A very unusual Waltham - circa WWI?

Jerry Treiman

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I was very excited to finally get one of these rather uncommon Waltham wrist watches.
5211_fobl.jpg
It seems military in style, but the protective device for the crown does not really seem very practical for rough use. If you can’t tell, the bow holds the crown down so it cannot be pulled out accidentally. The case is also kind of a hermetic design. The 6/0 (Jewel Series) movement is fixed in a ring that also holds the crystal, and the entire assembly is installed from the rear and protected with a threaded-on back, so it is just a two-piece case.
5211_apart.jpg
So far I have only seen eight different examples of this model, and that includes the one shown in the Price Guide. Five are in solid gold and three are in silver cases with some gold elements to them. My biggest personal quest with these is to figure out who made these unsigned cases. Most are just marked “PATENT PEND.” and a 4-digit serial number, plus the gold or silver marking. I would also love to work out when these were made.

Does anyone else have one of these?
 

Adam Harris

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Hi Jerry
It is indeed a very early and interesting piece, similar in thought to DEPOLLIER

Suggest you contact Stan, who. he and I did research on a similar piece he had.

Regards
Adam
 

Steven Thornberry

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Working on the suggestion of ca. WWI and the mention of the movement being fixed in a ring, I wonder whether the following patent is applicable.

[pdf]470167[/pdf]
 

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Jerry Treiman

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Thanks, Adam. Yes - Stan* was the first person I thought of and we have both been puzzling over this model for a while. The watch case has some special design elements that are reminiscent of features patented by Depollier and also by Ezra Fitch (Waltham’s president). The case construction and finish are, in some ways, similar to cases made by H.W. Matalene but also very different in other ways.

Steven - thanks for the suggestion. The method of holding the movement in the case (the focus of the patent) uses a “locking bolt” (patent figure 3) This was used on Waltham watches with the Marsh movement protector but is not used here. My movement ring has three dog screws that retain the internal movement assembly in the case.

*for those who do not know who "Stan" is, this is Stan Czubernat who has written separate books on Elgin and Waltham watches associated with the WWI era.
 
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Adam Harris

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Thanks, Adam. Yes - Stan* was the first person I thought of and we have both been puzzling over this model for a while. The watch case has some special design elements that are reminiscent of features patented by Depollier and also by Ezra Fitch (Waltham’s president). The case construction and finish are, in some ways, similar to cases made by H.W. Matalene but also very different in other ways.

Steven - thanks for the suggestion. The method of holding the movement in the case (the focus of the patent) uses a “locking bolt” (patent figure 3) This was used on Waltham watches with the Marsh movement protector but is not used here. My movement ring has three dog screws that retain the internal movement assembly in the case.

*for those who do not know who "Stan" is, this is Stan Czubernat who has written separate books on Elgin and Waltham watches associated with the WWI era.
Yes, it is between Era Fitch patents and Depollier.
If Stan has not seen it, then its pretty rare - he surely has done the greatest research in that area.

Sorry, I can not help more - sadly all my files are still in Spain too.

Good Luck and keep us informed
Regards
 

Jerry Treiman

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Here is an example in silver, and in remarkably original (though worn) condition. It is more evidently intended for service in the trenches than others I have seen (such as my gold example, above). It has a black dial with radium numbers and hands. The silver case, including the (probable) gold lugs, is coated with a non-reflective finish that I think is more than just tarnish. (For example, black tarnish on the gold lugs would be hard to explain). This watch has not been “improved” in any way by collectors or previous owners. The original unbreakable crystal likely shrank and fell out and I have added a temporary glass crystal to protect the dial and hands from further abuse.
PatTr_front.jpg PatTr_back.jpg PatTr_buckle.jpg PatTr_ib.jpg PatTr_mvt.jpg

What has been most illuminating for me in studying this watch is finding it still has the remnants of some type of seal between the movement “pellet” and the crystal opening in the outer case. I would guess it was either a rubber gasket or some kind of gum or pitch that is now black and brittle with age.
PatTr_dial.jpg PatTr_oldgasket.jpg

This seal, the threaded back (gasket missing) and the compression crown suggest this watch was meant to be water resistant. It may be that the pending patent (as announced in the back of the case) was for this entire assemblage of waterproofing features, or maybe just for the crown. I have so far been unable to find any issued patents matching the features on this watch case. I suspect it was made between 1917 and 1920 but have little yet to go on other than a hunch.

Another aspect of this watch that is very new to me is its condition -- well used but all original, representing how this watch was made around 100 years ago. The strap is tearing a little and stitching has come undone, but I would not want to replace it. The black dial with radium numbers would be very difficult to restore without risking further damage and non-original reconstruction. The hands, too, show light corrosion and partial loss of the original lume. I really do not want to scatter bits of radium paint around, either. The movement is mechanically sound (it will tick), looks free of debris or dust, but is obviously a little gummy. I am nervous that removing the dial to clean the watch may risk damage to the dial and/or hands (the hour hand is very tight). The screwed-on back of the case has remarkably fine threads and the silver feels soft; it does not thread on/off easily and I am loathe to expose it to the possibility of cross threading or other damage, so I will open this as little as possible. So where does this leave me? I have a very interesting and probably rare watch that, for the first time for me, may be better off left in as-found condition rather than my usual cleaning and “touch up” to make a serviceable watch. Right now I will do nothing more to “improve” it.

I would love to hear from any other collectors who may have a similar watch.
PatTr_pair.jpg
 

Adam Harris

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Hi Jerry
Pretty sure Stan had one of these and it may have been posted here
a
 

musicguy

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These are really great watches Jerry. I'm glad you
added them to your collection and shared them with us.


Rob
 

Jerry Treiman

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I am still searching for evidence regarding who may have made this interesting case. The closest that I have found to a similar case was discussed by David Boettcher on his web page dedicated to “The evolution of the waterproof watch” - The Evolution of the Waterproof Watch
About halfway down this web page he presents information on the Fortis “Aquatic” waterproof watch. The method of holding down the crown is not quite the same (but almost equally as awkward). However, the concept of an encapsulated movement and crystal sealed in a two-piece case is very similar. A patent application for this design was made in 1915 and a Swiss patent was issued in 1916. If my Waltham watch case is referring to the same Swiss patent it would apparently date to that same time period. Alternatively, the “Patent Pend.” notation may refer to an attempt to apply for a U.S. patent, perhaps a few years later. There are, after all, some differences such as the bow and the method of retaining the movement capsule in the case. The case markings and construction details of the Fortis and the Waltham appear different enough that I strongly suspect different case makers.
AquaticCH71715.jpg
 
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Jerry Treiman

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I would also love to work out when these were made.
I want to offer a huge Thank You! to Robert Stokes ( My New Vintage Watch Website: Time Capsule ) who graciously chased down the likely owner of the silver watch I showed in post #6. Bob found records for me showing that the likely owner was Bryan McLaughlin, a soldier who only served for one year at the end of the war - 1918-1919. Thus it would appear that these watches may date from 1917 or 1918 (leaning toward 1918).
 

Jerry Treiman

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5211_6032.jpg

It has been a couple of years since this thread was active, so many new forum members may not have seen it. I am still puzzling about these watches - mainly who made the cases and what was the pending patent? I would love to hear about any additional examples or other new information. Case serial numbers are key to my research.

To date I have recorded eleven examples - 6 in gold and 5 in silver:
> gold cases - numbers 4879, 5211, 6824, 6837, 6927 plus an unknown case shown in Gilbert/Engle/Shugart price guide
> silver cases - numbers 6032, 6066, 6185, 62xx, 6371

Thanks!
 
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Tom McIntyre

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Jerry, Fitch's Patent Stem Guard would, I think, cover this design. It is patent 1085857. The crown position is different, but the action is the same.
FitchCrownGuardPat-1085857.png
 

Jerry Treiman

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Jerry, Fitch's Patent Stem Guard would, I think, cover this design. It is patent 1085857. The crown position is different, but the action is the same.
Thanks, Tom. Actually, I have considered this patent before and found a few contradictions:

1. This patent was granted in early 1914, prior to WWI. I believe my cases were likely from around 1917 (possibly earlier, but at least after hostilities broke out), yet they refer to a pending patent. So this feature, at least, is not likely what the patent refers to. (I suspect it refers to the hermetic aspects of the watch, which may have not been patentable in view of the Fortis patent referred to in post #9)

2. I am not sure that Fitch's patented crown guard is what we see here. His patent is to prevent the crown from pulling out except when needed; it is a safety feature to prevent the time being changed accidentally. The crown guard on the subject cases seems intended to press the crown down to create a hermetic seal. Its awkward and vulnerable location on the side of the watch argues (to me) against it being a safety feature against accidental setting.
 

Bernhard J.

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Well, Claim 1 of Finch´s patent covers the bow design of the Waltham watch literally. In particular there is no limitation as to where the crown is positioned. If not made under a license, the Waltham watch would imho clearly infringe Finch´s patent.

The "patent pending" might refer to other features of the case. It seems to be unusual in various respects.
 

Tom McIntyre

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Fitch was President of Waltham in 1914 so I am pretty sure the patent was assigned to Waltham.

Sorry Jerry, I missed the references to patent pending. As you know patents are often piled onto a design whether or not they have anything to do with the actual example. Patents have no real meaning except in litigation, so one is free to reference their own patent on anything they make. i.e. that action does not break any law since there is no injured party.
 
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Jerry Treiman

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. . . If not made under a license, the Waltham watch would imho clearly infringe Finch´s patent. . . .
It should be noted that Fitch's patent specifically describes a bow with a prong extending toward the crown and a recess in the crown to receive this prong when the bow is properly oriented, thus allowing the watch to be set. The hands cannot be set if the bow is in any other position. The particular trench watches that I am researching have the reverse geometry wherin the projection is on the crown and engages a dimple on the bow when the two are aligned. This is not nearly as practical as Fitch's patent for preventing inadvertent setting of the hands, but it does apply downward pressure on the crown to help create a hermetic seal (as in the Fortis watch).
 
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Carrite

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Random speculation: a modern reincarnation of the Waltham name emphasizes their pioneering role with waterproof watches. I wonder whether the odd contraption was an early incarnation of a screw down crown — a waterproofing feature.
 

Jerry Treiman

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I wonder whether the odd contraption was an early incarnation of a screw down crown — a waterproofing feature.
It may have been such an attempt, but more likely just dust and moisture protection. The crown certainly does not screw down and I have not had it apart to see what nature of gasket may be in the case tube. More than likely the "pioneering role" they speak of refers to the waterproof Waltham wristwatches cased by Depollier.
 

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