Wednesday, 14 December 2016

American Watch Co., Bridge Model.

I did not expect ever to be able to write about this model from personal experience, but here we are, a 23 Jewel 1899-A.W.Co Bridge from 1900. And from the first production run - always a big plus point for collectors.

The bridge model was developed at about the same time as the 1899 Riverside Maximus, the specification is very similar with the main difference being, as the name implies, the design of the top plate which is in the form of a central bridge with two cocks for the escape and pallet much the same as a Swiss Lepine movement although in this case all three sections are in fact made in one piece but still retained with 4 screws.

Left: 1899 Bridge model (1900)  Right: 1899 RM (1901)
There is rather less ornate decoration on the bridge model, probably because there is less space for decoration so it could look cramped if over done. Waltham were rather coy about the pricing of the Bridge model with most adverts giving the price of the Riverside Maximus (RM) movement but saying P.O.A. for the Bridge, this may have been due to availability issues, variable pricing or something else, however some contemporary adverts and comments found in the UK indicate that the Bridge model was a few pounds more expensive (The 1908-RM in the USA was $123 for the movement only in 1913). The later 1908 "Premier Riverside Maximus" adopted the plate design of the Bridge model.

Like the RM the movement was adjusted for Temperature, Isochronism and in 5 positions although there is some speculation that the Bridge model was adjusted to closer tolerances.

The train  was gold as were the jewel settings. Many of the steel parts were chamfered, in this example that included the lever pallet.

There were 4 diamond end stones, in this example 2 were on the top plate and 2 on the balance, on the 1908 Bridge some (all?)  had the diamonds in pairs on the balance and escape, as does my RM from 1901 (a few very early RMs had 5 diamonds but this was quickly discontinued). Other jewels are ruby and sapphire.

The face is of the period but if the watch was purchased in the USA probably not original as it would have been a 3 piece dial, however watches sent to the UK by Waltham for sale here or in the dominions, usually came without dials (I believe to save import duty) and dials were sourced from the UK or Switzerland in which case it could very well be original.

The case is in 25 year Filled gold by the Crescent Watch Case Company and is probably 14 carat.

This is a particularly fine example and measured electronically the average error in 5 positions was about 0.5 seconds / 24 hours, as with any average however there can be some variation, in this case the error is on the average Face Up, Face Down and Pendant up but with a balancing +/- 10 seconds per day Pendant left and Pendant right, correcting that has been left for another day as things are likely to change as the watch settles down from its servicing.

The total number of serial numbers reserved for the 1899 Bridge model was:

1,010    23J Open Faced 5 runs
1,160    23J Hunter 6 runs
190    19J Open Faced 1 run
300    21J Hunter 1 run

The total production may have been lower. Bridge grades continued with the 1908 model including the Premier Maximus but only a further 2,600 Bridge grades were made. A significant portion of the (later?) Bridge model were made for E. Howard and sold under their name.

The 2016 "Book" retail price in the USA is between $1,000 and $2,000 (make that pounds in UK) but on-line sources show a slight drop - with so few available prices tend to be volitile and very dependant on condition. A full set of hi-resolution photos are available on Zenfolio, This watch is NOT for sale.

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