Thursday, 20 February 2014

Why the Blank Faces?

Have you ever wondered why so many pocket watches do not have a makers or retailers name on the face? Well wonder no more.   

A Waltham 1899-620 with a bespoke 3 piece dial by Fattorini
the name was incorporated into the dial during manufacture
an expensive option and not common. This is from 1903, later
the Waltham name would probably have been included or a
Waltham dial used with the Fattorini name applied later.
In England (but not normally in America) it was the custom for the retailer, not the maker, to sign a watch, probably harking back to when watches were finished locally. The maker might sign the watch under the dial (e.g. Rotherham) or not at all (most others), an analysis I carried out of watches from three important Coventry makers showed 70% were not overtly signed by the maker. Most Swiss makers conformed to this custom at least into the 1930s although they may have had their own "English" brand, such as Revue signing their movements "Vertex".

American makers almost always signed there movements and faces (despite the dials being sourced in UK for from Switzerland) although a retailer might then add their name with a transfer print or commission their own dial as did Fattorini in the example shown here.

Names were applied to watch faces in two main ways, the expensive and best method was to have the name applied along with the numbers, chapter ring etc. during the manufacture of the ceramic face, this meant the name would be permanent but this was really only practical for relatively high volumes or for expensive watches and brands.

LWC watch for Fattorini
Alternatively the name could be painted on or more likely applied by a transfer print process which was much cheaper. The problem is that these are non-permanent solutions and the name would flake off and when it got too bad the owner or restorer would remove the rest.   

That is probably what happened to this recently restored watch by The Lancashire Watch Company for Fattorini & Sons, dating from 1911, although the movement is not signed the silver case has the Fattorini hallmarks so we can be sure that it was one of “their” watches and it would surely have had their name on the face.

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