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List of the many branches of English Watch-Making trade (Keene, 1817; Rees, 1819)

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From the proceedings of the parliamentary hearings on the Petition of watchmakers of Coventry (circa 1817).

A watchmaker who appeared as a witness, Mr. James Keene of Coventry, provided this detailed and interesting list of all the different specialties of craftsmen that went into the making of an English watch at that time.

Movement maker, divided in:
  • frame mounter
  • brass flatter
  • pillar maker
  • screw maker
  • cock and pottance maker
  • wheel maker
  • wheel finisher
  • barrel maker
  • barrel arbor maker
  • pinion maker
  • balance maker
  • verge maker
  • ratch and click maker
  • and other small steel work

Dial maker
  • copper maker
  • enameller
  • painter

Hand maker
Glass maker
Pendant maker
Case maker, divided in:
  • silver flatter
  • box maker
  • case maker
  • joint finisher

Motion maker, divided in:
  • bolt maker
  • slide maker
  • motion wheel maker
  • motion maker
  • spring maker

Chain maker, divided in:
  • riveter
  • finisher and preparer

Engraver, divided in:
  • cock and slide engraver
  • name engraver

Cap maker
Scapement maker
Wheel and fuzee cutter
Case spring maker
Spring and liner and polisher
Key maker
And several other branches, to the number of 102 in the whole

Keene went on to testify that boys were usually apprenticed in one distinct branch, and would not work on other branches. A watch finisher was deemed the most difficult of the trade as he would put all the various parts of the watch together, and set it into motion.

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Updated 05-13-2017 at 02:31 PM by rstl99

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  1. rstl99's Avatar
    Rich Newman provided this separate list, from:

    Rees’s Clocks Watches and Chronometers, (1819-1820)

    "The best watch-movements are made at Prescot, in Lancashire, by persons called movement-makers, who furnish the movement complete to the London watchmakers. The following is a list of the principal workmen employed in manufacturing a movement, previously to its coming into the hands of the London watch-maker.
    1. The frame-maker, who makes the frame; that is to say, the two plates, the bar, and the potance.
    2. The pillar-maker, who turns the pillars, and makes the stud for the stop-work.
    3. The cock-maker, who makes the cock and the stopwork.
    4. The barrel and fusee-maker, who makes the barrel, great wheel, fusee, and their component parts.
    5. The going fuzee-maker, who makes the going fusee, (the means by which the watch is kept going while winding up,) when made use of.
    6. The centre-wheel and pinion maker, who makes the same.
    7. The small pinion-maker, who makes it of wire, previously drawn by another workman, called pinion-wire; the third and forth wheels, and escapement wheel-pinion; and in the case of repeaters, the pinions of the repeating train of wheels: these are all finished in the engine.
    8. The small wheel-maker, who makes the third and forth wheels, and the wheels of the repeating train for repeating movements, and rivets them to their pinions.
    9. The wheel-cutter, who cuts the wheels.
    10. The verge-maker, who makes the verve of vertical watches.
    11. The movement finisher, who turns the wheels of a proper size previously to their being cut, forwards them to and receives them from the wheel-cutters, examines all the parts as they are made, to see that they are as they should be; and finally completes the movement, and puts it together.
    12. The balance-maker, who makes the balance of steel or brass.
    Note. – The brass balance is preferred to the steel balance by some watch-makers, in consequence of the latter being subject to the influence of magnetism: but others prefer the steel to the brass balance, in consequence of the latter being more influenced by variation of temperature than the former.
    13. The pinion wire-drawer, who prepares the pinion wire; this, however, may be considered as only a branch of the trade of wire-drawing.
    The plates and wheels are now all made out of rolled brass; but formerly, when it was to be had, they were made of Dutch brass, it being considered preferable to the English.
    The movement, in the state in which it is sent to the watch-maker, consists of the frame, composed of two plates, connected together by four or five pillars, as the case may be, which pillars are riveted to one of the plates, called the pillar-plate; the wheels, consisting of the great wheel attached to the fusee, the second or centre wheel, the third and fourth wheels, the fusee and barrel, potance and stop-work, which latter are attached to the upper plate, (so called in contra-distinction to the pillar-plate,) but the potance screwed to it is between the plates; and lastly, the cock screwed to the outside of the upper plate.

    The following is a list of workmen to complete a watch from the state in which the movement is received from the country:
    1. The slide-maker who makes the slide.
    2. The jeweller, who jewels the cock and potance, and, in a more forward state of the watch, any other holes that are required to be jeweled.
    3. The motion-maker, who makes the brass edge; and, after the case is made, joints and locks the watch into the case, and makes the motion-wheels and pinions.
    4. The wheel-cutter, who cuts the motion-wheels for the motion-maker.
    5. The cap-maker, who makes the cap.
    6. The dial-plate-maker, who makes the dial.
    7. The painter, who paints the dial.
    8. The case-maker, who makes the case.
    9. The joint-finisher., who finished the joint of the case.
    10. The pendant-maker., who makes the pendant.
    11. The engraver, who engraves the name of the watch-maker on the upper plate; and also engraves the cock and slide, or index, as the case may be.
    12. The piercer, who pierces the cock and slides for the engraver, and afterwards engraves them.
    13. The escapement-maker, who makes the horizontal, duplex, or detached escapements; but the escapement of a vertical watch is made by the finisher.
    14. The spring-maker, who makes the main-spring.
    15. The chain-maker, who makes the chain.
    16. The finisher, who complets the watch, and makes the pendulum-spring, and adjusts it.
    17. The gilder, who gilds the watch.
    18. The fuzee cutter, who cuts the fuzee to receive the chain and also balance-wheel of the vertical escapement.
    19. The hand-maker, who makes the hands.
    20. The glass-maker, who makes the glass.
    21. To these must be added the pendulum-spring wire-drawer, who draws the wire for the pendulum-springs, which is almost a distinct trade.

    … The principal London watch-makers order the movements, as above described, of the movement-makers of Prescot, who make them according to the calipers they receive from each maker with their orders. But the ordinary description of movements may be purchased at most of the watch-tool shops in London; one of the chief of which is Fenn’s, No 105, Newgate-street, where every description of clock and watch-maker’s tools and engines may also be procured at moderate prices."
  2. rstl99's Avatar
    There's a distinction made in Rees between the fusee maker, (at #4 in the frame maker's list), and the fusee cutter, (at #18 in the finisher's list). Cutting a verge escape wheel is rather more complex and demanding than flat wheels, so it could well be logical that these were made by a different specialist.
    Other crafts not in these lists include the intriguingly named "secret springer" and the "boxer-in".
    Secret spring is the 'proper' old name for the spring in a hunter watch case that pop the front open. So a 'Secret Springer' either made those or he made some other springs but kept it hush-hush
    Boxer-in may have had something to do with case making or fitting too, since the box was the original term for the inner case of a pair case watch.
    Yes, the boxer-in seemed to overlap with the motion-maker, but it was the person who ran in the winding pinion and fitted the button and set hands piece in keyless work. The secret springer also checked the work of the jointer. These old terms are sometimes confusing! I do still refer to the inner case as the "box" when writing up assessments.
  3. rstl99's Avatar
    Another list, this one from a Swiss author (François Crespe) writing in 1804 (Essay on Repeater Watches, translated by Richard Watkins in 2006).

    Q. How does one classify the workmen who manufacture watches?
    A. The number is very large. The main ones are the following:

    Ebauche makers (makers of rough movements for simple watches);
    Repeater-train makers;
    Repeater-work makers (cadraturiers);
    Finishers of simple watches;
    Finishers of repeater-trains;
    Cylinder or other escapement makers;
    Hinge makers;
    Repeater casers or repeater-work finishers;
    Examiners of simple watches;
    Examiners of repeaters;
    The timer who ts balance springs and regulates watches;
    Spring makers;
    Chain makers;
    Balance spring makers;
    Enamellers or dial makers;
    Hand makers;
    Engravers of cocks and names;
    Engravers of the rosette;
    Brass part polishers;
    Steel part polishers;
    Verge polishers;
    Wheel dividers;
    Denturiers or teeth finishers;
    Fusee and crown wheel dividers;
    Bell makers;
    Case assemblers;
    Case makers;
    Engravers and chasers of case ornaments.
    I do not list here the workmen who make the tools and instruments used by horologists because are too many; anyway, they are only accessories to hand work.