kcran95

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Hello everyone,

I am new to the site and am not at all versed in horology. I've done as much searching as I could, but I've come to a standstill, as I can't find much information here.

I found this watch amongst my grandfather's things. He used to tinker with watches and clocks with his dad. They lived in poverty in rural Pennsylvania, so they likely discovered this at an auction, though it is possible my great grandfather got it while serving overseas during WWII. I found it in a 1990's saltwater taffy box from Ocean City, Maryland. It had two screwdrivers, both of which are way too big to be of any use to the watch. I've included photos of the watch, the face, the dust cover, the findings, and his tools, including his makeshift magnifying glass which I was rather amused to find.

The watch is in pieces, though I believe most of them are here. The chain is broken, part of it still attached to the watch and the other in the box. The arm and gears are there. I looked at it under a microscope, and the diamond is flawless other than some chips. It looks pretty roughly cut, but I'm positive it's real. It looks as though there are sapphires, as well, which looked a bit transparent under the microscope, so I'm not sure if these are also diamonds treated with something or not.

I have used a lot of information found throughout these forums to help me figure out the history. Every watch I've seen on here has a completely different face. Forgive my lack of vocabulary, but the "face" was white with black roman numerals, not etched as mine is. I found one watch on an auction site that looked similar but did not have the same image, rather an etching of a church. I'm rather confused as to whether this is in fact a William Robinson watch, as I've never seen one signed simply "Robinson." I've compared the "o's" in "Liverpool" to one listed in the NAWCC archives as a William Robinson, and they look exactly the same, however, Wm. Robinson was written in script. Mine is clearly not. I've also struggled to find any numbers on the movement with a similar style of writing.

I have reached out to the Liverpool Horology Museum to see if they are able to give me any assistance since I saw another person mention he had an exhibit there. I also contacted The Repair Shop in hopes they could at least let me know if I'm headed the right direction. I'm not interested in selling it unless it's going to bring me tens of thousands of dollars, so I'd like to repair it myself and keep it in the family. I asked RGM for a rough estimate of a repair cost, and they said it would be at least $2,000 so I'm not too sure how to go about this. I was hoping to catch a good deal on eBay for a cheap fusee watch I can practice on. I have an appointment with our local auctioneer this Friday to determine if it is real gold, insisting on an acid test for confirmation.

Does anyone have any resources that could tell me more about his etched pieces?

20210803_232630.jpg 20210804_001716.jpg 20210804_155746.jpg 20210804_160912.jpg 20210804_161926.jpg
 
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gmorse

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Hi kcran95, and welcome to the forum,
The watch is in pieces, though I believe most of them are here. The chain is broken, part of it still attached to the watch and the other in the box. The arm and gears are there. I looked at it under a microscope, and the diamond is flawless other than some chips. It looks pretty roughly cut, but I'm positive it's real. It looks as though there are sapphires, as well, which looked a bit transparent under the microscope, so I'm not sure if these are also diamonds treated with something or not.
You have a Liverpool-made fusee lever pocket watch, made around the 1830s or 40s. Most of the loose parts in the box don't belong to this watch, but it's hard to tell if all the necessary parts are there; there's certainly a mainspring barrel and two lids, one of which may be the right one. The only diamond will be the one on the balance cock, it's the endstone for the upper balance pivot. These are indeed faceted but are usually not of gem quality, having flaws and inclusions but are perfectly good for their purpose, which is to provide a hard surface to control end clearance on the balance staff, (there's a much smaller jewel on the lower end for the same purpose). All the other jewels are most probably quartz; these large jewel holes, characteristic of work from the area, are known as 'Liverpool windows' for obvious reasons. Diamond jewels with holes in them to provide bearing surfaces are almost unknown in watches, due to the difficulty of drilling them, (diamond is the hardest material in common use, and certainly was at the time this was made).

Most better quality watch jewelling was ruby or sapphire, (which are the same material, aluminium oxide, corundum), and in lower quality work, garnets and other softer stones were used. These very large jewels, although used in good quality Liverpool work, at this time would have been impractically expensive if made of ruby or sapphire, so the cheaper and easier to make quartz, aka 'rock crystal', was used instead. The reason for their large size was purely one of appearance, they didn't need to be that large to function properly.

The dial on your watch is possibly gold, although probably not hallmarked anywhere and likely to be of a low purity. It isn't etched but the parts under the numerals and the seconds bit at 6 are engine-turned and the centre is engraved. That scene in the centre has a continental look about it, it doesn't look at all like any English cityscape and it's quite possible that the dial was imported from Switzerland. The hands fit the dial quite well but the hour hand may be a replacement.

I have an appointment with our local auctioneer this Friday to determine if it is real gold, insisting on an acid test for confirmation.
Please don't allow anyone to test the dial with acid, there are now non-invasive methods of testing for purity using X-ray fluorescence. If your man doesn't have access to such equipment, walk away and find someone who has. In any case, the possible presence of gold in the dial has little relevance to its value as a family heirloom!

Regarding its restoration, the quote you've had seems to be on the high side, but without the watch and parts in hand it's impossible to say how many parts are missing and would need to be sourced, (these watches were not made on any interchangeable system, parts were fitted individually as the work proceeded), or more probably made from scratch, which is a highly skilled and hence expensive operation. It may be that the company you approached didn't really want to undertake this job and was giving an estimate to put you off.

If you decide to attempt the work yourself, your thought of practicing on some non-working movements is a sound way to go, but if you aren't familiar with watchmaking you will have a significant learning curve to climb, not to mention some costs in tools and equipment, and importantly, books.

Please don't hesitate to ask any further questions, you could be embarking on a fascinating journey!

Regards,

Graham
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Koran95, I applaud your enthusiasm and respect for your movement's heirloom nature, but restoring it doesn't make economic sense nor, I submit, heirloom sense.

Similar movements in better condition, e.g., ones that are complete and working, are worth very little. See Liverpool fusee movement | eBay for recent eBay sales of such movements. You easily could spend a large amount, e.g., $2000, restoring your movement, only to end up with something that's nearly worthless.

If you just restored the movement, it would serve as a practical, functioning watch. You'd need to get a case for it, but what would then have wouldn't be what your grandfather and great grandfather left you. They left you a box of watch parts. You'd end up with a watch that may work and be usable, but it would have been in an unoriginal case and would have unoriginal parts, e.g., the second hand is missing.

For these reasons, I recommend that you to treasure the movement and watch parts for what they are in their present state, and not to spend a lot of money and time trying to make it something it wasn't for your grandfather and great grandfather based on what they left you, a functioning, cased watch. If you have a yen for such a watch, you could buy a similar functioning, cased watch for very little, e.g., around $75. See antique silver pocket watch { In working order and keeping time } | eBay
 

kcran95

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Aug 5, 2021
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Hi kcran95, and welcome to the forum,


You have a Liverpool-made fusee lever pocket watch, made around the 1830s or 40s. Most of the loose parts in the box don't belong to this watch, but it's hard to tell if all the necessary parts are there; there's certainly a mainspring barrel and two lids, one of which may be the right one. The only diamond will be the one on the balance cock, it's the endstone for the upper balance pivot. These are indeed faceted but are usually not of gem quality, having flaws and inclusions but are perfectly good for their purpose, which is to provide a hard surface to control end clearance on the balance staff, (there's a much smaller jewel on the lower end for the same purpose). All the other jewels are most probably quartz; these large jewel holes, characteristic of work from the area, are known as 'Liverpool windows' for obvious reasons. Diamond jewels with holes in them to provide bearing surfaces are almost unknown in watches, due to the difficulty of drilling them, (diamond is the hardest material in common use, and certainly was at the time this was made).

Most better quality watch jewelling was ruby or sapphire, (which are the same material, aluminium oxide, corundum), and in lower quality work, garnets and other softer stones were used. These very large jewels, although used in good quality Liverpool work, at this time would have been impractically expensive if made of ruby or sapphire, so the cheaper and easier to make quartz, aka 'rock crystal', was used instead. The reason for their large size was purely one of appearance, they didn't need to be that large to function properly.

The dial on your watch is possibly gold, although probably not hallmarked anywhere and likely to be of a low purity. It isn't etched but the parts under the numerals and the seconds bit at 6 are engine-turned and the centre is engraved. That scene in the centre has a continental look about it, it doesn't look at all like any English cityscape and it's quite possible that the dial was imported from Switzerland. The hands fit the dial quite well but the hour hand may be a replacement.



Please don't allow anyone to test the dial with acid, there are now non-invasive methods of testing for purity using X-ray fluorescence. If your man doesn't have access to such equipment, walk away and find someone who has. In any case, the possible presence of gold in the dial has little relevance to its value as a family heirloom!

Regarding its restoration, the quote you've had seems to be on the high side, but without the watch and parts in hand it's impossible to say how many parts are missing and would need to be sourced, (these watches were not made on any interchangeable system, parts were fitted individually as the work proceeded), or more probably made from scratch, which is a highly skilled and hence expensive operation. It may be that the company you approached didn't really want to undertake this job and was giving an estimate to put you off.

If you decide to attempt the work yourself, your thought of practicing on some non-working movements is a sound way to go, but if you aren't familiar with watchmaking you will have a significant learning curve to climb, not to mention some costs in tools and equipment, and importantly, books.

Please don't hesitate to ask any further questions, you could be embarking on a fascinating journey!

Regards,

Graham
Thank you so much for your detailed response. Please forgive my total ignorance regarding the names of each part. I've tried to research fusee watches and how they are typically assembled, but I haven't found anything with detailed marks of each piece. Do you happen to know where I can find a diagram of sorts to help me learn? I looked at various "spare parts" listings on eBay so I caught a few new words, such as what the train is. Good to know there is a name for the "Liverpool windows"!

The center engraving, as far as I can tell, depicts the Port of Liverpool. The building has those rounded tops like in the engravement.

I am taking your advice not to do an acid test, as I was also very skeptical and concerned it would damage the surrounding parts. I am desperately in need of an experienced antique horologist but I've realized my surrounding area is barren of these. Is there some sort of directory for horologists the way there are for other experts? I wasn't sure if these folks were licensed and publically listed or not. I didn't think the gold mattered beyond dating, but honestly, I'm still not sure what I'm talking about.

How can you tell the year it was made? I would love to read up on watchmaking during the time this was made so I can better understand the culture and history of watchmaking, such as how easy it was to come across gold or gems and how they were transported.

I am overwhelmed with the desire to complete this watch. I found a video of a working Robinson and I was almost in tears at how beautifully it was moving considering being 200 years old. I've invested in a small tool kit to help me take it apart.

I realize this is quite the encumbering journey I have chosen to take, but I am dedicated to getting this particular watch back in working order. It is encouraging to know my great grandfather and my grandfather spent a great deal of time researching this back in the 40's and 50's.

I didn't include this in the original post, but alongside this watch was a piece of paper with various numbers and names. I can just imagine him calling every single watchmaker in a 500 mile radius, digging for answers. He was incredibly poor (his home was rented for $1 annunally with an agreement to watch the surrounding land for looters and illegal hunters), so I would not be surprised to learn he was planning to make his own parts.

Thank you for all your help. You have been most resourceful, even more so than the "experts" I've contacted.
 

kcran95

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Koran95, I applaud your enthusiasm and respect for your movement's heirloom nature, but restoring it doesn't make economic sense nor, I submit, heirloom sense.

Similar movements in better condition, e.g., ones that are complete and working, are worth very little. See Liverpool fusee movement | eBay for recent eBay sales of such movements. You easily could spend a large amount, e.g., $2000, restoring your movement, only to end up with something that's nearly worthless.

If you just restored the movement, it would serve as a practical, functioning watch. You'd need to get a case for it, but what would then have wouldn't be what your grandfather and great grandfather left you. They left you a box of watch parts. You'd end up with a watch that may work and be usable, but it would have been in an unoriginal case and would have unoriginal parts, e.g., the second hand is missing.

For these reasons, I recommend that you to treasure the movement and watch parts for what they are in their present state, and not to spend a lot of money and time trying to make it something it wasn't for your grandfather and great grandfather based on what they left you, a functioning, cased watch. If you have a yen for such a watch, you could buy a similar functioning, cased watch for very little, e.g., around $75. See antique silver pocket watch { In working order and keeping time } | eBay
Ethan, thank you for your detailed response.

I would never invest $2,000 into a repair, especially considering my grandfather would roll in his grave if I paid for the parts. He was a digger of dumps, a buyer of miscellaneous items, and a resourceful one. I found numerous notebook pages he had been writing serial numbers, maker names, and companies on. I can only imagine the phone calls and road trips he took to find the information. Since he was very poor, he likely spent years salvaging parts from other watches trying to get this one in particular back in working order, so I'd like to do the same. I realize it may take a lot of time (pun intended) but I'm willing to put in the work.

I actually have the case, I forgot to post a photo but I've included one here. It is from Star Watch Case Co. I found a few articles talking about how the cases were not made by the same maker of the watch. Were cases such as these specifically designed to fit a watch, or were they generic which any watch could fit? This one has a screw top cover.

A question for you if you don't mind -- how does one date a watch or a case? I did a bit of searching for the history of watchmaking so I know a tiny bit about what materials were used when, but not much beyond that. I noticed a lot of fusee watches I've seen come from Liverpool and London - were these types of watches unique to that geographical area?

20210803_193952.jpg 20210803_193947.jpg
 

gmorse

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Hi kcran95,
I am desperately in need of an experienced antique horologist but I've realized my surrounding area is barren of these. Is there some sort of directory for horologists the way there are for other experts? I wasn't sure if these folks were licensed and publically listed or not.
In the UK there is a professional organisation, the BHI, but as you will have seen, that's where I am and it's a long way from you! I don't think horologists anywhere are subject to an official licensing system, (although that idea does have its merits!), but your local NAWCC chapter is the first place to contact. The folks there should be able to help you find someone who's willing and competent to undertake this type of work. There are also members here who can do this and/or recommend good people who they've used themselves. If you're keen to learn, there are practical courses run by the NAWCC, and there's no substitute for a knowledgeable mentor to keep you focussed.

How can you tell the year it was made?
With English watches, the silver or gold case will have hallmarks identifying the case maker, the assay office and the years it was assayed, but in the absence of a case it's a matter of style and design clues, which include the type of escapement and movement layout, as well as the engraving style.

If you want to understand more of English 19th century watchmaking, there are some books which I suggest you read; 'Watchmaking in England 1760-1820' by Leonard Weiss and 'The Artistry of the English Watch' by Cedric Jagger for starters. For a grounding in the basics of watches, 'Practical Watch Repairing' by Donald de Carle is still worth reading, and it's quite affordable, and for a comprehensive guide to repairing these watches, the three volumes of 'Antique Watch Restoration' by Archie B. Perkins will tell you all you need to know, (and a lot you may not need to start with, but will prove useful later). These are more expensive I'm afraid. A classic book on actually making watches is 'Watchmaking' by George Daniels, which includes invaluable descriptions of tools and techniques as well as a guide to the construction of a pocket watch from scratch, but I'd hold fire on that one until you have the basics under your belt; George assumed a certain level of knowledge in his readers!

There's an interesting document by Alan Treherne here concerning the way the English watch trade functioned in the 19th century.

Regarding the case, the movement was designed to fit in a case with a hinge, so that it swung out, and in English watches this was the standard design, although cases were made to fit individual movements; the American practice of a buyer choosing a movement and a case separately, with the two being fitted together by the jeweller who supplied them, wasn't followed here. You'll notice that the case has a winding crown in the pendant where the bow is attached, but your watch is key-wound so the winder in the case is useless, indeed I doubt if the movement would fit in that case and there would be no way of securing it if it happened to fit.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Ethan Lipsig

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Your Star case probably was made in the first quarter of the 20th century, long after your movement was made. It has been used for a lever-set watch, a keyless watch on which the crown is switched from the winding position to the set position by pulling out a lever usually around 2 o'clock. You can see the milled out area for the lever on the rim of your case. Your key wide movement was not lever-set.

To slightly modify my words discouraging restoration, if it is something that you would enjoy doing or attempting, then you should do it.
 

kcran95

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Hi kcran95,


In the UK there is a professional organisation, the BHI, but as you will have seen, that's where I am and it's a long way from you! I don't think horologists anywhere are subject to an official licensing system, (although that idea does have its merits!), but your local NAWCC chapter is the first place to contact. The folks there should be able to help you find someone who's willing and competent to undertake this type of work. There are also members here who can do this and/or recommend good people who they've used themselves. If you're keen to learn, there are practical courses run by the NAWCC, and there's no substitute for a knowledgeable mentor to keep you focussed.



With English watches, the silver or gold case will have hallmarks identifying the case maker, the assay office and the years it was assayed, but in the absence of a case it's a matter of style and design clues, which include the type of escapement and movement layout, as well as the engraving style.

If you want to understand more of English 19th century watchmaking, there are some books which I suggest you read; 'Watchmaking in England 1760-1820' by Leonard Weiss and 'The Artistry of the English Watch' by Cedric Jagger for starters. For a grounding in the basics of watches, 'Practical Watch Repairing' by Donald de Carle is still worth reading, and it's quite affordable, and for a comprehensive guide to repairing these watches, the three volumes of 'Antique Watch Restoration' by Archie B. Perkins will tell you all you need to know, (and a lot you may not need to start with, but will prove useful later). These are more expensive I'm afraid. A classic book on actually making watches is 'Watchmaking' by George Daniels, which includes invaluable descriptions of tools and techniques as well as a guide to the construction of a pocket watch from scratch, but I'd hold fire on that one until you have the basics under your belt; George assumed a certain level of knowledge in his readers!

There's an interesting document by Alan Treherne here concerning the way the English watch trade functioned in the 19th century.

Regarding the case, the movement was designed to fit in a case with a hinge, so that it swung out, and in English watches this was the standard design, although cases were made to fit individual movements; the American practice of a buyer choosing a movement and a case separately, with the two being fitted together by the jeweller who supplied them, wasn't followed here. You'll notice that the case has a winding crown in the pendant where the bow is attached, but your watch is key-wound so the winder in the case is useless, indeed I doubt if the movement would fit in that case and there would be no way of securing it if it happened to fit.

Regards,

Graham
Graham,

Thank you so much for taking the time to give me such great resources. I will be heading to my local library as soon as I can to search for any I cannot afford at the moment, so thank you for those suggestions. I thought the case was much newer than the movement, but I wasn't sure. I will surely spend an incredible amount of time reading these things. I did discover the movement is by Waltham, though I cannot find the source of the etching or who "Robinson" was. I assume it was likely a private jeweler, though I won't accept that idea until I have received confirmation that it cannot be traced back to any known maker at the time.

Though I am feeling a bit discouraged after reading the intensive training required by horologist before they are truly able to repair an antique watch like this, I would still like to try. Do you have any suggestions for inexpensive watches I can purchase to practice on or use for parts? I'm not sure what search terms to use, or if I am even looking for the right thing. I guess my best bet would be to slow down and learn more before I start tinkering. As much as I would love to see it tick, I'd also love to keep it in the condition it was given to me or better.

Kylee
 

kcran95

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Your Star case probably was made in the first quarter of the 20th century, long after your movement was made. It has been used for a lever-set watch, a keyless watch on which the crown is switched from the winding position to the set position by pulling out a lever usually around 2 o'clock. You can see the milled out area for the lever on the rim of your case. Your key wide movement was not lever-set.

To slightly modify my words discouraging restoration, if it is something that you would enjoy doing or attempting, then you should do it.
I figured it was newer, I just wasn't sure how much! I looked at the glass under UV light and it looks like depression glass. I wonder what my grandfather had planned for the Robinson. What are the chances I can find a case that would fit this? I've read some of these were custom fitted, so I wasn't sure. Thank you for your help!

Kylee
 

Jerry Treiman

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I wonder what my grandfather had planned for the Robinson. What are the chances I can find a case that would fit this?
It looks like your grandfather filed a notch in the top edge of the opening for the movement, or at least started to, to accommodate the hinge on the movement. I did the same thing myself a long time ago to house an English fusee movement that had lost its original case. While you are still dealing with pieces would be a good time to see if the pillar plate (the large round plate with pillars attached) will fit in that case. As you learn more about this type of watch and how they are built you may be able to assemble all of the original pieces into a complete, or nearly complete, movement that can be displayed in a case. That dial certainly needs to be shown off! It may end up missing too many parts to be fully restored, at least for now, but is still a lovely heirloom and tribute to your grandfather.
 
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kcran95

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It looks like your grandfather filed a notch in the top edge of the opening for the movement, or at least started to, to accommodate the hinge on the movement. I did the same thing myself a long time ago to house an English fusee movement that had lost its original case. While you are still dealing with pieces would be a good time to see if the pillar plate (the large round plate with pillars attached) will fit in that case. As you learn more about this type of watch and how they are built you may be able to assemble all of the original pieces into a complete, or nearly complete, movement that can be displayed in a case. That dial certainly needs to be shown off! It may end up missing too many parts to be fully restored, at least for now, but is still a lovely heirloom and tribute to your grandfather.
Jerry,
Could you tell me which part you're talking about? Is it what I circled in red or blue? That makes so much sense, especially knowing these movements needed a custom case and my grandfather was too poor to commission one. I laughed as soon as I read your reply, surprised I hadn't thought of it sooner. I haven't touched the watch since I took the pictures, feeling embarrassed after I watched videos of collectors using gloves. I'll see if it fits tomorrow. Thank you for your help.

Kylee
 

Jerry Treiman

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I was referring to the slightly rectangular cut in the red circle at the top (above the blue circle). The red circle on the right is at the cut-out for a setting lever which your watch would not have (as explained by Ethan).
 
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jboger

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Most of the parts in the box don't belong to this movement. I don't see an escape wheel, and there may be no hairspring. Not sure about the lever. The remains of it may be next to the barrel, but I don't thinks so. No dust cover. My suggestion is to re-assemble what you have. Probably the barrel goes with this watch. Probably one of the lids fit that barrel. You might have the third and fourth wheels. I see a few other parts that may go with this watch. Take the watch to someone who knows how to re-assemble a fusee. Once what you have is put back together, and you can hold the movement in your hand, this may give you the sense of satisfaction you seek.
 
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gmorse

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Hi kcran95,
I did discover the movement is by Waltham, though I cannot find the source of the etching or who "Robinson" was. I assume it was likely a private jeweler, though I won't accept that idea until I have received confirmation that it cannot be traced back to any known maker at the time.
If you just looked up the serial number, it will have misled you, the movement is an English fusee lever and nothing to do with Waltham; it was made long before that company existed! There's no central database of watch serial numbers!

There is a theory, so far without firm confirmation, that watches marked for Robinson were the 'second line' of the famous Tobias company of Liverpool, but in any event, it certainly wasn't made in the US. However, it seems pretty certain that there was at least one real person named William Robinson signing watches in Liverpool; on the other hand, it's a fairly common name, and as you'll discover, there were between 50 and 100 specialist craftspeople involved in the making of a watch, so the signature isn't particularly meaningful in identifying who amongst that crowd could take the credit for 'making' it.

I've read some of these were custom fitted, so I wasn't sure.
Most English watch cases were made to fit individual movements, it wasn't a matter of 'custom fitted', that was the way the trade worked, it was standard practice. When you've had a chance to read through the Alan Treherne document you'll have a clearer idea of the way the English watches were made, especially the multiple journeys they went through and the many hands through which they passed on the way.

Regards,

Graham
 
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kcran95

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I was referring to the slightly rectangular cut in the red circle at the top (above the blue circle). The red circle on the right is at the cut-out for a setting lever which your watch would not have (as explained by Ethan).
Wow, you're right! I can't believe I didn't catch that. You've helped make this even more special for me. As soon as I read your reply, I laughed picturing my grandfather getting mad that he couldn't find a matching case and saying, "screw it! I'm gonna MAKE it fit!" I'll try to sit the movement in there and see if it matches. Thank you again.
 

kcran95

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Most of the parts in the box don't belong to this movement. I don't see an escape wheel, and there may be no hairspring. Not sure about the lever. The remains of it may be next to the barrel, but I don't thinks so. No dust cover. My suggestion is to re-assemble what you have. Probably the barrel goes with this watch. Probably one of the lids fit that barrel. You might have the third and fourth wheels. I see a few other parts that may go with this watch. Take the watch to someone who knows how to re-assemble a fusee. Once what you have is put back together, and you can hold the movement in your hand, this may give you the sense of satisfaction you seek.
I actually have the dust cover, it just isn't pictured. I'm not sure what the proper term is for the "arm" on the back of the dust cover, but it is on there as well. What would you call this? (Not my photograph; I decided I'm not touching any part of the watch until my "finger condoms" as I call them come in lol.
1628282058905.png
 

kcran95

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Hi kcran95,


If you just looked up the serial number, it will have misled you, the movement is an English fusee lever and nothing to do with Waltham; it was made long before that company existed! There's no central database of watch serial numbers!

There is a theory, so far without firm confirmation, that watches marked for Robinson were the 'second line' of the famous Tobias company of Liverpool, but in any event, it certainly wasn't made in the US. However, it seems pretty certain that there was at least one real person named William Robinson signing watches in Liverpool; on the other hand, it's a fairly common name, and as you'll discover, there were between 50 and 100 specialist craftspeople involved in the making of a watch, so the signature isn't particularly meaningful in identifying who amongst that crowd could take the credit for 'making' it.



Most English watch cases were made to fit individual movements, it wasn't a matter of 'custom fitted', that was the way the trade worked, it was standard practice. When you've had a chance to read through the Alan Treherne document you'll have a clearer idea of the way the English watches were made, especially the multiple journeys they went through and the many hands through which they passed on the way.

Regards,

Graham
Thank you, Graham! Your help has been very appreciated. I am putting together a document with all the theories and suggestions mentioned throughout the various sources I've compiled to help me get a bigger picture. I am dedicated to getting this put together as much as possible and, even if it doesn't tick, I know I have done more for my grandfather than he was able to do before his death. I may keep it in the case, not working, so I can keep it with me. I noticed all the "Wm. Robinson" movements I've seen were signed in script, while ones Tobias did were in print. I'm wondering if the Robinson theory so many mentioned is true, or if Robinson was an incredible watchmaker who was also a hermit which is why there is little information about him. All we can do is speculate, I suppose. It looks like my Waltham claim was incorrect, as the fusee totally categorizes it as European.

I've begun my research into the history of Liverpool. I was able to contact the archives of the city of Liverpool and they are eager to help me! I suggested there may have been a retailer who went by "Robinson" in Liverpool back in the 19th century, so they are digging through the archives for records of registered businesses. I've also gotten in touch with the Liverpool Historical Society on Facebook and several of the members are current residents who have been sending me photographs from their ancestor's photo albums to help identify the location on the front. Forgive me for my endless questioning, but am I referring to the front in the wrong way? I've seen mention of "dial" when referring to the etchings, but I've always referred to it as the "face." How far am I from the right term? I've done a bit of reading into the Treherne document you sent me and I've been taking notes. I have a much better understanding of the history.

I cannot express my gratitude enough. I get goosebumps thinking that there are people out there who are passionate about watchmaking. You have all been incredibly kind and resourceful and I am absolutely dedicated to making my grandfather proud.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Kylee,
I actually have the dust cover, it just isn't pictured. I'm not sure what the proper term is for the "arm" on the back of the dust cover, but it is on there as well. What would you call this?
That cover's called the 'cap', and the steel crescent is the locking slide, for want of a better term. When you take that off, you're looking at the top plate, which in this instance covers the whole movement, so this design is known as a 'full-plate'. The most prominent feature on there is the balance and the bracket supporting it, called the balance cock. The balance is the component which controls the release of power from the mainspring, and hence the timekeeping of the watch, by oscillating at a set rate, determined by the combination of the mass of the balance wheel and the strength of the balance spring coiled under or over it. The rest of the mechanism is hidden between the plates.

...am I referring to the front in the wrong way? I've seen mention of "dial" when referring to the etchings, but I've always referred to it as the "face." How far am I from the right term?
The common term amongst horologists is 'dial'. Etching, the process of creating patterns on metal by the action of acid working through a resist, isn't normally found on English watches or their cases. The decoration on the movement was created mechanically by engraving by hand or, on the dial, by an ingenious type of lathe known as a rose engine. Historically, any machine used in making a watch, such as for cutting the teeth in the gears, (known simply as 'wheels'), or for cutting the groove in the fusee cone, was known as an 'engine'.

I think the image on the dial is more likely to be a fanciful rendition of an imaginary landscape than a representation of the actual waterfront, especially since I very much doubt whether the engraver had ever been anywhere near Liverpool. These dials typically show a generic scene.

Regards,

Graham
 

kcran95

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Hi Kylee,


That cover's called the 'cap', and the steel crescent is the locking slide, for want of a better term. When you take that off, you're looking at the top plate, which in this instance covers the whole movement, so this design is known as a 'full-plate'. The most prominent feature on there is the balance and the bracket supporting it, called the balance cock. The balance is the component which controls the release of power from the mainspring, and hence the timekeeping of the watch, by oscillating at a set rate, determined by the combination of the mass of the balance wheel and the strength of the balance spring coiled under or over it. The rest of the mechanism is hidden between the plates.



The common term amongst horologists is 'dial'. Etching, the process of creating patterns on metal by the action of acid working through a resist, isn't normally found on English watches or their cases. The decoration on the movement was created mechanically by engraving by hand or, on the dial, by an ingenious type of lathe known as a rose engine. Historically, any machine used in making a watch, such as for cutting the teeth in the gears, (known simply as 'wheels'), or for cutting the groove in the fusee cone, was known as an 'engine'.

I think the image on the dial is more likely to be a fanciful rendition of an imaginary landscape than a representation of the actual waterfront, especially since I very much doubt whether the engraver had ever been anywhere near Liverpool. These dials typically show a generic scene.

Regards,

Graham
Graham,

Thank you for the detailed descriptions! I am surely going to be referencing your response when I begin to tinker with it. It is helpful to have some of the terminology down before speaking with experts to prevent being taken advantage of. I've heard of the rose engine, actually, but I didn't consider that could have been the method of engraving.

I've looked into the Tobias theory, as well as some of Dr. Edidin's research, and I'm able to get a better picture of how this may have come to be. I've spent a lot of time speaking with Liverpool residents and they, too, cannot identify the image so you may be correct in your theory. It is a gorgeous piece that I am excited to share with others, so I want to be as correct as possible when trying to explain to my friends and family.

I found this reference online for the technical construction of a fusee lever watch. I am not sure how to describe the movement, frequency, etc of mine, so I'm not sure if this is even of any use to me when comparing it to mine. It is great to see the layers of the watch taken apart, but I worry I may be looking at something completely different than my own.
 

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kcran95

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After perusing the thread about Tobias and Robinson, I'm trying to find the document everyone is referring to when they mention the proof found by Dr. Edidin. Does anyone have a copy of this or a link I can use?
 

gmorse

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Hi Kylee,
It is great to see the layers of the watch taken apart, but I worry I may be looking at something completely different than my own.
I believe that this document will hinder rather than help you in your learning. It refers to a modern movement, which although based on the same principles as yours, differs in many details of its design. I'll see if I can find a more appropriate exploded diagram of a fusee lever watch, or failing that, some annotated pictures of dismantled watches similar to yours.

Regards,

Graham
 

John Matthews

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There is a theory, so far without firm confirmation, that watches marked for Robinson were the 'second line' of the famous Tobias company of Liverpool, but in any event, it certainly wasn't made in the US. However, it seems pretty certain that there was at least one real person named William Robinson signing watches in Liverpool;
There are a number of threads on the forum that discuss watches signed 'Robinson' in the context of the papers by Edidlin - if you have not found this one you may find it informative. Within you will find reference to a number of 'Robinsons' listed as watch 'makers' or 'retailers' in Liverpool during the C19th.

If you compare the style of the engraving of your example with those in the thread, you will observe significant differences. Specifically your watch is not signed 'Wm Robinson'. As Graham has indicated, and as you will see from the thread, it is William Robinson watches that it has been suggested may have been retailed in America as Tobias's 'second line'. I believe that your watch was neither made by William Robinson, nor do I believe that it was a 'second line' Tobias movement.

Your example could have been finished or retailed by another Robinson working in Liverpool. It is also possible that it may be an example of a watch that is based on a Lancashire frame, that was finished in Coventry in the Liverpool style using a Swiss dial and exported, as an uncased movement, through Liverpool to America, where it was housed in an American case. This may sound a little far fetched, but it is perfectly feasible and illustrates the 'manufacturing journey' that watches that were retailed in America in the C19th may have taken.

John
 

kcran95

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Hi Kylee,


I believe that this document will hinder rather than help you in your learning. It refers to a modern movement, which although based on the same principles as yours, differs in many details of its design. I'll see if I can find a more appropriate exploded diagram of a fusee lever watch, or failing that, some annotated pictures of dismantled watches similar to yours.

Regards,

Graham
Sorry for the delayed reply, I've become quite busy with all your suggested readings! I was able to contact a local watchmaker who has experience in the fusee lever watches who offered assistance. Thank you again, Graham, your replies are valued!
 

kcran95

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Aug 5, 2021
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There are a number of threads on the forum that discuss watches signed 'Robinson' in the context of the papers by Edidlin - if you have not found this one you may find it informative. Within you will find reference to a number of 'Robinsons' listed as watch 'makers' or 'retailers' in Liverpool during the C19th.

If you compare the style of the engraving of your example with those in the thread, you will observe significant differences. Specifically your watch is not signed 'Wm Robinson'. As Graham has indicated, and as you will see from the thread, it is William Robinson watches that it has been suggested may have been retailed in America as Tobias's 'second line'. I believe that your watch was neither made by William Robinson, nor do I believe that it was a 'second line' Tobias movement.

Your example could have been finished or retailed by another Robinson working in Liverpool. It is also possible that it may be an example of a watch that is based on a Lancashire frame, that was finished in Coventry in the Liverpool style using a Swiss dial and exported, as an uncased movement, through Liverpool to America, where it was housed in an American case. This may sound a little far fetched, but it is perfectly feasible and illustrates the 'manufacturing journey' that watches that were retailed in America in the C19th may have taken.

John
Thanks for the info, John. I did some digging through that thread, and I decided to do a bit of digging myself. I found a very interesting document on FindMyPast which I did not see mentioned elsewhere. I have my own theory of how my watch came to be, though I'm sure it's just a bit too imaginative to be true. Nonetheless, it is still interesting to consider!

On a census record from Liverpool in 1851, there was a watchmaker by the name of Andrew Robinson b.1708, whose occupation was listed as "watchmaker." His address was 30 Mona Street, just two blocks away from where "William Robinson" was living years later according to Edidin. Andrew was well into his seventies with a wife and two children at home, one of whom was a teacher. What struck me as interesting was the "visitor" listed on the census by the name of William Robinson, age 30, with an occupation of "watchmaker."

1628621919213.png

My theory is that Andrew, coming to the end of his career and life, wanted to share his love of horology and pass on his knowledge to another. William Robinson, who was of no relation to Andrew, came to learn the tricks of the trade after his professional studies and was working as an apprentice. After Andrew's death less than one year after the census record, in honor of this relationship, William engraved the name "Robinson" to show the joint effort that went into making the watch before he went out on his own. This may or may not be the same William Robinson that is often mentioned with Tobias.

A bit far fetched, indeed, but I like this version of my story better than the idea that a potential retailer by the name of Robinson's was the seller. Obviously there is no way to prove this theory and I'm not sure I'll ever know who Robinson really was but it is fun to theorize.
 

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