Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Waltham “own label” movements.


Waltham “own label” movements are very rare in UK – I have only seen them for Russell of Liverpool and Preston’s of Bolton, but they are somewhat more common in the USA. They come in two varieties. The first have different specifications to mainstream models, such as this 1908-641 branded the Preston’s senior which appears to be a 1908-PSB with the addition of a double roller.
Waltham 1908-635 The "Russell Model"
The second more common own label, is a standard model with engraving added to brand them as “own Label" The Preston's junior is of this type as is the Russell model above which includes the Waltham name on the movement and this 1899-630 marked for jewellers Harry A Dillon of Gloversville New York but without the Waltham name although in this case Waltham is on the dial.
 
 
 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A Benson signed for Queen Mary, 1922.

J.W. Benson, "Best London Make",11J, 9 carat gold, 1922.

When I first saw it on the web this watch had me fooled, being engraved “To H.M. The Queen” I initially assumed it was a Victorian movement re-cased by the maker in 1922 or that someone had the case date wrong.

Then when it arrived I realised that the engraving was not the usual “By Special Warrants to H.M. the Queen” (or by Special Warrants to her and the Prince of Wales jointly or to “The Late Queen” etc.). From over a hundred English made Bensons this is the only one I have seen with this engraving or anything similar.

The case was definitely made for this movement as they have the same serial number and it has London assay date marks for 1922/3.
When I opened the movement I found it consistent with one from the 1920s and the movement serial number has an alphabetic serial number which also indicates early 20th century. As usual the character on the top plate “K” is different to the one on the top plate “C”.


So, for some reason, Benson briefly marked at least one watch for Queen Mary even though they did not have her warrant. Having done a little research I can’t see any particular reason for it, other than perhaps for her 55th birthday or the marriage of her daughter.

 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

An Errington watch signed by Newsome.


This watch was made by Errington in 1893 and signed by them ("CHE" plus patent marks) under the dial. But under the face plate it is also signed "Newsome" and the original case, which has the same serial number as the case, has Newsome's maker's or sponsor's mark.

Newsome was a fairly important high quality, albeit relatively small Coventry maker. Prior to c1889 they used Prescott ebauche after that date he became involved with the newley formed Coventry Watch Movement Company and used a similar ebauché by that company.

The watch would have originally been signed by the retailer but it is interesting that they went to Newsome for a watch they could have got rather cheaper direct from Errignton.
 
 
 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Watchmakers Service Marks.

I am sometimes asked what the meaning is of the small scratched numbers and letters  often found scratched onto the inside of the back or dust cover of a watch. They are service marks put there by watchmakers.

In America the prefix will usually tell you who last serviced or sold the watch, IIRC a practice originally a legal requirement to try and prevent (tax?) fraud but now done on a voluntary basis and organised by the American Watchmakers – Clockmakers Institute.

In UK we are not so lucky and the marks are normally just a ledger or job number and some codes only meaningful to the watch repairer who made them. Just occasionally however you come across something different.
 
Inside the back of this watch by Review, signed by Jewellers Sharman D Neil Ltd of Belfast and in a Swiss silver case assayed in London in 1926 there are 4 “normal” marks that mean little, except perhaps that one has a prefix NL which could be a contraction of Neill.
 
But there is also a block of marks all by the same repairer, shown at the top of the page. Easy to read with a loupe but very difficult  to photograph, after some serious work with Photoshop we can see that each has a (ledger?) number, followed by “M” and then what must be the month and year and what are probably initials of the workman.

 Someone clearly looked after the watch as it was serviced in October 1935, then in 1938, 39, 42, 44, 47, 49 and then in April 1953.
 
 
 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

A Pocket Watch for use on Nuclear Submarines.

I was a little sceptical about this but the story checks out. The watch is a standard size 16 Waltham 1908-1609 with 9 jewels, a Swiss lever escapement and a Breguet sprung cut compensated balance with double roller. It is adjusted for temperature and in three positions. The serial number dates it to 1942.


As confirmed by the catalogue number it was originally supplied to the Royal Navy during WWII with luminous hands and face, it was retained at the end of the war, unlike around two million pounds worth of surplus watches and clocks that were sold off.

Later, following the introduction of Nuclear submarines in 1960, it was given non-luminous hands and dial so that the relatively high radiation levels (by todays standards) would not confuse on-board radiation detection equipment. The case was then stamped "Non-Lum".
The American screw backed case is in base metal case and was made by the Star Watch Case Company, it is stamped with the military catalogue number, the Military property mark, the service allocated serial number and "Non-Lum" as described above.

Monday, 4 September 2017

The last version of the Bank watch by J.W. Benson.



The "Bank" Watch was in production a long time, by 1935 a new version was introduced that was almost certainly the last, it is rare and the one pictured is the only one that I have seen.


Although in general layout it is similar to the previous ones this version was much slimmer and had the dial secured with screws rather than pins but amazingly they stick with the slow train movement that most makers had replaced with the fast train 40 years earlier.


I don’t know if it was made in house or bought in but I suspect it was either the former or they used outworkers making to their specification.


One interesting point is that historically the “Bank” watch was cheaper than the Ludgate but this version of the “Bank” was more expensive as explained in this section of a contemporary Benson sales catalogue.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Dating a Russell Fusee Hunter

11J Hunter signed Thos Russell & Son. Liverpool
There was something odd about this watch when I saw it listed for auction, the case was clearly hallmarked at Chester in 1914 but the movement looked older than that. It is also very unusual to find a "Consular" type case as late as 1914, in fact I don't recall seeing one that late.

When it arrived my suspicions were confirmed as the movement has a very "slow train" running at 15,400 Vibrations Per Hour which was obsolete by the early 1890s. Further research also showed that the trading name on the dial was in use from 1859 though 1894 and the address probably from after the late 1870s.




Case hallmarked in Chester 1914, maker's mark S.Y for Samuel Yeomans.

The case however clearly belonged to the movement they have the same serial number. So the movement had must have had a new case made for it in 1914, a telling point for the provenance of the movement was the makers mark on the case of S.Y, this is for Samuel Yeomans who was mention in my last post but one on a Harrison watch, where there is some background on this important figure in Coventry watchmaking.

The point is that Yeomans was in the business of manufacturing watches, he was not a case maker and it is very unlikely that someone would go to the company for a new case, and the company was unlikely to provide one, unless they had originally made the watch.

So whilst Russell was, I believe, still making watches when this movement was made he is also known to have been buying in watches from Coventry and this is one of them, almost certainly made by Yeomans from a Prescott ebauché (the ebauché makers mark "M.M" is stamped on the movement).

The 11 Jewel Fusee Movement c 1880


This all helps with dating, at first sight from the design etc. the movement is likely to be from c 1850 through to c 1900, the use of a 15,400 VPH slow train narrows this further to a latest date of c1890. The use of a Prescott ebauché probably confirms 1890 as the latest date as by this time Yeomans was also chairman of the Coventry Watch Movement Company who were making Fusee ebauché [3] for the Coventry trade and he was hardly likely to buy in a Prescott ebauché [1]




In 1877 Yeomans [2] was working with Newsome and their movements were marked  "N&Y" as was the Harrison from that date.

So the movement is between c1878 and c 1890 and in my view given the obsolescent very "slow train" most likely from c 1880.


[1] The CWMC did on occasion by in ebauché from The Lancashire Watch Co of Prescott but this is not one of them.
[2] Yeomans first registered is silver mark in 1874, probably for watches made with Newsome - the two together did not have a mark that I can find. It is therefore unlikely that the movement is earlier than 1877.
[3] The CWMC started off making Fusee ebauché  but quickly realised their error and re-tooled for going barrel movements.