James Thickbroom, moonlighting?

shinytickythings

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I have an anonymous fusee lever in a silver case by James Thickbroom.
The movement is numbered and the numbers from the barrel bridge, under the dial, and the case match.

I never really thought much about it, until today I saw another very nearly identical watch, numbered 191 before mine and 18 years previous.
I presume he was getting ebauche finished to his specs and just casing them up himself.
Was that "legal"?
Why did he leave them anonymous? Because he had a reputation as a case maker, or something else?

001_2.jpg 008.jpg 011_2.jpg english_fusee-007.jpg
 

shinytickythings

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Thank you, Les.
I have it that the 2 brothers worked with their father George Thickbroom until 1837 using his hallmark GT in oval and oblong cameos.
If I'm not mistaken, James lived and worked up to 1867 when he passed away, So I think the hallmark of James in mine is for 1864.
I'm more curious that it seems despite being a pendant specialist and a case maker, James was making complete watches. At least that is the conclusion I'm coming to seeing the anonymous watch with serial numbers matching his case.
 

gmorse

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Hi Steve,

I presume he was getting ebauche finished to his specs and just casing them up himself.
Was that "legal"?
Why did he leave them anonymous? Because he had a reputation as a case maker, or something else?
I think you misunderstand; whether or not the movement was signed, numbered or left anonymous was nothing to do with the case maker, that was entirely down to whoever commissioned the cases. He just made the cases to fit the movements which were sent to him, he didn't number or engrave anything on the movements; if he was required to stamp a serial number to match the one on the watch, that was just normal practice. Many English watches were unsigned.

The Thickbrooms certainly did have good reputations for their cases, but this example doesn't implicate them in anything illegal!

Regards,

Graham
 
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shinytickythings

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Hi Graham!

Thank you. I guess I'm reading too much into it.
I wasn't even sure it would have been illegal necessarily.
So, you think it's more likely just some anonymous jeweler or retailer that just had commissioned cases from James?
Was there anything that prevented a case maker from doing something like that?
Surely he must have had connections to plenty of manufacturers.
 

gmorse

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Hi Steve,

So, you think it's more likely just some anonymous jeweler or retailer that just had commissioned cases from James?
Was there anything that prevented a case maker from doing something like that?
Surely he must have had connections to plenty of manufacturers.
It would have been the maker of the movement who commissioned the case, if the retailer was ordering a complete watch ready for sale, as most were. They would have sent the partially finished movement plates to the case maker, who fitted the case to it, it wasn't the eventual retailer. All the separate trades were quite strictly delimited; remember that the case wasn't a choice for the end customer as it was in so many American watches, you bought a watch as a complete item, in part because there wasn't a universally accepted system of standard sizes. If the retailer decided for whatever reason, (maybe cost), that they didn't want any engraving, that was fine. In some examples, the name ordered to be engraved wasn't even that of the retailer, it was a completely fictitious name.

Regards,

Graham
 
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shinytickythings

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Thanks so much for all your clarifications, Graham.
Let's make sure I got this right then.

The retailer or jeweler would have ordered the watches from a manufacturer who in turn would assemble the watch have the case fitted up and then delivered to said retailer as a finished product.

It would not have been plausible or permissible for a case maker to be buying some movements on the side and fitting them up to sell either over the counter or otherwise.(At least without running afoul of authorities)

I do have one other question that sort of pertains to all this. And that is, what kind of volume would an average retailer in London of the 1850's or 60's sell?
Trying to wrap my head around these two nearly identical watches, both in JT cases. #5898 is marked 1846. #6084, 1864.
I think what got me started thinking it must be James moonlighting was the long time period and low volume. It's like a watch a month, or so. I suppose I'm probably just jousting at windmills. They may have nothing more in common than the case maker. They are just so much alike.

Best regards,
Steve
 

gmorse

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Hi Steve,

The retailer or jeweler would have ordered the watches from a manufacturer who in turn would assemble the watch have the case fitted up and then delivered to said retailer as a finished product.
Yes, this was so for most retail jewellers and 'watchmakers'.

It would not have been plausible or permissible for a case maker to be buying some movements on the side and fitting them up to sell either over the counter or otherwise.(At least without running afoul of authorities)
Well, I don't think there was any legal reason why he couldn't have done this, it was more that the trade simply didn't work that way; everyone had their place in the scheme of things. He was certainly obliged by law not to sell silver or gold items which didn't meet the stringent assay and hallmarking regulations, but otherwise he was probably more bound by his peers in the trade.

I do have one other question that sort of pertains to all this. And that is, what kind of volume would an average retailer in London of the 1850s or 60s sell?
I really can't say offhand, I'll see if I can dig out any examples, but see my comments below on serial numbers.

Trying to wrap my head around these two nearly identical watches, both in JT cases. #5898 is marked 1846. #6084, 1864.
I think what got me started thinking it must be James moonlighting was the long time period and low volume. It's like a watch a month, or so. I suppose I'm probably just jousting at windmills. They may have nothing more in common than the case maker. They are just so much alike.
If you're trying to derive any significance from serial numbers, you should be aware that they weren't necessarily assigned by the final retailer, and were often simply job numbers used by the movement makers. They didn't necessarily follow in chronological sequence, or indeed any other logical pattern. Jonathan Betts wrote in the AH some time ago, "Finally a point that needs to be emphasised when interpreting these series, and the series of many other watch and chronometer makers, is that the numbering was rarely perfectly chronological. Numbers were applied at the outset of an instrument's life, and by its completion, possibly two or three years later, its place in the series could be considerably adrift. We should also remember that serial numbers are not always what they seem. Parts of a number, sometimes the first digit(s) but possibly sometimes the last digit(s), can represent a category rather than part of a numerical sequence and creating a 'number against date' list is often too simplistic an analysis." [my emphasis]

Since the case maker didn't assign serial numbers, you're quite right in concluding that, "They may have nothing more in common than the case maker".

Regards,

Graham
 

John Matthews

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I would like to add one further point to Graham's excellent Betts quote, really no more than an obvious amplification. Not only 'parts of a number' , but the complete number may have been used to distinguish a particular movement design. For example, some of the Coventry makers in the latter part of the C19th were continuing to produce full plate movements alongside three-quarter plate movements, and it appears to me that they used a different set of serial numbers for the different designs.

John
 

Audemars

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the numbering was rarely perfectly chronological. Numbers were applied at the outset of an instrument's life, and by its completion, possibly two or three years later, its place in the series could be considerably adrift. W
Graham is absolutely right. In the (incomplete) Louis Audemars archive there are around 12500 entries which condense to around 8500 individual serial numbers.
Of those 8500 only 500 numbers are recorded consecutively and in the same book.
Those 500 are in date-of-commencement order. Finishing dates are wildly out of sequence as are shipment dates.
The rest of the archive is impossible to analyse in relation to date.
Believe me, I've tried!
Paul
 

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