Keystone-Howard pocket watch need information

hzonor

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Dec 5, 2012
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Good Morning
I have a pocket watch that belonged to my grandfather that I am preparing to give to my son. The watch bears my grandfather's initials "EFZ" on the back, same as my father, me and my son so there is considerable sentimental value as all four of us have the same first and middle names. I have given up trying to get information about the watch so whatever you can give me will be appreciated.
In the works area it reads ""E.Howard Watch Co.Boston USA" Serial #1271855. 17 Jewel. Inside the cover of the case I find the symbol and inscription for "Keystone Watch Case. Serial #1515374.
From what I can find out it was made either by the Keystone Watch company or Waltham but its progeny is confusing.
Any help at all, please.
Ed
 

Kent

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Hi Ed:

Welcome to the NAWCC American Pocket Watch Message Board!

Checking the references listed in the E. Howard Watch Co. Encyclopedia article, and a data base that Ed Ueberall and I have been maintaining, (and to be confirmed by seeing your pictures), Howard movement serial number 1271855 can be seen to be a 12-size, Series 7 (catlog numbers start with a 7), 17-jewel, open-face, movement.

It would have been cased at the factory in one of a variety of cases. If the symbol you mentioned is a balance (a scale) trade mark, then your watch case is a J. Boss grade gold-filled and was made by the Keystone Watch Case Co., Howard's owner. If the trade mark is not a balance, you'd best post a picture of it, and any other markings, so that we can tell you something about it. You can ignore any "hand-scratched" characters, they're probably watch repairers' marks.

Unless you know that it has been cleaned and oiled within the last few years, you should have the watch serviced before running it very much. It may be helpful for you to read the Encyclopedia article on Watch Service and its related links, especially the one to the message board thread on the subject. The Encyclopedia article on Choosing a Pocket Watch Repair Person may be useful as well.

Having gathered and printed out information about a family watch, it is a wise idea to write out as much as you know about the family member to whom the watch originally belonged - or as far back as you can go, including (and clearly identifying) what you can guess. Then, add the names and relationships of the family members who passed it down to the current holder. Make up a booklet with this and all of the watch information and try to keep it with the watch. You might even include a CD or, better yet, a USB thumb drive with copies of the pictures or information, in addition to the printouts. Even though they may not be readable 100 years from now, some more recent descendent may transfer the files to the then current format and media. This way, the watch has real family heritage instead of it just being an old family watch, the identity and relationship of the original owner having been lost in the distant past.

Please feel free to ask about anything that isn't clear to you.

Good luck,
 

hzonor

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Dec 5, 2012
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He Kent
Thanks so much. The case bears the inscription inside on the interior cover "J Boss Extra" with what looks like an arrowhead pointing downward. The inside of the outer case cover does have the scales of justice (we are a family of lawyers) or balance on it as you described. There are quite a few marks on the inside from previous repairs. I did have the watch recently cleaned etc by a qualified watchmaker at a local jewelry store. The only question is as to the size; the movement measures 38+ mm which I believe from what I can find is a size 10 watch. The dial is 41+mm. Am I wrong? Any idea when it was made? It would probably have been purchased by my grandfather (EFZ the first) in the late '20's or early '30s as he died in 1931 or '32.
I assure you that I will document the history of the watch as I have a lot of information told to me by my Dad and I know that he kept it on his desk as long as I can remember. I can still see him in the habit of winding it absent-mindedly.
regards
Ed Z
 

Kent

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Ed:

I think that the "arrowhead pointing downward" as you described it, is the Keystone trade Mark, a keystone bearing a 'C' with an 'o' inside of it. Keystone's 'Extra' grade of case is supposed to have a thicker layer of gold than the usual J. Boss gold-filled case (of which generally 1/10 of the case weight -exclusive of crystal and steel parts - is 14K gold), but they never defined exactly how much thicker it was.

Watch size is related to the diameter of the movement plate to which the dial is attached (known as the pillar plate). My experience is in larger watches, so I'm a little uncertain about this, but I think that the Howard 12-size watches have a larger diameter pillar plate than usual and are occasionally referred to as 14/12-size. The Encyclopedia article linked to at the beginning of this paragraph explains size in more detail.

As the E. Howard Watch Co. Encyclopedia article explained, it's hard coming up with dates for E. Howard watches. If the movement is marked "Pat'd '12" it would have been made between 1912 and 1930. Movement serial number 1273392, a similar watch to yours, is in an 18K solid gold case bearing a September 1922 inscription to somebody in Manila, P.I. is listed in that data base to which I alluded earlier). However, watches having 18K solid gold cases were probably slow sellers, so it was probably made some time earlier. Your watch, being very common (read that as higher volume sales) would have probably been built a bit earlier. Then, one has to consider that the watch companies had a problem of a shortage of skilled labor during WWI (the Great War) and were slow getting higher grade movements finished (E. Howard made medium and high grade watches, yours watch is a medium grade - which was still a higher grade than the majority of jeweled watches built in the U.S.). Push come to shove, I'd guess that it was built in 1919, plus or minus three years.

Good luck,
 
Last edited:

hzonor

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Dec 5, 2012
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Kent
Thanks a bunch! I think your reasoning is spot on as to the probable dates of manufacture. Makes sense. I further examined the movement and found the "Pat'd '12" inside the movement. There is also an inscription "temperature" and "3 pos" inside the movement. I didn't notice those before. I am satisfied with your estimate of + 3 years, but leaning toward the plus a bit. That is consistent with the oral history from my dad (dob 1916) who said he remembered his dad (EFZ 1) taking the watch out of his vest and winding it.
I will incorporate portions of your emails into the provenance that I will write about the watch.
Very interesting hobby you have.
regards
Ed the guy from northern Wisconsin, Go Pack!
 

richiec

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Great to see you are keeping a family heirloom in the family. See too many on ebay, heartless bums selling family history. I am proud of my family heritage and have a watch from 1847 from a relative that I am torn about willing to a non-direct family relative but don't have any direct relatives interested in family history, my step son is ia history buff, I would like to leave it to my cousin's some but have to make sure he won't sell it for melt value. Keep up the family traditions. go giants.
 

Jerry Treiman

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If you can post a photo of the watch we can probably match the style to one of the Howard catalogs of the era and give you and not only a closer idea of when it was sold but also an idea of how it was presented at the time.
 

hzonor

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Dec 5, 2012
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IMG_1258.jpg IMG_1259.jpg

I am not much of a photographer but if these provide any information, I would be interested in learning more. It took me awhile to figure out how to post the photos. I certainly agree with the previous poster about preserving the family keepsakes and the attendent provenance. Merry Christmas
Ed
 

Jerry Treiman

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Your watch style is shown in a 1918 Howard watch catalog. At that time your 17-jewel movement in a gold-filled case was priced at $50. The closest prior catalog I have is 1912 and the watches shown at that time are an earlier style.
 

Kent

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To add to the good information that Jerry posted, page 35 of 1918 Howard catalog (Catalogue No. 7), a 52-page reprint still available from Arlington Books, identifies your watch as No. 755 (which can be translated to mean movement Series 7, case No. 55).

Enjoy your heirloom,
 

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