- Feb 8, 2023
I would like to pick the collective brain of the forum hoping to identify this minute repeater. It's a 52mm 14k timepiece with what I believe to be a "JN"-stamped case.
Both 3rd & 4th image show it, just above “0,750”. Have yet to look at that second one. I’m still skeptical of their attribution & dating (although it is a breathtaking piece).I can't find the JN on the watch…
Riga, Latvia is quite intriguing.
Locle assay confirmed (and I must echo musicguy — excellent photos!). So JN will be the case maker: Jean Nardin fils (Jean Nardin, Jr). He was in business in Locle before 1883 (succeeding his father of the same name, in the same business), and his firm was renamed as “Ed. et Ch. Nardin” in December 1910. Jean Jr. himself had died in Jan 1901, but his sons Edouard-Auguste Nardin et Charles-Philippe Nardin carried on the business.
View attachment 749548
With the zolotnik stamp & JN’s closure date, we have a firm range of 1881-1910 at broadest. There are other things to narrow that, and suggest a few names.
However, the AP dial one linked seems out of place: that AP sn should be from 1909, not fitting with 1875 hallmarks. Can’t read hallmarks on it to be sure. Anyone with keener eyes able read them?
Short story: movement made under contract by someone (imo AP or finer). The 39519 (again, imo) is the client/finisher serial number, the 189 likely the maker’s sn.
An extract request from AP may be possible, if it’s theirs. 189 could fit in 1880s, but not 39k in our date range, to best of my knowledge. I’m still theorizing in the 1890-1905 range.
TBD story: most here would take AP name and run, which I can understand. But I believe there is another master at work here, (heresy to follow) making equal to or better than AP at this time. I would like to push to give them credit, if possible. Hoping to hear from the cadrature experts, that would go a long way to lock in dates & enable sn attribution.
I did not see a signature on this?And one signed "A. Piguet" with a movement having a close resemblance to mine
Class II includes houses dealing more specifically with complicated pieces, and who have the specialties in these genres...
In the same class we find a group of eight manufacturers who also deal in complicated pieces, but more especially in repeaters...
- Mr. Charles-Emile Tissot, of Le Locle, member of the Jury at the 1889 Paris Exhibitions and Chicago 1893, had a wonderful display. Precision movements were accompanied by 1st class bulletins from the Neuchâtel Observatory; the complicated watches had cases of very appropriate and graceful shapes, and the names of numerous awards that appeared in the showcase testified to the perfection that has always been the prerogative of this house.
- Mr. Wolfensberger, in Le Locle, [Gold Medal, Geneva, 1896] is distinguished by very meticulous [“soignèe”] manufacturing: pocket chronometers, chronographs, repeaters both simple and complicated. Their showcase contained in particular a chronograph whose drive is made by the escapement wheel and which seems to present some guarantees for the avoidance of errors, the deviations not exceeding 1/10th of a second due to the construction in itself. Mr. Wolfensberger also has a special way to avoid chiming errors, in the large gongs, at the moment of passing the hour/time.
northerner said earlier, decoding this piece is like a good mystery novel. And like a good mystery novel, the plot took an unexpected twist. At least for me, my answer (not to say “the” answer) is a surprising one.
Look closely at the cadrature, and you’ll see many features that are different from its Lecoultre 42 or SMV ebauche cousins. Here is a post from Philip Poniz highlighting several cousins. Just to choose an example: here is the subject watch’s setting lever, followed by those of (in order): unknown Bigelow Kennard, Vacheron Constantin, retailed by Touchon, Cartier (via Edmond Jaeger), Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet.
View attachment 750208
View attachment 750209
View attachment 750213
View attachment 750210
View attachment 750211
View attachment 750212
View attachment 750225
So far, no one has been able to identify the cadrature. I will share my findings, with hopes of confirmation or rebuttal.
For my answer, I looked for those houses in the timeframe who offered a specialty of complicated watches--specifically, repeaters and greater--in the Locle District (Locle, Brenets, Ponts, Brevine); these would be most likely to use a Locle casemaker, which we've established is true. Then I narrowed it down to who was using this serial number range 37k-49k in our timeframe.
Finally, I turned to the movement itself: I eliminated those who are known to have used only in-house designs that were not like this, and I looked for those who marked their movements (i.e. balance cocks) in this way at the turn of the century. That generated one house--the house to which I believe these serial numbers belong, who I believe finished & retailed these exquisite watches.
View attachment 750286
View attachment 750287
It also generated a possible intermediary, who has not been mentioned yet on the forum.
Both are mentioned in the 1896 Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva, and I will let that summary introduce them.
This possible intermediary is Mathäus (aka Mathias or Matthias) Wolfensberger. Originally from Lempfriedsweiler, Wurtemberg, he brought his family to Locle in 1893 and set up a factory that produced the finest complications. He was 49 years old.
Tissot certainly had the means to produce/finish the grandest complications in-house—and did many. But I now have proof that they and Girard-Perregaux sourced at least some complicated movements from Wolfensberger in the late 1890s that present similarly to what we see in the subject watch.
Wolfensbeger’s in-house numbering & production was low—almost all below 1,000 before 1910. Here is the only signed movement I could locate for him—a lovely Chronograph numbered 890, mentioned in multiple interviews with its distinguished owner as the finest in his vast collection and “better quality than Patek Philippe.” (Aside: It would be an honor to speak with him, to learn more about the cadrature!). But there are a few contract pieces known, with other sn ranges.
In 1900, Wolfensberger presented a Chronographe-Compteur—with no signature on the bridges—right below our first sn example above.
Net, I think the watch is from Tissot at the 1900-1903 range. I would love to also be able to fully tie the subject watch to Wolfensberger. That would make it a rare breed indeed!
View attachment 750284
View attachment 750285
northener, lovely Touchon! It's a type MR6A in my classification system in the database linked to below. I hadn't seen this watch before. I'd like to add it to my Touchon database but, despite your otherwise excellent photography, I cannot quite make out the serial number of the movement. Is it 65,345? I'll add the watch to my Touchon database when I know its serial number.
Adding a few better shots of the movement.
View attachment 749234 View attachment 749235 View attachment 749236 View attachment 749237 View attachment 749238
Thanks, northerner. I've added your watch to the Touchon database.
In all this investigation, it seems to me that we have lost sight of Ethan's post that he correctly recognized an ebauches of LeCoultre. In fact, the mainspring bridge has two characteristics of LeCoultre, the top curve and the clickspring. Which by the way was of the cheapest kind. Wanting to find out who assembled is how to ask for the name and surname of all the workers who worked for this assembler.
Actually, minute repeaters aren't as popular as quarter repeaters. If the movement is known as LeCoultre's ebauches, so is the cadrature. A part of the cadrature is also on the opposite side, next to the barrel of the repeater, which is difficult to modify. And the presence of a click-spring that LeCoultre considered cheap is a sign that this ebauches was not the most refined.
Many assemblers worked for the dealers and finished them according to customer requests such as mirror polishing of the levers or the anglage of each component.
Here you can see a more refined LeCoultre caliber with three hammers:
I beg your pardon. To your incontrovertible arguments, I have no answers. I am afraid that I will have to study for a long time before I can answer.
In the link I posted, the hammer is located under the brake regulator, and the brake itself was a patent of Ditisheim Paul so the only sure thing is that the ebauches are by LeCoultre but who assembled it, modified and adjusted it remains unknown.