Friday, 22 June 2018

Dawson "Railway Lever"

For watch anoraks this is a an interesting watch.
Although branded the “English Railway Lever” don’t confuse it with American Railroad watches, the British railways had signalling and token systems to prevent train collisions and did not rely on timekeeping to prevent collisions as the American railroads did. This is a fairly basic 7 jewelled size 18 movement albeit one that was very well made and with Geneva stop gear to control mainspring pressure. And being in an expensive case it was probably never intended for use on the railways except perhaps by station masters and management. .

Apart from the rocking bar winding and setting mechanism, the movement could be a very early going barrel movement having a bridge for the 3nd and 4th wheels, as was normal for Fusee movements[i] from the 19th century and which was retained in early going barrel movement allowing the same trains to be used for both forms. The lower balance jewel securing mechanism of a brass wedge is that used in the 17th and early 18th century watches.

But this movement was made in 1911.

It is signed by Dawson a Liverpool based watchmaker but marked “London”, the watch was however almost certainly made in Coventry, and probably by one of the last remaining small makers, Jos H Bird who’s initials are on under the dial.

The very heavy case has Chester hallmarks and is probably by Charles Harris of Coventry.

[i] The bridge was required on a Fusee to help fit the chain which was done with the 3rd wheel out of the watch which could then be replaced by removing the bridge.

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.