There is no doubt that Thomas Mudge’s freestanding lever escapement ranks as one of the most brilliant and significant inventions in the entire field of watchmaking. For more than 200 years, it has been used in watches and small watches, although it must be admitted, with a few small refinements. Not the least of which is the balance spring, now made to compensate for temperature.
Thomas Mudge was born in Exeter in 1715. He was the second son of the Rev. Zachariah Mudge, who moved his family to Bideford in Devon, where he assumed the position of principal of the primary school there. Thomas attended school until he was 14, when he traveled to London and became George Graham’s apprentice at Clockmakers Company.
Mudge himself became a Freeman at the Company in 1738. In 1750, he opened his own business at 151 Fleet Street, the colorful Dial and One Crown. Matthew Dutton, another of Graham’s apprentices, joined him four years later as a partner. It turned out to be a successful company and they made a considerable number of high-end watches. However, it was the facts by Mudge himself that were truly outstanding.
Another great watchmaker, John Ellicott, the man who invented the balancing pendulum, or grid, was traveling to the Spanish Royal Court, and Mudge gave him a perpetual calendar watch and a series of clocks showing the equation of time, to sell. . to the Royal Family.
In 1750, Mudge made a clock that repeated not only the hours and quarters, but also the minutes. King Ferdinand VI fell in love with it and bought it with enthusiasm. In 1754, he made his first experimental clock with the escapement lever.
In this type of escapement, the teeth of the escapement wheel are crushed or squashed at the top. The same type of arrangement could be duplicated by bringing a file to the normal escape wheel and filing the tips of each tooth, leaving a flat surface. There are 15 teeth on a lever escape wheel, and the escape wheel itself is about three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter.
Mudge was the first to use rubies for the paddles and the jewel of the roller. The latter drives the escapement. The roller itself is about one eighth of an inch in diameter and about five sixty-quarters thick. It is placed under the scale on the scale staff and oscillates with the scale. In it is the jewel of the roller. Nowadays, it is usually formed in D-section, or semicircle so that there is enough clearance when it passes through the fork of the lever itself.
The point of all this escape is that when the jewel of the roller enters the fork of the lever, it pushes it to the side. Unlike an escapement such as a neutral or anchor, the lever is momentarily free. It is then picked up by a tooth on the escapement wheel and due to the angle of the tips if the teeth relative to the pallets, the lever is traversed and supported against a pin. It is then unable to roll back again, due to the roller itself coming into light contact with a pin attached to the center of the yoke. When the lever is moved that way, it is called running to the bench.
It is difficult to give you a clear picture of how this exhaust works simply with words, but I hope I have managed to give you a little idea of how it works.
In 1771, Mudge retired from London and left the management of the business to Dutton. Mudge himself settled in the field and devoted all his energies to the manufacture of a marine chronometer. He was awarded £ 500 and by 1779 he had produced two chronometers. Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal and the nightmare of many watchmakers, found both to be unsatisfactory, but many felt he gave neither of them a fair trial. However, in 1776, Mudge was appointed Clockmaker to the King, who of course was George III at the time, with 1776 being a more significant date.
In 1792, a Committee of the House of Commons awarded Mudge 2,500 pounds. He died on November 14, 1794. His contributions to watchmaking were invaluable, and his place in history is rightly assured.