Moncas of Liverpool

Mike Paice

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Forum members might be interested in an article I have just had published in Antiquarian Horology, entitled "Moncas of Liverpool - A short history of a nineteenth-century watch-making family". The article is about the history of the family and the business. Whilst it is not a technical piece, the types of movement produced by Moncas are considered and there is an appendix with basic details of 139 Moncas watches/movements known to me at the time of writing. The Antiquarian Horological Society has given access to the whole article from their website which can be found here: http://www.ahsoc.org/publications/the-journal/current-issue/

Any feedback will be gratefully received and as I am continuing to collect details of Moncas watch movements, I would also be interested to hear of others of which members are aware.

Mike.
 

John Pavlik

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Mike,

Great article... I have a couple of Moncas watches, datable and a few complete running movements.. Would you
like their #'s and escapement information !

John
 

Jerry Treiman

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Thanks for sharing your article with us. Here is a movement (no case) that is not in your list. Massey II escapement. It has a creme-colored enamel dial -- let me know if a dial photo would be of use.

Moncas_4580.jpg Moncas_4580_bal.jpg
 
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Keith R...

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Awesome write up! Thanks for sharing your work. All examples are quite interesting and the half plates are really something to behold. Keith
 

Mike Paice

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Hi John,

I'm pleased to hear that you found the article interesting and I should be very grateful for details from your Moncas watches. My records that make up the annex now stand at 155 and I'll keep going because it is continuing to prove a valuable exercise. Recently I secured a John Moncas movement with two going barrels - up until then I had only been aware of him making fusee movements, so I am very much still learning about the variety of movements he produced.

Mike.
 

Mike Paice

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Many thanks Jerry. I have added the details to the listing that made up the annex. This movement sits very nicely in the middle of a number of watches with cases hallmarked 1825, so we can be fairly confident of its year of production. A lovely movement - I have also a couple of recent acquisitions that I must photograph and share.

Mike
 

Mike Paice

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Hi Art - Yes this is a really lovely example, both movement and case. I have the details of this watch included in the annex to my article. It was produced around 1826/7 and my notes say that it has a Massey type II detached lever. If you have shared a picture of the watch on here, that may be where I first saw it but always happy to see it again :) I can email you a .pdf of the article if you have still been unable to download it from the AHS website? Drop me a quick email at mwpaice@gmail.com and I'll pop it across to you.

Mike.
 

Mike Paice

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Many thanks for the feedback, Keith. I find those beautiful, slim half-plates quite special and wonder how much variety came out of the Moncas workshop. My research into his watch-making business will continue, as will my education about pocket-watch movements - so I hope at some point that I will have enough knowledge to produce another paper with a more technical focus on the products.

Mike.
 

John Pavlik

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Hi Mike,
This is what I have... Photos at the end..

#1099 Massey II full Plate 18K heavy case with gold dial, currently watch is in the safe Deposit box so I can not give you a date, but it is approx. 1815 or so..

# 5492 Massey II 7 Jewel full plate sterling OF case hallmarked 1826

# 3138 Movement only full plate 7 jewel Massey II screwed plates

#10261 3/4 or 1/2 plate 11 Jewel Massey II

#450 full plate rack lever escapement.. waiting for mainspring..
 

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Mike Paice

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Many thanks, John, this has been helpful and nice to see more of these lovely movements. 1099 sits bang in the middle of a group of watch movements dated 1815-1819 in my paper's annex, so if you think of it when next at the bank, it would be great to know the hallmark date - he says with some front :). 10261 is of the type I describe as a split-plate in the article and I noticed the Liverpool Windows in your movement, absent in my example - very nice slim movements of the time.

Thanks again for sharing these pictures and details. Mike.
 

artbissell

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Hi Art - Yes this is a really lovely example, both movement and case. I have the details of this watch included in the annex to my article. It was produced around 1826/7 and my notes say that it has a Massey type II detached lever. If you have shared a picture of the watch on here, that may be where I first saw it but always happy to see it again :) I can email you a .pdf of the article if you have still been unable to download it from the AHS website? .[/QUOTE A very fine gift from you; very much appreciated. Have seen many old watch research reports, but none better than yours. artbissell.
 

MartyR

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Mike, you might be interested to read this thread.

And thanks for your AHS article which I have already started to re-read :D
 

Dr. Jon

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I enjoyed the article very much. Thanks for doing it and for enduring the process of publication.

Did Moncas ever put a temperature compensated balance on any of his levers? Why do you suppose there are so few temperature compensated levers from this period?
 

Mike Paice

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I enjoyed the article very much. Thanks for doing it and for enduring the process of publication.

Did Moncas ever put a temperature compensated balance on any of his levers? Why do you suppose there are so few temperature compensated levers from this period?
I'm glad that you found the article interesting and hope that it adds something of value to our collective knowledge.

With regard to temperature compensated balances, I have never seen one on any Moncas pocket watch movements. I have seen pictures of a couple of his marine box chronometers and they both had bimetallic temperature compensated balances. I can only guess why so few were used and my thoughts stem simply from taking the position that as a businessman you would not use something that you felt added no value to your product or added a price premium to your product that your customers would not be prepared to pay. The latter is, I feel, unlikely because Moncas was no stranger to making very expensive gold pocket watches and I cannot imagine that including a temperature compensated balance would add a significant cost to such time-pieces. So maybe the 'value added' argument is more likely? I have no technical expertise to back up the idea but is it possible that Moncas considered the variations in temperature that the average pocket watch was exposed to in day-to-day use in temperate climates did not justify the use of such a balance? A pocket watch was worn close to the body, usually in your waistcoat pocket - a relatively constant warm environment. The box chronometer, however, would be exposed to far greater variations and extremes of temperature, sitting out on a surface in the mariner's cabin and potentially travelling between the cold north Atlantic and the Tropics.
 

Omexa

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Hi Mike, "With regard to temperature compensated balances", There are some unusual compensated balances (or Hairsprings) on other High End movements. Regards Ray 1.jpg
 
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Mike Paice

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Thanks for sharing the picture, Ray. I have never seen one of these before - although I have seen them described.
 

Omexa

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Hi Dr. Jon, it is a lever and running beautifully like my other "Desbois and Wheeler" Converted Freesprung. This maker seems to make very High Grade movements. I think that I have another compensated balance (or Hairspring) movement somewhere, I will have a look for it. Regards Ray
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Hello Mike,

I am not sure I sent you the information on Moncas 6212. It is an STR. HM Chester 1826. If so the other folks will enjoy a look at it.

Best Wishes,
Allan.

IMG_0051.jpg
 

Jerry Treiman

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With the subject of John Moncas' watches coming up again in another thread, and reference to Mike Paice's fine paper published by AHS, I took a look again at that paper. I was struck by the seemingly older style of some "late" movements, particularly No.16052 (Fig.10) and No.16241 (Fig.12). Comparing these to my two Moncas movements (4580 & 7923), I have begun to wonder if the two with the much higher numbers might have been leftovers from before the bankruptcy and which were finished later, with a numeral "1" added to the beginning of the old serial number to make them seem more contemporary. Does this sense?
 

Mike Paice

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With the subject of John Moncas' watches coming up again in another thread, and reference to Mike Paice's fine paper published by AHS, I took a look again at that paper. I was struck by the seemingly older style of some "late" movements, particularly No.16052 (Fig.10) and No.16241 (Fig.12). Comparing these to my two Moncas movements (4580 & 7923), I have begun to wonder if the two with the much higher numbers might have been leftovers from before the bankruptcy and which were finished later, with a numeral "1" added to the beginning of the old serial number to make them seem more contemporary. Does this sense?
Hi Jerry. It certainly makes sense to me. John set his eldest son up in Great Nelson Street a little before his belongings in Castle Street were sold to service his debts. Equipment, unused movements and some grey movements must have been taken across to the new business. Those two movements do rather stand out in my table (which now has details of almost 180 Moncas movements) as the only two numbered 16xxx - hopefully I will discover other movements that will help to prove or disprove your theory. I am also becoming rather inquisitive about the Moncas movements with the Eagle shaped back-plates, as I am now aware of three of them - but I think that deserves a new thread.
 

Mike Paice

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Hi Richie, It looks pretty convincing to me. The lack of Liverpool windows is not uncommon, the engraving all looks fairly typical and the quality seems up to spec. The records I have for Moncas movement numbers in the series 10xxx are predominantly slimmer more modern half-plates but there are full plate movements in amongst those records. The only thing that puzzles me a little is the regulator scale, which doesn't have the typical Liverpool arrows. I haven't seen that before on a Moncas watch movement, except for those he made for the couple of years he was working in London. However, I wouldn't say that this one point alone should carry too much weight. I'm assuming it has a Massey II or III detached lever escapement? Mike.
 

richiec

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honestly, don't know the difference between the types of Massey escapements, will do some research of post photos of the parts if that will help.
 

Omexa

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Massey Type 4.jpg Hi richiec, there are 5 types I have not a photo of the very rare type 4. I just found a Type 4 from a completed sale. I am not sure if I can use it? Regards Ray Massey Escapements.jpg
 

gmorse

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Hi richiec,

Here's a picture of a Type IV, which at first sight looks like a rack lever, but works rather differently, being a true detached escapement.

Woolf, Lewis (Massey IV Escapement)c.jpg

[EDIT]: Ray has beaten me to it, but the lever in his example is a rather ungainly replacement!

Regards,

Graham
 
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Jerry Treiman

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I think that I have always been a sucker for half-plate Liverpool fusee movements, and I also like the John Moncas movements that I have found in the past (usually full-plate), so I had to take a closer look at this one today at a local chapter mart. (Unfortunately it has no dial and the setting square is broken).
Moncas9864_cov.jpg


I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the dust cover and found what I will call a split-level half-plate movement — like the one John Pavlik showed in post #11. Mine also has a Massey II escapement, just like my other Moncas', and I note they are very prominent in Michael Paice's paper. Did some makers, like Moncas, just have a thing for this Massey variant?
Moncas9864m.jpg Moncas9864obl.jpg
 
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gmorse

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Hi Jerry,

That's a lucky find, these split plate movements aren't at all common. Moncas does seem to have favoured the type II escapement, but who knows why!

Regards,

Graham
 

John Pavlik

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Very nice Jerry ! Yours appears to be a little "Higher" Grade than my example, your movemeny has the lever jeweled.. other than that and the signatures are a bit different, a match... I also am not sure why Moncas use the Massey II so much .. maybe he thought it more robust with the jewel pin supported on both ends.. Most of the watches and movements I have observed from him are rather large in size.. Even this split plate is a large watch compared to other 1/2 & 3/4 plate movements of the day..
 

Jerry Treiman

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Thanks, John. ... and you have reminded me that I neglected to indicate the size of mine. The dial plate (lacking a dial) is about 18 size and the pillar plate measures 16-size. This is about the same size as my M.I. Tobias "Lord Street" 1/2-plate movement
 

John Cote

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I am happy to revive this old thread and I want to say to Mike Paice that I love his article and have refered to it a few times over the last couple of years. Now that I have something to contribute to this thread I am even more glad to have Mike's research to refer to.

Well, today I managed to buy a Moncas which I have known about for about a year. I guess I finally wore the owner down. It seems to be a split plate with Massey II. It runs well and the only thing I think I will fix is that most of the gold plating has come off the hour hand and it gets lost against the beautiful and very bright dial....

Please feel free to add this to the Database of known examples if you are still compiling.

Moncas_Dial.jpg


Moncas_MvtW.jpg


Moncas_MvtWo.jpg


Moncas_CsBk.jpg


Moncas_CsMk.jpg
Moncas_MvtWo.jpg
 
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John Matthews

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John - congratulations with your purchase. It caused me to re-read Mike's paper.

In his paper, Mike includes a photograph of one of his own movements #9188 (Fig 3), also a Massey II, which he dates 1828/29. Thanks to Mike's investigations, it seems reasonable to assume that your movement was made in the second half of the 1820's. Although the case marks are a little unclear, I believe them to be faux marks attempting to imitate Chester hallmarks. The Leopard's head is crowned, which the Chester assay office only used prior to 1823. So I assume that your fine gold case is American and the stamp [F.R & O] may provide a clue to the goldsmith. I have searched for identification without success. I hope someone can identify the mark.

John
 

John Cote

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When I Googled John Moncas watches the F.R. & O mark showed up on other Moncas cases. I know there were cases being made in Philadelphia at about this time. I look forward to hearing from people with more experience about the case marks. I am going to have it tested with the X-Ray gun today to see if it is really 18k or slightly lower. It feels and acts like 18 but we will see.

The part I love most about this watch is the movement's dust cover. The dust cover is hinged and has a lift spring. It has a little catch that you press with a finger nail, much like the catch to swing the movement out of the case. When you depress the catch on the dust cover, it springs away from the movement on its hinge. The whole case/dust cover package is pretty complicated and smart.
 

John Cote

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So, the case tested at between 77-78% or strong 18k on the $20,000 Nitron gun. I have looked in all of my trademark books and have not found anything close to the F.R. & O mark.
 
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Mike Paice

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Hi John - many thanks for sharing details and photos of 10667, with its beautiful case and dial. I've seen more examples being stripped of their gold cases and dials recently - so it's nice to see another good example of a gold Moncas watch with a collector. My database now details more than 250 Moncas movements. 10590 is the closest hallmarked example I'm currently aware of and that dates to 1829. I have an interesting Moncas half-plate (9538) with the flip-up inner dust cover – it is a rather nice feature, as you say. I would also love to know who F. R. & O. were, as they do pop-up quite often.

I have plenty that I want to share on here both on Moncas and on Robert Perry (for whom I still have little detail but could be of considerable interest to American collectors). It is all about making time at the moment but I will get around to it.
 

John Cote

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I have plenty that I want to share on here both on Moncas and on Robert Perry (for whom I still have little detail but could be of considerable interest to American collectors). It is all about making time at the moment but I will get around to it.
I look forward to seeing your new information in good time Mike. Thanks for the reply.
 

John Matthews

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Mike/John

I believe the case mark is that of the retailer. The partnership between Abraham Van Benschoten Fellows, William Read and J Olcott who operated as merchants in New York between 1828 & 1834. The dates fit. Fellows & Read are listed as silversmiths

1633931079940.png

1633930948905.png

I obtained the identification of 'Fellows' as Abraham from the American Silversmith's site, but the advert for the dissolution of the partnership is signed James Fellows - so there is need for further research, but it would appear that the AS reference is incorrect.

John
 
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John Cote

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Thanks so much for this John.

This is great to know. Does this indicate anything about where or who manufactured the case? Do we think Fellows, Read and Olcott actually made the case or is it a Chester case they simply stamped? I would assume, from the look of the silver mark, that this means FR & O made the case here in the USA.
 
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John Matthews

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John

I believe the case was made in America. However, I suspect that F.R&O did not make the case as they are described as merchants.

I cannot recall an in-depth account of the import of English watches and movements into America covering the early part of the C19th. It is frequently written that uncased movements were imported to avoid tax. While that is probably true, I am not sure that is the whole story. Highly ornate America made gold cases containing Liverpool movements seem to me to fall into two categories. Some of the cases are stamped with the mark of known American case makers, making no attempt to imitate English work. Others carry the mark of retailers and frequently exhibiting faux Chester hallmarks. I suspect the trade of American cased English movements was multistranded with higher quality movements being housed in cases that made no attempt to rely on deception as to the country of origin of the case.

John
 

John Cote

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This makes sense to me John. Thanks again. This is what makes the NAWCC and our Message Board such a great resource.
 

Mike Paice

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John M,

Many thanks for the info on Fellows, Read & Olcott that is really interesting. I know very little about American case making but have noticed that the Moncas watches I am aware of in American cases either have the retailer's mark - Davison (New York) being one - or the case maker's name - I am aware of a re-cased Moncas watch in a Z & G Gigon silver case. Very often the earlier cases seem to have faux Chester hallmarks.
 
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jboger

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I may have already illustrated this watch elsewhere, back when I first started to participate in this forum. Well, in any case, here is my one and only Moncas pocket watch. It was one of the first fusees I bought. It was at a large indoor flea market. The dealer specialized in dilapidated timepieces sometimes aka junk; one never knew what he turned up. And one never knew what he would charge as he made up prices on the spot, usually high. (If you countered, he got angry. He was ornery--you know the type?) For this one, he was beyond reasonable. I noted a balance that easily oscillated and a broken chain, so I bought it. Anyway, that dealer is long gone, but the watch is still here.

IMG_2149.jpg IMG_2150.jpg IMG_2151.jpg IMG_2152.jpg IMG_2153.jpg
 

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