Alabata Cases

Bila

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The Alabata cases that Waltham advertised, were they all of this material or was only the inner curvette marked? All the ones I have seen were of Coin or Sterling silver with only the curvette marked with "Alabata"?
 

Clint Geller

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The 1864 trade catalog indicated that the entire case was nickel alloy, rather than silver, as did the advertised price. I don’t recall exactly where “Albata” appeared, but it was likely on the interior of the outer rear lid. (Note the spelling of albata.) I have also examined Civil War era nickel alloy cases stamped with an eagle on which the composition was not marked at all. There weren’t a lot of albata cases, but they were definitely out there. Brass cases were far more common. I have seen plenty of poor quality period silver cases with silver plated brass cuvettes, but I’ve never seen one with an albata cuvette.
 
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Bila

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Thank you for the info, interesting that spelling Clint, I have American cases here with the spelling as "Alabata" as well, although a little later then the 1860's:)
 

Bila

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I think from memory that the nickel alloy process first was patented in and around the late 1830's in Europe, but was always under the impression that it as not used in the United States until the very late 1870's to the early 1880's, so there you go, another lesson learnt for the day, very much appreciated:)
 

Clint Geller

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I think from memory that the nickel alloy process first was patented in and around the late 1830's in Europe, but was always under the impression that it as not used in the United States until the very late 1870's to the early 1880's, so there you go, another lesson learnt for the day, very much appreciated:)
Glad to help. I discovered this when I was researching my book on Civil War timepieces. I was a bit surprised myself.
 
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Clint Geller

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The 1864 trade catalog indicated that the entire case was nickel alloy, rather than silver, as did the advertised price. I don’t recall exactly where “Albata” appeared, but it was likely on the interior of the outer rear lid. (Note the spelling of albata.) I have also examined Civil War era nickel alloy cases stamped with an eagle on which the composition was not marked at all. There weren’t a lot of albata cases, but they were definitely out there. Brass cases were far more common. I have seen plenty of poor quality period silver cases with silver plated brass cuvettes, but I’ve never seen one with an albata cuvette.
Correction: I actually was referring to the 1862 Waltham trade catalog, reproduced on page 95 of Roy Ehrhardt's Pocket Watch Encyclopedia, Volume 1.
 

4thdimension

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I have a 6/0 Sterling Crescent OF case marked “Albata” on the cuvette (which appears to be sterling also). So what is Albata?-Cort
 
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Clint Geller

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I have a 6/0 Sterling Crescent OF case marked “Albata” on the cuvette (which appears to be sterling also). So what is Albata?-Cort
Albata is an alloy of nickel copper and zinc. Perhaps the cuvette of your case is albata and the rest of the case is Sterling? I was just having a private conversation along similar lines. In an earlier period, cheap, usually Swiss, silver cases with silver plated brass cuvettes were ubiquitous. Perhaps in a later period, albata replaced silver plated brass for the purpose.

The 1862 Waltham trade catalog offered "Albata cases" for $3.50 and 2 oz. coin silver cases for $9.50.
 
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PatH

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I ran across this earlier today, and found it interesting.
Info from this 1887 Illustrated Catalogue of the Busiest House in America (p208) trade catalog shows coin silver cases with albata cuvettes available on Fahys, Keystone, Dueber, and Waltham cases (screenshots of the applicable page are included below.) Illustrated catalogue of the Busiest House in America : containing illustrations and prices of a few leading and staple styles of diamonds, watches, jewelry, silverware, clocks, canes, opera glasses, gold spectacles, eye glasses, etc.

Apparently there were various products on the market during this period, including flatware and other jewelry products, made of albata. One reference I saw was related to the ad valorem tax rate for albata items. The reference named various items along with their respective rates.

Albata covers.jpg Albata covers pricing.png
 
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Bila

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Here is a couple of photos of a case with an "Alabata" marked curvette and not the "Albata" mark as mentioned in some catalogues that Clint spoke about, also "Sterling" marked on the inside of the cover. Maybe a bad day for someone at the Factory:)

20200522_101224.jpg 20200522_101235.jpg
 

PatH

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Apparently there were various products on the market during this period, including flatware and other jewelry products, made of albata. One reference I saw was related to the ad valorem tax rate for albata items. The reference named various items along with their respective rates.
Just looked at this source again, and it uses both alabata and albata.
The Economist
 

Clint Geller

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Here is a couple of photos of a case with an "Alabata" marked curvette and not the "Albata" mark as mentioned in some catalogues that Clint spoke about, also "Sterling" marked on the inside of the cover. Maybe a bad day for someone at the Factory:)

View attachment 591236 View attachment 591237
Bila, what do we know about the time period of those cases? The huge price difference in the 1862 Waltham catalog between “albata cases” and silver cases makes it clear that there was no silver in those $3.50 albata cases. Spelling was less consistent in the mid-1800’s than now, so it is not shocking that some sources spelled albata differently. However, nowadays albata seems to be the accepted spelling, based on the on-line dictionaries. It is also not surprising that some otherwise silver cases were made with albata dust covers, just as others were made with silver plated brass cuvettes. But these were not the cases mentioned in the Waltham 1862 catalog.

if you search completed listings on eBay under “albata pocket watch,” you will find, in addition to some cases listed as “Sterling Silver Albata”, a Waltham Model 1859 with an 1864 serial number listed as “Albata Metal” and with those words stamped on the inside of the front lid.
 
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Bila

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I would have to go and have a look at the time frames for the Illinois Watch Case Co, Clint, as I alluded to in an earlier post, they would be further down the road then 1862. It is very interesting, as the most modern views you see are that it was not used widely until the 1880's which is clearly not the case (no pun intended). As for the difference in spelling maybe down to just the particular case company, I do not know?
 

Clint Geller

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Thanks Clint, the first one I have seen as all "Albata" material.
Perhaps the most common material for cheap cases of the period was brass, which is a copper-zinc alloy. Add a bunch of nickel to it and you have albata.
 

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