Timex Self-Wind – the poor man’s Pellaton

Timex Self-Wind – the poor man’s Pellaton

Joined: May 5th, 2009, 1:22 pm

November 16th, 2010, 2:02 am #1

This post is not actually about an Asian watch, but I’m justifying posting here because it all came about as a result of my exploration of the conceptual thread connecting the IWC Pellaton auto-winding system to the Seiko Magic Lever:
http://www.network54.com/Forum/642233/m ... ing+system

Along the way I discovered the unusual Timex Self-Wind system. I became curious to examine this device for myself. Ancre-Steam generously provided me with a sacrificial victim.

And here it is; a Timex calibre M31 Self-Wind, designed in the USA and made in Dundee, Scotland. This particular example was made in 1968



It’s a typically clean 1960s Timex style. Easy to read, compact, and doing a reasonable job of disguising the bulk of an automatic movement. Curiously no country-of-origin is specified on the dial.

The caseback, in typical fashion of the time claims the watch to be ‘Water Proof’.



Inside the back is the first piece of evidence that we are dealing with a Dundee-made watch.



Incidentally, while we’re talking origins, I’ve read that the one part of the Scottish Timexes that was always bought in from elsewhere was the dial.



Now, down to the nitty-gritty…

Here is our first view of the movement with the back off. Not much to look at is it?



That huge rotor blocks our view of everything. At least it has a couple of large apertures to access the screws securing the rotor mount.

And this is the dismounted rotor:



As you can see, the mounting plate lies flat upon the movement top plate. Technically it would have been feasible to build the rotor pivot into the top plate, but that plate is just a piece of stamped sheet metal, and it is shared with all the hand-winding versions. So instead, to keep things simple, the rotor is permanently fixed to the mounting plate. I have been professionally advised that this is the fatal flaw of these movements as once the rotor gets a bit of free-play due to wear, there is nothing to tighten up. In the next picture you will see three blued-steel studs embedded in the top-plate which help protect the rotor when taking a hard knock.

Anyway, the really interesting feature of the rotor is the eccentric portion of its axle, clearly visible in the photo above. Essentially it is a cam of circular profile, which engages this fascinating assemblage:



Functionally this is identical to Albert Pellaton’s patent so I can only guess that Timex was standing poised to leap in when the patent lapsed. The rotor cam moves the cam-feeler (those big antlers) in an arc from side to side, which draws the spring-loaded pawl fingers back and forth along the pawl wheel. One of the fingers pulls the wheel in one direction and glides over the wheel in the other. The other finger pushes the wheel on one direction and glides in the other. Thus bi-directional winding is achieved. The spring-loading is biased in one direction, so care must be taken in handling when the rotor is not there to hold it all together. The device has a tendency to go ‘sproing!’ and tangle up.

Here’s a close-up of the assemblage, showing the guides on the pawl-wheel to prevent vertical slippage of the pawl fingers. Also you can see the cam-feeler angled upwards to clear the rotor mounting plate.



All things considered though, Timex did a reasonable job of keeping the additional thickness to a minimum. Which was rather important considering the height of the base movement.



In case the engineers amongst you were thinking that the mounting of the pawl wheel directly on the mainspring barrel would result in an impossibly high torque-load, all is not as it seems. It’s time to turn the movement over.

Here is the dial side of the main plate, with the hour wheel and minute pinion removed for the sake of clarity:



The most eye-catching feature is the epicyclic gearset coaxial with the barrel. Hand-winding rotates the annular gear, the pinion in the centre connects through the middle of the barrel to the auto-winding pawl-wheel. Both of these engage the orbiting pair of wheels which turn the wheel on which they are mounted, winding the barrel arbor. This system ensures effective decoupling of the two winding systems.

So there you have it; the secrets of the Timex Self-Wind revealed. I hope you enjoyed the journey. I know I did.

Stay tuned for my report on cleaning and reassembling the watch. Hopefully it will look this way once again AND be ticking.


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Joined: June 19th, 2009, 6:51 pm

November 16th, 2010, 2:34 am #2

The movement may be simple but there are some pretty clever innovations in there

I look forward to your restoration. It shouldn't be too difficult as the watch really does want to run.

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Joined: December 1st, 2006, 7:39 pm

November 16th, 2010, 5:27 am #3

This post is not actually about an Asian watch, but I’m justifying posting here because it all came about as a result of my exploration of the conceptual thread connecting the IWC Pellaton auto-winding system to the Seiko Magic Lever:
http://www.network54.com/Forum/642233/m ... ing+system

Along the way I discovered the unusual Timex Self-Wind system. I became curious to examine this device for myself. Ancre-Steam generously provided me with a sacrificial victim.

And here it is; a Timex calibre M31 Self-Wind, designed in the USA and made in Dundee, Scotland. This particular example was made in 1968



It’s a typically clean 1960s Timex style. Easy to read, compact, and doing a reasonable job of disguising the bulk of an automatic movement. Curiously no country-of-origin is specified on the dial.

The caseback, in typical fashion of the time claims the watch to be ‘Water Proof’.



Inside the back is the first piece of evidence that we are dealing with a Dundee-made watch.



Incidentally, while we’re talking origins, I’ve read that the one part of the Scottish Timexes that was always bought in from elsewhere was the dial.



Now, down to the nitty-gritty…

Here is our first view of the movement with the back off. Not much to look at is it?



That huge rotor blocks our view of everything. At least it has a couple of large apertures to access the screws securing the rotor mount.

And this is the dismounted rotor:



As you can see, the mounting plate lies flat upon the movement top plate. Technically it would have been feasible to build the rotor pivot into the top plate, but that plate is just a piece of stamped sheet metal, and it is shared with all the hand-winding versions. So instead, to keep things simple, the rotor is permanently fixed to the mounting plate. I have been professionally advised that this is the fatal flaw of these movements as once the rotor gets a bit of free-play due to wear, there is nothing to tighten up. In the next picture you will see three blued-steel studs embedded in the top-plate which help protect the rotor when taking a hard knock.

Anyway, the really interesting feature of the rotor is the eccentric portion of its axle, clearly visible in the photo above. Essentially it is a cam of circular profile, which engages this fascinating assemblage:



Functionally this is identical to Albert Pellaton’s patent so I can only guess that Timex was standing poised to leap in when the patent lapsed. The rotor cam moves the cam-feeler (those big antlers) in an arc from side to side, which draws the spring-loaded pawl fingers back and forth along the pawl wheel. One of the fingers pulls the wheel in one direction and glides over the wheel in the other. The other finger pushes the wheel on one direction and glides in the other. Thus bi-directional winding is achieved. The spring-loading is biased in one direction, so care must be taken in handling when the rotor is not there to hold it all together. The device has a tendency to go ‘sproing!’ and tangle up.

Here’s a close-up of the assemblage, showing the guides on the pawl-wheel to prevent vertical slippage of the pawl fingers. Also you can see the cam-feeler angled upwards to clear the rotor mounting plate.



All things considered though, Timex did a reasonable job of keeping the additional thickness to a minimum. Which was rather important considering the height of the base movement.



In case the engineers amongst you were thinking that the mounting of the pawl wheel directly on the mainspring barrel would result in an impossibly high torque-load, all is not as it seems. It’s time to turn the movement over.

Here is the dial side of the main plate, with the hour wheel and minute pinion removed for the sake of clarity:



The most eye-catching feature is the epicyclic gearset coaxial with the barrel. Hand-winding rotates the annular gear, the pinion in the centre connects through the middle of the barrel to the auto-winding pawl-wheel. Both of these engage the orbiting pair of wheels which turn the wheel on which they are mounted, winding the barrel arbor. This system ensures effective decoupling of the two winding systems.

So there you have it; the secrets of the Timex Self-Wind revealed. I hope you enjoyed the journey. I know I did.

Stay tuned for my report on cleaning and reassembling the watch. Hopefully it will look this way once again AND be ticking.

Shame it has a second hand..

Nice watch by the way, and thanks for the 'break down' pics.. I have an old Timex that belonged to my Dad and it is still running and I am not in any hurry to open it up to see what is inside.. It is also one of those made in England but with date as well..

http://anzacsorientwatchspot.blogspot.com/


Tony Lewis
New Zealand
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Joined: May 5th, 2009, 1:22 pm

November 16th, 2010, 6:45 am #4

I thought only the dials were made in England and the rest of it in Scotland.
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Joined: December 1st, 2006, 7:39 pm

November 16th, 2010, 6:51 am #5

without opening it I thought that meant it was made in England..



Cheers

http://anzacsorientwatchspot.blogspot.com/


Tony Lewis
New Zealand
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Joined: May 5th, 2009, 1:22 pm

November 16th, 2010, 7:03 am #6

'Britain' and 'England'.

BTW Tony, which island do you live on?
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Joined: December 1st, 2006, 7:39 pm

November 16th, 2010, 7:10 am #7

on the Kapiti Coast..

I keep forgetting that Great Britain, United Kingdom, etc do not necessarily equate to England..

http://anzacsorientwatchspot.blogspot.com/


Tony Lewis
New Zealand
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Joined: May 5th, 2009, 1:22 pm

November 16th, 2010, 7:33 am #8

I'm sure they wouldn't let you forget. I married a Scot, so that's much the same thing.

Over here in WA, many people don't have a clue. Some people think that Scotland is 'part of' England. At least we have the words for it. In French and German, they use their word for 'England' to describe the entire UK.

There's another interesting thing; Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but it is not part of Great Britain. I think that's the same for the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, but I'm not sure. I ought to know as my grandmother was from Guernsey.
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Joined: May 5th, 2009, 1:22 pm

November 18th, 2010, 2:44 am #9

This post is not actually about an Asian watch, but I’m justifying posting here because it all came about as a result of my exploration of the conceptual thread connecting the IWC Pellaton auto-winding system to the Seiko Magic Lever:
http://www.network54.com/Forum/642233/m ... ing+system

Along the way I discovered the unusual Timex Self-Wind system. I became curious to examine this device for myself. Ancre-Steam generously provided me with a sacrificial victim.

And here it is; a Timex calibre M31 Self-Wind, designed in the USA and made in Dundee, Scotland. This particular example was made in 1968



It’s a typically clean 1960s Timex style. Easy to read, compact, and doing a reasonable job of disguising the bulk of an automatic movement. Curiously no country-of-origin is specified on the dial.

The caseback, in typical fashion of the time claims the watch to be ‘Water Proof’.



Inside the back is the first piece of evidence that we are dealing with a Dundee-made watch.



Incidentally, while we’re talking origins, I’ve read that the one part of the Scottish Timexes that was always bought in from elsewhere was the dial.



Now, down to the nitty-gritty…

Here is our first view of the movement with the back off. Not much to look at is it?



That huge rotor blocks our view of everything. At least it has a couple of large apertures to access the screws securing the rotor mount.

And this is the dismounted rotor:



As you can see, the mounting plate lies flat upon the movement top plate. Technically it would have been feasible to build the rotor pivot into the top plate, but that plate is just a piece of stamped sheet metal, and it is shared with all the hand-winding versions. So instead, to keep things simple, the rotor is permanently fixed to the mounting plate. I have been professionally advised that this is the fatal flaw of these movements as once the rotor gets a bit of free-play due to wear, there is nothing to tighten up. In the next picture you will see three blued-steel studs embedded in the top-plate which help protect the rotor when taking a hard knock.

Anyway, the really interesting feature of the rotor is the eccentric portion of its axle, clearly visible in the photo above. Essentially it is a cam of circular profile, which engages this fascinating assemblage:



Functionally this is identical to Albert Pellaton’s patent so I can only guess that Timex was standing poised to leap in when the patent lapsed. The rotor cam moves the cam-feeler (those big antlers) in an arc from side to side, which draws the spring-loaded pawl fingers back and forth along the pawl wheel. One of the fingers pulls the wheel in one direction and glides over the wheel in the other. The other finger pushes the wheel on one direction and glides in the other. Thus bi-directional winding is achieved. The spring-loading is biased in one direction, so care must be taken in handling when the rotor is not there to hold it all together. The device has a tendency to go ‘sproing!’ and tangle up.

Here’s a close-up of the assemblage, showing the guides on the pawl-wheel to prevent vertical slippage of the pawl fingers. Also you can see the cam-feeler angled upwards to clear the rotor mounting plate.



All things considered though, Timex did a reasonable job of keeping the additional thickness to a minimum. Which was rather important considering the height of the base movement.



In case the engineers amongst you were thinking that the mounting of the pawl wheel directly on the mainspring barrel would result in an impossibly high torque-load, all is not as it seems. It’s time to turn the movement over.

Here is the dial side of the main plate, with the hour wheel and minute pinion removed for the sake of clarity:



The most eye-catching feature is the epicyclic gearset coaxial with the barrel. Hand-winding rotates the annular gear, the pinion in the centre connects through the middle of the barrel to the auto-winding pawl-wheel. Both of these engage the orbiting pair of wheels which turn the wheel on which they are mounted, winding the barrel arbor. This system ensures effective decoupling of the two winding systems.

So there you have it; the secrets of the Timex Self-Wind revealed. I hope you enjoyed the journey. I know I did.

Stay tuned for my report on cleaning and reassembling the watch. Hopefully it will look this way once again AND be ticking.

Until today, I was working on the assumption that the Timex system was so similar to the Pellaton as to overlap the design elements protected by Albert Pellaton's 1946 patent. So I figured that Timex had their system designed and prototyped and simply waited until the patent lapsed. A bit like Rolex waiting until Harwood failed to pay his patent fees and then pouncing with a new patent to lock down everybody else. I was wondering also if there was also some influence on the timing of Seiko's introduction of the Magic Lever.

Well it ain't so. The Timex Self-Wind/Automatic was made in Scotland from 1960, so US production could possibly even be earlier. Either IWC saw no benefit in maintaining Pellaton's patent and allowed it to lapse early, or else Swiss patents had no validity in the US or UK. Otherwise there is simply no way that Timex could have built this thing. Apart from switching a lobed cam for one of circular profile, there is simply no geometrical or functional difference with the device so prized by IWC.

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:


Seiko of course did bring something new into the picture by reducing the entire assemblage to a single part, hence their own patent application. And they could argue the case that a crank-type connection to the rotor is substantially different from a cam-type connection.

But Timex had no such argument. As I see it, if Pellaton's patent was maintained for its full duration, then Timex must have been in infringement of it. I can't see them taking that risk. Therefore it seems that IWC did not value their in-house auto-winding system back in the 1950s so much as they do today.
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Joined: June 19th, 2009, 6:51 pm

November 18th, 2010, 3:03 am #10

I think I agree that Timex would not have risked something as potentially expensive as a law suit over something like this.
Either that or Timex simply didn't think that IWC would ever lower themselves to dissect a lowly Timex movement

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