brag Late 18th Century Vale & Co Coventry Pocket Watch

AstralGraham

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Hello All,
I have read the incredible wealth of intelligence of the m’émets on this site and I was wondering if anyone might lend assistance. We have a pocket watch handed down for a few hundred years in my family but do not know how to find it’s English origins nor how it came to the United States. I am attaching a few photographs in the hopes your expertise may guide me.
cheers and thanks
Astral Graham

3CB4805D-6C99-442A-95E6-958EE8EFFE79.jpeg 6CB90B3B-7C77-409A-A139-5931FBCEB2B7.jpeg 24C3798F-6495-4C53-BEA0-6A8E53F3EC7A.jpeg 4AFE90B9-FF2F-492F-8B68-2B51015CFD37.jpeg D5AEC25A-3370-4F0F-AA25-790A68E982B2.jpeg 3EC37AD8-B9CA-4B58-A322-8B8373E4ED8C.jpeg
 

gmorse

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Hi AstralGraham, and welcome to the forum,
I was wondering if anyone might lend assistance. We have a pocket watch handed down for a few hundred years in my family but do not know how to find it’s English origins nor how it came to the United States. I am attaching a few photographs in the hopes your expertise may guide me.
Your watch was made in Coventry, UK, as the dial signature indicates, and the name 'Vale & Company' was in use between 1790 and 1822, so I'm afraid it isn't 17th century, but was made sometime between these two dates. The company is believed to have been started in 1747 in the name of Samuel Vale and from 1754 was trading as 'Vale, Howlette and Carr, changing its name to 'Vale & Co.' in 1790. It went on to become Rotherhams, still in Coventry, and was making fine watches right up until the 1930s.

As George Washington died in 1799, it's not impossible that he could have owned this, although if all the watches said now to have been owned by him were truly his, I don't think he would have had enough pockets to carry them all!

The cases, (known together as a 'pair case'), are most probably sterling silver, and there should be some UK hallmarks inside both cases. If you carefully remove the paper(s) in the outer case you should find some hallmarks. Although the movements and cases were usually made by separate companies, (and sometimes even the two cases were not by the same maker), Vale did later make both, so a look at the hallmarks will be informative, providing the date when it was assayed as well as the case maker.

The movement in the inner case should swing out on release of a small catch under the edge of the dial at the 6 o'clock position, or should I say the 30 minute position on this dial, which is known as a 'regulator' pattern from the separation of the hour and minute hands. This is not a common layout for a pocket watch and was more usually found on high precision clocks used in observatories, hence the name. I'm afraid the hands have suffered over time and the present ones are entirely the wrong pattern for this dial, but these hands were set from the front, ideally with the key, and and were often damaged by careless owners using their finger in the process. This dial appears to be free of the hairline cracks which are often found in these, being made on a copper disc coated on both sides with vitreous enamel and hence relatively fragile.

If you can post some pictures of the movement it will be very helpful; it may well have a cap to keep the dust out, with a crescent shaped blue steel piece holding it in place. The cap is removed by sliding this clockwise when it will lift off. The movement will be gilt brass, with a signature on the plate, hopefully also for Vale & Co.

These watches are wound with a key from the back, in the anti-clockwise direction, but if you know that it hasn't been cleaned or serviced for a long time, I don't recommend that you try and wind it at present.

BTW, this isn't really a complicated watch, so I've requested the Moderators to move it to 'European and other pocket watches', where it should get more responses.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Jerry Treiman

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Unless I am mistaken it looks like there are two overlapping hands (hour and minute) on the small dial. Is it possible that the large center hand is for seconds?
 

John Matthews

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Astral - welcome to the forum.

To provide further information we really need to see the movement and whether the cases are hallmarked.

Although Graham has rightly said this watch would not be classified as a complicated watch, it is not typical of the Vale & Co output. The configuration of the dial, with the centre-second hand and the hour and minute in the sub-dial, is found on watches from the time when your watch was made (late C18th to the early C19th), but is relatively uncommon. I believe this is the first one that I have seen made by Vale & Co. This style is described as a Doctor's watch, often having a small lever on the rim, that was capable of stopping the watch, so that the elapsed seconds could be noted. The thinking being that this may have been used by doctors during medical examinations. However, it is now thought unlikely that the majority of watches of this design were sold to doctors, although it is a nice story.

The signature on the dial is also unusual - particularly on watches that are found in America. Normally the dials do not carry a signature and again this is the first one I have seen signed Vale & Co Coventry. It will be interesting to see the signature on the movement. Many of their watches that reached America, were signed with fictitious names, Bullingford, London or Bullingford, Liverpool are both commonly found. Those movements that are signed by the company, either have Vale & Compy or, rarely Vale & Co. again sometimes followed by London. I do not believe they had premises in London, this addition being probably a marketing ploy.

As to the name 'Vale & Co', I am not aware of any definitive documentation as to when the name was first used, but I believe it is likely to be earlier than is often stated. I favour 1785, shortly before Samuel Vale died in 1786. His will makes reference to the newly formed partnership with George Howlett and John Carr (his son-in-law, married to his daughter Ann). After his death, his place was taken by his wife (Mary) until she was replaced by their son, also Samuel, in 1791. The company was variously known as Vale, Howlett Carr & Co. or just Vale & Co. The Coventry apprentice records have recorded as 'masters' Samuel Vale until 1763, Vale & Howlett is first noted in 1781 continuing until 1785 and then Howlett & Carr in 1786 until ~1794. In 1786 there is also an entries for George Howlett John Carr & Co. and for Howlett & Co.

An interesting watch and I very much look forward to seeing further photographs.

John
 

aucaj

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Hi Astral,

That is a beautiful watch! These watches are rarer than most common verge fusee watches. I have seen one other by Vale & Co of this design. I really appreciate you sharing it. I hope you will share some photos of the movement with us.

Unfortunately, I do have to tell you that it is likely not a watch owned by George Washington. It is well documented that George Washington did purchase a watch around 1790 but it was not English.

In 1788, George Washington requested that Gov. Morris procure him a pocket watch in Paris. Morris was very candid in his search for a reputable maker. Romilly was briefly considered but was thought of as too 'old school' and a 'rogue'. In the end, Washington purchased a virgule escapement by the inventor himself, Lepine. You can read the letter in the link below. There is also an old video of it being inspected and cleaned by the curators of the institute that owns it, but I can't seem to locate it.

Founders Online: To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 23 February 1789
To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 23 February 1789
founders.archives.gov
founders.archives.gov

Here is an interesting link to a record of Presidential watches:

Kind Regards,
Chris
 

gmorse

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Hi Astral,
These watches are rarer than most common verge fusee watches.
Whilst Chris is almost certainly correct that this is a fusee, a device to even out the pull of the mainspring to keep better time and involving a tiny chain wrapped around a roughly conical grooved wheel, it isn't necessarily a verge escapement. This was the means of controlling the release of the spring's power and was a type of oscillator, as all escapements are, and whose origins are very ancient. By the end of the 18-teens, an improved type of escapement was appearing which provided far more accurate timekeeping, called in its various forms a 'lever', and this may be what's in your watch.

Regards,

Graham
 

Dr. Jon

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I also believe Jerry has it right, the center hand is seconds. The arbor visible is square meaning it would have been set there which would not be done on an hour hand.

The center track is marked in 1/5 second increments indicating 5 beats per second, common now and considered a bit slow but very fast for the period.

I think this was an Doctor's watch. The center hand was used for measuring pulse rate. Possibly one of the ancestors, the one who brought it to the US, was an MD.
 
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AstralGraham

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Thanks you all for the amazing replies. I am including additional photos and took Graham’s advice on how to open the the watch back. It is quite ornate. It has not been serviced in mine not my Grandfather’s life so I took care not to wind it.

I did mean the 1700’s -1800’s (apologies). I am also attaching a wee bit of family history, Howell Lewis Jr. Was my Great, Great, Great Grandfather with Howell Lewis Sr. Being the son of Betty Washington, George Washington’s sister. I am a member of the Daughter’s of the American Revolution (Sorry :)).

Speculative at best regarding George’s ownership, but the watch is part of our family lore as long as I have known it’s existence.

I do hope you all might know more about this piece with the photographs additionally attached. I have never seen that part of the watch before so very cool!

I am most honored by your wealth of knowledge and depth of historical detail.

Most Humbly Grateful,
A

FDE3AE01-280E-44FE-B9E1-7C3E6965B7E4.jpeg 3BC86480-A6D1-4032-B2A3-979BDE03DFB8.jpeg DB1922F3-16EE-45E8-9CFE-4D1D9C72FC98.jpeg 1B08BFE3-9DC5-472E-8B7F-F12A6BBD97F4.jpeg D81940C0-CBC4-4490-B404-67D60723390E.jpeg F5C98934-66DC-4E05-A054-E127F40E67F8.jpeg 1DDDD1F6-4137-4B16-A4A8-20FF6B318F52.jpeg 32E0543C-B5D6-4916-BE8F-1EE6C553774E.jpeg 0E752836-90E7-4B36-BC15-1DD29E53F7FB.jpeg 4B14B9C2-C09B-477E-B177-8242498C46AF.jpeg 2F604E2F-CC86-4BBC-AB7A-9CD6B5FB71AB.jpeg
 

Andrew Wilde

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Hi Astral - that's a nice watch. It looks as though the fusee chain is fully wound around the fusee cone (with the possibility that the other end has become detached from the spring barrel). In either case you definitely should not attempt to wind it further.
I have a similar watch by Vale & Company, a couple of pictures below. If you look at the second picture of my watch, you will see the fusee chain wrapped around the spring barrel, with no turns of the chain on the fusee cone - this fully unwound. Mine is dated 1788 and I believe is probably earlier than yours - the movement on mine looks deeper, and has an earlier type mechanism for setting-up (tensioning the mainspring). The serial number on yours is higher than on mine, which also might suggest it is later. However, serial numbers on pocket watch movements are not necessarily in chronological order - in fact most frequently they are not.
It looks to me as though the date letter in the hallmark is a "C", with the leopard's head mark for the London assay office, suggesting 1798 or 1818 - I think most likely the former.
Best wishes .. Andy

IMG_5088.jpg IMG_5089.jpg
 

John Matthews

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Astral - thank you for posting the additional photographs.

The hallmarks on the inside of the box (the inner case) are for London 1818/19 or possibly 1798/99 and the maker's mark IH (unfortunately it appears to have been double stamped), is for John Hadley.

Graham will be able to provide additional information regarding the movement, which is confirmed to be a verge fusee and does have a lever to stop the movement as expected.

1622481930983.png

John

EDIT - having enlarged one of your photographs, I agree with Andy regarding the date of London 1798/99 - it is the capital C

1622482859125.png
 
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AstralGraham

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Hi Astral - that's a nice watch. It looks as though the fusee chain is fully wound around the fusee cone (with the possibility that the other end has become detached from the spring barrel). In either case you definitely should not attempt to wind it further.
I have a similar watch by Vale & Company, a couple of pictures below. If you look at the second picture of my watch, you will see the fusee chain wrapped around the spring barrel, with no turns of the chain on the fusee cone - this fully unwound. Mine is dated 1788 and I believe is probably earlier than yours - the movement on mine looks deeper, and has an earlier type mechanism for setting-up (tensioning the mainspring). The serial number on yours is higher than on mine, which also might suggest it is later. However, serial numbers on pocket watch movements are not necessarily in chronological order - in fact most frequently they are not.
It looks to me as though the date letter in the hallmark is a "C", with the leopard's head mark for the London assay office, suggesting 1798 or 1818 - I think most likely the former.
Best wishes .. Andy

View attachment 656877 View attachment 656878
Thanks so much Andy. Your pictures are so beautiful. I am so thankful for your response and information regarding the fusee chain and cone. I do not have any loose bits accompanying the watch so it could be a missing chain? I’ve never wound the watch nor seen the back until Graham’s post but I am incredibly grateful to you and thank you so very much.
Most Kindly and Cheers,
Astral
 
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AstralGraham

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Astral - thank you for posting the additional photographs.

The hallmarks on the inside of the box (the inner case) are for London 1818/19 or possibly 1798/99 and the maker's mark IH (unfortunately it appears to have been double stamped), is for John Hadley.

Graham will be able to provide additional information regarding the movement, which is confirmed to be a verge fusee and does have a lever to stop the movement as expected.

View attachment 656882

John

EDIT - having enlarged one of your photographs, I agree with Andy regarding the date of London 1798/99 - it is the capital C

View attachment 656883
Thanks John! You have an incredible eye!
 

gmorse

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Hi Astral,

Thanks for posting these pictures, I know it can be a little scary opening up a watch like this if you've never done it before, but I hope you've found it worth doing!

The chain isn't missing, it's either just unhooked from the barrel or it may be broken. They're similar to bicycle chains but very tiny, with a hook at each end, and many were made in the 19th century by girls working in Christchurch in Dorset.

This will give you an idea of what your watch looks like when the top plate is removed. Although it's rather older than yours, (around 1720), it's essentially the same, the verge design didn't change very much for over 200 years.

DSCF8370.JPG DSCF8371.JPG DSCF8375.JPG DSCF8360.JPG

You can see the conical fusee and the fine chain which connects it to the barrel. When the spring is fully wound the chain is pulling on the smallest radius at the top of the fusee and as it runs down the radius gradually increases, the pull it exerts remains fairly constant, and in a verge this has a significant influence on the timekeeping. The last picture is the balance wheel with its spring and the two 'flags' on the staff; this is the oscillator which controls how fast the mainspring can drive the watch.

The interpretation of English hallmarks isn't always straightforward, especially if they're at all rubbed, as here, and practice and experience helps a lot. A legal set of marks consists of the Assay Office, the date letter, the purity mark and the maker's or sponsor's initials. Although there are several offices still in existence, (and several more which have now closed), the most likely marks to be found in a watch case are for London, (a leopard's head), Birmingham, (an anchor), and Chester, (a shield with a sword and three wheat sheaves; this office closed in 1962). The date letter changes every year, and each office has its own series, which before 1975 changed in different months in the various offices; London in May, Birmingham in July, and Chester sometimes in July and sometimes in August, (they changed over the years). A date letter could therefore apply to part of two calendar years before being rationalised in 1975. The purity mark for sterling silver, (92.5% pure), is a lion passant, and the maker's or sponsor's mark consists of the initials of their first and last names, which are kept in registers at the assay offices. If two makers with the same initials need to be registered at the same office at the same time, their marks must be distinctive in some way, either in their font or the surround in which they appear, or even in the presence of a full stop between the letters.

Although the signature is for Samuel Vale, you shouldn't think that he made the watch all by himself; he would have overseen a group of specialised craftspeople, each working on a specific part of the watch, some working exclusively for him and some providing a service externally. It's estimated that between 40 and 50 people were involved in the making of a single watch.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Dear Ms Graham,
Thank you so much for this very interesting thread, you can see that the history alone widens the number of replies, I do not think I have seen such speed to answer your questions as on this thread. Of course, it is understandable that the name alone George Washington, would more than interesting when on this thread, where we have in the main English and Americans discussing your families watch. What I have read so far is too, very able, and all are trying their very best to help you. What I have not seen so far in the above is questions, that would question its authenticity. Please do not take this, as any form of criticism, I am just one of the crowd.

Now if you look at the hallmarks on Andrew Wild´s Coventry watch,
zz-38.jpg you will see the Lion Passant which tells you that the case is made of Stirling Silver. on the right the Q for the year 1788 and on the right the anchor for the city of Birmingham in the UK. You of course know from the above the watch was made in Coventry, and I would say all the Vale watches would have had a Birmingham HM. Unless they put a London name on the watch, which they often did. Nothing illegal at that time in history.

This next watch is signed for A. Hollison Liverpool, (A fake watch by the Vale & Co.) This watch was at some time between 1811 and 1814, was also taken to America, and the owner took it to Osborne & Wright in New York for repair in 1814. It was cleaned and returned to the owner. Eventually, it landed up on eBay, and I was able to buy it.

zz-41.JPG zz-40.JPG zz-39.JPG

Your watch at least has the firms name on the dial, which is good news. So all I am saying is every angle must be looked at before people will accept the watch and its history are original. I wish you well, and thank you for sharing.

R/

Allan.
 
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AstralGraham

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Dear Allan,

no offence taken at all. I’m not looking for authentication of the lineage, so much as I’m fascinated by the features of the watch. I appreciate your thoughts!
 

AstralGraham

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Hi Astral,

Thanks for posting these pictures, I know it can be a little scary opening up a watch like this if you've never done it before, but I hope you've found it worth doing!

The chain isn't missing, it's either just unhooked from the barrel or it may be broken. They're similar to bicycle chains but very tiny, with a hook at each end, and many were made in the 19th century by girls working in Christchurch in Dorset.

This will give you an idea of what your watch looks like when the top plate is removed. Although it's rather older than yours, (around 1720), it's essentially the same, the verge design didn't change very much for over 200 years.

View attachment 656894 View attachment 656890 View attachment 656896 View attachment 656898

You can see the conical fusee and the fine chain which connects it to the barrel. When the spring is fully wound the chain is pulling on the smallest radius at the top of the fusee and as it runs down the radius gradually increases, the pull it exerts remains fairly constant, and in a verge this has a significant influence on the timekeeping. The last picture is the balance wheel with its spring and the two 'flags' on the staff; this is the oscillator which controls how fast the mainspring can drive the watch.

The interpretation of English hallmarks isn't always straightforward, especially if they're at all rubbed, as here, and practice and experience helps a lot. A legal set of marks consists of the Assay Office, the date letter, the purity mark and the maker's or sponsor's initials. Although there are several offices still in existence, (and several more which have now closed), the most likely marks to be found in a watch case are for London, (a leopard's head), Birmingham, (an anchor), and Chester, (a shield with a sword and three wheat sheaves; this office closed in 1962). The date letter changes every year, and each office has its own series, which before 1975 changed in different months in the various offices; London in May, Birmingham in July, and Chester sometimes in July and sometimes in August, (they changed over the years). A date letter could therefore apply to part of two calendar years before being rationalised in 1975. The purity mark for sterling silver, (92.5% pure), is a lion passant, and the maker's or sponsor's mark consists of the initials of their first and last names, which are kept in registers at the assay offices. If two makers with the same initials need to be registered at the same office at the same time, their marks must be distinctive in some way, either in their font or the surround in which they appear, or even in the presence of a full stop between the letters.

Although the signature is for Samuel Vale, you shouldn't think that he made the watch all by himself; he would have overseen a group of specialised craftspeople, each working on a specific part of the watch, some working exclusively for him and some providing a service externally. It's estimated that between 40 and 50 people were involved in the making of a single watch.

Regards,

Graham
Thank you for all your knowledge! Do you have any thoughts as to the engraved profile face? I’m the first in my family to research this watch that has been passed down from my grandfather, who always had it but hardly took it out of the box. I am just so keen to learn anything I can about this watch as I try to delve more into my family lineage and the few pieces I have that have always been part of the lore but never deeply investigated.

You are all a fountain of knowledge far beyond my own. This is quite a remarkable group of people.

073BA7C6-4378-48A7-9D69-5CD900C1E3BE.jpeg
 

Dr. Jon

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The part with the profile is called the balance cock. These are collected in their own right. I have not seen a profile on one before but they were individual works of fine craft even art.

The profile is not very detailed but it could be George Washington. English malers often put American themes into the decoration of watche s being sold in the US.

It could also be King George.
 
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AstralGraham

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It could also be King George.
I wondered about King George because if almost appears to be a crown with a bird on each side on the ornate plate that resides over the movement positioned directly above the profile.
 

AstralGraham

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The part with the profile is called the balance cock. These are collected in their own right. I have not seen a profile on one before but they were individual works of fine craft even art.

The profile is not very detailed but it could be George Washington. English malers often put American themes into the decoration of watche s being sold in the US.

It could also be King George.
I find that to be quite humorous, regarding selling or travelling with King George/GW and crown so shortly after the colonies rebelled. An amazing practical joke. Agreed, it is quite worn down, and I am humbled and astounded you all are even able to distinguish such details from photographs!
 

John Matthews

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Astral,

At this time Vale & Co. particularly favoured the profiles of actual and fictitious people on the cocks of their verge watches. Less frequent was their use of grotesque masks, on the left. Examples is good condition, when restored, reveal how competent the engravers were. Here are three examples from my collection of Vale watches. No doubt the engravers were influenced by the profiles of the 'famous' at the time - for example the one on the right is believed to be celebrating the marriage on May 2nd, 1816, of Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent.

1622526999496.png

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi Astral,

I'm inclined to favour the King George theory; the crown at the top and the flags on either side of the profile, especially the cross of St. George on the left suggest this. Engravers would take their inspiration from popular images circulating at the time, themselves often engravings of painted portraits, and of course the coin of the realm. It's true that the grotesque masks were by far the commonest motifs on balance cocks, but as John points out, there are other themes found which are more related to current affairs at the time. Flags and achievements of arms were not unusual in times of war.

1DDDD1F6-4137-4B16-A4A8-20FF6B318F52.jpeg

This balance cock is from the 1720s watch I posted earlier and shows the beautiful head at the base of the table, which is variously described as an angel or simply a young lady; quite different from the commoner grotesques.

DSCF8352.JPG

Regards,

Graham
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Dear Astral,

Like John, I too am impressed with the cocks produced by the Vale firm in Coventry, and in this case, your watch, I would say you are correct, in saying George III. If you look at George III on Google you will get a huge collection of portraits of the king, and I would say the engraver got it right, plus the crown is a strong indication.

zz-45.jpg The young George

zz-44.jpg George in later life.

At the moment there is an ongoing thread on the board called Verge Cocks. I have attached the unfinished copy. The birds by the way are HO HO birds, first seen in Japan, birds of luck and happiness. So look after the little birds, they may do the same for you.

Verge Cocks.pdf Numbers 23 and 43 for HO HO birds from Coventry.

R/.

Allan.
 

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Allan C. Purcell

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I think this is easier to read, and could be of some use, for others who have seen this thread.

R/

Allan.
 
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John Matthews

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commoner grotesques.
For watches made at the end of the C18th and beginning of the C19th, the impression I have is that grotesques, where the engraving is shallow, are more frequently found on movements that were being produced 'in quantity', mid market and below, if you like. Grotesques with deep engraving and those with portraits, or other adornments, with fine detail are characteristic of watches that were targeting a more discerning buyer.

John
 
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AstralGraham

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Astral,

At this time Vale & Co. particularly favoured the profiles of actual and fictitious people on the cocks of their verge watches. Less frequent was their use of grotesque masks, on the left. Examples is good condition, when restored, reveal how competent the engravers were. Here are three examples from my collection of Vale watches. No doubt the engravers were influenced by the profiles of the 'famous' at the time - for example the one on the right is believed to be celebrating the marriage on May 2nd, 1816, of Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent.

View attachment 656984

John
Thank you so much John. Your collection is stunning and appreciate the share. I have limited searches on the internet but haven’t come across one of King George that show him wearing epaulettes. I found a few side portraits of George Washington wearing them but did read they were taken from the British military and adopted at the time. Perhaps it’s of a British officer. The Howell Lewis connection is historically accurate posted in that he did serve under the General as his personal secretary and was with George a week before his passing. But I agree, it is a bit of a grotesque image with the dark circles under the eyes, lack of distinguishing chin, and unflattering characteristics.

327BFED5-250B-489A-9AF9-0FD75D9208AA.jpeg F3462696-2742-4468-A23F-E7B593EEDA69.jpeg 67A8F4DE-FF87-48BE-A20E-201711DBE86A.jpeg
 
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Dr. Jon

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This kind of thing, highly decorated balance cocks, was done primarily for the watchmaking community. The higher degree of artistry was, mostly, sign to the service people of the higher quality of the watch and often a medium for inside joking, a tradition from Renaissance artistry. They were targeting the more affluent buyer but usually on the recommendation of their trusted merchant. Most such buers wouidl not have know what to look for although perhaps a nice piece of engraving may have been shown to them. I am speculating but there is a lot of historical evidence that very few owners of thsi era ever looked closely at the movement of their watches

The people who could afford watches tended to be upper class enough that they usually looked down on the mere tradesmen (and often women who decorated the parts). The cases were tricky to open to allow a view of the works. I suspect few owners of this era did this, and if they did it, they did it rarely.

There is a famous example of one of Abe Lincoln's watches with a an anti Lincoln comment inscribed on an inner part of it. It is possible that the profile of King George was a form of inside joke on an American owner or distributer.

American made watches came to be highly decorated during the later half of the 19th century when movements were sold separately from cases and American buyers became much more knowledgeable about watch technical features, at least as evidenced in advertisements. The British for the most part look on this with great dis approval.

There are some technical reasons also. Artificial light was poor, magnifiers were crude and by the time a gentleman could afford such a watch his eyesight may have been very bad at close range.

When this watch was made and sold, "Gentlemen" did not concern themselves with such matters and most could not see them even if they were interested. The original owners may not have ever seen this figure.
 
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John Matthews

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Jon you will know that many English movements were shipped over the pond in the early part of the C19th and were cased in American made cases, so one might expect that such movements may well have been viewed by potential buyers. This point not applying to this specific watch, as it was cased, but in response to your general speculation.

American made watches came to be highly decorated during the later half of the 19th century when movements were sold separately from cases and American buyers became much more knowledgeable about watch technical features, at least as evidenced in advertisements. The British for the most part look on this with great dis approval.
I don't really understand the point you are making. When you say the 'British' to whom are you referring and specifically what were they disapproving of?

Astral,

Is there any factual evidence of when this watch actually arrived in America and the circumstances?

As Graham suggested earlier, the presence of the crown and the flag, validates making the inference of a royal connection - I suspect using these features is probably safer that attempting to identify the portrait. I would be a little surprised if this watch was initially intended for the American market. At the time Vale & Co exports to America most frequently carried fictitious signatures, e.g. Bullingford, or would have signed the movement 'Vale & Compy, London'. My impression if that those movements where the signature is followed by Coventry were intended to be sold on the domestic market, although some will have been transported to America as personal possessions and by merchants.

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi Astral,
My impression if that those movements where the signature is followed by Coventry were intended to be sold on the domestic market, although some will have been transported to America as personal possessions and by merchants.
I agree with John on this, the name of Coventry would not have had anywhere near the prestige of London at the time.

All we can do is to comment on the artifact as we see it, and infer facts from the physical object in front of us, applying what knowledge and experience we possess; even with evidence of apparently solid provenance, if the object bears no firm link to that, it must be questioned. Assumptions and conjectures can be dangerous!

Incidentally, I've just realised that the 1720s balance cock I used as an example earlier was from a watch made by a namesake of yours, one George Graham.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Dr. Jon

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There is no solid study or research on the nature of the US watch market before the advent of domestic watch manufacture. From what I have seen in surviving example I think there were at least two channels one via merchants who operated as watchmakers and the other as gold or silversmiths who also sold watches.

The US watchmakers had their own names put on the movement and dial. No way to know whether they showed bare movements to potential customers but I suspect they showed them the dial and movement in its dust-cover and avoided removing this cover. Same reasons I stated before. To see the movement, the front cover needs to opened, the bezel lifted, the movement catch released, the movement lifted up the dust cover catch slid open and the dust cover removed. All of this in a dimly lit envoronment by men with usually poor eyesight in a very dusty and dirty place.

The silver and goldsmiths used the fairly well known names of the "makers" and sold them in cases they made to order to fit the movement and the customer's taste.

For the same reasons I stated I do not believe most customers ever looked closely at the movement of their watches. I am also sure that there were a few enthusiasts as there are now and then as now they were seen as at least a bit weird.

Except for a very few pocket chronometers, the watches of this era were not accurate enough even for social purposes and were status decoration. Except for a very few very curious people most owners never looked.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Jon,
...the watches of this era were not accurate enough even for social purposes and were status decoration.
A verge in new or decent condition is capable of around a minute a day, and a cylinder is capable of much better than that, so I think that even for 'social purposes' that would have been more than adequate. Judging the performance of these watches today, after over 200 years of use, (and abuse), is hardly indicative of their capabilities when they were new.

Of course, if you're comparing pre-balance spring watches, then they were pretty random performers, but I doubt if many of those made it across the Atlantic!

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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Jon

You will note that I was making a general statement and not specifically about the American trade when I wrote ...

For watches made at the end of the C18th and beginning of the C19th, the impression I have is that grotesques, where the engraving is shallow, are more frequently found on movements that were being produced 'in quantity', mid market and below, if you like. Grotesques with deep engraving and those with portraits, or other adornments, with fine detail are characteristic of watches that were targeting a more discerning buyer.
However, - I am not convinced by your speculation regarding its significance to the American trade ...

You say ...

merchants who operated as watchmakers and the other as gold or silversmiths who also sold watches
and

the US watchmakers had their own names put on the movement and dial. No way to know whether they showed bare movements to potential customers
So the primary customers in the American trade were the merchants and smiths and they often, but not always, had paid to have their names engraved on the movements and caps. So if they, the primary customers, had an investment in the appearance of the movement and cared about it sufficiently to put their trading name on it, don't you think they would inspect it, and be influenced by the quality of the engraving and its appearance? So not only do I think the primary customer, would inspect the movement, having had their name engraved on the movement, I would expect that they might wish to expose that fact to their own customers (the secondary customers). The same would apply if the engraving was done on movements after they had arrived in America. I believe there are examples where the engraved name was that of the 'first owner' - I sure that would be inspected.

I suspect that the attitudes of a proud owner of a new watch in America, would be no different than on this side of the pond, I believe they would wish to see the beauty of the engraving - in fact this is supported by the way caps were designed ..

20200326 006.jpg

John
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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This blog stays with the thread and also gives a good feel of what life was like for the upper 10,000.

At the bottom of the page, there is more on this theme by Silkdemask.

Allan
 
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AstralGraham

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Dear Astral,

Like John, I too am impressed with the cocks produced by the Vale firm in Coventry, and in this case, your watch, I would say you are correct, in saying George III. If you look at George III on Google you will get a huge collection of portraits of the king, and I would say the engraver got it right, plus the crown is a strong indication.

View attachment 656988 The young George

View attachment 656989 George in later life.

At the moment there is an ongoing thread on the board called Verge Cocks. I have attached the unfinished copy. The birds by the way are HO HO birds, first seen in Japan, birds of luck and happiness. So look after the little birds, they may do the same for you.

Verge Cocks.pdf Numbers 23 and 43 for HO HO birds from Coventry.

R/.

Allan.
Wow Allan! I read through your brilliant book/.PDF and am super thankful. Your and everyone’s watches are absolutely stunning. The detail, the interwoven symbolism and meanings, I was blown away. I really appreciate you sharing.

Thanks for the HO HO bird information!! I never would have figured that bit out to be sure!

I love the grotesque masks as well, a few of them remind me of Japanese Samurai masks but also see the Christian & French influences as well.

Do you take the watches apart and clean them yourself? Just the thought of that sends me to panic :)
 

AstralGraham

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I think this is easier to read, and could be of some use, for others who have seen this thread.

R/

Allan.
That is my lineage you are spot on.
 

AstralGraham

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This blog stays with the thread and also gives a good feel of what life was like for the upper 10,000.

At the bottom of the page, there is more on this theme by Silkdemask.

Allan
You just made me laugh so hard with the “upper 10,000” . Thanks Allan!
 

AstralGraham

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Jon you will know that many English movements were shipped over the pond in the early part of the C19th and were cased in American made cases, so one might expect that such movements may well have been viewed by potential buyers. This point not applying to this specific watch, as it was cased, but in response to your general speculation.



I don't really understand the point you are making. When you say the 'British' to whom are you referring and specifically what were they disapproving of?

Astral,

Is there any factual evidence of when this watch actually arrived in America and the circumstances?

As Graham suggested earlier, the presence of the crown and the flag, validates making the inference of a royal connection - I suspect using these features is probably safer that attempting to identify the portrait. I would be a little surprised if this watch was initially intended for the American market. At the time Vale & Co exports to America most frequently carried fictitious signatures, e.g. Bullingford, or would have signed the movement 'Vale & Compy, London'. My impression if that those movements where the signature is followed by Coventry were intended to be sold on the domestic market, although some will have been transported to America as personal possessions and by merchants.

John
I actually didn’t know where to start research and at which assay office but you all have been a big help. I noticed so many have personal names inscribed on them and this one appears to be ‘off the shelf?’ If that was even a thing at the time. Domestic market totally makes sense to me. I will follow the groups lead.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Astral,
There´s nothing like a smile, the German name for the well-known film "High Society "is "Die Oberan Zehntausand" (the Upper Ten-thousand)

Satchmo singing that Gooood old HHHIGH Sociiiiety. nothing like it,- though all the songs in that film were hits in my generation.

"Just between the two of us"- if you like commemorative watches I own Sid Gruman´s 1921 Christmas present from his orchestra.

zz-46.JPG zz-47.JPG

Keep Smiling,

Allan.

PS: I do now and then take my watch movements to pieces to photograph them, I then send them to London to be put back together again, and repair any blunders I made. If you need that type of help PM me.
 

AstralGraham

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Hi Astral,


I agree with John on this, the name of Coventry would not have had anywhere near the prestige of London at the time.

All we can do is to comment on the artifact as we see it, and infer facts from the physical object in front of us, applying what knowledge and experience we possess; even with evidence of apparently solid provenance, if the object bears no firm link to that, it must be questioned. Assumptions and conjectures can be dangerous!

Incidentally, I've just realised that the 1720s balance cock I used as an example earlier was from a watch made by a namesake of yours, one George Graham.

Regards,

Graham
Funny you should mention that! My father is a George Graham. Here’s our family crest and plaid.

9F6F5CDD-D1C4-43EC-9A88-AF33D136616A.jpeg 36BA9DE3-C5AE-469B-8574-3F2F62AE5957.jpeg 83C7B9D4-074D-4E21-8669-A281A02C1167.jpeg
 

gmorse

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Hi Astral,
My father is a George Graham. Here’s our family crest and plaid.
Although 'my' George Graham was born in Cumberland, I've no idea whether his family had any roots north of the border. He was one of the finest watch and clock makers of his age, continuing the business of Thomas Tompion on the latter's death in 1713.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Astral, I have here a copy of " Burke´s Landed Gentry 1937", in there are twelve pages for the name Graham. Each page has two panels in very small print, so quite a lot of history.

zz-60.JPG

Don´t be put off by the above photograph, it is where I had to start. The Clan Montrose is linked one way or another to all the Graham clans.

it goes on with the photograph below.

If you like I can send all the rest of the information by PM.

zz-61.JPG

R/

Allan
 
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AstralGraham

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Astral, I have here a copy of " Burke´s Landed Gentry 1937", in there are twelve pages for the name Graham. Each page has two panels in very small print, so quite a lot of history.

View attachment 657889

Don´t be put off by the above photograph, it is where I had to start. The Clan Montrose is linked one way or another to all the Graham clans.

it goes on with the photograph below.

If you like I can send all the rest of the information by PM.

View attachment 657890

R/

Allan
Thank you so much Allan. I apologize for my delay, I started an internship this last week and a half and have been quite consumed. You are incredibly kind and I will respond as soon as I have a moment - This coming weekend most likely :(

REGARDLESS, I have had a friend of mine grab some quick info and I am posting to the group. I took Graham, yourself and a few other's post and found some images and British documentation I would love thoughts on. I zoomed in the image of the portrait and it is clearly a Lions face! There are some flag ideas, some images that look similar, and lineage I thought this chat might offer European expertise. I will be in touch and keep touching base as I can this week.

Fielding Lewis (Betty Washington's Husband) had an IMPORT/EXPORT trade inherited from his Father that went back and forth to England - Mystery a bit more solved! You are most kind as is everyone who is assisting in this Vale & Company watch.

I also sharpened the images (since I cannot shine it) to show the double dial hands and some number inside the case.

Crown, Coat of Arms and Lions Head copy.jpg Double Dial Sharpenedcopy.jpg OutterRimSharpenDodgedcopy.jpg washingtontree4final.jpg
 

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AstralGraham

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May 30, 2021
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Astral,
There´s nothing like a smile, the German name for the well-known film "High Society "is "Die Oberan Zehntausand" (the Upper Ten-thousand)

Satchmo singing that Gooood old HHHIGH Sociiiiety. nothing like it,- though all the songs in that film were hits in my generation.

"Just between the two of us"- if you like commemorative watches I own Sid Gruman´s 1921 Christmas present from his orchestra.

View attachment 657185 View attachment 657186

Keep Smiling,

Allan.

PS: I do now and then take my watch movements to pieces to photograph them, I then send them to London to be put back together again, and repair any blunders I made. If you need that type of help PM me.
Holy Smokes! That is unbelievably stunning. You all have the finest of designs and collections - even better than any museums in the world. I am honored and blown away!
 

gmorse

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Hi Astral,
...and some number inside the case.
Any scratched numbers inside watch cases will be the marks of previous repairers, mostly in their private codes and hence largely meaningless now. It's a practice now generally disparaged by responsible restorers and repairers.

As well as the Cross of Saint George on the left of the profile, there's a rough rendition of the Union Flag of the time on the right.

Regards,

Graham
 
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AstralGraham

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I have been racking my brain and even searching through the database's at Johns Hopkins University (Graduate Student second career). I simply cannot find another watch with these types of characteristics and total conrol over each tool/toolmark used.

Graham, Chris, John, Jerry, and Allan you gentlemen are now my favorite goup and I want to say thank you so very much.

I feel possessed to learn what each crimp and tinest of details represented at that time.

Although mine pales amongst y'all's collections -
Is there a book on tool markings that help trace any of the 20-50 crafts people who worked at that time have forensically been ID'd? The Ho Ho Birds was a huge help.

And for the life of me I cannot find a winding key that looks similar so perhaps an add on later? I LOVE everyone's collections and also learning as you all probably guess by now:)

AND just for fun and laughs, I thought I would post this picture from a car trip I did last week - only for you all. My own bit of humour. :) You guys are the best.
1623399775361.png
 
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AstralGraham

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I also believe Jerry has it right, the center hand is seconds. The arbor visible is square meaning it would have been set there which would not be done on an hour hand.

The center track is marked in 1/5 second increments indicating 5 beats per second, common now and considered a bit slow but very fast for the period.

I think this was an Doctor's watch. The center hand was used for measuring pulse rate. Possibly one of the ancestors, the one who brought it to the US, was an MD.
Hi Dr. Jon, I think there is a new typo in my header and per the group date the watch 1798/1799 so 18c. Would you be so kind as to make that correction? Please and thank you? - Astral
 

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