Saturday, 26 December 2015

Slow train, fast train

No not about railroad watches as such but about the frequency at which a watch balance turns. By the middle of the 19th century lever watches were pretty much standardised at 16,200 vibrations per hour (VPH). As watches got smaller and engineering tolerances got tighter makers started to move towards a faster beat of 18,000 VPH, usually referred to as a "Quick Train".

As usual the Americans moved first with Waltham changing the beat of their size 18 full plate 1877 model to 18,000 after launching it at 16,200 and the Illinois Watch Company changed quickly in about 1879.

The conservative English trade were, as usual, quite a way behind probably not helped by the investment required in redesigning their watches to change the gearing in the train and retooling costs which would have been more significant for the much smaller English companies than for the large American operations.

Generally it was the early 1890's before the Coventry and Lancashire trades started to use the faster train, led not unnaturally by newly introduced keyless three-quarter plate designs with some of the older full plate designs being allowed to die a natural death, particular Fusee movements,  and others being changed mid life or when Swiss Lever escapements started to replace the English Lever.

The London trade were even more conservative with some makers, notably P & A Guye and J.W. Benson persisting with the slower train up until around about the first World War. The lovely Benson Ludgate pictured was made in 1912 still running at 16,200 which does give it a very nice "majestic" tick.

Wrist watches, as one might expect, continued the development and my 1980s Rolex runs at 19,800 VPH with later ones running even faster.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Waltham Display Case

Click on the image for a larger view
As described in some detail in my post "the standard watch case" buyers could at some retail outlets configure their own watch by selecting a case, movement, dial etc. and then to have the watch assembled for them on the premises

The Waltham display cases as shown here could be used to display a selection of movements to help the customer decide. I suspect the hole in the base was used to bolt it down to stop people making off with a potentially valuable movement.

Now this type of case can be used to simply display the movement or to use it as a desk watch.

Click on the image for a larger view
The back of the case has a second crystal so that the movement, in this case a 17 jewel Waltham 1908 P.S. Bartlett from 1918, is visible.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

A Double Own Label!

A 16J Errington, 1895.
At first sight this appeared to be a normal "own label" watch made for by C.H. Errington of Coventry for Curtis & Horespool of Leicester.

However looking at the hallmarks there are normal marks for Chester 1895 but one set of makers marks have been over-stamped by another.

Under high magnification and with a hint from another mark (see below) it is possible to read the second set of marks as belonging to Alfred Moss Jacobs & Co (Watch Makers), 18 Cross St, Hatton Garden, London.

The original marks are probably those of Errington.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Whats in beat?

A Swiss lever escapement
If you have ever set up a pendulum clock you will know that it is important to level the movement so that the pendulum swings equally to the right and left of a centre line that is perpendicular to the base of the movement, this will help in timekeeping, make the clock easier to start and, if it is driven by a spring, it will be less likely to stop as the spring gets closer to being fully wound down. It will also result in a nice even "tick - tock". 

It is the same with a watch except that it is now the balance wheel which has to swing an equal amount left and right from it's "in beat" position  - which for a Swiss Lever escapement is when the impulse jewel, balance staff and the lever pallet arbor are in alignment with the movement at rest. Its a little more complicated for an English lever with the pallet tangential to the escape wheel.
 
Before the advent of electro-mechanical and now computerised escapement analysers watch makers and repairers had to adjust  watches to be in beat by visual alignment and listening to the movement through a type of stethoscope, it is impressive how they achieved the accuracy that they did but some errors are fairly easy to detect by listening to the watch.
 
This is my Waltham 1899 Riverside Maximus from 1901, the movement is 0.3 milliseconds (mSec) out of beat which at a nominal rate of 18,000 vibrations per hour (VHP) is an error of 0.17% - that is as close to perfect as you are likely to hear from a 114 year old watch so run the video to see what it sounds like.
 
 

The next video is of  a job in process and the movement is currently out of beat by 2.1 mSec or 10%, run this video and you should notice the arrhythmia.



Correcting an out of beat movement is likely to be a combination of reforming or tweaking the hairspring (in this case it needs major reshaping due to previous tampering and there is a real possibility of work hardening causing the spring to break when adjustments are made), turning the roller or preferably the hairspring collet on the balance staff to improve alignment and possibly some adjustment of the banking for fine tuning.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

A Rare Rotherham and a bit about hairspings & balances.

A Size 12 Rotherham for Hoefler &
Co of Devenport. 19 Jewels, 1901.
This is at first sight a normal high end size 12 Rotherham with 19 jewels but two things make it unusual, first is still has an original watch paper in the back as described in my last post, but more important is the very rare balance assembly.

Normally these movements have a cut compensating balance with a normal steel Breguet hairspring, however in the late 1890's a new alloy known as "Elenvar" was devised by Charles Édouard Guillaume (who got the 1920 Nobel prize for physics for the development), its key property was that unlike steel its flexibility (modulus of elasticity) did not change with temperature. When used as a hairspring it removed the need for a compensating balance.

A very rare solid balance with an
Elenvar Breguet hairspring.
Most companies implemented the Elenvar hairspring with a screwed balance which allowed the balance to be balanced fairly quickly (as a car wheel with a new tyre) and the weight and number of screws could be used to adjust the moment of inertia to match the hairspring to make the watch run too time. 
 
With this movement Rotherham tried a different route and used a traditional 3 armed solid balance which is probably gold. Balancing and tuning was done by removing slight amounts of material from the balance as can be seen from the picture to the right..

This is the only watch I have seen with this arrangement and it is likely that Rotherham only made a few, probably because the amount of skilled work required to set up the balance would more than likely have made it more expensive than the normally sprung cut compensating balance.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A rare pair of papers.

click the picture for a larger view
It is very rare these days to find watches with watch papers intact (they are collectable in their own right), I had only 2 or 3 from the last 600 watches. And today two turned up together, I knew one was coming but the second was a nice surprise.
 
The papers were used for advertising and would have been put in by sellers or repairers and occasionally you find a watch with a stack of them but usually they are glued together, to the case and / or are falling to pieces. Both of these are original to the watch and have the same retailers names as are shown on the watch faces.
 
The blue one is on a Rotherham from 1901 retailed by Hoefler of Devonport. The watch itself is something rather special - watch this space!

The red paper is on a Waltham 1908-610 half hunter sold by Harral of Barnsley, it has the serial number of the movement on it and is dated 11 years after the watch was made so presumably they were warranting a repair or they had bought back the watch and had resold it.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Dating Movements by Cyma & Tavannes

I recently had a query on dating these movements so have posted the answer here so I'll not have to do it again.

The serial number on these movements are under the dial as show to the right. My dating is based on a reasonable number of watches, listed below, in hallmarked silver or gold movements. The sample is heavily biased to watches retailed by J.W. Benson, largely because other retailers frequently used Swiss hallmarked silver cases which do not carry a date mark. Benson appear to have switched from Revue to Tavannes in about 1932 the database is only good for the 1930s.

It must be remembered that a movement might not go straight into a case which itself may have been on the shelf for a while so there will be some overlap, also the hallmarking years of the various assay houses are not in line with each other or the with calendar but the difference is small and the date is likely to be accurate to plus or minus a year.  (updated Feb 2017)

Serial Date
      4,322,549 1908
    12,487,883 1919
    14,708,666 1919
    13,079,475 1921
    14,262,246 1924
    15,485,579 1926?
    15,485,952 1926?
    15,939,146 1926
    17,482,498 1929?
    16,624,975 1930?
    17,865,828 1932
    17,886,973 1932
    17,888,724 1932
    17,888,811 1931
    17,889,975 1932
    17,899,152 1931
    17,899,219 1932
    17,889,918 1932
    17,902,501 1932
    17,903,525 1932
    17,903,625 1932
    17,908,930 1932
    17,909,034 1932
    17,909,035 1932
    17,944,833 1933
    17,944,871 1933
    17,966,044 1933
    17,970,131 1933
    18,045,354 1935
    18,045,567 1935
    18,050,727 1935
    18,052,802 1936
    18,055,283 1936
    18,055,497 1936
    18,055,498 1936
    18,055,544 1936
    18,066,750 1935
    18,070,392 1936
    18,076,649 1936
    18,090,883 1936
    18,112,605 1937
    18,112,379 1936
    18,113,219 1937
    18,141,556 1937
    18,146,434 1937
    18,146,664 1938
    18,199,372 1937
    18,240,750 1938
    18,245,978 1938
    18,246,001 1938
    18,252,273 1940 Benson stock?
    18,253,220 1939
    18,256,774 1938
    18,265,158 1938
    18,268,000 1940
    18,276,566 1947?

Friday, 4 September 2015

J.G. Graves The "Express English Lever"

The "Express English Lever" signed by
J.G. Graves and hallmarked 1902.
John Graves was an important man in Sheffield owning a substantial department store and mail order company later part of Great Universal Stores. Originally apprenticed as a watchmaker he also sold a lot of watches.

This is one of the most common found today, branded The "Express English Lever" and signed by him. Although it used standard full plate movements of the early 1890's it does have a couple of interesting aspects.

Firstly although it is English and does have a lever movement it is not an "English Lever" but has a "Swiss lever" escapement laid out tangentially in the manner of the "English Lever".

Friday, 21 August 2015

3 years on the web and 688 watches.

Three years ago tomorrow www.oxfordpocketwatches.co.uk went live, I was up till then selling from display cabinets at three antiques centres and also through eBay and I had finally got round to setting up a web site to support them together with a Facebook page and four months later this Blog.

The Benson Hunter shown here is the five hundred and fifty-sixth watch to have been sold directly from the web site with a good many more sold from the display cabinets as a direct result of the web site.

Within 2 months I was selling more from the web site than through all three antiques centres combined. During November the web site had some minor customisation  to improve the graphics and sales were really taking off as Google and other search engines started giving good rankings.

Having started off with about 140 watches by the following April I no longer has sufficient stock to support three cabinets so I had to close first at Chipping Norton and then in November at Wallingford when I also changed from a full cabinet at Brackley to the half cabinet I have now.

Stock is now very low at 38 watches and although I expect that to improve when the fly fishing season ends It is unlikely that I will ever get above fifty or so as they sell too quickly and the supply of good watches to restore continues to decline.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Dating Pocket Watches.

Revised and extended December 2016 from the original post August 2015

Dating watches can be a problem but here are a few ways that it is done.

American Watches

A Waltham 1892-Vanguard dated
to 1902 by the serial number, but
probably re-cased (see below).

These are generally the easiest as for many makes, such as Waltham and Hamilton, production records are still extant and enthusiasts in the US have put a huge amount of effort into putting them into online databases so by taking the serial number of the movement (not the case number!) and entering it you can get the production date usually to within a year or possibly two but sometimes to within a month.

Details of the type of watch may also be provided although there are some errors largely due to mixed production runs (e.g. lever and pendant set, etc..) and the occasional transcription error. The original Waltham database is maintained by the NAWCC but the most comprehensive site I have found is The Pocket Watch database.

Swiss Watches

Are more problematic, of the makes I regularly deal with, Omega have published the dates that each million watches were produced so by interpellation the production date can be determined within a year or two. Dates are known for Zenith and some for Longines, & Baume.

A Cyma movement with the serial
number under the dial
For most of the other makes the data is not generally available or, as is the case with Revue Thomman, the movements do not carry a meaningful serial number, just a 2 or 3 digit number to identify watches within a batch of production.

Having had a lot of watches by Cyma and Tavannes I have been able to build up a good database of serial numbers vs date for production between c1930 and 1938 using the silver hallmarks (see below) which is now good enough to identify the date to within a year. See this post for details.

Beyond this is comes down to experience and identifying key features such as machine set jewels which determines the earliest possible date.

English Watches.

An LWC movement showing the
serial number under the dial
dated to 1897.

Are very difficult, as far as I know production records are only available for the Lancashire Watch Company and those that are not accessible.

Other makes (assuming you can identify the maker!) are difficult as several companies appear to have multiple number sequences, indeed occasionally an Errington will turn up with two serial numbers one from each major sequence.

Generally it is therefore necessary to reply on silver case hallmarks or when in a filled or rolled gold case to compare with previous dated examples which may not be as reliable.

Silver Cases.

Silver hallmarks for 1903 by the
Birmingham Assay. The movement
is a Waltham 1899-620 also 1903.

English silver and gold case hallmarks are unique in having a date year, although until 1974 this is not quite in line with the calendar year and varied by Assay house with the Birmingham "year" starting in July and the London "year" in May, normally I refer to just the starting year, so Birmingham 1908 would indicate that the case was assayed between July 1908 and June 1909.

Some Swiss watches have only the Swiss hallmarks but others have English import marks.

For older English watches this is generally a reliable method of dating but with the introduction of the standard watch case we start to have problems due to recent re-casing of orphaned movements into orphaned cases, a problem which appears to be getting worse judging from what I see on eBay.

A subsequent post here will look at  how to identify re-cased watches. See also J.W. Benson movements in Dennison cases.




Friday, 24 July 2015

Market & Stock Update July 2015

Demand remains high, particularly for English and high end American, unfortunately these are also the ones most difficult to get hold of and with the general shortage of watches available to me I am now down to 40 watches in stock. I have currently only got two English watches available and have sold out of true railroad watches (although I do have a few railroad grade). I do have some watches, mainly medium quality Swiss, awaiting restoration but it is going to take some time for the stock situation to improve and it may get worse before it gets better.

In UK, Fellows of Birmingham have stopped their quarterly specialist auctions of pocket watches and are now including just a few, mainly solid gold watches, in with their general watch auctions. On eBay volume is down dramatically from a year or so ago and the availability of quality watches is even further down.

I used to import watches from the USA, volume is probably down there as well, but I have had to largely stop imports. This is largely because eBay have encouraged sellers to use a newly introduced facility (from a third party I believe) that collects import duties in the USA so that goods come straight through UK customs.

Unfortunately not only is this frequently slower it is far more expensive. Previously, if charged at all, I would pay Royal Mail £8.50 handling fees and up to about 9% VAT, with the eBay system charges it is more than double.

As an example a watch currently listed in the USA on "buy it now" is listed at $320 plus $15 postage plus a whopping $90.37 "duty" and handling! Someone is making a lot of money out of this, but no longer from me!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Naming Confusion!

Here is a good example of why attribution can be a problem.

This good quality 16 jewel watch is signed by well known makers & retailers Kendal and Dent - Dent made the clock that drives "Big Ben". But the movement is signed DF&C for Dimier Freres et Cie part of a long established Swiss watch making dynasty, but in this case the movement was actually made by Review Thommen, probably for the London branch of Dimier who were major watch importers.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Fitting a pocket watch crystal

Usually you can easily press out crystals from the inside, especially those not glued in, so be careful if you have the bezel open for any reason - not recommended except on lever or front key set watches! This is how to refit it if it comes out or if a replacement is crystal is to be fitted.

This assumes a hinged bezel, if it is a snap on fit remove it in similar fashion or if it is a screw on type screw if off then just ignore the bits related to the hinged type.
 
It also assumes an acrylic crystal, a glass crystal can me fitted in a similar way but do not try bending it!
   
First open the bezel using a knife at 1 o’clock if it hinges at 6 o’clock or opposite the hinge if it is hinged elsewhere. Be careful of the hands! Work over a plain surface such as a piece of writing paper so that if you should knock one off you will be able to find it.
 
Seat the crystal into its groove at 6 o’clock,  then work round both sides together pushing it into the grove, have your thumbs underneath pressing with your fingers on top.

As you get close to the finish you may need to apply pressure upwards towards the centre of the crystal with your thumbs whilst pressing down with your fingers to bow the crystal up in the centre and down at the edge, this should let you seat the crystal into its groove so that when you release the pressure it is held in firmly.

Old glass crystals are usually not perfectly round so if it is a little loose try rotating it in the bezel until it grips.
 
If it becomes necessary to glue the crystal in than the correct type of glue must be used so that crystal can subsequently be removed and any surplus removed relatively easily - which should be done when the glue if partially set.
 
Before closing or refitting the bezel check that you have not displaced the hands, particularly that the hour hand clears the second hand (or the second hand clears the minute hand on a watch with a centre sweep second hand) and that the minute hand clears the hour hand.

Friday, 26 June 2015

J.W. Benson "The Keyless Ludgate Watch" , 13J, 1891.


Here is a rare survivor. It is an early version and incorporates the Benson Patented integrated dust ring shown here in the case to which it is secured with three cams. The dust cover hinges from the ring rather than the case.

The 8 guinea starting price for these watches in silver is the equivalent to just under £1k in todays money but it was advertised as "The best and cheapest Keyless English Lever Ever made at the price".

Friday, 5 June 2015

Watch packaging

It never ceases to amaze me how poorly most people pack the watches I buy in - or how often the watch actually survives, I have a strong suspicion that watches gummed up with old oil are more robust than a newly restored one, which is rather annoying!

The main problem I find is that where people go further than just putting the watch into a jiffy bag (or envelope!) they tend to protect against crushing, against which the watch is actually quite resistant, rather than against shock which is the bigger risk. They also tend to wrap lots of tape all round the watch and / or packing which contributes nothing to its safety and by making it difficult to unpack increases the risk of damage after it has arrived.

I started off packing watches in a small box wrapped in bubble wrap in a padded bag, over time I used more wrap and a bigger bag then replaced the bag with a cardboard box which although more expensive did, with the elimination of sticky tape, turn out to be quicker to pack and I suspect also discourages rough handling.

Here is the latest and hopefully final version of my packaging. The watch goes into a jewellery pouch and the pouch into a sealed plastic bag to protect against condensation particularly if transported in an unpressurised / unheated aircraft hold which frequently happens even on shipments within the UK, although international shipments present the bigger risk.

Then into a small but strong cardboard box with padding top and bottom. Annoyingly the boxes come with just one bit of padding so more has to be added.


Next into a medium sized box with a lot of bubble wrap.


Ready to go except for the address label and packing slip.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Revue Thommen Movements

The range of size 16 movements by Revue Thommen appears to be very large, but all it not quite as it seems.

Some Revue Thommen Movements - Click to enlarge.
 
These movement look fairly different, in fact apart from materials (and the gilt ones were also made with the nickel finish and vice-versa) they are essentially the same. Shown are some hunter and open faced versions but all variants were available as either.

The winding / setting mechanism, barrel, gear train and lever pallet are exactly the same (for watches made at about the same time) and for setting can have, without modification, a long winding stem as shown in the two centre examples or a short one for cases with a captive crown and stem. The balance assembly on all of these movements may be either  over-sprung or Breguet with either a cut compensating balance or a screwed balance (with Elenvar spring). The number of jewels can be varied and a micro adjusted used instead of the standard index for further variation.

The top plates and cocks are clearly different but the main body of the movement is the same except for being drilled differently to take the two studs and between 1 and 4 screws used to locate and secure each cock and plate.



Sunday, 17 May 2015

May Market Update - supply still declining!

Whilst some excellent silver watches are about, the supply of good mid range watches from eBay continues to decline and at the same time Fellows appear to have discontinued their quarterly specialist pocket watch auction with pocket watches being sold in their general watch auctions.

For the first time I can remember mid range Walthams are becoming hard to get hold of and, perhaps due to the declining scrap value of silver, silver cased watches are generally outnumbering those in good rolled and filled gold.

Due to my enforced shut downs in December, February and March, stock levels are currently good with some nice English watches available (pictured is a nice  "Bank" watch by J.W. Benson, 1920) and with more silver watches and half hunters than I have had for a long time, but my back log of Swiss and American watches is lower than it has been for several years which does not look good for the winter when I would normally be doing 20% - 30% more watches than during the summer.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Watch Faults - Slipping Cannon Pinion.

One in an occasional series on common watch faults.


This is a fairly common fault, particularly after the watch has been disturbed when serviced, usually it comes to light immediately or during the initial test but is can develop after a few months of use.

Symptoms:

The watch runs and the second hand moves but the hour and minute hand do not move at all  (a severe and obvious case!) or pinion slips, and the hands stop occasionally or move slowly giving the impression that the movement is loosing time badly, possibly in a random fashion.


What it is:
The Cannon pinion (left) Connecting to the movement
(under) and to the first part of the motion works which
in turn connects to the setting gear, top right.
Click on the image for a larger view.

The minute hand is mounted on the cannon pinion which also drives the under dial motion gear that moves the hour hand.

The cannon pinion is friction mounted on the central shaft of the watch, this has to be firm enough to turn the hands but has to be loose enough that it will slip when the hands are adjusted either by the key or, in a keyless design, when the setting mechanism turns the motion gear.

The pinion can start slipping if one or more of the following happens:
  • Oil migrates onto the shaft - this happens occasionally on unrestored watches when people splash oil all over the place or spray it with WD40 to try and get the watch working.
  • The shaft becomes too smooth for the cannon pinion to grip.
  • The pinion becomes worn.
  • Some pinions have a cut out and what is essentially an integral spring to maintain pressure on the shaft, this can get weak or break off altogether.
It is thought that setting the watch by turning the hands backwards can cause a cannon pinion to start slipping so only make small adjustments backwards and do so slowly and only if you know that the particular watch will not be damaged in other ways by turning backwards as many complicated watches such as repeaters can be.

The motion gear complete with the hours gear added, the hour
hand attaches to this and the minutes hand attaches to the
Cannon pinion.

How it is fixed:


Usually 2 or more actions are required in addition to degreasing the parts:
  • The shaft is roughened with a file to provide better grip.
  • The top of the pinion is bent inwards using a concave punch to make it grip.
  • The side of the pinion is nipped in (more) with a special tool (which does not work well on some metals used by English watch makers) or with a hammer and straight edged stake to provide some grip, this is somewhat dangerous as it is easier to over do it and break the pinion or tighten it too much which can result in quite a lot of labour to open it out again.
  • Replacing the pinion if one can be found of the correct size.



Friday, 8 May 2015

A hint for Chronograph Owners.

The arrival of this Chronograph now restored reminded me that some chronograph users are abusing their watches. DO NOT leave the watch for extended periods wound but stopped with the "top" button as this will prematurely age the mainspring.

Stopping it before carrying in luggage or sending it through the post is however probably a good idea as it may help protect the balance.

The Coventry made size 22 movement has 13 jewels and Geneva Gear and is an early one from 1879. The Case is by WG Hammond of Coventry.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Market Update - more silver watches!

The new financial year has seen some improvement in supply, particularly of silver cased watches. For at least two years I have been struggling to get good Swiss and American movements in silver cases with the majority of watches being in gold plate, now the ratio is much more balanced.

There has also been a drop in the number of movements being sold for spares.

It would appear that the significant and steady drop in silver (and gold) prices since the high in 2011/12, when it was more than double the current price, has resulted in fewer watches being scrapped for their silver content which has to be a good thing!

Friday, 10 April 2015

How to choose a watch chain

I am frequently asked for advice about selecting an Albert chain so hopefully this post will save me some time in the future!

2nd Draft and work in progress!

Why have a chain?

A key principle is that a pocket watch should always have some sort of safety device in case it is dropped. I have had three customers in the last three months  drop their watches on the floor (whilst winding I think) and two of these watches cost over £550, and in each case they broke the balance staff, one only 2 days after purchase. 

I have managed to fix two of them and the third is on its way to me and can probably be fixed. But these users were lucky, they were all watches for which New Old Stock balance staffs are potentially available, for many watches and all English ones this is not normally the case and that makes repair out of my competency and may exceed the value of the watch.

So you need to have a chain (or similar) and use it at all times! However remember it is a safety device, clips and case bows may fail, so hold onto the watch not the chain.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: A Swiss 17J Half Hunter c 1897.


But in the case of this Swiss watch the unknown maker should have been more confident and signed the watch. It  is the best made and finished Swiss watch I have come across, better I think than the Labrador by Louis Brandt and Frère / Omega  and at least as good as the early Rotherham it rather looks like. (Sorry Coventry Watch Museum  J also on Facebook ).

The movement was clearly made for the English market having the classic Rotherham shape, Fast and Slow markings without the French equivalent (A & R) and a true English Lever Escapement. It has 17 jewels, 15 plus cap jewels on the escape, and they are all screw set on the top  and three are on the face plate.
The Breguet sprung cut compensating balance has, apart from the timing screws which are steel to  gives finer control of the timing, gold screws which is not common in a Swiss watch. It also has a double roller and a functioning Geneva gear to control mainspring pressure.
The setting gear is particularly impressive with every piece very well finished.
 

Friday, 13 March 2015

An early and rare Waltham Traveler


About 286,000 1899-Travelers were made as well as almost 400,000 of the 1908 model, this watch was in the first 10,000 made (5th run) and in the first batch of the 11 jewelled version of which only 4,500 were made in total (Hunter and Open Faced).

It has a split plate movement with 11 jewels, screw set apart from the lever. The Swiss lever escapement has a cut compensated balance with Breguet Spring. The serial number dates it to 1899.

The half hunter "Empress" grade case is in Filled Gold and is by the Canadian factory of the American Watch Case Company - locating manufacturing operations overseas to save tax is not a new phenomenon!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

An early Louis Brandt and Frère Labrador

LB&F Labrador c1895
As described in another post Louis Brandt and Frère had two main movements after c 1894, the Omega and the Labrador.

Here we have an early 3/4 plate version of the Labrador with a picture of the more usual split plate version for comparison.

LB&F Labrador c 1896

Saturday, 7 March 2015

A 19J Rotherham from 1902/3 signed and presented by the company.

I continue to get in some very good watches by Rotherham and in the last six months have had more than in each of the previous 2 years. 

This one is particularly interesting as it was not only signed "Rotherhams, Coventry & London" it has engraved on the dust cover:

"Rotherhams' Swimming Club, Coventry, 120 yds. Open Handicap Sep. 19. 1904. 1st Prize. Won by F. Burre".

Monday, 2 March 2015

A rare "Own label" Waltham 1908-641 model:

Very few UK resellers, I can only recall two or three, commissioned special "own label" movements from Waltham, this grade 641 from 1918/19 looks to be a P.S. Bartlett with the addition of a double roller. The total production run of this grade was 150 open faced movements and 350 hunter movements.

It is signed "Preston Senior, Especially made for Prestons Ltd, Bolton, By Waltham Watch Co, Waltham U.S.A.".

I have also seen 1908-635's branded for Thos Russell of Liverpool and a lower grade, probably a 15J branded the "Preston Junior". A couple of others I know are now with a collector in Australia.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Does non-functional Geneva gear matter?

This post was prompted by my restoration of three watches by Rotherham of Coventry (an unusual number to have in at one time!) two of which had fully functional Geneva stop gear whilst the other was missing part of the device.

As explained in some detail in this previous post Geneva Stop gear is designed to limit the maximum and minimum pressure from the mainspring to help control isochronism (varying time keeping as the watch runs down).  But quite frequently the "nib" on the central portion is broken or the other section is missing altogether. This is, I suspect, normally down to previous repairers letting down the mainspring too fast which is easily done. It may also have just worn out, broken as a result of some other fault or been removed to give the watch a longer run time.

A modern
Mainspring
So does it matter that it is broken? Well the answer, as is frequently the case, is yes and no.

Yes it matters because the watch is not complete, so I always discount them a little. And yes if a contemporary mainspring was used it would most probably have a noticeable impact on time keeping.

But thing have changed in the way that mainsprings are manufactured; in the 1800's and into the twentieth century mainsprings were made equally thick through out their length so that as they unwound the pressure from the still wound coils delivered unequal pressure over the period.

A modern mainspring on the other hand  is made so that the strength varies along its length to reduce variation in pressure. This significantly mitigates the problem so that on a 120 year old watch the affect on timekeeping is unlikely to be significant or noticeable without close monitoring.