English lever bottom plates

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by Steve Barnes, May 21, 2020.

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  1. Steve Barnes

    Steve Barnes Registered User

    Apr 16, 2019
    41
    12
    8
    Male
    Roanne, France
    Country Flag:
    I have some very basic questions about the bottom plates of English lever movements. It may be that I am not using the correct terms in doing searches but I've not yet found any answers here or elsewhere.

    I have an H. Samuel case and two H. Samuel, of Manchester, movements (A and B in pic attached) that I am trying to match with the case.

    I am calling A 'flat plate' and B 'raised rim plate', for want of proper terms, if they exist.

    Would it be fair to say that such movements came in one style or the other?

    My thoughts so far:

    A does not have a hinge and fits directly in the case. It could therefore be an 'ébauche' that H. Samuel has finished off and needs either a 'dial plate' with a hinge, or a hinge attached to the flat plate opposite the 'catch' at 6 o'clock. Marks on this bottom plate, a flat spot on the edge at 12 o'clock, and the larger diameter of the 'dial feet holes' suggest that a plate holding the dial was previously attached.

    B fits the case perfectly with the bottom plate sitting on the 'lip' of the case and the rest of the movement inside, as I would expect. However, this 'raised rim' plate is not a separate plate; it is the whole bottom plate. In side view, there is a step down before the dust cover starts. To determine a movement's 'size', the diameter of the bottom place is said to be the key measurement. But with this movement, it would seem the correct measure would be the diameter of the 'step down'. Would that be right?

    I have some questions also on 'dial plates', 'false dial plates', or possibly 'dial false plates', and another on an English lever movement that is mysteriously large. But, meanwhile, the bottom plate questions may well provide some answers to these others.

    Regards

    SteveB


    bottom_plates.jpg
     
  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 7, 2011
    11,285
    1,583
    113
    Male
    Retired from Xerox
    Breamore, Hampshire, UK
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Hi Steve,

    Plate 'A' is designed to take a 'brass edge', (the subsidiary plate which carries the dial); it provides the space for the motion work and an attachment for the case joint, the faint shadow of which is visible. Sometimes the brass edge is slightly larger than the pillar plate which you've pictured, and those chamfered holes are indeed for the feet of that plate. The catch at 6 o'clock is the case bolt, which in later watches like your examples has a separate spring, but in earlier 18th century work was integral with the spring and was mounted between the plates.

    Plate 'B' is known as a 'hollow back', a later design which dispensed with the brass edge altogether, providing the necessary space for the under-dial work by being recessed. Apart from this difference, its later date is suggested by the presence of keyless work. This design was cheaper to make.

    The movement size, which the case maker had to accommodate, was taken from the pillar plate or the brass edge, whichever was the greater. Where you find a brass edge which is significantly wider than the pillar plate, this can indicate that the movement has been re-cased into a larger case, sometimes due to a replacement dial, which in turn necessitated the replacement of the case. Many good movements from the later 18th century, (and a few from earlier than that), were re-dialled and re-cased in the early years of the 19th century when larger watches became more fashionable.

    The top plate must be smaller than the pillar plate in order to allow the movement to swing out of the case, this was known as the 'fall'.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
    Robert Stroud and Keith R... like this.
  3. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 7, 2011
    11,285
    1,583
    113
    Male
    Retired from Xerox
    Breamore, Hampshire, UK
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Hi Steve,

    Looking again at movement 'B', I'm not so sure that is keyless work, but my comment about it being later still holds. Some more pictures of these two movements would be useful.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  4. Steve Barnes

    Steve Barnes Registered User

    Apr 16, 2019
    41
    12
    8
    Male
    Roanne, France
    Country Flag:
    First, apologies. I have several English lever movements that I'm juggling with and as I wrote my post I was so intent on describing the 'flat plate' one accurately that I confused it with the 'mysteriously large' one that I have, which I'll come to in a moment. I know there's an added plate to A as it's sitting on my desk! Which is why I wanted to discuss the subject of false dial plates (if that's what mine is called).

    Graham, that is great. Thank you. Now that I know what they are called, my searches should be a bit more successful.

    And now that I know about 'brass edges', a further question about names. I have read about plates that are added to rotate a dial, say, in converting a hunter movement to an open face. Names I've come across are 'false dial plates' or 'dial false plates'. Is there a difference?

    Is it fair to say that all such 'subsidiary plates', whether added because the bottom (pillar) plate is 'flat' and requires one or for placing a movement in a larger case, are simply different kinds of 'brass edges'? And the terms 'false dial plates' etc are misnomers.

    Turning to my brass edge for movement A and the other 'flat plate' one I have, see new pics. A2 shows the brass edge, but its diameter (c47.8mm, dial 46.7mm) is so big that it's not close to fitting the case.

    (A brief aside. The H. Samuel case is dated 1888, at the time when Harriet Samuel, 'Watchmaker & jeweller', was registered at 97 Market Street, Manchester. The dial for A has this address. I bought the advertising key separately as it also has this address on it. I have an early sentimental attachment to Manchester.)

    So my plan to match the 97 Market Street dial with the case has gone out the window, unless I can find a right-sized brass edge and a correct dial.

    All of which prompts the question of what to do if you acquire a 'flat plate' movement without its 'brass edge'. Would they have been made individually for each movement? What to do when there isn't one? Maybe the answer for me is only buy 'hollow back' movements from now on.

    After your explanation, Graham, I'd guess that movement C (H. Willman, of London), which doesn't fit the case either, would have been intended all along for a larger case, as the bottom plate itself is too big.

    I thought movement C was perhaps a 19s, so I searched for bigger cases. I have never been able to find a case bigger than 18s. So that seems to rule out matching movement A to its own case any time soon.

    Sorry for length of this post, but I wanted to cover all bases, so to speak.

    Just read your second post, Graham. All movements are key wind. Do you want more pics of B, without dust cover?

    Regards


    a2.jpg mvnt_C.jpg
     
  5. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 7, 2011
    11,285
    1,583
    113
    Male
    Retired from Xerox
    Breamore, Hampshire, UK
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Hi Steve,

    Rotating a dial is possible if there's no seconds hand, and with a key-wind movement you don't have to worry about the pendant position, but if it's keyless with a seconds hand, the whole layout is different. The term 'false plate' is one I associate more with white dial longcase clocks than watches.

    The brass edge was made to fit the individual movement, as was the dial and the case, and as you can see, the centre was cut out to fit the under dial work. In English watches there are usually three posts on the edge and three on the dial. It is possible to move the posts on a different brass edge to fit another movement, which probably also involves drilling new holes for the dial feet. Obviously the diameter has to match in the first place, and there are plenty of semi-wrecked movements out there to play with.

    Movement sizes on the Lancashire gauge system used what appears now to be an odd way of measuring. 'Dial plate', 'front plate' and 'pillar plate' are interchangeable, as are 'top plate', 'back plate' and 'potence plate', (an older description).

    The Lancashire Watch Gauge starts at 0 Size which has a top plate 1" in diameter, there is a difference of +5/30" between the top plate and the dial plate, then 1/30" is added to that figure for each number of the size to find the diameter of the dial plate; so a 19 size should be 1" + 5/30" + 19/30" (1.8" or 45.72mm).

    Standard pillar height was 1/8" and that would have been indicated as 0/0. The height changes were in 1/144". So for instance 0/2 is 1/8" minus 2/144". Were it 2/0 then it would be 1/8" plus 2/144".

    This gauge wasn't the only one in use, (it was the basis of the American system of movement sizes), and the main purpose was to tell the case maker what size movement had to be accommodated. Standardisation in the English watch trade came late and only ever partially.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  6. Steve Barnes

    Steve Barnes Registered User

    Apr 16, 2019
    41
    12
    8
    Male
    Roanne, France
    Country Flag:
    Yes, indeed, 19s Lancashire gauge. Sorry, confusion again at my end. I had 18s in mind as I have been researching a lot for an English Waltham case I have. It's stamped AB (Alfred Bedford), the manager of the London office of Waltham Watch Co, Holborn Circus. I now have several Waltham movements that I'm looking at fitting, though as you know they have case screws to attach them.

    But as the US Pocket Watch Database says: 'Note: American 18s movements measure 1.800" due to the Increased 6/30" drop.'

    So, 1.8" or 45.72mm, which accords with both my H. Samuel case and Waltham case.

    The diameter of the A2 brass edge being c47.8mm, that would mean at least a 22s case, Lancashire gauge, (21s = 1+26/30 = 47.41mm; 22s = 1+27/30 = 48.26mm).

    I never see case sizes this big, whether for sale or not. Is it just unfortunate that I've bought two English movements that are too big for a 19s case?

    So. again, what to do? When I first bought these 'flat face' English movements, I thought they were just missing a hinge and so bought a selection of hinges, intending to fit one.

    Is this a practical idea, with matching dial feet to fit the brass-edge holes, plus various modifications to keep it raised?

    No hits at all when searching 'watch repair "brass edge" ', 'watchmaking "brass edge", 'pocket watch "brass edge" ' etc etc.

    Oh well, now I know where I am, which I certainly didn't before. Thank you again, Graham.

    Regards

    SteveB
     
  7. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 7, 2011
    11,285
    1,583
    113
    Male
    Retired from Xerox
    Breamore, Hampshire, UK
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Hi Steve,

    These cases were actually made by the Dennison company in Birmingham.

    I don't think so, the amount of work involved wouldn't justify the end result, which would be after all something of a marriage, (or less politely, a botch-up).

    Regards,

    Graham
     

Share This Page