The combination of the keyless works and the date jumper is a similarly ingenious arrangement, with the date jumper and clutch lever pivoted on the same post, which also serves as the detent post for the three-position set lever (see first thumbnail below). Typically the clutch lever is held in the winding position by a spring and forced into hand setting position by the set lever. In this movement the clutch lever is coupled with the set lever by a pin in the set lever which slides back and forth in a slot in the clutch lever. The action is in this way assured and the user, through the crown and stem, would be made aware of any impedance to this motion. The pin in the hind portion of the clutch lever is attached to the hacking lever, which contacts the balance wheel when the crown is pulled into the handsetting position. The detent action in this system is also simplified. Rather than interacting with a spring, the set lever has an elongated arm that acts as the spring and detents (in three different positions) against the post that the clutch lever and date jumper pivot on (see second thunbnail below). Altogether, the keyless works is a nicely executed and simplified design that ensures proper engagement at every position of the crown with fewer parts than commonly utilized.
At this point it is also worth mentioning the very simple and effective quicksetting mechanism. Pulling the crown into the second position, which puts the clutch lever in a neutral position, actuates the quickset for the date. The twin armed quickset lever has a square hole in its center that couples with a square portion of the winding stem when in this position. When not being used, the quickset lever is held parallel to the date ring by a long, thin spring resting on its reverse side (underneath the barrel bridge).
While removing the motion works, we encounter the peculiar double cannon pinions. The Lemania 8810ís motion works are not driven by the power train but are rather driven directly off of the second barrel by the lower of two cannon pinions. These two cannon pinions are friction fit on top of each other and ride on a tube in the center of the watch through which extends the arbor for the indirectly driven seconds hand. The upper cannon pinion (called the indented cannon pinion in Longinesí service literature) is decoupled from the lower (plain or un-indented) cannon pinion during handsetting when pressure is applied via the minute wheel. Although this arrangement works well enough, I found it a little tricky to separate the two cannon pinions for cleaning and re-lubricating.
Turning the movement over, we now remove the balance bridge and expose the hack lever and the click. The balance in the Lemania 8810 is a three-armed Glucydur balance with a flat, Nivarox hairspring. The stud attachment is movable (allowing for easy beat adjustment) and a fine rate adjustment screw is set into the same lever. The balance pivots are protected by modern Kif shock protection and I was surprised to find that the lower cap jewel (the one on the dial side) was completely dry (you can see that the oil had run to the edge of the jewel) while the upper jewel still had an appropriate amount of oil. Iíve heard of problems in the industry with the very fine oil used to lubricate balance pivots running off the cap jewels. Fixatives of some sort are often used but I'm not sure this issue has been resolved conclusively even today.
The click in the Lemania 8810 is in a rather unusual location. Typically the click interacts directly with the wheel that rides on the barrel arbor (called the click wheel for just this reason). In the 8810, the click interacts with a unidirectional gear underneath the second wheel of the automatic system (notice the diagonal teeth on the lower wheel). The second wheel is the source of the "dynamic idling" which allows the unidirectional rotor to achieve greater winding efficiency than is often found in unidirectional automatics. A side effect of the unusual click location is that the second and third wheels of the automatic system are always under tension and subject to undue stress when the movement is handwound. Another problem this movement has with regards to handwinding will become apparent momentarily.
Now that weíve removed the balance and let down the mainsprings, we can remove the barrel bridge. Here we can see the indirect center seconds pinion (enmeshed with the third wheel), the reduction gears in the automatic system and the two mainspring barrels. The curiosity here is the crown wheel, which seems to have just been dropped in amongst these others. Although there is a protrusion on the underside of the barrel bridge to keep the crown wheel from sliding too far out of position, it is otherwise free-floating and therefor impossible to lubricate. There is a tiny spring that lifts this wheel slightly (for reasons unknown to me) but it did not keep the crown wheel from wearing a significant groove in the brass plate underneath it. The amount of wear present seems a little difficult to imagine for a brand new watch. Itís possible that it was handwound frequently in the showroom but it seems to be a weakness in the design regardless. There were little particles of brass found on the teeth of the winding pinion so they were probably elsewhere in the movement as well. The 8815 has a similar, floating crown wheel design but I don't know if Lemania has improved on it in some way to reduce the wear to the surrounding parts.
Letís turn our attention now to the tandem mainspring barrels. When Longines was working on incorporating a highbeat escapement into an automatic movement, they realized that there were two ways to do so. You could increase the torque that the barrel puts out (thereby increasing the amount of wear on the power train) or you increase the speed at which the barrel rotates. The problem with increasing the speed of the barrel is that you are simultaneously decreasing the power reserve. By adding a second barrel in tandem with the first (stacked in the 890 and laterally in the 990), they effectively regained the power reserve lost to the faster barrel rotation while also flattening the power curve. Itís not easy to understand that two barrels in tandem do not double the torque on the power train. It is increased slightly but not as much as if both barrels were acting on the second wheel simultaneously (a system some manufacturers experimented with). The torque is effectively averaged between the two barrels over the most significant, first third of the power reserve, resulting in a much more even application of torque.
In the case of the Lemania 8810, the first barrel is wound by the automatic system and is much smaller than the second barrel. It has a slipping bridle to keep it from overwinding while the second, larger, barrel has a fixed mainspring end (as found in manually wound watches). This means that more of its length can be effectively used with no danger of overwinding, thanks to the slipping clutch in the first barrel. The wheel attached to its arbor winds the first mainspring and the rotation of the barrel itself winds the second mainspring (the barrels are directly enmeshed). The second mainspring delivers power to the train via the wheel attached to its arbor. This is the first time Iíve encountered a mainspring barrel that supplies power to the train through its arbor. This is also the first time that Iíve encountered a two piece barrel arbor as found in both barrels in the Lemania 8810 (of course in truth this is the first time I've worked on a watch with two mainsprings where one of them was not for the alarm). The wheels associated with each mainspring barrel are attached to a long shaft that slides into the hollow arbor. The arbors and wheels are kept from spinning separately from each other by the matching locking surfaces found on each pair. This system seems like a good way to ensure that the torque from the wheel is transmitted properly to the arbor and barrel without any possibility for the wheel becoming misaligned or out of flat (especially important because of the sandwiched nature of the barrels between the bridge and mainplate). The only drawback that I can see to the way the barrels are set up is that the running friction on the second barrel (the one that drives the power train) is effectively doubled by virtue of the fact that the arbor supplies the power. In a conventional mainspring barrel, the arbor serves to wind the mainspring while the barrel itself rotates and delivers the power. In such an arrangement, the only sources of friction experienced by the barrel itself are the points of contact between the barrel and the arbor. The arbor pivots only rotate when being wound. When the arbor is delivering the power, the friction between the barrel and arbor is at issue as well as the friction between the arbor and its jewels. This does make the use of jewels on the pivots of the second barrel a truly useful addition. Not only do they reduce wear, but they reduce friction in the power flow as well. Typically a jeweled barrel arbor does nothing for the running consistency of the watch (while still combating wear during winding), whereas a jeweled barrel would be an improvement in both regards.
The only thing left to examine is the power train itself. The most remarkable thing about the power train in the Lemania 8810 is how unencumbered it is by hands or other pesky indicators. A tiny bit of power is sapped from the third wheel by the indirect center seconds pinion but the train is otherwise uninhibited right down to its twenty-toothed escape wheel (where it must fight perpetually with the pallet stones). The indirect center seconds pinion is tensioned by a thin copper spring which pushes is up against the underside of a copper button which is pressed into the barrel bridge underneath the rotor mount. Iíd prefer the tension spring to be accessible for adjustment when the watch is running so that the minimum amount of tension necessary to ensure a smooth second hand motion could be found. You canít have everything I guess, especially when youíre building one of the thinnest automatics in the world.
Concluding comments and observations -
Taken as a whole the Lemania 8810 is a very nice piece of work. It's use of twin barrels represents an innovative and highly successful approach to the engineering demands of a high-beat movement and has the beneficial side effects of increased power reserve and improved isochronism. Although it's not finished to a high degree in its raw state, some manufacturers take the time to turn it into a visual work of art as well as an engineering triumph. It has, as best I can tell, one critical flaw: the floating crown wheel. Clearly this is a movement designed to be worn and wound automatically. It's a little ironic then that it has found its way into so many high end watches these days; watches that are more likely to be owned by collectors who will not wear it regularly enough to keep it running without a winder or some manual winding.
This particular example showed slightly careless handling prior to or during the casing of the movement. The dry cap jewel is an accident that could happen to anyone (the rest of the movement seemed properly lubricated). The scratched stud carrier, miscellaneous nicks and dings and particularly the incriminating fingerprint on the power train bridge however, do not speak highly of the care exhibited in its adjustment and installation. Too much should not be made of an isolated example and certainly these indicators do not seem endemic of systemic corner cutting or low standards. This example can help us to appreciate true excellence in execution when we see it and understand that it is not something that comes easily.
But the question remains: Is the Longines 990 a movement deserving of the accolades heaped upon it by watch wranglers and movement cognoscenti? After spending some time with this movement and contemplating its components both singly and as parts of a whole, I believe that some of this enthusiasm is misplaced. The winning components of this movement's makeup are the twin barrels and its slender profile. While these factors were truly state of the art in 1977, there are many movements today which surpass the 990 in these regards. Single oversized barrel, twin barrel and even four barrel designs have achieved stunning results in terms of power reserve and isochronism and are often incorporated in movements of impeccable finish with other attractive features (which is not to say the Lemania 8815 is not sometimes immaculately finished or adorned with wondrous complications). It's thinness is still impressive and make it well suited to dress watches and modular complication arrangements but there is of course ample competition in this arena. It's one grinding weakness is a handwinding mechanism that is completely unsuited for all but occasional use. While this might not have seemed like a major design flaw in 1977, when an automatic watch was more often a component of a daily wardrobe than part of a collection, it is a more salient concern today. In this way the Lemania 8810 is like a slightly flawed, if nonetheless beautiful, racing engine from a bygone era. What it lacks in durability and functionality is possibly made up for by its still competitive performance and contretemptuous charm. It exists in the akward space between the massproduced workhorses, the finely tuned haute horologie and the hypermodern anachronisms of this high mechanical rennaisance. It's relative rarity seems in perfect balance with its true usefulness, and both support its mythos amongst collectors as well as its continued utilization by a significant few manufacturers.
End Part Five.
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Part One introduces the origins of the Ebel watch company.
Part Two of this article covers Ebel's subsequent evolution, with its vertiginous highs and cataclysmic lows, a story that included an intriguing crossed path with Le Corbusier, Cartier, a way-stop with Middle-Eastern Investcorp, and its current home within the French luxury behemoth LVMH.
Part Three begins a guided tour into the innermost depths of the highly regarded Lemania 8810 movement, evolved from the legendary Longines cal. L.990, that powered the Ebel Lichine Sr.
Part Four continues the tour and analysis of the movement and watch.
Part Five finishes the tour and analysis, and provides some summary comments.
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This article was prepared from publicly available sources, without the express permission or approval of Ebel or LVMH. It is written for non-commercial reference and entertainment purposes only, and no claims are made for historical accuracy, although considerable efforts have been made to ensure factual correctness. All trademarks, trade names, service marks, logos, and copyrights remain the possession of their respective registered owners.