Douglas Lapraik Hong Kong Fusee - Hoping to Fill in the Blanks

Mark Kauzlarich

NAWCC Member
Sep 12, 2019
64
73
18
New York, NY
www.markkauzlarich.com
Country
Region
Hello Everyone,

Venturing over from the American pocket watch section where I at least know something and wading in the deep end on a watch from my grandfather's collection which I have reacquired after his estate was sold. It holds a lot of questions and I have been able to find very few answers.

I've found a lot of information about Douglas Lapraik and I find his story fascinating. I will post that information in a replay so people can read or skip if they choose.

What I don't know is... basically anything else about these watches and I am struggling for any more information. It's a fusee with a dial marked Douglas Lapraik, China, 1468. There are other markings in the case, makers marks I assume though my grandfather had noted them as export stamps. They seem to indicate the case was made by a James Oliver of London, who operated between 1857-1889. My grandfather's notes had this watch listed as made ca. 1864. And then there's a more antiquated form of Chinese, from what I've been told, on the movement. Obviously there are condition issues with the dial and not sure if anything can or should be done to stabilize it.

Another Lapraik sold last year at auction through Auktionshaus Bossard though I don't know the sale price. A 18k yellow gold and enameled Lapraik sold in 2012 through Heritage Auctions. Otherwise, I have not seen others.

If any have any information whatsoever about this watch or can point me in any direction, I'd appreciate it. I'm not interested in value and know not to ask, but what I'm interested in is how many other examples are known, when it was made, what the writing says, etc.

Thanks for your time!

20201006_LAPRAIK_015.JPG 20201006_LAPRAIK_018.JPG 20201006_LAPRAIK_020.JPG 20201006_LAPRAIK_022.JPG
 
  • Like
Reactions: pmwas

John Matthews

NAWCC Member
Sep 22, 2015
2,949
1,356
113
France
Country
Region
Mark - welcome to the other side :)

It would be helpful to see photographs of the movement beneath the dust cover and also a photograph of the inside of the cover, which may have a maker's mark. It appears to be an English made movement that was housed in an 1864/65 London assayed case, as you have correctly identified made by James Oliver, before export to China. The engraving of both the cap and the dial may have been completed prior to export, I would that think that very likely for the dial, but will reserve judgement on the cap, the engraving on the movement may help.

John
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark Kauzlarich

Mark Kauzlarich

NAWCC Member
Sep 12, 2019
64
73
18
New York, NY
www.markkauzlarich.com
Country
Region
Hi John,

Thanks so much for the response. I apologize that I didn't give you photos of what you need to provide more information. Ignorant of fusees I didn't realize that the dust cover was removable so easily. In fact, I didn't do my research and didn't realize it was a dust cover. I just thought the screw that was showing kept it down as a part of the movement.

There's no markings inside the dust cover but I have a photo of the movement now.

When you said 1864/1865, was that because of anything on the watch that stood out or because that's the date I mentioned we had in notes here? I don't see anything marking that anywhere so just trying to learn how people landed on that. I'm guessing what you're saying is that despite the fact that Lapraik was known as an actual watchmaker and jeweler, this was a private label watch like American watches I have. That would make sense, as by 1864 he had gone from impoverished watchmaker to being a founding member of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).

Thanks again for the info.

20201025_POCKETWATCHES_176.jpg
 

gmorse

NAWCC Member
Jan 7, 2011
12,633
2,225
113
Breamore, Hampshire, UK
Country
Region
Hi Mark,

When you said 1864/1865, was that because of anything on the watch that stood out or because that's the date I mentioned we
had in notes here? I don't see anything marking that anywhere so just trying to learn how people landed on that.
English hallmarks include a date letter which identifies when it was assayed, and since the letter wasn't changed at the end of calendar years, but on a different date for each assay office, (London changed in May each year), it could refer to one of two years as John has said.

It was common practice for the name engraved on the movement to be that of the person or company that commissioned the watch to be made rather than the actual maker. English movements were made principally in the Liverpool area or Coventry, with the best finishing being done in London. Since it took as many as 40 or 50 separate specialist trades to make a watch, there wasn't a single maker.

Regards,

Graham
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark Kauzlarich

novicetimekeeper

Registered User
Jul 26, 2015
11,178
938
113
Dorset
Country
Region
Do the hands indicate it is a half hunter? I don't think we saw the front of the case. Must be somebody on here who can translate chinese.
 

Cathal

New Member
Oct 25, 2020
3
2
3
38
Country
HI Mark,
Beautiful watch.

In this photo (https://mb.nawcc.org/attachments/20201006_lapraik_022-jpg.618797/) the text is traditional Chinese. I asked a friend from Hong Kong what it says. It would appear to be a literal translation of 'Douglas Lapraik'. Thus it would appear (?) that the timepieces may have been marketed to non English speaking people also. Can't help with any other info but thought I would share this.

Cathal
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark Kauzlarich

John Matthews

NAWCC Member
Sep 22, 2015
2,949
1,356
113
France
Country
Region
Mark - Graham has answered the question for you regarding the interpretation of the London hallmark date letter "i".

I know nothing about the Chinese trade My first thought was that Lapraik ordered this watch from a London based exporter, possibly as one item in a batch, that he intended to sell on as a retailer. The exporter may have specialised in the trade with China and may have also been a watch wholesaler. It would be worth researching the activities of Lapraik, in the UK at that time, the majority of those who called themselves 'watchmakers' were only retailers and watch repairers.

The movement almost certainly a single roller (lever) with capped jewels on the escape and 4th. Probably originally 15 jewels but it looks as if the balance may have lost its cap jewel.

John

Nick - I think it is an open face watch from the first & third photographs - the second is of the back.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark Kauzlarich

Mark Kauzlarich

NAWCC Member
Sep 12, 2019
64
73
18
New York, NY
www.markkauzlarich.com
Country
Region
HI Mark,
Beautiful watch.

In this photo (https://mb.nawcc.org/attachments/20201006_lapraik_022-jpg.618797/) the text is traditional Chinese. I asked a friend from Hong Kong what it says. It would appear to be a literal translation of 'Douglas Lapraik'. Thus it would appear (?) that the timepieces may have been marketed to non English speaking people also. Can't help with any other info but thought I would share this.

Cathal
Thanks so much. This answers a large question. Reminds me of when I was introduced to a rare Zodiac diving wrist watch for the Middle East market and a friend asked me to read the Arabic on the dial. I started sounding it out because on a quick glance it didn't seem like a word I recognized. Then I just realized it said "Zodiac" and I probably needed to make that my last beer that night.

Sorry for not including a case photo. It is cased as an open-faced swing out case.

I also realized I didn't include the biographical details I promised which may fill in any blanks about how the watch came to Hong Kong.

Douglas Lapriak first arrived in Hong Kong in 1842, apparently impoverished. Born in 1818 in London, he had traveled to Macau and apprenticed as a watchmaker and chronometer maker. By 1846 he had established a watchmaking and jewelry business in Hong Kong and shortly after seemed to find himself in the shipping business, noting that ships needed chronometers and companies often needed a Hong Kong office for shipping. Shortly after, he set sail on a 477 day voyage back to London to promote understanding of China and to drum up business. The junk sail ship was reportedly visited by 8,000 visitors per day and even Queen Victoria made an appearance. By 1850 he owned his own fleet. 

Beyond that time he lived a fascinating life, was in the middle of the triggering event of the Second Opium War, founded the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, and was a founding member of the provisional committee of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in 1864. He also was a hotelier and built Douglas Castle, which is now University of Hong Kong's University Hall.

He did have a wife back in London, but had a mistress in Hong Kong and seemed to spend most time there. As for whether or not he was actually making watches, that's a big question mark and without many watches to compare to, I'm not sure if we'll find the answer, but I'm going to research as best as possible.

Thanks to everyone who has responded so far.
 

Mark Kauzlarich

NAWCC Member
Sep 12, 2019
64
73
18
New York, NY
www.markkauzlarich.com
Country
Region
Mark - Graham has answered the question for you regarding the interpretation of the London hallmark date letter "i".
The movement almost certainly a single roller (lever) with capped jewels on the escape and 4th. Probably originally 15 jewels but it looks as if the balance may have lost its cap jewel.
The jewel is still present, I just looked. I am struggling to photograph it clearly as it's not particularly vibrant.
 

gmorse

NAWCC Member
Jan 7, 2011
12,633
2,225
113
Breamore, Hampshire, UK
Country
Region
Hi Mark,

The jewel is still present, I just looked. I am struggling to photograph it clearly as it's not particularly vibrant.
Thanks, that's good news. It should be a low-grade diamond by the looks of it, (not up to gem quality, but still good enough to do its job), with fairly approximate facetting. It is difficult to get the lighting just right with these things.

Regards,

Graham
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark Kauzlarich

Mark Kauzlarich

NAWCC Member
Sep 12, 2019
64
73
18
New York, NY
www.markkauzlarich.com
Country
Region
HI Mark,
In this photo (https://mb.nawcc.org/attachments/20201006_lapraik_022-jpg.618797/) the text is traditional Chinese. I asked a friend from Hong Kong what it says. It would appear to be a literal translation of 'Douglas Lapraik'. Thus it would appear (?) that the timepieces may have been marketed to non English speaking people also. Can't help with any other info but thought I would share this.
Interestingly, soliciting information from folks via Instagram other Chinese speakers have interpreted it a few different ways. One was" "The printed name is a common name to represent that specific period." I may need to talk to a few people who read traditional Chinese. If anyone else knows others who do, it would be great to get a few other cross-checks of that information. Your explanation seems more reasonable.
 

Mark Kauzlarich

NAWCC Member
Sep 12, 2019
64
73
18
New York, NY
www.markkauzlarich.com
Country
Region
Just wanted to post a follow up with some interesting information that I gathered overnight.

Cathal, you seemed to be correct in that it is his name, but it's actually a bit more complex than that. Thanks for getting the ball rolling and some confirmation that has been able to be a waypoint through the information I've gathered. So many parts and pieces were thrown out as theories and they all were partially correct, just hard to sort through.

Lapraik did business, for his shipping at least, under three names, one was the Chinese 德忌利士公司 for "Douglas Lapraik & Company". All three companies started with the same four characters, 德忌利士 , meaning that was the easiest reference point to work off.

The next clue was that 德忌利士 is also "Douglas Street" in Hong Kong, though the second two characters do not represent "Street" but rather in its entirety it means Douglas, or a phonetic spelling of that in Chinese. 德忌利士 translated literally would be "Morality avoid, profit shi" (a load of nonsense unless your salesman motto is "Avoid morality, profit" but pronounced phonetically by character is Dé-jí-lì-shì, a close approximation to Douglas. Again, matching the street and his business name.

You'll note the dust cover reads: 德忌厘时. The first two characters are the same, but the second two differ. Those two characters 德忌 translates to "Dutch," but the understood and accepted use that comes from a phonetic spelling. Dutch and Doug, when pronounced by a native speaker, would sound very similar. Close enough.

So the last two characters are 厘时. The character 厘 is pronounced Lí and means "one hundredth". 时 means "time". Prounounced they sound very similar to 利士 or "lì-shì". It is not uncommon in China to use characters representative, in either look or meaning, to the product you're selling or do business regarding, even if these characters are otherwise literally just used phonetically.

So yes, my current informed theory is it says his name, but reads with a second implied meaning of "Douglas, One-hundredth of a second", or more concisely, "Douglas, Accurate Time."
 
Last edited:

Cathal

New Member
Oct 25, 2020
3
2
3
38
Country
Mark,
To elaborate a bit. When I showed my friend the script from the watch, she was somewhat confused initially. She said I think it says Douglas. I didn't prime her that Douglas Lapraik was the maker. But said to me that it was not written in the common way that Douglas would be.

We've just chatted a bit more about this; I showed her your updated research and she said this translation (德忌厘时) was very thoughtful. Seems to be a playful way to emphasise that there was accuracy of time while also saying Douglas (roughly).

Traditional Chinese as you may know has >9 tones, so it's possible to have an English word written in a number of ways, but there are conventions nonetheless. If you're going really deep down the rabbit hole and want to read a bit of Hong Kong's history this book is a nice overview. If I can help with HK insight LMK.

Cathal
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark Kauzlarich

Mark Kauzlarich

NAWCC Member
Sep 12, 2019
64
73
18
New York, NY
www.markkauzlarich.com
Country
Region
Mark,
To elaborate a bit. When I showed my friend the script from the watch, she was somewhat confused initially. She said I think it says Douglas. I didn't prime her that Douglas Lapraik was the maker. But said to me that it was not written in the common way that Douglas would be.

We've just chatted a bit more about this; I showed her your updated research and she said this translation (德忌厘时) was very thoughtful. Seems to be a playful way to emphasise that there was accuracy of time while also saying Douglas (roughly).

Cathal
Thanks Cathal. It seems as though we arrived at the same conclusion. I've had some other messages about it being related to a maker approved by the emperor, though I don't know if that's conjecture, research, or where that comes from. I do really appreciate you asking your friend. It was a good bit of independent verification. And I like the words "thoughtful" and "playful."

In my research I have also found mention of one other Lapraik watch in the possession of a Chinese collector in 2008 and I'm trying to now track that gentleman down if possible. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.
 

Lychnobius

Registered User
Aug 5, 2015
561
174
43
Redruth, Cornwall, UK
Country
A small point: I would reckon the jewel count as 11, assuming that the two jewels visible in the back plate are matched by others under the dial. The escape-wheel and fourth wheel seem to be jewelled whereas the lever and third wheel are not. this does not mean that it is a low-grade movement, since many British watches of the period had only the basic seven jewels: four on the balance-staff pivots (a pierced jewel and a cap at each end, the diamond endstone counting as one of the caps), plus the two pallets of the lever and the ruby impulse-pin on the 'roller' (the flat polished-steel disc on the balance-staff).

Oliver Mundy.
 

gmorse

NAWCC Member
Jan 7, 2011
12,633
2,225
113
Breamore, Hampshire, UK
Country
Region
Hi John,

I think the escape is capped but not so sure about the 4th; the setting for the latter is rather deeper.

Regards,

Graham
 

Lychnobius

Registered User
Aug 5, 2015
561
174
43
Redruth, Cornwall, UK
Country
Oliver I thought the escape and 4th are capped - hence 15, but I might be mistaken

View attachment 619214

John
I now see what you mean, John. I took the double reflection visible on the fourth-wheel jewel as an indication that this had a recess at its centre and thus was not capped, and I also assumed that the escape-wheel jewel (partly hidden by the balance rim) was of the same nature; but I in turn may be wrong on both counts.

Oliver Mundy.

P.S. The whole appearance of the back plate – lettering styles, cock decoration etc. – reminds me strongly of a small John Wycherley movement which I have.
 

Forum statistics

Threads
167,114
Messages
1,456,268
Members
87,316
Latest member
goodgoff
Encyclopedia Pages
1,057
Total wiki contributions
2,914
Last edit
E. Howard & Co. by Clint Geller