English Grande Complications?

Incroyable

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Hi,

Does anyone have any examples of English grande complications to share?

They seem to be few and far between relatively speaking compared to the Swiss examples.

There was a highly complicated Dent that sold a while back at Sotheby's though the movement seems to have been Swiss. Was this because by 1904 the heyday of the English watch had already passed?

 

Tom McIntyre

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My impression is that one would need documentation on the maker details to assert a complication of almost any kind was made in England.

Nicole Capt and later Nicole Nielsen had continuing strong connections to the Swiss makers, even work done in the UK most likely imported the essential components from Switzerland. Even more examples have English ebauches and English names with documentation that the pieces were sent to Switzerland for the complication work.

I believe that tonywatch has done quite a bit of study in this area, but I have not seen the publication of that work. The general picture is found in this discussion https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/on-the-matter-of-nicole-nielsen-e-j-dent-and-charles-frodsham.93773/ The discussion is about the Nicole & Capt sequence of companies but, I think, it informs the general area of the question.
 

gmorse

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Hi Tom,
My impression is that one would need documentation on the maker details to assert a complication of almost any kind was made in England.
I think this is most likely, at least for the latter half of the 19th century.

Regards,

Graham
 

Incroyable

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My impression is that one would need documentation on the maker details to assert a complication of almost any kind was made in England.

Nicole Capt and later Nicole Nielsen had continuing strong connections to the Swiss makers, even work done in the UK most likely imported the essential components from Switzerland. Even more examples have English ebauches and English names with documentation that the pieces were sent to Switzerland for the complication work.

I believe that tonywatch has done quite a bit of study in this area, but I have not seen the publication of that work. The general picture is found in this discussion https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/on-the-matter-of-nicole-nielsen-e-j-dent-and-charles-frodsham.93773/ The discussion is about the Nicole & Capt sequence of companies but, I think, it informs the general area of the question.
Interesting.

Was it that the English weren't capable of manufacturing these complications?

Did the English watchmakers really only specialize in chronometer work?
 

DaveyG

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You could check out J Player & Son of Coventry (Master Watchmaker), founded in 1858. There is an article 'here' and another example is shown in 'Moments in Time' published by The Coventry Watch Museum Project. This example, made about 1906, includes - minute repeating, carillion quarters, split chronograph with minute recorder, perpetual calendar, age and aspect of the moon, equation of time, alarm set to the minute, bimetallic thermometer, wind indicator. This watch sold in the USA in July 1993 for around £395,000.

I have seen neither of these movements so am unable to offer an opinion as to where they were made. I know that is is accepted that complications on English signed watches were generally made in Switzerland, not an opinion that I share unreservedly. I have a half quarter repeater signed by McCabe, dated 1878 and, having dismantled and reassembled that I am content in the view that the movement was English made but, in all probability the repeat works were Swiss. The only indication of Swiss work was the Swiss cross stamped on the gong block..

David Glasgow in his 'Watch and Clock Making' (my copy published 1891) says "Although the repeating works was an English invention, and motion work by Stogden was a farther improvement of it, the making of the repeating motion or striking parts , of watches has been entirely abandoned in this country; the branch is a long one, the work is done entirely by hand and is not very remunerative, and there is not sufficient number of repeaters made to employ many hands, so the Swiss have it all to themselves and the English are obliged of necessity to obtain this part of the watch from Switzerland, though the best repeaters are made up here"
 

Tom McIntyre

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I think they were capable but it was not economical. The Swiss made a real effort to develop the complications area and could make the needed parts for anyone who needed them for less than they could do the work for themselves. For Nicole Nielsen, it was probably a close call.

It was the same in Switzerland among the watchmakers and complication makers. If you mainly made standard watches, you likely bought your complications.
 

John Matthews

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Following on from Dave's post two pages from HJ April 1909 and see the LA Times article here.

The English Watch p. 383 ... 1825-1970 The Sixth period

The London trade, (indeed the entire English trade) became steadily more reliant on Swiss suppliers for repeating, calendar and chronograph mechanisms. It is probable that some of these were imported and finished locally, but it is certainly the case that on occasions English ébauches were sent to Switzerland for the complications to be fitted - the Usher & Cole archive demonstrates this. In other cases although finished in England with English quality gilding, and ratchet-tooth lever escapements, the entire ébauche is of Swiss origin. There is a further group where, although the case is English and there is a ratchet tooth escapement with full English signature, the escapement is tightly packed into a three-quarter plate. And the gilding is often mean and weak. These are probably completely Swiss.

John
 

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Incroyable

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Following on from Dave's post two pages from HJ April 1909 and see the LA Times article here.

The English Watch p. 383 ... 1825-1970 The Sixth period

The London trade, (indeed the entire English trade) became steadily more reliant on Swiss suppliers for repeating, calendar and chronograph mechanisms. It is probable that some of these were imported and finished locally, but it is certainly the case that on occasions English ébauches were sent to Switzerland for the complications to be fitted - the Usher & Cole archive demonstrates this. In other cases although finished in England with English quality gilding, and ratchet-tooth lever escapements, the entire ébauche is of Swiss origin. There is a further group where, although the case is English and there is a ratchet tooth escapement with full English signature, the escapement is tightly packed into a three-quarter plate. And the gilding is often mean and weak. These are probably completely Swiss.

John

I was also under the impression the French made repeating works at least until the mid 19th century?
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Bernhard, I have no way of knowing whether any part of the lovely McCabe is Swiss. Just because it looks like an English watch is no guarantee that any part of it is English. Compare these two free-sprung 18k minute repeaters in my collection.

Unsigned
IMG_4832.JPG

James Hoddell

DSC09878.JPG

They both look quite similar. The Hoddell, which has a spring detent escapement and helical spring, is undoubtedly English or at least mainly English. The unsigned lever escapement minute repeater looks English but almost certainly is entirely Swiss. Its case even has stampings that at first blush look like English hallmarks.
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi Ethan,

If you had let me guess, I would have clearly chosen the watch in the lower picture as genuine English. The one in the upper picture looks "wrong" to me as an English make. If I would have to point to details, I would probably say that the Swiss one has edges at the upper plate, which are to strong angled. And the plate design at the upper pivot of the fourth wheel imho also looks "Unenglish".

Best, Bernhard
 
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Tom McIntyre

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Swiss gilt plates are often much lighter. I think one must have a native dislike for the Swiss to use the term "mean and weak" which seems pejorative. I suspect that some Swiss makers preferred the lighter color.

I have seen a number of watches from Buren that were made to look like English watches and are indistinguishable in appearance to me.

DaveyG reference to the J. P. Morgan watch made by Player may describe a true English complicated watch.

I like this discussion and I do not think the Swiss content in these English watches makes them any less English. Where did the English get the tin and copper to make their brass? Was the gold used in the gilding from English mines?
 

John Matthews

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Tom

I don’t understand how you can square ‘watch made by Player may describe a true English complicated watch’ with ‘I don’t think the Swiss content in these watches makes them any less English’.

John
 

John Matthews

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I think in many cases it will be difficult to distinguish those movements that were made where

English ébauches were sent to Switzerland for the complications to be fitted
from a 'true English complicated watch' using photographs of the dial and back plate. It may be possible with a detailed knowledge of the watch finisher's manufacturing practices or, possibly as in the case of John's example, where there may be evidence that the complications were post gilding and engraving of the back plate.

1657218343750.png

Are those two screw's part of the complication? If they are, then I would say this is an example of the type described in the quote.

John
 

John Pavlik

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Thanks all, appreciate the opinions …. While the movement does appear English with possible Swiss complication added, I have not seen a slotted lever tail that banks against
a cutout in the dial plate .. Any thoughts on that ??
 
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Dr. Jon

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Not a grand just s simple free sprung minute repeater.
dial.png
mvt.png underdial.png

Base movement balance and dial are English Dial is signed by Willis. Carley & Co was signature after Clemence bought CArley firm. Clemence had factories in Switzerland and that is where the minute repeat almsot certanly was done.

Case is hall marked for 1888.

Other Swiss firms siuuch Louis Audemars were also doing complications for English. Louis Audemars firm went under in 1885.

I do not believe much complication such a repeating were done in England after about 1870.
 
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Incroyable

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So did the indigenous English repeater really end after the Georgian era in the mid 19th century?

I imagine this had to do with the advent of Swiss automation which would have made these complications much more economically feasible.
 

Dr. Jon

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It did correspond with the Swiss taking up automated machinery but complications were largely done by hand, even in Switzerland. The firms that did this work used rudimentary machines but there were lot of them and they co-operated with each other. Some areas like La Brassus specialized in complications.

The labor was a lot cheaper, but watchmakers had a lot more respect in their communities than did the English. I fyou lived in small village although you did not make much money things cost less and you were doing as well as most of your neighbors, who were also watchmakers.
 

tonywatch

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Hi,

Does anyone have any examples of English grande complications to share?

They seem to be few and far between relatively speaking compared to the Swiss examples.

There was a highly complicated Dent that sold a while back at Sotheby's though the movement seems to have been Swiss. Was this because by 1904 the heyday of the English watch had already passed?

 

John Matthews

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I have not seen a slotted lever tail that banks against a cutout in the dial plate .. Any thoughts on that ??
John

Although tuning fork levers were used much earlier in the C19th, the first example I have recorded in a cut-out in the pillar plate was where it was used with a thin resilient tail and banking pins in Cole's earliest patent design. Without the tail and pins it appears to be a feature of the best English work from ~1870. It is present in Frodsham #06057 (1879) free sprung minute repeating chronograph, Frodsham #09164 (1906) and Benson #0.8486 (1925). It was certainly used by Nicole Nielsen and is present in #4623 (1902) made for Edward & Sons, Glasgow.

Its presence in your watch, I infer is evidence that the frame and escapement is English, and the 'complications' were added late in the manufacturing process.

John
 

tonywatch

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Hi. A very inersting sets of posts.
I would luke to ad a series of coments:
Nicole & Capt Chronogrph work was their on and only their's. Two patents: AD1862 English Patent n.1461, French Patent : Brevet d' Invention n.56313, novembre 1862.
Swiss Federals patent started in 1881. The Swiss makers started copying by 1877 ( Philip Poniz NWCC bulletin) and got away with it by putting the chrono mechanism on the top plate. (claming of easier service:???::???:)
Affter looking at N&C, Nicole Nielsen for a very long time I find impossible to tell if there are Swiiss components in Frodsham, Dent + other, there may have been some kind of collaboration: impossible to say by whom's and from exactly where's.

To me if Nicole Nielsen & Co. where capable of producing toubillon they almost certenly able to make repeating work.

So it is possible to generalaze and attribute but very mesleading.

One thing is sure: CLOCKWATCHES.

The only producer of clock watches, witchever signature their bear: Was Louis-Elisee Piguet of Brassus, Vallée de Joux; see the work list (1894 – 1914) in "Louis Elisée Piguet six générations d'horlogers de la Vallée de Joux" . The watches where bought via Nicole & Capt, Le Solliat. Capt & Meylan, Le Solliat and Capt & Co. with some finishing (cases ?) done in London. The list makes very intersting reading showing some of the so called
"manufacturers" bying L.E Piguet clockwatches.

Tonywatch
 

Ethan Lipsig

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For the benefit of unsophisticates like me, would one of you Johns point out what you are referring to as a "slotted lever tail that banks against a cutout in the dial plate" or a "tuning fork lever" and explain the purpose and advantages of that a design. I think you both are referring to what's in a small rectangular cutout in the pillar plate to which one of the balance wheel arms is pointing in the movement photo in post 13.
 

Ethan Lipsig

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One thing is sure: CLOCKWATCHES.

The only producer of clock watches, witchever signature their bear: Was Louis-Elisee Piguet of Brassus, Vallée de Joux; see the work list (1894 – 1914) in "Louis Elisée Piguet six générations d'horlogers de la Vallée de Joux" . The watches where bought via Nicole & Capt, Le Solliat. Capt & Meylan, Le Solliat and Capt & Co. with some finishing (cases ?) done in London. The list makes very intersting reading showing some of the so called
"manufacturers" bying L.E Piguet clockwatches.
Tonywatch, just to be clear, do I correctly understand you to be saying that the movement in my unsigned grand and petite sonnerie trip repeater was made by Louis Elisee Piguet? There are photos of it in the second post in https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/two-special-quarter-repeaters.172274/#post-1398806.
 

Bernhard J.

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For the benefit of unsophisticates like me, would one of you Johns point out what you are referring to as a "slotted lever tail that banks against a cutout in the dial plate" or a "tuning fork lever" and explain the purpose and advantages of that a design. I think you both are referring to what's in a small rectangular cutout in the pillar plate to which one of the balance wheel arms is pointing in the movement photo in post 13.
Hi Ethan,

What is meant is this detail. The tail of the lever has a slot, making it look like a tuning fork. Each of the fork parts banks against the respective adjacent cutout wall. I do not understand the technical sense of this fork design, since at least in this example these fork parts do not look as if they could act resilient. I would suppose that the tail could just as well be solid.

tail.jpeg
 
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gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,
I do not understand the technical sense of this fork design, since at least in this example these fork parts do not look as if they could act resilient. I would suppose that the tail could just as well be solid.
I agree, while it's a feature that's found in high quality English watches, it doesn't appear to have any functional purpose, other than making the lever lighter, and certainly isn't resilient. Truly resilient lever tails, such as the single blade patented by Cole, are very thin and much less common.

Regards,

Graham
 

SKennedy

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The tuning fork lever desgn would have no function in a finished watch as far as I can tell but I do wonder if it aided adjustment of the escapement during finishing. With fixed, solid bankings, perhaps the idea of the tuning fork design was to allow each side of the lever to be individually 'tweaked' into the best position, before the lever was fully finished. I'm not sure this would have been necessary but is perhaps a secret of the 19th C escapement maker's art.
 

John Pavlik

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Thank you John, Graham, Seth, & Bernard for the detailed explanation on the tuning fork lever… I assumed it was just a weight thing, not so much as an adjustment … Seth‘s point about fine tuning the escapement makes a good point …
 
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John Matthews

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the idea of the tuning fork design was to allow each side of the lever to be individually 'tweaked' into the best position
Seth - can you please explain the positional tweaking process that you envisage?

While it clear that it was not an attempt to achieve resilient banking, I feel that the additional work needed to machine the tuning fork together its use on escapements in high quality watches implies that it was at least 'believed' to have desirable characteristics. Further, given the makers who used it, I do believe that it probably had actual purpose. I am reminded of the use of the 'counterbalance' form of rack levers and I feel that the 'tweaking' benefit was possibly to enable finer control over balancing the lever.

John
 
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Dr. Jon

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There are a few possible benefits of the
tuning fork design.

1) It reduces mass in the tail which is where it adds the most resistence to acceleration of the lever in its action
2) FIling the interior can be used to poise the lever. Until modern anaysis showed poising was counter productive poised levers were believed to aid position isochronism. If you file the out side it shifts the banking depth.
3) One can reduce banking by prying the tail a bit wider

On Nicole Neilson, they were Swiss. They had an English factory but they did the complicated stuff in Switzerland.

As far as I know the only doing Tourbillons in England was Sidney Best and he was Austrian who fled Antisemitism.
 
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Dr. Jon

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I believe the English did make tourbillons but not chronographs, perpetual calendars ,or repeaters after about 1880.
 

John Matthews

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I believe the English did make tourbillons but not chronographs, perpetual calendars ,or repeaters after about 1880.
What about J Player - this in 1909 - was it the only exception to your generalization?

1657299146642.png

I think Tony and I would say not ...

After looking at N&C, Nicole Nielsen for a very long time I find impossible to tell if there are Swiiss components in Frodsham, Dent + other, there may have been some kind of collaboration: impossible to say by whom's and from exactly where's.

To me if Nicole Nielsen & Co. where capable of producing toubillon they almost certenly able to make repeating work.
John
 

Incroyable

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Bonniksen Karrusel Movements seem to be a uniquely English complication if indeed you could call them a complication?
 

Dr. Jon

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They were English, they are a complication and they were successful.

They were English but Bonniksen was an immigrant. He made then in England, but he did not come from the English watch making community.

This thread is grand complication and to my knowledge this includes at least a perpetual calendar, repeat and split chronograph, which the English makers were not doing by the 20th century.

There are some Karrusel chronographs, but no repeaters or calendars much less Grand Complications at least to my knowledge and if there are the other functions are probably Swiss.
 
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Incroyable

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They were English, they are a complication and they were successful.

They were English but Bonniksen was an immigrant. He made then in England, but he did not come from the English watch making community.

This thread is grand complication and to my knowledge this includes at least a perpetual calendar, repeat and split chronograph, which the English makers were not doing by the 20th century.

There are some Karrusel chronographs, but no repeaters or calendars much less Grand Complications at least to my knowledge and if there are the other functions are probably Swiss.
I don't recall ever seeing an English perpetual calendar. Thomas Mudge may have invented it but it seems only the Swiss put it to any meaningful use.
 

zedric

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I don't recall ever seeing an English perpetual calendar. Thomas Mudge may have invented it but it seems only the Swiss put it to any meaningful use.
You do find perpetual calendars on English clocks from time to time, and there are some fantastically complicated English made carriage clocks for example. but watches are a different thing.
 

John Matthews

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Earlier in this thread I tried to draw Tom to justify the consistency of two of his statements ....

I don’t understand how you can square ‘watch made by Player may describe a true English complicated watch’ with ‘I don’t think the Swiss content in these watches makes them any less English’.
If Tom had said that the watch made by Player is a rare example of a complicated watch entirely made of English components and that those complicated watches that contain components that were made on the continent can nevertheless be described as English finished watches, then I would entirely agree. The English finished watches that are documented as containing Swiss elements of complication, as described in The English watch ~pp. 430-440, certainly could not be described as Swiss.

Who should we describe as the watch maker?

John
 
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DaveyG

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I don't recall ever seeing an English perpetual calendar.
I don't doubt that you haven't 'seen' it, but the Joseph Player and Son watch that I noted at #5 has a Perpetual Calendar as just one of its many complications and I would strongly suspect entirely English made. I don't have a scanner at the moment so I am not able to submit the photograph that is in the pamphlet. I have tried to take a photograph of the photograph of the dial of the watch but have, so far, been unsuccessful.

A quick internet search reveals perpetual calendar examples signed by Sir John Bennet, Smith & Son and J W Benson (Nicole Nielsen) and all very 'English' looking but where the complication parts of those were fabricated is anybody's guess.
 

Incroyable

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I don't doubt that you haven't 'seen' it, but the Joseph Player and Son watch that I noted at #5 has a Perpetual Calendar as just one of its many complications and I would strongly suspect entirely English made. I don't have a scanner at the moment so I am not able to submit the photograph that is in the pamphlet. I have tried to take a photograph of the photograph of the dial of the watch but have, so far, been unsuccessful.

A quick internet search reveals perpetual calendar examples signed by Sir John Bennet, Smith & Son and J W Benson (Nicole Nielsen) and all very 'English' looking but where the complication parts of those were fabricated is anybody's guess.
On the Christie's listing for the Sir John Bennet perpetual calendar, it states:

"Sir John Bennett (1814-1897) is one of the preeminent clock and watch makers of the late 19th Century. Born in Greenwich to a watch maker, he and his brother continued in the family business upon the early death of his father. Records show John was a watch maker by the age of 16. He is well-known both for his technique skills as well as his ability to retail his watches. He opened his own shop in 1847 in Cheapside and exhibited at the London Exhibition of 1862 and at the Paris Exhibition of 1878, where he received medals.

Sir John was also a leading lecturer on horology and was known to comment on the superior quality of Swiss watch makers and referred to the fact that English watches often contained Swiss movements. The present complicated watch is a lovely example of both the best of English and Swiss watch making."
 

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