Greetings from sunny Scotland!

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by Bonkers the Dog, Apr 15, 2020.

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  1. Bonkers the Dog

    Bonkers the Dog New Member

    Apr 12, 2020
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    Hi folks, log time lurker, first time poster here.

    I have an c1890's 14k, full hunter, minute repeater pocket watch that I am hoping all you watch Jedi out there can help me with as my own efforts to get information on it have proved less than fruitful!

    I know it's from Schwab Frere Cie of Switzerland but that's about it really; that's written om the face so I don't have to be Poirot to figure that one! I know nothing about movement, style, jewels, production numbers, value or if it a watch of note.

    What I do know is that my Father bought it in Peking in '63. The story goes that the Chinese Emperor bought a job lot of them in the late 19th century and would gift them to loyal staff as a thankyou, but that's it...

    It lives in my drawer, has done for decades. It used to come out when I wore a suit-prior to retirement-and occasionally when I wore the full highland kilted evening wear, but that all seems to have shrunk in the last few years so it doesn't get the use it once did.

    I have attached a few piccies for you to have a wee look at, apologies if they are not the best, I am no David Bailey.

    So, here's the challenge...enlighten me!

    P2040011.JPG P2040014.JPG P2040015.JPG P2040016.JPG P2040018.JPG P2040019.JPG P2040020.JPG P2040022.JPG P2040026.JPG P2040027.JPG
     
  2. LloydB

    LloydB Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
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    Pyoor deed brillyunt! (Shiny! too .-)

    It's perhaps surprising (a bit) that there's
    no additional inscription in Chinese?

    That's a fine timepiece, and gorgeous case.
     
    Keith R... likes this.
  3. DaveyG

    DaveyG Registered User

    Mar 21, 2005
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    I suggest, Bonkers, that the movement is by Le Phare of Le Locle, Switzerland who were well known makers of, widely used complicated movements. Some evidence 'here'. Not much, but a start in your quest
     
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  4. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

    Jan 13, 2012
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    the movement is a LePhare caliber LVC has been built for many years, so difficult to determine what year it is.
    Schwob Freres & Cie was Theodore (1839-1896) with his sons Adam Sophie and Nephtali, who was one of the most important retailers in the sector. together with Joseph Schwob (same surname but they were not relatives) he financed Tavannes and for a commercial agreement Joseph traded west market like U.K. and U.S. and Theodore to the east market then Russia and Asia.
    regards enrico
     
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  5. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    LePhare is a decent but mid grade maker. It is solid functional watch.
    It's grade is consistent with the thought that this type was given to loyal servants. This type is called a push or plunge repeater because you press in the large button to make it repeat

    The better grades are "slide" repeaters which were a lot more expensive and in 18K cases.
     
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  6. DaveyG

    DaveyG Registered User

    Mar 21, 2005
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    Apologies for the break in transmission, now fed and watered I can resume with what little additional info that might be of use. I am glad that Enrico contributed so early, he is far more knowledgeable than I with Swiss movements. I can tell you, in addition to the other contributions that, if you search for Charles Barbezat-Baillot, you should discover more about the company. The centrifugal governor for the repeat work is a Barbezat patent. Known as the 'silent' governor, it did away with what was perceived as the annoying hum of repeat work governors. I would support Dr Jon's description as this being a mid range movement but nonetheless a very nice piece.
     
  7. Bonkers the Dog

    Bonkers the Dog New Member

    Apr 12, 2020
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    Cheers for all that folks, much appreciated.

    So, the question is...

    Is it common for named "manufacturers" just to assemble these pocket watches from bought in parts? I had assumed that mine was lovingly crafted from scratch by a wizened old Yoda-like old man bent double over a dim work bench! All a wee bit Dickensian but you catch ma drift. Now it appears that all Schwob & Frere do is assemble and market.

    Another question. It has a selection of phrases engraved on the inner case, they are meaningless to me, can anyone take a wee look and enlighten me?

    And another, what is a "jewel" ? Are they real jewels, what do they do and can I see/count them?

    And again! Yes, the case is beautifully engraved. However, I had assumed by hand, now that I have read the replies and begin to understand the process is it safe to assume that it was done by a machine?

    And finally - what are the internal "glass" faces made of and are they easy to replace?

    And a final finally - Do I keep it wound and running? Do they degrade if left unwound? Can they be overwound?

    SOMEBODY STOP HIM! Are they easy to service? When should I do it? Where should I go?

    Insurance - Do I need a specialist appraisal for insurance purposes or can I just tell them a realistic figure? I think that I am covered up to £1000 for single items under 'Household' but any more than that I think they require appraisal documentation and an increased premium; no surprises there right enough! And does anybody know somewhere in Scotland that can value these things because I am at a loss...
     
  8. Benjamin E.

    Benjamin E. Registered User
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    Sep 7, 2015
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    Indeed, many times a name on a watch was that of the retailer. Until the factory system took hold, watches and chronometers were made by outworkers. Someone would make the frame, someone else the wheels and pinions, someone else the escapement, etc. Finishing was its own specialty, same as casemaking and dialmaking. On some English watches, you will see separate hallmarks on the stems and even the bows, all made by separate people. A watchmaker might do his own finishing but more likely employed others, who would do final assembly and adjustments. An apprentice might make a whole watch as a project, but it's quite unusual. One of the last people to do so was George Daniels, though even he bought in mainsprings, hairsprings, and crystals.

    The engraving on the back tells you that you wind and set the watch through the crown, not a key. The Swiss were keen to adopt keyless winding in the 19th century, the English hanging onto their keys for far longer. Straight line lever means that the line from the balance to the escape wheel follows a straight line, as opposed to having a right angle lever, as an English watch might. Full ruby jewelled means that all pivots are borne in specially shaped jewels, those red dots throughout the movement. They are harder wearing and are slipperier than plain metal and so better for doing their job. The whole time train is jewelled, but the repeating works is only partially. Minute repeating means that the watch will chime hours, quarter hours, and then minutes, quite a high degree of complexity. Most repeaters of the era only struck quarters. Finally, the last two inscriptions tell us that the balance wheel is made in a way that will make it less susceptible to the influence of heat and cold and that it has also been adjusted to be less susceptible to being effected by gravity's pull in different positions (face up, face down, stem up, etc.).

    The crystals are usually glass, sometimes plastic, and are readily replaced. Don't regularly run the watch until you've had it serviced. Someone else will have to tell you where to do that, I'm afraid :)

    Is Bonkers a real dog and, if so, may we see him?
     
  9. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    #9 gmorse, Apr 17, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2020
    Hi B the D,

    That's pretty much what any 'watchmaker' did, whether in Switzerland or here in the UK; those ancient men are a myth. The vast majority of signatures on top plates are for the retailers. To make a complicated watch like yours would have involved perhaps up to 100 specialist craftspeople.

    'Stem Winder': it's wound by turning the knob on the pendant, under the bow, rather than by the earlier method with a separate key.

    'Straight Line Lever': this refers to the way some of the internal parts of the watch, known as the escapement, are arranged relative to each other.

    'Full Ruby Jewelled': the jewels, which should be 'real', are mostly there to provide very low friction bearings to the arbors, (axles), on the wheels, (gears), and they're small pieces of ruby, mostly with holes drilled through the centres and very highly polished, (ruby is only slightly less hard than diamond and provides an excellent bearing surface for hardened steel to run in). The number considered to constitute a full set at the time was 15. They're mostly red or pink, but sometimes paler or almost white; sapphire is the same material chemically, (aluminium oxide), it just has different trace elements resulting in other colours.

    'Minute Repeater': The watch will repeat on demand the last hour, quarters and minutes passed by striking hammers on two gongs.

    Note that the text doesn't mention that the watch also has a 'stopwatch' aspect, known as a chronograph, which allows the long centre seconds hand to be started, stopped and reset to zero, all without interfering with the ordinary timekeeping function.

    'Compensation Balance': the balance wheel is made so that it runs at the same rate over a range of temperatures.

    'Adjusted': the watch has been adjusted so the rate is the same in all the positions in which it's likely to be used.

    Yes, it was largely done by machine in a process called 'engine turning', but under the control of a very skilled operator, and some elements would have been done by a hand engraver .

    They're mineral glass and should be replaceable if broken or missing; why, are there any chips or cracks anywhere?

    If it hasn't been properly serviced for more than a few years, you shouldn't run it until that's been done. They don't degrade if left unwound, provided they're kept in a dry, reasonably warm and clean place, (aka a house), and no, they can't be 'overwound', at least not by someone with normal human levels of strength, and some semblance of intelligence.

    The servicing costs for complicated watches such as yours are fairly high, and people who are sufficiently skilled and competent to undertake this are not thick on the ground anywhere. We can't provide opinions on value in this forum, but you can go to the section 'What is this watch worth' at the bottom of the main page and ask there for opinions, (which may vary!), after following the instructions.

    I hope you find this screed helpful, and please don't hesitate to ask for more clarification if needed.

    [Edit] I see that Benjamin was typing at the same time, just combine the two answers for a fuller picture!

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  10. DaveyG

    DaveyG Registered User

    Mar 21, 2005
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    At the risk of being accused of teaching granny to suck eggs I am going to add to the extremely sound advice that you have been offered by Graham and Benjamin. For Graham to say that the number of people who are capable of carrying out maintenance on your watch are "not thick on the ground" is something of an understatement. I would reckon that, in the UK, you wouldn't need your toes to count the craftsmen with adequate skills. If you do propose to have the watch serviced, and that would be a good thing to do, I would urge extreme caution when selecting someone to carry out the work, do your research - and be prepared to shell out a not inconsiderable sum of money. Whatever you do, please do not approach any high street jeweller or watch shop! By and large they do not have a clue and many are not even capable of replacing a battery properly.

    With regards to the contribution that Schwab Freres made to your lovely watch - well they probably paid for it ;)

    I apologise in advance if I am being patronising but I have seen watches with complications irretrievably damaged when they have been placed in the wrong hands.
     
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  11. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Dave,

    Having had to remedy some of those 'repairs', I can heartily endorse your comment . . .

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  12. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

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    to be pedantic, it's Schwob :):)
    regards enrico
     
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  13. DaveyG

    DaveyG Registered User

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    :emoji_sweat_smile::emoji_sweat_smile: I wrote Schwob initially, then referred back to #1 and changed it.
     
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  14. DaveyG

    DaveyG Registered User

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    Hi Graham,

    Me too :emoji_frowning2:.

    dave
     
  15. Bonkers the Dog

    Bonkers the Dog New Member

    Apr 12, 2020
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    THanks for all that folks, all very interesting.

    To answer back... its kept in my bed side drawer, its rarely wound. The "glass" covering the movement has been replaced with a cheapo plastic cover; I don't know when and by whom.

    It was serviced maybe 20 years ago, my Father arranged it.

    Provenance - The Chinese back story comes from my Father. He purchased the watch back in '63 when he lived in Peking during the height of the cultural revolution. He says the history was supplied by the retailer. Funnily enough he also purchased a beautiful French cloisonnae carriage clock at the same time, he still has it on is mantel at home, it is a fine looking thing and makes the watch look a bit plain-Jane!
     
  16. DaveyG

    DaveyG Registered User

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    Here we go again granny :rolleyes: - this is how you suck eggs! If you do nothing else I would endeavour to have the 'cheapo plastic cover' replaced. I don't know how long the plastic crystal has been there but the older ones, over time, degrade and emit 'stuff' that causes corrosion of the steel parts that it comes into contact with and it is particularly injurious to hands. Replacing it with a glass crystal is easier said than done I know, but probably worth trying at least.
     
  17. dshumans

    dshumans Registered User
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    I believe Graham (Gmorse here) can service your watch and at least he's an expert in the UK.
    Doug
     

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