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Author Topic: Master Pocketwatch Thread  (Read 326131 times)
Strapped-4-Cache
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« Reply #1600 on: October 10, 2011, 03:27:01 am »

Sooooo much to read!  I've barely begun to go through this thread and am overwhelmed.

I have a small collection of pocket watches and I hope to eventually have them all serviced to have them in accurate running order again.  I doubt the Henry Touchon will ever be very accurate since it's so old, but the Elgin, Waltham and Hamilton should eventually be accurate enough to carry and rely on the time that they show.

One of the watches is a JW Benson.  It's reverse is engraved with a large pheon and 373, and the movement is engraved "The Railway Guards Watch" and "Best London Make".  The serial number is 822906.  The case appears to be stainless since it isn't hallmarked as silver.

I've done some research on JW Benson, so I know a bit about the company.  I think it's interesting that he used to run the business out of a location known as The Steam Factory.  I'm curious if anyone is familiar with alphabetical marking on the face in addition to the Roman numerals.  This one has red capital letters A through M printed below the numbers.  Would this have something to do with the rail stops?  I'd be grateful for any information.

Edit:  Sorry I haven’t added pics to this post.  I need to build a light box AND get a better camera.  The pics I currently have on hand don’t show much detail – mostly a bright circular blob on a darker background, or an overexposed shot of same.  Hope to have better pics soon.

Thanks,

  - Mark (S-4-C)
« Last Edit: October 10, 2011, 03:14:43 pm by Strapped-4-Cache » Logged
Maeg
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« Reply #1601 on: October 21, 2011, 04:31:39 pm »

I picked this up today and thought of you merry gentlemen here. I was browsing the mixed and varied wares offered by the sundry townsfolk from the back of their horseless cariages when, perchance, I came across this timepiece. A quick exchange of coin resulted in my ownership of a "Virtus Hardy".

From a bit of quick sluething on the aetherweb I have deduced that "Virtus" was a lesser brand of the swiss manufacturer Oris, and the same watch face is used on atleast one of their "Oris" branded pocket watches. Today the company deals in exclusivity.

The hands are radium painted (as confirmed by a quick pass of the geiger counter - a must for the well prepared gentleman), leading me to assume a 1930's-50's date range. The case is snap-off, twist/hammer/utter expletive-on and the internal movement is unmarked except for a ".180" calibre stamp. The stem and crown are plated brass, the case steel and the frontispiece is mineral glass.

I've never dealt with pocket watches before* but hope to make it a part of my daily atire, particularly when undertaking geology fieldwork. I've given up on the wearing of a wristwatch when underground or clambering along coastline.



*Although, in my defence, I did make a mantleclock out of scrap wood, rosewood veneer and an old 8-day movement for my GCSE woodwork class. I have since re-homed a 1930's Napoleon Hat clock, so my room does resound to the pendulums beat.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2011, 04:35:16 pm by Maeg » Logged
Strapped-4-Cache
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Oooo! Shiny!


« Reply #1602 on: October 22, 2011, 05:08:23 pm »

Finally made a bit of time to take some basic pictures of the watch I mentioned.  I didn't have time to build a lightbox, so the pictures aren't the best, but hopefully someone else has seen something similar.  I haven't encountered the alphabetic markings before.

Obverse
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Reverse
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Engraving inside case
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Thanks for looking.
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Maeg
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« Reply #1603 on: October 22, 2011, 06:54:10 pm »

As it's a London make, I'm assuming the pheon is what I know as the "Crows foot". The  "crows foot" was used by the British armed services to mark crown property (e.g. military issue gear). The number 373 is, therefore, probably an issue number.
It is in an unusual style however, so possibly a private issue?
« Last Edit: October 22, 2011, 07:02:06 pm by Maeg » Logged
Abslomrob
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« Reply #1604 on: October 24, 2011, 02:53:59 am »

Now that's...odd.  It's a pin-set watch, which usually means swiss.  The broad arrow on the back usually denotes military issue.  But the movement doesn't mach anything I've seen before.  The pivot locations in particular are making me scratch my head.  I only count three pivot holes (plus the mainspring arbor), and the "center" pivot seems to be way off center.  No jewels visible other then on the balance, which means its a very low quality watch, and no military markings on the movement, which (if it's legit) would probably point to WWI issue (the war required them to get stock from wherever they could get it, to some degree).  Would love to take it apart to understand it better...
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Darkhound
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« Reply #1605 on: October 24, 2011, 07:21:11 am »

Actually, my research indicated that the Railway Guard's Watch was one of  JW Benson's best movements, with the jewels mounted under the 3/4 plate for reasons that doubtless made sense at time. It cost 7 pounds 10 shillings (serious money at the time) in the 1890's in a plain nickle case, and was actually adopted by some British and Indian railways. There was at least one large Army order, and JW Benson did engrave company marks and numbers on watches bought for issue, so this does appear to be an Army watch bearing the  King's Broad Arrow mark and an issue number.

The letters on the dial appear to be old fashioned time zone indicators. Greenwich Mean Time is still called Zulu Tine because it was Time Zone Z in this system. Maybe this was intended to help signalers keep the times on overseas messages straight?
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Abslomrob
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« Reply #1606 on: October 24, 2011, 01:22:58 pm »

Useful information!  Do you have any sources for this I can snag?  Always looking to add to the library...
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Maeg
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« Reply #1607 on: October 24, 2011, 01:30:25 pm »

My "new" watch this end, currently off to have new hands and glass fitted along with a general service. I'm guessing it dates to around 1890-1910, I have yet to look up the hallmarks.

M.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)


Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Edit: from reading the hallmarks I believe this to be a Birmingham watch (anchor) of 1900 date ("a").  The AWW movement has the serial number 9373113. Does anyone know where I can date this?

M.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2011, 09:46:51 am by Maeg » Logged
Darkhound
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« Reply #1608 on: October 24, 2011, 11:28:39 pm »

My main source was a JW Benson catalog page that  turned up on Ebay alongside a JW Benson watch for sale. I didn't bid on the watch, but under enough magnification I could read the company's own description of it! There was enough information to make further checking easy. They did emphasize the rugged construction. Perhaps that's why they put the jewels under the brass?
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Strapped-4-Cache
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Oooo! Shiny!


« Reply #1609 on: October 25, 2011, 02:05:16 am »

Rugged is one way to put it.  I call it "substantial".  The watch is easily a 20 size at 48mm. 

It's the largest pocket watch I own.  The weight makes me think that the wearer would tend to lean to port while making his rounds.  Smiley
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Poppy Locks
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« Reply #1610 on: October 25, 2011, 07:14:12 am »

Mmmmmm, watches!  I love them!  I have two lovely items.  One - the smallest - is a fairly basic but reasonably good watch.  It keeps reasonable time and because of its size its easy to wear on a watch pin.  Its barely an inch and a quarter excluding bow.





There are no makers marks to see on this one unfortunately. 

My next one was a birthday present earlier this year.  Its a silver watch by the maker Andre Mathey and with the help of a Horological forum I've been able to narrow down the date of manafacture to between 1882 and 1884.  We can be so precise as it has the Swis bear hallmark which was used from 1882 but the makers mark isnt the one which was registered in 1884 and used thereafter. 









It came complete with a watch paperfrom a service performed in 1907


Poppy
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Darkhound
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« Reply #1611 on: October 25, 2011, 11:33:06 pm »

Maeg, what you have there is an American Waltham Watch Company movement in a British case. This is not uncommon, there were companies that only made cases to put other companies movements in. The Waltham Watch factory were pioneers in using machine tools to produce watches and exported enough low priced movements to England to risk a trade war! It took months to convince Her Majesty's Government that they really were making watches at that price, no dumping involved.

The American Waltham Watch Company name and A.W.W.Co. trademark were used from 1882 to 1907, which fits with the hallmark on the case. That does read Sterling Silver, Birmingham Proof House, 1900. While you could write all that out on a watch case, every silver item made in Britain had to be proved and hallmarked by law. The little coded stamps would fit on an earring or a teaspoon where you couldn't write the required data in full.

Is there a maker's mark on the case? If so, what is it?

edit:

Duh! A-B right under the proofmark. Alfred Bedford,  who ran Waltham Watch UK, imported this movement and cased it himself.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2011, 11:52:25 pm by Darkhound » Logged
Maeg
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« Reply #1612 on: October 26, 2011, 02:49:06 pm »

Darkhound,

                Many thanks for the detailed information and for letting me know who "AB" is. I assume the number "432" is a serial number for the case - if so, was this applied at manufacture, or does it denote the 432'nd watch sold that year?

As the watch movement was imported, is it likely to predate the case? As I understand it, movements and cases were put together at the customers request.

Regards,

M.
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Darkhound
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« Reply #1613 on: October 27, 2011, 07:54:02 am »

Well, the Waltham Mass. (Massachusetts) address on the face was a big tip off to any American pocketwatch fancier and there is a registry of every British silversmith's mark online, conveniently indexed by the proofhouse they used. Besides, it was fun!

The number under the A-B stamp is probably the case number, but as I don't know what system Alfred Bedford used to number his watch cases, I can't say what it means. The movement is likely older than the case, but probably not by much. The usual thing would be the customer picking the movement he wanted and a case for it from a list, and they'd assemble it from items in stock.

The amazing breakthrough at the Waltham factory was doing away with the tedious handwork of fitting hairsprings to balance wheels. The best available machine tools could not achieve the required tolerances, but some unknown genius realized they could achieve 1/10 that tolerance, and sort the parts into 10 grades. It didn't matter what grade the balance wheel and hairspring were, as long as they matched, i.e. if a #5 balance wheel was used, a #5 hairspring was required. This saved roughly a man-day of skilled labor per watch all by itself!

Enjoy your watch, and when the repair bill comes in, reflect: if that is all you need to be restored to full working order when you get to be 111, you'll be a medical miracle!
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 07:56:02 am by Darkhound » Logged
Captain Shipton Bellinger
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« Reply #1614 on: October 27, 2011, 10:15:51 am »

As the watch movement was imported, is it likely to predate the case? As I understand it, movements and cases were put together at the customers request.

The Waltham Watch Co. kept pretty good logs of every movement they made. Although each serial was not specifically dated it's possible to correlate batches of numbers with dates pretty closely. The serial on yours - 9373113 - dates the movement to 1899-1900, so it doesn't predate the case by much at all.

For anyone else wanting to date Waltham movements or find out more about them, this and this are convenient sources.

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evilv
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« Reply #1615 on: December 30, 2011, 12:08:21 pm »

Hello to all, and a happy 2012 to you all when it comes in the next day or so, depending where you are living.

I've very much enjoyed reading this long thread and learning about your pocket watches. I used fairly cheap Ingersol and  Smiths pocket watches about thirty or forty years ago and found them pretty good, but they seemed to grind to a halt after a couple of years hard use. I should have had them serviced obviously, but they sort of fell into disuse, graduated to the back of a drawer and got thrown out in one of a few house moves along the way.

I have one old silver, key wound pocket watch which belonged to a great aunt. It is very battered with a broken crystal and it seems very cheaply made inside. It probably dates from the end of the key wound era - I guess about the period of WW1 and the beginning of the 1920s. I took a look inside and was surprised to see the balance wheel flopping all over because the upper balance jewel is missing. I found the upper balance cap jewel, but not the hole jewel which should support the balance staff. Also, the balance wheel is not right. The wheel is not at 90 degrees to the balance staff. I suspect it has suffered some mighty shock in its life. It is also filthy inside the movement. I doubt it is worth getting this old clunker mended. It certainly isn't a Hamilton or a Waltham and only has jewels on the balance shaft and roller.

Anyway, inspired by nostalgia, and an interest in meddling with clockwork, I sent off for three VERY cheap Chinese skeleton pocket watches. I got all three of them for £25 delivered. This is what I found:

One came in a  nice stainless magnifier case, but its movement (a wrist watch movement) was rather affected by position, so that it would gain 5 seconds an hour crown up and lose four seconds an hour when flat. I fiddled with the regulation and managed to get the centre point so that if it was moved through a cycle of these positions it would more or less stay within half a minute a day, but it wasn't great. That one cost £9.95 delivered. Not great. Nice case, not a great movement.

The second came in a much less nice case but kept great time once I had put it in beat and regulated it. This one is not affected by position more than a second an hour. It arrived with a loose crystal which cracked as I popped it in. Like the others, it was an ebay purchase and the supplier reduced its price to £4.99 delivered by refunding me £5 at my suggestion because of the damage. It had been posted in a thin plastic envelope with one layer of very feeble bubble wrap. I got a very good movement for £4.99 which is fine by me.  I have since swapped it out with the less good movement in the nice magnifier case so I have a good watch for £15. This watch is now only 5 seconds slow in four days since I swapped the movement, and at the price, I think it is worth £15 of anybodies money.

The third watch I ordered form Singapore and it has a lovely picture of a stag in snow in what looks like a ceramic button on the front cover of the watch. It is almost certainly a print under a ceramic crystal, but it looks the part. This movement I have not touched at all and it keeps time to within -25 seconds a day. I am sixty years old so had a fair bit of experience before the 1970s with mechanical watches and I never had one that kept better time than this or the other watch that I made out of the first two. To be fair, I never had to put a new watch in beat either, but it wasn't very fussy about that adjustment. I knew it was off beat by the sound at the extremes, and by the rather large changes in amplitude as I got nearer.

These watches are phenomenally cheap and pretty good for the money. I have even ordered a £12 mechanical wrist watch from Hong Kong. It is of classic simple design with three hands and date in a stainless case with black leather strap and a white face with simple hour markers. If it works, I will wear it in preference to my soulless, quartz, £250 Tissot. The Tissot may keep time to within 10 seconds a month, but it has no magic.

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evilv
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« Reply #1616 on: December 30, 2011, 12:15:22 pm »

Sorry - I don't seem to be able to edit the post above. Where I said the picture of the stag was printed under  a 'ceramic crystal' I meant under an acrylic crystal. Silly mistake. Smiley)
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josecou
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« Reply #1617 on: January 10, 2012, 05:40:49 am »

does anyone know where to get an inexpensive pocketwatch? I am only 14, and therefore have a small budget.
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Darkhound
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« Reply #1618 on: January 10, 2012, 06:28:14 am »

Josecou, you can usually find cheap Japanese Quartz ones in Walmart and such for about $15. They aren't very good but a lot of them look ok, and they do work (for a while). If you want actual clockwork, for a bit more you can find Chinese models, often labeled "Charles Hubert" for some reason, that look quite nice, but quality is an issue. It might be a good daily watch, it might not, you don't know until you try it. One step higher, at about $50 to $65, are Molina pocket watches from Russia. Don't pay extra for "special commemorative" Molinas, they have no extra value, but the basic watch is good for ordinary use.

I hope this helps. Good Hunting!
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Argus Fairbrass
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« Reply #1619 on: January 10, 2012, 06:41:15 am »

I would imagine evilv and Darkhound are referring to these

I have a black one I paid far more money than I should have for a couple of years ago. But that said, it's a pretty good example. Ie, it keeps fairly accurate time and it hasn't fallen apart yet. It's always going to be a crapshoot with these ones, but they can be found so cheaply now, I'd say it's worth the gamble. They'll get you in the pocket watch ball park as it were, and they look the part if nothing else.

« Last Edit: January 10, 2012, 06:44:28 am by Argus Fairbrass » Logged

Have her steamed and brought to my tent!
MacCabre
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« Reply #1620 on: January 12, 2012, 11:43:50 pm »

Well my first watch was a cheap $35 quartz one from JCPennys that my now ex girlfriend got me because I insisted on knowing the time but the only watch I had was an ugly timex wristwatch that I found in a parking lot. I eventually quit using it when the hinge started working it's way out (Does anyone know how to fix that?)

My second and actually nice and historical one is this (forgive the poor quality cell phone pictures):





This watch was given to my grandfather's grandfather on his birthday, and by birthday I mean the day he was born, in 1860 something. The inscription on the back is really worn and hard to read, but I believe it says something about to the first born, his name, and the date". The face says "Elgin Natl Watch Co" And the inside, if I can read this overly fancy type correctly, says "HH Taylor" and "Elgin JW". Just thought it was an interesting watch.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2012, 12:32:08 am by MacCabre » Logged

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Darkhound
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« Reply #1621 on: January 13, 2012, 01:12:23 am »

Elgin National Watch Co. named their movements after people. The "HH Taylor" was a pretty good movement for ordinary use made in several sizes for a long time, starting in 1867. They are often found in nice silver cases. You have a nice sample of 19th century American watchmaking there, with excellent provenance and a bit of family history attached.
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MacCabre
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« Reply #1622 on: January 13, 2012, 01:27:11 am »

Interesting, That helps root out an incorrect statement in my previous story. The inscription says his birthday was June 6th 1860, so this watch was clearly purchased when he was 7 or older, which makes a bit more sense; babies can't read roman numerals.
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Darkhound
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« Reply #1623 on: January 13, 2012, 01:39:37 am »

If you can find the serial number on the movement, there are databases that will fine that down to the actual year or so.  Six generations and 151 years in the same family is quite unusual in America.
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MacCabre
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« Reply #1624 on: January 13, 2012, 01:58:06 am »

Yeah, my family tends to keep records and items of family history, to a degree that I haven't witnessed anywhere else. I don't want to handle it too much as the cover over the movement doesn't close quite right, and I want to pass the watch on to my grandkid someday, so would that be the serial number at the 12 'o clock position? (in relation to the orientation of the picture, not the watch) If so, that appears to be a 4 digit number which would mean 1867 unless it's over 9000.
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