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Bigelow Kennard

Rich Newman

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I’ve read a lot about the Boston firm Bigelow Kennard in the past so when this non-working minute repeater turned up at the Chicago Chapter 3 boot sale a few weeks ago, I bought it. Luckily it didn’t need much work and Doug Shuman, also a #3 member, was able to put it right (his NAWCC ID is dshumans).

Thought I would share on this forum. It was made by Audemars Piguet and is an extra thin, 32 jewel, solid nickel movement, serial number 5786. 18K Swiss case and perfect dial. The dial & movement marked Bigelow Kennard & Co.

Doug informed that according to Brunner’s book, Audemars Piguet: Masterpieces of Classical Watchmaking, it was made in 1897, so I’m thinking it was made by the successor firm Louis Audemars & Cie, that was led by Louis-Benjamin Audemars. Is that right?

AP 1.jpg AP 2.jpg AP 3.jpg AP 4.jpg AP 5.jpg
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Nice watch, Rich. Doug Shuman knows a lot more about repeaters than I ever will. That said, what makes you or Doug think this watch was made by Audemars Piguet? Touchon "made" repeaters very similar to your watch. Some Touchon repeaters were made by Audemars Piguet but they look somewhat different than your watch. I suspect that at least the ebauches of your watch and similar Touchons were made by LeCoultre. C.H. Meylan also "made" similar repeaters.

Audemars Piguet had no connection with Louis Audemars and the successors to his firm as far as I know.
 

Dr. Jon

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I see why Doug thinks it is Audemars Piguet, especially if it is a 12 size. The three parallel cocks over the thrid wheel fourth (Seconds) and escape wheel are signature features of Audemars Piguet and the serial number lines up well.

I do not think it is by them.

It does not have the clicks AP used and they stamped their movements under the dial. This stamp may have been hidden by a moving lever but it is always on private label AP's I have seen with the other secret signature features. ON teh other hand they were small and may have made this as a small order, but if so it is different from all teh other simillar arrangements I have seen. It is just crazy to be dogmatic about this.

The winding bridge looks like C. H. Meylan.

Lovely watch and very nicely finished.

There is a connection between AP and Louis Audemars in that they were from the same family and Julius Audemars worked for the Louis Audemars Company before starting AP.
 
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dshumans

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It's a great watch. While I can never be certain, I have worked on a number of nearly identical watches with this movement, one signed by AP. The time side is identical except for minor center bridge and winding bridge cosmetic changes, the under dial repeater works is identical and the serial number matches the AP serial number series for late 1890s. I have only seen this particular repeater rundown train jewels and bridges on this type ebauch many times. A picture of a signed AP movement is attached. Maybe someone here knows something more than that or knows if AP bought this ebauch from some other manufacturer? I'm always open to other thoughts.

Audemars Piguet signed mvt.jpg
 

John Cote

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Rich,

I am not going to specifically take a side here but I see a lot of similarities to my AP repeater. Mine is a split chrono so the time side is different but under the dial there are a lot of similarities which are too hard to ignore. Also, as was said above, the serial number is very typical for an AP. I will also argue with Doc Ron, with whom I will almost always agree, when he says that all AP PL watches are marked with their stamp under the dial. I have a letter from AP confirming that mine was made by them and even giving their model number and it has no AP marking anywhere under the dial.

Also, the case has the look of other AP PL cases and has the serial number which matches the watch.
 

Dr. Jon

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Easiest and best is to just ask AP.

My skepticism is based on a sense I get from early AP watches that they took a lot of pride in theor work and went to a lot of effort to show that it was theirs in ways that careless observers would miss.

For example they sold under a private label "Jules Renaud", Renuad was Jule's Audemars wife's family.

I have a Tiffany labeled AP in which the AP logo under the dial was milled out and covered.
Until reading John's post I had not known of an AP private label they did not sign except for a the Tiffany.

Perhaps the the three parallel cocks was a much secret signature as they were allowed. If it is theirs, the story of this sale is probably a very interesting.
 

John Cote

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I am not sure there is any AP evidence on the watches they made for Touchon to import into the US. I have seen mine and another with nothing under the dial. I would love to know about others.
 

Dr. Jon

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I have a split seconds chronograph signed by Touchon that I am certain is based on an AP movement. The base caliiber has the signature winding bridfge features and in the serial number range for when they used them. It is now in for repair so I don't have access to check for an under dial signature.
 
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dshumans

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I just found this which may help determine the ebauch maker. It is almost exactly identical to some signed AP repeaters, but AP may have bought ebauches from LeCoultre?
LeCoultre Calibre.jpg
 

Philip Poniz

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Good observation, Doug. Audemars Piguet, for a long time, was more of an etablisseur (one who buys movements, dials, and cases from different manufacturers and assembles them into watches), than a manufacturer. It will be interesting to learn the date, if AP responds to Richard. The caliber was launched in 1892 and was produced with a variety of back plate/bridges designs, each one for a different client. The same cadrature (under the dial mechanism) was used on more than just one caliber.
 

Rich Newman

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I heard back from Audemars Piguet's Specialist Archivist / Museum Archivist Raphaël Balestra who confirms that it’s not theirs. They do have a movement number 5786 in the archives that is recorded as an unsigned, 17 lignes movement with split-second chronograph, sold in 1900 in a 14K gold case (I learned from this email exchange that AP 14K cases were only going to the U.S. at this time).

Raphaël then showed pictures of the watch to their restoration watchmakers and they believe that the movement comes from Vallée de Joux, and that the "blanck" comes from Louis Elysee Piguet. Really great to get their input.

So, I guess we still don't know which firm made it for Bigelow & Kennard. However, John suggests that Bigelow & Kennard were certainly large enough to order direct from Louis Elysee Piguet so perhaps the trail ends. Have learned a lot about this watch.​
 

Philip Poniz

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CHALLENGES IN IDENTIFYING COMPLICATED MOVEMENTS

Below are six repeater movements with the same cadrature (under the dial arrangement).

1 Bigelow Kennard (Richard's) (5)_resize.jpg 2 LeCoultre 1916 for VC _resize.jpg 3 rep Touchon 4 c1_resize.JPG
4 LeCoultre, cal SMV, for Cartier 323-01 - (2)_resize.jpg 5 PP 17''' LeCoultre_resize.JPG 6 AP (1907), cal SMV 19L_resize.jpg

It is clear that they must be from the same manufacturer. The first one is of Richard’s watch, retailed by Bigelow Kennard. The second one is Vacheron Constantin’s from 1916. The third one was retailed by Touchon. The fourth one by Cartier (via Edmond Jaeger). The fifth one by Patek Philippe. The sixth one was retailed by Audemars Piguet. The last two are slightly different because Patek Philippe, as well as Audemars Piguet, had excellent finishing departments, finishing ebauches to their own specifications.

All of them originated in LeCoultre. We know that from Vacheron Constantine, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet’s records.

Now, the back plates in the same order:
7 Bigelow Kennard (Richard's) (2) c_resize.jpg 8 LeCoultre 1916 for VC_resize.jpg 9 rep Touchon 1_resize.JPG
10 LeCoultre, cal SMV, for Cartier 323-01 - (1)_resize.JPG 11 124554 17''' LeCoultre, 1903 (3) c_resize.JPG 12 AP (1907), cal SMV 19L_resize.jpg

Each one looks different yet, if you look closely, you will see that the wheel arrangements, both for the going and the repeating train, are exactly the same. It is the same movement, just the facades are different. Ebauche companies produced the same caliber in different shapes for different clients. This is the main reason why it is difficult to attribute a movement just by the look of the back plate. The cadrature is a much more reliable identifier. LeCoultre used the cadrature in Richard’s watch on movements of different diameters and different thicknesses for years. Albert H. Potter’s who bought his repeater ebauches from LeCoultre had the same cadrature as in the examples above, which was adapted to a hunting case version.

One of the reasons why it would be unlikely that Richard’s watch had an ebauche from L.-E. Piguet, is that it is doubtful that Bigelow Kennard, unlike Vacheron Constantine, Patek Philippe, or Audemars Piguet, had an ability to finish a rough ebauche that would make something out of the left picture below into something more like the one on the right.
13 LeCoultre, RMS, 1903_resize.jpg 14 LeCoultre RMS_resize.jpg

Louis-Elisée Piguet specialized in rough ebauches, LeCoultre made both; unfinished as well as finished ones.

There is little doubt that Bigelow Kennard bought the watch finished. The fact that it is in a Swiss case only confirms it. They could have bought it straight from LeCoultre or from a finishing company. Jequier does not list them as LeCoultre’s clients therefore, most likely, they bought it from a finishing company. They had resources and contacts. They were good clients of Vacheron Constantine, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet (who sold them a number of repeating watches). They also bought from C.H. Meylan and Haas, who also had capabilities of finishing a complicated ebauche as this one.

Philip Poniz
 

tick talk

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Thank-you Philip, very concise and immensely informative. I really appreciate the last two photos of the movement blanc and finished calibre. It reinforces for me the tremendous contribution of hand labour and craftsmanship that resides with the finisher to transform one into the other.
 

Rich Newman

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Philip, thank you for taking the time to display these movements and provide their histories. My journey began just a few months ago at a NAWCC boot sale in the Chicago area and I was at first very hesitant to ask for help on this forum, where many very knowledgeable collectors frequent. I’m sure glad I did. Learned a ton - - thoughts and information that one simply can not get anywhere else. I’m eager to attend the National Convention in Virginia - - no doubt I’ll be able to see more examples of repeaters there, learn more, and have fun showing this one retailed by Bigelow & Kennard to other collectors. Are you planning to also be there?
 

Philip Poniz

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I am glad if it helped, Richard.

Covid permitting, I will go to the National in Virginia. I am scheduled to give a talk there about complicated wristwatches. Looking forward to seeing you there.
 
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El Cronometrista

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It is a magnificent watch without a doubt. In my professional experience I have repaired hundreds of repetitions in more than 40 years of work. In my opinion, most quality repeating watches are made on the same ebauche, but with specific modifications requested by the brand, they are hand-finished watches, although two machines are the same, the pieces are not interchangeable.

The evolution and development of these mechanisms, mainly in the repetition mechanism, has been the same in all brands, from 1850 to 1900. The most important evolution was a simple but very important modification, the minute pinion corector is lifted when finished the repetition operates, it is raised so as not to interfere with the performance and precision of the movement. For this reason we can see and feel in the older quality repeating watches a jump in every quarter to 15, 30, 45, 60 when setting the time, this is due to the jump of the so-called surprise of the minute pinion. In the most modern watches this jump is not felt, because the corrector is lifted when the repetition finishes working.

I can also say that the quality repetition movements, from quarts, minutes and five minutes, have followed the same evolutions.

Speaking of repeats, I can say that the only repeater watch with interchangeable parts is Longines, they have the same evolution mentioned before, and they also patented a silent escapement system for repeating. They are also high-quality watches that have little to envy to high-end brands, although they are not as highly valued, and the repetition is really very similar, if not the same, to all these quality watches that are shown.

Greetings
 

Philip Poniz

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Welcome to the Forum El Cronometrista and thank you for your input!
Here are certain statements you may want to clarify;


“most quality repeating watches are made on the same ebauche, but with specific modifications requested by the brand”

Within the period from 1850 to 1930, there were over a dozen companies making different repeating ebauches. The quality of the finish was determined by the finishers. They are known to be sometimes very different.

“The evolution and development of these mechanisms, mainly in the repetition mechanism, has been the same in all brands, from 1850 to 1900.”

Some, including myself, might argue with this statement. The period from the 1850s to the 1880s was very different than from the 1880s to the 1900s.

“The most important evolution was a simple but very important modification, the minute pinion corector is lifted when finished the repetition operates, it is raised so as not to interfere with the performance and precision of the movement. For this reason we can see and feel in the older quality repeating watches a jump in every quarter to 15, 30, 45, 60 when setting the time, this is due to the jump of the so-called surprise of the minute pinion.”

The surprise piece was a relatively early invention, circa 1840. The invention of, what you call, “corrector” (isolateur in French), was an improvement but far less important than the silent governors.

“Speaking of repeats, I can say that the only repeater watch with interchangeable parts is Longines”

What about La Phare or Invicta, for instance, who both advertised that their repeating parts were interchangeable?
 

El Cronometrista

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[QUOTE = "Philip Poniz, publicación: 1448172, miembro: 42951"]
¡Bienvenidos al Foro El Cronometrista y gracias por su aporte!
Aquí hay algunas declaraciones que quizás desee aclarar;


"La mayoría de los relojes de repetición de calidad se fabrican en el mismo ebauche, pero con modificaciones específicas solicitadas por la marca"

En el período de 1850 a 1930, había más de una docena de empresas que fabricaban diferentes ebauches repetidos. La calidad del acabado fue determinada por los finalistas. Se sabe que a veces son muy diferentes.

“La evolución y desarrollo de estos mecanismos, principalmente en el mecanismo de repetición, ha sido el mismo en todas las marcas, desde 1850 hasta 1900”.

Algunos, incluyéndome a mí, podrían discutir esta afirmación. El período comprendido entre la década de 1850 y la de 1880 fue muy diferente al de la de 1880 a la de 1900.

“La evolución más importante fue una modificación simple pero muy importante, el diminuto corrector de piñón se levanta cuando termina la operación de repetición, se levanta para no interferir con el desempeño y precisión del movimiento. Por eso podemos ver y sentir en los relojes de repetición de calidad más antiguos un salto en cada trimestre a 15, 30, 45, 60 al momento de fijar la hora, esto se debe al salto de la llamada sorpresa del piñón minutero ”.

La pieza sorpresa fue una invención relativamente temprana, alrededor de 1840. La invención de lo que usted llama "corrector" (isolateur en francés) fue una mejora, pero mucho menos importante que los gobernadores silenciosos.

"Hablando de repeticiones, puedo decir que el único reloj repetidor con partes intercambiables es Longines"

¿Qué pasa con La Phare o Invicta, por ejemplo, quienes anunciaron que sus partes repetidas eran intercambiables?
[/CITA]

Gracias por su bienvenida Sr. Poniz
Aclararé y me gustaría comentar varios conceptos, posiblemente no me he expresado bien.

Diferencio entre relojes de calidad y relojes comerciales, I stayed 1900 porque ya había producción en serie desde principios del siglo XX. Desde 1850 hasta 1900 no hubo tantos fabricantes de relojes de repetición de CALIDAD, no eran relojes accesibles para todo el
Welcome to the Forum El Cronometrista and thank you for your input!
Here are certain statements you may want to clarify;


“most quality repeating watches are made on the same ebauche, but with specific modifications requested by the brand”

Within the period from 1850 to 1930, there were over a dozen companies making different repeating ebauches. The quality of the finish was determined by the finishers. They are known to be sometimes very different.

“The evolution and development of these mechanisms, mainly in the repetition mechanism, has been the same in all brands, from 1850 to 1900.”

Some, including myself, might argue with this statement. The period from the 1850s to the 1880s was very different than from the 1880s to the 1900s.

“The most important evolution was a simple but very important modification, the minute pinion corector is lifted when finished the repetition operates, it is raised so as not to interfere with the performance and precision of the movement. For this reason we can see and feel in the older quality repeating watches a jump in every quarter to 15, 30, 45, 60 when setting the time, this is due to the jump of the so-called surprise of the minute pinion.”

The surprise piece was a relatively early invention, circa 1840. The invention of, what you call, “corrector” (isolateur in French), was an improvement but far less important than the silent governors.

“Speaking of repeats, I can say that the only repeater watch with interchangeable parts is Longines”

What about La Phare or Invicta, for instance, who both advertised that their repeating parts were interchangeable?
Thank you for your welcome Mr. Poniz
I will clarify and I would like to discuss various concepts, possibly I have not expressed myself well.

I differentiate between quality watches and commercial watches, and I stayed 1900 because there was already serial production since the beginning of the 20th century. From 1850 to 1900 there were not so many manufacturers of QUALITY repeating watches, they were not accessible watches for all the public because of the price.

I totally agree that these mechanisms evolved a lot from 1880 to 1900, as a result of the industrial revolution, but for me it focused on other aspects other than the repetition mechanism. Although it is true that the repetition was also improved and smoothed

The surprise piece is much older than 1840, we can see repeating watches from the 18th century with this piece, you can visit my website and see repeating watches from the 18th century with surprise, www.elcronometrista.com

I differ from your opinion that the silent regulator was more important than the corrector or isolateur of free surprise, which did not interfere with the operation of the watch. I have seen numerous watches that the corrector or isolateur and the surprise were deteriorated, worn, and caused the watch to stop working, or that when touching these pieces the watch lost oscillation.

I cannot understand comparing LePhare or Invicta watches, with a nickel movement with 32,34,35,36 jewels. of the type, A LeCoultre, L Audemars, with escapement lever with compensation, bimetallic balance with gold screws, double jewel in the escapement, a first-class finish, etc. For me the LePhare and Invicta watches are not comparable to the watches we are talking about, in addition to being from a later time. For me LePhare and Invicta are second category watches, they cannot be compared although it is true that they are made in series and their parts were interchangeable.

Sorry for my English that is a bit rusty, I am at your disposal to continue talking about these fascinating issues

Soon I will publish a post on marine chronometers, of a very important watch, a Ferdinand Berthoud longitude chronometer from 1775, which I am finishing restoring. It has NO fusse or mainspring, the escapement works every 2 seconds, the balance weighs 230 grams. I am sure it will make watch lovers enjoy, and I would like to talk about this magnificent watch

Best regards
 

Philip Poniz

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Thank you for such a quick response El Cronometrista, which, hopefully, will develop into a long-lasting, stimulating discussion about complicated/important mechanisms.

"The surprise piece is much older than 1840, we can see repeating watches from the 18th century with
this piece, you can visit my website and see repeating watches from the 18th century with surprise,
www.elcronometrista.com"

This is very exciting because documentary sources lead us to believe that it was circa 1840 when Guillaume Freres’ father was said to have invented the surprise piece. I went to the link of your website you provided but could not find anything referring to the existence of the surprise pieces in the 18th century. Could you please post examples of this existence here directly? Thank you.

"I differ from your opinion that the silent regulator was more important than the corrector or isolateur of
free surprise, which did not interfere with the operation of the watch."
It might be due to a matter of personal priorities.

"I cannot understand comparing LePhare or Invicta watches, with a nickel movement with 32,34,35,36 jewels. of the type, A LeCoultre, L Audemars, with escapement lever with compensation, bimetallic balance with gold screws, double jewel in the escapement, a first-class finish, etc. For me the LePhare and Invicta watches are not comparable to the watches we are talking about, in addition to being from a later time. For me LePhare and Invicta are second category watches, they cannot be compared although it is true that they are made in series and their parts were interchangeable."

Invicta started its life in the 1890’s as a trademark of Picard’s company (that was established in the 1830’s), which had produced repeaters before registering its INVICTA trademark. Le Phare did this too, even a decade earlier, in the 1880’s.

I gave these two examples to emphasize that if a “second category” repeater can be made on an interchangeable basis, even more so, the higher grades. By the way, both Invicta and Le Phare can be found finished to the highest standard. See below.

rep LePhare 4.jpg

My personal experience, based on restoring (and supervising restorations) of hundreds of high-end repeaters by Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantine, Louis Audemarsa, etc, etc. only confirms the interchangeability. Occasionally we had two repeaters of the same caliber made by one of the above companies. My horological curiosity led me to attempt to see if the parts from one fit the other. More often than not, after 1880, they did.

Even more surprisingly, I found two Breguet repeaters, circa 1820, having quite a number of interchangeable parts.

On lack of interchangeability before 1880, of even simple complications, you might like to see
here

"Soon I will publish a post on marine chronometers, of a very important watch, a Ferdinand Berthoud
longitude chronometer from 1775, which I am finishing restoring."
We will be anxiously waiting.
 

dshumans

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And here is a mid 18th century half quarter repeater on bell signed "Paul Lenh, Friedburg" which also has a surprise piece. I have seen use of a surprise piece documented as early as 1720.
IMG_7557.JPG
 

gmorse

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Hi Philip,

...but could not find anything referring to the existence of the surprise pieces in the 18th century. Could you please post examples of this existence here directly?
These pictures are of the cannon pinion from an English quarter repeater made around 1740:

DSCF4102.JPG DSCF4103.JPG

These are from a very similar repeater made some 40 years later:

DSCF3454.JPG DSCF3455.JPG

In a series of three AH articles entitled 'A History of Repeating Watches', beginning in September 1965, Francis Wadsworth described a quarter repeater made by Daniel Quare in the late 1680s in response to the one submitted to the King by Tompion and Barlow, with a surprise piece on the cannon pinion.

Regards,

Graham
 

Philip Poniz

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Graham,
We are talking about minute repeaters!

More preciously, El Cronometrista gave us an example, what he considers the most important improvement of a minute repeater - the isolateur. In a minute repeater, as you know, there is a jump lever (sautoir des minutes) advancing at quarters the minute surprise cam, which, sometimes is, and sometimes is not, isolated from the minute cam.

This surprise jump spring, as far as we know, was an 1840 invention. Its isolateur is of the 1870s, claimed by Louis-Elisee Piguet as well as Ami Lecoultre. This feud will be the subject of one of my next Fact or Fiction articles.
 

gmorse

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Hi Philip,

Ah, should have read the thread more thoroughly!

A quick look at Richard Watkins' 'The Repeater' chapter 3 has clarified this for me.

Regards,

Graham
 

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