Diamond pallet stones

Thread: Diamond pallet stones

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  1. #1
    Member Itsawindup's Avatar
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    Diamond pallet stones

    Hi all,

    I don't have the pleasure of owning that many "high end" watches, but most of the ones I have seen in photos seem to have the usual ruby pallet stones on the entry and exit sides of the pallet, plus a ruby bearing on the end of the pallet staff.

    Taking a peek inside my Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer I see diamond end stones in the pallet and a diamond bearing on the pallet staff. Now I'm wondering how many other watch makers use diamonds instead of rubies. The watch dates from 1920, originally it would have been a pocket watch for use in marine applications and has been professionally converted to a wrist watch.

    I can't see that using diamonds would affect the performance of the watch in terms of accuracy or longevity/reliability. Rubies are the second hardest gem so they are not going to wear out overnight.

    Just curious to know if this was a common practice.


    So.....who's got diamonds in their ticker?

    UlysseNardin4_zpse4dbae57.jpg Photo by Itsawindup | Photobucket

    UlysseNardin11_zps86feb193.jpg Photo by Itsawindup | Photobucket

    UlysseNardin1_zps63dbcf4e.jpg Photo by Itsawindup | Photobucket
    "Life can be a bed of roses, but we have to accept the fact that there will always be some annoying little pr**k to spoil things."

  2. #2
    Member Robocaspar's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    I've never heard of diamonds used as stones in watch movements. Nor do I know if it's feasible to cut a diamond that small.

    I do know corundum, the technical term for the crystals used in watchmaking (Sapphire, ruby) come in a wide variety of colors depending on the alloys added into the mixture powder while they are heated.

    The basic unaltered color is actually clear, so the ones in your UN could possible be that variety of crystal. As far as I know the color of the corundum does not affect it's physical properties.

  3. #3
    Member Addictedtowatches's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    I've seen jewels in every shade from red to pink and even clear, I don't believe they are diamonds though
    --Charlie

    -Citizen -Seiko -Heuer -Steinhart -Bulova -TagHeuer

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  5. #4
    Member Itsawindup's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    Well, of course, I don’t know that they are diamonds, but it was a natural conclusion to think that UN had decided to go one step further by introducing diamonds instead of rubies in this particular model. All the other jewels are as red as pomegranite pips, so why put clear stones in the pallet if they were also a form of ruby? I can’t imagine they would have been changed/replaced at a later date due to wear……and if they had…..why not use red ones?

    I have tried googling and the only reference I could find to the use of diamond pallet stones was the DIAPAL from SINN..


    SINN began its research on the DIAPAL Technology in1995 with the idea of using diamondpallets to replace ruby ones.For conventional escapements, oil is required only to reduce friction between the ruby (pallet stone) and the steel (escape wheel). In the Swiss anchor escapement,a polished diamond surface proved to be a better friction partner than the ruby traditionally used for this purpose. Lubrication is no longer required for lasting accuracy and function.”

    It’s a bit of a mystery and I suspect the only way to know if they are diamonds would be to let a diamond jeweller take a close look……which would mean stripping out the pallet…..and that’s not going to happen. Perhaps SINN were not the first to experiment with diamond pallets?

    Perhaps I could get in touch with UN and see if they have any records from that period.
    Last edited by Itsawindup; September 13th, 2013 at 21:16.
    "Life can be a bed of roses, but we have to accept the fact that there will always be some annoying little pr**k to spoil things."

  6. #5
    Member Addictedtowatches's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    If you do please post their response, it would be interesting to see if they are in fact diamonds.
    --Charlie

    -Citizen -Seiko -Heuer -Steinhart -Bulova -TagHeuer

  7. #6
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    Quote Originally Posted by Robocaspar View Post
    I've never heard of diamonds used as stones in watch movements. Nor do I know if it's feasible to cut a diamond that small.

    I do know corundum, the technical term for the crystals used in watchmaking (Sapphire, ruby) come in a wide variety of colors depending on the alloys added into the mixture powder while they are heated.

    The basic unaltered color is actually clear, so the ones in your UN could possible be that variety of crystal. As far as I know the color of the corundum does not affect it's physical properties.
    Yes. It's easy to forget that synthesized jewels are used in watches and other applications. If they turn out to be diamonds I suspect they would have enhanced the performance of that UN about the same way gold jewel settings improved pocketwatch performance.

  8. #7
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    Diamond endstones were once common in higher grade American watches, as well as English marine chronometers.

    At least on American watches, the diamond endstones are noticeably faceted and also not perfectly round. Normally, they're only on the balance wheel(both top and bottom pivots). Some high grade Walthams, notably the bridge model American Grades and various iterations of the Riverside Maximus, usually had 4 diamonds. Sometimes they would have pairs on the balance and escape wheel, sometimes just a pair on the balance wheel and the top stones only on the pallet fork and escape wheel.

    Here are a few, including a Riverside Maximus with diamond endstones on the balance wheel and escape wheel







    Here's the top plate of this same watch, showing the diamond endstone here also







    By the way, I think that the pallet stones in the watch in the opening post are clear sapphire and not diamond. The endstone on the pallet arbor does look to be diamond. Diamond would seem to me to be a poor material choice for pallet stones.

    Incidentally, at least in theory I think that the greater hardness of diamond does provide some advantage in endstones. In practice, I don't know how much of a difference it really makes. I have seen sapphire endstones that have had a pip "drilled" in them from(I suspect) abrasives being imbedded into the pivot during polishing. I've never seen this on a diamond stone.
    Last edited by Ben_hutcherson; September 14th, 2013 at 01:11.
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  9. #8
    Member Itsawindup's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben_hutcherson View Post
    By the way, I think that the pallet stones in the watch in the opening post are clear sapphire and not diamond. The endstone on the pallet arbor does look to be diamond. Diamond would seem to me to be a poor material choice for pallet stones.

    Incidentally, at least in theory I think that the greater hardness of diamond does provide some advantage in endstones. In practice, I don't know how much of a difference it really makes. I have seen sapphire endstones that have had a pip "drilled" in them from(I suspect) abrasives being imbedded into the pivot during polishing. I've never seen this on a diamond stone.
    Thanks for the expert opinions and photos. I have seen a few photos of diamond end stones in old pocket watches before and some of them were much older. There must have been some method of creating a dimple (pip?) or hole in the diamond for the staff to sit in. I never cease to be amazed by the sheer ingenuity and extraordinary lengths that some watchmakers went to in their pursuit of accuracy.

    I have a B. Musson verge fusee watch dating from 1791 and the workmanship is simply amazing. It still runs well and keeps fairly accurate time. (Not by todays high standards, but within a couple of minutes a week. Don't worry, it only gets wound up once or time a year. That chain is soooooo delicate looking!)

    Coming back to the chronometer…I am going to make an effort to get some better close up photos of the pallet and also contact UN to see if they have any records from that period. I don’t know what time or facilities they will have to research this for me, so I am not optimistic.

    As a matter of interest…..why would diamonds be a “poor choice” as pallet stones? Am I missing something here?…..Would you care to enlighten us please.

    If I manage to get some sharper pics I will post.
    Last edited by Itsawindup; September 14th, 2013 at 02:55.
    "Life can be a bed of roses, but we have to accept the fact that there will always be some annoying little pr**k to spoil things."

  10. #9
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    Quote Originally Posted by Itsawindup View Post
    Thanks for the expert opinions and photos. I have seen a few photos of diamond end stones in old pocket watches before and some of them were much older. There must have been some method of creating a dimple (pip?) or hole in the diamond for the staff to sit in. I never cease to be amazed by the sheer ingenuity and extraordinary lengths that some watchmakers went to in their pursuit of accuracy.
    Sorry for not being clear in my earlier comment. The "pip" is undesireable but happens(sometimes) when balance pivots are polished and the abrasive embeds in the pivot and then wears away at the sapphire stone. At least from what I've seen, diamonds are impervious to this.

    As a matter of interest…..why would diamonds be a “poor choice” as pallet stones? Am I missing something here?…..Would you care to enlighten us please.
    The geometry of the pallet stones is very important, and proper operation of the escapement is dependent both on the width and of the shape of the face. I suspect that it would be very difficult to to accurately and repeatably cut a diamond to the exact size and shape it needs to be.

    I'd give about a 99% chance that the pallet stones on your watch are clear sapphire.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

  11. #10
    Member Itsawindup's Avatar
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    Re: Diamond pallet stones

    Ah, now everything is becoming clear. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

    If I do manage to get any information from UN I will let youknow.

    I will accept your opinion that the pallet stones are probably clear sapphire, who knows why, and the end stone on the pallet arbor could be diamond.
    "Life can be a bed of roses, but we have to accept the fact that there will always be some annoying little pr**k to spoil things."

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