Antique Pocket Watch

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Celestine Smith, Jan 7, 2007.

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  1. I have a pocket watch probably from the 1800's with Jas Boss 14K filled No. 2013887. It is a two plates of solid gold 14K fine overlaying a composition metal and is warranted to wear for 20 years signed C.N. Thorpe. It is still running and has a long gold chain that a woman would wear and put in a coat pocket. I was wondering the date for sure and what it is worth.
  2. By the way it is a American Waltham serial 5107376
  3. Kent

    Kent Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Hi Celestine:

    Welcome to the NAWCC Pocket Watch Message Board!

    The following chronology and information is from "History of the American Watch Case," Warren H. Niebling, Whitmore Publishing, Philadelphia, PA, 1971 (available on loan by mail to members from the NAWCC Library & Research Center), with additional notes in blue based upon an article in an 1889 issue of The Keystone, posted by Greg Frauenhoff, 30-Apr-04 and quotes in brown, based upon the online article "Decorative Aspects of American Horology," by Philip Poniz, on The Antiquorum Magaizine Website:

    1853 - Randolf & Reese Peters were making cases in Philadelphia, employing James Boss.

    1859 - J. Boss received a patent for "spinning up" cases made of "gold-filled" type material. That is, material made of a sheet of composition metal (usually brass) sandwiched between two thin sheets of gold. Boss formed cases by rolling sheet metal as opposed to the traditional method involving soldering and cutting. Rolling increased the molecule density of the metal. His patent, No. 23,820 of May 3, 1859, revolutionized the watch case industry by enabling the production of not only less expensive, but considerably stronger cases. ... Unlike gold washed cases, which were made using electroplating, cases produced by means of rolling had much harder gold surfaces and were thus less apt to wear.

    1871 - J. Boss sold patent rights to John Stuckert of Philadelphia.

    1875 - T.B. Hagstoz & Charles N. Thorpe formed Hagstoz & Thorpe, purchasing the manufacturing facilities (within which, 12 employees produced 6 cases per day at 618 Chesnut St.) and "J. Boss" patent from the estate of John Stuckert. Hagstoz & Thorpe seems to have made only gold-filled cases using the J. Boss patented method.

    1876+ - ... orders increased so rapidly that larger quarters became necessary immediately. The landlord of their first premises, 618 Chestnut Street, was George W. Childs, ... When Childs’ learned of his tenants’ need for more work space, he offered $100,000 and became a silent third partner. A new plant on Brown Street was erected ...

    1877 - E. Tracy, a manufacturer of solid gold and silver watch cases, was acquired.

    1880 - the company moved to a six story building on Nineteenth St., with an equal-size annex on Wylie St.

    1883 - 1885 - T.B Hagstoz withdrew from the company which became C.N. Thorpe Co. and shortly thereafter it was reorganized as the Keystone Watch Case Co.

    1887 - the Nineteenth St. building was almost doubled in size and a four story adjacent building was occupied by Keystone.

    1889 - the firm was producing 1,500 cases per day.

    Keystone then went on to absorb other case companies (and several watch companies). For example, Jerry Treiman reported (old ref::In a Message Board Thread About a U.S. Watch Co. Watch[/url]) that "... the history provided in legal documents for the anti-trust case against Keystone ... states that all of the capital stock of a newly organized Philadelphia Watch Case Co. (August 1900) was owned by Keystone. Thus, Keystone become one of the largest case manufacturers in the country. The combined company built a large factory in Riverside, NJ in 1907. Keystone stayed in business another 80+ years.

    This 1888 Ad from the Keystone Watch Case Co. shows the trade marks used in a variety of their pocket watch cases.
    A few other ads for Keystone cases can be found at:
    To view, go to the Elgin Watch Collectors Site Home Page at, then copy and paste the address in your browser's address bar and click on 'Go'.

    Since the company was only named C.N. Thorpe Co. from 1883 to 1885, this fairly well dates the case.

    Only a small percentage of American watches (or Swiss watches for the North American market) were cased at the factories prior to the mid-1920's (even then, uncased movements were furnished to the trade at least until the 1960's). Most watch companies just made movements (the "works") in industry standard sizes. The case companies made cases in those same sizes. The practice at that time was to go to a jeweler, select the quality of the movement and then pick out the desired style and quality of case. The jeweler would then fit the movement to the case in a matter of moments.

    Or, watches were sold by mail-order. Large outfits such as Sears, Roebuck & Co., Montgomery Ward, or T. Eaton (in Canada), would offer the movements in a variety of cases of different design and quality in their catalogs. Smaller mail-order retailers would case the watches, typically in a 20-year gold filled case and offer it only that way, with the buyer not having a choice of cases.

    Note: The grade of a case is the quality of the materials and work that went into it. Each case grade was offered in many different engraved designs.

    A short history of American watch cases, within the online article "Decorative Aspects of American Horology," by Philip Poniz, can be viewed on The Antiquorum Magazine website.

    The American Waltham Watch Co. (Waltham, MA) had its origins in the 1850's. It was the first successful company in America to manufacture watches in mass production using machinery to make identical (or at least, near identical) parts. Over the next hundred years or so of its existence, its output of jeweled watches (over 34 million) was only exceeded by one other company, the National Watch Co. at Elgin, IL. Commonly referred to as "Waltham," the company made a full line of watches ranging from modest, affordable watches to some of the finest watches made in this country. An 1884 article on the American Watch Co. is available on Greg Frauenhoff's website.

    You can find out some basic facts about your Waltham watch by entering the serial number on the movement (the "works") in the field on the Serial Number link accessable from the NAWCC Information Storage website. Don't use any commas in entering the serial number. There is also a Glossary of the terms provided by the serial number lookup. Note: When a number appears by itself in the Comment Column, it is the page in the factory serial list where the entry and explaination appeared. i.e. "Comment 42" is on page 42 of “Serial Numbers With Description of Waltham Watch Movements,” Waltham Watch Co., Waltham, MA, 1954, (commonly referred to as "The Gray Book"). Or, a similar search may be done at the Swiss - Waltham Website. This website also has a short history of the American Waltham Watch Co. and other interesting information. But, as Tom McIntyre Pointed Out, more complete information is available at the NAWCC Information Storage website.

    Should the date not be listed in the search of the NAWCC Information Storage - Waltham Serial Number Data Base,'s Waltham Production Date Chart, or the PocketWatchSite's Waltham Date Table are a means for determining the approximate production date. In general, we think of serial number lists (not just for Waltham, but for other watch manufacturers as well) to only be accurate within a year or two at best, and recognize that there are numerous exceptions wherein which the dates may be off as much as 3 years or more.

    Having looked up serial number 5,107,376 in the above references, it can be seen to be an 11-jewel, hunting-case, size 6 (ladies size watch), Seaside grade, model 1890 movement, built in about 1891. You can see a picture and catalog description of the 'V' grade, nickel movement (which is a 15-jewel movement, similar to your 11-jewel Seaside grade) on page 77 of the 1903 Oy Company Catalog at:

    To view, go to the Elgin Watch Collectors Site Home Page at, then copy and paste the address in your browser's address bar and click on 'Go'.

    As it says in the upper left-hand corner of this page, timepiece "Appraisal Requests (are) Not Allowed". However, knowing the proper description of your watch, you can use a Google Search to find similar watches offered by internet dealers, or on eBay, and see what they are selling for. Alternately, check the value in the "Complete Price Guide to Watches, No 26," C. Shugart, T. Engle and R. Gilbert, Cooksey Shugart Publications, Cleveland, TN, 2006. A new edition comes out each year in February. The book is available at libraries, at most major booksellers and online at the NAWCC Gift Shop
    . Condition matters!

    You have a nice watch,
  4. Kent

    Kent Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Oh yes, I forgot to mention something:

    If the watch is run continually, a cleaning and oiling is needed every 3-5 years. If you're only going to wear your watch occasionally, this ought to be done once at the onset and about every ten years thereafter. If you're not going to carry it (or run it), don't bother getting it serviced. Many of the watches in my collection (that aren't run) haven't been cleaned and oiled in 20 or 30 years or more.

    I try to get the (railroad standard) watch that I carry on a daily basis serviced every two years because that's what railroad time service rules usually required. I recognize that this is considered extreme, or overkill, but nevertheless, I've carried my watch for over twenty five years and it is still in as good mechanical condition as when I got it, keeping accurate time within mere seconds per month.

    Good luck,
  5. Thank you. It is in perfect condition and works like a charm. The gold on the outside is decorative and has pink and green gold on it. Very ornate
  6. I don't really carry it. It was my Mothers who got it from her Aunt who died in 1910. My Mother was born in 1914 so that is why I knew it was old.
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