Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The dreaded bodged impulse jewel "fix".

Waltham 1908 model Balance
A frequently fatal (to the watch) previous repair that I find quite frequently, both recently done to be able to sell a watch and others done many years ago.

Horologists please excuse some simplification and omissions here! Likewise I hope the non-specialist will not be too phased by a little bit of jargon.

What is the impulse jewel?

The impulse jewel is part of the balance wheel assembly, it is a small, often "D" shaped pin like jewel and is mounted on the "roller table".

The picture above right shows the balance assembly from an unrestored Waltham-1908 movement, the roller is the small disk in the centre of the picture with the balance staff (axel) going through its centre and the impulse jewel on the right - it is easier to see if you click on the image for a larger view.

Waltham 1883 movement. The lever
pallet is the dark bar like piece to the left,
the pallet forks are on its right side.
The escape wheel is below it (not quite in
position). This is laid out tangentially  as
an English lever but has a club tooth
escape so is a Swiss Escapement.
As the balance oscillates to-and-fro the impulse jewel contacts the pallet (lever) fork on each swing flipping it from side to side - the "tick" of a watch - this lets the escape wheel at the other end of the lever (on a Swiss escapement) or to its side (English escapement)move on one tooth for each swing and through gears this makes the second hand turn once a minute, the minute hand turn once an hour etc.

By some clever engineering  the impulse jewel also gives the balance a "kick" to keep it moving, it does this twice with every swing on a Swiss Lever escapement with a club tooth escape wheel, once on the unlock and once on the lock) and once every swing with a traditional English Lever escapement with a ratchet type escape wheel.

On an average size 16 or so pocket watch the roller is about 3.5mm / 0.14" in diameter so you can see that the impulse jewel it pretty small. And sometimes they break.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Louis Brandt and Frère (Omega) "Labrador" movement.

Labrador 15J movement 1897/8
The restoration of a  watch by Louis Brandt and Frère with their "Labrador" movement dating from 1897/8 has prompted this post to correct a misapprehension by some - at least by some sellers on eBay - that the "Labrador" was a brand name used by the company to sell their Omega watches in North America. Whilst the movements were  sold there, that is not what the Labrador was about.

Like most companies Louis Brandt and Frère made a range of movements, in 1889 the 19 ligne (close to a Lancashire size 16) Labrador movement was introduced and in 1894 the 19 ligne Omega.
Omega 15J movement 1910

As can bee seen from the pictures (click on them for a larger view)  there is not a lot of difference in the basic construction and in fact most parts are interchangeable between the two types of movements if they are from around the same date. This includes the double action winding and setting mechanism which helped the watch be accepted for railroad use in some countries (not N. America).

Apart from a few cosmetic changes the differences are that the Labrador has screw set jewels and micro adjusted regulation whilst the Omega has machine set jewels and a standard index regulator. Both normally have a Breguet sprung cut compensating balance with double roller.

A 1901 Labrador type movement
stamped "Omega" just below the
"click" on the winding gear.

The cheaper Omega became very popular and in 1903 the company changed it's name to the Omega Watch Company but continued to make the Labrador either branded as such or sometimes as an Omega.

The Labrador was certainly still in production in 1905 but the latest I have seen is from 1904.

Web Site

Friday, 19 December 2014

J.W. Benson "The Ludgate"

Left: Size 13 Benson "Ludgate" 13J 1886, Right a size 22 "Ludgate",

The restoration of these Benson "Ludgates" have just been finished, the one on the left from 1886 and is a typical size 16, the one on the right is a size 22, yes 22, and is also in an oversize case. This post explains an interesting feature of the Ludgate design and illustrates a conundrum in dating the larger watch.

The movements are both engraved

J.W. Benson
patent No 4658
best London make
To H.M. The Queen, Ludgate Hill, London
which is a good stating point for both topics I want to cover. Firstly the Patent No 4658, this was for an integrated dust ring which also acted as a movement carrier.

If you look at the movement to the right you can see that the face plate is considerably bigger than the top plate forming an extended lip around the edge, also the barrel (bottom and just left of centre) extends outside of the top plate of the movement so clearly it cannot fit directly into a normal watch case.

Instead it fits into a substantial carrier and that slides into the watch case and is secured there by three cams. Normally the dust cover is hinged off of the carrier which means that it can only be removed from the case by removing the back cover first, a tedious, difficult and fortunately normally unnecessary operation. This size 22 movement does not work like that having the dust cover hinged, as on most watches, from the case itself.

I am not sure what was achieved by this patented design, a dust ring in light metal as used by Waltham and others would be much lighter and more convenient and give as much protection. It probably did not give any substantial protection either as, being key wound and set, there were two quite sizable holes in the back dust cover around the key guards which without a cover around the balance cock (as seen on some Swiss designs) would let in more dust than would ever get in from the sides.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Beware the iPad!

A few weeks ago a customer returned a high quality watch because it was running very fast but when it reached me it was keeping time within a few seconds a day, after a prolonged test I sent it back. It then came back again with the same problem.

This time the watch was still running fast when it reach me and I was able to see that the two outer coils of the hairspring where "stuck" together, when freed the watch was again fine, keeping time to better than 5 seconds a day.

The cause of the problem was  the hairspring becoming magnetised, almost certainly putting the watch too close to the customers iPad, hopefully the watch will be OK when degaussed  - a tricky operation with a hairspring as it will vibrate with the degaussing field.

Don't get paranoid about it, but keep your watch away from computers, power-packs or anything else which might have a strong magnetic field.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

An interesting watch case

This high end size 16 Waltham has an interesting watch case by the Philadelphia Watch Case Co.

The main body is either filled or rolled gold, the bezel and back are in American "Sterling" silver with the back inlayed with yellow, green and rose gold.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Waltham 1908-640

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

The 1908-640 grade is rare; only 5,000 were made all were open faced, 4,000 were lever set and 1,000 pendant set of which the watch shown is one.

It is essentially a Royal but with the addition of a steel escape wheel, a double roller and with the more precise screw type micro adjuster replacing the simpler star type.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

November Market Update:

The first paragraph was published on the web site on October 19th and is repeated here for background:

Following some months with very limited availability of high quality English watches I have managed to find a few really nice ones in the last few weeks but supply of watches generally has been difficult and I am now attacking my rather long back log of medium to good quality Swiss watches and revisiting some watches that previously proved... recalcitrant when I did not then have time to investigate in depth.


It is now the middle of November and the supply situation has gone from bad to worse, there is little on offer and despite more aggressive bidding I am getting in between a quarter and a third the number of watches I would expect at this time of year and prices have increased significantly - a Swiss made watch for Benson and a Waltham have both just sold for 50% more than I would expect and an Omega for double my maximum bid which normally would have stood a reasonable chance of winning.

I had hoped that sellers were holding back for the Christmas market and that might still be the case but if so time is running out. A few (expensive) solid gold watches may become available in a week or two and I still have a backlog but it will not last forever!

Friday, 14 November 2014

A Family affair: Two pieces by Harrison

The Harrison family (alas probably not those of the Longitude prize fame) appear to have been in the clock and watch business for close to two hundred years from the early 17 hundreds until at least the late 1800's, they moved about the North East between Hexham, Stockton-On-Tees, Morpeth, Warkworth, Houghton-l-Spring and Chester-Le-Street, some individuals moving several time and are marked "restless" in Loomes.

The long-case clock is a family piece and is a chiming 8 day movement in an oak and mahogany case by W. Harrison of Hexham probably c 1825.

So when I saw the pocket watch signed by W.E. Harrison of Stockton-On-Tees I had to get it although it looked a poor candidate for restoration with a comment in the eBay listing saying "unable to test as I have no key", of course it is a keyless movement - that excuse usually means trouble.

Indeed it is not restorable because some oaf has been inside it with a blunt instrument and the balance staff was trashed, the hairspring largely missing and the cock for the escape wheel had been heavily bent breaking the staff. How someone could achieve that I had no idea.

The watch itself is interesting, signed on the size 16 movement by Harrison it has 11 jewels and a Breguet sprung cut compensating balance. It is a centre seconds movement rather than a chronograph having no stop function and the very dirty but sound case is hallmarked 1882.

If the date for the clock is right then W.E. Harrison appears to have been either the son or the nephew of W. Harrison.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

An early Ehrhardt crown set watch based on a Waltham idea.

The watch is by William Ehrhardt for "The London Manufacturing Goldsmiths Co Ltd of Nottingham" and signed by them and dated from the hallmarks to 1895.

It is an early (for an English Watch) crown negative, pull to set, movement when most English keyless watches were pin set.

It is laid out as an English Lever with a Swiss style club tooth escape wheel and lever, again this was an early adoption by Ehrhardt as a half way house to the full Swiss Lever.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Coventry made "Own Label" watches

Rotherham 19J 1903 keyless branded
"Time O Day"
by Russell of Liverpool
After an exchange of Facebook messages and posts with the Coventry Watch Museum I have been doing an analysis of the watches I have handed recently to see how many Coventry watches were signed by a third party. I looked at three of the large Coventry makers - Rotherham, Errington / Williamson and Wm Ehrhardt  who although based in Birmingham is normally considered to be part of the Coventry trade.

The analysis will understate the number signed by third parties because although many are signed on the movement and/or dial many are signed only on the dial and as explained in my blog post "Why the blank faces? some of these will have been done using a fragile transfer print process which over time can be lost.

 This is what I came up with:

Total # 3rd party signed
Rotherham 70 69%
Errington 44 73%
Ehrhardt 24 63%

I suspect that the Ehrhardt percentage would have been at least as high as the others originally but they produced a cheaper watch which was more likely to have a transfer printed dial signature than a more expensive enamelled version, for this reason and the sheer numbers involved I have excluded from the Errington sample  the Williamson 1905, 1910 and other late model which were widely sold under other names.

It is also revealing that apart from J.W. Benson there are very few "repeaters" in the list with most of the names being small local companies, indicating that, as I expected, relabeling Rotherham and other Coventry made watches was a widespread practice.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Naughty Mr Ehrhardt.

This is a 1910 series by Wm Ehrhardt branded "The British Watch Co" one of their trading names after 1921. They come up very infrequently and this was the first one that required some work on the winding and setting mechanism and what did I find?

Ehrhardt. had ripped off the design of the shifting sleeve setting mechanism from the Waltham 1899/1908 models. They are in fact identical and to fix this watch I used a small piece part from a Waltham.

Not that it did them much good as they stopped manufacturing not long after this example was made whilst Waltham continued making pocket watches until just after WWII and wrist watches until 1957.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Hunter vs Open Faced construction:

You may think it is a trivial change to turn an Open Faced watch to a Hunter by just changing the position of the winder. However on a keyless watch there is normally rather more to it as these photo's of Rotherham 19 jewel movements from 1896 demonstrate. Although many of the internal components are the same (if the watches are the same size) you can see that the Hunter on the right is a near mirror image of the open faced on the left.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

How not to clean a movement

An unsigned Benson "Bank" type
cleaned with metal polish.
(Click for a larger view)
In a previous post I explained in some detail how I clean a watch movement, here we have an example of what can happen if metal polish is used too vigorously.

This movement is a recently restored unsigned J.W. Benson "Bank" type which I believe to have been made by P & A Guye as explained here.

At some time in the past, probably fairly recently, metal polish has been used to clean the top plate, this has removed the gilt finish.

Although it looks rather better than the picture would suggest the top plate no longer matches the balance cock or the bottom plate and the value of the watch has been substantially reduced.

You have been warned!

Watch Identification

Many English and Swiss manufacturers did not mark their products when they were to be sold on by another maker or a re-seller.

I am sometimes asked how the maker can be identified, frequently of course they can't be, particularly when the movement was from a small English maker or from many of the Swiss makers, when, particularly in the late 19th century,  several makers made what was essentially the same movement.

The task is not helped by some makers imitating the cosmetic features of a more famous maker such as Omega or Waltham. Others movements were deliberately made to appear to be a classic English 3/4 plate or a Waltham 1883 model with the normal French markings of A / R for fast / slow removed so as not to give the game away.

On some occasions identification it is down to experience and comparing an unmarked example with a movement that is marked, although perhaps under a different name such as Vertex which was a trade name of Revue Thommen.

Just occasionally a movement marked for a re-seller slips through that does have a trade mark or name on it. This high grade Benson just finish restoration is, I think, only the second example of a Revue for Benson that I have seen which does have a trade mark.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Waltham 1899 Riverside Maximus.

Here at last is a Riverside Maximus, in fact two of them! Except for a few specials and limited editions, the Premier Maximus (think £20k++ in a London store) and the rare American Watch Co Bridge model, this is the highest grade of watch made by Waltham.

Left: Waltham 1899 Riverside Maximus, 23J, 1901 and right 1902.
Click any image for a larger view.
The 1902 example opened up.
Waltham developed the 1899 Vanguard for railroad use, although many were  not used as such, the Riverside Maximus with essentially the same mechanicals was designed purely for the luxury goods market. Production was small with only 13,800 made (another source shows 14,600) of which 10,900 had 23 Jewels (rather than 21) and 7,050 were open faced with 23 jewels.

Production runs were small ranging from 100 to occasionally 500, the older of these two watches is from the third run of 23 jewelled open faced movements. The movement plates are damascened to the back whilst the face pate has a jewelled finish.

The  movement has a gold train, except for the escape wheel which is steel. Top plate jewels are set in raised gold mounts, the barrel is jewelled and there are four diamond cap jewels to the balance and escape with the rest being "fine ruby and sapphires".

Like the Vanguard it is adjusted to temperature, isochronism and five positions and it has micro adjustment to the Breguet sprung cut compensating balance with a double roller

The three piece dials have lettering in a font reserved for the Maximus, the Roman dial on the left is particularly rare with one selling recently for almost $300.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Cleaning watch movements.

Face plate of a movement by the
Lancashire Watch Co before cleaning
I was recently asked on Facebook how I cleaned the particularly dirty watch movement shown, that reply whilst covering the essentials was necessarily brief so here is the full story.

The obvious thing to do and the recommendation of most books on watch maintenance for the amateur, is to use metal polish and indeed this in combination with other techniques will work and can be a quick way of getting the top plate of a movement clean and shiny [see this later post for an example], however there are some significant disadvantages firstly it is purely a cosmetic exercise not getting into the nooks and crannies of the watch or helping with the cleaning of the critical moving parts and secondly there is a real risk or removing the gilding from a gilt movement or the often very thin nickel or other coating frequently found on Swiss watches. The better method is not cheap as it requires the purchase of special cleaning and rinsing fluids and an ultrasonic cleaner cleaner.

The fluids are designed to allow the cleaning of “complete movements” as it says on the label. I do not think this is a good idea for old pocket watches, particularly those with motor barrels that can not be removed without taking the movement to pieces, as the fluid will interact with the oil in the barrel making it ineffective and judging from a few movements I have had in that have been done this way and from my experience with leaving too much oil on the movement before cleaning, it is likely to cause bad staining of the movement as the mixture spreads over the watch. In any case if the movement is to be cleaned properly then it needs to be taken to pieces so its best to do that up front.

This is the way I do it:
The same LWC movement after cleaning
 1. The movement is first broken down into its major parts, the top plate being removed together with the train, escapement and motor barrel. I leave the winding and setting gear in place if it is fixed in as the components are too small to easily handle. The mainspring is removed from the barrel.

2. Any obvious oil on the plates, barrel etc. is removed with tissue or a cloth, then loose material removed with a tooth brush with some mentholated spirits if necessary to get rid of thickened oil and other significant deposits. 

3. Everything goes into the cleaner for 10 minutes. Whilst ultrasonic cleaning is a relatively gentle process it does lighten gilding a little, particularly on very old watches, and it is best not to over do it, a really dirty piece might get and extra five minutes but no more. 

4. Pieces are then put into a rinsing fluid to get rid of the solvents and to chemically remove any water that might be present. After patting dry with tissue and blow drying the hairspring they are left to dry before the next stage. 

At this point it is worth mentioning one additional cleaning problem that may have to addressed. Sellers of old watches, on eBay in particular, are eager to be able to describe them as “working” or “ticking” so are liable to soak them in oil (lengthening part 2 of the cleaning process) to get them moving and occasionally spraying the whole movement with WD40 or similar. The later process will undoubtedly cause the hairspring to get coated in oil, the former will only probably do so. This will mean that although the watch may tick the coils of the hairspring will stick together and if the watch runs for more than a few seconds it will typically run  fast and erratically. The same effect may happen naturally over a very long period through corrosion or leakage of oil from the barrel. In both cases it is unlikely that the ultrasonic cleaning will be enough and it will be necessary to resort to some very strong solvents to clean up the hairspring.  

5. Some of the winding gear may be removed for inspection at this stage and, particularly on some English keyless movements, to allow easier reassembly of the movement.

And the top plate of the same.
6. As the movement is put back together everything gets a final hand cleaning with a toothbrush which should remove any lingering pieces of crud and in particular fluff and hairs which frequently get wound up in the wheels. Smoothing broaches, peg wood and other implements are also used to make sure jewels, pivot holes etc. are clean. This is also the time to visually check that everything is complete, undamaged and the correct shape.

7. After reassembly the movement is wound and immediately put onto the escapement analyser to make sure that the new mainspring is not over strong which among other things threatens to break the impulse jewel if the balance wheel turns by more than 360 degrees.

Some watches may run well immediately and can be given an initial regulation, using the analyser, and adjustments to get it into beat and to reduce any positional errors, others will take their time to get going but all need to run for 24 hours before going on the analyser again. If I am fortunate that will be the movement done, if not it could mean a lot of work making repairs, fiddling with the hairspring, etc.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

What's common? Standardisation in the Swiss industry.

Well, you have probably guessed that they are by the same maker and you would be right, they are all by Tavannes, the two on the left were made within a few weeks of each other probably in 1922, the one on the right for Benson in 1936.

But there is a bit more too it than that. By the time these movements were made the Swiss had gone a long way down the path of standardisation. Apart from the obvious differences in the top plate / cock / bridge design and the additional screw holes etc in the face plate to accommodate them, these three movements are, except also for the type and quality of the finish, essentially the same with all of the wheels, the setting mechanism, the balance staffs, etc  interchangeable when new.

The  movement in the centre arrived with a very bent centre wheel caused by someone pressing the barrel against the wheel when taking the barrel out, so rather than trying to straighten it I repaired the movement by taking a centre wheel from a scrapped Benson (Tavannes) from c 1935, like the one on the right, which fitted perfectly and required only a trivial adjustment to the cannon pinion to get it all working. A small worn part in the setting mechanism was also replaced from the same scrapped movement. If only old English movements could be repaired as easily!

The fact that the two left hand movements have serial numbers in excess of 13 million also gives an indication of the scale of manufacture that the Swiss companies were now achieving; in 1925 the Swiss [population c 3.8 million] were making about 19 million watches a year whereas the USA [population c 120 million] were making c 9 million and the English industry was essentially dead.

 Scale and lagging behind in standardisation, two of the reasons why the English watch trade went belly up.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Riddle of the Hands (with appologies to Erskine Childers)

Rotherham key wound and set
full plate watch, Coventry, 1903.
This post is prompted by another query as to why a watch with gold main hands has a blue second hand, Carruthers  may have been able to find an answer but I can't and nor can others I have asked.

Swiss watches with gold hands normally have all three gold whereas most English watches such as this Rotherham, which was made in the year that Riddle of the Sands was published, does not.

The same will be found on English cased Waltham watches as most found in the UK are. Plain, rather than filigree,  gold hands were I am told rare in America and do not appear in my copy of the Waltham parts catalogue, so it is likely that hands were sourced and fitted locally conforming to English practice, which fits with a common method of selling these watches as described in my post on the standard watch case.

I think it will remain one of life's little mysteries.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

July Market Update & Four Bensons!

July was an odd month with watches in short supply, but, not for the first time, the trend was bucked by unconnected batches of some quality watches, in July it was watches by Rotherham, Omega and these four by Benson. Three open faced watches made by Tavannes and a rare Half Hunter made by Recta. The later sold in about half an hour and could probably have been sold half a dozen times.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Hunter, Half-Hunter or Open Faced?

The choice between the three types of watch is one that should be made for aesthetic reasons, not because of any perception that the Hunter type is more robust, in fact in some ways it is not. This post explores why and gives some of the pro's and con's of the different types.

First what are they?
  • The Hunter has a solid one piece cover or lid over the "crystal" and watch dial, normally by pressing the crown the cover should pop open by itself - if you don't get your thumb in the way of the hinge!
  • The Half Hunter (a.k.a. Demi Hunter, very occasionally a "Napoleon" and referred to by the Lancashire Watch Company and presumably by others as a "Sight Hunter")  also has the cover but there is a small window in it so that the time can be read reasonably well without opening the lid, the hour hand should be distinguishable from the minute hand when looking at it through the window, this is usually achieved by having two large swells on it - see the picture below.
  • The Open Faced watch just has the "crystal" which normally was glass. Later various types of plastic was used, which often changed a nasty yellow or green colour over time. A modern replacement will usually be acrylic and looks much like a glass one, it is essentially unbreakable and makes an open faced watch perfectly strong enough for normal use. Acrylic is more susceptible to scratching but a replacement costs only a few pounds (plus fitting). 

A Waltham "Hunter"
The Hunter is so named because with a lid covering the glass it was more suitable to wear when riding a horse (to hounds - hence it is known as a "Hunter") than an open faced watch as there was always the chance of being thrown against the pommel of the saddle and crushing the watch. This was a significant issue when, before about the mid 19th century, watches  had a hugely domed "bulls eye" glass front, it became less of an issue however when the glass became significantly flatter and was less susceptible to damage. A secondary advantage was that the front cover protected the glass from being scratched although the front window of a half hunter was at least as susceptible.

  • They can look good and there is a certain ceremony, which many people enjoy, of taking out the watch and popping it open to tell the time.
  • The crystal is protected from scratching.
  • You have to open it to tell the time and if worn in the breast pocket of a jacket (how I normally wear mine when wearing a Tweed jacket without a waistcoat) that is not easy.
  • They are rarer, particularly silver ones, and to many are more desirable and so are more expensive than an open faced watch.
  • The hinge for the front lid is vulnerable to wear and to accidently being bent or in severe cases torn off.
  • The springs that open them can break and replacing them, particularly on English watches, can be problematical, however replacements for "standard" watch cases, particularly those by Dennison can usually be found.
An English Half Hunter by
J.W. Benson
The Half Hunter is in my view preferable to the Hunter:

  • The time can be read without opening them which is more convenient.
  • They look very good.
  • As for the Hunter except as mentioned above.
  • They are much sought after and so are more expensive again than the Hunter.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Newsome dial replacement.

Replacing a dial with one from a different type of watch is something I have managed to avoid doing in the last five years but this rare size 10, 17 jewel watch by Newsome of Coventry has been waiting for a replacement dial for a couple of years with nothing even close coming along so I decided to bite the bullet and modify a dial.

This posting shows how it should be done, and that is not by clipping off the fixing pins and using Blue-Tac or glue to fix the dial to the movement, a technique I see used fairly frequently on watches I buy in.

The first thing is to find a dial from the right period that is of the right size with the hole for the second hand in the right place. You then need some replacement dial feet.

Normally these can now be glued or soldered to the face but on this movement the dial is retained with pins rather than clamped in with screws, so the feet first have to be drilled with a 0.5mm drill held in a pin chuck. A fiddly job as the pins are round.

The pins are then positioned in the movement with "springy" dial washers or similar underneath to get the flat end of the pin high enough to contact the dial, the newly drilled securing holes have to be lined up so that the brass pins can be inserted  when the movement is finally assembled.

A thick glue such as the resign based Araldite or Loctite Hysol is then put on the feet plates and the face carefully positioned so that the centre hole is in the centre and the seconds hand hole is correctly aligned.
And there we have it, a hundred and two year old watch has a new lease of life.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

June market update

LWC half Hunter, 1910
Its a funny old game. A severe shortage of English watches for months, then an avalanche of them, but almost all by the Lancashire Watch Company with 6 completed and a couple more that did not make it.

It was much the same with Swiss watches with 7 signed by J.W. Benson of which 6 were by Tavannes and another Tavannes for Russells Ltd. So from 22 watches completed in the last 5 weeks or so 13 were either by Tavannes or the LWC, of course  Benson is a brand I specialise in and so buy more aggressively but even so  the proportions are odd.

P & A Guye, 13J, London 1892
It was much the same with Rolled gold chains, very few since November then a bunch of them so that there is finally some stock at Brackley and on the web with one or two more to follow shortly.

The month closed out with a couple of nice English watches not by the LWC and I have some more coming in that hopefully will appear on the web site in a week or so.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A rare Beesley Silver Hunter, 1883, with an interesting engraving and repair.

A 17 Jewel Pinset Hunter by Beesely
for J.W. Carter. English Silver, 1883.
This watch is signed by J.W. Carter of London but under the dial it is signed "R.B" and is almost certainly by one of the Beesley family. The trade list compiled by Coventry Watch Museum shows Beesleys being active from 1850 until at least 1909 as variously movement makers, watch makers, jewellers (in this context craftsman who put the jewels in watches), escapement makers and gilders.

There are a couple of interesting features, an old repair and the case engraving with love symbolism.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

J.W. Benson War Service Presentation watch

An appropriate post for the anniversary of the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914.
The watch has a 15 jewel movement by Revue Thommen  for J.W. Benson. It is interesting to note that in 1918 they are still engraving movements "J.W. Benson, 62 & 64 Ludgate Hill, London, By Warrant to H.M. the late Queen Victoria" 17 years after her death.

Of more interest is the engraving on the dust cover:

War Service
Bombr G.H. Martin.
Presented by
The Parish if Erbistock


Monday, 23 June 2014

The Waltham 1899-174 & other 11 jewel watches that try to look more than they are.

Waltham 1899-174, 11J  1902
This 1899-174 is essentially an 1899-Traveler with 11 jewels, it is rare with only 2,500 open faced and 4,500 hunter case versions made, many, if not all, of which I suspect came to the UK.

But the interesting thing is how the jewels are laid out. After the basic seven jewels the most efficient layout is for them to be in pairs top and bottom of each staff and put where they will do most to reduce friction and the impact of that friction on the watch. That will be the staffs moving fastest which happily in a watch are also the ones with the most gearing effect.

So with four additional jewels these would normally be set in pairs on the lever pallet and escape wheel or, as favoured by a number of quality English makers, on the escape and seconds wheel. But on this movement the extra jewels are lined up on the top plate, why?

Cyma 10J for Thos Russell
The simple answer is marketing, Waltham were following a common practice of Swiss makers which was eagerly taken up by the more aggressively market orientated English resellers, Thos Russell & Son of Liverpool being a leading culprit right through to the 1930's. If you click on the image above for a larger view you will see that contrary to Waltham's normal practice for movements of more than 7 jewels, the number of jewels is not shown on the movement.

This is so that the buyer (or perhaps a seller?) can show off the watch and claim it has 15 jewels!

Others went further, the second movement shown has ten jewels in the presumed  hope that no one will notice that the top pivot of the lever pallet, small and hidden under the balance, is not jewelled.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

May Market update.

There was a sudden rush of good English watches in the second half of the month supplemented by a few watches from one of the big auction houses (the 20% buyers premium  hurts!).

Unfortunately quality did no always match quantity with several being scrapped or put to one side in the probably vain hope that spares will become available. Still 9 English watches, finished in a month (including the just finished 17J Rotherham from 1894 pictured) is probably a record and there are a few more on the way.

Particularly annoying were a Benson Ludgate and an Errington 16J (several of those this month!) which both had the impulse jewels replace with a metal pin, this kept the watch running but not well and it causes damage to the roller and frequently to the lever pallet so those have both had to be put away, the Ludgate joining 5 others in the same state - its long impulse jewel being particularly vulnerable.

Strangely the number of mid to good quality watches by Waltham such as the 1908-620 (a favourite of mine) has been in very short supply but hopefully that will change.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Watches as a financial investment? Not recomended!

Rotherham 19J Keyless 1907
I have been asked several times recently for advice on watches as an investment so I thought it might be useful to post one of my replies here:

I do not advise buying functioning, serviced watches as a financial investment. Yes the price of watches is going up and I suspect that the rate of increase will increase, given the current shortage of supply particularly of  good English three-quarter plates and other high grade watches.

Update, October 2016: Watches are now in even shorter supply and prices of unrestored watches have definitely risen very significantly and continue to do so!
The problem is if you are buying from me or some other dealers you are buying a serviced  / restored watch with a guarantee, when you come to sell it will be without either. For a cheaper watch the cost of a full (not just an "oil") service will be a significant part of the value of the watch so a dealer will not be able to offer a lot for it and even on a more expensive watch he will have to factor in the cost of a service, a risk premium in case there is a hidden problem with the watch, overheads and a profit margin. 
If you sell at auction it will probably sell at well below the current retail selling price for essentially the same reasons and will attract fees and in many cases a buyers premium of 20% which will further depress the price.
Buy for utility, to preserve for future generations and to enjoy, not for short term financial gain - but you might be lucky in the long term. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Wobbling watches

If you leave a watch hanging up whilst running, as many watch stands do, do not be surprised if the watch does not keep time or does not run for as long as you expected. Here are two examples of watched developing a swing in sympathy with the balance wheel, this will drain power from the movement.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Standard Watch Case

Traditionally watch cases were made specifically for an individual watch and although there was some standardisation in diameter (The Lancashire size later taken up my the Americans and Swiss sizes in Ligne) the winding and setting mechanisms were not standardised and nor were features such as locating pins.

With the American drive to standardisation the "standard" watch case started to became ubiquitous during the 1890's with either a captive winding stem or a standard location for the pendant to support the winding stem.

This was a great help to volume case makers and supported the growth in plated cases as when worn out or damaged they could be replace off the shelf rather than having a specialist make or repair the old one at considerable expense.

It also led to a revolution in how watches could be sold at the wholesale and retail level. Watch movements could be exported and cased locally, often saving import duties, and more importantly watches could be cased at the point of sale.

So for instance an English retail jeweller in 1910 could buy in a range of watch movements from several makers, perhaps a selection by Waltham in different grades, some from Williamson or The Lancashire Watch Company and perhaps a few from Switzerland -where they had been forced to conform to the "Lanchashire" sizing.

They could then buy in a range of cases in Nickel, various grades of Gold Plate, Silver and solid Gold. And immediately you can "pick and mix" your watch, perhaps with a range of dials for the Waltham watches and the style of hands you wanted on any of them.

The watch could be assembled by someone using a few very basic tools and with minimal training, in some cases this would be done "on-demand" at other times to pre-set configurations as stock moved.

A tiny number of these new and unused cases remain and this orphaned movement by Tavannes for  J.W. Benson has now found a home in one such New Old Stock (NOS) rolled gold "STAR" grade case by Dennison.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Rotherham, 19J Keyless, 1891 - But did they make it all?

This is the earliest size 12, 19J Rotherham I have seen, it is not signed by them but the serial number matches that of the case which carries their hallmark and the date code for 1891/2 which is consistent with Rotherham serial number on watches I have seen from this period. The top plate is typically Rotherham and is shown on the right.

But when the dial is removed the bottom plate turns out to be in two pieces which is typical of the smaller makers in Coventry who were using ebauché (kits of parts) from the Coventry Watch Movement Company.

 If you compare the pictures below you can see that these two are the same apart from:
  • The fixing of the winding and setting gears and
  • The left having 15 Jewels and the right 19 jewels - note the 4 extra screws on the lever and escape jewels on the right hand movement bottom right, these are securing the end jewels whilst with the movement on the left you can just see the end of the pivots which the end jewels hide, click the image for a larger view.
But the one on the left is signed on the plate by Newsome.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

J.W. Benson "THE BANK" Half Hunter & April Stock Update

English Watches and good Swiss continue to be hard to get hold of so I have continued to import quality American watches and have now build a small stock of very high grade watches by Waltham in size 16 and 18.

The exception has been a remarkable run of 19 Jewel Rotherham watches with hopefully another, this one for Benson, hopefully going onto the web site at the week end.

The second exception is this cracking Half Hunter by J.W. Benson, "THE BANK" in English silver dating from 1908/9. This is only the third example of the half-hunter version I have had in the last 2 years.