‘golden age’ by historians). Time itself is meaningless, and history becomes extraordinary with the name of a great man. Let us remember those who learned the clock operation in advance: Galileo, Newton, Huygens, Abbot Jean de Hautefeuille, and the British mathematician and physicist Robert Hook, etc. The normativity of the clock. Respecting the inspiration of prestige, the desire to stay famous, in the 1630s, scientists began to seek ways to regulate the clock rate, and then benefit all portable timing instruments.
   This is a daunting challenge, comparable to finding stones and perpetual motion for philosophers. Initially, the astronomer Galileo discovered the isochronism of the pendulum through observation, and based on this he devised a (though imperfect) machine. An alternative to the clock appeared in 1659. Dutch mathematician and astronomer Christian Huygens suspended the pendulum from a thread and used a non-rigid connection to the escapement. This raises a difficult question: how to ensure the accurate timing of the clock? In 1660, Blaise Pascal (inventor of the mechanical calculator) proposed his solution to the irregular operation of the balance wheel. Blaise Pascal recommends using a flat hairspring with a fiber ratio of human hair and connecting it to the adjustment balance to prevent the clock from losing its balance when it is slightly shocked or suddenly moved. The watchmakers should have grasped this idea; however, it was forgotten in an unknown corner.

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Controversial patent
   It was widely agreed that on January 23, 1675, Christian Huygens was identified as the inventor of the hairspring. This slim spiral spring changed the rules of the game and improved the accuracy of the clock by an order of magnitude. However, the ownership of the invention is still controversial and has triggered the first real debate in the watchmaking industry. Christian Huygens sent an encrypted letter to the secretary of the Royal Society of London, explaining briefly the improvement of the hairspring, and was officially declared ‘inventor of the balance spring’ (the inventor of the balance spring). The move immediately sparked protests from other scholars and renowned watchmakers. Abbot Jean de Hautefeuille (aged 28) claims to have conceptualized this principle long before Huygens. And IsaacThuret (Huygens commissioned him to make a prototype clock with a hairspring) immediately provided Colbert with a second sample, but this time in his own name. The talented inventor Robert Hook set aside silence and stated that as early as 1665, he had proposed the idea of ​​assembling a clock with a thin spiral spring, and had drawn proof drawings.
   There is no doubt that Huygens benefited from Hook’s research, the former borrowed the conclusions of the latter to advance his theory. But it should be noted that, as a famous scientist, Huygens also proposed the wave theory of light and invented an element. This element, combined with a freestyle escapement (pawl or lever), transforms the clock from a mechanical decoration to a scientific instrument. In a short period of time, clocks that had not been equipped with hairsprings before were renewed. Once upon a time, the seventeenth-century clocks had a pool of stagnant water that has not changed since ancient times; as if overnight, they suddenly became reliable measuring instruments with a daily error of only 5 minutes.
Date: January 23, 1675
Inventor: Dutch Christian Huygens
Purpose: Make the clock more accurate
Mass: less than 0.05 g
Application: Isochronism of balance oscillation
Result: constant balance amplitude and accurate clock timing

Precision is not a dream, the past and present of the balance spring (2)

Precision is not a dream, the past and present of the balance spring (3)