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The Legend of the Hog Hairspring

The Hairspring. It is the most important feature on a watch, in fact without it we wouldn't have watches, we would have clocks. The hairspring is the part of a mechanical watch which controls the beat. Simply put it is a small piece of wire about the diameter of a hair wound into a flat spring smaller than a dime. It coils and uncoils at a consistent and specific rate. This allow the hairspring to be attached to a balance wheel that turns and releases the mechanism of the watch at a set interval creating the tick tock sound you hear. Legend has it that the name Hairspring comes from the fact that the first ever micro regulated clocks / watches used pig hair or "Hog Bristles" to control the beat of the watch / clock. Is there any truth to that myth? Yes!
The British museum has this fascinating watch on display. It is from the 1500's. Sure enough, it has a pig hair regulator.  Unfortunately the hairspring is either not visible or missing in the subsequent pictures. No bother, if we broaden our search we come across this important piece of information.

There is also a "Hog's Hair" or "Pig's Bristle" regulator, in which stiff fibers are positioned at the extremities of the Balance's arc, and bring it to a gentle halt before throwing it back. The Watch is accelerated by shortening the arc. This is not a Balance Spring Regulator, being used in the earliest Watches before the Balance Spring was invented.

Until now I assumed that the bristle regulator was a coiled hair of some kind, like a modern hairspring, but as you just read they were long and straight. 

And then this gem: in "On the Springing and Adjusting of Watches By Frederick James Britten"
 
So in conclusion and to not belabor the point. Yes, the first "hairsprings" were exactly that, springs made from hair. The great thing about the hairspring regulator is that it finally got "Clock" small enough to be transportable. Here is one really cool example of a "watch" built into a sword. I definitely think they needed Shock-protection on that watch!

 
Some of the earliest examples of more modern steel hairsprings are from the late 1600's. This is when the development of the modern clock/pocket-watch really began. In the following example a steel spring and balance wheel has been fitted to a clock that originally had a bristle regulator. (Analysis and Conservation of a 17th-Century Table Clock, Gregory Bailey - Buffalo State College)
It is incredible to think how much early watchmakers have done with so little, and how far we have come. The newest innovation is Omega's solid silicon balance and hairsprings.
 
They are supposed to be resistant to everything and just as durable. Time will tell, maybe one day someone will write about the Legend of the Steel Hairspring.

-TW

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Rivalle Chronograph. This is a really nice working Swiss Chronograph. It is from 1974, near the end of the mechanical watch phase. It is a great watch for someone that wants a daily wear chronograph, but is nervous to wear around a $1,000 watch. It has the standard start, stop, and flyback second hand feature. 

Own it today! 

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I have a couple Lone Eagle's on the bench right now. Hopefully they will be ready to sell in the next month. I think the Lone eagle is one of the best watches of all time. In fact, Bulova agrees. They released a retro version of the watch the Lone Eagle  was based on a while ago...the Accutron Conqueror. 
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 Send me a watch, I will take pictures of it, write up the listing and send it back to you with the watch so you can sell it....Quick and Easy! 
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