Watch Technique

Pellikaan Timing guides you in the world of horology:


Watch movement lubrication

Flying Dutchman

Hendrik Lorentz

Cornelis Drebbel

The first Diving Dutchman

Cornelis Drebbel (1572-1633) was an amazingly clever inventor who was ahead of his time with many things. The submarine, perpetuum mobile and oxygen (!) were things he invented, built and/or made way before they were somewhat common.

Alkmaar and Haarlem
Drebbel was born in 1572 in Alkmaar (NL) in a well-to-do family of land owners. His education was elementary, only later in life he learned Latin, but Hendrick Goltzius, famous for his engravings but also capable in chemistry, teached him a lot. Drebbel moved to Haarlem to live with Goltzius as his assistant; later he married a younger sister of Goltzius. In 1598 he got a patent for a pump and a clock with perpetual motion. The principle of Drebbel’s clock led to the invention, in 1927 by French engineer Jean-Leon Reutter, of Jaeger Le Coultre "Atmos" which is still built by Jaeger-LeCoultre today

From 1605 until 1610 he stayed in the Court of King James I in London. Here Drebbel really blossomed as an inventor, in the years 1608 and 1609 he was busy perfecting a magic lantarn and a clavichord. His fame started to spread all over Europe and the next three years Drebbel lived in Bohemia.

Under the wings of ruler Rudolf II in Prague Drebbel focused mainly on his perpetuum mobile, alchemy and the production of gold alloys for the German mint. The period in Prague ended with a lot of turmoil and Drebbel was even thrown into prison. After his release Drebbel fled to London where he would stay until his death in 1633.

Drebbel’s main goal was the construction of a submarine but he also worked on optical instruments. During the period from 1626 until 1629 he worked for the British Navy, mainly because of the submarine but also for the production of water mines.

The last four years of his life Drebbel was a brewer and owner of an inn under London Bridge. He used his invention of staying under water for a significant time to attract people to come to his inn and drink his beer.
Most remarkable inventions of Drebbel:

Perpetuum mobile:
This drives through inflation of air caused by differences in temperature, among other things, a clock: “for 50 or 100 years or until the wheels are worn out”. This is Drebbel’s most famous invention and a very interesting notion is that his apparatus shows up in a lot of paintings from that period. Constantijn Huygens (father of Christiaan) also writes that he understands the principle of Drebbel’s perpetuum mobile.

Ovens en furnaces:
Drebbel built a furnace in which the fire was adjusted by a thermostat.

Automatic musical instruments

Hydraulic inventions:
As early as 1598 Drebbel obtained a patent for a construction that was equal to our system of water ducts and which could pump drinking water from different depths according to the need. Again Constantijn Huygens was very enthusiastic about this invention.

Telescopes en microscopes:
It is not for certain but a lot of people see Drebbel as the first person to build a microscope. Drebbel did a lot to spread the word all over Western and Southern Europe and even Galileo knew about his invention. Christiaan Huygens spoke with praise about Drebbel’s microscope. Drebbel was a brilliant glassblower.

Submarines and oxygen:
In 1620 Drebbel built a submarine for the English King. The vessel contained 24 people, 8 of which were rowers. It navigated a couple of miles below the water level in the Thames, could change it’s depth, kept it’s course with a compass and could stay in the water for 24 hours without running out of oxygen. Drebbel had made a thorough study of oxygen and several papers claim that he produced oxygen by heating salpetre (from gunpowder). Officially oxygen was only discovered in 1773 (!).


Drebbel invented a method to colour fabrics with scarlet red by using a tin salt. This colour already existed but Drebbel’s red was much more powerful and intense.

As a conclusion we can say that Cornelis Drebbel is one of the most gifted persons in Dutch history. Each of his inventions are brilliant in itself but it is hard to imagine thatthe whole list comes from one man. . Luckily recently remnants of his house have been found in Alkmaar so that we still have a tangible piece of Cornelis Drebbel left. For more information about this remarkable person DREBBEL.NET is a very good and broad source!


The balanced anchor of Pellikaan timing

A hugely important part of the movement of all mechanical watches is the anchor (or pallet fork). This anchor lets the balance swing. Also it makes that the hands are synchronized with the swinging of the balance.

With watch movements precision and balancing is crucial. The most expensive part of a watch is therefore alsways the balance with its spring. It is of utmost importance that the center of gravity coincides with its rotation axis. The Pellikaan anchor wich is now used for the first time in the DIVING DUTCHMAN-1 is now also balanced. By having the center of gravity in the middle, the friction in the bearings of the anchor is minimized.

On the foto on the right the counterweight can be seen that is mounted at Pellikaan timing to the anchor to get it balanced. This method is way better then earlyer methods to do this; In the 19th century this was also done, but with rather long counterweights.

George Daniels describes in his book"Watchmaking" this principle used to deminish the "locking angle" of the anchor. The balanced anchor was not effective to eliminate the locking angle AND have reliable running. So the benefit was rather poor. Next to this the long counterweights yielded high energy losses and are not in use anymore.

In the execution of Pellikaan timing the counterweight is short, and the increase in inertia is low (0,6%). The gain in amplitude is 8 degrees in all positions; the gains are way higher then the losses.

Due to this difference in execution the invention is also patentable, so it can be uniqely be used by Pellikaan. On april 22 2015 a patent is apllied for, application number NL 1041281.

The huge role of oil in a a mechanical watch

as published in "Watching Magazine“

Invisible but indispensable

A real watchfreak gets carried away by the intricate interplay between the many parts that together form a mechanical watch movement. With this we easily forget that this wouldn’t work well without one of the most important “parts” of the movement: oil. The naked eye cant see it, but it is of utmost importance for the accuracy and reliability of each mechanical movement. About two hundred years ago the french king Luis XVI asked Abraham-Luis Breguet for the perfect watch. His answer was rather clear: “give me the perfect oil majesty, then I give you the perfect watch”. The words of Breguet indicate the importance of oil for a watch. You don’t actually see it, and even through a watchmakers loupe you don’t see what is special about oil in a movement. A tiny bit of liquid is all you see of it. The role of oil and lubrication in movements is crucial. This was well acknowledged in the19th century. In the oldest scientific paper on watch-oil, as is online trackable via Elsevier’s In this paper from 1850 the following list of lubricants is found: spermwhale oil, rapeseed oil, linseed oil, lard and olive oil. These oils and fats age quickly, they become ransic, evaporated and formed gluey pastes. Not really practical. Therefore watches needed a regular visit to a watchmaker for an oil change.
Pellikaan Timing Watch Technique
Côtes de Genève Thinner oils used in movements had a special property. When warm they evaporated a bit, and with cooling they precipitated again. Unfortunately this happened not only on the place where it came from, but spreads over the entire movement, so also on the balance and hairspring. Hairspring don’t really like sticky oils, so a nice little trick was devised, which we appreciate still today. To get as little oil as possible on the hairspring, and most elsewhere, the surface of the movement was covered with a rather rough surface. In this way easily 2 to 3 times less oil came on the hairspring, and the movement looked a lot better. Various profiles were used of which Côtes de Genève is most well known. These profiles to keep oil from where it should not go were used a lot until the invention of synthetic oils. In the beginning of the twentieth century mineral oil became an interesting product, thanks to gasoline and diesel engines. The use of mineral oil fractions for lubrication purposes was quickly worked out. Mineral oils did not become ransic, and their thickening was not dramatic, but they still had some weak points. The most prominent was the influence of temperature on the viscosity. The warmer the thinner, the colder the thicker. This is particular tricky at the balance, the anchor and the anchor wheel. Those parts move pretty fast and the forces are pretty small. So if the oil in the balance suspension gets thicker, the swing (amplitude) of the balance wheel will get a lot smaller. Not good for accuracy! As a remedy plenty of “dopings” are invented, that we all know from motor oil. As some time ago (1990) a 10W40 was really good (relatively thin at a cold start, relatively thick when warm), now a 0W30 the state of the art. The viscosity in warm and cold state is not very different, so a cold start isn’t so bad for the engine anymore. To achieve this quality a bit of doping is not enough; more hefty things must be done… Synthetic lubrication Dr. Hermann Zorn in the 30′s worked at IG Farben on the development of the ideal lubrication. Also then the idea was to get the same viscosity at all temperatures, but also to get a very strong lubrication film. Rather remarkably
Pellikaan Timing Watch Technique
until the 60′s the lubrication with the strongest film was the vegetable(!) castor oil (Castrol, the oil brand), also known as haarlemmeroilie. This provided for a typical cooking smell on circuits. Castor oil has special chemical groups in its molecules that stick together softly so it is very hard to penetrate this film. When cold this doesn’t work, so common practice was to heat the oil on a stove before the race and poor these warm in the engine. Synthetic oil as developed by Hermann Zorn in the 30′s firstly was used by high power piston engines and later on in jet engines. With watches the use of synthetic oils became more accepted in the 60′s. The most important lubrication in a watch is where forces are small and speeds are high. So with the escapement, balance, anchor and anchor wheel. Here the anchor wheel pushes the anchor, and the anchor gives a firm swing to the balance wheel. At least 5 times per second, so 18.000 times per hour, 432.000 times per 24 hours and 156.248.000 times per year. There are two
Pellikaan Timing Watch Technique
lubricants to make this go smoothly. For the balance wheel axis and the anchor wheel axis this is Moebius Synth-A-Lube 9010. This is very thin synthetic oil that doesn’t creep away from where it should be. This oil starts working well at -29° Centigrade. At a temperature of -32 the oil gets thicker, so there is less energy left to swing the balancewheel, but it still runs! (in house testing). For arctic activities there is a version of this oil that is a tat thinner (Moebius Synta-Arctic-Lube 9040), so the watch keeps running accurately down to -52 Centigrade. For the lubrication af the anchor pallets (rubies) watchmakers can choose between two kinds of lubrication: the same Synth-A-Lube 9010, or de Synth-A-Lube 9415 olie. The last one is a bit thicker but has a special property: tixotropy! A tricky word but a splendid property. This oil is thick when in rest, but when in motion by the anchor teeth hammering on the anchor pallets, it gets a lot thinner. By this the oil does not splatter around and stays nicely in place, but gives little friction at the same time. There is also the possibility of dry lubrication. This is a version of stearate or candle wax. The inventor is unknown, it could have been a Roman, Phoenician or Gallier. In the ancient era cart axles was lubricated with this. In the horological world this is not as popular as a lubricant, but is used a lot to keep the oil from creeping from it intended place. A thin layer a put on the anchor pallets. When oil is put on top of this layer it stays perfectly in place. This is called “epilame”. One of the brand names is “fixodrop” which says it all. Here we see a plant derived product that lasts for hundreds or thousands of years.
Pellikaan Timing Watch Technique
Servicing / oil change Despite the slow thickening of modern oils, during the use of the watch less lubricant will be on the surfaces where they should. Again this goes mostly for the anchor pallets and anchorwheel. The balance will get softer swings from the anchor and gets less amplitude. The accuracy will be less as a result of this. If a watch will be running endlessly with decreased lubrication finally there will be wear of anchorwheel suspension, teeth and anchor pallets. For uncompromised functioning of a watch it should be serviced regularly which also means an oil change. With a service the complete movement will taken apart. All old lubricats will be removed by cleaning in an ultrsonic batch with special surface active compounds (soaps). After this the parts are dryed and the movement is put together again. Now the watchmaker applies specific (and tiny) amounts of oil on all points of friction or where wear could occur. For this three different oils and one fat are needed. The amounts neede are different for each spot. Especially the amounts oil for the anchjor pallets and the balance suspension are most critical.
Pellikaan Timing Watch Technique

Flying Dutchman

The first flying Dutchman in history was a VOC captain: Bernard Fokke. He sailed the route between Amsterdam and Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia), and he did this very fast indeed. His idea was to always sail with full rigging, you go faster that way! His goddamn dirty mouth was legendary and his crew wasnt to pleased with him. The story goes that he reinforced the masts by filling them with lead and hammering iron bars at critical points, so they didnt break as easily. Especially the English suspected him from having a pact with the devil. Fact was that his travels to Batavia were incredibly fast; his set his personal record with a trip of 3 month and 3 (or 10) days, after which he delivered letters with the governor confirming his travel time. Plenty more Flying Dutchmen followed, one of these was Anthony Fokker. A very recent one is Epke Zonderland! What characterizes a Flying Dutchman is that this person from a small country accomplishes something remarkable by being smart/persistent/courageous etc.
Flying Dutchman Pellikaan Timing

Hendrik Lorentz and his local time

Who was Hendrik Lorentz? Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (juli 18 1853 – februari 4 1928) was a Dutch physicist. Together with Pieter Zeeman he won the Nobelprijs for the discovery of the Zeeman effect. Also he derived the Lorentz transformations who were subsequently used by Albert Einstein te describe space and time. With this, and with his discovery of the “local time” he made a huge contribution to the theory of relativity. Einstein called him his “scientific father”.

Time in Lorentz times
Which era are we talking about? Around 1900 technological developments were everywhere, and the effect on humanity is immense. By the train, the new car, telegraphs, telephones and radio distances became smaller. Time was locally defined in 1800. Every more significant town had its own observatory to keep the local reference time correct. Due to the use of telegraphs and telephone at the end of the nineteenth century it became obvious that the time was not identical everywhere. When a telegram was sent in Amsterdam at 16:00 (Amsterdam time) it arrived at 16:05 in Groningen (Groningen time). Local solar based time wasn’t handy anymore!

So the solar based time was replaced by a standardized universal time. In the UK this was the Greenwich Mean Time, implemented in 1880 in the entire British island. Before there was telegraphy this would have been a tricky idea for which traveling with accurate clocks through the country was needed, or calculations using tables and the local solar time.

Then what happened?

Physicists at that time were working in the tremendous field of electricity and electro magnetism. These were almost magic, mostly not understood fenomena. This electro-magnetism worked amazingly fast, just as fast as light (Maxwell 1865).

“local time”

In 1895 Lorentz performed a thought experiment. Hij was of the conviction that a constant universal time exists. However he noted strange things happening over longer distances and with higher speeds. To correct for this he developed formulas to correct the local time to the constant universal time. He thought of no physical interpretation for this, to him this was purely a mathematical correction.

Albert Einstein
The giant leap made by Albert Einstein was to give a physical interpretation to the strange behaviour of time. He used the math of Lorentz to devise his theory of special relativity. At first this was named the Einstein-Lorentz theory of relativity . He also thought of the famous experiment with clocks to make clear what is happening:

There are two clocks that run equal when next together.

When these clock are put apart, and you take a look from clock 1 to clock 2, it will run behind. How much it runs behind will not change. If you go to clock 2 and look to clock 1 then that will run behind!

Then Einstein went on by having those clocks move, to let them accelerate, and even by placing them in a gravity field. It is bit hefty to discuss this all here, besides, others have done this way better.

The effects of these thought experiments turned out to be huge. They were the start of:
- the speed of light to be absolute
- the equivalence of mass and energy (E=Mc2)
- quantum mechanics
- understanding of matter
- the idea that we live in a universe that is fundamentally impossible to understand (there are more dimensions than the hardware of humans is equiped for)

More practical:
- nuclear energy (practical)
- nuclear waste (difficult)
- atomic bomb (disaster)
- our image of the universe (big bang, black holes)
- science fiction as-we-know-it
- PET scans, MRI scans

Why is this watch named after Hendrik Lorentz?

I I am a fan of Hendrik Lorentz

I am mostly impressed by this countryman who discovered that time behaves more peculiar then you would think. Also I appreciate that he supported Einstein when he was not yet discovered as a genius (unemployed/boring job).

II “Local time” can be found in the design

As a reference to the discovery of the local time each hand has its own scale, and so lives in his “own time”. The hour hand lives in hours, half hours and quarters. The minutes hand lives in minutes, 5 minutes and 15 minutes. The seconds hand lives in whole and fractional seconds.

III Laboratory design

Hendrik Lorentz was a scientist. He could often be found in the laboratory for experiments. In his time this were ill lit spaces with wooden tables and lots of instruments.

Measuring equipment did not have to be good looking but it must be useable. A kind of functional design so to speak. The design of this watch is based on this style . Matt-metal dials,black hands, clear scales, extremely readable!

More information
More information on Hendrik Lorentz can be found here:

1899 Simplified Theory of Electrical and Optical Phenomena in Moving Systems

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz Pellikaan Timing
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz
Hendrik Lorentz en Albert Einstein voor het huis van Lorentz in Leiden
Hendrik Lorentz and Albert Einstein in front of Lorentz house in Leiden