Historical Perspectives: Why Watch Movements Are Called Calibers

Historical Perspectives: Why Watch Movements Are Called Calibers

A assortment of cartridges of various types, from .50 (extreme left) down to .22 (far right).

On the remote possibility you’re not effectively acquainted with the utilization of the term in guns, it’s fundamentally used to allude to the measurement of a slug, or of within barrel breadth of a gun used to fire a shot of a specific distance across. A .50 type round, for instance, is 0.5 crawls in measurement. (You can communicate both in metric units too; the standard NATO round is 5.56mm and is alluded to as such however the utilization of “type” appears to happen, apparently, just related to English units).

The utilization of “type” in the firearm world revisit the French calibre right to the late Renaissance Arabic qalib – a form for projecting projectiles – and eventually has its birthplace in the antiquated Greek kalapous, which implies a shoemaker’s last (the wooden model around which a shoe is constructed). 

Interestingly, the utilization of the term in horology is first found, as per the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie , in crafted by the English clockmaker Henry Sully (1680-1729) who worked in France, and utilized “…circa 1715, to mean the design and measurements of the distinctive development columns, wheels, barrel, and so forth” The term was utilized as time went on, to “show the state of the development, its scaffolds, the cause of the watch, its creator’s name, and so on” (for example IWC “Jones Caliber”) and bit by bit came to allude to the actual development. The overall association, at that point, is that in both watchmaking and gunmaking the term has a past filled with being utilized to indicate width and in the two cases, somewhat, has come to allude to a thing whose distance across was determined (possibly by metonymy ).

Early IWC D. H. Craig “Jones Caliber”

The average practice these days is to allude to a development as the “type xyz123” (that is, “type” trailed by a development model number, for example, the ETA type 2892-A2). Strangely, “type” has for quite a bit of its set of experiences likewise implied an individual of a specific standing, and the utilization is as yet alive today; for example, in the novel The Godfather, the Don’s nephew Johnny Fontane alludes to the film maker Jack Woltz as “a genuine .90 type pezzonovante [big shot].”

The general standard practice, at that point, in the French-talking watchmaking world, was to allude to a development as a calibre, followed by the breadth of the development, and afterward, regularly, a condensing giving the development’s uncommon capacities. For instance, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s assembling documents from 1877 (when the company was Manufacture LeCoultre Borgeaud & Cie) list, as one of the developments made, calibre 16T. This discloses to us that this was a 16 ligne tourbillon movement. 

The ligne, by the way, is equivalent to 2.2558291 millimeters (a 16 ligne movement would hence be about 36.09mm in measurement). The ligne is still utilized as a unit of estimation in watchmaking and furthermore in, strangely, button making and the estimation of strips utilized for men’s cap groups; it is 1/12 of a pouce (the French inch).

Lithograph showing the American Watch Company, Waltham Massachusetts; mid-1800s.

This isn’t the lone connection among watchmaking and the guns business, however. In the United States, the alleged American System of watchmaking was one of the first on the planet to utilize exactness large scale manufacturing techniques and apparatus to permit the creation of watch developments with compatible parts. The framework was adjusted for watchmaking by American creators like Waltham, from the assembling techniques utilized by the Federal arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts, where it was utilized to mass-produce rifles.

HODINKEE’s Louis Westphalen takes note of that in the years paving the way to World War II and from that point, the pattern was to move away from utilizing development measurement and capacities to assign developments as the quantity of various developments of comparative or indistinguishable distances across expanded. Indeed, even before World War I, nonetheless, this naming show wasn’t all inclusive; the Valjoux 22 is a model. The training is as yet alive to a great extent, notwithstanding; Patek Philippe, for example, has in its list the  calibre 17”’ LEP PS IRM . This a 17 ligne, lepine, modest seconde, sign réserve de marche movement – or, a 38.35mm Lepine type (that is, a development with spans for the train haggles fusée, named for the watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lepine who built up this development engineering in the late eighteenth century) with little seconds and force reserve.