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  1. #1
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    Default M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question

    I found a very interesting MI Tobias watch at an estate sale and sent it to my watchmaker to get restored. It was not one of the fusee Tobias watches that they were more known for. I know they made other movements besides fusees. It is a lever escapement and has very nice engraving on the 3/4 plate and on the exposed movement itself. It is signed on the plate "M.I. TOBIAS & Co." "LIVERPOOL", the Liverpool being in ornate cursive script and the serial number below. I have a few Tobias fusees and the engraving is not just close, it is exactly the same. I looked under magnification.

    I saw a thread from about 2003 on this board about wondering if MJ Tobias watches were commisioned with knowledge or if a few of them were real. I agree with Michael Ediden that they were Swiss fakes and the company had no knowledge they were being produced. I showed pictures of this watch to Mr. Ediden and he said "We could not agree on who made those or if they were commisioned or not". I read Cooksey Shuggart's opinion and he tends to think that Tobias' company started working more with the Swiss at the tail end of his company's run. Does anyone have any pictures of watches his company made after say 1850? The MI Tobias watch I found has the initials "CFJ" 1865 and K18 engaved in order in tiny script on the inside of the back case. My watchmaker looked at it and said it was not a Swiss bar movement so I tend to lean toward it being a real Tobias. It has a thick 18k case and beautiful engraving. I would like some opinions and input on this subject if anyone knows or has seen others like it.

  2. #2

    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    While the subject of Tobias watch's like this is very open to debate, not much can be said with out a picture for reference.. it's the old thousand word thing..

  3. #3
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: John Pavlik)

    You are correct sir. I will take a pic or two and get it on here soon.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    I will get a pic of the movement on here tomorrow, I was busy today and forgot. I forgot to mention earlier that I did get this watch appraised by one of the guys that does the watch appraisals on the antiques road show and he thought it was a legitimate Tobias as well. He was more in the Cooksey Shugart camp than the Ediden camp. I have recently inherited a country cottage in Edinburgh, Scotland so I was planning on staying there for 2 months this Summer and going to London and other cities such as Liverpool and doing my own research on these famous watch companies. I wanted to do some research on Joseph French and Michael Tobias' companies as well as a few others. I am a lawyer by profession so I want hard facts and I think it would be fun.

  5. #5

    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    The pictures would be great.. On the research side you may want to also consider the basis for the opinions.. In my experience Michael Ediden has done quite abit of hard reasearch on the subject and has published it.. Mr. Shugart publishes a Price Guide that, because of its size and scope, is filled with many errors and omissions.. I have not seen any documentation or reasearch on this subject from Mr. Shurgart, except for a brief blip in the price guide.. .. I am by no means an expert, but have collected Tobias fusee watches for a number of years..and have read everything I can find on this interesting Family..

  6. #6
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    Here is one picture of the movement. It has quite a bit of high polished brass and engraved brass which is not found in cheap Swiss bar movements. I can see my refelection in the brass. The movement is quite heavy and well made as my watchmaker told me. Again, if anyone has pictures or owns watches Tobias made between 1850 and 1868 I would like to see them.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 0496_3.jpg  

  7. #7

    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    Could you tell me where along the front bezel the hinge is located..Between the 10 and 8 or between the 8 and 6..?? How did you determine that the watch was made between 1850 & 1868 ?? Is 1865 the movement number also ??

  8. #8
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: John Pavlik)

    Sorry for responding so late John, I have had a couple of long hard days at the office. I can not quite remember the position and the watch is in a safe deposit box with all my other gold watches so I will have to go get it and get back to you on that. I inherited 500+ pocket watches from my grandfather when he died last year and almost all of them were 18k or higher karat gold content cases. A few repeaters, chronos, perpetuals, and fusees, including the 2 fusee Tobias watches I have.

    The date 1865 came from the date inscribed on the case as I said in my first post in this thread. I have not checked the serial number or can find the serial number records from this date. I asked about the 1850 to 1868 dates because I saw in another Tobias thread a guy asked the question "Does anyone have any Tobias watches produced in that date range" and nobody answered him. Don't you find that a bit odd. Most of the fusees I have seen and mine I have predate 1840 so where are the later watches they made? Seems to give more credence or credibility to the their having worked with the Swiss later on in their company's history. A lot of English firms did so, such as Dent and Roskell, I can't imagine a company open from 1805 - 1868 didn't adapt to the times. Starting about 1850 the thinner style Swiss pocket watch became extremely popular and the wide fusees fell out of favor. I'm no expert either but I will do my own research. Dr. Ediden is just a collector and is a professor at Johns Hopkins University I believe. Shugart has degrees in the subject and works with watches everyday of his life. He is not the only one that agrees with the opinion that Tobias worked with the Swiss. But as I said before I will look into the subject myself. Thanks for responding to the thread John, you seem to be the only one interested.
    Again, I like Michael Ediden and he is quite informed and did very well informed research and writings but as the old saying goes "I don't know everything and neither does anyone else".
    Last edited by DeputySpade; 01-28-2009 at 10:57 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    If the case is solid gold it will have English hallmarks (providing the case was made in England). These can be used to date the case and usually the watch. If you see these hall marks on the inside of the back cover please get us a sharp close-up. If there are no hallmarks, it might indicate a Swiss fake.

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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: RON in PA)

    Yeah if it was an English case I would know the date immediately but it has no English hallmarks. That does not necessarily mean it is a Swiss fake however. As the appraiser said he has seen just a skant few of these and most were in French cases but had nice Tobias made movements. If they were intended to be Swiss fakes they would most likey have used cheap steel bar movements like all the other Swiss fakes used. The appraiser also noted the few examples he saw had historical figures engraved on the back case. The one I have has President/General Wahington engraved on the back case in his military garb and an ornate 18k gold dial with a dove on it. Obviously these would have been made for the American market and exported. Tobias either sold his finished movements to other companies and they married them with the cases, or he got the cases made and his company exported them to the United States.
    The real question here is how prevalent are these? From my research and others not very prevalent or abundant at all. You see MJ, MD, MT Tobias fakes all over the place on sites such as ebay but look for this kind and you will not find it. If they were made to be Swiss fakes they would have been made in huge numbers just as the others. The appraiser said he found one like mine that belonged to former President Zachary Taylor sold in an online auction (not ebay) a few years ago and because of its provenance it went for $3000. Also, if it were just imported by Tobias into England and exported to the United States it would not have to have the English assay stamp on the case. Only if it were sold in retail in England would it need the assay stamp for karat quality. I have seen Roskells in French triple chevron stamped 18k cases so I do know the English did use Swiss cases from time to time. I have seen genuine Tobias movements in American cases as well so it is not necessarily unusual to see them in non English cases. He did export just movements without cases.

  11. #11

    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    I have seen and owned a couple of these 1/2 or 3/4 plate Tobias's.. In my opinion the finish and workmanship is not on par with the English Tobias watches.. the gold case's are rather thin and do not have much in the way of marking.. If the survior's of M.I., George & Henry, got into these it was a far cry from the originals..

    It appears in your posts you firmly believe these to be genuine Tobias made watches.. and without direct evidence they may be.. I am of the opinion they are not, but after your gone, you never know what the "kids" will do with the business..

  12. #12
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: John Pavlik)

    I know these can't hold a candle to the Tobias fusees and earlier versions they made but the watch weighs 90 grams, it's not light. John, why didn't you state much earlier in the thread that you owned some like these? I asked and you didn't answer before. Show me pictures of them, I would like to see them because I cannot find anyone else who has seen them except Ediden and the appraiser. As I said before a few "experts" have opinions that they worked with the Swiss and exported so it would not be surprising to me. The "kids" may have done that after Michael died. Oh never mind I see what you meant in your earlier statement about the ones you owned, they were English cased levers. Again, the scarcity of these leads me to believe they were in some way made by his company. What year were the 3/4 and 1/2 plate Tobias' you owned? Does anyone have pics of watches they produced much later, like after 1860?
    As for the case it is a little thinner than some of the English cases but it has masterful engraving and is an 18 size 51mm case.
    It's really no big deal about it but I was just looking for opinions and you gave me yours and I appreciate it. It sounds like guys such as Michael Ediden, Barry Goldberg, and you believe the Tobias company would never stoop so low as to work with the Swiss but many others believe they did. It's a mystery I guess. I don't know if I was reading that statement you wrote correctly or not. If you own one like this one show the picture in this thread I would love to see it. If you do why didn't you state much earlier that you did own one? It sounds to me like you have been talking to Michael Ediden.
    No big deal, I will move on and shut up. I just like debating with people and arguing points whether valid or not.
    Last edited by DeputySpade; 01-30-2009 at 08:30 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    I know I said I was going to shut up but I had a little bit more to add. I remembered another English watchmaker John Hyde, that started out making high quality English cased and English movement pocket watches and then as the years went by he began using Swiss made cases as well as Swiss bar movements. He would just sign his name on the dustcover and sell them like that. Just another example of adapting to the change in economy and styles. M.I. Tobias & Co. was doing business 63 years and some of you guys think they never once made lesser quality or adapted to change in styles or hard economic times. I find that hard to believe and many others do as well. If they exported those French cased pocket watches to the American market which is what they seem to have done, I don't think us dumb Yanks, especially back then, would have known the difference between a French case and an English case. I doubt Tobias would have sold watches in England without English cases because he might be worried about reputation but as I said the yanks wouldn't know the difference or care. They were probably only for American export and that would have made Tobias's company a huge steady income, tapping into the huge expanding American market. As it says in the price guide, they specialized in export, I believe only in their later years did they export in huge numbers.

    Here are some pics of a Tobias fake I found on ebay a while back. I suspect those are fake English hallmarks because they seem a bit shallow but I may be wrong. Notice the Swiss steel bar movement. And on the dustcover it is marked MJ Tobias London, not Liverpool. This may have been an English made fake but the Swiss did imitate English hallmarks for a while. This ebay seller was selling this watch in his store for $925 and said he guaranteed it was a genuine MI Tobias.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DSCN3945.jpg   DSCN3953.jpg   DSCN3947.jpg   DSCN3946.jpg  
    Last edited by DeputySpade; 01-31-2009 at 08:07 PM.

  14. #14

    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: DeputySpade)

    So now I would wonder how do we tell the difference between the "Real" Swiss Tobias's and the "Fake" Swiss Fake Tobias's.

    Mr. Spade,

    I do not currently own anything but the English Tobias watches and movements..

  15. #15
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    Default Re: M.I. Tobias & Co. Pocket Watch Question (RE: John Pavlik)

    John now you're being a smart aleck. I showed that example to illustrate that all of the Swiss fakes or English fakes used Swiss steel bar movements whether they be gold gilded or not, they were all Swiss bar movements. I don't care if you believe one way or another, you are just a rich collector like me and Edidin I imagine. If there is a real genuine Tobias movement in an American or Swiss case it is in my eyes still 100% Tobias. In your eyes they are 1/2 real or fakes. I'm pretty sure most people would agree with my viewpoint.
    I'm not trying to convince you that it's real but others believe that it is, this thread is showing up in google searches so someone may read this that has one like mine and respond. That's what I'm looking for.
    Last edited by DeputySpade; 01-31-2009 at 10:22 PM.

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