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      email: tony@lathes.co.uk
      Home   Machine Tool Archive   Machine-tools Sale & Wanted
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      Watch & Instrument Makers' Lathes
      - some general notes with a list of
      makers and useful accessories -

      A book on the use of the watchmaker's
      lathe can be ordered here

      Do you have a watch lathe of an unrecorded make? If so,
      the writer would be most interested to know about it

      Watchmaker's Lathe Accessories




      There are a number of designs and types of lathe intended for use by watchmakers, some dating back to the late 1700s and including specialised models - for example "fiddle" lathes,  "steel turns", Jacot, Swiss, Swiss Universal (also called the English Mandrel) Bottum and Dracip. However, more modern examples can generally be divided into two groups - the lighter "Geneva" and  heavier "WW". The "Geneva" can be recognised by its round bed, with a flat machined along either the top (or, more commonly, the back) and nearly always supported on a single foot beneath the headstock. These lathes, invented in 1859 by Charles S. Moseley in the U.S.A., generally take 6, 6.5 or 8 mm collets and were designed for lighter, very high-precision work. However, the "WW" (Webster-Whitcombe), is considered by many to be the more versatile of the two - and hence the more popular. Also American in origin, the WW dates from around 1889 and usually has a centre height, in standard form, of exactly 50 mm -  though very occasionally 65, 70 mm and other figures are encountered. Of heavy construction, the bed is formed with a 37 mm-wide flat on the top, a 60-degree bevel along each edge and carries a headstock fitted with a spindle to accept 8, 10 mm or 12 mm collets (though ones to take odd, in-between sizes have also been discovered).
      Of all the very many types and models made, experienced users of these lathes generally concur that amongst the very best in terms of quality and usability are those WW models fitted with ball-bearing spindles made by the American companies Levin and Derbyshire. The lathes are robust yet not oversize, made to the strictest standards and are able to run continuously at very high speeds with absolute reliability and also, if necessary take deep cuts. However, many users are certain that lathes with plain "cone" bearings can, when correctly set up, perform just as well. Hence, when buying a used lathe, the choice often comes down not to a particular make or specification, but balancing the condition, range of accessories included and, of course, the price.
      Amongst exceptions to the Geneva and WW types, are a number of unusual and interesting machines including a range of fine Boley lathes, manufactured from the middle 1800s to the early 1900s with either a triangular-form bed or an "in-between" design (which did not catch on) where the bottom of the bed was semi-circular in form and the top triangulated or "bevelled" . Also available have been slightly larger lathes with triangular-beds such as Glashutte, H.Strube & Fils together with unknown makes from the former East Germany and, though they might be considered as being too large, an unknown model from France and the Dalgety.
      Larger than the WW type are what might be called "toolmakers' or "bench precision" lathes: these vary in size from the Schaublin 65 and 70 (the latter types being the most popular and frequently-encountered machine in the professional watchmaker's workshop), the Pultra 15/90 and larger examples such as the Schaublin 102, American Watch Tool Company, Arrow, B.C.Ames, Bausch & Lomb, Benson, Boley, Bottum, Boxford, B.W.C., Carstens, Cataract, Cromwell, Crystal Lakes, CVA, Derbyshire, Elgin, Hardinge, Hjorth, Juvenia, Karger, Leinen, Levin, Lorch, Mikron, W.H.Nichols, Potter, Pratt & Whitney, Rambold, Rebmann, Remington, Rivett, Saupe, See (FSB), Sloan & Chace, Smart & Brown, T & L.M., U.N.D., Van Norman, Wade, Waltham Machine Works, Weisser, Wolf Jahn and (though now very rare), Frederick Pearce, Ballou & Whitcombe, Sawyer Watch Tool Co., Engineering Appliances, Fenn-Sadler and the "Cosa Corporation of New York." While useful machines in a precision workshop, these are outside the scope of this article but further information can be found here.
      Not only have there been many genuine makers of lathes for watchmakers, but also a lot of "badge engineering" where dealers and distributors commissioned batches of lathes for themselves - a well-known example from England being George Adams of London (who sold and re-branded mainly German-made machines) and G.Boley who offered their "bevelled-bed" model for re-badging by importers - two examples of this being the "English" Rawco and Telco. This situation was compounded by a number of parts and accessories being interchangeable between different makers - so it is entirely possible that a lathe has been "made up" from others, either casually over many years of ownership, or unscrupulously by a "dealer". However, it's very unlikely that the bed, headstock and tailstock will be from different manufacturers, but if they are, be wary.
      In addition to known and recognised makers, a surprising number of watch lathes have been discovered bereft of any identification. Quite often, just a single example is found, examples being this interesting "portable" type, three unknown from the former East Germany and some with odd design features or a strange mix of specification quite at odds with more conventional types.
      Unfortunately no maker of a watch lathes has ever offered a proper handbook for their products but, happily, there is an excellent hard-back book available that does the same job: "
      The Watchmakers' Lathe".  This is a long-established publication and, because most of these lathes were built along the same lines, and use almost identical accessories, the book is able to give instructions and guidance that applies to all types.
      Below is a set of links in the lathes.co.uk  Machine Tool Archive to some makers of watch and instrument makers' lathes and their accessories - some common, like G.Boley and lorch but others very rare, e.g. Accuro, Froidevaux., O.W.T. and Reese.
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Accuro
      http://www.yfdg.cc/George-Adams
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Aero
      http://www.yfdg.cc/AF (Albert Froidevaux)   
      http://www.yfdg.cc/AKE
      http://www.yfdg.cc/American Watch Tool Company
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Andra & Zwingenberger
      http://www.yfdg.cc/ARS
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Beijing Instrument Machine Tool Plant
      http://www.yfdg.cc/bolein
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Boley/page3.html
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Boley/page4.html
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Boley/page5.html
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Boley/page6.html
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Boley/page7.html
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Bourke A.J (Australia)
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Bergeon
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Bottum
      http://www.yfdg.cc/BTM
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Chinese
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Clement
      http://www.yfdg.cc/CLH
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Coronet-Precision
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Cowells
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Crown
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Derbyshire
      http://www.yfdg.cc/East-German (Unknown makers)
      http://www.yfdg.cc/English-Mandrel
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Favorite
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Elson
      http://www.yfdg.cc/gamma
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Georg-Jacob
      http://www.yfdg.cc/George-Adams
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Glashutte
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Go-Ahead
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Hammel-Riglander
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Hazemeyer
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Hopkins
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Horia
      http://www.yfdg.cc/IME
      http://www.yfdg.cc/George Jacob
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Rudolf-Kadner
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Kampe
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Kharkovski
      http://www.yfdg.cc/krei?sig
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Lanco
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Leinen-traditional
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Leinen-modern
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Levin
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Lorchtriumph
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Lorch-Watchmaker
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Lorch
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Manhora
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Marshall
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Moseley
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Nordan
      http://www.yfdg.cc/OWT
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Panerai
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Paulson
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Peerless
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Pennant
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Perfection
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Perton
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Pioneer
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Prazima (East German)
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Pultra
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Rawco
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Reese by Thos. Haulton of Johnstown, PA USA
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Riken
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Rivett
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Roberts
      http://www.lathes.co.u/ROFB
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Rolls-Royce
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Saacke
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Satif
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Schumer (Friedrich Schumer)
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Scomea
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Skarzysko
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Star
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Stark-watchmaker
      http://www.yfdg.cc/
      Stehman-Jenks-Stehman
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Steiner
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Superior
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Swartchild
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Swiss-Universal
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Taihang Instrument Factory Manufacturing
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Telco (by Boley)
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unitor (Italy)
      http://www.yfdg.cc//vector
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Webster-Whitcombe
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Wiskum
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Wolf-Jahn
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Van-Norman
      http://www.yfdg.cc/ZDZ
      http://www.yfdg.cc/Zimmerman
      In addition a number of unknown makes have been found, including the following - though some border on being the size of a small "
      bench precision" lathe:
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown43
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown52
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown53
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown55
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown66
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown77
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown85
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown92
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown95
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown96
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown97
      http://www.yfdg.cc/unknown102

      If you own another unknown make of watchmaker's lathe, please do get in touch




      Manufacturers and Brands
      Should any reader have a lathe from those below marked with the
      maker's name shown in red, the writer would be pleased to hear from you. Perhaps an example of each will, in the fullness of time, be found
      Genuinely high-quality Watchmakers' lathes were manufactured and branded by, amongst others:
      Accuro
      Adams George (UK)
      AF (Albert Froidevaux - Switzerland)
      American Watch Company (C. S. Moseley-designed lathe circa 1859)
      American Watch Company (A. Webster-designed lathe circa 1859/60)
      American Watch Tool Company (Webster-Whiitcomb improved-design lathe of 1889 - the WW model)
      Ames ((USA))
      ARS (France)
      J.A.Bradshaw (possibly just a dealer's marking)
      Bergeon (Swiss)
      Boley (German)
      Boley-Leinen (German)
      Boston Watch Company (C. S. Moseley-designed lathe circa 1858)
      Bottum (USA)
      Bourke (Australia)
      Boydon
      B.T.M. (UK)
      Cataract (Hardinge - USA)
      C.L.H. (UK)
      Coronet (UK)
      R.Cowles ((USA) - possibly only a patent and never manufactured)
      Dale
      Derbyshire (USA)
      Dracup
      E.H.J. (E. H. Jones machinery dealers and commissioners UK)
      Elson ((USA))

      E.M.E.

      Faneuil Watch Tool Co. (Rivett)
      Favorite (Swiss)
      Gem (Gem Glorious)
      Gentil (Star Lathes, Switzerland)
      George Adams (re-branded Boley and Lorch, etc. and cheaper imitations under his own label)
      Hardinge (Cataract) (USA)
      Hammel, Riglander & Co. (Europe)

      Haskett ((USA) - possibly only a patent and never manufactured)

      Hazemeyer (Holland)
      Hopkins - Patented 1872 (Van Norman - USA)
      Horia (Swiss)
      IME (UK)
      Georg JACOB (Germany)
      Jackson ((USA) - possibly only a patent and never manufactured)
      R.H. St. John ((USA) - actually a specialised "dental lathe"
      Jones (J & T Jones - UK)
      J.E.Kampe (U.S.A.)
      Gustav Klett (East Germany)
      Lancaster Special (by the Faneuil Watch Tool Company circa 1899 for sale by a jewellers' supply house L. C. Reisner of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
      Lampert - (USA) - also a manufacturer of collets
      Lancaster Special (USA)
      Lanco (Lane Cove - Australia)
      Leffel & Mulholland ((USA) - possibly only a patent and never manufactured)
      Leinen (German)
      Levin ((USA))
      Lorch (Lorch Schmidt)
      Luthy (Switzerland)
      Manhora (French)
      Mansfield
      Marshall (USA)
      Moseley (USA)
      Nordan (Denmark)
      Olin (Charles Olin of O.W.T. - USA)
      O.W.T. (Ohio Watch Tool Co.)
      Panerai & Figli (Italy)
      Paulson (USA)
      Peerless (USA)
      Pennant (USA ?)
      Perton (USA)

      Prazima (GDR)
      Precista
      Picard (Henri Picard et Frere) - probably only a dealer
      Pultra (UK)
      Reese Thos. Haulton (USA)
      Reliance
      Rivett (sometimes marked Rivett Lathe Mfg. Co. and, possibly, Rivett Lathe & Grinder Co.)
      Rivett Lathe & Grinder Corporation Type 1R
      R.W. Roberts (UK)
      ROFB (Royal Ordnance Factory, Birmingham, UK)
      Saacke
      Satif
      Schmidt
      Schaublin (Switzerland)
      Schumer (Friedrich Schumer) Germany
      Scomea (Société Commerciale d'Outillage et de Mécanique d'Aviation - France)
      Shaller ((USA) - possibly only a patent and never manufactured)
      Simplex

      Skarzysko
      Sloan & Chace (USA)
      Star
      Stark-watchmaker
      Stehman-Jenks-Stehman
      Steiner
      Superior
      Swartchild (agents)
      Swan
      "Swiss-Universal"
      Szalay
      T.C.M.
      Taihang Instrument Factory Manufacturing

      Taylor
      Tribby ((USA) - possibly only a patent and never manufactured)
      Unitor (Italy)
      Vector (Germany) A copy built in China as well
      Waltham (USA)
      Webster (USA)
      Webster-Whitcombe (WW)
      Whitcombe (USA)
      Wiskum (USA)
      D.M. Williams
      C.V.Woerd ((USA) - possibly only a patent and never manufactured)
      Wolf, Jahn (Germany)
      Van Norman (sometimes branded Hopkins) USA
      ZDZ (Poland)
      Zimmerman (USA)
      Continued below:


      An early American-made Moseley lathe of the
      "WW" type with parts as annotated by the maker.


      1. Headstock Spindle              2. Throat pin                        3. Loose bearing            4. Loose bearing pin
      5. Adjusting nut                      6. Front bushing                   7. Rear Bushing             8. Front inside shield
      9. Rear inside shield               10. Front outside shield       11. Rear outside shield
      12. Pulley                                13. Pulley Hub                    14. Pulley screw            15. Draw-in spindle
      16. Draw-in spindle wheel      17. Frame                            18. Index pin                  19. Bolt
      20. Spring                                21. Eccentric                       22. Lever                        23. Pointed Centre
      24. Spindle                               25. Spindle Button             26. Spindle Binder         27. Frame
      28. Bolt                                    29. Spring                           30. Eccentric                  31. Lever
      32. Slide                                   33. Pivot Screw                   34. Pivot Screw             35. Post
      36. Lever                                  37. T graver rest                  38. Shoe                         39. Shoe bolt
      40. Bolt pin                              41. Bolt washer                   42. Bolt spring               43. Bolt nut
      44. Bed                                    45. Base                               46. Base bolt                  47. Bolt washer
      48. Ball nut

      Boley WW Type lathe from the 1920s

      The much lighter "Geneva" pattern Boley with a flat-topped bar bed

      A Boley watchmakers' lathe with triangular bid circa 1865

      Not a design that caught on: the unusual Boley with a semi-circular base to the bed and a triangulated top.

      An English-made BTM "Geneva" pattern watchmakers' lathe (note the bar-like bed with, in this case, a flat at the back) complete in its maker's fitted wooden box with a range of useful accessories. The item top left in the box is that most valuable of extras - a compound rest, used to hold a cutting tool manipulated under the control of screw-feed slides.

      Boley Lathe No. 1b. A "WW" pattern lathe of a heavier pattern, admitting 230 mm between centres, and  with feet at both end of the bed. On this model the compound slide was fitted as part of the standard equipment.


      Another Boley but this time equipped for production work with quick-action levers fitted to the collet closer, compound slide and tailstock. The tailstock also has an indexing 6-station toolholder and the cross slide toolposts at front and back.

      A later type of  Boley & Leinen "Reform" lathe, manufactured from the early 1950s. This mouth-watering outfit was listed as the No. 77/X1V and contains virtually everything a skilled watch-repair man could wish for including, top left, a second headstock fitted with a permanently mounted (and hence very accurately aligned) faceplate with three clamps or "dogs".

      Continued:
      Availability
      Watchmakers" or Instrument-makers' lathes can be very valuable, especially if they are in fine, original condition and complete with lots of accessories. Buying just a basic lathe with bed, headstock tailstock and T-type tool rest can be false economy - there are lots of these about, at attractively low prices, but the real value is in the extras that allow the lathe to be used as a miniature "machining centre" - as originally intended - to cut, for example, wheels (gears), mill small parts and hold tiny, awkwardly shaped mechanisms for repair and restoration. Because there is considerable competition for accessories, if your basic lathe has to be equipped one part at a time much time, effort and money will be expended - hence, if you can, find a fully-equipped lathe; this will be a much better investment and a lot easier for you, or your heirs, to sell.
      If you are looking for one of these machine I would strong recommend advertising for one. There are thousands sitting unused whose owners will never get round to advertising them - a "wanted" advertisement might just encourage them to get in touch:
      Accessories: (many of those below are illustrated here)
      Typically, the most valuable watchmakers' or instrument-makers' lathe would still be in its original wooden box with a wide range of equipment including as many of the following as possible:
      Compound slide rest (or triple) with screw-feed or lever action
      Collets - a set of around 20 "Wire" (often called "split chucks"),
      Collets - "Wheel" type in a set of 5 or 6
      Collets - "Ring Step" type in a set of 5 or 6
      Chuck - conventional (but high-precision) 3-jaw or 6-jaw self-centring  (sometimes called a "Universal Chuck") in ring-scroll (knurled ring round the outside) and key-operated models,
      Chuck - conventional 4-jaw Independent
      Except where they are special-purpose, today "chucks" are usually called collets:
      Chucks - "wire" for holding round material
      Chucks - "fir tree" or "ring" used for holding the inside diameter of jobs
      Chucks - "step" or "disc" used for holding the outside diameter of jobs
      Chucks - "box" with four or more screws through the body to hold jobs
      Chucks - "brass split" (sometimes called the jewel type) to fit inside larger steel collets
      Chucks - "button" or "crown" usually in sets of 10 for holding watch winders
      Chucks - "carrier" for driving work between centres
      Chucks - circular-saw type
      Chucks - emery wheel
      Chucks - "lantern" in bronze or steel,
      Chucks - "wax" used for holding parts using hot wax and other glues
      Chucks - wood screw for turning wood and ivory, etc.
      Chucks - blank end for the user to adapt as necessary for special jobs
      Chucks - "step-up" for holding larger diameters
      Chucks - balance, for holding the balance wheels used in watches
      Cutting tools - as large a selection as possible
      Drill chuck for headstock or tailstock use
      Drilling plates - self-centring (a disc with a ring of holes each formed with a coned face to self-centre work)
      Drive or catch plate  - for turning work between centres
      Drive dogs - fastened to the work and "caught" by the catch plate and so turned with the spindle
      Dividing attachment - mounted on the headstock spindle or a milling slide
      Eye glass on adjustable holder
      Filing rest in single or double-roller types
      Fixed steady and travelling stead (the latter rare on watch lathes)
      Jacot Drum
      Lapping attachment
      "Mandrel" - this has the appearance of a spare headstock with a "faceplate" attached and, as it is very accurately made in one piece, used for super-precision work
      Micrometer-adjustable boring head
      Milling slide
      Pivoting attachment
      Pivot polisher
      Rose cutters
      Screwcutting Attachment with a set of changewheels
      Saw table - either a simple type to fit in the T-rest holder or a more complex universal version for mounting on the lathe bed
      Sinking tools
      Spindle - high-speed grinding and miller-cutter holding spindle--often attached to a vertical slide
      T-rest - the basic device to rest a tool against. Available in standard and tip-over types and with different lengths of T
      Tailstock chucks - also known as "drill stocks" and available with flat heads, V-heads and chuck type
      Turning arbors - finely made bars to hold work. Can also be had in sets with very fine tapers of various diameters onto which jobs bored with a hole can be pressed
      Topping or "rounding up" tool
      Tailstock; many types including the basic sliding spindle and screw and lever-feed types - but also ones adapted for special work and, equipped with a capstan attachment, for production work.
      Tip-over or simple sliding T-shaped Hand-rest,
      Universal Faceplate and Pump Centre,
      Wheel-cutting attachment with division plate (to cut what the laymen would call cogs or gears but which are known to the watchmaker as "wheels").
      Drive systems
      Even when fully equipped it is not unusual to find that a second-hand watchmaker's lathe has no drive system or even a motor. However, this is rarely a problem, for the easiest and cheapest solution is to use either the motor from a sewing machine or, preferably, a proper "Parvalux" unit - the latter available in 1-phase, 3-phase and DC types with speed ranges spanning 0.2 to 10,000 r.p.m. The motor can be bolted in place behind the headstock and driven by a
      special, high-quality  Swiss-made round belt that can be flipped easily from groove to grove, there being no need to make up the type of hinged countershaft that a larger lathe would need.
      Handbooks
      Amazingly, no maker of a watch lathes has ever offered a proper instructional handbook for their products. Happily, there is an excellent hard-back book available that does the same job: "
      The Watchmakers' Lathe".  This is a long-established publication and, because most of these lathes were built along the same lines, and use almost identical accessories, the book is able to give precise instructions that apply to all types..

      A Swiss-made Bergeon Model C of the "Geneva" type. This example is fitted with a compound slide rest to hold the cutting tool, a lever-action tailstock and, to assist with very small work, a magnifying glass held on an articulated arm. Bergeon is the only indigenous Swiss manufacturer of watchmakers' lathes to have survived into the 21st century.




      A book on the use of a  watchmaker's
      lathe can be ordered here

      Watch & Instrument Makers' Lathes
      - some general notes with a list of
      makers and useful accessories -

      email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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