Help Needed Identifying Antique Pocket Watch

breyfogle

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Mar 25, 2009
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Quite some time ago, I inherited an antique gold cased pocket watch and I recently became interested in trying to learn just what I had. I'm really more interested in learning what I have rather than in any possible value (unless of coarse it has enough value to justify insuring). The watch is a key wound movement, approximately 35 mm in diameter. There are no marks what so ever on the movement but the dust cover is engraved: "Patent Lever", "Full Ruby Jewelled", "Compensated balance", "Bautte Geneva". The dial face has no markings of any kind either. The case is what I think is called a Hunter case. The front and back covers are both machine decorated with minor amounts of enamaling. The inside of the case covers contain the marks "Warranted 18 Caret Fine E.T.D" along with a stamped number.

Even with very little to identify it, the watch clearly has considerable age. Also, after a bit of Google-searching, I learned that Bautte probably refers to J.F. Bautte of Geneva, a rather important early 19th century Swiss watch maker. Could this watch be connected with J.F Bautte in some way ? Seems unlikely. The lack of any makers marks might indicate that it was not a particularly valuable watch when it was made. Also, I doesn't seem likely that a Swiss watchmaker would have engraved the dust cover in English (even spelling Geneve as Geneva). But, on the other hand, I did find a picture on the Web of what was described as a genuine J.F. Bautte (actually an early Girard-Perregaux) that showed a movement almost exactly like the movement in this watch. Curious.

I would really like to get the opinions of people far more knowledgeable than myself. Do I have a generic 19th Century Swiss "knock-off" with a famous name on the case or might I have something rather rare ? Any and all opinions greatly appreciated.
 

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Jerry Matthews

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Sep 20, 2005
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I don't think you have something rather rare, but it is in an 18c gold case, so it must be a watch of some quality. I would judge it to be mid-to late 19th century. Its size and decoration suggest that it was made as a lady's watch.

Jean Francois Bautte of Geneva died in 1837, and your watch was not made by him. But there were other watchmakers by that name in Geneva. Unlike the English, Swiss makers did not sign their movements, but more usually signed the inner cover as with your watch. Also, it is not at all unlikely that a Swiss watchmaker would have engraved details in English; most Swiss watches were made for export and the British and American markets were very important to them.
 

breyfogle

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Mar 25, 2009
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Jerry

Thanks for the insight. Is that style of movement what is called a Swiss Bar Movement ? I've had time to browse the Web and have seen the same (or nearly the same) movement attributed to various mid-19th century swiss pocket watches.
 

graybear

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Sep 13, 2008
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Hi. If I may add one thing, sometimes some more info can be colleted by looking on the side of the base plate under the dial. If you are lucky you can find either the marking of the maker and the serial number or the serial number alone or nothing. If there is nothing it is likely, in my experience that the watch has been cased & sold by the maker himself, and the case has been made "in house"; if there is a serial number normally case has been bougth and matched to the movement, so the watch could have been sold or by the maker or by the case supplier; if there is a marking then the movement has been sold as an ebauche, end finished and cased by somebody else. If on the base plate there is just the number, normally you can find maker's mark on the upper side. In you case there are two chances, I deem: or you do not find anything, so its completely a Bautte, or there is a mark, so it has been made by some maker and finished by Bautte. The point is that serial numbers were used just as an accounting device only, and not for warranty reasons like today. Sorry for having been verbose. May I have your opinions ?
 

breyfogle

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Mar 25, 2009
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This particular watch has a problem with the key wind mechanism that limits the ability to wind the mainspring. Consequently, it will only run about one hour or so between windings.

Unless it is totally economic nonsense to do so, I would really like to restore it to reasonably good working condition. How does one go about finding a repair person qualified to work on antique Swiss pocket watches and how does someone know when they have found such a person ? I happen to live in Los Angeles so I am quite sure there are qualified watch repair shops / jewelers in the area, somewhere. Mail order opens up more possibilities but they come with even more difficulties determining legitimacy.
 

Jerry Matthews

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Sep 20, 2005
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This particular watch has a problem with the key wind mechanism that limits the ability to wind the mainspring. Consequently, it will only run about one hour or so between windings.

Unless it is totally economic nonsense to do so, I would really like to restore it to reasonably good working condition. How does one go about finding a repair person qualified to work on antique Swiss pocket watches and how does someone know when they have found such a person ? I happen to live in Los Angeles so I am quite sure there are qualified watch repair shops / jewelers in the area, somewhere. Mail order opens up more possibilities but they come with even more difficulties determining legitimacy.
It is definitely NOT economic nonsense to have the watch put right, and repairs should not be unduly expensive (going by what I can see in the photo and what you have said.) It is not an especially complicated movement to work on.

I am on the wrong side of the world to advise where you can find a qualified repair person in the Los Angeles area, but I am sure there are others on this board who can.

On re-reading that first sentence I can see my meaning might have got lost in all the double negatives. What I mean to say is that the watch is definitely worth putting right.
 

doug sinclair

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Aug 27, 2000
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I have included the URL for the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors Member's Links site. If you call it up and click on CA, you will find a listing of NAWCC members among whom might be the repair person you want to speak to. These listings usually contain a URL for a website, amd an email address. If you don't find joy there, get back as there are other resources we can direct you to.

http://www.nawcc.org/headquarters/memlinks.htm

After all, it can be a crap-shoot, trying to find the right repair person. You might ask for references when you think you have found the right shop. If you are not totally confident in anyone you locate nearby, there are members who frequently post on this MB that are UPS away, that can help.

Doug
 

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