Wednesday, 2 March 2016

An Old Elgin and a Very early Dennison case.

11J Model 1 Elgin 1873
I originally thought this watch was English but John Scott in Australia, my eagle eyed guru on American watches, suggested it was in fact an American Elgin - a make I rarely see, especial in this size and from this date both of which would be very rare in the UK.

Checking the Elgin production records showed that he was correct and that it is a fairly early size 18, model 1 grade 18, class 5 movement from c1873 and reputedly one of the best models they made. It has 11 jewels and a Swiss Lever escapement laid out tangentially as an English Lever and with an over-sprung cut compensating balance.

It winds clockwise from the back and is set from the front by using the key on the "hub" holding the hands.

The really interesting part however is the English double backed, triple hinged, silver case which is a rare and very early case by Dennison who came to dominate the English volume case making industry and was second to none in the field world wide.

Priestley's "bible" (i) on English watch cases reports that Dennison family records show the business started in late 1874 but it also shows that the ALD makers mark was entered on the register (presumably, not for the first time) on the 20th April 1876. The back lid of the case has the date letter used in 1875 and again in 1900 with the shield cartouche indicating 1875, the Birmingham Assay house mark with it is also in the shield for the 1875 date series.

However the lion silver mark on the back lid and the date and silver marks on the dust cover (the assay house mark is not required to be repeated but usually is) have the cartouche for the 1849 series used up to 1874/5.

So the case was certainly made within in the first 12-18 months of Dennisons move into case making and well before he joined with Alfred Wigley in 1879 after which the business took off.

But there is a very strong probability that it was made as the hallmark date sequence changed in early 1875 making this a case from the first few months of production.

It is even probable that the case was personally made by Dennison. This quote is from Priestley (i) showing what humble beginnings the company had, particularly when you consider that Dennison has previously been one of the founders of Waltham.
"Aaron started case making by using a pole lathe in the attic of his house at 27 Villa Rd, Handsworth, Birmingham".

Ref i: "A History and Register of Gold & Silver Watch Case Makers of England: 1720 - 1920" NAWCC 1994.


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