How common are pocket watches that can be both stem wound as well as key wound?

jph8881

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Hi,

Quick question- I'm new to pocket watch collecting and until I recently acquired an early Columbus pocket watch (late 1870's or early 1880's depending on where you look up the serial number) I didn't even realize that there were pocket watches manufactured that were able to be wound both by key as well as by stem within a single watch. I was previously under the impression that pocket watches were made to be wound by key or by stem, but not by both and now I'm curious if this is something that is common that I was oblivious to or if it's relatively uncommon.

I'm also confused as to why they would make them this way as I thought the appeal of the stem-wound watch when it came out was to avoid needing to wind it with a key. Were they made from key wound movements that were modified so that they could be stem-wound or were they manufactured with the intent to have both winding options? Seems confusing to me :/

Also, if they are relatively common, does anyone have any other examples they could point me to?

Thanks!
 
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rjb13

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Hello,

They are relatively common in the period of early 1880s, as stem winders were becoming more popular. They are often termed "transitional movements", because several manufacturers of this period started converting existing inventory from key wind to stem wind. So they werent manufactured this way, but were converted to do so after the fact. Often movements would sit for months or years partially finished in the manufacturers vault waiting to be finished, or even completely finished, waiting to be shipped or sold. In the interim, when one or several companies came out with stem winds at a competitive price point, it was difficult to sell their key wind movements at that price, so they would add a stem winding mechanism to the partially or completely finished watches to convert them, and keep them competitive in the market instead of having them sit or have to be steeply discounted. I have three of such watches, all are illinois 18s from the early 1880s, when this practice was the most prevalent.
Also, prior to this, there are watches that can be found with after market add-on mechanisms that were bought from retail jewelers to convert your own watch to stem wind. I have one such model 57 waltham with an aftermarket conversion.
By the late 1880s and early 1890s, keywinds were only being sold in low grades, and advertised as inexpensive yet simple and durable. But by around 1900, they werent being produced at all.
I hope this makes sense and helps!
 

Rick Hufnagel

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Elgin was working on a stem-winding attachment for their watches from at least 1868. They finally one into production in 1873. There are 6 original grades that went for sale between 1873 and 1875, and a few outliers and numbered grades, that retained the key wind arbor. They are all "model 2" by the way Elgin ended up labeling everything down the road. They were built as stemwinders, not finished off later or changed to sell keywind inventory. The earliest ones did not have lever setting, but Elgin quickly added that within the first year. I can go on and on here, but I'll spare you for since you just asked about key and stem wind :p



2645e5b5fd7696950917e3c329ebf2b7.jpg


Illinois also did this early on with their model 2 (hunter) and model 3 ( open-faced). These are November 1875 into the 1880s. (Thanks Dave)
Here is a model 2 Miller.
f0c58468f4f2fe5dc7080a6101585ca0.jpg

Rockford did the same thing, thankfully. Their Stemwind mechanism isn't my favorite, but the watches themselves are just awesome. I'm going to say 1876 into the early 1880s.

b13782c2ca350e6299cf778477e60f01.jpg

You show a Columbus, and the early ones like yours (and mine) are built from Swiss movements that Gruen ordered specifically for the company. Once they started producing watches in America, they also had some that wound both ways. This is 1874 for the start of the Swiss, and 1883 for the start of American production.
766053495c0e02bfcdca06631099dc13.jpg


The American Watch Co, (Waltham) first stemwinder is the model 1868, which is from..... 1868! Haha. Love these movements.
de4da90591cd32e3ceba8d942d181d31.jpg


And last but not least, here is the Abbott's Stemwind conversion added aftermarket to existing keywind movements. This started life as a New York Watch Co keywind movement, and somewhere along the line the owner got tired of using his key! You can't talk about key and stem wind movements without mentioning this, because you will find conversions (Abbott's and others) on all manner of watches.
e3fd3c0fb3afbf33315519c9efd510a7.jpg 8caf1d421951e35b643cf030f49652c8.jpg

If you have any questions or would like to know more please ask! Lots of great collectors and researchers here.

Have a good day!

I have not seen any specific proof of "why". Generally though, people do not like change. Most of the time you hear that it gave a customer reassurance if he or she wasn't convinced of this newfangled Stemwind technology. In some instances it could be just adding stem wind mechanisms to existing models.
 
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musicguy

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Thanks for sharing the transitional movement, it's a nice one.


Here is an interesting one that has been converted from Key wind to Stem wind and the Key wind works removed
and a gold setting put in it's place. I guess it is the same today as it was in the past,
no one wants old technology. You need to upgrade ;) .

ed55f.jpg



Rob
 

Clint Geller

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E. Howard & Company made one run of thirty L Size nickel Model 1869 (Series V) transitional movements, from SNs 56,301 to 56,330. Oddly enough, I have owned three of these thirty movements at different times. They are not easily identified in the factory records. I have seen at least one other gilded brass example, so I assume there are others. Notice that the two movements pictured have a detent screw for capturing a winding stem. Straight nickel keywind Series V movements may be even rarer. I have only seen one and heard of one other.

H 56,327 nickell KW-SW L Size.jpg H 56,330 nickel KW-SW L Size.jpg Howard KW Mvt SM.JPG Howard KW Pillar Plate SM.JPG
 
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jph8881

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Wow. Thanks everyone for all the information and awesome pics. I learned more than I expected and all very interesting. I appreciate it :)
I hadn't paid attention to it before- of course since I didn't realize they existed I also didn't know to even look for whether a watch had a transitional movement :)- but now that I am, I'll keep an eye out in case I run across any others :)
 

jph8881

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Hi Rick- no problem. Glad I happened upon a topic of interest to more people than just myself :) Unfortunately the picture of the movement I attached is just a picture that I pulled from ebay as an example of movement similar to the one I just acquired that is also a Columbus transitional movement because I was too lazy to take a pic of my own and upload it :p

Since so many people were kind of enough to leave answers to my question I feel obligated to at least upload a pic of the actual movement now, so I have :) One with the exhibition back on the case and one without.

I say unfortunately above as the movement from ebay is quite nice and appears to be a higher grade than the one I recently acquired (and also a higher price to go along with it) so mine isn't quite as nice as that one, but it's still interesting :)

The only issue I have with the movement I bought is that it doesn't run (it was part of a group of watches that I bought so I wasn't sure if it would or wouldn't, but unfortunately it doesn't). I don't really know much about watch repair- have never taken one apart and only have very basic knowledge of how the parts/structure of the movement (though I'm slowly learning), but I can see from looking at it that the escape wheel is loose. Should the top of the escape wheel pinion be lodged in the jewel above it? In mine it's just sort of free floating. I can't really get a picture of it right now, but if I get a chance I'll see if I can take one. Thanks!

20210423_114442 (1).jpg 20210423_114513 (1).jpg
 

musicguy

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Unfortunately the picture of the movement I attached is just a picture that I pulled from ebay as an example of movement similar to the one I just acquired that is also a Columbus transitional movement because I was too lazy to take a pic of my own and upload it :p
That is why I am removing that photo. We can only post photos here that
you have taken yourself or have permission from the person who took the photograph.
People are very sensitive when others use photos of their watches without permission(and it is copyright law).

That being said don't worry about it, now you know what not to do here :) .


Rob
 
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Dr. Jon

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Almost all English keyless, as in stem wound, fusee watches have provision for key winding and setting, often including holes in the cuvettes. They made these well into the 20th century, although these watches are not common/
 

jph8881

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@ Rob- oops, sorry about that- I knew that discussions about prices were off limits but didn't know about the pic policy.....but now I do, so I'll avoid it :) On a side note- are links to eBay auctions also verboten if I wanted to reference them or are those allowed?

@ Dr. Jon- I did not realize that as well....though I mostly collect American pocket watches....interesting info :)
 
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musicguy

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discussions about prices were off limits
You can actually talk about value just not about live auctions. Thanks :)

RE: "are links to eBay auctions also verboten "
Links can only be posted if its to a finished auction.


Rob
 

johnbscott

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During the transition, for American watches, from key winding and setting to pendant winding and setting, many of the watches that retained provision for key winding whilst providing for pendant winding and setting, no longer provided for key setting. At the outset this restricted the options for casing those movements - and it still restricts our options for dealing with the countless orphans that have been created by the case scrappers.

It should be appreciated that transition away from key setting to pendant setting did more than just to provide convenience by the elimination of the need for a key. It enabled the elimination of hollow centre wheel arbors, which were difficult and expensive to make and troublesome, in practice, because of their reliance upon indeterminate friction to provide a positive and reliable drive for the hour and minute hands. A negative feature of pendant wind movements is that, when compared with key set movements, they generally have a couple of extra intermediate wheels for the movement to drive when not being set.
 
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Clint Geller

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It should be appreciated that transition away from key setting to pendant setting did more than just to provide convenience by the elimination of the need for a key. It enabled the elimination of hollow centre wheel arbors, which were difficult and expensive to make and troublesome, in practice, because of their reliance upon indeterminate friction to provide a positive and reliable drive for the hour and minute hands. A negative feature of pendant wind movements is that, when compared with key set movements, they generally have a couple of extra intermediate wheels for the movement to drive when not being set.
The problem you identified was likely the motivation behind William B. Learned's patented threaded center arbor and cannon pinion, which appeared on all E. Howard & Co. split plate movements in the 1890's. Learned was the EH&Co. factory superintendant in that period.
 
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Kenny S.

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The problem you identified was likely the motivation behind William B. Learned's patented threaded center arbor and cannon pinion, which appeared on all E. Howard & Co. split plate movements in the 1890's. Learned was the EH&Co. factory superintendant in that period.
I wasn't aware this had ever been done. I have been struggling with a couple of my Waltham movements with the hands slipping and trying to tighten the cannon pinion. As a machinist I was thinking to myself, why didn't they come up with something better? That is so simple, I'm surprised it could be patented.
 

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Clint, thank you for providing such an interesting response. I believe you refer to US Patent 496,162 dated April 25, 1893 (copy attached). The patent describes a threaded cannon pinion arrangement that, according to your own observation, was "fairly disastrous", in practice, because of its propensity to suffer damage at the hands of unknowing repairers. I note that a hollow centre wheel arbor is still needed and that there is no provision (that I can see) for key setting.

My understanding is that the goal of the patent is to achieve a means of accurately gaining the necessary friction, to drive the hour and minute hands, without reliance upon a neat fit between the internal bore of the centre wheel arbor and a pin within. Instead, a spring washer was introduced to be tensioned according to axial positioning of the cannon pinion by means of the thread.

Thank goodness none of my watches embodies this innovation!
 

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Clint Geller

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Clint, thank you for providing such an interesting response. I believe you refer to US Patent 496,162 dated April 25, 1893 (copy attached). The patent describes a threaded cannon pinion arrangement that, according to your own observation, was "fairly disastrous", in practice, because of its propensity to suffer damage at the hands of unknowing repairers. I note that a hollow centre wheel arbor is still needed and that there is no provision (that I can see) for key setting.

My understanding is that the goal of the patent is to achieve a means of accurately gaining the necessary friction, to drive the hour and minute hands, without reliance upon a neat fit between the internal bore of the centre wheel arbor and a pin within. Instead, a spring washer was introduced to be tensioned according to axial positioning of the cannon pinion by means of the thread.

Thank goodness none of my watches embodies this innovation!
Hi John, Please note that in my previous post, I never meant to imply that Learned's invention was a good idea. :) I merely observed that the uncertain friction issue you identified was the motivation for it. As you pointed out, in my own writing I have referred to Learned's patent more than once as a "dubious improvement," or stronger condemnations in the same vein. That said, it may well be the case that watchmakers in the 1890s may have been better informed about the need to unscrew these cannon pinions than were watchmakers who worked fifty and a hundred years after these watches were made and the company had exited the watchmaking business. By then, the company would have had every right to expect that the watches' serious working lives had mostly ended due to either deterioration in regular use or obsolescence in disuse. The broken center hole jewels resulting a century later due to collectors and hobbyists who were unprepared for Learned's deviation from standard watch construction practice were reasonably of no concern to the manufacturer.

It would be interesting to know whether the trade commented on issues with Learned's "innovations" back in the day.
 
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Dr. Jon

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The threaded cannon pinion may have been patented by Howard but I have seen an example in a Patek Philippe watch dated 1866.

Until it noticed the dating, I had thought Patek borrowed it from Howard bu tit seems to have gone the other way.

I beleive they did it deliberately to cause inept watchmakers to break things.
 

Clint Geller

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The threaded cannon pinion may have been patented by Howard but I have seen an example in a Patek Philippe watch dated 1866.

Until it noticed the dating, I had thought Patek borrowed it from Howard bu tit seems to have gone the other way.

I believe they did it deliberately to cause inept watchmakers to break things.
In that case, I stand corrected, Jon. If the purpose of Learned's invention was to cause inept watchmakers to break things, then it was a brilliant success, not a dismal failure after all! :) We have been unfairly maligning it all these years.

I was unaware of Patek's patent, but neither am I surprised by it. Many American watchmaking "innovations" of which I am aware in fact had either close or even identical European antecedents. It might even be informative to create a thread on that subject and pool our knowledge.
 
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Dr. Jon

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I am sure Patek Philippe did not patent it because there were no Swiss patents in 1866. What they did was to patent things like their stem wind stem set device in nations where they had major markets.

I know about it because I had a very close look at the Patek Philippe watch and was familiar with the Howard system.

I also doubt they patented it because they did not want watchmakers outside their network knowing about it. It is not the only booby trap in this watch.

The center pin is very difficult to make. It is long, thin, and has a slot cut into the center and a squares end. Since it is threaded it has to be heat treated several times. It is nice system for tension adjustment and it severely punishes people who get into it without knowing what it is. making a replacement is very difficult.

It is nice system for watchmakers with three hands.
 
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