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Author Topic: Mystery watch - Jos. Johnson, Liverpool?  (Read 6604 times)
Captain Lyerly
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« on: October 12, 2009, 10:48:32 pm »

Outer case, around an open-faced pocket watch, keywind.

Inside outer case are various repair papers, some readable, Vicksburg, Enterprise, Vicksburg again.  Earliest is 1830.

"18" with a bird stamp above it - 18karat? 

Movement marked Jos H. Johnson,  Liverpool, No3627, Patent, and Lever in various appropriate places.  "This interesting, gilt, lever fusee movement is fully jewelled with clear sapphires and screw down settings.  The fusee barrel is also jewelled.  The single-footed balance bridge is deeply carved with flower and scalloped designs. The bridge is centered by a diamond end stone which supports a bimetallic blue steel and brass, 3-arm, uncut, balance wheel.  This attaches to a very unique large bimetallic curbed temperature compensator arm which, in turn, attaches to the slow-fast index.  The hair spring is pinned to the top plate and runs through the slow-fast index."

That is from an old appraisal.  What I am curious about is the movement - the appraisal states "around 1845", but it seems to have been repaired (or at least sold) by 1830.  It seems extremely complex - would they have been making watches with a "large bimetallic curbed temperature compensator arm" by 1830?

I really don't know - my knowledge of horological history is, evidently, lacking.  Is there a database for Johnson works?


Cheers!

Chas.
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Captain Sir Charles A. Lyerly, O.B.T.
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HAC
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2009, 12:40:02 am »

Well, Jos. Johnson is listed as Liverpool watchmaker from 1805-1855. Not much else in terms of history. There were quite a few independabt watchmakers in Liverpool and London in the 1800's. The fact that its listed as a lever fusee fits the period as well. The mark you describe is probably an 18K gold mark, although to be certain, I'd really need to see it.

 The firm of Joseph Johnson operated from about 1795 until shortly before 1880, although the manufacture (as opposed to importation) of watches seems to have ceased in the 1850s. They traded from Church Street, Liverpool, initially at Nos. 26/27 (some watch movements give No. 25, which was presumably the factory) and later from Nos. 48/49. The firm was somewhat unusual by British standards in that, while various family members headed the concern over the years, the name "Joseph Johnson" was retained throughout. They were active exporters and many watches went to North America or even further; one which dates from about 1823, spent much of its life in New Zealand, although it may have been taken out by an emigrant in the 1860s.  Johnson's serial numbers are difficult to interpret; there are indications that a series consisting of very large movements designed for pair-cases ran up to about 1830, reaching 10,000 or so, while later movements (of slightly slimmer calibre) had a separate numerical series which regained the five-figure mark in the early 1840s.
 
  What is known is that Johnson preferred to use fully jeweled movements (and in that era, that usually meant 17J, includign the fusee arbor.
His movements were usually purchased, and  then finished by his firm, often using a Massey lever escapement movement (which is rather on the rare side, and used large screwed in "Liverpool Window" jewelling, which simply means chatons nowadays, although in the Liverpool style the jewels were usually larger, and clear, thus the "window" appellation.)

  If the underside of the balance cock is marked  "EMP xxxx", then it truly is a Massey movement, with the 'XXXX" being the serial number. In this case, Johnson would have purchased the movement from Massey, then cased and dialed it. In the early days of English watchmaking, its though that 99% of teh movements were built in Prescot, Lancashire and were then sold to the watchmakers in Liverpool and London in as an "ebauche" or unfinished (as in not engraved or decorated) state.

Does it run? Biggest problem with these is a broken chain. Fusee-chains usually break at the very end, so that the old chain should still be valid as a guide to the length required. If this is an early deep-bodied movement, with a spring-barrel approaching 1/5 inch in depth, it may need a chain up to ten inches long; on a later one, with the barrel little more than 1/8 inch deep, the length will probably be between 7 and 8 inches .Note that the hooks on either end of the fusee chain are quite different from each other. The hook that attaches to the fusee cone is "J" shaped; whereas, the mainspring end of the chain has a straightened barbed appearance. Fusee chains occasionally turn up on ebay, so you still can get one, although finding a watchmaker who can install one can be a problem..

If the watch is yours, then congratulations, its a great piece of history, and a darn fine watch, too. I saw a Johnson sell a few years back for just under $2000.00 US..

Cheers
Harold
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2009, 02:04:03 am »

Quote from: Captain Lyerly
Jos. Johnson, Liverpool
From my home town Cheesy and not only that ...
They traded from Church Street, Liverpool
.. but I was there today! Grin I'll look out for number 26 and 48 Smiley
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HAC
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2009, 02:33:27 am »

Quote from: Captain Lyerly
Jos. Johnson, Liverpool
From my home town Cheesy and not only that ...
They traded from Church Street, Liverpool
.. but I was there today! Grin I'll look out for number 26 and 48 Smiley

We demand PICTURES!  Grin  Grin
Cheers
Harold
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Captain Lyerly
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2009, 03:27:49 am »

Cool!

Excellent information, H.  I will see if I can scan the pictures from the appraisal somehow.  Needless to say, the watch is not here at the house, but in a box at the bank.  It is mine, I guess - half belonging to my brother, of course, but neither would care to sell.  It belonged to... let's see, my great-grandmother's grandfather - or perhaps great-grandfather...  I would love to find out more about the history of this thing.  The owner - his initials are on the outer case, his name on the inner case - seems to have been well-off, but I haven't been able to find out What He Did.  The romantic in me wants to think of him as a really successful riverboat gambler, as he seems to have travelled from Vicksburg to Baton Rouge to New Orleans and back up rather frequently.

Thank you again - when I find out more, and get pictures, I will post.

Cheers!


Chas.

Post Scriptum: The question foremost in my mind is the date of the thing.  When did they start using ceramic faces?  This one is extremely intricate, in multicolored gold - lots of flowers and leaves and so on, Roman numerals, that sort of thing.  Seems all that would interfere with the purpose of telling the time, no?
Like this, only not so plain:
« Last Edit: October 13, 2009, 06:03:13 am by Captain Lyerly » Logged
markf
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2009, 04:24:20 pm »

Very nice timepiece, very nice indeed.  markf
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Captain Lyerly
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At the helm of the Frumious Bandersnatch


« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2009, 06:59:52 pm »

Thanks!

I will get it out and bring it to the next meeting of the UCSDL for "Show and Tell". 

Any ideas for a location?  We can have it at our place again, of course; or either of the Ram's Head venues we have used before.

By the way, your project has inspired my brother, a cube farmer at Big Blue.  He is trying to come in under the radar using Halloween decorations as the impetus, then he will simply remove the pumpkins and spiders and such. 

I don't know if it will fly, but will have a full report.


Cheers!


Chas.

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markf
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2009, 12:10:17 pm »

The Rams' Head is fine & dandy place.  markf
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Ben Hudson, Esq.
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2009, 03:54:22 pm »

Fantastic watch there... (envy Smiley)
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glensi
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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2015, 12:07:34 am »

Joseph Johnson (son of Richard and Alice nee Houghton) born 2nd April 1780 in Liverpool is my 4 x great grandfather he and his wife Mary nee Briars resided at 25 Church Street working together in their factory at 26/27 Church street and later 46/47 Church Street they were a exceptional couple, Mary was also a very talented watchmaker and continued running the business with one of their son's when Joseph died of liver complications aged 47 on 2nd March 1827, family legend has the factory being sold mid 1850's.

Regards Glen
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Kman413
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« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2016, 09:17:11 pm »

I have a Jos Johnson watch movement. It is signed and has the address "52 Church Street, Liverpool. I know Mr. Jos Johnson died 1827. The movement balance wheel moves with a little help. Once started, it will run out the main spring and require winding. It is very clean and the dial is complete. No cracks. I have gold hands to install on this movement and a sterling sliver case. The case is a double case and is hallmarked 1824. It is also made in England. I would like help finding the value of this movement, also someone who could repair or clean this item.
Thank you,
Kman413
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