Thursday, 27 April 2017

A Bluffers Guide to Watch "Bushing"

Three typical Watch bushes.
Where a steel pivot runs in a brass hole in the movement there will eventually be some enlargement of the hole, often turning it into an oval due to unequal pressure on it.

Occasionally there will be some wear to the pivot as well in which case the pivot will need to be smoothed and reduced in size which will result in it being loose in the hole.

Problems are most common on the fast moving and quite small 4th (Seconds) wheel and on the bottom pivot of the centre wheel which although it moves slowly it has a lot of pressure on it and can't be effectively oiled without taking the movement apart - so it seldom gets done.

To remedy this situation a brass Bush or "Bouchon" is set into the movement.

Part of my collection of Bushes, the two large ones bottom left are for
clocks, those for watches in the top box have an external diameter from
0.8mm to 3mm with a range of hole sizes and depths. These are New
Old Stock, the top set is still available but at £270 the set (120 pieces)
First the original hole has to be opened up to accommodate the size of bush required using progressively larger reamers in the Staking or Jewelling set, this will keep the centre of the hole in the right place.

The bush has to be a friction fit but not so tight that excessive force is required to push it in or the bush could be damaged or the movement distorted.

The reamer on the centre hole of a scrapped bottom plate. The metal is soft and the
tool very sharp so it is just turned by hand with no significant leverage required.
If necessary, which it usually is on the bottom plate, the bush has to be ground down to the same thickness as the plate, on the top plate the shaped end of the bush is left as it looks similar to normal pivot holes and helps with oiling. The bush is then pressed in using the staking set.

My staking set with leaver operation, a different anvil than this would
probably be used when pressing home a bush.

The result will be as efficient as the original.

A re-bushed centre wheel pivot hole that I did recently.

Although more expensive, sometimes a jewel will be used instead of a bush resulting in a higher jewel count than advertised:

This Waltham Traveler has been turned into a 15 jewel watch although I suspect
that was because someone wanted to do it rather than to correct a problem.
On occasion you may find the reverse with a broken jewel replaced with a bush, on the centre wheel this is very unlikely to cause any performance issues - European makers did not like putting jewels on the centre wheel in any case as they add little - except for appearance and marketing - and are susceptible to damage.

Bushes used to replace jewels at the 4th wheel and below will not be as efficient as a jewel and will be more prone to wear in the very long term.

A high grade Keystone Howard Series 5 with the top centre jewel replaced
with a bush. The original jewel was machine set and it was probably thought
that enlarging the hole to replace with a friction fit jewel would have left
the bridge dangerously weak. The brass bush however retains its structural
integrity. There is no noticeable increase in friction and the problem was finding
a mainspring that would not overdrive the movement rather than needing more power.

J.W. Benson's Alpha-Numeric Serial Numbers.

J.W. Benson "Bank" watch, 11J, 1922
The case has the same numeric serial number as the movement so the date is pretty certain.
Some Benson "Bank" movements and its derivatives after c 1901 have a serial number prefixed with a letter.  About 12% of the 59 Benson "Bank" watches I have seen have this numbering system but the percentage would be somewhat higher if only watches after 1900 were considered.

Serial number L4381 on the top plate of the 1922 movement shown above.

Some have speculated that this is a date code but I have been unable to find a good correlation.

Things get more confusing if you take off the dial because the serial number prefix on the face plate is always different to that on the top plate.

Serial Number C4381 on the face plate of the 1922 movement shown above.
If the Letter was a date code it would imply that the face plate was made 9 years before the top plate or before the watch was finished which appears unlikely.

Unusually for Benson those movements with an Alphabetic prefix to the serial number often have the same serial number on the case as on the movement but without the prefix which makes the dating certain (unless the watches were re-cased by the maker).

The silver case, hallmarked for J.W. Benson 1922 serial No 4381.

So together with the lack of correlation between the letter and dates it appears the letter represented something else.

But I have no idea what.

The watch from the front.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

J.W. Benson, 19J, 1904.

J.W. Benson 1904.

This is a very rare, perhaps unique, watch and it perplexes me.

The inside of the Benson 19J movement showing the Geneva stop work
on top of the barrel and the English Lever escapement.

It is a high grade London made size 18 movement with 19 jewels, a Breguet hairspring, gold balance screws and Geneva stop work. And I suspect it is a Half Chronometer (adjusted) movement.
But it is branded the "Bank" watch.

A Benson "Bank?" from 1904 but with 19 Jewels, a Breguet sprung
cut compensating balance with gold screws and Geneva stop work.

It has the same frame and design as the normal "Bank" watch of the period but I have records for 59 other "Bank" watches in various sizes, in silver and gold and in Hunter and open faced configurations (and I have seen pictures of an awful lot more). None have Geneva stop work and all have 9 or 11 jewels with an over-sprung rather than Breguet sprung balance - which is in accordance with the literature and my Benson catalogue from the 1930s.

A typical Benson "Bank" with 11 jewels from 1920. This is a later version with 4
plate screws rather than the earlier 3 and a slightly different layout of the train.

From the Benson adverts I have seen it was their normal practice to give names to most of their watches, but only the "Bank", "Ludgate" and "Field" had the name inscribed on the movement, others such as their high end "presentation grades" - the "Heirloom", the "Superlative" etc. are simply marked "Best London Make" or similar and with the Benson name, address etc.

The Benson "Superlative" from c 1903, probably an upgraded "Field" and still
in my Catalogue from c1936 then costing 70 Gns as a Gold Hunter or Half
Hunter in it's standard size and £100 as a large (2.5") Hunter.

I can’t understand why Benson would have branded a very high grade watch with the name of what at the time was their entry level London made watch.

A "Bank" type watch but with 15J for Sir John Bennett 1893, almost
certainly by P & A Guye.

My best guess is that this was an expensive mistake by the engraving department at  P & A Guye who made a lot of watches for Benson, including almost certainly the "Bank", but who also made variants of the same movement in various grade for Benson and the trade.
The earlier version of the "Bank" watch made into the early 20th Century.
Those from the early 1890s had 9 jewels, later increased to 11. The two
plate designs were probably made in parallel for 10 - 12 years. This design
appears to have been unique to the Benson branded "Bank", those sold into
the trade, and some sold by Benson, having the plate design of the later "Bank".

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Waltham 1908-642

Waltham 1908-642 from 1918.
This is one of a series of posts illustrating the main grades of Waltham size 16 watches, primarily the 1899 & 1908 models.

A fairly rare movement with only 3,000 made in two runs, as an intermediate grade between the -640 and -645, it appears to be a 1908-640 but adjusted to 5 positions rather than 3 and without some of the decoration of the -645. The two runs were mixed Lever Set Railroad watches and Pendant Set Railroad Grade. I have had 3 of these, all pendant set and it is possible that the Pendant set versions were for the UK where Lever Set watches were not popular.

The 17 jewel movement is also adjusted for temperature and possibly isochronism, it has a Swiss lever escapement with a steel escape, Breguet sprung cut compensating balance, double roller and screw micro adjustment.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

WD40 - The watch's enemy.

click on the image for a larger view
Not for the first time I have had a watch in sprayed with WD40, you can't mistake that smell.

The watch has a 15 jewel Ehrhardt movement - probably a 1906 series but I have yet to take the dial off - it was made for the British Military during WWI  (note the broad arrow property mark below the serial number) but was one of many made by the company that were never delivered and then put into silver cases and sold to the public, this one hallmarked by Ehrhardt in 1921.

It was advertised as "in very good condition and working" and "the watch will run the full length of its wind but does run slow I think it needs a service, the watch sum [sic] time stops I shake it and it starts again".

To get it going someone (possibly not the vendor but I would not bet on that) had sprayed it with the dreaded WD40, it may have run for a short time but on arrival only ran with pressure and it is easy to see why when you look at the hairspring, several coils of which are stuck together. And the stuff will have got all over the place causing other problems.

It should be restorable but will take longer than it should.

WD40 is great stuff - but not on watches!

Monday, 20 March 2017

J.W. Benson Inter-war Period Manufacturing.

J.W. Benson "Field" dated from the silver case to 1920.
A good number of sites on the web state that Benson stopped making watches during WWI following a bombing raid which resulted in the loss of 12,000 watches (or some other large number).

Whilst I am told that there was bombing in the Ludgate Hill area during WWI, it did not destroy the factory and they continued to manufacture at least well into the 1930's and probably until they were bombed out in 1941.

Here is some of the collateral for this statement:
  • Horological historian Max Cutmore writes: “In 1892 a steam-powered factory was opened at Belle Sauvage Yard (in Ludgate Hill) at which their well-finished, elegant three-quarter plate pocket watches were produced in considerable numbers until 1941 when the factory was destroyed by Bombs.”[i]
  • The Horological Journal in April 1935 reports a visit to the factory [which was making watches].[ii]
  • The 1941 Bombing report says 12,000 watches were destroyed [in 1941, not in WWI].[iii]
  • My Benson Sales Catalogue c1935, referring to the "Field" watch explicitly says  “Manufactured in our London Factory”, other watches are described as “our best London make” which is a bit ambiguous.[iv]
  • A Letter from J.W. Benson Ltd, which I have seen a photograph of, dated 1957 clearly states “our Ludgate Hill premises were destroyed by enemy action in 1941”.
I hope that demonstrates that Benson undoubtedly had a factory and made watches after 1917/18!

This is another picture of the "Field" watch from 1920 shown above.

[i] “Watches 1850-1980”, M. Cutmore, David & Charles, 2002, p111,
[ii] “High Grade Watches made in London”, HJ,77, April 1935, 254-7 quoted in [i].
[iii] Letters from Garrard & Co Ltd dated October & November 1985 quoted in [i].
[iv] 67th edition “A” catalogue, J.W. Benson c 1935, and definitely after 1932.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

J.W. Benson and P & A Guye two London watchmakers, later effectively one?

J.W. Benson 17J half hunter 1878.
The histories of both J.W. Benson and P & A Guye are incomplete, in the case of Benson this is due to their factory and records being destroyed in the Blitz of 1941, having previously survived an attack during WWI.

In the case of P & A Guye it is largely because they supplied almost entirely to the trade and disappeared from Kelly's guide as a watch maker after 1905, but they are known to have stayed in business, related to the watch trade until at least 1932.

I am rapidly firming up my belief that they ended up as sub contractor to, a partner of or even as a subsidiary of Benson.

An unrestored movement signed by P & A Guye,
But one thing at a  time!

The first thing to do is to establish what Max Cutmore was unable to do in his work [1] and that is to establish if Benson were customers of P & A Guye and if possible to go a bit further.

The watch movement shown to the right is clearly signed by P & A Guye, 13, Northampton Square, London.

It is rare and the first I have seen signed by the company, Max Cutmore [1] stated in his coverage of the company that he had been unable to positively identify any movement by the company, although there were some possibilities.

It is a size 12 hunter movement with 19 jewels, unfortunately I can't date it as it came without a case, here is a view of the face plate:

The face plate of the unrestored P & A Guye movement shown above.
I just restored this 1878 silver half hunter (pictured cased top right) signed by J.W. Benson and described in some detail in my previous post. Here is a picture of the faceplate:

J.W. Benson 17J half hunter, 1878.

Clearly these are from the same maker, or at least of the same design, and that is confirmed by other factors such them having the same train layout, the same construction of components and the use of the same type of cap jewel. The real differences are that the Benson movement is a smaller, scaled down, version and that if has 17 rather than 19 jewels.

P & A Guye very rarely sold under their own name and would not have purchased a Benson made watch and branded it as theirs, it therefore follows that P & A Guye made for J.W. Benson in the 1870's.


Who "owned" the design is not however clear as Guye could have made movements for Benson and under licence to sell on to third parties.

The "Field" & "Ludgate" watches.

Now check out the face plate of this Benson "Field" of 1899:

J.W. Benson "Field" 13J, 1899.

This movement has the Benson patent dust ring and whilst it is clearly not the same movement as the ones shown above the similarity of the face plate and winding mechanism are obvious and much of the train and component designs are very similar to the earlier watch.

This large Benson signed Champaign watch (without the dust ring) has the same configuration:

J.W. Benson Campaign watch, 19J c1900.
and so does the early "Ludgate"

Benson "Ludgate" movements.

As explained in my previous post on the Benson "Field" and "Ludgate", the design of both watches changed over time, most are not like the movement identified as made by P & A Guye, but there was clearly a close the link between the two companies.

The "Bank" watch.

A previous post of mine  suggested that P & A Guye made early versions of the "Bank" watch for Benson and also sold it unbranded to other retailers. When I wrote that the option had to be left open that it was Benson selling to the third parties, I think that now it can be proved that P & A  Guye made for Benson, that option can be discounted but, as with the watch first mentioned, it is possible, that it was a Benson design which Guye made for Benson and also sold to third parties under licence.


From numerous adverts and other sources it is known that the "Field" and "Ludgate" were claimed to be made in-house by Benson (although I recently discovered one "Field" made at the Errington" factory), so at the least Benson and  Guye were sharing designs, technology and probably manufacturing capacity. 

P & A Guye were probably, as suggested above, acting as a subordinate partner to Benson either making components or complete movements. I think the former is most likely as assembly by Benson would enable them to claim the watch as made by them.

It is even prossible that Benson had an equity stake in Guye again enabling them to claim that Guye made watches were made in their (Benson's) factory.

[1.] “Watches 1850-1908” M. Cutmore, David & Charles 1989