English club foot escape wheels

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by jagrieff, Jun 4, 2020.

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  1. jagrieff

    jagrieff Registered User

    Jun 4, 2020
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    This is my first post to this forum. Recently I picked up a 3/4 plate Joseph Johnson movement that has a unique style of escape wheel for an English watch. I have been purchasing English fusee watches and movements for many years and have never seen one that did not have the standard ratchet tooth escape wheel. Has this movement been modified or is this a style of escape wheel that was used in English movements? I would appreciate any information on this escape wheel.

    IMG_4129.jpeg IMG_9274.jpeg
     
    zacandy and pmwas like this.
  2. Andrew Wilde

    Andrew Wilde Registered User
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    Feb 18, 2020
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    Hi - that's a club foot escape wheel, typically found in Swiss lever watches where the balance, lever and escape wheel are in a straight line, rather than the L shape arrangement of the English Lever. I've not seen one in an English lever watch either, but there are more experienced members here who may have.
    I also wonder if the balance wheel looks right - seems overly plain to me, but with the same caveat re more experienced opinions....Andy
     
  3. jagrieff

    jagrieff Registered User

    Jun 4, 2020
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    Andy,
    Thanks for your response. The balance of this watch is fairly typical of early English fusee movements. In fact everything about this movement looks typically English except for the escape wheel.The teeth are shaped differently from typical Swiss wheels as well. It is a real mystery! Joseph Johnson often uses interesting escapements (usually Massey levers) which is why I was purchased this movement in the first place. Hopefully someone will have an answer to this puzzle. Thanks again for your comments.
    Jeff
     
  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff, and welcome to the forum,

    This type of divided lift escape wheel is quite unusual in English work, but not unknown. English makers, (and their customers), were very conservative, something also suggested in this movement by the plain balance which continued in use for many years after the advantages of the compensated balance were well established. This 3/4 plate layout began to appear in the 1820s in small numbers, offering the possibility of a slimmer movement, and many having sprung caps fitted to the partial top plate; does yours have one?

    Oliver Mundy, (Lychnobius on this board), maintains a very useful document on the Johnson family which is available here on his website.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  5. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Sep 22, 2015
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    Welcome Jeff.

    You have certainly acquired an uncommon lever movement jewelled to the third with a capped balance.

    The earliest examples of tangential levers, with a club tooth escape, I have recorded are London finished from the 1850's; the majority single rollers and one Savage 2-pin. Apart from the latter they have compensated balances, the Savage balance is gold and similar to yours, but not quite as heavy. The tolerance between the balance and the edge of the plate appears in the photograph to be very tight. The square end of your lever, taken with its apparently relatively short length, I believe is more typical of levers earlier than the examples I have previously recorded, so I would not be surprised if your movement was from the 1830's. If so, it is the earliest example of an English lever with a club foot escape that I have seen. Others may have knowledge of earlier examples. From the photographs, I can see no evidence, from which I would infer that it has been subject to modification.

    There appears to be a sprung clip on the edge of the movement at 7 o'clock visible in your first photograph, which would retain a partial cap in the closed position, as mentioned by Graham. If you do have it, I would be interested to learn whether it has a maker's mark on the underside and see a photograph, if possible.

    Personally, although I believe the 'Jos Johnson, Liverpool' signature is genuine, I am open to the possibility that much of the work on the movement was not done in Lancashire.

    John
     
  6. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

    Aug 5, 2015
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    #6 Lychnobius, Jun 5, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
    [Deleted: accidental duplicate of next posting]
     
  7. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    I am sorry to have to disagree with Allan, but the fact is that there is nothing improbable in the idea of a Joseph Johnson watch numbered 13809; this company's serials run into the 40000s before they begin to behave oddly. There is actually a No. 13713, almost next door to this, which (most unusually) has an original English case and can therefore be dated; the hallmarks are for Chester 1835. Like John Matthews I believe that 13809 is genuine, and I can see nothing in it which is not consistent with the date just given. The calibre is out of the ordinary and the escapement even more so; in fact, among the 273 Johnsons I have catalogued so far I do not know of any equal to this one in technical interest. I am very glad to have learned of it.

    My database is at Pocket Watches but my next task after posting this message will be to update it.

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  8. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Feb 9, 2013
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    Sorry, Oliver, I was indicating the real Joseph Johnson, the one who died in 1827, and who´s wife ran the business till 1843, then sold it to people who made the one above and using his good name.

    Allan.
     
  9. jagrieff

    jagrieff Registered User

    Jun 4, 2020
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    Thank you for so much great information. This movement does have a sprung dust cap but is not stamped with any markings. There is a number scratched on the dial plate and "H. D" stamped on the dial side of the movement. I have a number of Joseph Johnson movements but the only one with a serial number remotely close to this one is movement with a Massey 3 escapement, gold balance and Liverpool windows (serial no. 12834).

    Thanks again for your information and discussion.

    Jeff Grieff


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  10. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    The only 'HD' I can find referenced anywhere is Henry Dyson, (mentioned in Kemp), but not with a full stop between the letters, so this may well be one of the majority of stamps that remain unassigned. John Matthews may be able to shed more light, as this is a particular interest of his.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  11. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Sep 22, 2015
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    Jeff - many thanks for the extra photographs.

    The under dial view of the pillar plate is informative. The movement/frame makers mark H.D is known to me on a number of other movements that were definitely finished in Lancashire. Unfortunately, like your movement, my examples are also uncased. Without a definite date it is impossible to narrow down possible movement makers. From the signatures on the examples I have seen, the mark was definitely being used ~1850, but I have no evidence, at the moment, to support its use earlier. It has been proposed that it may be the mark of Henry Dyson, based in Prescot, however he is not listed specifically as a movement or frame maker. He was working from ~1840 as a watch maker. The two movement makers listed with initials HD are Henry Dugnall (1851-81 in Eccleston) & Henry Doward (1851 in Widnes).

    When I have accumulated more dated examples and done further research, it may be possible to have confidence in proposing a maker who used these initials, for the moment I am only able to list the names that I have discovered. However we can be certain that the frame of your movement started life in Lancashire and this is supported by the Lancashire gauge size markings (8 0/3).

    It is also worth noting that the four marks below the bottom of the pillar in the first photograph are batch marks. Used to identify the components belonging to an individual movement, when movements were made in batches. The batches usually consisted of four movement, sometimes eight. The marks on the pillar plate would be interpreted to infer that this movement was the fourth movement in a batch of four. You should be able to find the same markings on other plates and possible the cock.

    John
     
  12. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    Could 'H.D' be a Coventry maker's mark?

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  13. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Graham

    Most of the frame/movement makers details I currently have, are of makers based in Lancashire. This reflects the regional concentration of the profession, particularly prior to the middle of the C19th, but also the region where research that has been focussed and thereby the information is more readily accessible. I have a few names of workers who were based in Coventry, but these are principally from researching initials on individual watches. In a very brief search of trade directories of Coventry prior to 1850, I did not find any entries specifically listed as frame or movement makers. Coventry trade directories in the second half of C19th, list a greater diversity of watch trades and individuals are listed who had appeared previously in Lancashire directories.

    So to (finally) answer your question. Yes, H.D could be mark of a Coventry worker, but at the moment I have not identified any possibilities.

    To return to the specific subject of the thread. I have now found a number of earlier single rollers with club foot escapes. There are a cluster of examples in the 1830's associated with Liverpool makers, notably Richard Hornby. Most of these are characterised by polished steel escapes unlike the dull brass (could it be bronze?) on Jeff's example. I found one movement, thought to be an early example, that looks as if the escape may be brass. Unfortunately, I don't own any of these Liverpool examples and I only have published photographs.

    John
     
  14. jagrieff

    jagrieff Registered User

    Jun 4, 2020
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    Thank you for so much useful information. I have never really paid attention to maker's marks on my fusee movements but I will certainly start adding that information to the details that I record on each watch. I'm pleased that I was able to add something to the Joseph Johnson database. It is very gratifying to know that interesting watches are still out there to be found with a little bit of effort.

    Jeff Grieff
     

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