Help please - Fusee pocket watch. Who actually made these watch movements?

TristanHaskins

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Jan 14, 2021
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Hi all. Please see the attached photos. It's a FUSEE CHAIN pocket watch belonging to my friends grandfather. I have dated the outer silver case to 1093 from the CHESTER Hall Mark (3 wheatsheafs) and a curly "C". The watch has papers behind case cover from F Esslemont Jeweller, Forfar, 1932. The makers same is J Hutchison, Brechin.

I have seen many similar watches in photos, all the same engraving and all pretty much identical apart from outer case, dial and maker's mark on movement. Who ACTUALLY made the movements? Would it have been J Hutchison himself, or did he just buy the out cases and inner movements then put them all together?

I am new to this - studying with the BHI to gain some knowledge and skills

FYI - this watch ticks for anytime from 1 minute to 2 hours - then stops. I am NOT going to try and fix it - WELL above my skill set.

Can we tell when it was actually made from serial number?

Sorry - lots of questions

Thanks for any help

Tristan

IMG_20210316_191900872.jpg IMG_20210318_212747186.jpg IMG_20210318_200545770.jpg
 

gmorse

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Hi Tristan, and welcome to the forum,
I have dated the outer silver case to 1093 from the CHESTER Hall Mark (3 wheatsheafs) and a curly "C". The watch has papers behind case cover from F Esslemont Jeweller, Forfar, 1932. The makers same is J Hutchison, Brechin.

I have seen many similar watches in photos, all the same engraving and all pretty much identical apart from outer case, dial and maker's mark on movement. Who ACTUALLY made the movements? Would it have been J Hutchison himself, or did he just buy the out cases and inner movements then put them all together?

I am new to this - studying with the BHI to gain some knowledge and skills

FYI - this watch ticks for anytime from 1 minute to 2 hours - then stops. I am NOT going to try and fix it - WELL above my skill set.

Can we tell when it was actually made from serial number?
I'd really like to see a clear picture of the hallmarks, because the 'C' date letters in the style I believe I can partially see in one of your pictures are for Chester in 1820 or 1886. If the leopard's head mark has no crown, then it's the latter date, (he lost it in 1822). From the style of the watch it's certainly not 1820. It's important to read all the marks in context.

The name in the signature is rarely if ever the maker's name, and in any event, no single person ever made an entire watch by themselves, even in the very earliest days. It was a collaborative effort between 40 or 50 specialists, many working in tiny workshops. The retailer, Mr. Hutchison, would have ordered the watch from one of the major watchmaking centres in the UK, Coventry, Liverpool or London; by the time this was probably made, Coventry was in the ascendancy, and it's quite possible that the same people made the case as well as the movement, although the traditional way was for the workshop which made the movement to send it out to a specialist case maker to have it cased. The vendor didn't usually have the option of fitting a different case to the customers' choice, (unlike the US system). A lot of these watches are very similar because they came from relatively few workshops which employed even fewer engravers, and there was also the inherent conservatism of both the watch trade and its customers to take into account.

The watch probably hasn't been serviced for a good many years and may simply need a proper strip down and clean.

The subject of watch serial numbers is being discussed elsewhere on the forum at the moment, and whilst some of the 'great and good' in the business did use numbering systems which could be aligned to dates, mostly by reference to case hallmarks but also with the fortuitous survival of their work-books, at this end of the trade many numbers were simply the job numbers used by the original manufacturing workshops. If you think about it, a small provincial jeweller would be most unlikely to have sold over 55,000 watches!

I hope you're enjoying the DLC, which track do you think you'll be following?

Regards,

Graham
 

TristanHaskins

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Jan 14, 2021
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Hi Graham

Thank you very much for the very informative reply. I have attached a closeup of the hallmark. I hope that helps clarify date of case work.

The GOOD NEWS .... 4 VERY CAREFULLY applied drops of watch oil and it is running ... and has ran for over 45 minutes now. Fingers crossed it will continue through the night.

Regarding the DLC progress. Only on unit 2 - but hope to get properly stuck in an sit the exam next year. Not too sure at this stage which route to take. I'd probably prefer to work on watches - but I am a bit daunted by the micro-size of everything and my 53 year old eyes. Just bought a Sherline 4500 direct from the US - and having fun trying to learn how to use that. I got the vertical milling attachment too and have been trying to teach myself re-bushing. I've got a ling way to go.

Thanks again for the help so far.

Best regards

Tristan

1616268434778.jpg
 
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gmorse

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Hi Tristan,
I have attached a closeup of the hallmark. I hope that helps clarify date of case work.
Thanks, it does indeed, the date letter in that particular style is for 1903/4 which is some long time past the date of the movement, around 50 years I would say, so the conclusion is that this case is a replacement. The presence of the movement serial number inside the case doesn't preclude it being a later replacement; this was a common practice amongst case makers to ensure that the cases and movements didn't become mixed up.

Are the hallmarks the same in both the inner and outer cases? If they are, then this is a rather late example of pair cases, although if it has spent most of its life in Scotland, that could explain it, because that style of case, although widely regarded as archaic by the start of the 20th century, seems to have remained more popular north of the border.

I don't recommend that you continue to run the watch before it's been cleaned and lubricated. Old oils become sticky and will accumulate dust, forming an abrasive paste which damages the fine pivots.

Not too sure at this stage which route to take. I'd probably prefer to work on watches - but I am a bit daunted by the micro-size of everything and my 53 year old eyes.
That shouldn't worry you too much if you use the appropriate optics for the work you're doing and have good lighting at the bench. Many people use stereo zoom microscopes, which may seem like a high initial outlay but will help preserve your eyesight and make working on watches so much more pleasant.

Have you taken the option of a mentor with your DLC course?

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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Tristian, Graham

I believe this watch may be in its original case. J Huchinson was active in Brechin in 1903 and is listed in trade directories for that year.

1616274247352.png
I have seen other examples of late pair cased Coventry full plate fusee single rollers from the beginning of the C20th.

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi John,

Wow, that is most surprising! I knew that the northern taste continued to favour pair cases long after they were abandoned in the south, but really, that movement was made in the 20th century? 1903! That is carrying conservative attitudes to extremes.

Or could it have been old stock?

Regards,

Graham
 

musicguy

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but really, that movement was made in the 20th century? 1903!
I was thinking the same thing! John Good sleuthing


Rob
 

John Matthews

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Graham - I was careful not to say that the movement was made in 1903, just that it was in the original case - meaning the case was assayed at a time when the retailer whose signature is on the movement, was active.

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi Tristan,

To return briefly to the case hallmarks, I believe the makers'/sponsor's mark is T.R.A incuse for Thomas Richard Arnott at Wilderau House, 33 Chester Street, Coventry, registered 7th May 1894, (from Priestley).

John, I'm sorry, perhaps I'm being dense; you'll have to explain how the 1903 case is original to a movement that shows every sign of having been made years earlier . . .

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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Graham,

A full plate single roller fusee movement of the same construction, but only having 7 jewels, ascribed to having been made by Rotherhams, and housed in pair cases carrying the maker's mark JR, hallmarked Birmingham 1915 was sold in 2020 by DP. The description included ...
This very late pair case shows just how much a strongly cased watch was valued, well into the C20th.

A capped full plate single roller movement with gold balance carrying a signature located in rural Lnicolnshire. DP was not sure whether it was a retailer of the first owner. I believe in both cases the watches were finally finished at time that closely matched the dates of the cases. Whether much of the movement was constructed earlier, I cannot say, but the signatures are contemporary with the hallmarks.

Rotherham movements of similar full plate construction, but with compensated balances, are very common in open face cases as late as 1920. So I believe the were continuing to machine full plate frames well into the C20th.

John
 

gmorse

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Hi John,

Thanks for clarifying. I suppose this is just a more extreme example of the inherent conservatism in the English watch trade that had already initiated its terminal decline.

Regards,

Graham
 

novicetimekeeper

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I once found a Scottish pair case with a hallmark for 1915.
 

TristanHaskins

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Jan 14, 2021
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" To return briefly to the case hallmarks, I believe the makers'/sponsor's mark is T.R.A incuse for Thomas Richard Arnott at Wilderau House, 33 Chester Street, Coventry, registered 7th May 1894, (from Priestley). "

Thanks again Graham - I was wondering abou the TRA initials.

Thank you John for the excerpt referencing John Hutchison - Watchmaker - Brechin. Excellent sleuthing as Rob says.

Thank you everyone for your help. The watch is now back with the family - they are OVER THE MOON to have so much more information regarding jeweller, maker, hallmarks etc.

Great work

Regards

Tristan
 

TristanHaskins

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Jan 14, 2021
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Hi Tristan,


Thanks, it does indeed, the date letter in that particular style is for 1903/4 which is some long time past the date of the movement, around 50 years I would say, so the conclusion is that this case is a replacement. The presence of the movement serial number inside the case doesn't preclude it being a later replacement; this was a common practice amongst case makers to ensure that the cases and movements didn't become mixed up.

Are the hallmarks the same in both the inner and outer cases? If they are, then this is a rather late example of pair cases, although if it has spent most of its life in Scotland, that could explain it, because that style of case, although widely regarded as archaic by the start of the 20th century, seems to have remained more popular north of the border.

I don't recommend that you continue to run the watch before it's been cleaned and lubricated. Old oils become sticky and will accumulate dust, forming an abrasive paste which damages the fine pivots.



That shouldn't worry you too much if you use the appropriate optics for the work you're doing and have good lighting at the bench. Many people use stereo zoom microscopes, which may seem like a high initial outlay but will help preserve your eyesight and make working on watches so much more pleasant.

Have you taken the option of a mentor with your DLC course?

Regards,

Graham
Point taken about not running the watch any more until such time that it's been properly cleaned and lubricated. I have passed that back to the owner.

Regarding the DLC course. Yes I have subscribed to the mentoring on the DLC. Feedback on unit 1 was great.

Best regards and thanks again - hope to meet you at an SLBBHI meeting sometime

Tristan
 

gmorse

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Hi Tristan,
Best regards and thanks again - hope to meet you at an SLBBHI meeting sometime
I haven't been over to Godstone in person since February last year, when I did a live presentation before the virus kicked off, but I've done an online talk for the South London Branch since then. I hope we'll all be able to start live meetings again later this year, in my Wessex Branch as well as yours.

Regards,

Graham
 

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