Pocket Watch Key Thread

Bernhard J.

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Hi,

I did not find a thread dealing with this topic (and admit not having done a full search in the whole forum. If I missed that, please, mods, shift this to the appropriate place.

Here are a few, specifically English watch keys, from early 17th or late 18th century to late 19th century. The whistle really works by the way.

I would love to see your examples.

Cheers, Bernhard

203.jpg 206.jpg 205.jpg Pfeife1.jpg Hund1.jpg M8.jpg
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Pocket Watch keys - Show me your keys!

Try this one, Bernard. When I saw the whistle, I thought football, no too early, Trains, the same, then I thought of ships- you could write a book about that key, a great collection you have there.

Allan.
 
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PatH

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Bernhard J.

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Hi, I obviously did not search properly.

Funny how small this world is.

I have contact with the thread starter of the older watch key thread (who also resides in Germany) and immediately recognise him by some of the keys he posted. His collection is really amazing and he is a great chap!

Cheers, Bernhard
 
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musicguy

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That key(crank) is really great!


Rob
 

PatH

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I love the "articulating" crank keys, and you found a great one, Cort! I've heard speculation about this type of crank being shop-made rather than commercially produced. Maybe someone has period ads or other resources to explain a little more about them.

The below picture shows 3 crank keys, with the one in the center being an articulating key, the other two are more traditional crank keys similar to the one Bernhard J. posted above. I'm not sure if articulating is the correct terminology, but it seems to work. These keys can have 2 different size pipes on each one for use when winding the watch or setting the time.

The second and third pictures are of a large Dutch articulating key. It has a bovine on one side and a horse (that could be viewed as a unicorn if magically or whimsically inclined) on the other. There is another example of a Dutch crank key posted in this thread. It also has a cow on one side and a horse on the other - https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/pocket-watch-keys-show-me-your-keys.122571/post-951233

I don't remember if the keys below are included in the presentation above, so forgive me if this is repetitive.

DSC00254.JPG DSC04256.JPG DSC04259.JPG
 

PatH

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All of these keys are Breguet-style, tipsy, or ratcheting keys. You can see the spring on three of them, while the others aren't apparent until you twist them. They do offer a solution to prevent someone who might be "tipsy" possibly winding a watch backwards.

DSC00256.JPG
 

Incroyable

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Were crank keys really only made for earlier watches?

I was watching the Derek Pratt H4 documentary and he had made a large crank key for his H4 replica.
 

PatH

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Hmmmm....The more modern watches don't need them, so I don't know if replacements are currently being made. There are clock crank keys still being made. They can be purchased from most of the horological suppliers.
 

Incroyable

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Or I guess I should have phrased it were crank keys more in style for Georgian watches rather than Regency and post Regency watches?
 

PatH

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I've always been told that Regency is generally considered a sub-era, generally the early years, of the Georgian era, followed by Victorian era. Having said that, I don't have access to any of my watch key books right now to determine the age of the early crank keys, nor indications of the years they might have been popularly used. I would hazard a guess that they were not in general use by the Victorian era, but not sure how much earlier they were displaced by other styles. It's a great question, and hopefully someone else will come along to provide insight.
 

gmorse

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Hi Pat,
I've always been told that Regency is generally considered a sub-era, generally the early years, of the Georgian era,
The Regency was near the end of the Hanoverians; George IV was previously the Prince Regent from 1811 until the death of his father George III in 1820. He was followed in 1830 by his younger brother William IV, who was succeeded in 1837 by Victoria.

Regards,

Graham
 

John Matthews

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Samuel Bolton Harlow, Ashbourne, Derbyshire - well known to collectors of English long case clocks
Patent 1708 , 6 November, 1789
Making of watch-keys, with a spring to preserve the watch from injury when the key is turned the wrong way.
John
 

PatH

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Samuel Bolton Harlow, Ashbourne, Derbyshire - well known to collectors of English long case clocks
Patent 1708 , 6 November, 1789
Making of watch-keys, with a spring to preserve the watch from injury when the key is turned the wrong way.
John
John, I just found the thread wherein you discussed Harlow's watch, as well as the Breguet key patent. https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/harlow...pair-cases-by-william-howard-coventry.151961/

If I read the information correctly, although it's called a Breguet (or tipsy or ratcheting) key, I suppose it should likely more appropriately be called a Harlow key?

In the picture in post #10 above the friction joint or ratchet friction joint that was mentioned in the patent summaries can be seen in the round section of the second and third keys from the right. It may also be visible in the others, but I don't have access to the keys right now, or individual photos to be able to show the construction as well as the close-up picture in your earlier thread.

My knowledge of watch movements is sadly lacking, but I'm hoping you can shed light on the following. At what point, or with what change in the watch mechanism, was it no longer necessary to include this type of protection against harming a watch by winding backwards?

Thank you so much for the reference, as well as for your earlier thread and posts. Unfortunately, I don't remember having read the earlier thread, or I might have been able to provide more information in the earlier posts.
Pat
 

gmorse

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Hi Pat,
At what point, or with what change in the watch mechanism, was it no longer necessary to include this type of protection against harming a watch by winding backwards?
This protection was mainly applicable to fusee movements, which, if wound from the back, had to wind anti-clockwise. If an owner attempted to wind them clockwise with any degree of force, teeth could be stripped, so a tipsy key was a good idea. Once going barrels and keyless winding became the norm, of course it didn't matter at all; in one direction it wound the spring and in the opposite direction the ratchet just clicked away.

Regards,

Graham
 

PatH

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Thank you, Graham. I thought that was likely the reason, but wasn't sure when that happened. In my notes, I show Viner, Prest and Berolla with winding methods in the 1820s, and then 1840s and 50s there were others. In the US, I think of key wind watches losing favor around the time of the Civil War, so 1860s, but if I recall, it was somewhat later in other countries. Would it be reasonable to assume late 1800s when these keys would not have been needed in large quantities?

Thanks again,
Pat
 

John Matthews

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In the original thread I reproduced a photograph of an example from the British Museum (photographs can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes) ...

1659995149464.png

It is clear that this key is designed to wind in the clockwise direction.

As Graham has explained these keys were produced at a time when fusee driven mechanisms dominated. English verge mechanisms were predominantly wound from the back of the watch in the anti-clockwise direction. Unfortunately, I do not own one of these keys, so I am reliant on photographs that I have found as a result of internet searches. Many of the examples I have found are similar to the above, more than I expected in comparison to the number of English verge watches that are wound clockwise via a hole in the dial, like so

20180514 006.jpg

Winding from the front is, to the best of my knowledge, more commonly found on European watches with verge driven escapements, but the use of the verge was virtually abandoned in Europe long before it declined in England. So if I were a collector of these keys, I would pay particular attention to the direction of rotation, the country of origin and, if possible, the date when they were made.

From what I have observed from a very cursory examination of examples, I suspect that some were made more for their aesthetic appeal and adornment, than for their practical value. I am skeptical as to practicality of a ratchet in 18K gold.

John
 
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PatH

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Thank you, John. I never thought of front wind as opposed to back wind and a need for keys that would ratchet in different directions. I've never dated take any of mine apart, but I do wonder if like the pipe/stem on the key this is actually a gold overlay so the force wouldn't be on the gold. I've also never checked to see which direction mine turned, although I do seem to remember that there was some difference.

Another novice question...would it matter which direction the hands are turned for setting? In other words, could any Breguet key be used to set the hands regardless of whether they were clockwise or anti-clockwise?
 

John Matthews

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Another novice question...would it matter which direction the hands are turned for setting? In other words, could any Breguet key be used to set the hands regardless of whether they were clockwise or anti-clockwise?
Pat

Using a key I would never set the hands by rotating them in an anticlockwise direction. So therefore I would only use the keys that were designed for clockwise winding to set the hands.

John
 
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PatH

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I thought that would be the case, just in most clocks, but wasn't sure. Thanks for confirming.
 

PatH

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Bernhard J. , apologies for highjacking your thread. I hope the information provided in this brief journey into Breguet keys will be as helpful to others as it has been to me.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Pat,
I am skeptical as to practicality of a ratchet in 18K gold.
It certainly seems counter-intuitive to make the ratchet mechanism itself in gold, but the pipe part of the key, which engages with the winding or setting squares on the watch, would normally be steel because that is definitely subject to a lot of wear. I suppose it depends on how often the owner over-indulged in the fruit of the vine! What these keys don't prevent of course is the marring around the winding hole in the case caused by fumbled attempts to insert the key in the first place, and also the damage to the hands resulting from the same fingers trying to set them.

Regards,

Graham
 

Allan C. Purcell

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I posted this Pat, so you could see Samuel Boltons Patent, plus others of interest at that time. I like you thought the Key was invented by Breguet,

though I have found no documentation to prove he did.



1659986665862.png
 

PatH

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Thank you, Allan!
Did you notice that Harlow's key and Prest's stem pendant knob winding are both included in this list? I also see Sanderson's calendar key at the top of the list.

Does anyone have additional information on Chater's 1785 Instrument for preventing robbery from the person ("Watch guard and note guard") that is also in the list? It would be interesting to see how this compares to some of the American patents that covered the same concept.
 

PatH

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What these keys don't prevent of course is the marring around the winding hole in the case caused by fumbled attempts to insert the key in the first place, and also the damage to the hands resulting from the same fingers trying to set them.
From my reading, this was part of the impetus to find an alternative winding method. Combined with the lack of adequate lighting and the possibility of failing eyesight, it's always amazing to see pristine dials on these watches. And that's before we even introduce the fruit of the vine, or grain. Not to mention damage to the movement itself through the introduction of dirt, lint, etc, through the winding holes and via the pipe of the key.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Did you notice that Harlow's key and Prest's stem pendant knob winding are both included in this list? Sorry Pat I could not resist your question,
the answer is----------Sorry the wife is calling ;)
I think you have seen this before Pat, but the key is in the main for French watches, you cannot turn it to the left. That was why I believed the miss understood history of this type of key.

IMG_1414.JPG

I could have put a key on this chain, though it was used by putting the watch in the clip, and then, in the top pocket of the vest, with the gold cylinder bobs hanging down. Looks good on a red vest.

IMG_1413.JPG

Allan.
 
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Incroyable

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Alcohol was drunk much more frequently in the 18th century than today so it is indeed amazing to see otherwise pristine dials on some of these watches.
 

gmorse

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Everyone drank alcohol, even small children, it was safer than the uncertain quality of much of the water supply, especially in the towns and cities, where sanitary arrangements were pretty crude.
 

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