Identifying Massey escapements without dismantling

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by Lychnobius, Apr 2, 2020.

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  1. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    In discussing English fusee lever movements made between about 1812 and 1850, we often come up against the question whether the escapement is a standard English single-roller pattern or one of the five styles developed by Edward Massey from 1812 onwards. One can usually recognise the Massey types, and even distinguish one from another by looking through the side of the movement (obviously with the dust-cap removed if there is one), but this inspection is not always possible, especially if one is trying to evaluate a watch or movement solely on the basis of online images supplied by a vendor or an enquirer. However, it seems to me, from my admittedly limited experience, that there may be a clue – I do not say it is a decisive one – in the position of the banking-pins: that Massey levers tend to be a little shorter than standard single-roller levers, and therefore that in the former the pins, whose ends can be seen on the back plate, will be further from the edge of the plate than they are in the latter.

    By way of evidence, I give below images of two Joseph Johnson movements of about 1823: No. 5680, a Massey I, and No. 5687 which was (alas, I no longer have it) a standard English lever. These two are in most respects as nearly identical as any two hand-made articles could possibly be, but in 5687 the pins are visible towards the right-hand side just clear of the perimeter of the balance, whereas in 5680 the pins are further enough inboard to be actually under the rim of the balance.

    It may be that this is a false scent and that the movements I have been able to inspect are too small a sample to justify any conclusion. That is precisely why I am asking those of you who have many such movements at your disposal, or who have seen more than I have, to consider whether my suggestion is valid or not. It may not be; but if it is, this may make it a little easier for us to draw conclusions about items which have been posted here for discussion, which we are thinking of buying, or which those of us who have the craze for compiling databases are trying to describe to the best of our ability. Of course one would still have to inspect the movement itself in order to say which Massey type was present, if any; but at least my idea, if it is sound, would limit the options.

    Besides the two images just mentioned, I have added a sketch (adapted from one in my Johnson database) of the various types of escapement in question; the upper row shows what one will see mounted on the balance-staff between the plates, while the lower illustrates the different styles of the forked inner end of the lever.

    Oliver Mundy.

    johnson_3.jpg johnson_5680_back_03.jpg horology_escapement_types.jpg
     
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  2. Andrew Wilde

    Andrew Wilde Registered User
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    #2 Andrew Wilde, Apr 2, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2020
    Hi Oliver,

    Assuming you are referring to Massey movements generally and not solely Johnson (I have none of the latter), I've attached images of 6 Massey movements showing some variety in banking pin positions. In order they are a Massey 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2. I have several others, but don't have access to them at present, nor to my table roller examples (I have an on-hold kitchen refit in progress with the the relocated kitchen contents blocking access to my watches !!!), so I can't do a comparison. Anyway, maybe these images will help you explore your idea further.

    Cheers ... Andy

    Massey 1 3.jpg Massey 3 3.jpg Massey 3 2 (3).jpg
     
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  3. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Oliver

    Unfortunately, the early single rollers were also characterised by short levers. From a cursory examination of the some of the photographs I have of Massey IIIs, it appears that there was a tendency for the length of lever to be longer in the later examples. My personal opinion is that the position of the pins is not, taken alone, a reliable indicator to make the distinction, however, the position of the pins is certainly worth noting with other features.

    Early single roller (1820) - banking pins directly beneath balance and cannot be seen when viewing perpendicular to the plate

    20191212 011.jpg 20191212 009.jpg

    Massey III (1831) & single roller (1825) - pins in approximately the same position ...

    upload_2020-4-2_18-18-33.png

    John
     
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  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    From what I've seen, the levers on Massey I escapements were indeed very short, often only slightly longer than the pallet frame at the outer end, but with the advent of the jewelled rollers they became longer. Since many Massey escapements were supplied and/or fitted by the Masseys themselves, the consistency of the radius of the planting of the banking pins within each type is understandable.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  5. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    This is what limited my collecting of watches, it was just a minefield not knowing what I was looking at from the limited photographic offerings available from auction houses.

    I managed to pick up some English cylinders but could never sort out any Masseys.

    My eyesight getting worse I went back to clocks.
     
  6. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    I've asked a similar question that Oliver has: when looking at pictures of a movement, could one reasonably guess what sort of Massey escapement it has, assuming it has a Massey escapement? Well, I have found that that nearly all those Anglo-American Liverpool fusees that I illustrated in other threads--the ones in the RS cases--are invariably, or nearly so, Massey Type IIIs. That's probably because these movements all have a common origin. Those date from the 1840s through 50s.

    Once, when I was buying these sorts of things online, I bought a "fat "lever with a broad balance cock. I think it dates somewhere around 1815-20. To my pleasant surprise it was a Massey I. Sometime later I spotted another such "fat" movement with a broad cock. It too was a Massey I. So I thought the shape of the balance cock was a clue. And I think it is, possibly because these two watches have the same maker--don't really know. But after reading Oliver's post (I hope you don't mind me calling you by your first name), I see the limitation of my method. The shape of the balance cock has nothing structurally to do with the type of lever escapement, but the position of the banking pins may surely have.

    Still the shape of the balance cock may yet be a clue because such-and-such a shape may have been used by a maker who deployed Massey escapements. I'll post photos of these two movements later. Some weeds are calling. They are shouting, "Pull me up!"
     
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  7. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Here is a random mix of Massey I, II, III & Vs to ponder, I have posted the majority on the forum, so no prizes on offer ...

    20191211 009.jpg 20170419 014.jpg 20180827 003.jpg 20171128 005.jpg 20180504 002.jpg 20190607 005.jpg 20170313 006.jpg 20190113 003.jpg

    John
     
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  8. PapaLouies

    PapaLouies Registered User
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    With a good light and a loupe, together with a cot on my right index finger, so as not to tarnish the balance wheel, simply look between the plates, rotate the balance wheel to clear the roller jewel of the lever and this will allow a clear view of the roller.
    Regards, PL
     
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  9. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    PapaLouies: What you write is true, but the watch is not always in hand. That's the gist of Oliver's question. Let's suppose you buy items on eBay or some other online service. You ask your seller your question, and the seller does not have a clue what the answer is. Can you infer or guess with some sporting probability what sort of escape the movement has in lieu of not handling it? That's the question.
     
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  10. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    This matter is further complicated by the fact that a number of Massey type I escapements were 'upgraded' to type Ii or III as soon as these jewelled types became available, and indeed slightly later some Masseys of all types were converted to single table rollers. Neither of these alterations necessarily left externally visible signs of their execution.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  11. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    #11 John Matthews, Apr 5, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2020
    or to put another way - it is not possible to tell just from the view of the plate and cock, the nature of the escapement - even if you knew that it was either a Massey or a single roller, and they are not the only possibilities! e.g.

    20190221 004.jpg

    John
     
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  12. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    It does seem that my attempt to establish a rule-of-thumb by observing the position of the banking pins was based on inadequate evidence. I feared this might be so. Of course there could never be any certain substitute for direct inspection, as PapaLouies has said. My thanks to all who have commented.

    One thing that is equally clear is that the inscription (if any) on the cock is no guide to the presence or absence of a Massey escapement; several of John Matthews's examples, and at least two of mine, are marked DETACH'D rather than PATENT. (It has sometimes been argued that the latter word is evidence for a Massey, since Massey's designs were indeed patented but the standard English lever was not. I suppose it is possible that in theory cocks with the lettering PATENT were supposed to be reserved for Massey movements, but if so it is plain that engravers and assemblers often overlooked the distinction.)

    Oliver Mundy.
     
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  13. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    Graham: I think your comment was directed to this John and not the other John (John M). In any case, your point is well taken.

    I would like to post photos of those two Massey I's; I can't find them. It looks like I had straightened up the house awhile back and put them somewhere for safe keeping. For the life of me, I don't know where. But when they do turn up, I will post pictures of them.
     
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  14. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    Always glad to hear from you! I am afraid, though, that this idea has the same limitation as mine: the more examples one sees, the less clear the evidence becomes. As you say, there is no connection between the shape of the cock and the style of the escapement; all one can say is that until after 1800 verge, cylinder and duplex watches tended to adhere to the older cock pattern in which the table was pierced as well as engraved and covered the wheel completely, whereas other escapement types were accompanied by some kind of cutaway table which left much of the balance exposed. (This derived, I think, from chronometer practice, where the balance carried various types of temperature-compensation device which needed access for adjustment. I believe Peter Litherland, in his rack-levers of the 1790s, was the first to employ it in domestic watches.) With the new century, more and more watchmakers took to the 'chronometer' style of cock, even with a perfectly plain balance, simply because it was regarded as more up-to-date rather than becasue there was any actual need for it.

    Oliver Mundy.
     
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  15. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    Not forgetting that rack levers could justifiably be marked 'Patent' as well, whereas when applied to English levers it was just a piece of marketing.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  16. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    I have just checked photographs of my collection of levers supplemented by photographs I have captured.
    • all rack levers in my collection are engraved Parent;
    • of 130 single rollers only 8 are engraved Patent - 7 of which are either American cased, signed Johnson or signed Beesley;
    • of the 15 Massey levers in my collection, 6 with Patent, 4 Detached or Detached Lever and 5 not engraved.
    I think there is a tendency for the way Liverpool signed movements were engraved to colour our perceptions ;).

    John
     
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  17. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    Here they are. The balance cocks don't even look that similar to me anymore. Both were bought on eBay quite a while ago. The first one is signed Davis, Watson & Co / Boston. Upon dismantling it, I found a Massey I escapement. Sometime later I bought the second one, signed Davis, Brown & Co / Boston. Before buying it, I guessed that it was a Massey I based on a presumed similarity between balance cocks. It turned out that I was correct, and so I naively thought this was confirmation of my balance cock theory.

    It's the same Davis for both companies. It's not unreasonable to think that Davis went to the same supplier, and therein may be the reason both are Massey I's, and not because there is any similarity between the cocks. John M's photo above, given the wide variety of cocks displayed, shows there is no correlation between shape of balance cock and type of Massey escapement.

    Well, perhaps there is a weak correlation. If the Massey Type I escapement is generally found on earlier movements, and earlier movements tend to have broader cocks, then yes there might be some very weak correlation. But I wouldn't put any money down based on that assumption.

    IMG_0889.jpg
     
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  18. jboger

    jboger Registered User

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    OK, I'll stick my neck out . . .

    John M: You have two rows of movements pictured above. From left to right, Row 1, 1 through 4; Row 2, 1 through 4. Shorthand: R1:1, R2:4 etc. So, using that shorthand, is R2:1 a Massey III? Is R2:4 a Massey I?

    John B
     
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  19. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Just for fun, can anyone tell me the escapement is in this Pocket watch?

    Allan

    YO-16.JPG YO-13.JPG
     
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  20. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    It appears to be a standard single-roller escapement, albeit with a brass lever instead of the usual steel. This lever is also of an unusual style for the period (1836–7), with a narrow platform rounded at the outer end instead of the then usual rectangular one; however, I have seen examples of this style as early as 1816, although never in brass. Barraud and Parkinson & Frodsham both occasionally made movements with the balance, regulator etc. in brass, but all the others I have encountered have been full-plates. (Should I be assuming, after all that has been said above, that this is not a Massey? Perhaps I am once again venturing too far; however, I have never heard of a Massey with a lever of this shape.)

    Oliver Mundy.
     
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  21. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Both Massey III

    John
     
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  22. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Hi Oliver, all you said is correct, but it would be unfair to put this on here if it were not a Massey. I too was surprised that this watch made by Barraud and Lund, would have had a Savage two-pin at least, but no, it's a Massey III.

    I will try to get a photograph of the escapement, but the watch is very thin and the escapement is smaller than an ant.

    Best wishes,

    Allan
     
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