John Moncas, Liverpool

Jerry Treiman

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I have always been fond of Liverpool movements with Massey escapements, so I couldn't resist picking up this John Moncas movement (#4580) at the recent Greater Los Angeles regional convention. I have another slightly later Moncas movement in my collection (#7923) and both of these have Massey type II escapements.
 

gmorse

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Hi Jerry,

Very handsome! Is it just the picture, or is the endstone missing? That tiny nick in the end of the barrel arbor interests me; I've noticed it before in other watches, and assumed it was just damage, but now I'm not so sure. Could it be there on purpose?

Regards,

Graham
 

MartyR

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I have always admired the "Moncas look" as shown in your first watch, Jerry - that dark matt background below the polished decoration of the balance cock :) The second example looks almost pedestrian by comparison, but it's still a lovely looking movement.

Moncas was married in 1812 and worked as a watchmaker at the following Liverpool locations:

1813 at 22 Bevington Street.
1816-1820 at 60 Hanover Street.
1821-1832 at 14 Castle Street.
1837 at 134 Richmond Row
1839 at 7 Newington

I can't find any records later than 1839, which suggests that either he died at a young age or else he may have abandoned his own business and worked as a journeyman for another maker. Tony Mercer lists John Moncas as a chronometer maker.

The Liverpool Museum database records a Thomas Moncas (son of John born 1813/4) working in 1834 at 134 Richmond Row, and Thomas was listed there in an 1837 trade directory. Thomas married in 1854.

I cannot recall ever seeing a John Moncas in anything but an American case, and he was obviously part of the great export effort from Liverpool which included M I Tobias and John and Joseph Johnson ... and probably many others .... in the 1820s and 1830s.
 

DaveyG

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Could it be there on purpose?
Hi Graham,

I have always assumed that it was there to facilitate proper lubrication by channelling the oil and avoiding the oil remaining where it was put by the oiler due to surface tension
 

paulabc

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Sep 28, 2009
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Hi Jerry,
John Moncas born in Liverpool 10 December 1787, but died in Strand London 7 March 1854 where had become a bookseller. find a grave came up trumps, and it is definitely the same one (shown by parish records of his children). His son Thomas Burdett Moncas also a watchmaker ended up in Lambeth as a watch finisher.
obsessive genealogist Paul
 

gmorse

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Hi Dave,

...I have always assumed that it was there to facilitate proper lubrication by channelling the oil and avoiding the oil remaining where it was put by the oiler due to surface tension
... That seems reasonable. Thanks! ...
Having said that, upon reflection, that pivot in a fusee watch only ever turns in the plate during the setup of the mainspring, so why oil it at all? Unless the oil is intended to run down into the barrel pivot . . . !

Regards,

Graham
 

S.Humphrey

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Hi guys,

Is it possible that it could be a reference mark for setting the mainspring tension?

regards,
S
 

Jerry Treiman

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Hi Jerry,

Very handsome! Is it just the picture, or is the endstone missing? That tiny nick in the end of the barrel arbor interests me; I've noticed it before in other watches, and assumed it was just damage, but now I'm not so sure. Could it be there on purpose?

Regards,

Graham
Hi Graham - no, it is not just the picture. The watch has a broken upper pivot, shattered hole jewel and missing cap jewel.

As for the nick in the end of the barrel arbor, I am sure now that it is not random. I had never noticed these before, or at least thought as you have that they were just damage. I just looked at a number of my movements and they all have some sort of mark on the arbor end. Many actually have a small off-center punch mark, so it is definitely intentional. I thought it might indicate where the spring hook is, but on one random example that I chose to take apart the nick was not even close to the hook location. Shiny's suggestion that it is used for setting up the spring tension may be on the right track. I need to dig into some of my older repair books to see if such a thing is mentioned.
 

gmorse

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Hi Jerry,

Sorry to have taken your thread away on something of a tangent!

Re that "nick" in the barrel arbor, I've also noticed that there's usually a small pip in the plate next to it, which could be taken as part of the top plate engraving; I can't say I've noticed that "nick" in going barrel watches. I don't recall seeing any references to it in any of the usual texts so I must steel myself to try and find something in Rees' Encyclopedia!

Regards,

Graham
 

Jerry Treiman

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Hi Jerry,

Sorry to have taken your thread away on something of a tangent!

Re that "nick" in the barrel arbor, I've also noticed that there's usually a small pip in the plate next to it, which could be taken as part of the top plate engraving; I can't say I've noticed that "nick" in going barrel watches. I don't recall seeing any references to it in any of the usual texts so I must steel myself to try and find something in Rees' Encyclopedia!

Regards,

Graham
Aha! I found the following on p.89 of DeCarle's "With the Watchmaker at the Bench" (my copy dated 1944):
(this is with regard to fussee watches)

" ... it will be noticed that the top pivot of the barrel arbor has a small nick cut into its side; when in position in the frame, this nick should coincide with a dot on the top plate. The reason for this is that the maker adjusted the barrel to run upright, etc., when the arbor was in that certain position. If this is observed there will be no fear of the chain riding."


It seems to me that this alignment would be difficult to maintain when setting up the mainspring.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Jerry,

... It seems to me that this alignment would be difficult to maintain when setting up the mainspring.
Good old Donald!

I guess that you could set it up so that the barrel nick is rotated anticlockwise from the position of the pip by the amount of anticipated setup; depends on how accurately you want to set the spring tension. I think it would have been down to experience to a great extent.

It's a neat way of compensating for lack of absolute truth in the barrel and arbor, and analogous to the similar markings on barrel lids which would also affect uprightness.

Regards,

Graham
 

Mike Paice

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Hi Jerry,

It has been far too long since I last logged into the forum but my Google alerts brought this thread to my attention.

You may recall that John Moncas is my 3x great-grandfather and so it always pleases me that people are still collecting items of his work. I was very sad to see a John Moncas watch movement come onto the market in the last few days that as recently as 2007 was still complete within its gold case - such is life. I have a very small collection of Moncas watch movements (my most recent purchase being an unusual repeater with two going barrels - I had never realised that John had made going barrel movements).

You may be interested to know that I prepared a paper about the Moncas family and their watchmaking business and it will be published in Antiquarian Horology next month. I have illustrated the article with images of a number of Moncas watch movements that I feel portray John Moncas as a fairly innovative movement maker. Unfortunately my going barrels movement was discovered too recently for inclusion in the article.

I am going to try and upload an image of one of my Moncas watch movements (#7225) which is not too dissimilar from your recent purchase also with a Massey type II escapement.

Moncas 7225.JPG

Mike.
 

Jerry Treiman

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Thank you, Mike, for posting. I look forward to seeing your pending paper.


Your movement #7225 puzzles me, though. It seems to me, in fact, so different in style and details from my two movements, and most notably my later movement (#7923) that I might wonder if it is from the same maker. Specifically I note the style of the Liverpool label, the visible set-up wheel for the mainspring, the way the foot of the balance cock is notched for the barrel bridge, the applied regulator scale, the oversprung balance wheel and the screws in the balance rim. Obviously it is not a matter of being a later movement since my #7923 is even later. #7225 is more highly jeweled than my two movements, so might these be characteristics of his higher-grade work? I have seen similar traits in a few other more highly-jeweled examples posted in the past on this board.


Can you shed any light on these differences (or must we wait for your paper for clarification)?
 

Mike Paice

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Hi Jerry. Yes, maybe I have stretched it a little with the "not too dissimilar" comment - keep in mind that I am an outrageous novice when it comes to the technical side of pocket watch movements. Here are my thoughts and observations for what they are worth.

I am aware of a number of Moncas watch movements with the barrel set-up on top of the barrel bar like this, and in each case the Liverpool label is as in this example. Consistency with the Moncas label does not seem to be a strong point even so. The example below (#16241) has the same barrel set-up but where the label is concerned, whilst Liverpool is in block text again the signature is simply 'Moncas' in script. This is, of course, a much later movement and has a Massey type III detached lever (all my other movements have a type II). Actually, my movement #7783 is much more like the movements you show (although I don't have a picture of that one to share as yet).

The oversprung balance wheel and applied regulator scale on this movement, do seem to be fairly unique from my research so far. However, taken with the high level of jewelling, screws in the balance rim, and rather neat stopwatch feature, I am guessing that this movement came from a high end gold cased watch (the movement I mentioned in my earlier post, from a gold watch that has recently been broken down, has some of these same features). It has been suggested to me that the style applied to #7225 was popular with customers in London and may have been requested specifically by a London customer. Do you or others on the forum have thoughts on that? John was far from averse to making custom and one-off pieces (I suggest).

I do suspect that, from the technical point of view, my paper will raise more questions than it answers and would love to receive your thoughts on it when it is published. For all sorts of reasons, I find John Moncas a truly fascinating individual and the wide variety of his watch movements bear testament to that mind (I feel).

Fig 12 - Moncas 16241.JPG

Fig 12 - Moncas 16241.JPG
 
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