First Small Men's Pocket watches

Dr. Jon

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Based on some watches I have found I believe Audemars Piguet, under the direction of Wittnauer, began the fashion for small men's dress pocket watches. They were at or near US/UK 12 size, and may actually be that size because they were imported to the US uncased and cased in the US. Here is an example

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The serial number dates this watch to the early 1890's.

The case is 14K and signed by Galt & Bro, the retailer and has no hallmarks. It is signed Audemars Piguet under the dial and with two "Secret" features.
 

Jerry Treiman

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The serial number dates this watch to the early 1890's.
Could that be an abbreviated serial number or something other than an A-P number? The styling of the movement and case look later to me.
 

tick talk

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Jon, would you be breaking an oath to reveal the "secret" features for that AP?

Verger Freres cased small men's watches with V&C movements, not that early and not exclusively for the American market, but also size 12/40mm.
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Dr. Jon

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AP has validated the serial number and a have some more examples in the low 5000 range.

The secret features are visible in the movement photo.

One which does not always show up in private label is the click. See how is matches the contour of the plate. It is the feature that sold me on the watch.

The other is more subtle and always shows up in the private label watches of that era (At least the ones I have seen) and I will reply to guesses via PM.

When I visited the AP museum they had no idea that they had pioneered this style of watch. To my knowledge their museum does not have an example.

I have a few V&C's in this size which are alll later than the private label AP's.

I suggest this looks later because they started the fashion.
 
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Ethan Lipsig

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Jon, you say that "Based on some watches I have found I believe Audemars Piguet, under the direction of Wittnauer, began the fashion for small men's dress pocket watches." In another post, you said that Audemars Piguet starting making small men's dress pocket watch in the 1880s, but you only posted photos of one from the early 1890s. What evidence do you have to support your view other than having seen some Audemars Piguet examples from the late 19th century?

I looked through my large collection of small men's dress pocket watches for the oldest examples I have of approx. size 12 watches. I only found one from the 19th Century, interestingly enough, another Galt PL, like the watch you posted, but with a C.H. Meylan movement made before 1897 based on the movement's markings. I doubt that it was made much before then, but it could have been made as early as any comparably-sized Audemars Piguet. It is in a 14k hunter case, signed by Galt, that is 46.5 mm in diameter. The case has a 1902 inscription to "Will from Mother".

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Dr. Jon

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Ethan refers to a post related to this on American 12 size watches where I wrote 1880's. That was my error; the earliest example I have is the one I posted, #4679.

To my knowledge I have not seen my theory in print or on line, it is only from looking at these watches and confirming with AP that these are theirs.

Prompted by this I checked the Audemars Piguet book by Brunner, Pfeiffer-Belli , and Wehrli. The have a table of the first 2000 or so watches broken out by type, complication and whether larger or smaller than 14 lignes and it shows a lot under 14 lignes. 12 size is 17-18 lignes. Many of these under 14 lignes watches were complicated up to minute repetition.This book shows that by the late 1880's, AP was seriously into small watches.

The book does not show simple 12 size watches of this era but it does show a 14 ligne free spring minute repeater in the English style.

The book also shows a photo of the ledger starting in 1893 with low 5000 series. It's hard to pick out but there are 16 entries of which 15 are 18 lignes. Thus we have very good evidence that AP was makign small watches and lot were 12 size by 1893

Meylan was also in Le Brassus and they did not seem to get along well with AP. As Ethan's work on Meylan shows, referring to marks for tariff compliance his watch is probably earlier than 1897.

I speculate that Ethan's is later than mine and that Galt went to Meylan to get around Wittnauer and get a better deal, once these watches started to sell well. Meylan would have been happy to do this.

I have seen more AP private labels that I can date before 1898 than I have Meylans but I did nit try to date the Meylans but both companies made a lot of very fine 12 size and smaller watches and they were into well before the Americans got serious about them
 

Dr. Jon

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I also have an early Meylan 12 size which is pre 1897 and it is s seriously fine watch Dial.png

This is s 12 size watch in a 14L AWCO case. Note the double sunk dial and Moorhouse style numbers and very fine hands.

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It has the raised tooth tip escape wheel. It is #13357 in Ethan's early range and also marked adjusted but no marked jewel count.
Its lever is eye candy. I count 8 parts of this lever, every one beautifully finished.


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So perhaps Meylan and AP developed this market in competition. I bought mostly AP's because they are all private label and well under the radar; the sellers had no idea who made them.

I also looked for Meylans, both private label and marked. Until Ethan's work I assumed they were later than the AP's but if they are it is not by a lot.
 

Ethan Lipsig

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C.H. Meylans often had double-sunk enamel dials, but I don't recall ever seeing one with such flamboyant numerals as your dial has, Jon. Great dial!
 

Jerry Treiman

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... but both companies made a lot of very fine 12 size and smaller watches and they were into well before the Americans got serious about them
How true. When E. Howard & Co. finally, in 1892, made the first American stem-wind 12-size watch "for Gentlemen" they called it "very thin, of small size" but it was not as thin as the 17-ligne Swiss watches of the time and they seemed to forget size when most were cased in thick cases with very wide bodies and bezels, cancelling the claim of a small thin gentleman's watch. (Unless, of course, you compare it to the 16 and 18-size American watches of that era).
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John Matthews

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Just as a matter of interest I have a number of small unfinished Lancashire movements from the middle of the C19 e.g.


This from ~1860, being size 4 coming in at 33mm. I just wonder whether it is possible that some of these were finished in a 'gentleman's style'. Were they all finished in a 'lady's style' ? I suspect not.

John
 

Dr. Jon

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Small Howards in 1892 makes this a race but I suggest the Howard mdel was more a toe in teh water than a full effort.

I am going back to the thought that Wittnauer/AP was first to promote precision 12 size watches, based on casing.

The AP's all had custom or jeweler made cases while the Meylans were in US standard cases. Both were 12 size.The argument is that the US case makers needed some time to tool up to make 12 size cases and did it once the AP watches were selling.

I suggest that the introduction was more Wittnauer's idea than AP's simply because AP much preferred to make complicated watches.

Charles Meylan would have jumped in hard once he determined there was a market for small watches and used his knowledge of US taste he acquired from his stay in the US. Meylan was comfortable with complications, having made the Waltham models while in the US, but he was more comfortable with simple watches than AP was.
 

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