Another Charles Frodsham movement

Jerry Treiman

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I have had this movement for quite a while and would like to learn more about it (since we have been discussing the Frodshams lately). It is a 14-size movement, marked "Chas. Frodsham & Co." that must have had a nice demi-hunter case at one time. I expect it is fairly late, having a going barrel, keyless winding and pin set. I estimate 19 jewels, without taking the dial off for confirmation, and infer it is a better grade movement, but nowhere near the best. Can someone offer a rough idea when this one might have been made? [I only wish it were complete -- I love this size].
 

DaveyG

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Hi Jerry

Shenton has a very similar watch illustrated (Pg 122), Serial Numbered 08061 and that is in a silver half hunter case hallmarked for London 1895. The engraving is the same and the engraved barrel cover also. The balance cock looks to be identical but the plate is cut slightly differently. He indicates that the one illustrated has 15 jewels.

Also illustrated in the same reference (Pg 146) is a watch with identical plate design, but without the engraved barrel cover, is 'The Bank Watch' marked for J W Benson and that is in a case hallmarked for London 1923.

For my money both watches were made in Coventry, probably by Rotherhams. All three examples (including yours) have the 'Coventry Star' mark on the regulator.
 
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MartyR

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One of the good things about Chas Frodsham was the fact that he kept changing his address and Vaudrey Mercer has dated those changes! Frodsham was at 115 New Bond Street in 1896 (while he was also at 84 Strand) and then from 1897-1902 (while he was also at 11 Duke St) and then from 1903-14 at New Bond St only. Since your watch says "Late of 84 Strand" it must have been made after his closing down 84 Strand, so that dates it to 1897-1902 I suggest.

Mercer also documents the hugely complex serial numbering system that Frodsham used. Your #08856 conveniently falls into the range for which ledgers were preserved, and Mercer's table shows this was made in 1902 by Nicole Nielsen & Co. Did Nielsen had a workshop in Coventry, Davey? I thought they were just a London maker.

And finally, I have 'the same' watch dated 1897 #08956 which is dated 1897 from the hallmarked case - which demonstrates the need for caution when dating watches from hallmarks. Mine was also made in 1902 but they put it in an 1897 case; I can be reasonably sure it was cased by Chas Frodsham because the case is by his son Harrison Mill Frodsham. At least I can show you "your" watch as it would have looked cased :)

ETA: Sorry about the hallmarks photo - I must take a new one!
And Jerry, to make a guess about what happened to your watch's case, mine has an unusually heavy 18K case which today would scrap for $2250! Although I say "unusually" this is not really unusual for a Frodsham case.

46 1 Charles Frodsham.jpg 46 2 Charles Frodsham.jpg 46 3 Charles Frodsham.jpg 46 4 Charles Frodsham.jpg
 
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DaveyG

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Davey? I thought they were just a London maker.
It is my understanding Marty that by the time these watches were produced that Nicole Nielsen & Co Ltd was being run by the Robert North and Harrison Mill Frodsham as the major shareholders and the inference is that North became managing director and worked to retain the independence of the company whilst Frodsham was intent on supplying the likes of Dent & Frodsham (no surprise there:eek:). I note that your watch also shows the 'Coventry star' and I would strongly suspect that the raw movements (I hate the word 'ebauche' which as far as I can determine was not in regular use in the English industry) came from Coventry and were finished by Nielsen & Co Ltd. It was ever thus, and I believe even more prevalent by the end of the 19thC when Clerkenwell was in terminal decline, with movements in the raw made in S W Lancashire or Birmingham/Coventry and delivered to the 'big names' for completion.

So, is it a reasonable assessment to work on Rotherhams to Nielsen to Frodsham? I suspect that there is no way to tell by physical examination but do Nicole Nielsen records still exist?
 

gmorse

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Hi Davey,

To take it back even further down the 'food chain', were Rotherhams and their like still using the old distributed small outworkers to actually manufacture the raw movements, or did they have what we'd recognise as a factory? I guess this rests on whether Rotherhams ledgers still exist.

Regards,

Graham
 

MartyR

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Isn't it interesting how often we seem to be teasing apart the threads of the history of the English watchmaking industry :)

Nicole Nielsen's patent winding system required unique movement plates. I don't know for how long this movement was in use, but I have a number ranging from 1848 to 1872. Were NN making these themselves or would they have subcontracted to Rotherhams (or someone else). Would NN have made sufficient of these for a subcontractor to tool up to make them? I have five of these movements and none of them has the "Coventry star".

I have a Dent watch with a Nicole Nielsen movement (but not the patent winding one) dated 1895. This doesn't have the "Coventry star".

So if Nielsen had this Frodsham movement supplied in some form by a Coventry maker, it would seem that it was one movement chosen from many, which strikes me as odd.

Would Frodsham have instructed NN as to the decoration of the movements they supplied? My guess would be that they would indeed do so. In that case maybe the star was simply a form of decoration specified by Frodsham. Of all my Frodshams about half have heavily engraved balance cocks, less than half have completely plain cocks, and just two have a small emblem. The one I posted above is one of these two and the other (dated 1844) is shown below - a kind of fleur-de-lys decoration. Charles Frodsham being the skilled marketeer that he was, I just don't see him allowing a movement maker to decide what emblem to place on a Frodsham watch.

Having said all that, it would be interesting to research Nicole Nielsen and their sources. I'm still trying to get round to researching Tobias, so we need a volunteer for Nielsen (which I think would be more fruitful than Rotherhams).

:rolleyes:

44 5 Arnold Frodsham.jpg
 
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DaveyG

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I've just spent 20 minutes composing my response and - phoof - it's gone! So' Ill start again.

IMHO - Firstly, I cannot conceive of a non Coventry maker putting the Coventry star on the regulator - this was akin to a trade mark and I believe that eyebrows would have been raised, possibly early telephone calls made and possible meetings at dawn arranged! The Coventry star, incidentally, takes many forms; Dr Kemp lists 11 different styles and they include the style seen on the subject Frodshams, which he calls 'Four Arrows' but does not include the mark on your 1844 which pre dates Rotherhams and the major expansion in Coventry. Secondly, the Nielsen patent wind system was genuinely old hat by this time and would have been abandoned as such. Thirdly, by the dates which we are discussing there was no Nicole or Nielsen involvement in the company at all so the 'integrity' that would have been engendered in the founders era would not, I think, be applicable. By this time the company was in the hands of shareholders which, as you know, places more emphasis on dividends than watchmaking niceties and buying movements in is a great deal cheaper than making them. Obviously, quality would be an issue for companies such as Frodsham or Dent but at he end of the day - it's the economy stupid;). I guess that, as one of the major shareholders was his son, Charles could demand whatever he wanted in terms of engraving and decoration. Finally, I think that by the end of the 19thC the days of the small, independent watchmaker, even in the UK, was over - it was just not economically viable to try and compete with mass production even on the very limited scale that was the UK trade.

To answer your question Graham, Rotherhams had a siginficant factory in Coventry using machinery imported from the USA. It is my opinion that they made some of the finest watches ever produced in the UK.

Rotherham.jpg
 
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Omexa

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Hi, I have a couple of Rotherhams, I will have to have a closer look at them to see what quality they are. Regards Ray
 

Jerry Treiman

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I love all of the discussion my movement has generated, and I have learned a lot about the English watch industry. Thanks to all !
 

Jerry Treiman

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I don't know why it has taken me so long, but tonight I took the opportunity to take the dial off my movement and found a different serial number.
My previous photos have disappeared from this thread and so I am reposting them, along with my new peek under the dial. My movement and dial are marked with the number 08856, but under the dial it is stamped 4737. (737 is stamped on the underside of the balance cock foot). I imagine the 4737 must relate to the actual movement maker (and probably a partial number, at that).
Frodsham_08856_d.jpg Frodsham_08856_m.jpg Frodsham_08856-4737.jpg
 

Jerry Treiman

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For comprehensive research about Nicole Nielsen consult Tony Maranga.
Paul - is this published or on-line information that you are referring to or is this an individual to seek out? Is he an NAWCC member? I'm afraid I am not familiar with the name.
 

tonywatch

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To try and clear the the confusion here what I have written in 2012.

It has been very interesting to follow the posts concerning Nicole Nielsen, Charles Frodsham and E J Dent in the last few weeks. Having carried out some research on Nicole Nielsen & Co. I will try to shed some light on the matter.

I am not surprise that a lot of confusion and myths exist about Nicole Nielsen. No official document is extant, no work ledgers.
As a limited company annual account will have been filed at Company House, but these are disposed of after 25 years from the date of closure.
I managed to find with whom they banking but the banking archive in the City had a big clear out in the 1960’s and …..no records there!
However they left a fantastic legacy in their watches, chronographs, split second chronographs, triple complicated watches (calendar, chronograph and minute repeaters), pocket chronometers and….of course tourbillons.
To see the full range (54) of watches produced by the company there is a reprint of their catalogue (c.1910) available on the web.

Nicole Nielsen & Co, late Nicole & Capt could be called “THE MAKER MAKER’S”. Beside, E J Dent, F M Dent, Charles Frodsham, Smiths & Sons Ltd.
at least 30 other retailers are known to have sold Nicole Nielsen watches, and the list continue to grow.
In the Horological Journal, March 1888, a very interesting article report a visit by BHI student in witch is stated that Nicole Nielsen “were mechanized to a very high degree and making everything in House”.


My research has been carried out by looking “sideways”: birth, marriages and deaths
registrations, the censuses from 1841, the work ledgers of Charles Frodsham and E J Dent (now at the Metropolitan Archive in London), wills and probate and the archives in Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland.

Nicole Nielsen started as Nicole & Capt at Le Solliat, an hamlet near the village of Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, by the coming together of two very talented watchmakers Charles Victor Adolphe Nicole and Jules Philippe Capt.
Chronology

NICOLE & CAPT (LE SOLLIAT 1837) 1839-1874
NICOLE, NIELSEN 1874-1879
NICOLE, NIELSEN & Co 1879 –1888
NICOLE, NIELSEN & Co Ltd 1888-1917
NORTH & SONS LTD 1917-1933

NICOLE & CAPT set up at 80b DEAN STREET, SOHO, LONDON.
1841 The census list 5 watchmaker living at the above address
1844 Patent n.10,348, This includes the first practical keyless work for both going barrel and fuzee watches. It also includes chronograph work that allowed a second recording hand to returned to zero by mean of a heart-shaped cam.
1844 4 June Adolphe Nicole register his mark with the Goldsmith Company
1851 LONDON GREAT EXIBITION in HIDE PARK. From a report it appears that E.J. DENT exhibited NICOLE keyless work and his repeaters.
1855 PARIS EXHIBITION: for the first time NICOLE & CAPT are exhibiting under their own name.
1858 NICOLE & CAPT move to larger premises to 14 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON.
1862 Nicole takes out another Patent relating to ‘STOP-WATCHES AND TIMEKEEPERS, &c.” Improvement on the castle wheel and the application of the heart-shape cam combine to produce the first CHRONOGRAPH.
1862 LONDON INTERNATIONAL EXIBITON. From the catalogue” NICOLE & CAPT, 14 Soho Square.—Nicole’s patent keyless watch and compteur.”

1869 Sophus Emil Nielsen, a Danish citizen, join Nicole & Capt
1871 from this date NICOLE & CAPT started to produce split second CHRONOGRAPH. (Rattrapante)
1872 June, Harriet Victoire NICOLE married Sophus Emil NIELSEN.
1874 Change of name to NICOLE, NIELSEN.
1876 the 7th August, Charles Victor Adolphe NICOLE died at the age of 64 in STREATHAM, London COUNTY OF SURREY.
1879 23rd May “Charles NICOLE on behalf of self and partners, Emil NIELSEN and Zelia NICOLE, trading as NICOLE, NIELSEN, and CO, 14, Soho Square, Middlesex: Watch Manufactures.” This is the Trade Mark registration, and from this date they will be known as NICOLE NIELSEN & Co. LONDON.
1884 March . An article in the Horological Journal Nicole Nielsen & Co. introduce a new keyless system.
1885 December 31st The Partnership between Charles NICOLE, Zelia NICOLE and Emil NIELSEN is dissolved.
1888 Change of status to NICOLE, NIELSEN & Co LTD. The majority of the shares were bought by The NORTH family and Harrison Mill Frodsham. Emil NIELSEN continues as managing Director.
1899 Sophus Emil NIELSEN died; the company has a new manager and director Robert BENSON NORTH.
1904 THE MANIFACTURE of speedometers is started, it is very successful, a factory is built outside London.
1914 GREAT WAR: NICOLE, NIELSEN & Co LTD is taken over by the government to help with the war effort, they became a major supplier.
1917 The name NICOLE, NIELSEN & Co LTD. sadly disappear. The company will be known as NORTH & SONS and WATFORD Speedometers.
1919 Gold watches to the usual very high standard continue to be made in Soho Square. The effects of the war were felt quite badly and skilled workers were in short supply.
1922 NORTH & SONS started making car clocks.
1929 Economic crash affects NORTH & SONS. . Robert BENSON NORTH died.
1933 the company goes into receivership and is sold off.

To this chronology need to be added the following:

1893 Charles Frodsham was incorporated as a Limited Company and was run by a board of directors.
From MS19,904 Guildhall Library.
Charles Frodsham Board of Directors Minutes of meetings.
Charles Frodsham Co. Ltd.
Minutes of Directors meeting held the 27th July 1893 at n. 2 Adelaide Place, London Bridge, EC.
Present: Mr May, J.R. Furneaux, Emil Nielsen, H.M. Frodsham and R.G.M. Creasy
Purchase of the Company from HM Frodsham at 84 Strand, London.
Style and name Chrles Frodsham & Co. Ltd.

The original keyless system, patented in 1844 and modofied in 1855 ,was still used in 1895 in some watches, dispite the fact that a rocking bar mechanism was itroduced in1884.

A very interesting article, about a visit to the NN factory, was published in the Horological Journal, June 1889, member of the AHS can access the digital verion on the website.

It is very difficult to establish if Nicole Nielsen used external suppliers. They stiled themselves as "Watch Manufacturer" and made everthing in house. I am nonetheless sure that if a client asked for an item that they did NOT make it would ave been bought in.


Happy reading

Tony, Cambridge, England
 
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Jerry Treiman

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To try and clear the the confusion here what I have written in 2012. ...
Tony - Thank you for taking the time to re-post your research.
 

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