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Solvil pocketwatch - Looking for information

JMAC

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Oct 21, 2021
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This is a Solvil pocketwatch I just acquired online. I really fell in love with the elegant movement design, then when I did a bit of research into Paul Ditisheim I had to get it. I'm just looking for any information enthusiasts or experts may be able to provide me about it. It is in working order though before actually using it I would find somewhere to get it serviced (Ontario, Canada, if anyone has a vintage watch servicing recommendation). As far as I can tell from comparisons online I think it is from the 1920s, possibly 1930s, least likely 1910s. The case number is 476583, the movement number is 783553.

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Ethan Lipsig

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JMAC, Paul Ditisheim was an innovative watchmaker who is credited with some important advances, one of which was adding a extra piece to balance wheels that was, or was called, an "affix", the purpose of which I no long recall, perhaps to make adjusting the balance easier. He was especially known for platinum watches, which he generally sold under his own name, without the "Solvil" name. Watches with his name and "Solvil" were his second line of watches. I think he also sold watches without his name, just under the Solvil label, as a third quality tier. I don't think any of these labels lasted much beyond WWII, if that long.

Your watch has a typical Paul Ditisheim Solvil movement. It is an inexpensive 10-year gold-filled case. Your watch appears to have had a fairly hard life.

Ditisheim watches are respected but not especially highly sought after by collectors. I like them. I have seven, two of which are cased in platinum; the other five are in solid gold 14k or 18k cases.
 
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JMAC

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roughbarked, thanks for the link, very cool information

Ethan Lipsig , thanks for the reply - I had understood from my own basic research this is a workmanlike piece rather than anything unique, which for my own use adds to the charm... And I agree, the case has had a hard life, though I'm very happy with the dial condition, there are only two subtle cracks that I can see.

I'm hoping maybe someone will know where I could perhaps use the serial numbers to narrow down year of production; also I've been looking at different hallmarks online in hopes of finding what the standing pig with 'registered' under it may mean, or the 'LL', without success so far.
 
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eri231

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The standing pig and LL have been the brand of Louis Lang case maker since 1860 and still working in Porrentruy.
Louis Lang Porrentruy.jpg
regards enrico
 
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Dr. Jon

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The "Affix" was to improve temperature compensation. This and improved liubricants were Ditisheim's major contributions. He had a not pleasant relationship with Solvil who wanted to make cheap watches while Ditisheim wanted to make very fine watches.

He was member of the Didisheim family who owned Movado.

Better Ditisheim watches are more sought.
 

JMAC

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Dr. Jon Thanks for the reply... Very interesting, I thought I had read he had founded Solvil and I assumed he was 'the boss' as a result but it seems things were more complicated than that. I just had a close look and am disappointed there does not seem to be an affix on the balance wheel here, or at least nothing that looks like the example linked to above; would have been nice to have an example of that history in my hand (or pocket).
 

mosesgodfrey

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Aug 30, 2017
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This could’ve been originally made for the South American markets. I’ve noted those are usually filled cases. I’m not familiar with Ditisheim sn runs, but I’m guessing this is from circa 1910? Just noting the engine turned style

Regarding the Solvil movements, I’ve noted more than 50 examples (mostly from the 1920s) with this mark on them. Often partially obscured.

141043C6-2C7C-4B28-B25A-D9EB64422248.jpeg
 

DavidBoettcher

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This watch has an interesting balance, which I have just written about in an article in the November 2021 Horological Journal that is currently being printed. The balance spring is Elinvar and the balance is later than Ditisheim's Affix balances, but was designed with the same purpose in mind, to allow the rate of expansion of the balance to be matched to the Elinvar balance spring. This balance has brass arms and cut steel rims with short sections of brass inserts. The sections with the brass inserts do the same job as the Affixes in earlier Ditisheim balances.

Ditisheim Solvil watches with this design of balance first appeared in the Kew watch trials in 1927. The ébauches were made by LeCoultre.

Regards, David
Eur Ing David Boettcher FBHI
www.vintagewatchstraps.com
 
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Ethan Lipsig

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Moses wrote "Regarding the Solvil movements, I've noted more than 50 examples (mostly from the 1920s) with this mark on them. Often partially obscured."

Isn't that Maltese cross-like mark a Swiss patent marking, although it usually is accompanied by the patent number?

I checked my small Ditisheim collection to see if any had those marks. None did. Only two of my seven Ditisheims is also marked "Sovil", as follows:
  • P. Ditisheim #50,070, with movement by, or based on ebauche by, L.E. Piguet, in oval platinum case
  • P. Ditisheim #50,888 marked on the pillar plate (as was done for watches submitted for observatory time trials) and marked Compensateur Guillaume, in 18k OF case; Buenos Aires retailer's name inscribed on cuvette
  • P. Ditisheim Solvil #304,949, no markings on movement, in18k OF case; made for Spanish or South American marking based on Spanish Certificado de origen y garantia that came with the watch
  • P. Ditisheim #405,260 marked 18j/5adj, and Depollier, with Depollier's patented Brun shock absorber, in enameled 14k OF case
  • P. Ditisheim #405,303 marked 18j/5adj, and Depollier, with Depollier's patented Brun shock absorber, in enameled platinum, diamond-rimmed OF case
  • P. Ditisheim #405,467 marked 17j/2adj, and Depollier, with Depollier's patented Brun shock absorber, in 14k OF case
  • P. Ditisheim Solvil Chronometre #407,079, marked 16j/4adj in 18k OF case
The serial numbers of all these watches are far lower than the serial number on JMAC's watch, supporting the theory that the watch was made in the 1920s or even later.
 

mosesgodfrey

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My apologies—Somehow I misread the first digit on OP as 1. It is a 7.

My 722k was cased in 1928. So this is indeed after that. Here’s a clearer mark, also on a Solvil.

David—that’s good info, and look forward to reading more very soon!

81014494-0F94-4AE8-882A-5323F9D4F4AC.jpeg
 

JMAC

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Oct 21, 2021
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mosesgodfrey Thanks for the reply; I did, in fact, acquire this from Brazil so your theory on the gold-filled case and the watch being destined for that market certainly seems accurate! As far as I can tell there is no Maltese Cross marking visible on mine.

DavidBoettcher Thanks for the reply, this is fascinating stuff. Amazing the things that were achieved without computers.

I'm wondering if maybe there was a date after which Solvil would no longer use the Ditisheim name, to put a firm upper end on the dating for this one? From what I've read Solvil actually bought the 'Paul Ditisheim' brand so could continue to use it even after they parted ways.
 

DavidBoettcher

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Ditisheim founded Solvil. He was a perfectionist and wanted to make observatory grade watches, which made them very expensive, and he fell out with the other directors when they wanted to take the company in a more commercial direction. He moved to Paris in 1924 and resigned from Solvil in 1929. He subsequently advertised that he had no connection with the company, which continued to use his name in advertisements.
 

eri231

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He was a perfectionist and wanted to make observatory grade watches, which made them very expensive, and he fell out with the other directors when they wanted to take the company in a more commercial direction.
True, in fact, Paul Ditisheim's annual production was about 2000 pieces until 1917. In 1918, with the transformation into a limited company, production exceeded ten thousand units to decrease to two thousand units in 1925.
Nearly 150 on-board chronometers were presented at the Neuchatel observatory from 1924 to 1925, with little success. Maybe it was just to get a certificate.
Regards enrico
 
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JMAC

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DavidBoettcher I'd be very interested in reading a bit more about this balance wheel; will there by chance be any other way to see the article than in the journal (which if I'm reading correctly you have to be a member of the BHI to access)... I'm not quite deep enough into horology to start buying memberships.
 

mynikko

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Oct 2, 2014
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I also bought one recently. The serial number is a bit larger than yours, and I dated mine around 1930. It does come with an affix balance. It says "Orologeria Svizzera Firenze" on the dial. I am not sure if it is indeed the Panerai owned one, but looks like this watch was sold to the Italian distributor. Mine is in a silver case, which means it is probably about the same grade as your gold filled one if not lower.

After cleaned & oiled, I would say it is a pretty reliable watch.

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eri231

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Correct, "Orologeria Svizzera" was in Florence name given by Guido Panerai but the activity started in 1860 by grandfather Giovanni Panerai.
orologeria-svizzera-1920s.jpg
Regards enrico
 

JMAC

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Oct 21, 2021
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mynikko Very nice piece! Is that a power reserve subdial at 12 o'clock?

I'd like to get one with an affix balance too, there was a nonfunctional silver one on eBay I was going to try and get but alas the auction was cancelled and not relisted. I have an older working movement with a bimetallic balance wheel on the way right now, I've gotten a bit fixated in fact... Any suggestions on other places to look, I haven't had much luck finding a good vintage watch/pocketwatch site. Thanks
 

mynikko

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Oct 2, 2014
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JMAC Yes, that's power reserve indeed.

I get most of pocket watches from eBay as well. I would not collect them if I can just go to a retail store and purchase it off the rack. Half the fun is actually the seeking part.
 

JMAC

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mynikko Oh I agree, I just meant other auction sites for example that are more watch specific... Maybe eBay really is a near monopoly though
 

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