I bit the bait on this one

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by Travler1, Jul 14, 2020.

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  1. Travler1

    Travler1 Registered User
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    I hope everyone enjoys this watch ....I am over the moon. I do have a few questions for my learned friends . I’m at a loss for the case maker and my guess would be 1891 on the London date stamp.

    The balance seems special as it has what I consider chronometer attributes ...including 2 platinum screws. Please share thoughts on this attribute.

    The watch is not running real well presently ...loosing as much as 50 degrees of amplitude in various positions. obviously needs a cleaning but I’m thinking something else is amiss .

    The inscription refers to a full rigged sailing ship built approximately 1850-60, It is from the underwriters of that ship to its long time captain, .presented in 1891. I misplaced my source but of interest to me, is that Loyds of London insured the ship . Of further interest is that sailing these vessels in this time period was risky business .....so many were lost at sea or suffered serious tragedy’s. The actual presentation from underwriters to a sea captain ( the hired help ) seems quite unusual ....I infer, he must have been a remarkable seaman.



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  2. MartyR

    MartyR Registered User
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    #2 MartyR, Jul 15, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2020
    The watch is made by Edward Ashley, a maker of some repute - you will find much discussion about him if you search this forum on his surname!

    The movement is freesprung (it has no adjusting device) which is a high-quality feature, but well short of chronometer grade. A chronometer is generally accepted as requiring a detent (rather than a pallet) and a helical (rather than flat) hairspring.
     
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  3. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Travler1,

    The movement is a good quality, 1/2 plate, free-sprung, (with overcoil), English lever, jewelled to the 3rd, with a going barrel. This balance with its quarter screws isn't at all unusual for a watch of this quality, but not a chronometer in the strict sense of the word. The movement signature is for Edward F Ashley (1835-1908), who was a very well respected Clerkenwell manufacturer, probably personally involved in the making of all his watches, including the springing, some being very successful in the Deck Watch Trials at Greenwich and Kew.

    The case maker appears to be Edgar Wilkins at 3 Upper Charles Street in Northampton Square, and although the date letter isn't clear, I believe you're right that it's 1891/2.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  4. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    This is a superb watch. This has it all, great build and humbling history

    It is an underwriters presentation watch. These were very special. Underwriters in the UK, and the US gave these to sea captains who prevented losses. One is described in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. It was owned by one of captains who judged Jim.

    These presentations were not common to avoid creating artificial crises, but often enough that it encouraged captains to report near losses. This helped captains, who got fine watches that could save their ships next time and it got insurers data on what kinds of things could go wrong. It was well enough established that several marine novelists included these watches in describing their characters.

    In the trade, and in catalogs these were referred to as "Half Chronometers" and, no, in English terms, it was not a "Chronometer" because it did not use the delicate and troublesome detent escapement.

    By this time, those in the know, especially British and US captains and insurers were using these "half chronometers" because they were more reliable and robust. These were what insurances groups gave captains who saved ships. These English half chronometers were presented by US, UK, and British Empire Underwriters. They stopped giving true pocket chronometers by the late 1850's.

    Ashley was one of the best, and a half chronometer by him was a watch well capable of navigation.

    Yes, a large box chronometer in gimbals would usually keep time a bit better, because it was larger and kept horizontal, but nothing a person could carry would do any better than one of the half chronometers. When the going got rough these watches were got the ship to safe harbor; that is why good captains carried them and insurers gave them.

    I wrote an NAWCC bulletin article about these and they are one of my favorite classes of watches.

    As to the balance, it is a very good one and similar to other underwriters presentation watches but not quite top grade. The top grade ones have "wings", fillets where the arms and rim meet. The "legend" is that these were to poise the balance before screws were added.

    Yours lack these but does have platinum screws and timing nuts. That is that the adjusting element is nut in a screw coming out from inside the balance. That is very high grade.

    Look closely at the balance spring. Sometimes these have a very long "double overcoil". I do not see it in the photo.

    This watch was given to a courageous sea captain who was a true leader, cool, capable and rational under pressure. May you be worthy to own and preserve it.
     
  5. Travler1

    Travler1 Registered User
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    Hi there,

    Marty, I did search NAWCC-Edward Ashley previous to my purchase, your thread/comments and your watches by Ashley .cemented my purchase. Thank you.
    Have you performed any serial number vrs. date stamp research ?

    Graham, I always look forward to your assistance and a pleasure to hear from you once again...thanks for the help.

    Dr John ....I am ever so happy to have recently discovered your position as Moderator ! Once again, I am blown away by your depth of knowledge, on so many of the varied topics we cover here. Thank you so much for your insight......I will endeavor to be worthy and to preserve ! The movement does not have the extra long over coil that you mentioned. when u have a moment, if you would please advise me of the bulletin number/date that you have authored on presentation watches.

    Best to all ....John
     
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  6. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    #6 Dr. Jon, Jul 16, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2020
    I appreciate the kind words but I can assure that become a moderator has not added any credibility to my postings. The difference now is that when I do something stupid or get something wrong, I get to try to fix it.

    Here is the listing from the Pub site It is from December 2012. It has a table of these watches and I'll add yours to my copy.

    57088 UNDERWRITERS PRESENT. CHRONOMETER WATCH / ARTICLE BY JON WEBER, IL 7, T 1 S 55 400 567

    This decodes to vol 55 issue 400 page 567. The back cover has more information about my example, which shows how this business worked.

    The captain who got the watch I own got it for rigging a rudder at sea and getting his ship to its destination only a few hours late. If he had taken a tow, the towing company could have claimed the ship by right of salvage at sea.

    About a year after this incident another ship lost its rudder on a run from Liverpool to NYC and did get a tow. The owners of the towing ship did claim salvage. The insurers at trial cited my captain to show that the towed ship was not in that much trouble and got the award reduced from full salvage of $500,000 to less than $10,000. Presenting this watch saved the Underwriters two claims.

    My watch is similar to yours and very likely was used to navigate. Its owner operated a small steamer on runs between New York and New Orleans going through "Hurricane Alley". After going through a category 4 storm in the Atlantic he sailed right up the New Orleans ship channels five days late with the ship having every pane of glass broken, passengers tied ot beds to keep them from being injured and 3' of water in the engine room. They completely rebuilt the ship and it returned to service less than two weeks later. That rebuild was extensive proving how robust the watch was. I doubt any box chronometer would have survived in that voyage.

    Only a watch in oilskins on his person would survive that and he made his landfall. We know he used the watch or whatever he had on board because the ship was considered missing until it arrived at its destination, He did not stop and ask for directions or a time reference, in which case the fate of the ship would have been known before he arrived.

    That is why these watches were given. They emphasized accuracy and were as simple and robust as possible consistent with being good enough to navigate.
     
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  7. svenedin

    svenedin Registered User

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    Lovely watch and fascinating history. You mention that the balance loses amplitude in various positions. This may be balance pivots or a cracked jewel. Certainly a full service is in order and the watchmaker can give the watch a thorough inspection. I have a watch that does what you describe and I'm fairly sure it's balance staff pivots probably damaged by rough handling in the past.
     
  8. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    I have had the watch for a very ling time. It has not been serviced probably since its original owner had to done. I would probably do it myself if I were going to wear it but I do not.

    Unless I plan to wear a watch i prefer to leave it alone,
     
  9. svenedin

    svenedin Registered User

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    That makes sense. I like to have all my watches working so that I can wear one on a whim if I feel like it but I have too many and inevitably that means some have not been serviced in a long time. Some I hardly ever use either because they are too old, too valuable to take outside the house (either in monetary value or sentimental value) or they have movements that are known to be prone to wear and need frequent servicing (e.g cylinders). I have a habit of deluding myself that I will buy a "beater" of a pocket watch that I will wear all the time and not be concerned if it were to be scratched or whatever. For me that never works, I always find myself drawn to watches that are a bit too good to be "beaters"!

    Your watch of course is wonderful and I quite understand why you don't want to wear it.
     
  10. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    Not that I don't want to wear it, but rather I have other watches i prefer to wear. These are long wearers which are maintained and occasional wearers which get minor lube and are worn a few weeks every few years.

    Most are in safety deposit box and very hard to get at now.

    I bought this one a very long time ago and I wear the more recent acquisitions.
     
  11. Travler1

    Travler1 Registered User
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    Doctor Jon, You have explained and filled in for me the missing link. I have previously been quite confused by the term 1/2 chronometer....and in all my reading never discovered its meaning other than ambiguous references to makers or timekeeping .... I believe I once read a half chronometer was a watch not placing well in time trials ....sort of a not quite good enough timekeeper for competition My new understanding is that a 1/2 chronometer is a exceptional lever movement with a chronometer balance...and that the chronometer balance is the key aspect of the 1/2 chronometer attribution. I then infer that this is the perfect dividing line between lever movement and 1/2 chronometer movement. As a chronometer balance would never be fit, and or up to the task, when placed on a lesser grade lever movement. Thank you
     
  12. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    The term is confusing because the French and Swiss used it for a different class of watch from the English and neither had a formal or legal definition.

    My take from what I have read and seen is that a Swiss Demi or semi chronometer was a better grade watch but one that had not passed at one of the three levels. It may have failed or the maker may have tested it to their own standard. I believe Swiss semi or Demi chronometers had been tested in several positions and were usually sold with a paper that gave sample rates.

    English Half Chronometers were timed for adjusting purposes but once adjusted they were sold with a simple makers certificate, which included nothing about rates. Until testing at Kew, they were to top grade English watch short of a tourbillon.

    Insurance underwriters in the US and British Empire presented English Half Chronometers.
     
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