Adam Burdess - Coventry, England

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by LLaCava, Mar 13, 2006.

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  1. LLaCava

    LLaCava Guest

    I recently purchased a pocket watch off of eBay as a wedding gift for my soon to be husband. It was from an estate sale, and the seller did not know much about it, other than what was indicated in the markings and that it was ticking/keeping time.

    I received the watch, and it is beautiful! When I got it in the mail, it was not ticking, but I assumed that it had wound down. After winding it (and breaking several fingernails in getting the case open to find the key hole), it still did not tick. After several hours I was playing with it, looking for anyway to start it, and, out of nowhere, it just started ticking! It kept time until it wound down again. I have not wound it again, because I would like to learn more about it before I do anything else! I do know that the stem on the top DOES NOT move, and is not the way to start or stop it as on some pocket watches. There are no other moving parts, other than the front glass case door, and the rear doors (one to the key hole, and the inner to the workings which I have not opened) and so I'm quite unsure how to "start" it! Also, I was hoping that someone might be able to tell me more about the watch? I don't have it with me at the moment, but the number is somewhere in the low 3000s, which makes it fairly old I believe...I saw one with a 5800 number dated to 1870...On the inner workings Adam Burdess and Coventry are clearly legible, along with the number.

    Here is the only picture I currently have for it...

    Also, does anyone have any ideas of who I could take this to in the Fort Worth, Texas area for service/engraving and general knowledge?

    Thanks so much,
    Lauren
    View attachment 38
     
  2. Jerry Matthews

    Jerry Matthews Registered User

    Sep 20, 2005
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    Hi Lauren - First of all, congratulations for finding a watch by Adam Burdess. It is not an extremely rare or valuable watch, but Burdess was a reputable English watchmaker who made very good, collectable watches. I have one he made in 1875 and it is still running beautifully and keeping good time.

    Burdess was born in 1823, and he worked in Coventry, England from about 1868 until 1905.

    From what you say, it sounds like all your watch needs is a good cleaning and oiling. It has probably seized up after many years of neglect But once started, if it ran until wound down there shouldn't be too much wrong with it that a good service can't put right. Once it has been serviced, the watch will start up as soon as it is wound. If for some reason it doesn't start, a gentle circular movement will get it going.

    As you have discovered, it is not wound or set by the stem. On mine, there is a button on the top of the stem which releases a catch to the rear cover (so you don't have to break a fingernail!) The watch is wound from the rear and set from the front with the key. There is a square nut in the centre of the hands that the key should fit on to turn the hands.

    Sorry about the broken nails, but it is far better to go at a watch like this with your fingernail than try to open it with a sharp metal instrument.

    You can easily date your watch by the hallmark on the silver case. The English hallmark system is fairly complex, but once you know how to read it you can date the case (and therefor most probably the watch itself) to within two years. There are three parts to the hallmark; a lion facing left, which indicates sterling silver; a symbol for the town where the silver was assayed (in the case of Burdess, either an anchor for Birmingham or a leopard's head for London); and a letter of the alphabet which tells you the year. The letter is the complex bit since they were repeated in 20 year cycles, and the style of the letter and shield surrounding it changed from one cycle to the next.

    If you can get a close up photo of the hallmark, I am sure we can date the watch for you.

    Obviously, from this distance I can't tell you where to take your watch for service in Fort Worth, but I am sure somebody on this message board can.

    Congratulations also on your forthcoming marriage. I know your husband-to-be will be very pleased with his wedding gift. One of my most cherished possessions is the gold Elgin pocket watch which my grandmother gave to my grandfather on their wedding day in 1908!

    Best wishes, Jerry
     
  3. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Aug 24, 2000
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    Mr. Burdess was an inventor as well as a watchmaker. His patent winding system allows the watch to be wound by swinging a lever to and fro. The companion setting system uses a small toothed wheel at the edge of the dial to set the hands.

    http://www.awco.org/European/Burdess/movement.jpg
     
  4. Jerry Matthews

    Jerry Matthews Registered User

    Sep 20, 2005
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    Wow! Fantastic photos, Tom. I had read about Burdess's patent, but had never seen it
    pictured so clearly. Are the lever and toothed wheel tucked out of the way when the watch is closed up?

    Jerry
     
  5. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Glad you liked them Jerry.

    There is a page on my web site devoted to the watch that has all the pictures of the operation.

    Interestingly, I have another watch that predates Burdess' patent with Prest keyless work and the same setting mechanism.

    This pretty French repeater has the same hand setting device and dates from around 1840.

    http://www.awco.org/European/Bertaut/Movement4_small.jpg http://www.awco.org/European/Bertaut/Dial_small.jpg http://www.awco.org/European/Bertaut/Setting1_small.jpg
     

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