Jn Houghton, Liverpool, #22386

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by bobisgr8, Nov 10, 2019.

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  1. bobisgr8

    bobisgr8 Registered User

    Feb 4, 2017
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    Hi all, my wife inherited this watch from her parents. It had been in their possession for 40-50 years before she got it 3 years ago. We are looking for information about this watch, e.g., maker, origin, movement, material, etc.

    Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.

    CPrince
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  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    #2 gmorse, Nov 11, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019
    Hi CPrince,

    Your watch case is marked as 18 carat gold, with what appear to be English hallmarks telling us that it was assayed in the Chester assay office in 1824/5; however there are some anomalies which suggest that this is actually an American made case with faux hallmarks. The leopard's head, (part of the Chester set and not indicative of London), has a crown, but this was discontinued in 1821/2, so clashes with the 'F' date letter. The maker's/sponsor's mark of SH over JW isn't listed in the standard reference work, but this isn't so unusual because there are lots of missing entries in the Chester records. We've also seen other US cases with very similar marks, particularly the 'F' date letter. The lion passant is the mark for all sterling silver so its presence on a gold piece raises questions.

    All this does not detract from the apparent quality of the case, which is in a style often seen in American made cases of this period. It was a very common practice for English un-cased watch movements to be exported to the US, principally from Liverpool, and cased locally on arrival. This was done to reduce the impact of customs duties on complete watches which were in force at the time.

    The movement signature of John Houghton, ('Jno' was a common abbreviation for John at this time), is probably for the retailer; it isn't likely that a local retailer would have handled 22,386 watches. The making of a watch then was a cooperative effort of at least 40 or 50 specialist craftsmen, and whilst it was definitely made in the Liverpool area, (the nearby town of Prescot was a major watchmaking centre), the name on English watches in the 19th century was not that of the 'makers'. There are some characteristics typical of Liverpool work, the style of the engraving of 'Liverpool', the petal decoration on the balance cock, and the scroll with the word "Detach'd".

    This latter indicates that the escapement is a lever of some kind, either an English lever or more likely one of the Massey variants which preceded it. The mainspring doesn't drive the movement directly but is connected to a fusee, (a shallow conical pulley with a continuous groove around it), via a very fine steel chain. This was an arrangement intended to even out the power of the spring over the entire wind.

    It's apparent in your 8th picture that the plate which attaches the dial to the movement, (the 'brass edge'), is coming loose from the movement, so something to be careful with. The dial itself is engine turned and made of gold with multi-coloured gold decorations; an expensive item. The whole watch would benefit from a proper clean and service, and it will be quite spectacular when that's been done.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  3. bobisgr8

    bobisgr8 Registered User

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    #3 bobisgr8, Nov 11, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2019
    Dear Graham,

    Many thanks for the detailed, informative reply about our watch, particularly for the caution about the condition of the attachment of the dial and movement.

    I am a little unclear about one of your statements. You said, "The movement signature of John Houghton...is probably for the retailer; it isn't likely that a local retailer would have handled 22,386 watches." Not meaning to be difficult but, to my reading, that is a contradictory statement.....was Houghton the retailer or not? And, if not, who was he? What am I missing?

    I agree that it is a beautiful case and dial. However, we aren't "watch" folks and so have little knowledge of them. I understand that asking about value isn't allowed on this forum, so I won't do that. Is it permitted to ask this: should we have it cleaned and serviced, or is that something a collector of these watches would rather do him/herself?

    Thanks again for the kindness of your response, Graham.

    CPrince
     
  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi CPrince,

    I'm sorry, I didn't express this very clearly. I should have gone on to say that the serial number being that large, John Houghton is unlikely to have made that many watches himself, therefore the number is much more probable to be a job number from a larger workshop, from which he ordered the watch movement and had it engraved with his name. This is how the English watch trade worked at the time, with the vast majority of watches being signed by the retailers or jewellers who ordered or commissioned them from suppliers in the Liverpool area, Coventry or the watchmaking centres of London.

    Since the movement appears to have been exported to America without a case, Houghton may have been an agent or exporter rather than a local retailer, but whatever the nature of his business, he didn't make the watch himself. There was a thriving trade in exporting watch movements from Liverpool, which was ideally placed, being a busy port on the west coast of the UK.

    As regards having the watch cleaned and serviced, to do this properly, (and without knowing what else may need attending to), will not be cheap. I think the more serious collectors prefer to arrange for their own servicing by a trusted watchmaker, a few are competent to undertake it themselves, whereas others are happy to accept a seller's statement that it's been done. From your perspective as a vendor, I don't think you'd see an increase in the price it achieved when sold which totally compensated you for your outlay in servicing it, although it may raise it a little.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  5. bobisgr8

    bobisgr8 Registered User

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    Hi Graham,

    Thanks much for the clarification. That makes sense.

    Also, thanks for the input regarding cleaning/servicing...appreciate that.

    Regards,

    CPrince
     

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