HARLOW & Co, Birmingham verge in 1810/11silver pair cases by William HOWARD, Coventry.

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by John Matthews, May 11, 2018.

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  1. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User

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    #1 John Matthews, May 11, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2018
    I was attracted to this watch for a number of reasons. It is in good working condition with a pleasing appearance, its my first verge with a date display, it is signed by a maker/retailer in the West Midlands, where I was born and finally I think it is possible that the signature is that of Harlow family business from Ashbourne, better known as clock movement makers. We lived just south of Ashbourne for almost 20 years.

    On inspection, I have found two faults: the 'button' to release the outer case spring is absent and although it is working smoothly, the contrate wheel has lost a tooth which has been replaced by a pin – what Graham would I think describe as 'an unsafe repair'. Apart from these two faults and some minor marks on the dial, I believe it to be a sound original condition. I am not sure if the hour hand in particular, is original, but I think the date hand probably is.

    As always I would welcome any comments and observations.

    I am particularly interested in the signature. It appears to be Harlow & Co, with a particularly ornate '&'. In Loomes the only Harlow listed for Birmingham, is Samuel Harlow from Ashbourne, the entry reads 'working until 1813 (also at Birmingham?)'. Samuel is well known in clock circles as a manufacturer of long case clock mechanisms. There is a very informative paper in AH March 2002 by John Robey, focussed on his clock movements, but it also provides much information on the Samuel family and the development of their business over a number of generations.

    Early in his career Samuel patented the Breguet watch key. Patent 1708 dated 6 November, 1789. 'Making watch keys with a spring to preserve the watch from injury when the key is turned the wrong way'. So he clear had an interest in watches, although I have found no reference to watch making activities. He also published 'The clockmaker's guide to practical clockwork' in 1813. His links with Birmingham and the nature of his premises is not clear. It is believed that these were located in Summer Row and that there may have been a link to John Masgreave a brass and bell founder, who possibly married Samuel's daughter Elizabeth.

    According to Robey, “The Harlow workshop in Ashbourne was a major producer of good quality longcase movements, which were sold to 'clockmakers' throughout Britain and also in America, often via wholesalers in Birmingham and Manchester, and maybe elsewhere.”

    If this movement is signed by the Harlow company, it may provide evidence that Samuel Harlow was selling watches out of the Birmingham premises as well as clocks and clock mechanisms.

    John

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  2. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User

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    I attach photographs of the recently serviced and repaired Harlow.

    It is now working perfectly, keeping very good time; having lost less than 2 minutes over 5 days, I have no intention of making any attempt to 'fiddle' with the regulation. I am particularly pleased with the work on the outer case button, the replacement looks exactly as it should. Similarly with the removal of the 'unsafe repair' to the contrate wheel, the manufacture of the new tooth and its insertion into the wheel. Excellent work.

    Despite many searches, I have been unable to add to my knowledge of the watch 'making' activities of the Harlow family and the nature of the Birmingham premises. It seems probable that it was retail outlet, but I have failed to locate it in trade directories and I have drawn a blank with the Birmingham Library archives.

    I have found some further information on the clock making career of Samuel Harlow. He was apprenticed to John Litton of Ashbourne for 7 years from 26 August 1767 £7 (PRO 57/67). Subsequently he took on David Smith as an apprentice for 7 years from 21 November 1791 £5 (PRO 66/64).

    If anyone can add to my knowledge of the Harlow family, I would appreciate it.

    John

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  3. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    I thought John if you need help with the above, the Robey piece as leads on every page, making it easy to follow the history of the firm.Though I think you are correct in saying they would have bought in watches for sale in their outlets. Best Allan.

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    Attached Files:

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  4. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User

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    As I mentioned in the initial post, the Robey paper (that Allan has now appended) provides much information on the Harlow family. Separately, I been able to find independent collaborative evidence of the family connections that Robey refers to. There is also a section in the paper that examines the Harlow links to Birmingham.

    In trying to establish the nature of Samuel Harlow's connection to Birmingham in 1810/11, the date of this watch, it is clear that Samuel's daughter's marriage to John Masgreave on 22 June, 1807 is key. Robey determined that Samuel wrote on behalf of his son-in-law to Peter Stubbs in 1812 and 1814, by which time Masgreave had established a brass foundry in Summer Row, Birmingham. Thereby Robey inferred a business relationship between the two, albeit informal, as no evidence of a formal partnership has been found.

    My present working hypothesis is that Harlow & Masgreave may have established a retail outlet for Harlow's clock movements, in the vicinity of Summer Row shortly after the marriage with Samuel's daughter. The retailing of watches being an obvious complementary activity – possibly 'Harlow & Co' on the watch is recognition of this informal relationship, indeed, perhaps it was a formal relationship for which the documentation is missing. Robey records that a retail outlet of some form existed until the Harlow business ended in 1851.

    No trade directory entries of Harlow in Birmingham are known, neither Harlow nor Masgreave are listed in Pigots Commercial Directory for 1818-1820. Masgreave is recorded as being described as 'caster in general and bell founder, clock movements etc. in an 1818 Birmingham directory, but I have been unable to locate this reference. That there was a foundry in Birmingham with a Harlow connection, is also supported by a description of Harlow in 1816 as 'of Birmingham brassfounder' despite the Harlow family's principle foundries being in Ashbourne at the time.

    For convenience I attach snips of the relevant part of Robey's paper and the family tree.

    John

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  5. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User

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    Today I have been in communication with John Robey and I am pleased to say he has confirmed my thoughts.

    From John Robey ...

    "I have never come across a Harlow watch before, but I am sure that you are correct that Harlow & Co is probably Samuel Harlow and John Masgreave trading from Summer Row, Birmingham. There is no documentary evidence but I am sure that this was simply a warehouse and sales outlet for their clock mvts and clock parts that were actually made in Ashbourne. ....
    This seems to be an unrecorded side of the business, retailing watches in Birmingham. There were plenty of other people doing the same and it was probably a not very successful enterprise that did not last long. "

    John
     
  6. Kait H

    Kait H New Member

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    Hi John,
    Are you still interested in learning more about the Harlow clockmakers, or willing to share more information you may have uncovered? I’ve been slowly digitizing my family’s historical records, and my one uncle is particularly interested in the family history of clockmakers.

    While I’m not a Harlow, my mom is. Joseph Harlow (1705–?) is my 6th-great grandpa. We are descended from his youngest son, Benjamin (1764–1809). While this Benjamin Harlow was also a clockmaker, most Benj’ Harlow signed clocks I’ve seen have been attributed to Benjamin Wyatt Harlow (1809–1845), Samuel’s (1751–1825) grandson. My Benj’s son was also a clockmaker (Thomas Harlow (1789–1868)), but the craft seems to have ended with him for my line.

    One of Tom’s grandsons migrated from England to Canada and then bounced around between the US and Canada for most of his life (Fredrick William Harlow (1846–1924)). My grandpa is one of F. William’s grandsons (Henry Harlow (1919–1994)). While the Harlow name ended in my immediate family, Henry’s two sons passed the Harlow name to five grandsons and currently eight great-grandsons.

    If you’re interested in exchanging information about the Harlows and/or their clockmaking, would you mind contacting us through HarlowMadsen [at] gmail [dot] com?

    Thanks!
    - Kaitlyn
     
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  7. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User

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    My attention has been directed back to this thread, thanks to the last post.

    Sometime ago I found a description of Samuel's Breguet tipsy key patent in volume 1 of the HJ

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    To be honest I didn't find the description particularly clear. This is rather better.

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    and here is a photograph from the British Museum

    Gold tipsy watch key.jpg

    GOLD CASED CYLINDER 'MONTRE A TACT' WATCH. . Cylinder escapement; gold balance; parachute suspension. White enamel dial, secret signature. Blued steel hand. Gold engine-turned hunter case; touch pins around the band; hours on outside of case; revolving 'à tact' hand. Gold tipsy watch-key.
    © The Trustees of the British Museum


    and a enlargement of a second example

    Gold tipsy watch key III.jpg

    Most I have found appear to have been made in gold.

    John
     
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  8. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    I love John's Harlow watch 1810/1811. I find it interesting how the case styles
    followed the years across the board. My other example is 1811/1812 Liverpool
    Verge.

    Here is my Calendar verge circa 1805 and my 1811 Liverpool verge. Note how
    John's Calendar verge, follows the 1811 pair case style for 1811/1812.

    Also, John's calendar verge has a Bosley regulator in 1810 (not the transition
    regulator with both disk and Bosley reg arm).

    Thanks for sharing John.

    Keith R...

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