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.