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Author Topic: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion  (Read 10646 times)

Offline Ultra-Vintage

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Hi everyone.  The first thing I wanted to do with my space on the site was talk about what makes Zodiac movements different than those offered by many of their competitors at the time.  For my first topic I have chosen the aspect that gets the most attention, the offset cannon pinion.  When looking around on the internet it is easy to find negative statements from quite a few watchmakers and repair people, but I can tell you that those are not necessarily deserved.

In basic terms, the cannon pinion is what connects the running of a watch with movement of the hands.  The traditional type of cannon pinion (Picture 1), as seen on a Zodiac 1361 automatic, frictions onto an extension of the center wheel from the train side.  This in turn drives an intermediate setting wheel that moves the hour wheel.  Thus the cannon pinion is responsible for movement of both the hour and minute hands.  In a traditional type of cannon pinion, it also acts as the carrier for the minute hand.  So, there needs to be enough friction on the cannon pinion that as the center wheel turns it will cause the minute and hour hands to turn as well.  However, it also needs to have the proper amount of friction (and lubrication as well) so as to turn independently of the post it is attached to when the stem is in the setting position and the crown is turned to adjust the position of the hands.

Quite a few of the Zodiac movements that are discussed on this board (70,72,75,86,88 etc) do not have the traditional type of cannon pinion, but instead it has been moved and thus referred to as "offset".  The traditional type of cannon pinion is positioned on the top of the movement centered under the hands, while the offset type is a 2-piece gear inside the watch train itself.  The example that I am using to show this is a Zodiac 70-72 21 Jewel Automatic (Picture 2) that I was disassembling for service (which is why it appears so dirty).  As I had stated previously, in a traditional type the cannon pinion has three jobs:

1. Drive the movement of the hands
2. Slip on the post it is attached to when the watch is in setting position and the crown is turned, to allow the hand position to be changed
3. Act as a carrier for the minute hand. 

For an Offset Cannon pinion, it only has two jobs:

1. Drive the movement of the hands as the watch runs
2. Slip while the watch is in setting position to allow the time to be set.

In Picture 3, the red arrow shows the position of the jewel for the offset cannon pinion when looking at the train side of the movement (automatic assembly removed).  Picture 4 shows a side view of the Offset Cannon Pinion once the barrel is removed.  Picture 5 shows the cannon pinion with the train bridge removed.  As you can see, from this view it looks like any other wheel in the train.  Picture 6 shows the Offset Cannon Pinion once it has been removed from the movement, and Picture 7 shows it taken apart.  Off the two parts, the larger brass gear is what acts as a wheel in the train, while the smaller gear is the part that interacts with the setting parts on the dial side of the movement. 

Just as in a traditional type of cannon pinion, the offset cannon needs to be lubricated and have the proper amount of friction.  When the watch is running it needs to have the power to drive the hands, but in the setting position the smaller gear needs to be able to slip and allow the hands to be set without disturbing the train.

You may have already wondered, what carries the hands if the offset cannon pinion does not?  Picture 8 shows that although it does not have the same exact function, a watch with an offset cannon pinion still has a similarly shaped piece that carries the hands in the center of the watch (blue arrow).  However, it does not friction on the post that it fits over but merely kept in place by a bridge that secures the setting parts.  The offset cannon pinion is to the right of it (red arrow), and you can see that in Picture 9 that as the small gear of the offset cannon pinion turns it will drive the intermediate setting wheels and thus the hands.

So what is all of the fuss about?  Essentially that during a service, the watch has to be disassembled to remove the Offset Cannon pinion,  it must be inspected for proper friction, lubricated, and placed back in the train and the movement re-assembled.  It is not as easy as just pulling it from the top of the movement as in the traditional type.  Many repair people do not want to take the extra steps to maintain it properly, and unfortunately they often damage it when they try.  Over years and years of not lubricating it properly, the cannon pinion gets worn and either has to be re-tightened or in some cases replaced due to improper service in the past.

So, is the offset cannon pinion better or worse than the traditional style?  I believe that it is equally as good.  Does it take a little extra effort to maintain?  Yes, but it is one of the things that makes Zodiac movements unique and the extra effort is worth it.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2014, 07:55:45 PM by Ultra-Vintage »

Offline rdenney

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2014, 10:00:12 AM »
This is going to be a great series of articles. Thanks for undertaking the effort.

The offset cannon pinion seems to be a standard feature of the AS 1687/1688 ebauche on which  many of the Zodiac movements are based. Here's a picture of it from the Ranfft database:



You can see the offset cannon pinion at top-center, just like the one you pictured. As it happens, Roland used a Zodiac caliber 61 as his example of a plain 1687, which is a handwind movement. The 1687 had a date function and the 1688 was a day-date. It was a consortium of Zodiac, Girard-Perregaux, Doxa, Favre-Leuba, and Eberhard that created the automatic winder for this ebauche. As you know (because you serviced it for me :) ), Ebel also used an autowinder, though it's a bit different with a different jewel count than the above. They were (probably, though documentation is scarce) not part of the consortium, but clearly A. Schild offered the outcome of that effort to other companies.

Of course, the Zodiac calibers 61 through 88 all use that AS ebauche. But that ebauche is also the basis for the Girard-Perregaux calibers 30 through 43, the Favre-Leuba 11xx series calibers, and the Ebel 213, 214, 313, and 314. I don't recall the caliber designations based on that ebauche from Doxa and Eberhard.

So, any watch that uses that ebauche, including (at least) 60's-era watches from the above companies, will have the same offset cannon pinion. This should not be as weird for watch repairers as it seems to those of us who own Zodiacs.

Maybe an explanation of that autowind system and why manual winding is the way it is with these watches would be worthy of your expert description and commentary. I know that these puppies have to be in pretty good repair or manual winding won't be possible at all, and in any case I wonder if it does damage because of the way it spins up the autowind gears.

Rick "looking forward to more posts in this subforum" Denney

Offline Butch

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2014, 09:34:55 AM »
Thank you for this series BWG. It is always good to educate a collector on the idiosyncrasies of their brand. Here is another one that you have mentioned in this article.

       "Picture 4 shows a side view of the Offset Cannon Pinion once the barrel is removed."

Can you expound on the barrel please? As you and I know, this is yet another part that is very hard to come by.

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Offline jon p

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2014, 10:27:09 AM »
 :ur      this is some great info explaining the off set canon pinion.  i took my GMT to a local watchmaker about 3 years ago, hands would not keep up with the correct time. after many return visits and a good bit of money it still would NOT run right. he told me "it keeps perfect on his timing machine", but the hands never were on the right time. a trip to BWG fixed it perfect, it WAS the canon pinion. this guy had always done an outstanding job on repairing my bulovas, etc but i dont think he had a clue about a zodiac movement!!  :( :o

Offline Butch

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2014, 11:03:00 AM »
a trip to BWG fixed it perfect, it WAS the canon pinion. this guy had always done an outstanding job on repairing my bulovas, etc but i dont think he had a clue about a zodiac movement!!  :( :o

Jon, in my experience, over many years, I find that to be very true of many watchmakers. They always count on parts being available and just replacing them. As you know, there are no parts available for Zodiacs. It takes a lot of time investment by a watchmaker to learn how to fix them. And even then, sometimes the parts are just shot from so many previous watchmakers trying to fix them that a donor movement must be used to get a part that can now be made to work.
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Offline Sea Wolf

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2014, 12:30:54 PM »
Once 3d printing allows for different metals and smaller microns I think printing vintage watch parts will be a nice business.
I can see when printing an entire vintage dial will be possible and all the parts of the movement as well.

3d scanners are now coming online that are cheap enough for consumers.  In 5 years this may be a viable option.
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Offline Butch

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2014, 12:39:07 PM »
Funny you should say that SW. BWG and I have been looking at that process and discussing it for over a year now. Exciting times we live in.
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Offline Ultra-Vintage

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2014, 05:51:11 PM »
Thank you for this series BWG. It is always good to educate a collector on the idiosyncrasies of their brand. Here is another one that you have mentioned in this article.

       "Picture 4 shows a side view of the Offset Cannon Pinion once the barrel is removed."

Can you expound on the barrel please? As you and I know, this is yet another part that is very hard to come by.

As you command  :D

Part 2 regarding the Zodiac barrels is underway......

Offline Sea-Bee

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2014, 04:57:06 PM »
Quite well said!

Offline browndogken

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2014, 01:34:47 PM »
Excellent article!

Was the canon pinion intended to be serviced (tightened) when it slipped to much, or has that come about as a result of the lack of new parts? I was under the impression that, like the barrel, it was to be replaced rather than serviced.

I'm looking forward to the next article :ur

Offline Ultra-Vintage

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2014, 05:12:41 PM »
Excellent article!

Was the canon pinion intended to be serviced (tightened) when it slipped to much, or has that come about as a result of the lack of new parts? I was under the impression that, like the barrel, it was to be replaced rather than serviced.

I'm looking forward to the next article :ur

All canon pinions, whether "traditional" or "offset", are meant to be removed and re-lubricated during a standard service.  That is where the problem with the offset arose.  The offset required additional steps to remove it from the gear train, properly pull it apart, lubricate it, put it back together, and then re-install it in the movement.  This was not done by many watch repairers, and the lack of lubrication inside the canon pinion caused wear that eventually negated the proper friction needed.  Then, instead of trying to learn how to re-tighten the offset canon pinion they merely replaced it.  In the couple of decades after the introduction of this series of movements many of the extra cannon pinions were used up.  Now, when tightening is required because there are no spare parts available, watch repair people just tell customers that the watch is either not repairable or they mangle the canon pinion in an attempt to tighten it. 

In the absence of any damage from previous attempts, an offset canon pinion that has lost the friction required to turn the hands can be re-tightened to function as new.

Offline szabgab

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2014, 04:54:43 AM »
Oh guys, this is very interesting. I bought a Zodiac 86 movement with exactly this problem, ticking away happily but no movement of the hands whatsoever. I did suspect the offset canon pinion, although I called it something else (that 'funny gear' was the technical term :) ). I did do a bit of a research yesterday and everybody was going on about how to tighten the cannon pinnion itself, probably that's what every watchmaker tries first and that's where matters go worse than before.

Anyway, I did not proceed with doing that as I have taken an 88 apart before and I noticed the friction wheel and how it operates (by basically dipping the gear in naphtha, reassembling and realising I can not turn the hands - too much friction). This gear has got the opposite problem, swing around easily, hence no hand movement. I came to vz to post a question if anybody knows, if the gear is too slack or the cannon pinion needs tightening and hey presto, an article! :)))

Could somebody just give me a heads-up how to take the gear apart, re-tighten, lubricate and re-assemble? Thank you very much!

Gabriel

Offline Ultra-Vintage

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2014, 12:30:51 PM »
Hi Gabriel.  Honestly, it is a repair that needs an experienced touch.  The reason I say this is that the majority of watchmakers (with many years in the biz) screw it up, so it is not a repair attempt I would suggest.

Offline szabgab

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2014, 01:33:20 PM »
Hi UV, thanks for the reply. I understand, if I'd want to have it properly serviced and a working watch for the next 40 years I would find a watch person who knows what she/he's doing. But, even if I'm going to be stoned here I get bored with a watch after a year or two, so if I get a working movement for that time period that's fine with me. The only watch, that seem to survive the regular purge is my Astrographic (not the one I repaired, I've got rid of that), but that one was repaired by you so I guess that will see me through the other watches for the years to come :)

Honestly, a watchmaker worth something wouldn't only repair a damaged gear, there is no money in that plus you guys would like to see the whole thing instead of repairing some tiny detail.

So all in all, call me stubborn, but I'm willing to take a chance, a donor movement is not that costly, or this guy, oldswisswatches sells parts cheaply. If you describe the process I might avoid to do some damage that was unnecessary and If I crimp the pipe too tight or damage the gear I put that down to experience (wouldn't be the first time and most likely not the last time either). After all my inexperience is usually made up with bravery bordering on stupidity :)  I recently 'repaired' a cocked up, mangled hairspring, I never did it and it was all over the place. Funnily enough the watch is keeping rather good time since. But on other occasions I broke irreplaceable parts so....

Offline Butch

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2014, 02:04:58 PM »
Please review the introduction for this board and refrain from this sort of questioning. These were the conditions agreed to in order to have this board. Thank you.

http://www.vintagezodiacs.com/zforums/index.php/topic,2069.0.html
« Last Edit: April 04, 2014, 02:05:57 PM by Butch »
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Offline szabgab

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2014, 02:52:45 PM »
Hi Butch,

Understood.

I did not intend to push, sorry if it came out like that. All I was just saying, that a sole repair of one gear will not be taken up by a watchmaker, the same goes for timing, beat adjustment etc... But you are right, UV is here to spread the knowledge, not the know-how, I'm not sharing some of my photography secrets either :)

Offline Butch

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Re: "What makes Zodiac movements unique": PART 1 - the Offset Cannon Pinion
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2014, 04:06:27 PM »
Thank you for your understanding.
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Offline szabgab

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So if you are looking at this and don't want to cock up a gear first as I did, here are two articles. Self explanatory and I should have thought of it, well, my bad.

First how to remove the offset cannon pinion: http://lsyf.com/repairing-zodiac-offset-cannon-pinion/

Than a method to tighten without crushing: http://www.rwg.bz/board/index.php?showtopic=39190

As I mentioned, this is my tip, it helped me not to damage the second gear with the offset pinion (after the first became unusable, I should have researched the topic more deeply before trying my luck). I do not take responsibility if you damage anything though but these two steps made a perfect grip for me.

Offline Butch

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Excellent, thank you for sharing.
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Offline Ultra-Vintage

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So if you are looking at this and don't want to cock up a gear first as I did, here are two articles. Self explanatory and I should have thought of it, well, my bad.

First how to remove the offset cannon pinion: http://lsyf.com/repairing-zodiac-offset-cannon-pinion/

Than a method to tighten without crushing: http://www.rwg.bz/board/index.php?showtopic=39190

As I mentioned, this is my tip, it helped me not to damage the second gear with the offset pinion (after the first became unusable, I should have researched the topic more deeply before trying my luck). I do not take responsibility if you damage anything though but these two steps made a perfect grip for me.

I am glad that yours worked out ok.  However, I will say that the steps for separation and tightening in the first set of instructions is what most watchmakers would do, and from those they damage them at least half the time.  There are other ways of doing it that insures you wont damage it. 

As for the second set of instructions, NEVER try to tighten a cannon pinion while it is still on the post.  NEVER.  A person will end up having to replace it and the center wheel before you are done, and likely the nasty utensils that they just cut their jagged yellow toenails with as well.........
« Last Edit: May 06, 2014, 12:51:53 PM by Butch »

Offline incountry

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And all along I've been thinking my diagonal cutting pliers were for the toenails.  You learn something new every day!   Thanks much   :BGW: 

Offline szabgab

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I am glad that yours worked out ok.  However, I will say that the steps for separation and tightening in the first set of instructions is what most watchmakers would do, and from those they damage them at least half the time.  There are other ways of doing it that insures you wont damage it. 

As for the second set of instructions, NEVER try to tighten a cannon pinion while it is still on the post.  NEVER.  A person will end up having to replace it and the center wheel before you are done, and likely the nasty utensils that they just cut their jagged yellow toenails with as well.........

Hi, BWG is right, do it only if you are stuck in a country, that's not the US. Unfortunately the watchmakers here would possibly damage stuff even more (not all, but the cheaper ones). The nail clipper with a hole in worked out brilliantly for me, did not crush the part (what I was most afraid of). Obviously you would not tighten the cannon pinion on it's post, not on a normal movement but especially on these... I had the offset canon pinion on a broach, and used the clipper to (gently!) tighten it in three different points for good measure :)
« Last Edit: May 11, 2014, 09:02:59 PM by szabgab »

 

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