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.

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