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.

click to enlarge
First the repair:

This is what I think happened: At some point in the past the fly spring which opens the front case broke, presumably the watchmaker did not have a spare and without the spring it would be very difficult to open the front lid, he therefore removed the strong spring and integrated catch that holds the lid shut, he then expertly soldered a small flange on the bezel, shown in the picture to the right. The lid is now secured shut but is easily opened with a finger nail. Alternatively the catch also broke and was removed as unserviceable.

The repair was very skilfully done although who ever did it broke one of the "rules" of conservation in making a non-standard repair that was irreversible, but of course we all have to do that on occasion and his customer did get to keep a serviceable watch which may have had sentimental as well as practical value. As it happens I do have a spare fly spring that would fit the case but I don't have the spring / catch which is probably of a unique size and shape to this case maker, it is certainly rare and I only have one spare of the same general design which could not be made to fit..

click to enlarge.
The silver case is by Joseph Walton of Upper Charles St, Clerkenwell, London, the back cover has a nice 4 letter monogram but it is the front that is interesting; here we have a Stag, with an arrow through it's neck and something in it's mouth.

This refers to an ancient belief, recorder by Pliney the Elder in the first century that a deer shot with an arrow could heel itself by eating dittany. The deer also had Christian, sexual and love implications in old beliefs and in Renaissance symbolism a deer, pierced by an arrow, with herbs in its mouth became a symbol of lovesickness.

Who knows what story lies behind the watch having this particular engraving on the front?

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