Early Windmills one-hand (Dayton National Convention Exhibit)

Rich Newman

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This is a one-hand, Joseph Windmills watch with a turtle shell outer that was made about 10 years after the 1675 invention of the balance spring. He preceded Thomas Tompion as Master of the London Clockmakers' Company in 1702 and his son, who became his partner, also became master in 1718. Their watches often have a distinctive bird motif in the pierced and engraved balance cock like this example. It has high-quality finishing, notice the divided tulip pillars.

This watch, and many others, will be in the exhibit at the Dayton National Convention next month that features early European watches from the mid-1500s to early 1700s. Nearly all artifacts in this exhibit have never been displayed before.

Windmills (1).jpg Windmills (2).jpg
Sponsored by the British Horology Chapter #159, with support from Bonhams , Cogs & Pieces (www.cogsandpieces.com), Dr. Crott Auctioneers (www.muser-uhren.de), Jones & Horan (www.jones-horan.com), and Pieces of time (www.antique-watch.com), the exhibit will have large monitors to show high-resolution close-up photographs, walk-through tours, and a companion exhibit catalog for sale at the museum's gift store table in the mart (all proceeds go to the museum).

This is a unique opportunity to network, learn, and have fun. Also, don't miss the British Horology Lecture on making a pair case for an early Tompion watch (Saturday at 2pm).
 

novicetimekeeper

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Beautiful pillars.

Must be an optical illusion but in one pic the bottom corner of the balance cock seems to go over the top of the regulator square whereas in the other pic the square is taller than the cock.
 

gmorse

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Hi Nick,
Must be an optical illusion but in one pic the bottom corner of the balance cock seems to go over the top of the regulator square whereas in the other pic the square is taller than the cock.
The top of the regulator square has some uneven coloration on the corner nearest the streamer on the balance cock, which makes it appear to be under it when it's really next to it, as you say.

Regards,

Graham
 
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DeanT

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Hi Rich,

Thanks for posting. I'm very interested in seeing the photos of the early watches.

Cheers
Dean
 
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John Matthews

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watches often have a distinctive bird motif in the pierced and engraved balance cock
Rich - is this documented anywhere?

I have seen a small number, but your comment implies it is more frequently seen than I could infer from my observations. In addition to this example, I know of two in the '0' series with divided tulip pillars and Neale has another ~6 listed. So that's less than 10 in ~190 but his descriptions are not comprehensive. Has anyone done a detailed study that I've missed?

John
 
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Rich Newman

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Has anyone done a detailed study that I've missed?
Not that I know of. I'm relatively sure these designs came from pattern books. Quare seems to have similar so perhaps I shouldn't have used the word distinctive. But, I've seen quite a few. Here's another but about 20 years later, circa 1705. This watch isn't in the exhibit. It has regulation through the dial, serial number 2963. Also not recorded in Neale but he does record 2931 that one can see in the British Museum collection that also has regulation through the dial.
Thomas 1.jpg Windmills Movement 1.jpeg

Regards, Rich
 

John Matthews

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I have never seen two identical cocks from this period and my impression is that no single 'design theme' dominates. Even with cocks of similar design there is much variation in the detail of individual elements and the combination with subordinate motifs. My impression is that individual designs were unique, inspired by many different influences. Here is the back plate of movement 0672 which I believe illustrates the point.

20210424 014.jpg

John
 

gmorse

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Hi John,
My impression is that individual designs were unique, inspired by many different influences.
I agree, I believe that the engravers were able to draw on a wider design vocabulary than only the published pattern books, as suggested by the individuality of the designs. In your example the typically flat treatment of the balance cock contrasts with the more sculpted work on the slide plate, although they both include birds, possibly by a different hand?

Regards,

Graham
 

Allan C. Purcell

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My thoughts on these cocks, and I am talking in the main about the early cocks, though overall it applies to all watch cocks. I would have thought that those who were able to afford such a gem, would be most upset if they were to show their expensive toy to a friend or colleague, and he or she were to answer, Oh yes, just like the one I have. Something like ladies today and their dresses. Just a thought.

Allan.
 

novicetimekeeper

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I have wondered before if the initial drillings were done on a jig. The less finished backcocks just seem to be a host of interconnected drillings. Would be interesting to see if any of these lined up. Perhaps the same idea was used on the more expensive backcocks but the hand finishing goes much further.
 

gmorse

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Hi Nick,
Perhaps the same idea was used on the more expensive backcocks but the hand finishing goes much further.
The drilled holes are certainly more evident in the lower quality pieces, but looking at some top class London work from the 1770s and 80s, the designs are not symmetrical and the drillings hardly appear as such.

DSCF2857.JPG DSCF2858.JPG DSCF6973.JPG DSCF6975.JPG

Regards,

Graham
 
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jboger

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I've always assumed that a movement of this period was made by a single maker and signed by him, unlike later movements fabricated under a cottage industry that evolved during the 18th C with most movements signed by the retailer. Is that assumption correct?
 

John Matthews

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There is evidence of multiple workers being involved from the beginning of the C17th, with documented movement of watches between Lancashire and London. You can research Aspinwall (early C17th) and Richard Wright (early C18th). From Davis - The Rise & Decline of England's Watchmaking Industry, 1550-1930.

Professor Alan Smith's analysis describes details of 129 rough movements 'finished' between 1713 and 1732 and shows that Wright (like Aspinwall, a century earlier) received some watches to finish for London Makers.
I have no doubt that the number of individuals involved in the construction of the early watches was smaller than later, but I suspect that multiple craftsmen were engaged in the vast majority of watch produced from at least 1600.

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi John,
I've always assumed that a movement of this period was made by a single maker and signed by him, unlike later movements fabricated under a cottage industry that evolved during the 18th C with most movements signed by the retailer. Is that assumption correct?
As John has commented, there's enough contemporary documentary evidence to establish that your assumption isn't correct, and the methods of production by multiple specialist craftspeople were in use far earlier than the 18th century. I don't know whether there's similar evidence from other crafts such as the goldsmiths, locksmiths or gunsmiths, but I'd be surprised if those weren't following similar practices in division of labour.

Regards,

Graham
 

bruce linde

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The drilled holes are certainly more evident in the lower quality pieces, but looking at some top class London work from the 1770s and 80s, the designs are not symmetrical and the drillings hardly appear as such.

I have used this metaphor before, but I have a tennis racket and play tennis. Roger Federer has a tennis racket and plays tennis. We're kind of playing the same game, but it's all who's hitting the ball. :)



I have no doubt that the number of individuals involved in the construction of the early watches was smaller than later, but I suspect that multiple craftsmen were engaged in the vast majority of watch produced from at least 1600.
in john robey's two-volume longcase clock reference he lists dozens and dozens of people providing cast brass to clockmakers.... just one type of supplier. wouldn't the watchmaking industry have parallel this rapid growth?
 

Allan C. Purcell

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We're kind of playing the same game, but it's all who's hitting the ball. :)
Hi Bruce, I like your comment, though it lacks history. I wonder if you have read my thread on Prescot. Whenever these types of questions come up, I find they lack the history, I always try to put my mind back in time, and try to see not only what these people were doing in the watch trade, but how their environment influenced how they went about making a living. In the middle of the 18th century, there were six million people living in London, it was the largest city in the world then, it also had three million horses and no drainage, the stench alone was almost unbearable.


That of course was a daily problem, and they had many more. Food, Travel, sickness, and so on, are the things that go through my mind when I ask myself, how did they do that. In the open toilets of the day, they sat on wooden planks with a hole in them to get rid of their excrement, in front of them lay a bucket of water, in this, a small rough mop or brush to clean the rear end, when finished they put the brush back in the bucket. If time travel is ever invented or made possible, don´t go backwards.

I could go on all day about the problems in the 18th century, Light was a great hindrance to the watchmaker, plus keeping warm in winter, and the always daily problem of something to eat. No wonder, it was the rich that lived longer.

At the end of 1777. Prescot Lancashire, there is a thread to the Warwick University on the art of watchmaking that is worth reading.

Give it some thought Bruce,

Best wishes,

Allan.
 

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jboger

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Follow-up question: Tompion signed watches he made or at least had a hand in their manufacture. Is the same true for Windmill? And can we say of this period that the name engraved on the movement is less likely a retailer's and more likely a maker's?
 

John Matthews

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Having established that there is evidence that a number of craftsmen contributed to even the 'early' English watches it is necessary to define what we mean by maker, finisher, retailer etc. In the database that I use to catalogue my collection I have fields for movement maker, finisher, signature, case maker, pendant maker, cap maker and dial maker and I use the code '9999' for not present and '9997' for unknown. I do not have a field for watch maker or retailer.

For Windmills I would assign his name to the finisher and signature fields. I use the term 'finisher' to denote the 'shop/workplace' that had oversight of the preparation of the watch for sale - not necessarily the individual(s) who performed the work. It is an assumption (reasonable) on my part that Windmills retailed his watches, which can be implicit inferred from an assignment to the signature field.

John
 
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Rich Newman

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Follow-up question: Tompion signed watches he made or at least had a hand in their manufacture. Is the same true for Windmill? And can we say of this period that the name engraved on the movement is less likely a retailer's and more likely a maker's?
Almost no documentary evidence exists from this time period and no researcher would ever rely upon what little does exist to say anything for certain. Many watch components were available by specialists and that included pillars, fusee stops, steel work, etc. No maker made everything from scratch; they took advantage of economies of scale and hired/outsourced labor and parts. Some of these makers had long careers and obviously what they did during that timespan evolved. Like any craft or product, now or hundreds of years ago, there were no set rules and makers had different connections, capabilities, practices, opportunities, capital, health, etc. that no-doubt factored. The names we know had a winning combination of talent, business sense, and opportunity to do well.

But, back to your first question, its almost certain that Tompion did not make or have a hand or even touch or see every one of the thousands of watches that have his signature. He very likely made or had a hand in all his early watches, complicated movements, and those for his better clients. But his standards were high and the journeymen and outworkers that he hired had the talent to produce to the design & finish standard that he dictated. The same can likely be said for all the greats - - Windmills, Quare, Fromanteel, Gretton and many others (operating from roughly the 1680/90s to 1710/20s) but their total production was vastly less than Tompion so its therefore likely that they did have a hand in more of their signed watches. This watch is early and its almost certain that Joseph Windmills made this watch (assembled, finished and adjusted) to the same extent that Tompion would have done sitting at the bench in the early 1680's.
 

novicetimekeeper

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Robey did an article on tracing casting marks in lantern clocks. It is clear that in the 17th century clocks were already part of a dispersed manufacturing process with specialist part suppliers.
 
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jboger

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This has been quite informative. It does seem that the earlier/est watchmakers were skilled in the production of a movement, perhaps serving an apprenticeship that taught them the trade. Whether any particular individual actually materially, physically worked on a specific movement, well, that's a different question. Perhaps it's safe to say that those signed watches of Windmill's generation were signed by individuals on the manufacturing side of the equation. The other end of the spectrum, something that seems to have evolved later, were retailers who knew little or nothing about the making of a movement but nonetheless had their signatures on the plates. John B. Jones of Boston comes to mind. He was active in the 1830s. He had a fancy goods store from which he sold expensive items: silverware, jewelry, clocks, Argand lamps, and watches. Many of these items have his name on them. He was either a very diversified worker skilled in many arts or simply slapped his name on merchandise and put them in his store window, I lean toward the latter.

What I've learned from this discussion is that a broad division of labor in the production of a watch movement occurred much earlier than I thought.
 

Rich Newman

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Robey did an article on tracing casting marks in lantern clocks. It is clear that in the 17th century clocks were already part of a dispersed manufacturing process with specialist part suppliers.
Watch production followed the path of the much more mature clock making industry. Vastly more clocks were made in the 17th century than watches. Watchmaking required new skills and tooling, and were much more expensive to buy than a clock. Regarding Robey, his books are all first rate. Watch collectors can learn a lot reading his clock books. His latest work, "Gothic Clocks to Lantern Clocks" is well worth the price.
 

DeanT

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Wholesale production of parts is evident from mid 16thC for clocks. For example, cast parts were produced by wholesale manufacture in the major centres such as Augsburg. Generally, it is possible to pick the location of the production by the castings used in the case.

Regarding evidence of the use of multiple craftsmen - To gain entry into the clocks makers guild in Augsburg a journeyman had to submit a masterpiece clock with a strict set of requirements that were defined in 1558 and amended in 1577.

These masterpiece specifications included the stipulation that the applicant was limited to collaborating with only seven specialist workers such as goldsmiths, coppersmiths and brass-founders during the allocated six month in which they had to build the clock.

It would seem a reasonable assumption that most clocks therefore had an least this number or more specialists involved in their construction.
 

DeanT

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My thoughts on these cocks, and I am talking in the main about the early cocks, though overall it applies to all watch cocks. I would have thought that those who were able to afford such a gem, would be most upset if they were to show their expensive toy to a friend or colleague, and he or she were to answer, Oh yes, just like the one I have. Something like ladies today and their dresses. Just a thought.

Allan.
Evidence would suggest the opposite.

Many clocks of this age look the same even those not by the same maker. Here's seven different clocks (including the one in the painting) which are very similar. They date to 1590-1610. There are more variations of this type of clock, often they mixed and matched pillar types and canopy etc. The engraving is also very similar. I have pictures of more examples were the same parts have been used on different clocks as well.


1443PF1660_8YZPF_1.jpg AM1059-43-lr-1.jpg fb9152cf7fc2e8456017f72bac476163.jpg Patrizzi1.JPG Patrizzi2.JPG IMG_2790.JPG
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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I have pictures of more examples where the same parts have been used on different clocks as well.
Hi Dean,
I believe the clocks you have chosen are called Tabernacles, and yes they all have something in common. If you want a clock that looks like a church,
it would be difficult if there was no steeple. Unlike watches, they are not chosen by a single person, these clocks were for religious use and admired by many. If bought by the church the choice would have been by the local dignitary, (Bishop) and if private the whole family would want a word or two. (The rich then had a church at home) During this period these clocks could tell the time, unlike the watches of the day that were private toys for the wealthy.

Allan.
 

DeanT

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Hi Dean,
I believe the clocks you have chosen are called Tabernacles, and yes they all have something in common. If you want a clock that looks like a church,
it would be difficult if there was no steeple. Unlike watches, they are not chosen by a single person, these clocks were for religious use and admired by many. If bought by the church the choice would have been by the local dignitary, (Bishop) and if private the whole family would want a word or two. (The rich then had a church at home) During this period these clocks could tell the time, unlike the watches of the day that were private toys for the wealthy.

Allan.
Hi Alan,

These clocks weren't for religious use but were for private use as evidenced by the painting in one of the attached photos called "the knights dreams". They were also toys for the wealthy and were not confined to churches.

Not all looked like churches as the set of photos illustrates which are circa 1570's. The next three were made in Munich and have distinctive pillars likely from the same brass caster where they were rough cast before finishing.

187411648_161812015905022_8183942341227490582_n.png 187666220_807330543224102_7834915351497890983_n.png 187875917_2025499827603463_2115874819920305503_n.png
 
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rstl99

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Excellent, informative and enjoyable discussion.

I would think that the notable makers listed by Rich (Windmills, Quare, etc.), and also Tompion and East, would at least have had a final look (we would call it quality assurance/control in modern parlance) at the watches produced by the shop, before they went up for sale in the storefront with their name inscribed on them.

In the early days of their career they obviously had more of a hand in (at least) the finishing of their timepieces - after all they had learned all aspects of the trade during their long apprenticeships. But most likely left the bench-work to their trusted workers, as they increasingly focused their time and attention on the business side of their shop (dealing with all those parts and materials suppliers, for one), and in some cases, working on new designs and mechanical aspects.

But who knows, some of them may have liked to spend a bit of time at the bench from time to time, to keep their hand in, demonstrate something to a newer employee or apprentice, or just enjoying working with tools from time to time (I think of Henry Ford).

Regards,
Robert
 

Rich Newman

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The early watch exhibit will have two slideshows running; one is on a loop with large, high-resolution photos and the second is user-controlled whereby one can select a watch of interest and see both photos and descriptions at their own pace. The catalog has the most detailed descriptions and over 70 photographs. 300 copies are being printed, all color, high quality paper. Inquiries have been strong and about half are already spoken for. They will be available for sale at the gift shop table for $20. All proceeds go to the museum. Anyone interested in getting one who is not attending the convention can reserve a copy by emailing the Chapter at britishhorology@gmail.com while supplies last. Cost is $20 including book-rate shipping.
 

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