An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

Thread: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

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  1. #1
    Member David.Boettcher's Avatar
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    An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    I picked up this early type Borgel screw-in case watch with Dimier Freres movement recently. The thing that caught my eye was that it doesn't have a pin-set to set the hands. This is unusual because the screw-in design of the Borgel case means that the stem is split, with the part of it carrying the crown attached to the case by a spring so it can be withdrawn clear of the movement when the movement is screwed in or out. Because the stem is split it can't be used to pull the keyless work into the hand setting position, so normally a pin-set on the case just below the crown is used to engage the mechanism for hand setting.



    The 15 jewel Swiss lever movement bears the initials D.F. & C in an oval, which Pritchard confirms was registered to Dimier Freres & Cie in 1896. There is very little in Pritchard about Dimier Freres, but the firm seems to have been founded as Georges Dimier SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the mid nineteenth century, and presumably became Dimier Freres & Cie when the father Georges died and his sons took over the company. In Pritchard there is also mention of another company called Dimier Freres & Cie of Fleurier, which seems to have been founded in 1738 by two Dimier brothers, but I don't think the two firms are connected except by coincidence of name.



    The clues to what is going on here, and the absence of the pin-set, are contained in the case back. There are London import hallmarks for silver with the date letter "b" for 1917/18, and the sponsor's mark of "DBS" which Priestley reveals was registered from 1907 to George & Edward Dimier of Dimier Brothers & Co., Watch Importers of 46 Cannon Street, London. Why DBS? I think, because the "s" is small and in superscript, it must mean Dimier Brothers.



    There is also a reference in the case back to a Swiss patent, number 69988. This patent was registered by Dimier Freres & Cie and Alfred Roth on 16 December 1914 and granted on 3rd January 1916.

    The patent describes a way of applying stem setting to a Borgel cased watch. The patent doesn't actually mention Borgel by name, merely saying that the patent is "applicable to watches with hermetically closed cases for which it is necessary to avoid a lateral constraint" but I think we know what it means!

    This figure from the patent shows how this was achieved. The original figure was rather hard to understand so I have moved its elements around to juxtapose them more logically without altering them in any way.



    The patent shows the split stem we would expect to find in a Borgel watch. But this one has three positions, the normal one with the crown against the case, a middle position with the crown and split stem partly withdrawn, and the fully withdrawn position to enable the movement to be unscrewed from, or screwed into the case.

    The split stem and crown are held in these three positions by the spring "e" which engages with grooves on the shaped split stem "f". In figure 1 the split stem f is held in engagement with the movement "g". In figure 2 the stem is held in the middle position by the spring e engaging a different groove in the shaped stem. And finally in figure 3 the split stem is fully withdrawn. The spring e does not positively locate the split stem in this position because it is only required occasionally when the movement is to be unscrewd from or screwed into the case, and the designers obviously decided that the watchmaker could simply hold onto the crown as he screwed or unscrewed the movement, the same as he would do for a conventional Borgel case.

    So how does the winding and hand setting work? The movement employs a type of keyless work called "negative set". This type of keyless work is, I believe, rare in Swiss watches, but is quite common in nineteenth century American pocket watches, where the movement and case were selected separately by the customer, and the retailer would fit the movement into the case.

    The secret of the negative set movement is that the keyless work is spring loaded to bias it into the hand setting position. To put it into the "normal" winding position, the stem must press the keyless work in towards the centre of the movement, against the action of the spring. This is what is happening in figure 1 of the patent. The split stem f and the element "g", which represents the part of the stem in the movement, are held by the spring e in the winding position, against the pressure of the spring in the keyless work.

    In figure 2 of the patent the draftsman has made a mistake. The part of the stem g should have, under pressure from the spring in the keyless work, followed the split stem f as it was withdrawn to the middle position, putting the keyless work into the hand setting position. The fact that the draftsman has made this simple mistake tends to confirm my belief that negative set mechanisms were rare in Switzerland.

    As you can see from the photographs, my watch is missing its split stem and crown. The collar "c" which should hold the spring e is present, but the spring e itself is missing. The collar is actually screwed into the setm tube rather than being retained by a screw as shown in the figure from the patent. I am not sure whether to try to get this repaired: the patent figure gives an idea of how it should work, but is not an engineering drawing from which replacement parts could be fabricated, and I am sure that a fair amount of trial and error would be required to get the mechanism to work properly.

    I think this type of Borgel case without the pin-set must be pretty rare because thia is the first one that I have seen. The fact that the split stem and crown are missing perhaps indicates some weakness in the design which would explain the rarity. The words "Pat[ent] App[lied] for No. 11997/15" in the case back are interesting because they reveal that an application was lodged for a British patent, but I have not been able to find a trace of this, so perhaps problems arose fairly early on and the British patent application was abandoned.

    As ever, any comments, corrections or further information greatly welcomed.

    Regards - David

  2. #2
    Member Marrick's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    Fascinating. The DBs mark is also shown here:

    London Makers Marks - D

    Thanks for the time and trouble you've taken with that - and for sharing with us.
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  3. #3
    Member radger's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    Excellent informative post, I've never seen a U.S type 'negative set' in a Borgel case.

    Is there an online resource to look up Swiss patents such as this?

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  5. #4
    Member David.Boettcher's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    Thanks for the kind comments Marrick, and for the link to the silver marks database.

    Radger, I thought negative set Swiss movements were rare, I think you just confirmed that, or were you being specific to Borgel cases?

    You can look up worldwide patents on GB [email protected].

    Regards - David

  6. #5
    Member radger's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    Thanks for the link David.
    I've racked my brains and can't remember seeing a Swiss negative set mechanism, they are
    definately rare.

  7. #6
    Member trim's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    I've definitely seen a Swiss Negative set wrist watch movement somewhere recently... I just can't quite remember.

    David, do you remember my Borgel pocket watch? It was also stem set, but by Longines.

  8. #7
    Member David.Boettcher's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    Quote Originally Posted by trim View Post
    I've definitely seen a Swiss Negative set wrist watch movement somewhere recently... I just can't quite remember.

    David, do you remember my Borgel pocket watch? It was also stem set, but by Longines.
    Hi Trim,

    Yes I do remember your Borgel pocket watch. I have just been back and looked at your post again, and read it thoroughly this time - I am sorry that I didn't read it properly the first time. Please accept my apologies for this belated information.

    Longines told you that It has been invoiced on 6th December 1916 to Messrs. Baume, who were our agents in Great Britain during many years. You noted that it didn't have British import marks even though it was invoiced to Baume & Co in Great Britain and wondered why.

    In 1915 the British Government imposed an ad valorem duty of 33.⅓% on imported luxuries including clocks and watches to conserve foreign currency reserves as part of the war effort. This meant that any watches imported into Britain, even if only for checking before subsequent export abroad, would be subject to this high rate of tax. Prior to this, many watches were imported to Britain before being re-exported to the Empire. Britain had large overseas territories at the time, which were a big market. To avoid paying the tax on watches not destined for the British home market, many companies, including Rolex, Stockwell, Rotherham and Sons, and, so it seems from your evidence, Baume & Co., set up Swiss offices or made arrangements to export direct from Switzerland to the British Empire, bypassing Britain and avoiding the high import duty.

    I also hadn't noticed that your watch was stem set. I was rather distracted by the smooth finish to the bezel and didn't notice the absence of the pin-set. So that's two of them then!

    Can you give any more details of your watch? I guess it must have a negative set movement and three position crown/split stem like mine, or does it have some other arrangement? I don't suppose this is possible, but it would be interesting to know details of the part of the stem in the case stem tube (pendant), and how it is held in the three positions.

    Regards - David

  9. #8
    Member trim's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    Thanks for the import info David - makes absolute sense.

    As for the stem, yes 3 positions (wind, set, release) and I think negative set (what else could it be) but I will check in the next few days as I have not looked at it for some time. Certainly the setting works are totally different from the other 2 movements I bought for spares.

    There is no indication of patent number above (69988) on the watch case. The 3rd (release) position locks, so perhaps the mechanism is different from the patent. I will see what details I can provide, but I am not sure I want to dismantle a working stem - I suspect it is a tricky thing.

  10. #9
    Member David.Boettcher's Avatar
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    Re: An Unusual Borgel Screw-In Case

    Quote Originally Posted by trim View Post
    As for the stem, yes 3 positions (wind, set, release) and I think negative set (what else could it be) but I will check in the next few days as I have not looked at it for some time. Certainly the setting works are totally different from the other 2 movements I bought for spares.
    ... and totally differently from the vast majority, if not almost all, Borgel screw-in cases: certainly the ones that I have seen, which is quite a lot over the years. Yours is only the second one that I have seen with stem setting.

    Quote Originally Posted by trim View Post
    There is no indication of patent number above (69988) on the watch case. The 3rd (release) position locks, so perhaps the mechanism is different from the patent. I will see what details I can provide, but I am not sure I want to dismantle a working stem - I suspect it is a tricky thing.
    I don't blame you ...

    Regards - David

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