I'm sure almost all of you've heard of the cabinotiers of old Geneva, those watchmakers working in the small workshops, often located in the garrets of Geneva's town houses.
It was the place with the best availlable daylight, the most time of a day, a natural place for this tiny workpieces, incredibly demanding for the human eye.
When visiting german watchmaker Christian Klings recently I felt reminded of this old term, not only because his tiny workshop, also on the top floor under the roof exactly meets this descriptions; also his style of watchmaking comes very, very close. Few has been written about Christian Klings and different from the few "stars" among the AHCI his name isn't that well known even among those, more focused on the world of independents.
When I first met Christian in the 2005 Basel fair, I hadn't heard a lot as well, but at least I remembered some mysterious escapement, called "desmodromic escapement" (this term probably will ring a bell with the motor bike friends among us, think Ducati). I was really blown away by what I saw - unbelievable to me at that time how a single guy could invest such an amount of painstaking work and energy in such developements. And quickly learning that this was a small part of his work only!
I'll post some more comprehensive information on Christian and his desmodromic escapement later, but for now:
it's a single impulse, lubrication free pivoted detent escapement - but no spring for the chronometer lever and working reliably under wrist watch conditions (i.e.reasonably shock proof) with 28.800 bph!
His cases are very tastefull and classic, as is the overall aesthetic of his watches - not surprising knowing about his admiration of the great watchmakers like A.L.Breguet and Dr. George Daniels.
Christian's work has an incredible depth - besides almost all vital parts of the movement, he makes his own cases, the guillochage of the dials, engraving the dials....... he's even modifying the crystals with changing/polishing the bevels to enhance the details of the dial!
His No.5 tourbillon is a real treat for any horological tech nut - it's a 7.5 seconds tourbillon with a fixed escape wheel (it's fixed to the mainplate). Some will be reminded Albert H.Potters famous tourbillon of similar design. But this one is even more special as the balance is impulsed through the hairspring only !! Also more details on this one later. Normally I'm not that fond of higher beat rate movements - but this one is just spectacular to observe.
As you may have guessed already, all of Christians finished watches are unique pieces - and unique here really means unique
But, before I get lost, here are some pictures of his most recent creation - tourbillon No. 7 - a flying tourbillon with swiss lever escapement, with flying third wheel, moon phase and power reserve indication.
Christian is AHCI candidate, but he'll not be in Basel this yeear :-(
Hope you enjoyed the pictures and as promised, I'll post more on Christians work later!
.... No. 5 is a most fascinating piece, your pick isn't surprising to me
It's a long story and perhaps much better to go into Christian Klings desmodromic escapement first as it's part of this very special piece as well.
And, I should also point out that No. 5 somehow will remain Christians "unfinished opus".
As you already may have seen on the pictures - it doesn't look really finished and it isn't - Christian invested an incredible amount of time and energy into this piece but at the end it was a "glorious fail" (like it's historic predecessor)- but an very intriguing one!
The basic principle behind was created by Himmelheber, I'll scan some of the drawings I can find for better understanding later on.
Here's a larger view of the tourbillon so that you'll have some puzzling late sunday fun
As said - it's a 7.5 seconds tourbillon and as you may see driven by the fourth wheel (thus turning cw) - but more later
that's a constant force mechanism!
During his countless hours trying to get it working, i.e. to achieve a little better rate stability, he realized that this escapement was very sensitive to this problem and he decided to add a constant force. You may imagine what that means once the base design is already done ;-)
The original idea (it's an old dream to somehow achieve a less harsh impulsing, I'm lacking the correct english term, perhaps it could be called "impact free" impulse?) goes back to Benoit and Himmelheber - bot designed torubillon escapements where the impulse is supplied through the hairspring (i.e. not directly to the balance).
As nice as it works in terms of smoothness of impulse, it's extremely problematic and complex to work precisely.
The exact timing for unlocking/impulse is most crucial and that's one of the weak parts of those designs.
BTW, Rieflers version with balance wheel (the pictures of Paul Gerbers table clock ) is similar and I'd say belongs to the same group.
Christian Klings combined this basic design with his desmodromic escapement - but as said even investing far more time and energy as expected - it never worked reliably. But looking at the running escapement is incredibly mesmerizing and one easily forgets about such sterile things as "rate"
If' I'd have had to guess if it could work before I actually saw it in the flesh - I wouldn't have believed it could.
. . .constant force escapement (!) impulsed through the hairspring, not directly to an impulse jewel on the balance? That's just wild. That it was done in a 7.5 second tourbillon just adds to the tastiness, even if it IS tempermental. I'd just love to hear more about this particular watch, and about the desmodromic escapement, when and if you have time; and I'm just staggered that anyone would try for a constant force escapement at all these days- I was under the impression that constant force escapements had been more or less abandoned by the mid 19th century.
I wonder if some other constant force mechanism would have given the necessary uniform delivery of power- a remontoire or fusee? I expect there must be something in the design of the escapement itself that made him try for such an exotic design and would love to hear more about it.
Thanks very much- the most interesting post by far I've seen in months .