Post-Colonial American Pre-industrial watchmaking & cases

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Jeff Hess, Apr 17, 2019.

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  1. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    After scores of posts over the years about my interest in pre-Civil war or Post industrial American watchmaking and specifically American case making, I would like to start a thread about SPECIFIC study of these cases and related movements.

    Many of these cases were purportedly made by the Jeweler retailer. I (and others) have also long speculated on the possiblity that these cases, (like silver holloware and flatware) were made by bigger cottage manufacturers and shipped, with the retailer's name or initials on them.

    This must have been a VERY robust industry and is a link that deserves more study in American watchmaking in spite of the majority of movements that were foreign.

    Please share your American-cased watches here, noting case numbers and "hallmarks".
    Towle was a silvermsith who opened his store in 1832. In and 1856 newspaper ad Towle & Myers touted Fine Gentleman levers in gold hunter cases.
    In the attached, you will see a horse head hallmark and "T&M" on case. Also Towle on dustcover and dial. Cragg of London is the movement "maker" although Jerry Treiman opened a delightful can of worms on CRAGG in another thread.

    towle2.jpg towle3.jpg towlewatch.jpg towlewatch1.jpg
     
  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    I think Jerry's Cragg can contained mostly straight worms . . .

    This watch has the appearance of being Coventry finished, although it also has clear Liverpool origins, with a Liverpool Runner train layout and the typical twin tooth barrel click mounted on the barrel bar.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  3. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    so do you think Graham, that Jerry's watch is likely Coventry and this one is likely Liverpudlian? (does that mean Cragg was a retailer?) And that the case on this one is American right?
     
  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    It isn't as straightforward as that; both Jerry's and yours have the 'Coventry Star', but whilst his could possibly be based on a Liverpool area frame, yours has very visible Liverpool characteristics. It's important to remember that the majority of London houses, from Frodsham, Dent, Vulliamy et al on downwards, sourced their 'raw' movements or frames from the Liverpool area, (centred on Prescot) in the Northwest, or later from Coventry in the Midlands. There was considerable three-way traffic between Liverpool, Coventry and London, in all directions and including not only raw movements and parts, but also workmen, especially later in the century as Coventry developed and Prescot declined. The London makers would then have done finishing in varying degrees in their own workshops or through their preferred outworkers.

    Cragg was a retailer, but I think he would have had much more input and involvement with his watches than just as a shopkeeper.

    And yes, this case does have very similar marks to others I've seen which were certainly made in the US.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  5. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    Edward Wiltse Farmville Virginia gold watch. I particularly like the "Philadelphia/Baltimore-style" horse-like pseudo hallmarks. I could not find much about Wiltse except he was a dry goods guy. cool Post-colonial Pre-civil-war Pre-industrial example of American import from the UK, in the American case.

    farmville.jpg farmville1.jpg farmville2.jpg farmville3.jpg
     
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  6. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #6 Keith R..., Mar 14, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
    MI Tobias, 1830's, 17J and 18k and 16 size.

    US gold case maker, I'll take any hints.

    Jeff, case looks like yours. Dial looks Swiss.

    Note for Jeff, I have 2 silver cases American made, but Early (1773).

    Keith R...

    amit5 (1200x799).jpg amit8 (1200x799).jpg amit6 (1200x799).jpg amit2 (1200x799).jpg amit7 (1200x799).jpg amit (1200x799).jpg
     
  7. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    cool. here is a stoddart with the fv c mark with what looks like an eagle mark also. obviously american. img.jpg
     
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  8. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #8 Keith R..., Mar 15, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2020
    There were a few US case makers who utilized Pseudo hallmarks in their Gold
    cases in New York and Philadelphia. One must note, due to taxes in the UK, the
    movements were exported and the private US jeweler would make and fit the case
    to the English movement. I have a gold Josh Johnson pair case and an MI Tobias
    gold consular case circa 1827. This one is also 17J. The US case maker is unknown.
    The gold dial was a Liverpool product by UK craftsman. The Helsby initials are
    not by them, just added by he US case maker. Case was e-tested close to 19k.
    The rubbed Chester assay is a pseudo mark by the US case maker. This watch is
    16 size (52 mm).


    My Johnson has Philly watch repair papers and this MI Tobias has one from TN.

    Keith R...

    MIT5B (421x558).jpg mitobias (800x759) - Copy.jpg MIT5A (571x558).jpg MIT5 (600x558) - Copy.jpg 103_0136 (800x600).jpg
     
  9. Jeff Hess

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  10. vintageguy

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    I believe this case was manufactured by the Fortenbach Watch Case Company in Carlstadt, NJ. They never marked their company name on their cases, but it shows the Fortenbach trademark. As I understand it, they were in business from the 1850's until 1871 (when the company was bought by Joseph Fahys), which qualifies it as a Pre-Civil-War American case. The case would thus appear to be in the proper time frame for the movement it holds (National Watch Co. HZ Culver, SN 2467, Ca. 1867).

    IMG_9587.JPG IMG_9591.JPG Untitled.jpg IMG_9574.JPG IMG_9582.JPG IMG_9584.JPG IMG_9596.JPG
     
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  11. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #11 Keith R..., Mar 17, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2020
    Just so we keep this thread within the bounds of the title, Post Colonial would be 1800 and
    Pre Industrial for watches would be 1850 ( Jeff's first watch with over sprung reg is also
    pre civil war). So pre civil war is 1860. Note, Pitkin started in 1838 and some components
    were machine made. Considering it's mostly English/Swiss in American cases, I excluded
    Pitkin.

    So I would think 1800 to 1860.

    Keith R...
     
  12. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #12 Keith R..., Mar 17, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2020
    Here is one of two cases that have the same American hallmarks. This watch is
    1802 London. The American case maker has yet to be determined. Considering
    I have two (one from 1800 for a 1773 Irish movement) I wanted others to be aware
    of these American hallmarks.

    Both cases were determined to be American from our European discussions
    on watch #2 from Scotland. The William Robertson verge (pic 2) had a larger
    dial installed, requiring a larger case and an American silver case was used.

    Keith R...

    fairey4 (1024x680).jpg fairey1 (1024x680).jpg fairey2 (1024x680).jpg rob4 (1000x750).jpg rob1 (1000x750).jpg
     
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  13. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Just looked at the first Tobias with a town scene (it has the TN repair paper).

    Sorry, I'm older then dirt.

    Keith R...
     
  14. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Here is one of mine. I believe most English movements for casing in the US were iimported by one of two types of business. One was a gold of silversmith who brought in the movements with the maker's name and jewelers who brought in movements private labeled.

    Here is Beesley cased by John Polhemus. Polhemus was a New York silver/goldsmith who ultimately became part of Tiffany.
    494825-2dbe78f318e4b71e8d502a8506d1e909.gif
    494824-cff0b63060a071de1019cc203dcd306c.gif

    494823-4665f9b152b05fb9bb27ece342af1a96.gif
    494827-8807933def4a98d8feaf82369fda977d.gif
    494828-d372a4a5dca25333e7c311b61d8dc13c.gif

    I think the silversmiths liked selling watches because they required service and every time an owner came in was a chance to sell another item.

    Movement_full.gif CAse_front.gif Open_bezel.gif Back_marks.gif 267243_2_watchpaper.gif
     
  15. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    oh thanks a lot Keith. Now I have gone down a 2 hour rabbit-hole in search of this maker JF. Sure looks American to me....But no luck yet
     
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  16. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    wow dr. jon. any speculation on wh owned it? Any initials or inscription? Made for the centennial maybe? Coool!
     
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  17. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    HI Jeff,
    I follow any and all leads on provenance but this watch is clue free.

    I date it to the late 1840's by the movement style, Polhemus history and the look of the train scene engraved on the other side of the case. The goddess of Liberty on the front holds a shield with 13 stars so no date clue there. Here is the back cover. It is all hand engraving.

    494942-ada6443c6bfb79a1c6debbf96fb23be0.jpg
    All I can tell is that whoever owned this watch wore it a lot as it has a lot of wear. It must have been stunning for the first 10 years it was worn.

    Whoever owned it was not shy. It is a massive watch, easily 20 size and with a center second hand and hacking it had all the bells and whistles.

    I think it predates the Centennial by quite a lot.

    Case_back._e.jpg
     
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  18. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Dr. Jon,

    I've recently seen an R & G Beesley, (currently for sale, so no link I'm afraid), with a serial number about 300 earlier than yours, which the very knowledgeable vendor places circa 1840. It's in a very handsome 18 carat case with a similar theme on the front to the decoration on yours, from a New York case maker.

    Regards,

    Grah
     
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  19. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Hi Graham. Yes I have seen that watch if it is the one I am thinking of. It is very similar to mine except that the engraving is crisp, like new and it is spectacular. It costs a very pretty penny.
     
  20. PapaLouies

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  21. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    here is a "non-Beesley" (swiss) biut with sold gold case (metal dust cover) with cool American made Eagle case marks. s-l1600.jpg
     
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  22. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    here is a Polhamus case.... beesley.... what date is the type of train?

    beeseley1choo.jpeg
     
  23. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    See posts #14 and #17 above, relating to this watch. The train is most likely to be an English lever, the earliest verified example of which is close to 1820, although Edward Massey and George Savage were making, (and/or licensing in the case of Massey), predecessor detached lever escapements from 1812-14 until at least the middle of the century.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  24. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    Plated base metal cuvettes were a typical Swiss feature, even on solid gold cases; are you sure the case is an American product?

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  25. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Jeff, The watch in your post 22 is mine ,from when Heritage sold it. Check the numbers! I bought it later from Jones Horan. It is a fairly standard Liverpool type. I have the dust cover but did not include it in the group of photos. As typical it is plated brass, Rest of case is gold.
     
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  26. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    Just to be clear, the cap on English movements was almost always gilt brass, and part of the movement, not the case. There are a few with silver caps, but they're the exception. The inner back, (the dome), was usually fixed until later on in the 19th century, when the Swiss practice of a hinged inner back, (cuvette, part of the case), became commoner as movements were no longer swing-out.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  27. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    great point. Let us put this correctly"Conventional wisdom dictates" and "Current thinking indicates" that eagle marked cases are made in America. hundreds of specific eagle marks have been identified with specific makers in the USA. Do you think the eagle marked cases were cased in the UK?

    Jeff
     
  28. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    \

    On these Swiss cased English knock-off's I suspect that the movement was shipped as a "ready to case" item with inner ring and metal dust cover (the Swiss say "cuvette") and THEN this "package" was cased in usa. I have taken about hundreds of them that just almost "pop:^ut" of the gold case with dust cover intact,still with the movement.
     
  29. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Not just knock offs. I have a very nice Matile pivoted detent large timepiece that lost its out case a long time (It it had one) ago but has its ring and cuvette, both base metal. Mine was set up iin a decent quality German sliver folding clock case.
     
  30. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jeff,

    No, I very much doubt that they were, and I'm sure most of these eagle marked cases are indeed American, but with the Swiss talents for copying, could some have originated there?

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  31. John Matthews

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    Jeff - I have only just spotted this thread. I cannot find any evidence that the Towel of Towel & Myers was a silversmith - do you have a reference?

    According to the reference I have, Frederick Towle was a jeweller born in 1798 died 1857. His partnership with Selim Woodworth Myers (Towel & Myers) is known to have been active in 1840. In the 1850 census, Towle is listed as a merchant and Selim Myers as a 'watchmaker' at adjacent addresses.

    I suspect it is possible that capped movements such as this, may have been imported not only uncased, but without a dial. Also, I have only ever seen cap engraving as this example on English movements that were exported to America. I think it is possible that the watch was cased, the cap engraved and dial & hands fitted once the retailer - in this case T&M - had been identified by the importer. So my opinion is that it was not only the casing that was done in America - I may be wrong.

    John
     
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  32. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    #32 Dr. Jon, Mar 22, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
    Here is another example. This is an MI Tobias, almost certainly US case but by a goldsmith who used English style marks or "fake" marks.


    I wonder about the scene on one cover with a bridge to no where. Is it showing a ruin a site under construction or is just a blunder.

    Back_cover.jpg Front.jpg Dial.jpg movement-full.jpg inside-marks.jpg 495317-8b059da65dbcf9f63a730fca68ba1a0f.jpg 495318-2d125c95c516153337e0371a97ce5875.jpg 495319-911603e0326841bad6db8923c7186b27.jpg 495320-a76af3045c418ad471fab9d092dcd5f4.jpg 495321-0cc02e783f64cc23fde2fecea4c5e400.jpg
     
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  33. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Dr. Jon,

    I think it's artistic license, a romantic ruin. Some 18th century landowners had these 'follies' built on their estates after returning from their Grand Tours around Europe. Both scenes have a distinctly European look to them.

    A lot of these faux English marks seem to include Chester assay stamps, possibly because that was where many Liverpool watch cases were assayed.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  34. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Here's an 1826 pair cased Johnson 17J lever with pseudo hallmarks and
    it follows Graham's comments above.

    Note, US case maker missed the year and a few other things.

    Keith R...

    103_8836 (800x600).jpg 7771HM (180x200).jpg 100_5781 (800x600).jpg 103_2889 (800x600).jpg View attachment 577889
     
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  35. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Wonderful dial!
     
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  36. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #36 Keith R..., Mar 24, 2020 at 7:52 PM
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020 at 8:04 PM
    Now the movement is 1790 for a John Dwerrihouse cylinder, but it's in a second
    generation case from about 1855. Note the low movement serial number (#934).
    The watch keeps perfect time in any position. Post colonial is 1800, but felt this
    one was important.

    I would guess it was in an earlier American pair case or hunter.

    Keith R...

    100_3697 (1600x1200).jpg 100_3679 (1600x1200).jpg dwerr (1600x1200).jpg dwerr4 (800x600).jpg View attachment 578296
     
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  37. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    Keith, your case is much later than 1855 no?
     
  38. Jeff Hess

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    #38 Jeff Hess, Mar 24, 2020 at 10:15 PM
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020 at 11:31 PM
  39. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #39 Keith R..., Mar 24, 2020 at 11:08 PM
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020 at 11:24 PM
    Jeff, here is my 1834, 1863 and 1865 American cases, last 1855.

    Input welcome. First and last Hinged and 2 & 3 case screws.
    Could be 63 to 65 but no Case maker, other then Coin without
    being marked warranted.

    Pic #7 , 1875 New York 15J.
    Pic #8 1855 American case, Swiss movement.

    Keith R...

    100_4197 (1600x1200).jpg 100_1397 (800x600).jpg 100_1383 (800x600).jpg 100_3680 (800x600).jpg dwerr3 (800x600).jpg dwerr4 (800x600).jpg 100_2687 (800x600).jpg FM3 (863x1024).jpg
     
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  40. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #40 Keith R..., Mar 24, 2020 at 11:28 PM
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020 at 11:48 PM
    Swiss watch pic #8 (post #39).

    **Added my 1853 English hunter case for New York jeweler Pitkin in Buffalo.

    FM (800x773).jpg FM2 (798x800).jpg 100_0983 (800x600).jpg
     
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  41. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Jeff - I did say the Frederick Towle of Towel & Myers as the engraving on the cap based in Tallahassee

    Frederick Towle

    Your second reference may be on a silver forum, but also describes him as a jeweller and Myers as a watchmaker.

    John
     
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  42. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #42 Keith R..., Mar 25, 2020 at 1:30 PM
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020 at 1:39 PM
    If one looks up "Origins of the Model 57" you can see the same style American case
    with heightened plunger, which would then be 1857. Reference post #36 and #37.

    So I'll call it 1857, without further input. Note, American cases post 1860 have
    warranted coin silver. This is an earlier case and shows an anchor and the word
    Coin, only.

    Thanks.............

    Keith R...

    100_3696 (800x600).jpg dwerr4 (800x600).jpg
     
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  43. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    never knew that. not arguing... learning.. can I have your source for that info?

    thanks
     
  44. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #44 Keith R..., Mar 25, 2020 at 4:31 PM
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020 at 5:29 PM
    My collection. Note, last 3 pics are an original Howard side winder.

    What I love about my English watches are hallmarks and matching movement numbers
    in cases.

    Keith R...

    100_5797 (1000x750).jpg 100_5807 (1000x750).jpg 100_3210 (800x600).jpg 100_3201 (800x600).jpg 100_3638 (800x600).jpg 103_6426 (800x600).jpg 103_6412 (800x600).jpg 103_6439 (800x600).jpg
     
  45. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    Now I saw a Tremont today in a case marked Coin only (1865). Just depends if case
    is original to the movement.

    Keith R...
     
  46. Jeff Hess

    Jeff Hess Moderator
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    ---

    This will take some convincing. Tell me more. That mark is familiar an typically from later cases I thought.
     
  47. Keith R...

    Keith R... Registered User
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    #47 Keith R..., Mar 26, 2020 at 1:39 PM
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020 at 1:54 PM
    Yes, I gave you US Marion, E Howard, they are 1860's. I don't have an American 1853 to
    1859 case comparison to show. That's why I asked for input to support your question, in
    post #37.

    I don't sell my watches. I have shown case styles I own from 1860's and one NY from 1875
    in post #39. My 1863 is very close and the case from "the Origins of the model 57" is close
    to mine, housing the John Dwerrihouse of London. I have the photo from Heritage auctions
    that is close to a duplicate (1857). I would disregard the watch I posted, since it can't be
    proven and I have no questions regarding the case.

    Note, series I E Howard shown is a Fortenbach replacement (forgot).

    Keith R...

    dwerr2 (800x600).jpg 100_3679 (800x600).jpg
     

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