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Cornelis Drebbel: the magician of the 17th century
by admin


Duikboot Cornelis Drebbel

Cornelis Drebbel was born in 1572 in Alkmaar (NL), in a well-to-do family of land owners. Drebbel’s 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 in with Goltzius in Haarlem to become his assistent and later he married a younger sister of Goltzius. As early as 1598 Drebbel got a patent for a pump and a clock with perpetual motion.
From 1605 till 1610 he stayed in the Court of King James I in London. Here Drebbel really blosomed 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. Here his main point of focus was building his submarine but, as illustrated by his visit to Middelburg in 1620, he was also interested in optical instruments. In 1621 Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) visited London and between January 23 and April 30 he had a number of brief meetings with Drebbel. Huygens says the following about these visits:
“I saw Drebbel also for a short time. In appearance he is a Dutch farmer, but his learned talk is reminiscent of the sages of Samos and Sicily. I wished to profit by your company for a longer time, great grey
beard, but the brevity of the time stood in my way, and against my will you are postponed for a another year.”
In the period from 1626 till 1629 Drebbel worked for the British Navy. mainly because of his submarine (the Navy saw opportunities for the vessel in war time) but also because of the water mines he produced. Unfortunately his period with the Navy ended because of conflicting thoughts about the value of his inventions.
Drebbel didn’t end his life as a rich man. The last four years of his life he was a brewer and owner of an inn below 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.

An overview of the inventions by Cornelis Drebbel shows the following:
- Perpetuum mobile: a sort of air thermometer that worked with a certain volume of gas that variated with temperature and pressure. This is the most famous invention by Drebbel and it is interesting to see that the apparatus shows up in a whole lot of paintings from that period. In his autobiography from about 1630 Constantijn Huygens (who is of course the father of Christiaan Huygens) writes the following about Drebbel’s perpetuum mobile:
“The perpetuum mobile, which I know only from the drawing of it is so cleverly constructed, that no one, as far as I am aware, has been able to discover the hidden causes at work not even after it was broken. In a glass
spiral is a liquid, which reproduces the ebb and flow of the sea repeatedly (a thing I cannot believe), which certainly is brought about by self initiated motion back and forth and which enthrals experienced persons as much as inexperienced ones by its extraordinary continuance. I suppose it is something of the same sort as that, which now no longer astonishes us, where in a similar glass the enclosed liquid enables us to judge of the temperature of the day by the instability or mobility of the liquid. It is quite certain that the water is forced to rise to fill the empty space, when the air is pressed together by the surrounding cold and that the water is pressed down again and is chased away, as if by the ebbing of the tide, when the air expands by warmth.”
- Ovens and furnaces: Drebbel was very good at building these kind of contraptions. He even built a furnace of which the temperature could be held at the desired level.
- 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.
- Telescopes and 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.
- Submarine and oxygen: In 1620 Drebbel built a submarine for the English King. The vessel contained 24 people, 8 of which were rowers, 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.
- Production of explosives
- Colouring of fabrics: 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.

Cornelis Drebbel and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Atmos clock

cb perpetuum mobile
Perpetuum mobile by Cornelis Drebbel, H.M. Hiesserle von Chodau, 1612

cd Atmos-Hermès_front-769x1024
cd Atmos-Hermès_profil-769x1024
Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos Hermes

Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos classic

With his invention of the perpetuum mobile Drebbel made the base principle for the Atmos clock manufactured by Jaeger-LeCoultre three centuries later. Through the years more of these objects were fabricated, Leonardo da Vinci also worked on a perpetuum mobile, but it took until the 20th century before the principle could be turned into a working clock.
In 1927 French engineer Jean-Leon Reutter developed the first Atmos clock, which is now called the Atmos 0. His clocks were driven by a “mercury in glass” expansion device which rotated a cylinder which wound the mainspring by ratchet. The mechanism operates on temperature change only. The clocks are slightly different to the later Atmos models in minor details of escapement. A temperature difference of one grade between 15 and 30 grades Celsius is enough to keep the clock running for 48 hours. To be able to turn these very small amounts of energy into movement the Atmos clock has completely different numbers than a regulair pendulum clock. The balance only makes two torsional oscillations per minute, 150 times slower than the pendulum of a standard clock. To put the amount of energy that an Atmos clock uses further into perspective the following comparison: 60 million Atmos clocks together don’t use more energy than a light bulb of 15 Watt.
In the history of the Atmos clock two things catch our attention. On June 1 1929 the Compagnie generale de radio (CGR) created a department for the production and sales of the Atmos, managed by Reutter. In september 1932 LeCoultre made a deal with CGR for the supply of movements, mid 1933 the so called 30″ A calibers were delivered. On July 27 1935 LeCoultre took over the whole production. Another interesting fact is that LeCoultre, after taking over in 1935, kept producing the Atmos I but at the same time was busy with the development of Atmos II. Biggest change was the replacement of the ammonia and lead ´bellows´ with an ethyl chloride canister.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos clock continues to be a fantastic phenomenon that is rightly given to all the important guests that visit Switzerland.

As a conclusion we can say that Cornelis Drebbel is one of the most gifted persons in Dutch history. Everyone of his inventions are brilliant in itself but it is hard to imagine that the 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.

Jaap Bakker

June 23rd



Jacques Brauer: art in scale 1/43
by admin

The Frenchman Jacques Brauer fabricates breathtaking models of cars in scale 1/43. By many he is seen as the very best in this line of work. The following pictures of his 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO show you why:

JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood buizenframe
JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood kaal
JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood volledig chassis
JB 1962 250 GTO carrosserie rood volledig
JB 1962 250 GTO Ecurie Franchorchamps

Since young age Brauer has a passion for painting and cars.

JB waterverfschilderijen
Watercolour painting, 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, Jacques Brauer, 50cm x 65cm

JB olie op canvas Mercedes in Monaco 1937, 184cm x 148cm
Oil on canvas, Mercedes in Monaco 1937, Jacques Brauer, 184cm x 148cm

Brauer was educated at the School of Fine Arts in Reims and developed himself into an artist with racing cars as his favourite theme. He painted and made drawings but he felt limited in his creative options because he missed a third dimension to express himself. Realizing this, Brauer, at the age of 27, switched to building model cars.
As part of this article I have had a Q&A with Jacques Brauer about his background and his work. Next are the questions and answers by Brauer:

- What role did cars and drawing/painting play in your youth? Do you come from a creative family or were you an exception?
- I read that you missed a third dimension in drawing/painting. Did you immediately know that you wanted to build miniature cars or were there other options as well?
- Have you ever considered building watches like your friend Laurent Ferrier?
- Did you teach yourself what materials and techniques you need to build your cars or did you also get some sort of training?
- What is the most exceptional miniature car that you have ever built? Do you have a favourite model?
- What is your favourite 1/1 car?
- What kind of work would you be doing if you weren’t building model cars?

- I have been concern by race cars as long as can remember… very young boy, I receive a special price
for race cars drawings when 5 years old…
I am from a musician family ( mother) and industry( father). Nothing especially creativ but truly inspired
with life and things aound.

-I have started with fine art painting in the early 70′s, essentially race cars and old sports cars subject.
I decide to explore “little cars” at the end of the 70′s, starting with a Ferrari GTO, based on a kit ( metal)
but the model as proposed was definitely not enought for me, then, I start to open doors and other
parts and have to study an engine and engine bay details.
From the beginning I have been facinated by “little cars” the following story is just “how to do it as close
as possible to the real thing” including materials, like wood, leather, textile and so on.
-I have study technical approach and tools and materials myself… no school… .
My favorite car… a lot, but the Aston DB2/4 mk3 is probably the one ( vantage spec.)

- I never expect doing another job, and will do it as long as possible! ( all my life time).

Hope the reply is right for you!

Kind regards,


PS watch making is a specific job who need to learn the right skill, too difficult for me!

JB Ferrari 330 GT 2 + 2
1967 Ferrari 330 GTC

A good illustration of the way Brauer works is the production process of a wooden Nardi steering wheel for his models.

JB 62 GTO straat los stuurwiel en koperen stuurinrichting
JB houten stuur Nardi
Wooden Nardi steering wheel

To create a steering wheel, he needs a piece of pear wood and a self-made tool (an old file that he has sharpened to the utmost). He then uses a special glue which is applied by infiltration in order to saturate the wooden fibres so as to avoid the piece of wood breaking while he is working with it. He cuts out a small circle with his file and then applies himself to ensuring that it is perfectly round using sandpaper. For the inside of the steering wheel, he cuts out a piece of nickel silver which he then sticks to the centre of the wooden circle.

JB onderdelen houten stuur
Parts for a wooden steering wheel

For logos and the little letters composing the brand names, he uses photo-cutouts which he systematically re-polishes using a felt buffing wheel. This requires very careful, thorough work as he is dealing with elements that are no more than around 0.15mm thick.
The artist has successfully reproduced all the elements of the real car to a scale of 1:43. The bonnet, doors and boot open, and the engine is a perfect reproduction in every respect. Each mechanical piece is a true replica complete with air filters, spark plugs, and oil filter cartridges. The structure is made of brass wires assembled with a tin soldering iron. There is a technical link with watchmaking with regard to the production of functional suspension elements, the steering gear (steering is driven from the wheel). The door locks involve the same approach to extreme miniaturisation!
Leather is used throughout the interior, in the original colours. The dashboard features all the dials and the steering wheel features a varnished wooden rim. Every single shape and proportion is scrupulously respected.

“My principal concern can be summed up as follows: respect for spirit and form.”

One of the interesting things of Brauer’s models is that certain aspects of the miniature have clear, technical links to making watches.

JB onderdelen California Spyder

These links are clearly found in for instance the production of functional parts of the suspension, the steering system (the steering wheel turns the front wheels) and the complex construction of the door locks.

JB deurslot
Parts of a door lock

jb Laurent Ferrier Classic
Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic (tourbillon)

Watch manufacturer Laurent Ferrier and Jacques Brauer met at the beginning of the 1980s at a time when both were involved in the world of motor racing. Laurent has unremittingly admired and kept up with Jacques Brauer’s work ever since. For Laurent, the work of a sculptor-miniaturist is closely akin to his own, with regard to design as well as the process of creating a given piece. They share the same approach to the new project, for which Jacques Brauer creates the prototypes – sometimes in wax – in exactly the same way as Laurent Ferrier does when making his models. “That is in fact the aspect that is most like my profession. It is a kind of horology, more artistic but in many way similar. It’s another form of gentle madness.” Laurent Ferrier Laurent Ferrier describes J. Brauer’s work as exceptional.

He is fortunate to be in direct contact with collectors who ask him for models of dream cars. He quotes them: “I want the very best you can do.” It is the same concern that leads collectors to gravitate towards Laurent Ferrier pieces. Like Jacques Brauer, Laurent Ferrier tailors his work to the needs of his client, notably through the creation of one-of-a-kind models.

His work is completely tailored to his clients’ needs. Certain collectors want replicas of their vintage cars. He also says with a degree of amusement that he sometimes has to repair these models because some of his collectors play with them! The lead time for making a piece varies between 8 and 12 months. He estimates that his work involves between 300 and 700 hours per model depending on the level of detail required. It takes him hundreds of hours of work just to develop the first prototypes. Every stage of the production process is photographed in order to share the project’s progress with his client as well as to justify certain elements, which, once the piece is finished, will no longer be visible from the outside. In Laurent Ferrier’s opinion, it takes passion and talent to achieve results like these.

JB tekening model
Notes and drawings prototype

Because pictures say more than a 1000 words some more to show the pieces of art that genius Jacques Brauer produces:

JB 54 375 MM
JB 62 GTO race straat
JB 70 365 GT 2 + 2
JB beginfase 62 GTO
JB body California Spyder kaal
JB California Spyder met hardtop
JB diverse modellen
JB in atelier
JB interieur California Spyder
JB onderdelen 64 Ferrari 250 GTO
JB 62 GTO straat carrosserie chassis kaal

The pioneers of the modern watch
by admin

At the end of the 1950s the American firm Hamilton won an international battle by being the first company that produced a wrist watch that got it’s energy from a battery. At the same time the French firm Lip, the American Elgin and the German Epperlein were working on this development. How did the development of the very first electrical wrist watches go?

PD1:ElvisVentura '61 Blue Hawaii

Pic.: Elvis Presley wore a Hamilton Ventura in the movie ‘Blue Hawaii’ in 1961

On the 3rd of January 1957 a new chapter in the history of time keeping started: the first new invention for the wrist watch, since the invention of the automatic watch by John Harwood, was the Hamilton Electric 500. Although still having a balance it was no longer driven by a spring but by a coil that moved in a magnetic field. Since the beginning of the 1950s the French firm Lip, the American Hamilton and the German Epperlein from Pforzheim had begun with the development of an electric wrist watch. The Swiss watch companies on the other side expressed an absolute non-interest in these watches. They kept trusting the unlimited possibilities of the mechanical watch. It was not before the 1980s that they tried to catch up with the introduction of the Swatch.

‘Watch of the Future’

Under the leadership of the head of the research department, G. Luckey, the Hamilton Watch Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (USA) started directly after WOII with the development of an electric wrist watch. In 1952 the first prototypes were ready and serial production started at the end of 1956. On the 3rd of January 1957 the first two legendary models ‘Ventura’ and ‘Van Horn’ were shown to the press and in April 1957 they became for sale. The ‘Watch of the Future’ was ready for the market. Their revolutionary cases are designed by Richard Arbib, known for his car designs for General Motors and the American Motors Corporation. With the introduction of these models classic made watches became less and less important and the rise of the design watch started. Nowadays nearly all watches are designed by good designers or artists, the factory teams are replaced by freelance designers.
After the very successful Ventura tens of interesting and beautifully styled models followed which all had the caliber 500.

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PD1:Hamilton500 uurwerk

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Pic.: The Hamilton 500 has, like all mechanical wrist watches, a back and forward going balance with torsion spring. But in this case there is a coil on the balance and on the platine there are two permanent magnets.

How it works

The Hamilton 500 has, like all mechanical wrist watches, a back and forward going balance with torsion spring. But in this case there is a coil on the balance and on the platine there are two permanent magnets. A small pawl on the axis of the balance pushes once per rotation against a contact spring that closes an electrical circuit causing, for a very short time, electricity to go through the coil on the balance. The coil then becomes magnetic and will be pushed away by the two magnets on the platine. The balance gets an impulse from the magnets by every rotation and a short time later an impulse from the balance spring in the opposite direction. This keeps the balance in motion and drives the cogs that in the end make the hands moving.
The biggest problem with these watches is the extremely accurate setting of the contacts and the branding and corrosion of these. This can be compared to the branding of the spark plugs in a car. These contacts are being opened and closed 10.000 times per hour. Per year this is about 100 million times. It is clear that this has always been a problem with the first electric watches. The invention of the transistor in 1948 brought the solution. This device can put power on and off without the need of contacts. The first time a transistor was used in a wrist watch was in the Bulova Accutron which also had a tuning-fork instead of a balance. With these applications the accuracy improved enormously.
In 1961 Hamilton introduced the much more reliable caliber 505. It had a totally renewed contact system that didn’t need adjustments from outside. Total production of the calibers 500 and 505 is about 500,000 before production ended in 1969. In 1974 the Hamilton Watch Company was sold to the firm Aetos Watch, a daughter of the SSIH Company (nowadays called SMH) to which also Omega belonged. Because of this Omega got his hand on the production techniques for the full-electronic wrist watch, as developed by Hamilton, without any mechanical part, the famous Pulsar with the well known red LED readoff.

PD1:Epperlein 100 wp

PD1:Epperlein 100 uurwerk

PD1:Paul Portinoux Epp. 100

Pic.: The Epperlein 100. The resemblance with the Hamilton 500 is striking: both have two contact springs, a coil on the balance and the same problems with the contacts. The lower picture is a Paul Portinoux watch with the Epperlein 100 movement

Helmut Epperlein, the pioneer

The development of the first German electrical wrist watch, the Epperlein 100, is in parallel with the American Hamilton 500. Near Pforzheim, in Kaempfelbach-Ersingen the first prototypes were produced round 1953 by Uhrenwerk-Ersingen, in short UWERSI. The owner was Helmut Epperlein, born in Chemnitz in 1911. The resemblance with the Hamilton 500 is striking, both have two contact springs and a coil on the balance but also the same problems with the contacts. The development costs were so high that Epperlein was forced to sell many patents to Hamilton. These patents which are owned by Hamilton contain the name of the inventor: Helmut Epperlein or one of his associates.
Another part of the deal was that Epperlein could use these patents in watches of their own. These were used to finally come up with a watch of their own: the 1959 Epperlein 100. The success of the Hamilton 500 and the Lip R27 were so overwhelming that the Epperlein 100 didn’t stand a chance. The production was ended a couple of years later. In total only 5,000 pieces were manufactured, of which a part, due to technical problems, was destroyed later. It is a very rare watch.

PD1:lip r27 wp



PD1:lipr27electric7los uurwerk

Pic.: Only 7,000 pieces of the Lip R27 were sold. In contrast to the Hamilton 500 and the Epperlein 100 the Lip R27 had a coil that was fixed on the platine. On the balance their was a piece of soft iron that was attracted to the fixed coil at the right moment. A pawl on the balance determined when the spring contacts closed the electric circuit so that the coil became magnetic. This principle is the opposite as the one seen in the Hamilton 500

Competition from France: Lip

Shortly before Christmas 1958 the Lip firm first offered the R27 to the public. This made it the first watch of this type in Europe and second in the world. The Lip watch was difficult to repair and pretty expensive. In total there were only 7,000 pieces sold.In contrast to the Hamilton 500 and the Epperlein 100 the Lip R27 had a coil that was fixed on the platine. On the balance their was a piece of soft iron that was attracted to the fixed coil at the right moment. A pawl on the balance determined when the spring contacts closed the electric circuit so that the coil became magnetic. This principle is the opposite as the one seen in the Hamilton 500. In september 1962 Lip brought out a much improved version: the Lip R 148. A successful watch that was sold in large numbers, even to the American company Elgin. The introduction of the R 148 directly caused the production of the first Swiss electric watch, the 1961 Landeron L4750, to be ended quickly. Too expensive, too late with the development and too late on the market.
The American firm Elgin had developed the very small caliber 722 and the somewhat bigger 725 but these were only in the stores in 1962 and turned out to be no success. Interesting is the fact that Elgin was the first company that patented a completely electric watch. The development had taken too long and the introduction turned out to be a disaster. The planned cooperation with Lip ended with nothing.

PD1:LipR148 adv

PD1:LipR148 wp

PD1:LipR148 uurwerk

Pic.: Lip R 148



Pic.: a Wittnauer watch with the Landeron L4750 movement

PD1:Elgin 725 uurwerk

PD1:elgin725electric1 wp

PD1:elgin725electric3 achterkant

Pic.: the Elgin with caliber 725


Without the calibers of Laco Pforzheim the history of the first electric watches is not complete. The Laco 860 and movements based on this were the first reliable and sold in large numbers electric watches in Germany. The design looks a lot like the Hamilton 500, with a coil on the balance. In 1959 Lacher & Co (Laco) was taken over by the rich Timex company. In the beginning you typically see both names used randomly.

Text: Pieter Doensen

October 18th


The Rolex Daytona and the Zenith El Primero caliber 400
by admin


After having trusted on the hand winding Valjoux 72 (and several variations) movement to drive the Daytona, Rolex in 1987 decided to start using a Zenith movement instead of the Valjoux.
The El Primero calibre 400 movement was first put on the market by Zenith in 1969 and, after a period of several years, was back again in 1986. Most important feature of the calibre 400 was that with 36,000 vph it was a rapidly ticking movement (normally movements had 18,000, 21,600 or 28,800 vph). The frequency of 5 Hz made the movement more accurate.

The Zenith calibre 400 was the only chronograph movement with automatic winding that passed all the high Rolex standards for a movement. But that did not mean that Rolex just bought the movements from Zenith and put them in the case.
The following adjustments were made by Rolex before using the movement:

- a new escapement with a much bigger, free moving balance and a balance coil with a Breguet overcoil; a by Rolex preferred and more expensive configuration that leads to higher accuracy
- 36,000 vph was brought back to 28,800 vph; this lowers the need for maintenance
- removing the date function from the movement

In total about 80% of the movement was modulated by Rolex before it was good enough to drive the Daytona. The Rolex calibre 4030 was born.


The Daytona with this calibre was the ref 16520. Ref 16520 differed from the former generation Daytona’s in that it had sapphire glass and some esthetic changes. Under influence of the other sports watches from Rolex, for instance the Submariner, the case diameter had grown from 37 to 40 mm. The surface of the dials were now lacquered and shiny versus matte (black) or metallic (silver). The dial had metal hour indexes inlaid with radiant material. The sub dials had a thin scale with an opposite colour and around this a metal rim.

Rolex has produced the ref 16520 from 1987 until 2000. From 2000 onwards the Daytona had a fully inhouse manufactured movement.
During the period 1987-2000 there are six periodes in which small changes were made to the Daytona:

- 1987(late)-1988: ‘floating’ Cosmograph; ‘Cosmograph’ printed in the middle of the dial
- 1989-1990(early): 4 lines; ‘officially certified’ not printed on the dial
-1990(early)-1993(early): ‘inverted’ 6; the number ’6′ on the sub dial at 6 o’clock is inverted and looks like a ’9′

The complete story of the production of the Daytona ref 16520 between 1987 and 2000:



Pic.: 1988

DayZe:89:detail wp


Pic.: 1989


Pic.: 1991


Pic.: 1992


Pic.: 1995


Pic.: 1999

Jaap Bakker

August 8th