1891/92 centre-second 'chronograph' signed E Wise, Manchester

John Matthews

NAWCC Member
Sep 22, 2015
A few photographs of a late C19th centre-second chronograph with the stop/start hack feature. The watch is typical of the vast majority of this type of watches, viz. large (60mm.) heavy stirling silver open face case, with hinged, back, dome & bezel, housing a fixed Coventry made three-quarter plate single roller fusee driven movement. From the examples I have observed, I believe these Coventry made watches started to appear in the 1860s. I am not entirely certain who manufactured them, but Rotherhams are the most likely candidate. The 15 jewel movement is relatively clean and is working strongly. The dial is a little dirty and does have a hairline crack on the outer dial between VIII & IX. The hands are probably original, although the hour hand has lost its tip and the second hand is slightly bent on the counterpoise side.

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The interest in this example is that the 'hack' feature, so the watch may be stopped and started to accurately set the time to reference timepiece, is operated by the pendant button, rather than the more normal slide on the case band. This feature was patented by R Fennell in May 1889.

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Richard Fennell was born in 1832 and was registered as a watch finisher in the Coventry census records from 1861-81, in 1891, after his patent was registered, as a watch maker and as a watch manufacturer in 1901. He died in 1906. I am not aware of any relationship with the larger Coventry manufacturers, but it is plausible that he was finishing this type of movement, in the period prior to his patent registration.

Emanuel Wise was originally from Poland, who in 1877, together with his family became a British citizen. He had arrived in the North East and had a daughter born in Hull ~1866. He had moved to Manchester by 1877. The records describe him as a 'watch maker' initially, and later as a jeweller & antique dealer, working from various addresses in Manchester. He died in 1913 and was buried in the Manchester Hebrew Congregation. From the examples that have survived, his watch retailing business focused on these centre-second chronographs with the Fennell patented mechanism, but I have also know of an earlier example, from 1881, with the hack slide, rather than the pendant button.

The cases of many of the earlier patented movements carry the mark of Alfred Gurney of Coventry. This one has his Chester registered mark of May 1875.

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The pendant also carries a clear makers mark of Charles Harrold & Company of Birmingham. They are not listed by Priestley as pendant makers, but this is the second example I have in my collection. The other being on a Newsome hunter case. Both of the pendants carry the Birmingham hallmark of 1897. It would therefore seem that the pendant on the Wise, is a replacement and some evidence of the replacement can be seen on careful examination.

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Registered User
Feb 15, 2018
BC Canada
I have one of these as well John but no case and the under dial hackwork is obviously replaced by a less skilled finisher.

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
Whenever these huge watches come onto the board, I turn to Dr Robert Kemp, in his book " The Englishman's Watch" pages 45 to 47. Who writes that these watches were made in Coventry and Liverpool, Sewill´s made their own, as I am sure Russell´s did too. A good tip by Kemp was to look at the rear of the dial, where he found the makers name, many of these so-called chronographs were no names. Though most of them did come from Coventry. When I say Huge they are rarely under 145 grams, and I have one from John Hawley of Coventry that comes in with 195 grams. So the case alone must be worth around one hundred pounds at present prices. Has to when these watches first appeared Kemp says a very short period of 1880 to 1900. There could well be some a little earlier, or later. They do though look very nice, and if you wear one you know where it is, plus they were good timekeepers if you did not play with the hack pin or slide.


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