Open face lever set

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Tom McIntyre, Sep 18, 2019.

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  1. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    I was putting together a presentation a few years ago on early railroad watches and was trying to figure out how to classify them

    The canonical railroad watch is an open face,stem wind lever set watch. However, those did not exist when timing first became an issue for railroads and all available watches were key wind.

    In a key wind watch it is no big deal about open face vs hunting case since it is a simple matter to change the location of the winding holes and rotate the movement in the case to put the pendant at 12:00 for an open face instead of 3:00 for a hunting case.

    When stem winding was introduced, it was a while before the first stem wind open face watches appeared. For Waltham, the first was the 1879 model. Before that if you wanted an open face watch you either had to have a sidewinder with the stem at 3:00 or a conversion dial with the seconds bit moved to 3:00.

    Waltham made some 1872 model watches in open face, but those came after 1879.

    When the open face became generally available, Waltham was still reluctant to make the open face watches have lever setting. The 1879 model and 1883 model open faces watches were generally pendant set while their hunting case counterparts were lever set.

    The 1872 models were all lever set in both configurations but were 16 size when the preference for railroad watches was 18 size.

    Once it was introduced the 1883 model was a great success, but it still was pendent set on most of the open face grades.

    Since Illinois used the 5th pinion to generate their open face watches, there was no issue with them having lever set on all of those.

    Waltham did put lever setting on a few of the open face 1883 models, so it was not a design issue. I have always wondered what the reasoning/thinking was behind those design/marketing decision.

    Does anyone else wonder about these why's?
     
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  2. Rick Hufnagel

    Rick Hufnagel Just Rick!
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    The Elgin model 7 (open faced lever set) didn't appear untill WELL into the 1890s. Prior to that, the grades 77 and 116 carried the B.W. Raymond name, both pendant set model 5s.

    I've wondered myself about why pendant set, and was told it was because it was looked at as a technological advancement. It was a fancy thing that was looked at as a luxury.

    I don't remember who said that, but it stuck. I have no proof, except that they (Waltham and Elgin) guarded those stemset patents to the point where companies like Hampden couldnt even produce one.
     
  3. Rick Hufnagel

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    I just double checked the elgin 1896 serial list.. and there is NO model 7 18s. So with the exception of the convertible 16s, it was openfaced, pendant set untill almost the turn of the century.

    I know your not asking about Elgin, but your why's, and my why's, are very similar and most likely have the same answer.

    I think because of the more modern railroad standards, pendant setting is looked down upon, and in all reality at the time these earlier open-faced watches were created, it was viewed as an advancement. Just my thoughts anywho....
     
  4. Tom McIntyre

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    I had the same impression on Elgin and thought that the convertibles relieved their need for open face just like the 5th pinions did for Illinois (and Aurora). But I remember Kent correcting me with some open face BWR models released in the 1880s. Maybe I can find that by searching.

    Robbins and Avery were a very powerful cartel that invested heavily in patents on all sorts of watch improvements. Many of those listed in patents have never been seen on watches.
     
  5. Jerry Treiman

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    I am not sure if this supports or refutes your claim. The 14-size 1874 model Waltham is configured as an open-face lever set movement (seconds hand across from the stem) yet many seem to have conversion dials to fit them to hunting cases. Here are one of each from around 1874.
    1874_OF-Htg.jpg
     
  6. Rick Hufnagel

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    The 18s model 5 were released in the later half of the 1880s. A complete line of openfaced, pendant set watches which included the B.W.R. in nickel (gr. 116) and Gilt (gr.77).
    None are lever set.

    I don't believe the 16s convertibles would relieve the need for anything, as the grade 50 was $15 more than the BWR in the 1887 SF Meyers catalog. A huge price gap for a railroader to cover. Especially when 18s watches were in favor. Sure they were an option, but an expensive one.

    Anyways... I was just trying to emphasize your point about the pendant setting, openfaced railroad watches early in production.
     
  7. John Cote

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    Tom and all...I too have wondered about this for a long time. What started my wonder were the grade 149 and 150 (hunting and open face). These were sort of the first 18s modern, 20 or 21 jewel Elgin RR watches (parts of the first runs of each were 20j but were mostly 21j). The hunter 149s are lever set and the open face 150s were pendant set. When I started collecting these it made no sense but then I began to notice that some Walthams and other Elgins followed the same pattern.
     
  8. Tom McIntyre

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    Early+Railroad+Watches.pdf Waltham did make some 1883 model Appleton Tracy grade watches in open face lever set, but they are uncommon.

    Unfortunately Waltham apparently did not think setting was important enough to put in the ledgers so you cannot search the Waltham database for lever set.

    I am encouraged if the Elgin open face lever sets were after 1890 because that is what I said in this presentation, My recollection was that Kent had corrected me after the talk, but my memory may not be so good.
     

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  9. Tom McIntyre

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    The 1874 model were Nashua Department watches and carry the feature set of the 1872 and family. I think they are really nice, but they are a side story. There are a few that have a hidden lever that can be operated with the front closed. I have never found one of those in an Am'n Grade, but I would like to.
     
  10. Rick Hufnagel

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    6,563,821 is the first Elgin 18s model 7(open-faced, lever set) Elgin I can find. It's not in the 1896 list, it's found in the 1904 list. So your looking at 1897 at the earliest. It is a grade 265, and an example I've seen is marked "overland".

    As for railroad grade, the grade 266 that can be marked Father Time follows shortly after.

     
  11. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Tom: I hope that you find that because I've just checked my main reference on the subject (an unpublished and unfinished RRs' Corner column) and only came up with the same 1880s, OF, PS, BWR grades that Rick mentioned; No. 77 (1886) and No. 116 (1889).
     
  12. Tom McIntyre

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    Sorry if I misspoke Kent. I will actually be very happy if I cannot find it. It is possible that we were talking at cross purposes and you understood me to be saying no open faces from Elgin and me, being stuck on lever set, thought you were saying there were lever set open face Elgins before 1890.
     
  13. Maximus Man

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    I am not sure where this thread is going. I do not really collect 1883 Walthams, but 1888 Railroader models are LS. I belief I have the last 1888 Riverside Maximus made and it is lever set. I believe someone at Waltham was trying to decide if it was worth dedicating the 1888 model Maximus to a RR grade or replacing the 1888 with the 1899 Maximus for RR use.
     
  14. Greg Frauenhoff

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    Tom,

    Are you sure that most of the 1879 model Walthams were pendant set? My recollection is that it was only with the introduction of the 1883 model that OF/PS became the norm for their 18s line. But I don't follow the nuances of Waltham that closely. Please correct me if I'm in error.

    There is a considerable body of info (as in trade ads, price lists and the like) from the time when 18s OF PS mvts began to be introduced (starting around 1884). And, as noted above, Elgin and Waltham jointly controlled important patents that they defended (by suing firms such as Aurora, Columbus and Illinois). There is also an interesting article in an old Bulletin herein Abbott relates the story of his selling his patents for such watches to an Elgin/Waltham representative.

    What made OF/PS so "cool" marketing wise? My guess is that you didn't need to unnecessarily expose the works to dust, etc., when setting. Just a guess. But it was a very important marketing feature and both Elgin and Waltham were proud to note that their 18s OF mvts were (at one time and including the RR grades) all pendant setting.

    Greg
     
  15. Greg Frauenhoff

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    FWIW, here is some enlightening info from a Cross & Beguelin catalog. The catalog is dated Oct. 1884 and below is the 18s Waltham product line:

    img142.jpg

    There is no mention of setting but note that the top grade mvt is Appleton Tracy & Co.

    In the same price list there is an addendum dated March 1, 1885. Below is the updated list of 18s Waltham mvts:

    img143.jpg

    Still no mention of setting, but, since the top mvt is now the Crescent St., some of the grades must now be 1883 model.

    And then immediately below is this little gem:

    img144.jpg

    Open Face cases specifically noted as Pendant Set! This is a very early mention of this case type. So, 1883 model comes on the market and so do pendant set cases.

    Most collectors are aware that early 18s open-face case (made before pendant set mvts) generally have a stem and crown fixed to the pendant with a small screw and, thus, are specific to lever-set mvts.
     
  16. Tom McIntyre

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    You could be right about the 1879 model. I generally think of it as associated with the Fitch patent dust proof case and I was trying to visualize the lever set vs pendant set in that configuration. The lever set must be easier to make since the stem must come detached from the movement.

    I don't have any examples handy and they could all be lever set as far as I know.

    The ledgers call the 1877/79 the New model with a big N, while the 1883 are called the Church model with a Ch. This probably all has something to do with Church's negative setting mechanism.

    I love the case ad with the cuvette and joint descriptions.
     

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