Made during the 1950s in the heart of the Swiss watch-making region, centred on Chaux-de-Fonds, the 40 mm centre height by 115 mm between centres AF lathe was offered by Albert Froidevaux in his extensive catalogue of horological tools and equipment. However, there is no evidence that this was a bought-in and re-branded lathe, for it does differ in many ways from all other known makes and so would, presumably have been of his own manufacture. Of course, there is always the chance that it was, instead, by one of the many local skilled subcontractors, most of whom would have been well placed to take on such a commission. Today, AF Switzerland, founded by Mr. Froidevaux in 1926, continues as a leading supplier of watch spare parts, tools and equipment for watchmakers, clockmakers, jewellers and similar trades.
Of the traditional light "Geneva" pattern, the AF lathe had its 250 mm long round bed flattened at the back with the headstock carrying a post that socketed into a base with flared sides and a wide, stable foot. Between the headstock and plinth was the usual distance piece, clamped on - rather crudely it must be said - with what appears to have been a pair of ordinary, off-the-shelf socket-headed Allen screws.
While most watchmakers' lathes are found highly polished all over and nickel or chromium plated, the AF broke with tradition and, following the fashion as practiced by other watchlathe manufacturers in the 1950s, had some parts painted - in this case, the headstock, base support and tailstock. Other makers employing the art of simultaneous adornment and cost cutting included Bergeon and Favorite from Switzerland, the French Somea, Danish Wiskum and Leinen and G.Boley from Germany. Interestingly, if the headstock on a Bergeon is reversed so that the swan next extension at the front points to the left, it looks remarkably like that on the AF - as does the form (if not the shape) of the base together with its distance piece and the Allen screw locking bolts. However, if the Bergeon was the designer's inspiration, he ignored that lathe's compound slide rest assembly and instead produced an original layout with large zeroing micrometer dials, square-section ways and a swivelling top slide with a single T-slot. The feed screw was arranged to run down the left-hand side of the casting in a slot that provided some protection from the wearing effects of swarf and dirt.
Lacking a threaded nose but taking 8 mm draw-tube retained collets, the hardened and ground headstock spindle ran in what the maker's described as "bronze ball bearings" - though translation from the French and German entries give a more accurate picture being, respectively, "bronze pads" and "scraped bronze bearing" - in other words, double-cone plain phosphor bronze bearings that could take both lateral and thrust loads (though the exact arrangement remains unknown). While this was a design at odds with the more usual steel bushes of extreme hardness or ball races common on other makes, it was by no means unique with, for example, the United States' makers Levin offering both pre-loaded ball races and conical bronze bearings on some of their models and the C.E. Marshall Company ball races.
As usual, a boxed set was also available - though the single one known had only the basic of accessories included; a compound screw-feed slide rest with single toolpost, a flip-up T-rest with two sizes of T, a set of eighteen wire collets, four step (cone) collets, five sizes of wax chucks a carrier chuck (drive plate), a centre and possibly four tailstock runners. However, Froidevaux also listed, separately, two 6-jaw chucks one with pipe jaws the other with plate and a 3-jaw chuck with face jaws that could be reversed on their backing support. A choice of two countershafts with attached motors was also offered: one with a fixed upper section, the other with built-in switch and a lever operated swivel that allowed the belt tension to be relaxed for changes of speed. If you have a lathe by Albert Froidevaux - they appear to very rare - the writer would be interested to hear from you..