Liverpool runner Geo. E. Porter Boston, 1850

thesnark17

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Hi everyone. I picked this watch up recently. Best I can determine, it's a Liverpool runner, jeweled to the fusee, with Chester hallmarks from 1850. Lever escapement of some type (I don't know how to identify English escapements very well) and bimetallic split balance. I like it a lot!

There is no marking on the movement cover. I omit pictures of the back as it is plain and worn.

The case and movement are both numbered 9822. The case mark is R S in an oval.

So, some questions:
Is there an easy way to figure out the escapement type?
I assume that the movement maker cannot be known, particularly since this is a private label. Is this true?
I've seen one or two other Liverpool runners that are very similar, see for example https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/the-liverpool-runner.149838/post-1176375 . Is it possible that someone was importing them systematically?
Does anyone recognise the case maker mark?
Looking between the plates, there appears to be a hack function. How does one operate it?
What shape was the missing hand? Should it be spade/whip or spade/spade, or something else, or it doesn't matter?

I suppose I'm looking for a hand if anyone has one! The hour hand is mirror-polished in the center.

It runs and keeps time on a partial winding. I have never messed with a fusee before and don't intend to start now! I would welcome suggestions for watchmakers who do good work on fusees.

I hope you find this watch interesting! I bought it blind (no idea what was inside or running state), and I'm quite happy with it!
DSCF5083.JPG DSCF5084.JPG DSCF5085.JPG DSCF5086.JPG DSCF5087.JPG DSCF5088.JPG
 
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gmorse

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Hi thesnark17,

Firstly the escapement; most English watches of this period are detached levers with a tangential lever, pallet jewels in horizontal slots so they aren't easily visible, and a ratchet tooth escape wheel, so all the lift is on the pallets, unlike the 'club tooth' type which has divided lift. The escape wheels are almost always brass and with their pointed teeth are quite fragile. This layout is indeed a Liverpool Runner, which has the train planted so that the lever is next to the fusee. The large clear, 'Liverpool Window' jewels on the top plate are probably rock crystal, (quartz).

DSCF5409.JPG

The signature will be for the retailer; almost all English watches were marked thus, so in a sense they were all 'private labels' and the actual makers mostly remain unknown, although there are often stamped marks under the dial for the workshops who made the 'raw' movements, in this example they would have been in the Liverpool area, probably in Prescot.

The case hallmarks are from the Chester assay office, (Liverpool has never had an assay office of its own), and are indeed for 1850/1, with the maker's mark of 'RS' for Ralph Samuel at 72 Wood Street, Liverpool, who's listed in Priestley as being watch and watchcase makers. This suggests that the Samuel company may have made, or at least finished, the movement as well as the case, but they probably did not make the raw movement. The figure '7' under the serial number is for the jointer, a specialist craftsman who made the case hinges and put the case together. The number would have had significance for the case maker, but nobody else.

Liverpool became a major maker of watches and movements, many of which were exported to the US without cases, to avoid customs duties, and cased locally on arrival, but yours clearly didn't arrive that way since it has English hallmarks. There was a very characteristic 'Liverpool' style adopted by most makers in the area, and it isn't clear whether the signature was added after gilding, in which case it could have been done by or for Porter on arrival. Loomes lists a George E. Porter working in Utica, NY, in the 1830s, so that could be your man.

The hands are American and may well be later replacements, since they were often damaged by careless owners using a finger instead of the key to set the time. The style would have been a broader spade hour hand whose tip just reached the inner edge of the hour numerals and a spear (whip) minute hand. The seconds hand may be original. The original hands would have been very similar to these:

DSCF6353.JPG

The 'hack' or balance brake function usually had a thin brass wire connected to the small lever, which engaged with the 4th wheel or sometimes the back of the lever pallet frame. Many were partially removed for some reason, possibly because owners didn't need them or repairers didn't want the trouble of setting them up properly.

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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Loomes lists a George E. Porter working in Utica, NY, in the 1830s, so that could be your man.
I would not rely on Loomes for the American trade. There are two Boston addresses for Porter. 1844-46 at 26 Merchants' Exchange & 7 Congress from 1847-61. He is described as a watch & chronometer maker, so may be known to others. I checked the 1830, 1835 & 1840 Boston trade directories, Porter is not listed. He is listed in the 1845 directory as a watch & chronometer maker at the first address. It is possible that the Porter of Utica is the same individual.

John
 

thesnark17

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Jul 11, 2020
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Hi thesnark17,

Firstly the escapement; most English watches of this period are detached levers with a tangential lever, pallet jewels in horizontal slots so they aren't easily visible, and a ratchet tooth escape wheel, so all the lift is on the pallets, unlike the 'club tooth' type which has divided lift. The escape wheels are almost always brass and with their pointed teeth are quite fragile. This layout is indeed a Liverpool Runner, which has the train planted so that the lever is next to the fusee. The large clear, 'Liverpool Window' jewels on the top plate are probably rock crystal, (quartz).

View attachment 654413
Yes, this train description matches what I have. I had wondered about the pointed escape wheel teeth. I wonder what the point of putting the pallet jewels in slots was - added protection? I note that on mine, the jewels do not perfectly line up with the escape wheel.

Thank you for the information on maker. I knew that the English watch-making process was complicated, but it's nice to have a few names to associate with the watch (even though I know that they didn't do all the work).

The hands are American and may well be later replacements, since they were often damaged by careless owners using a finger instead of the key to set the time. The style would have been a broader spade hour hand whose tip just reached the inner edge of the hour numerals and a spear (whip) minute hand. The seconds hand may be original. The original hands would have been very similar to these:

View attachment 654412
Interesting. I tried moving the stump of my minute hand with a finger, and it is so flexible that it would have been impossible to set it that way without breaking it! And maybe that is what happened, too... though I doubt it. The sharp bend at the end of what's left suggests some sort of violence.

So I guess the question is whether to find an American minute hand to complete the existing set, or find a set of English hands to recreate the original set. And since I don't really care which, that gives me twice the chances of finding something. Side note: how did you know the hands are American? Long acquaintance, or assumption based on the idea that they don't look like the originals, or both, or something else?

The 'hack' or balance brake function usually had a thin brass wire connected to the small lever, which engaged with the 4th wheel or sometimes the back of the lever pallet frame. Many were partially removed for some reason, possibly because owners didn't need them or repairers didn't want the trouble of setting them up properly.
Yes, my watch has the wire acting on the 4th wheel, but the small lever does not want to move at all. I guess the feature is disabled. Oh well. I wouldn't have used it, either.


I would not rely on Loomes for the American trade. There are two Boston addresses for Porter. 1844-46 at 26 Merchants' Exchange & 7 Congress from 1847-61. He is described as a watch & chronometer maker, so may be known to others. I checked the 1830, 1835 & 1840 Boston trade directories, Porter is not listed. He is listed in the 1845 directory as a watch & chronometer maker at the first address. It is possible that the Porter of Utica is the same individual.

John
Thank you! I appreciate it.
 

gmorse

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Jan 7, 2011
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Hi,
I wonder what the point of putting the pallet jewels in slots was - added protection? I note that on mine, the jewels do not perfectly line up with the escape wheel.
Probably for protection, plus the jewels can be smaller. If they don't line up properly, something is wrong. The escape wheel or the lever may have been moved on their arbors. Escape wheels are often fitted on a brass collet which can be moved up or down slightly.

Side note: how did you know the hands are American? Long acquaintance, or assumption based on the idea that they don't look like the originals, or both, or something else?
Looking at a lot of English and US watches and seeing that these aren't English, (and don't fit the dial).

Yes, my watch has the wire acting on the 4th wheel, but the small lever does not want to move at all. I guess the feature is disabled.
The lever has a small detent and some are very stiff from lack of use or cleaning. These are usually found to be disabled by someone bending or breaking off the thin brass wire, so yours hasn't been 'modified' in that way.

Regards,

Graham
 

thesnark17

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Jul 11, 2020
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Probably for protection, plus the jewels can be smaller. If they don't line up properly, something is wrong. The escape wheel or the lever may have been moved on their arbors. Escape wheels are often fitted on a brass collet which can be moved up or down slightly.
I knew when I saw that alignment that there would be a problem. But hey, at least it runs, right?!...

I took a closer look and the escape wheel is running low and slightly crooked. Pallet lock contact is 60% on one side of the wheel, and 90% on the other, running low on both. I guess it will not be a superb timekeeper, if it ever was one.


The lever has a small detent and some are very stiff from lack of use or cleaning. These are usually found to be disabled by someone bending or breaking off the thin brass wire, so yours hasn't been 'modified' in that way.
I had been pretty gentle with it before. I took courage and push it hard... and it works now! It was just stiff.
 

thesnark17

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Well, yes. I did not mean to imply that it was not a good timekeeper when built. More that it could have been a relatively poor timekeeper for quite a while, since who knows when that "repair" was made. I suspect such repairs would be older, since few modern watchmakers would take on a fusee.

I still like it a lot. The dial is quite striking, with the very large seconds hand. It is the oldest watch in my collection by 28 years, and that's probably not going to change for a while!
 

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