If someone would undertake to compile a list of unfairly neglected parts of the watch work, the crown will certainly be somewhere at the top. We use it almost every day, take for granted, but do you know how it is organized and what marked its appearance for industry more than one and a half century ago?
One often sees the crown as a utilitarian item, unworthy of deep study or even a trivial curiosity. Looking through the catalogue of any brand, at once we learn all about the display features of one or another bezel, the quality coefficient of the back cover from a sapphire crystal or a shape of the blued steel arrows. However, the wheel by means of which you have to communicate with the watch, will be mentioned only if it is inlayed with precious stones, and then, only in terms of the total weight in carats. While diversity, in terms of design, case placement and even functionality is abound here. In addition to setting time and date, crown is used for winding, makes a pleasant asymmetry to the appearance of the product, and in some chronographs it even starts the countdown. Moreover, of course, one should not forget, what is meant here is the main surface of the product, with which the owner directly interacts. Aesthetics here directly intersects with functional need, and no matter how exquisite the relief pattern is it primarily provides your fingers a comfortable grip of the coveted wheel.
Key to success
Until the nineteenth century, the branch did not know any crown. The pocket watchcases had a perfect round shape, and the winding was carried out using the key, which could easily be lost.The ports determined for it also had obvious flaws, and easily let dust and moisture get inside.
In 1820 British watchmaker John Roger Arnold, son of the famous inventor John Arnold, patented the first prototype of the crown, protecting the calibre from external influences. His teacher Abraham-Louis Breguet modified subsequently the mechanism, making it suitable for small size products. However, it was Jean-Adrien Philippe, a future partner in Patek Philippe, who made a real revolution in this field. In 1844, he presented his version of the device, differing among other things by one fundamental detail – the two-stage system of the transfer shaft. Its wheel stayed in constant engagement with the ratchet, leading to the winding mechanism, and only in the time setting mode it was related to the pointers wheels. Therefore, the wheeling of the crown pressed to the case pulled the mainspring, and pulling it to the side, the owner got a full control over the current time display. The simplicity and genius of the design, without any exaggeration, have changed the landscape of the industry. Philip’s solution, awarded a gold medal at the World exhibition in Paris, turned out to be so reliable, comfortable and clear, that it migrated almost in its original form at first into wristwatch, then into quartz watch, and recently into smart electronic watch.
Although the classic location on the mark “3 o’clock” is on the vast majority of models, many manufacturers are not afraid to experiment. Inspired by the pocket items geometry, exemplars are often manufactured with a crown on “12 o’clock”, some designers prefer the location on “1, 30” or “4, 30” and that is except models originally designed to be worn on the right hand. In the field of decoration, each brand also has its own way, creating sometimes so pithy and successful images that they become almost a calling card of one or another watch. To remember at least are two letters “P” in Patek Philippe of the 1950s turned back and forth, or a huge crown resembling an onion on Gucci of 30-50s, which is of high interest among collectors. Cartier jewelers often adorned the case crowning wheel with a large gemstone. Well, even the most distant from horology inhabitant of our planet can probably recognize the famous embossed Rolex crown. By the way, thanks to the Swiss giant another important technological leap happened - in 1926 the legendary Oyster model has set new standards of water resistance. As you can guess, the secret was in a screw down crown guaranteeing complete isolation and which became the prototype of the internal structure of all modern diver’s watch.
Well overlooked old
From time to time, the most ambitious artisans still try to challenge the status quo. For example, a member of the Academy of Independent Watchmakers AHCI Swiss Marc Jenni entrusted the rotating bezel with all the crown functions in several models of his brand Marc Jenni. The principle itself is not something entirely new: pressing the button brings the product in one of three familiar modes - winding, time setting or date setting. Nevertheless, externally, the process looks almost magic. To meet are hybrid systems, such as the Rebellion T-1000. A spectacular rectangular lever carries out the winding of its six drums, but you still have to set the current time traditionally. Finally, we take a liberty of a useful clarifi cation: the possibility to wind an automatic watch manually is provided for a good reason. If due to some reason, your device equipped with a rotor was lying for a long time out of work, take the time to help it, turning the raised wheel a couple of dozen times. Of course, the energy of your hand would be enough to make the product alive, but the spring longing for the maximum tension may begin to play pranks, allowing reasonable errors in accuracy.