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Civil War Presentation watch....Swiss Fake...need help!

robert jeansonne

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Hello everyone. I am about to acquire a civil war presentation watch from a civil war hero from 1862. I am going to post some photos and need help from the experts on any information there is out there on Swiss "Fakes" This watch comes from a prominent civil war collector in Ohio. This presentation watch was presented to a soldier who made captain, one day after the end of Fredericksburg battle. The presentation is to John Wesley Bean, 5th NHV co. I, December 16, 1862. This soldiers company was at the battle of Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor to name a few.
Here's my delima. This is obviously a swiss fake that was presented to this soldier. I know a lot of these existed throughout the CW, and were imported in as an inexpensive watch that could be purchased by soldiers, as there were many Swiss and English watches carried by them, as well as the real Waltham Ellery models. This watch appears to be legit, with the case screw indention a perfect spot on the case. My only worry about this is the serial number of 232xxx, which by Waltham standards, would put the watch in at 1866. I'm not sure there was any method or order for swiss fake watch production back then, since many swiss companies produced them. If this watch was presented to this soldier in late 1862, or early 1863, it would probably have been carried through the Gettysburg and Cold Harbor battles. This gentleman was wounded at cold harbor, June 3, 1864. I have his service records. He was promoted to captain one day after the Fredericksburg battle, on December 16, 1862. His company lost many men in that battle, and at the time of battle he was a 1st LT. I have his photos, and actually, one very cool thing, is he lived to be 100 years old and in 1933 he was the very first retired officer to make the century mark.. Congratulations were bestowed to him by Douglas McArthur on March 8, 1933, his 100th birthday.
I'm needing you experts comments on tis watch and what you think about the Swiss Fakes of the civil war era. Any help would be appreciated!
 

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richiec

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I know of no way to verify the age of this watch other than the style, definitely made to deceive with Bartlett spelled with one T and Waldham, Mass on the barrel cover. I have seen a few of these on Ebay lately. All you can rely on is the provenance provided to you by the "collector" and any paperwork you can come up with otherwise.
 

Clint Geller

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As I had mentioned to Robert privately, the watch looks credible, though I do wonder about a few things. I have seen that kind of finish on Swiss fake Walthams before, but if it was intended to simulate nickel plates, or if they actually are nickel plates, 1862 would seem somewhat early for that. Another thing I wondered about is that a fake Waltham would have been an odd choice for a presentation watch, unless that was all the presenter(s) could afford. Finally, and this just occurred to me, all four of the Civil War presentation watches I own identify the presenter(s) as well as the recipient in their inscriptions. On the other hand, the inscription on this watch is definitely old, and likely original, since there is corrosion within the engraving that matches that on the rest of the dust cover.

With a historical provenance this interesting, I can easily forgive the shortcomings of the watch as a watch.
 
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PapaLouies

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As pointed out by others, that would indicate this watch is of Swiss origin. There is a greater distance between the plate screw and the case screw. Also, the space between the steady pin and the screw of the potance is too large.

PL
 

robert jeansonne

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Thanks to all replies. The true mystery here is when Mr. Bean acquired this watch, not that it being a Swiss fake, as we all know that is true. This watch could answer a lot of questions about Swiss fakes, as it is dated. I don't think there any question this watch was presented to Captain Bean, just when!? I do agree with Mr. Geller's assessment of the presentation usually having a "presentor", but I also believe that is normally in a "formal presentation". I believe this watch was given to Captain Bean, probably by "informal presentation".

The facts are from the Battle of Fredericksburg, 5 captains were lost from the 5th NHV from December 11-Dec.15, 1862. This is unquestionably why Mr. Bean, 1st LT Bean, was promoted. 12,000 Union soldiers lost their lives on those dates. Was this watch taken from a dead soldier? Was this watch given to Mr. Bean for his promotion and inscribed later at Falmouth (Union camp 2 miles away housing over 100,000 soldiers)? Would a Captain be required to own a watch, being in charge of some 100 men? I think his superiors would have made sure of that. Let's not also forget that Fredericksburg, Va was right in the middle of Rebel country. How many foreign watches existed and carried by union soldiers in that area. Dare say 5-10 thousand, maybe? Could the quartermaster have gotten this watch for Mr. Bean, or any other officer? Possibly. The Rappahannock river was right on the banks of Falmouth, bringing in tons of supplies and necessities into camp. How many Walthams were floating around in this area in 1862? Dare say not a whole lot. Ellery's were just making there way on the market. In this area of the country? Probably not so
much.

This Swiss watch is a mystery, but unquestionably a great piece of history carried by a Captain present in virtually ALL the major battles from 1862-1864. The 5th NHV lost more men, according to research, than any regiment that served in the CW. They were at Antietam, Chancellorsville, The 7 day Battle, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor, and many smaller battles in between. Capt. Bean was wounded on June 3, 1864 at Cold Harbor. He left the military in September, 1864. Mr. Bean did rejoin the US Army again in 1867 and serve another 33 years in the Military, retiring in 1890. The first retired officer in US Civil War History to make 100. The stories he must have told. What a great American.

Question is, was this watch carried in part of these battles? I would like to think so......
Robert
 

Clint Geller

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I have a watch, an AT&Co grade Model 1857, that was presented to a major of the 12th Indiana Cavalry by his colonel at the time of the major's promotion. So perhaps gifts of watches on such occasions were reasonably common. So I agree that it is very possible that the Captain's commanding officer may have given Bean the watch when he was promoted. And perhaps, if the superior officer had been an especially parsimonious, or penurious son of New Hampshire, he might have chosen a fake Waltham for the purpose. :) I have found no evidence of any requirement for a Union captain to carry a watch, but of course, many captains did.

When you get the watch, Robert, I would be very interested to learn more about the composition of the plates, if you could enlighten us on that point.
 
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topspin

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I propose: The case is genuine but the movement may have been swapped at some point.

If the watch was presented in Dec 1862 then it must have been manufactured and shipped somewhat earlier than that, and designed on some date that's earlier still. So we're back to a date where Waltham's total production to-date across all models was, er, pretty low. I wonder whether anyone in Switzerland would have realised that Waltham even existed yet, let alone got hold of an actual 1857 to copy from and seen Waltham as a serious competitor worth the bother of doing battle with?
 

Clint Geller

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I propose: The case is genuine but the movement may have been swapped at some point.

If the watch was presented in Dec 1862 then it must have been manufactured and shipped somewhat earlier than that, and designed on some date that's earlier still. So we're back to a date where Waltham's total production to-date across all models was, er, pretty low. I wonder whether anyone in Switzerland would have realised that Waltham even existed yet, let alone got hold of an actual 1857 to copy from and seen Waltham as a serious competitor worth the bother of doing battle with?
I doubt that the movement has been switched. Waltham was advertising heavily to soldiers right from very near the beginning of the Civil War. Between April, 1861 and December 1862, the size of the federal army had grown from 16,000 men to over 600,000 men. So Swiss exporters would have become alive very quickly to both the opportunity presented by the war and the challenge posed by Waltham. It is entirely plausible that a Swiss fake could have appeared that early. And the case is exactly the kind one would expect to find a Swiss fake Waltham movement in. Judging from the corrosion on it, I am guessing that the exterior parts are a low purity of silver (if they are solid silver at all), perhaps only .800 fine, and the dust cover is likely silver plated brass. I haven't checked, but it isn't clear that either the case screw or the locating pin of that fake Waltham movement would align exactly with those on an authentic contemporary Model 1857 movement, either. If not, those inadvertent differences would have complicated a hypothetical case switch considerably.
 
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robert jeansonne

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I am quite certain this is not a married piece. 99.9% sure. Take a look at this case. I have seen other Swiss fakes just like the construction of this case. On Swiss watch cases the release catch for the top cover is always under the neck of the case, nor above like all American watch cases of that era. Also, Swiss and English liked to strengthen the bow with a pin. This is a classic Swiss case. This watch movement/case was more than likely an import as a complete watch. One has to remember that usually a person would pick his movement and case separately, at a jeweler's store, and have the jeweler put them together. That was the customary process from what I have read.

I have downloaded the 5th NHV book I found online written and published in 1891. There are several entries in this book, along with a photo of Captain Bean on p. 33. I have thoroughly read this book and this is what I have concluded:

At Fredericksburg, Captain Bean was wounded on December 13, 1862. At roll call on December 16,
1862 , there were only 70 soldiers left in the Regiment. 5 captains and two majors were lost at this battle by the 5th NHV. Obviously, Mr. Bean was one of the "next men up". This watch was the date of December 16, 1862, the correct day in history he was promoted. I would have to assume if he did not have a watch, he would have informed his C.O. at his time of being promoted. Maybe his was possible broken at the battle, who knows. I do not think this was presented to him on that exact day in time, but probably shortly after. This I do know...there was down time from December 16 to June 1863 at Falmouth, Va, which by the way, was the Union Army of the Potomac headquarters at that time. In this book it talks about relics given to people, withan example of Colonel Cross being given a gold watch presented to him by the Regiment, with inscription, May 1, 1863. So, it can be established, at Falmouth, there was someone there that did inscription. Possibly a jeweler. Remember, this was a huge camp, housing over 150,000 soldiers at one time. Reading this book, I was a little shocked what was actually available to them.

I have given this much thought, and I think it is very plausible that imported watches were brought into this camp. Hundreds of them. This is the very place a watch like this would have turned up. There were probably 3-4 hundred commissioned officers there at any given time. I makes no sense for this watch to be presented to Mr. Bean some years after by a friend, a family member, with that type of inscription with that exact date. It makes no sense. Someone, who knew Mr Bean's military records presented him this watch. The only people who would have known this would be the Military, and of course, Mr. Bean himself. My personal opinion was this watch was given to him in late 1862, possibly at Christmas, possibly at his first pay in 1863, or sometime other in early 1863. Sometime near the December 16, 1862 date is all that makes sense.

As far as the serial number on this watch being 6 digits, that is a mystery. There was no rhyme or reason for this and I don't believe it has anything to do with serial numbers at that time for Walthams. The Swiss were probably making these for customers in Switzerland, as well as imports coming to America. I don't think they had any idea the numbers the may have predicted being made in America by Waltham. My educated guess is that they knew there would be a LOT of soldiers needing watches, and they were wanting to invade the market, predicting thousand upon thousands of these being sold. The Swiss produced more watches at that time than anyone in the world. Most watches carried during the civil war were foreign. It also makes sense for a Bartlett "copy" to be available in volumes for the American market at that time. The movement also has the 4mm third wheel jewel setting, available on Bartlett's until about May, 1865. This watch has the same. I will examine the escapement wheel teeth for another observation when I get this watch. The Bartlett had a design change in that wheel around July of 1863. If it is a pre 1863 design on the escapement wheel toe, that could be another clue to the watch time period. (Provided the Swiss were interested cloning the gears and inside structure of the American watches).

I am posting a few photos of Mr. Captain bean and will get back with all when I get the watch in later this week.
Robert
 

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robert jeansonne

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Watch came in yesterday, all is well. Very nice watch. A lot of information was included with it, including inquiries about the "Swiss Fake", with the NAWCC. The previous owner had been sent a bulletin from 1979 written by NAWCC member B.J. Jackson. According to his article, apparently his research revealed these first showed up during the Civil War. The earliest ones had a silvery looking gilding,according to his article, which this one does. This watch keeps better time than my other CW Walthams and Howards, that have been serviced. Kept time within 20 seconds on a winding. Despite what has been said about these, it's not a bad watch. This watch has original case, screw matches up perfectly. Plates do not appear to be nickel. Historical "swiss fake".

Interesting, reading the eulogy for Captain Bean, he was given a purple heart on his 100th birthday, He was in 19 battles, wounded severely 3 times, including Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor. He was a Captain at Fort Randall in 1882, where Sitting bull was a prisoner. He was congratulated on his 100th birthday by Herbert Hoover, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Douglas McArthur. It also said Captain bean was one of the oldest living to have shaken hands with Abraham Lincoln. (Lincoln often visited camp Falmouth in 1862 and 1863.
 

Clint Geller

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Watch came in yesterday, all is well. Very nice watch. A lot of information was included with it, including inquiries about the "Swiss Fake", with the NAWCC. The previous owner had been sent a bulletin from 1979 written by NAWCC member B.J. Jackson. According to his article, apparently his research revealed these first showed up during the Civil War. The earliest ones had a silvery looking gilding,according to his article, which this one does. This watch keeps better time than my other CW Walthams and Howards, that have been serviced. Kept time within 20 seconds on a winding. Despite what has been said about these, it's not a bad watch. This watch has original case, screw matches up perfectly. Plates do not appear to be nickel. Historical "swiss fake".

Interesting, reading the eulogy for Captain Bean, he was given a purple heart on his 100th birthday, He was in 19 battles, wounded severely 3 times, including Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor. He was a Captain at Fort Randall in 1882, where Sitting bull was a prisoner. He was congratulated on his 100th birthday by Herbert Hoover, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Douglas McArthur. It also said Captain bean was one of the oldest living to have shaken hands with Abraham Lincoln. (Lincoln often visited camp Falmouth in 1862 and 1863.
Congratulations on a very nice watch, Robert. The finish on these Swiss fakes varies greatly. You got one of the better ones. Incidentally, Waltham also put fake compensated balances in some of their watches. Are the jewel settings real, or simulated? I couldn't tell for sure from the pictures. Also, can you tell whether the dust cover is solid silver?
 

robert jeansonne

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Removed the movement from the case yesterday. Found an interesting feature on the watch which could confirm the watch was indeed made in 1862 or before and presented to Captain Bean in Dec. 1862.
The escapement wheel is a three spoke toe end escapement that Waltham used in it's model 57 production Bartletts until about S/N 40,000, which would be late 1860, early 1861. Assuming the Swiss were trying to replicate the 57 model from an original they had to work with from that time period, the 3 spoke toe end was used in the 57 model from early 1860 to early 1861. The 4 spoke toe end was introduced around S/N 40,500. This can be confirmed on pages 49 and 55 in the "Origin of the Waltahm model 1857". I would think it would take 6 months to a year before it left the production line and made it here to the states available for purchase.

Since the 5th NH was one of the early regiments that was at Fredericksburg beginning on December 11, 1862, and history tells us Fredericksburg was heavily looted on the first and second days it was occupied by the Union, this watch could have been taken from the town as part of "to the victor goes the spoils", or at least what the Union thought was a victory early on. History also tells us that on December 13 thru 15th, the Union casualties mounted at over 500 per hour, with a decisive victory by Robert E Lee and a humiliating loss by General Burnside, forcing the Union back to Falmouth on December 16, 1862, which incidentally was the day of promotion for Captain Bean and inscribed in the watch. Bean was severely wounded on December 13, and was confined to a hospital until late January, 1863. His commission began Feburary 1, 1863 as a Captain. His promotion was recognized on December 16 due to the loss of 5 captains by his regiment.

I think it can now be established that this Swiss Fake had the characteristics of an "early" P.S. Bartlett, and very well could have existed at the time of the inscribed presentation. I think it can also be established that the civil war played a part in these P.S. Bartlett "fakes", as possibly an alternative to the cheaper William Ellery models that were popular with the civil war soldiers.

Robert
 
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Keith R...

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I'm trying to recall what American made watch during the ACW had nickel plates. My experience is
limited to E Howard key winds and model 57's, of which they are gilt. Did the American Watch Co.
have any model 57 nickel plates in this period?

Keith
 

robert jeansonne

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I'm not for sure if any American watches during the civil war had nickel plates. I can assure you, my watch is gilted.....not of the American quality or color we are accustomed to, but under a loop you can definitely see the gilt process. In the photos, it comes out looking something like nickel, but this gilt has a very rich "gold" tone, almost a silver look without looking from a loop.
 

Keith R...

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Thanks Robert, I had to open the photo up and look closely. I stand corrected. Keith
 

Keith R...

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Robert, I can't tell from your photo, but is the balance wheel a split compensated or
a solid compensated wheel?

Split compensated wheel would be, an expansion balance wheel.

Keith
 

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