An auction surprise !

Andrew Wilde

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Feb 18, 2020
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Not as good as Musicguy's $50 Vulliamy, but I got a nice surprise from a UK auction house today. Described as " A 19thC silver pocket watch and chain" and estimated at £30-50 with a rather poor photo of just the front of the watch, I saw it the day before the auction with no time to request a picture of the movement or ask for further information. I didn't know if it was working order (they usually aren't when so little detail is provided) but I was attracted by the large seconds dial so put in an online bid within estimate.

This arrived today.

It's a Massey 3, jewelled to the fusee, Liverpool windows and a Liverpool runner. Lever, escape, 2nd and 3rd wheels jewelled both ends, and all capped on the bottom plate with what, optimistically, look like diamonds. If I count the single fusee jewel, I believe that makes it a 20 jewel Massey 3 !

Not signed, also with no serial number (although a very feintly scratched "No 427" where you'd expect to find the engraved number), no markings under the dial. Start/stop mechanism, lever at 5 o'clock, working on the 2nd wheel. Plate secured by screws rather than pins.

Recased, presumably, as the hallmark is for Chester 1882, maker's mark J.E for James Buckley Eastham of Liverpool. Case and movement fit perfectly

Dial perfect, hands good, case undented, double Albert chain in sterling silver.

A nice surprise for a cheap, speculative purchase :emoji_relaxed:

IMG_20210504_172819.jpg IMG_20210504_173328.jpg IMG_20210504_173503.jpg IMG_20210504_175030.jpg IMG_20210504_175450.jpg
 

gmorse

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Jan 7, 2011
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Hi Andy,

A good find indeed; capped on the escape and lever as well as the balance, although I suspect they may not all be diamonds, as they look a little cloudy, so may be rock crystal. Is that a fish on the tail of the seconds hand?

Regards,

Graham
 

Andrew Wilde

NAWCC Member
Feb 18, 2020
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Hi Andy,

A good find indeed; capped on the escape and lever as well as the balance, although I suspect they may not all be diamonds, as they look a little cloudy, so may be rock crystal. Is that a fish on the tail of the seconds hand?

Regards,

Graham
Hi Graham,

I've rechecked and 2nd and 3rd, as well as lever, escape and balance, are capped. The fusee "jewel" is almost certainly rock crystal, the other 5 caps I still think may be diamonds. They don't look cloudy in good daylight and sparkle rather nicely. I guess there could be some old oil under them.
The tail of the seconds hand is certainly fish shaped; whether intentionally so I don't know.

It arrived semi-wound and ran for 90 minutes or so with a shake before stopping, so a service is probably in order, which will give me a chance to look more closely at the caps.

Cheers ... Andy
 

John Matthews

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Sep 22, 2015
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Andy - an interesting acquisition, at a good price - well done.

Neither the 3rd nor 4th pinions appear to be capped on the pillar plate, the 4th is driving the second hand, so cannot be capped and it appears that the third isn't either (am I mistaken?), but the 3rd appears to be capped on the back plate. I thought the jewelling was:
  • fusee -1
  • balance - 5
  • lever - 6
  • escape - 4
  • 4th - 2
  • 3rd - 2 or 3
Like Graham, I do not think that the jewels are diamonds and they look more like quartz in the photograph. Some of the cap jewels appear to have facets, is this just a trick of the light? If they have facets or if there are internal planes, that might give their 'sparkle' appearance. I cannot recall seeing quartz window jewels with facets. Liverpool windows are reported to have been made using quartz, aquamarine (beryl), chrysolite (garnet) or chrysoberyl (favoured for large fusee jewels). I cannot recall having ever seen diamond windows.

The perfect one piece dial certainly looks earlier (I would think <1860) than the case hallmark, but I cannot see any evidence of the case being modified, can you? If not, perhaps it was made as a bespoke replacement to fit the movement. That maker's mark of Eastham was registered in 1877 which is right for the hallmark.

Gold balance. The hour hand looks a little long, so may be a replacement, but the main hands look as if they are gold with an original second hand. Check the hack feature, you say operating on the 2nd, which I think is a typo. I take it that the cap has been lost, which is a pity.

Good find.

John
 
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SKennedy

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Jan 5, 2017
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A very 'bling' movement! It would benefit from matching pillar and barrel bridge screws but is a very fortunate purchase

I think 3rd and 4th are both capped on the top plate? The largest one is the 4th jewel. You quite often see English fusee movements with only the 4th wheel capped there with the lever and escape not jewelled at all. The logic must have been to benefit this heavier but still quite quickly moving wheel (with the seconds hand on it too) when in any slightly dial up position.

The brake is probably acting on the 4th. The 2nd wheel would be the centre wheel, which might have a jewel we can't see under the balance cock but doesn't have one on the pillar plate.

Seth.
 

John Matthews

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Sep 22, 2015
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Seth - I have recently started to describe the plate at the back of the watch, the back plate, rather than the top plate - as it is only on top when you look at the movement from the back of the watch. I think that sounds logical, but I am not really sure which is the accepted descriptor, as both are used

John
 

Andrew Wilde

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Feb 18, 2020
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Andy - an interesting acquisition, at a good price - well done.

Neither the 3rd nor 4th pinions appear to be capped on the pillar plate, the 4th is driving the second hand, so cannot be capped and it appears that the third isn't either (am I mistaken?), but the 3rd appears to be capped on the back plate. I thought the jewelling was:
  • fusee -1
  • balance - 5
  • lever - 6
  • escape - 4
  • 4th - 2
  • 3rd - 2 or 3
Like Graham, I do not think that the jewels are diamonds and they look more like quartz in the photograph. Some of the cap jewels appear to have facets, is this just a trick of the light? If they have facets or if there are internal planes, that might give their 'sparkle' appearance. I cannot recall seeing quartz window jewels with facets. Liverpool windows are reported to have been made using quartz, aquamarine (beryl), chrysolite (garnet) or chrysoberyl (favoured for large fusee jewels). I cannot recall having ever seen diamond windows.

The perfect one piece dial certainly looks earlier (I would think <1860) than the case hallmark, but I cannot see any evidence of the case being modified, can you? If not, perhaps it was made as a bespoke replacement to fit the movement. That maker's mark of Eastham was registered in 1877 which is right for the hallmark.

Gold balance. The hour hand looks a little long, so may be a replacement, but the main hands look as if they are gold with an original second hand. Check the hack feature, you say operating on the 2nd, which I think is a typo. I take it that the cap has been lost, which is a pity.

Good find.

John
Hi John,
You've clearly spotted that in my original post and follow up I misnamed the 4th as the 2nd. Apologies everyone - silly mistake.
The start stop is operating on the 4th.
The original dustcap is there, with cutout to expose the setup ratchet and spring but nothing interesting to it - no initials or any other marking.
I hadn't checked the jewelling on the pillar plate for caps, but another look shows that the lever and escape are capped on the pillar plate as well as the bottom/back plate. 3rd and 4th wheels capped on the bottom/back plate only. Using your table, I think this gives the jewel counts as
  • fusee -1
  • balance - 5
  • lever - 6
  • escape - 4
  • 4th - 3
  • 3rd - 3
giving a total of 22 !

The cap jewels on the bottom/back plate are faceted. I'm happy to concede they are less likely to be diamond than the more usual materials found, but will keep diamond as a possibility in my notes until I can be certain otherwise. With diamond not at all unusual in balance caps, if "bling" was the intention here then why not use it for the other visible caps.

I don't see any sign of case modification so I think it probable that while later than the movement by at least 20 years, it was made to house the movement. I usually associate this level of bling with movements destined for export to the US - I wonder if that's where it was originally cased and was recased when it found its way back home ?

Thanks everyone your above comments, corrections and thoughts on this. Much appreciated.
 

gmorse

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Hi John,
I have recently started to describe the plate at the back of the watch, the back plate, rather than the top plate - as it is only on top when you look at the movement from the back of the watch. I think that sounds logical, but I am not really sure which is the accepted descriptor, as both are used
I think you're in good company in your usage; David Thompson often uses the expression 'back plate' for the plate opposite the pillar plate, and if I recall correctly, Jonathan Betts also uses 'potence plate'.

Regards,

Graham
 

SKennedy

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Jan 5, 2017
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Slight thread wander.....

Top plate is certainly used in Saunier which I have to hand and has a long history of usage. The use of back plate might be more common among clock-y people since their plates are more usually considered vertical. You could argue that that part of a 3/4 plate watch should not be called a potence plate since no potence ('hanging bracket' according to Britten's dictionary) would be attached to it.

I have certainly learnt to always use 'balance spring' as a result of Jonathan's influence though I have some new old stock examples in packaging marked 'Hairsprings'!

Seth.
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Feb 9, 2013
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Hi Seth,
Not being a mechanic I too rely on books, I still have my copy of De Carle´s "Watch & Clock Encyclopedia.

"Hair Spring. An undesirable term for the balance Spring (q.v.). It is not good horological language and is named by the uninitiated because of its hair-like appearance. The term is also used in connection with the similar control or return springs of indicating instruments,"

The influence then is De Carle-his knowledge always frightens me.

Allan.
 

aucaj

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Feb 2, 2021
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named by the uninitiated because of its hair-like appearance.
Hi Allan,
Prior to Huygens' regulator there were implementations known as "Hog's Hair" or "Pig's Bristle" regulators, which were stiff animal hair as the name suggest. Maybe this could be the origin of term 'hairspring'.
 
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