Joseph Johnson Pocket Watch from 1802

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by AFW, Jun 28, 2019.

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  1. AFW

    AFW Registered User

    Jun 28, 2019
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    Hello, I have just bought this Joseph Johnson 51mm Pocket Watch from around 1802. I've yet to pick it up but does anyone know where to have it serviced or looked at (in London, UK) to see what state it's in. I've a couple of pocket watches from the 1940's/50's but nothing this old. Any idea of the serial number ? I'm assuming this was made before production picked up later in this century for the US Railway Service etc? All (helpful) thoughts welcome. Thank-you AFW

    fullsizeoutput_9374.jpeg fullsizeoutput_9372.jpeg
     
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  2. musicguy

    musicguy Moderator
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    Hi AFW, and welcome to the NAWCC forum

    If you could take a few photographs of the movement, and the
    markings inside the case that would help a lot.


    Rob
     
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  3. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Hi Rob, I don't have the watch in my posession as yet. I can do this when I do....
     
  4. Les harland

    Les harland Registered User

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    #4 Les harland, Jun 28, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2019
    There were no passenger carrying railways in 1802
    The Swansea and Mumbles Railway was built in 1804 and carried the worlds first paying passengers in 1807
    It did not use steam until 1877
    Are there any Hallmarks on the inside of the case?
    It should be easy to date if there are

    There were some freight only railways for example the Middleton Railway in Leeds was built to carry coal in 1758, it went over to steam in 1812 becoming the worlds first successfull steam railway
    Sorry if I have gone too far off topic
    The early 1800s were the dawn of railroads as we know them
     
  5. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi AFW, and I'll add my welcome to Rob's.

    The hallmarks inside the case are, as Rob says, a great help in establishing when the case was assayed, and who made it. From what I can make out, it was assayed in London, possibly in 1801/2, but the maker's/sponsor's mark isn't clear. The multi-coloured gold dial is very attractive and the hour hand may be a replacement.

    Whilst serial numbers on English pocket watches aren't necessarily the final word in relevance when trying to date a piece, in the case of Joseph Johnson there is some semblance of order, and if you visit the website of one of our members, 'Lychnobius', (Oliver Mundy) you'll be able to download a very informative pdf file of information on the Johnson family and their watches.

    Your movement has clear signs that it was made in Liverpool, which is where the Johnsons worked, and many of their movements were exported to the US, mostly uncased to avoid the US customs duties on complete watches, and then fitted in locally made cases when they arrived there.

    Regarding its condition, we can tell a fair amount from clear pictures of the movement, including some taken into the edges of the movement once the cap is removed. However, a valid assessment is only possible in the hand, and for a really comprehensive opinion, involving complete dismantling. If you're looking for someone in the London area, I can recommend someone who's professionally qualified and specialises in these older pocket watches, if you care to send me a conversation/private message, (by clicking on my username and selecting 'Start a Conversation').

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  6. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Hi AFW - welcome - you begin with a very attractive watch.

    We will be able to tell much more when you have the watch and can provide photographs of the movement, as Graham has suggested.

    I have a few observations regarding the photographs of the hallmarks. I can see the date letter capital 'F' which for both London and Chester is appropriate for 1801/02. The crown over 18 is also clear for 18K gold. I mention Chester because there appears to be a stamp which has been partially pierced by the winding hole. It is difficult to identify it, but it might just be the Chester town mark. I thought when the18K gold standard was introduced in 1798 the crown & 18 designated the purity and the lion passant was only continued for 22K gold - someone will correct me if I am mistaken - but it appears that the lion passant is present approximately midway between the winding hole and the leopard's head. So if my memory is correct, that would need an explanation. The number on the case would appear to be 7184 (the '1' is rather indistinct) - if that is also the number of the movement (significant assumption) I would expect the movement to be later than the apparent date of the case.

    John
     
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  7. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Thank-you all thus far. I should receive the watch itself by this time next week. It's currently in the USA and is being shipped to me (and back "home"). The main think I'd like to do is understand it's heritage (as best I can) and how best to look after it? What's the consensus on repair with modern parts vs keeping it as original as possible? I'm relatively new to this but keen to learn. Thank-you all for your generosity and patience.
     
  8. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi AFW,

    There are no 'modern parts' for watches of this period, anything that's worn out or broken and so needs replacing must be made from scratch, or at least modified from a donor movement. This is why the choice of people to work on these is rather limited. If we wished to keep a watch completely original we'd never repair it at all, but I believe it's important that any repairs or replacements are made in an honest way in the proper style and materials and not artificially 'aged' or 'distressed'.

    By the way, is the outer case of the pair present?

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  9. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Hi Graham, Thanks and I appreciate that parts have to be handmade (and would not have them distressed them to look old). But you would repair to working order if needed? Yes there is an outer case...(see photo) is this what you mean? Thanks and Regards Andrew

    fullsizeoutput_9375.jpeg
     
  10. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John & AFW,

    That is certainly how I read Bradbury's and Jackson's descriptions. The leopard's head should also be present prior to 1838/9, which can cause confusion because it's also the London assay mark. We must wait patiently for the watch to arrive and be photographed properly. The maker's/sponsor's mark may also shed some light.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  11. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Andrew,

    Oh yes, I would repair to working order if the state of the movement made it possible and appropriate.

    This watch should have two cases, an inner containing the movement, with a bezel and crystal, and an outer, often plainer case with a bezel but no crystal. Your latest picture shows just the inner case which has a hole in the back for winding; this is not a practical arrangement if just left open by itself and the outer case would keep that hole effectively closed. Another clue to the fact that it should be a pair case is the shape of the pendant, which is slightly extended and has a section designed to fit through the collar in the outer case.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  12. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Andrew

    Coincidentally a second Johnson watch with similar 'hallmarks' has been posted here it would be worth reading the thread. Comparing the two it does appear to me that they could have been made by the same American maker - it will be very interesting if your maker's mark is also SPP - it looks as if the first letter of yours is 'S', although the punch is probably different, For both cases, I believe the American 'hallmarks' are attempting to mimic Chester 1802/1803.

    John
     
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  13. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #13 Keith R..., Jun 30, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
    Interesting. Josh Johnson #7771.

    A 17J Liverpool Runner, signed Josh Johnson. Research indicates
    about approx. CA 1826. Faux marks.

    Edit........Added for Owner/ancestor 10xxx................ Brower.

    I attached #7771 to this thread for case #7184 (presume is movement
    number also shown above). Watch above, is also a conventional train,
    as shown through the dust cap.

    Keith R...

    103_2878 (768x1024).jpg 7771HM (180x200).jpg 100_5781 (800x600).jpg 103_8836 (800x600).jpg Joseph Johnson 7771 (1000x984) (640x630).jpg
     
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  14. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Andrew,

    As an aside to the question of the date of the movement, I've just posted this in the 'other' Johnson thread, concerning the date of introduction of the various types of detached lever escapement.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  15. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    I notice on the first photograph there is a number stamped in the case which appears to be 7184. If that is also on the watch it could tell you quite a bit more about your watch. Just for fun I would say your watch as a Massey escapement and made c1830. Regards Allan.
     
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  16. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Better read PL's comment post #27 of watch #10320 (1827 that watch).

    Keith R...
     
  17. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    I take it you are talking to me, Keith. I have read the whole thread, two or three times, though I did not comment on that thread. I felt from the beginning that the watch was a product of the c. 1830´s. How it got into that case is pure speculation. In fact, it is two different stories. First, they need to find the case maker, and then check out the name and number on the watch. They could, of course, ask Oliver?
    Going back to this thread, I am looking forward to more photographs of the movement, and the case hallmarks, and so are you?
    Best. Allan.
     
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  18. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Have you seen this one, Keith? Quite clear that this is cased in Liverpool 1822/23 by the Helsby´s. The number is 5789. In Olivers file number 5780 is describe the same. The problem with these early watches cased in gold cases is the gold price-this week is a good example, the dollar price this morning was 1,410. per ounce. I am afraid of even more of these watches will show up on the net as movements.


    1-65.jpg 1-66.jpg
     
  19. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Yeah sure, won't help me though...............Keith R...

    103_2889 (800x600).jpg
     
  20. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #20 Keith R..., Jul 7, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
    Helsby's marks. These are not Faux to the best of my knowledge.
    They were for the UK domestic market. This watch, my 1818 Josh
    Johnson Rack lever.

    My purchase was through Pete at Cogs. Note period space, T dot H.

    Case maker JJ (Josh Johnson).

    Movement number #2785 Rack 1818. Go with John M's. Helsby's mark
    post #21, I can see it with a cataract.



    Keith R...

    JJ249 (500x636) - Copy.jpg JJ247 (405x500).jpg
     
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  21. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Keith - I leave you to decide.

    Here is a copy of the registered mark from Ridgeway & Priestley

    Helsby Maker's mark001.jpg

    and here it is compared with the helsby's case of Johnson #2858 1818 3 wheel rack

    Helsby maker's mark compared.jpg

    John
     
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  22. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Keith,

    The case was made by the Helsbys, not Johnson! The 'JJ' mark is not part of the hallmark set but refers to the signature on the movement.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  23. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #23 Keith R..., Jul 7, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
    Thanks Graham, I have other Johnson's, but with case maker initials JW and no JJ on case,
    but Johnson movement number on case.

    EDIT

    So case maker Helsby's, watch plate signature Johnson I presume, on #2785.

    EDIT 2..........Crop visitors this afternoon.............


    Thanks as always Graham.

    Keith R...
     
  24. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Hi, Keith-here is another mark by the Helsby Firm-not seen very often. They don´t get much better than these today. There is more on this watch in Early table rollers if you want to look. Regards, Allan.

    IMG_7356[1].JPG IMG_7357[1].JPG IMG_7358[1].JPG IMG_7359[1].JPG
     
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  25. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    I’ve just received the watch (it was stuck in customs and fedex didn’t notify me). Photos attached now that I have it. It’s working but not sure as yet if it’s keeping time
     
  26. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Photos attached. Comments/thoughts welcome.

    Made in Liverpool? 1802?
    Serviced by Simms in Chipping Norton
    Serviced twice in J Harris Whitby
    Went to the USA ?
    Came back to the UK 2019

    5E905FC6-D5BA-4BBB-8061-EAD925248D64.jpeg 85D5C1B6-8E40-4D72-B5EF-96FB206C605E.jpeg 1BCC91FC-4B6D-41F8-AD0D-E109F140451A.jpeg 3C296799-98AB-4B9F-8ECB-6558DC7EC57D.jpeg B0802C0A-F8E6-4A4C-A82B-294D3AA0425C.jpeg 0A787C1A-0B41-4690-A7C7-BB7C0268C32C.jpeg 204E0649-97D6-4FCC-8612-D2839F96ED0F.jpeg E8B017B8-F1A6-485B-8E40-C3EE994056C3.jpeg 5FA4DEB1-C600-4132-BBF7-D19CE2D8D7B6.jpeg 5AFD9DB4-6461-40DE-BEE4-4E7C9BB27246.jpeg 2F0334EC-C523-4ECD-85FA-FCE7E8F76C63.jpeg 4DEE5D2E-0789-4B5A-B36C-717886BA098A.jpeg 2905B0A5-5205-46D5-ABDD-247CB19F6D73.jpeg 687FCBD5-A7C6-4F79-89BF-4CBBDE44D681.jpeg 7CDF2707-D5F6-48D4-9A22-DD54994F55F5.jpeg 75FB3897-1FBD-49B6-8E94-F8C012BDE7A8.jpeg 4B6BD3D3-E8C8-4EDA-B5C0-3CD0280A70F0.jpeg F2734F40-4CD4-425C-9050-9159BC761B9B.jpeg E99F22AD-8D35-4AE5-A378-23EBAE292E96.jpeg 862F5A22-7912-4A60-BD4B-339E7C96D232.jpeg
     
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  27. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    love the watch papers. The experts will ask for pics of the movement, back and edge on. You are looking at the dust cover, in the middle pic you rotate that semi circular clip usingf a nail on the little peg in the middle, clockwise looking from the back just to release the cap. You will see a retaining pin is in that loop on the right hand end of the blued semi circular clip.
     
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  28. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Will have to do this later as I’m now out for the day.
     
  29. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the pictures, which show that Mr. Frances took the watch to Chipping Norton where Mr. Simms worked on it in August 1855 and again in November 1856. He was charged 5 shillings in 1855 and possibly 10 shillings in 1856, (that script isn't so clear), so that suggests that it needed fairly substantial work, (simply cleaning a watch then would have cost only 1 or 2 shillings); it was after all over 30 years old then.

    The fact that the town mark is partly cut though by the winding hole hints that the case was modified to fit this movement, but the hallmark pictures aren't that clear, possibly a little image enhancement may help.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  30. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Here you go, I came back (couldn’t wait)!

    AAEACDB4-5FAE-4489-9652-E603720CB67D.jpeg DFDDACAF-BE3E-454E-930D-4767C0D79915.jpeg 2C765E5D-3981-4870-A7E1-626463B3E9EA.jpeg 3574A2F5-EBE2-43D5-9262-EE16CBB2D5FD.jpeg 54A720F6-6189-4333-8203-DB2E9A07DDA3.jpeg C5225E13-8C25-4DA9-9D48-092675039D13.jpeg
     
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  31. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Hi Andrew - thank-you for posting the additional photographs.

    I am now reasonably confident that your case is of American origin The presence of the lion passant with the Crown & 18K mark is the main evidence, as I mentioned in my previous post. It appears that the maker's mark is [SH] which is not a recorded mark in Priestley nor Ridgeway & Priestley, which supports my inference.

    I have tried to improve the images as Graham suggested. This is my best attempt ...

    upload_2019-7-12_12-45-55.png

    It also appears that the crown is overlapping the 18 and this is often a feature of faux hallmarks.

    So in conclusion, I believe your watch movement probably dates from 20 or 30 years later than the date that the faux hallmarks of the case are trying to imply [Chester 'F' for 1802/03]. Oliver who maintains a very comprehensive database for Johnson is the expert and I am sure he will confirm this as a genuine Johnson movement and will be able to provide additional information including an expert opinion for the age of the movement.

    John
     
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  32. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Andrew,

    Although the pictures aren't that clear, I think I can see enough in your first picture to hazard a guess that this has a Massey type III escapement, and the 'Detach'd' wording on the cock foot tends to suggest that it is a Massey of some sort. This isn't an infallible guide however, because some Masseys don't have it, and some non-Masseys do.

    The 'SH' or 'S.H' marks are known from other cases with faux hallmarks, but as has been pointed out, this doesn't detract from the apparent quality of the case work, (it just bothers English hallmark nuts . . .).

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  33. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    The table is flush to the top plate, and it as a long jewel indicating a Massey five. The Massey five was the last endeavor of Edward Massey, and are quite rare. Altogether a nice watch. Best Allan.
     
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  34. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    John, I think you are right and think you should (if you have time) have a look at William Harrison Sigourney. Water Town New York. (Born 1815-died 1895) Active 1836-1861. Silversmith & Jeweler, apprenticed with Calvin Guiteau. Partnerships. Sigourney & Turner with Alonzo B. Turner (1836-1842) Sigourney & Hitchcock with Richard Hitchcock 1849-1861) He retired from the jewelry trade and removed to New York City in 1861.

    Regards,

    Allan.
     
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  35. PapaLouies

    PapaLouies Registered User
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    Speculating about the date of production of an English watch with faux hallmarks is a fruitless endeavor.

    Regards, PL
     
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  36. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #36 Keith R..., Jul 12, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
    Speculating based on American faux case marks is fruitless, but Oliver's data base
    is a great reference for authentic Josh Johnson movements and his established
    time lines.:)

    Keith R...
     
  37. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Graham - Andrew will confirm, but I believe the recorded services are on the James Harris watch papers. I found reference to him working from the late 1830's through to the mid 1850s - here's the listing from the Witney section of the 1854 PO Directory for Oxfordshire ...

    upload_2019-7-12_21-9-29.png

    John
     
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  38. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    I was going by the pattern of tears to match the two reverses to the pink watch papers, and you're quite right, they're both Harris, not Simms. The dates and amounts stand however.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  39. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    So I’m slightly confused. If I’ve understood this correctly it’s a British movement (with possibly a Massey III or V escapement, I need to read up here.) in an American case (with faux hallmarks) which seems the norm with other pieces. How does one explain the watch service papers showing that the movement and presumably the case itself resided in the UK? That would mean the watch went to the USA from Liverpool, came back to Chipping Norton, then Whitby, before going back to the USA where it’s just left (for the UK) when I purchased the watch.
     
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  40. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    I am very grateful for all your comments, interest and expertise. It’s quite humbling and I thank-you all for it.
     
  41. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Correct
     
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  42. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Andrew,

    It could have been on its journeys as a personal possession or by way of trade, a good many watches probably did, but we may never know. By the way, Harris was in Witney, Oxfordshire, not Whitby.

    Whilst watch papers can provide an interesting insight into the provenance of a piece, it's also true that they're ephemera and very easily transferred between cases, whereas marks in a case are integral to that case.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  43. AFW

    AFW Registered User

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    Understood. Witney being near Chipping Norton also makes greater sense.
     
  44. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Andrew - Graham's point is well made ...

    With this watch, it appears that the case has probably been modified to fit the movement and had a previous life associated with another movement. Therefore there are at least three possibilities; the watch papers relate to the movement and an original case, they relate to the case within which the movement now resides or to an entirely different case and movement having sometime in the past been transferred to their current home.

    Here is one possibility (but it is one of many!).

    The American case was probably made in the middle of the C19th for another movement and that it was modified at some, indeterminate time after, to house the current movement. Having been re-cased, it may not have travelled back to the UK, until its recent trip. This leaves open the possibility that the watch papers record the history of the movement, i.e the papers record a service history in the UK, in its original case, before finding its way to America.

    It appears to me that the watch papers (particularly the one photographed in the outer case) are cut for a slightly larger case(s) and therefore I think it unlikely that they are original to the current case. I therefore suspect it is either as I suggest in the previous paragraph, or they are unrelated to both the movement and the current cases.

    John
     
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  45. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    #45 Allan C. Purcell, Jul 13, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2019
    I do not think the above comments are correct PL. The aim here is to help AFW to understand as much as possible about his watch, and this thread proves he has learned quite a bit. If we were all to take a negative look, there would be little written on this board. See post 15.
     
  46. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #46 Keith R..., Jul 14, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
    PL is not being negative, just matter of fact. It took me a few years to soak in
    what he was saying on a given case, or movement. When he replies, it's to collectors,
    or owners who inherit.

    Many times we have those who would produce a watch with questions right in the
    middle of their watch at auction (seller). I'm sure if Andrew desires to collect, he will
    read all the Joseph Johnson threads and learn what many of us have about American
    watch cases housing English movements.

    Now having those who inherit watches become collectors would be a pivotal point in my
    opinion.

    Keith R...
     
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  47. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    I have no doubt about the genuineness of the movement; it is slightly unusual in having only the basic seven jewels*, but there are a few similar examples (e.g. No. 7675). As for its date, the most I can venture upon is 'middle 1820s'. The case seems to belong to a fairly numerous class of American-made cases whose marks are intended to pass for those of the Chester office for 1824 (not 1802, although the inclusion of the King's head often leads to their being assigned to the earlier period, since real English marks no longer included this element by the later date). These cases often show a maker's mark consisting of the letters S and H and the date-letter is nearly always F; I know of at least five other examples, although this is the only one so far with a pair-case.

    *As it is not always obvious how the jewel-count on lever watches is arrived at, I shall summarise it here. The balance assembly has a pierced jewel and a cap at each end, making four altogether; the jewelled pallets on the lever itself count for two more, and the ruby impulse-pin which engages with the fork of the lever is the seventh. Practically all lever watches have at least this number except rack-levers and Massey Is which have no ruby pin. Further pairs of jewels may be provided for any or all of the following: lever assembly, escape-wheel, fourth wheel, third wheel and fusee (i.e. up to 17 in total), and occasionally also for the centre wheel; in this last case there is usually a hole in the table of the balance-cock allowing the extra jewel to be seen.

    Oliver Mundy.
     
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  48. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Oliver, make that 2 pair cases, if we assume #7771 case is S & H and F, (which it is).

    Keith R...

    7771HM (180x200).jpg 103_2898 (800x600) (2).jpg 103_2889 (800x600).jpg
     
  49. John Matthews

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    Hi Oliver - many of the examples I have seen, the forger has rather crudely depicted a leopard's head surmounted by a crown such as here. As you indicate the crown was dropped after 1820. The guild mark in this example is very crude, and it is, in my opinion, impossible to interpret what was intended. I suspect the forgers attempted to add as many 'attributes & flourishes' to their marks in the mistaken belief that it would mask their deception. I don't think the date that the forger was trying to imply can be used to date the case, which I suspect, may have been the point that PL was making in post #35 above.

    John
     
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  50. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    And perhaps more significantly, the Duty Mark was discontinued in 1798, so its presence with a date letter indicating any later date must raise doubts.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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