Fusee watch information.

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by Shawn Moulder, Mar 27, 2020.

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  1. Shawn Moulder

    Shawn Moulder Registered User
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    I think I just caught the fusee bug. I recently bought a third fusee watch and looking for information about it. I assuming the case to be American made. The case and movement have the same number on it. Any information would be appreciated.

    20200327_181603.jpg 20200327_174245.jpg 20200327_174242.jpg 20200327_174209.jpg 20200327_174155.jpg 20200327_174141.jpg
     
  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Shawn,

    This Joseph Johnson looks genuine, (there were a number of contemporary fakes), and the serial number isn't in Oliver Mundy's database, (he's on this board as Lychnobius); I'm sure he'll be interested in this and will respond. Johnson exported a lot of watches to the US, mostly just movements to be cased on arrival, to avoid higher customs duties on complete watches.

    This is a detached lever movement, most probably a Massey, given that the date of this watch from its serial number is around 1817 or 18, which is a little too early for an English lever. The case is certainly not English, although the maker has attempted a lion passant mark.

    The balance brake is a fairly common feature of Liverpool watches around this time, and yours looks as though it's still all there, which many aren't any more.

    By the way, your pictures look very soft, is there a problem with the lens?

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  3. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Shawn a nice early Johnson movement as far as I can judge.

    Just a couple of points to add, which Graham/Oliver will correct if necessary.

    I think the dial is probably a later replacement, certainly in the UK you would not expect to see a two piece dial original mounted on a movement of this age. I also think it is possible that the movement has been re-cased. I may be mistaken, but in your third photograph, it appears that the case is slightly too large - inferred from the gap between the case and movement opposite the hinge. The fourth photograph also shows a larger gap between the case and the dial, but this could be explained solely by a replacement dial being of slightly smaller diameter than the original.

    Incidentally, I know of an verge movement signed Jos Johnson with the same serial number #1402 - albeit 'Jos Johnson, London'. There is such a London based maker listed in Loomes for the end of the C18th, but I have never been able to find any evidence in trade directories etc. to support the entry. Certainly the movement could never be mistaken as a genuine Liverpool Johnson movement.

    upload_2020-3-28_9-53-5.png

    John
     
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  4. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    There was a Johnson family of clock/watch makers in Walton on Thames. I don't know if they ever signed as London. My watch is by John who I think was the most senior.
     
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  5. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

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    waiting for better photos ....
    regards enrico

    20200327_174155.jpg 20200327_174209.jpg 20200327_174242.jpg
     
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  6. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Nick - I found a couple of references to the family - also some photographs on the net of a clock signed by John Johnson, Walton. Send me a PM if you are interested.

    John
     
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  7. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Hi Shawn, very nice buy there, Oliver will be very pleased to see it. Is there a chance of some photographs side on. It would be of interest to know the escapement. Your watch dates from c1815-1818, so could well be an early Massey. I take the dial is all in one piece, just a small seconds dial?

    Regards,

    Allan.
     
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  8. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Shawn,

    Looking at the dial and hands, I think John may well be right, because they both look more like American style than English, although there are a few examples of English dials with sunk seconds from as early as the 1820s.

    Since none of your pictures show the movement seated in the case with the bezel open, it's not possible to be clear on how well it fits. Whether the present case is original, with the watch being exported as an uncased movement, or it's a later replacement of the original, is unclear.

    The barrel bar appears to have been beaten around the barrel top pivot for some reason.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  9. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    #9 jboger, Mar 28, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
    This comment is not meant to detract from this fine watch. I think the movement has been recased. It's a U.S. case to be sure. And fitted for this movement. One thing to note is that it is marked COIN, meaning it's ~90% silver, a common composition in the U.S. In my experience, this sort of mark to indicate purity wasn't commonly used until, say, the 1850s. The overall "feel" of this case strikes me as a later date than ca. 1820.

    I will look to see if I can find the use of this style mark as early as 1820.
     
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  10. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    #10 John Matthews, Mar 28, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
    For sometime I have been trying to understand the exact meaning of 'coin silver' and its historical use in American watch cases. Most author's simply say it refers to silver derived from melting coins - but the precise time when this practice began and when the term was first used is not clear to me - I am hoping that someone can provide clarification.

    This is what I have found in the American silver references I have ...

    C J Thorn:
    The words 'Coin', 'Pure Coin'' Standard, Sterling and Dollar are common on American and are infrequently found on pieces of Irish origin. Another problem, fortunately seldom encountered, was created by the stamping by Colonial makers of English silver that had passed through their hands. Eradication of the English marks was not difficult and care must be exercised in differentiating between English and American designs.

    After years of hard menial work as an apprentice … desire to establish himself in the rapidly expanding community. Opportunities were abundant, so after the usual period of social and commercial adjustment the smith found easier footing and became a integral part of community life. … he approached his work with an ardour that was commonplace in Colonial times. Upon receiving from a customer a quantity of silver coins, he would first melt them down, preparatory to eliminating the impurities necessary to bring the batch of metal to the proper standard of 925. (Because silver was not successfully mined in the United States until the mid C19th, South America provided the colonists with much of their early coin.)​

    N Mack:
    In the C19th Missouri silversmiths created goods of increasing silver purity. Objects made until 1850 were called 'coin' silver for the simple reason that silver articles were fashioned from available melted down coins. The US Mint had established in 1792 the standard of silver coinage at 892. It adjusted the standard in 1837 to 900. After mid-century, American silversmiths were required by law to stamp as 'sterling' goods that had an even higher silver content of between 925 & 975. Collectors of Missouri silver may safely date items marked 'sterling' as post ~1860. After 1850, silversmiths in Missouri and throughout the continent began using silver bullion, not coins.​

    D T Rainwater:
    COIN: By 1830, coin, pure coin, dollar, standard, premium, C or D were used to indicate 900/1000 parts of silver.
    COIN SILVER: 900/1000 silver and 100/1000 copper – used by early silversmiths to whom sterling was not available.
    H French:
    COIN: This word stamped by a die on silver after 1837 designated that the metal was of the same fineness as silver money (900). This fineness is sometimes indicated by the letters C (coin) or D (dollar) stamped on silver.
    STERLING: About 1857 the word sterling was stamped to indicate the fineness as 925 (925 parts silver and 75 parts copper)
    So in summary, I infer that the practice of melting silver coins to fashion into silverware, dates back to the Colonial period. Whether at that time there was universal refining of the product seems less likely. Although the point at which such silver was used in watch cases is not clear to me, neither is the date when such items were stamped 'COIN', it would appear that the silver in cases prior to 1837 would, without refining, have been of 892/1000 silver. Unrefined examples after that date would have been 900/1000. Prior to ~1857 the extent to which silver derived from coins was refined to 925 standard is not known to me and neither do I know whether such items were stamped 'sterling'

    For the moment I have posted here, as it is directly relevant to the case of Shawn's watch, but if significant discussion is generated, I will ask for it to go into a separate thread.

    John
     
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  11. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Melting of coin for metal by gold and silversmiths was the norm here at one point wasn't it? The coins were, for a long time, the value of the metal that comprised them. Not just precious metal but copper too. The copper coins minted by Watt in Birmingham were matched to the value of the copper they came from.

    The milled edge on coins was because unscrupulous people would otherwise snip the edges off, and the number of antique coin balances available now suggests it was the norm to weigh your coin as well as count it.
     
  12. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    John M.:

    I have never seen any colonial silver marked Coin, usually just a maker's mark if that. In fact most American (colonial and post-colonial) silver I've seen is not marked Coin or Pure Coin until well into the 19th C. How things were marked changed over time, for example, going from intaglio marks to incuse marks. The mark on the above case strikes me as later than 1820, moe like 1850s. But not as late as the 1880s when such a mark more likely was incused.

    The standard for US silver coins was 90% silver, the rest copper. I think the practice of calling silver "coin silver" is a relatively late practice and had nothing or very little to do with the melting of coins as a supply for the silversmith. I think that is oft-repeated dealer hype that has been repeated so often over the years that it (wrongly) has a stamp of legitimacy: It must be true because everyone repeats it. If you look at the concentration of wealth even in the 17th C, as indicated by surviving furniture, buildings, and sundy other articles, one realizes that if the wealthy wanted a silver tea set, whether it was imported from England or made domestically, there was no need to resort to the melting of coins to supply the silver.

    It is a mistake to think even by 1650 or 1675 that everyone--rich and poor--was struggling to survive. against impossible odds. Once I was in an antique shop. There was a silver teapot. There were wood inserts between the silver handle and the body of the tea pot. The dealer told me a pretty story about how there was such short supply of silver in the early days that our frugal ancestors--good ol' New England stock!--scrimped wherever they could. Hmm ... Let's see. Metals are good heat conductors; wood not so good. Perhaps this scrimping really resulted from the desire to isolate the handle from the pot. I did not even go down that road with the dealer.

    Would I say coins were never melted as a supply of silver? No. But C J Thorn's contention would need to be documented for me to give credence to it that it was a widespread practice. One only need to look at surviving artifacts from the 17th and 18th C to realize that there was steady trade between the Old and New Worlds. And even porcelain from far away China found its way to this side of the Atlantic. Silver could have just as easily been imported.

    Others may disagree with me. But I would need to have a contemporary reference to establish that coin silver was called just that because it was derived from melted coins. I think a more likely origin for the expression is that it is simply a borrowed term.
     
  13. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Nick,

    Yes, silver coins were sterling until 1920, when they became only 50% silver and after 1947, zero silver. Gold sovereigns were, and still are, 22 carat, which was the standard for all gold wares until the 18 carat standard was reintroduced in 1798, and is still legal.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  14. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Use of Coins. Kenneth Blackmore.

    "It is an offence under Section 2 of the Gold and Silver (Exchange Control) Act of 1920 to use any current gold and silver coin as a permanent attachment in any form of jewellery, except under licence granted by the treasury. This Act was also extended under sections 5 (1) of the coinage Act 1946 so as to include cupro-nickel coins otherwise than as currency. the Treasury contends that coin is current until it is called in by a proclamation under the Coinage Act of 1870. Silver coins current before June 22, 1816, were put out of currency by a proclamation of March 1, 1817. Pre-Victorian gold coins were put out of currency by a proclamation of November 22, 1890. All gold, silver and cupro-nickel coins minted after these dates, even though demonetised, should, therefore, be considered as current coins"

    So that´s how the British saw it, I don´t think the Americans in 1816 took much notice. The above piece was written in 1969 (Published) and he goes on to say that Gold coins dated before 1837 can be used by Jewellers has they wish, after that date if you own more than four at home you should inform the Bank of England. I wonder if that Act still stands??.

    Allan
     
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  15. Shawn Moulder

    Shawn Moulder Registered User
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    Here are some more pictures. I hope these are a bit better. I need to invest in a better quality camera. The dial seems a bit to small for the movement and it is a two piece dial.

    Screenshot_20200328-122447_Gallery.jpg Screenshot_20200328-122353_Gallery.jpg 20200328_122334.jpg Screenshot_20200328-121920_Gallery.jpg 20200328_121603.jpg 20200328_121349.jpg 20200328_121329.jpg 20200328_121314.jpg 20200328_040215.jpg 20200328_040349.jpg 20200328_040222.jpg
     
  16. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Shawn,

    The dial is certainly rather smaller than the intermediate plate it's attached to, (the 'brass edge'), and this, as well as its design, does suggest that it's a replacement. Whether the case is also a replacement is less clear however; there doesn't appear to be excessive clearance between the case and the brass edge.

    The exact details of the escapement are not visible in your pictures, and to be honest, it's very difficult to take a clear picture of that part of the watch, since it's buried deep in the centre just under the balance, and lighting that area is a problem even if you get the angle just right. Oliver Mundy's Johnson document has some drawings at the beginning of the various types of Massey escapement, which may help you in discovering if it is a Massey.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  17. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    This reference ..

    Waters, Deborah Dependahl. “From Pure Coin: The Manufacture of American Silver Flatware 1800-1860.” Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 12, 1977, pp. 19–33. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1180578. Accessed 29 Mar. 2020.

    provides an insight into the manufacture of early silverware.

    From which, a few quotes ...

    Coin as applied to American flat silverware manufactured before the Civil War has two distinct, but not mutually exclusive, meanings. First, it identifies a common source of raw material. Second, it specifies a quality standard for alloy employed in such products.

    The American silversmith long had relied on silver coin or wrought objects outmoded in style for his material. Coins, particularly Spanish milled dollars, French crowns and five-franc pieces and American dollars and half-dollars, remained the principle source of silver in the early nineteenth century. The standards to which these coins were minted largely determined the quality of alloy employed by the craftsman.

    As late as 1856 the New York firm Theodore Evans and Company still manufactured many of its products from five-franc coin.

    To put the latter into context the first major silver mining district in Nevada was established after the discovery of the Cornstock Lode in 1858.

    From the references I have read, there seems to be no doubt that the term coin silver, particularly as applied to early flatware, does owe its origin from the source material. Given that such coins were of diverse origin and of different fineness, and that it cannot be assumed that the raw material was refined prior to being used to manufacture items, I infer that the silver content of the silverware produced would vary. As I understand much of the early silverware produced was not stamped 'coin' and there is no doubt a time disparity between when coins were first used as a source material for silverware and when such items were stamped 'coin'.

    I have not found any contemporary references that describe early American watch cases being made from silver sourced from coins. However, silver cases were being made at a time when coins were still used as a raw material. A list of case makers operating before 1860 can be found here. It seems reasonable, to me, to infer that at least some of these makers could have made silver cases using silver coins as source material: whether such cases, if they do exist, were stamped 'coin' I cannot say.

    John
     
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  18. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Silver Forums at 925-1000.com

    John, you know this site, there is a question and answer, the above is just a small part of it. I think you will enjoy it.

    Allan.
     
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  19. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

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    here a Waltham model '57 made in 1869 with a Waltham coin silver case.
    regards enrico

    Immagine.jpg Immagine1.jpg
     
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  20. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    Just curious....What would account for the case and movement having the same number? Coincidence?

    Thanks!
     
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  21. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Thanks Enrico - I have similar from 2 years earlier - it would be good if someone could post some pre-1858 examples

    John
     
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  22. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Pat,

    No, no coincidence at all, in a busy case maker's shop it was an obvious way to make sure the right movement went back with the right case. Just because the movement serial is in the case doesn't mean it isn't a re-case.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  23. PatH

    PatH National Program Chair
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    Thanks, Graham. Still lots for me to learn. Thanks for sharing this practice.
     
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  24. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    A question for American collectors - are you more likely to find cases with the same serial number on imported movements, cased in America, than you are with American movements in original cases?

    John
     
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  25. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Post 18. "Does anyone know who the maker is" it is pre-1860 John. Not watch cases this time, but evidence, that the term was well-known pre-1860.
     
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  26. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    #26 John Matthews, Mar 29, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
    Allan - I can find examples of flatware, such as the fork on the forum, marked 'Pure Coin', but I don't have any pre 1860 American watches marked 'Coin' or similar. Interestingly the maker of the fork, Levi Batchelder Gay, who was active from 1860, is listed as a jeweller & watchmaker, but not as a silversmith.

    The only pre-1860 American case I have is the Gale & Hayden example I posted here - but it only carries the mark of the maker [G&H] and although I believe it to be 'coin silver' it is not stamped as such. G&H were in partnership between 1846-1850. I would like to establish when the stamp 'coin' or a variant first appeared on watch cases.

    John

    Edit: I note in Clint Geller's Civil War Timepieces book he has a page from Robbins & Appleton Trade Directory (April 1864) that specifically lists 'Coin Silver Hunting Case' - but I don't believe any of the cases illustrated in the book are stamped 'coin'. If there is I missed it.
     
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  27. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    #27 jboger, Mar 29, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
    I'm sorry, but I remained unconvinced despite the authority of the Wintertur Museum. That article points to two things, the origin of the term coin silver and its use as a product guarantee. As to the first, Why call it specifically "coin silver" when all sorts of objects--candlesticks, tea sets, porringers--were recycled, not just coins? I think contemporary people in the 18th C would have simply called silver just that silver without referring to a specific source. The author gives no reference but suggests that coin silver was called that because coins were a "common" source of material. "Common." Such an innocuous word slipped in there with no substantiation. And the fact that one New York manufacturer melted French coins sheds no light on the origin of this term. What it does shed light on is that one New York manufacturer used French coins as a source of material.

    If silver was in such short supply prior to the Comstock lode, then where did the US Mint, founded in 1793, get its gold and silver? By removing coins from circulation? I rather doubt that. Copper planchets I know were imported from Matthew Boulton's foundry in Birmingham. No need to wait for the copper mining industry to take off. (Actually there were copper mines in Connecticut well back in the 18th C). And look at the other commodities that were imported into Colonial America even earlier than the founding of the US mint. I point out in another thread mahogany from the Honduras, for example. Not a cheap wood. If copper was imported, why not other metals? Silver, like any other commodity could be bought on the world market.

    In short, I think the Wintertur author makes an unsubstantiated claim that coin silver is called that because coins were a "common" source of material.

    I do think, however, we are on firmer ground when we look at material objects stamped COIN. As American manufacturing expanded in the 1830 and onward, product guarantees appear stamped on all sorts of objects, such as CAST STEEL or WARRANTED on gun barrels. At this same time (1830s) , you will find American pewterers copying the eagle on US coins to mark the quality of their products (see Kerfoot, eg.). That's significant. I propose that the term coin silver was such a product guarantee that developed or became widespread in the 1830s and thereafter and furthermore that the term was based on the US mint standard rather than the source of the material. The other explanation is an invented story. Appealing, perhaps because it plays into an American myth about the founding of this country.

    So for the time being I'm unconvinced.

    On a different topic, the fact that the numbers on the coin silver case match those on the Johnson movement only means that the case was made for that movement, not that they are contemporaneous.
     
  28. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    I think here we are all on a road that splits into two, we have pieces of silver for home use sometimes marked coin, and then later we see the word coin on watch cases-in the main made in America, though there are Mexican cion silver watch cases.

    We are then asking why? Before 1922 all silver coinage in the UK was made of 925 parts silver, or in other words Stirling. This was embedded into the British from birth over 700 years. So if you have cutlery marked coin we think automatically Sterling or at least quality.
    WO-7.jpg This then is saying look at me, I guarantee I am made of quality silver. (How many people would have it tested)


    WO-6.jpg These marks came along later, but I say the quality went with them. The mind would not think sterling.

    Allan
     
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  29. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    #29 Jeff Hess, Mar 29, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
    I am not shy about this subject. No denigration meant to anyone on this board, but IMO there is generally WAY too much "Echo-chamber research" on "Coin silver".

    I agree with almost everything Mr. Boger says.
     
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  30. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    I sent a private message to Shawn about this watch without being aware of this thread and without seeing either the dial or much of the case; I must apologise to him for the incomplete information which resulted. I can now see the case marks, which clearly indicate an American origin (as I thought), and also the dial which to me looks more Swiss than Anglo-American; I say this mainly because of the marking of the seconds in fifteens rather than tens, which would have been highly unusual anywhere in the English-speaking world. (It was also normal in Switzerland to create a sunken seconds dial by grinding a shallow depression into the main dial instead of cutting a hole in it and cementing a separate seconds panel to the back, as seen for example in the Waltham posted by Enrico. Is the seconds dial in Shawn's watch truly a separate piece? – another mark of a Swiss dial is that the white enamelling normally has a mirror finish, whereas in Britain and America, from about 1820, the enamel has a matt surface.)

    I suggested to Shawn that his watch probably dated from 1816 or 1817.

    Oliver Mundy.
     
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  31. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    From some new information Shawn has sent me it is clear that the present dial has been soldered to the brass-edge instead of being held by pinned feet in the usual way. He has also identified the escapement as a Massey III; this is particularly interesting as hitherto the earliest examples of this type in the Johnson oeuvre have been Nos. 5731 and 5764 which I feel cannot be earlier than 1823. Has anyone here previously met with a Massey III (by any maker) which can be assigned to as early a date as 1816 or 1817?

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  32. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    I believe your proposition that it's a Swiss dial is correct; the sunk seconds looks very shallow and the whole thing is clearly too small for the brass edge. Shawn did mention in an earlier post that it was 'two-piece', but without removing the dial it would be hard to verify whether it is in fact separate.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  33. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    The earliest type III that I can remember seeing was attributed to around 1820. David Penney has stated his belief that many type I rollers were replaced with type II and particularly type III as soon as the jewelled rollers were easily obtainable in the 1820s. A lack of draw in the pallets would tend to confirm whether Shawn's watch has had the roller replaced, but that can only be established by dismantling.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  34. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    Trying to follow this. Great thread. Amazing talents discussing this. I have soooo many questions I would like to ask. But not being a mechanic I fear those questions will sound sophomoric.

    For starters, am I to understand that the type II Massy is charaterized by mainly having Jeweled rollers? Can a collector/aficionado layman with rudimetary knowledge tell the difference without taking it apart?

    Thanks.
     
  35. Shawn Moulder

    Shawn Moulder Registered User
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    I'm so enjoying this thread. I really like everyone's input so far about my watch and other information related to it. The one thing that really lead me in obtaining the watch is the eagle on the balance cock. The eagle is so beautiful, and probably knowing this watch was made for the American market makes this watch so interesting.

    20200330_092403.jpg
     
  36. Shawn Moulder

    Shawn Moulder Registered User
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    Here are some pictures of the balance staff and lever.

    20200330_085229.jpg 20200330_084736.jpg
     
  37. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Shawn,

    Yes, definitely a Massey type III roller. Unfortunately my comment in the present thread about draw is more difficult to confirm, even with the lever and pallets out of the watch.

    496941-a24fafaa0a50912e6c1a3d125ac3bfda.jpg

    Draw is the geometry of the pallet stones which tends to pull the escape teeth into deeper engagement, and in the picture, that isn't present. The watch illustrated is now an English lever, but it was almost certainly converted from an early Massey. The point here being that early Massey escapements, particularly type I, didn't have draw, but by the time the type II and type III were available, draw was a feature, so seeing a type II or III with no draw is a strong clue that the roller was replaced but the pallets weren't.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  38. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    The only Massey roller without a jewelled impulse pin is the type I, which is just a single tooth cut in a steel cylinder with some relief either side. All the others have a jewel pin, only differing in how it's mounted in the rollers; the safety action of all the types is the same, and differs from the later single and double rollers in not having a safety pin or dart. Oliver Mundy has thoughtfully included illustrations of the various types of roller and the lever fork in the commonest four of the five varieties categorised by Alan Traherne, in his Johnson database document.

    Without removing the balance from the watch, it's hard to see clearly into the centre of the movement, and harder still to take a clear picture. If an owner isn't experienced in dismantling watches, this should be left to someone with the necessary skills.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  39. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    Mr. Boger wishes to inform Mr. Hess that Mr. Boger only believes half of what he himself says or writes.
     
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