The jewels race: When do extra jewels make a difference in value for collectors?

Clint Geller

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As an admirer and long-time collector of E. Howard & Company watches, I never was under any illusion that a good watch required more than fifteen jewels. That said, I was very proud of the rare 21 jewel split plate I used to own, which was made for a board member of the company. A close friend owns the watch now. He lives a block away from me, so I still get to visit with it every now and then. My poor movement picture does not show up the gold inlaid engraving, or the prominent gold cap jewel setting on the pallet bridge. The case is 18K EH&Co.

700,899 21J sp XII movt reduced.jpg 700,899 dial cropped (2).JPG 1623854712019.png
 
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roughbarked

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I suspect that a watch's expected lifespan is a part of it too. How many years does it take to wear out a lower center bearing? I would imagine that even without proper service, it would still take a while.

Jeweled watches were supposed to last a long time, but I do not think the manufacturers were thinking on a timeframe longer than, say, 30-50 years. (Historically, 30 years is plenty of time for a big change in style, necessitating a need for a new watch, and 50 years is about as long as you could expect someone to use a single watch.) And of course, worn center bearings can be replaced if needed.

I have always considered that jeweling only the top of the center wheel is all about eye appeal - the same reason that on much higher-end watches, sometimes you see a single jewel on top of the barrel. The single jewel is cheap compared to the markup you can get for including it.

The customer gets what they pay for, but sometimes they pay for pure cosmetics!

I know that the market pays what the market pays, but for myself, an 18s 23j Bunn Special has more value than an 18s 24j Bunn Special because the jewels are more functional. (The 26 jewel version combines the best of both worlds, but I'll never have the money for one of those!)
I was referring to wrist watches. Plates are far thinner.
Good ETA movements full of jewels, unjewelled centre worn enough for wheel to lean over.
 

thesnark17

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But we like cosmetics and do value to them
like damaskeening, plate design (3 finger bridges etc etc) engraving, diamond end stones, dials,
special names on the movement(and dial) and much more.
Yes it's a lot of marketing but it gives us interesting variations
to collect. And yes I do believe have added value.
I like cosmetics too! Damasceening, diamond jewels, interesting engraving, cool plate design, private labels? Absolutely, and I will pay a premium for them.

But anyone who knows anything about watches knows that those things are only cosmetic. Do they indicate high finish? Well, they should: but at the end of the day, the timekeeping is not done by the damasceening. You know that you are paying for finish, not function.

Jewels are beautiful ornamentation, but they promise function as well. I am bothered when they don't provide that function. Bothered enough that I prefer not to pay a premium for those watches. Yes, I value function over form in watchmaking. I understand that I am an anomaly. Your mileage may vary and probably does!
 
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Dr. Jon

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I have long believed that many makers preferred to use a metal bearing for bottom center over concerns for cannon pinion removal. If the pinion is very tight, pulling it puts a lot of thrust stress on the bearing and there is no way to avoid this. The result is a cracked jewel.

I have seen some very tight hands and canon pinions, especially on Swiss watches.

Another example that illustrates this is the use of a screw secured cannon pinion to a pin. Howard used this on their 17 jewel split plate as did Patek Philippe on some of their watches. The Patek example I saw predates Howard, so I suspect Howard copied it from Patek.

BTW Old Howards with high jewel counts are another example of a high jewel count driving collector value.
 

roughbarked

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I doubt that anyone was ever worried about cracking a jewel by lifting a tight canon pinion. The plates are so thin on some watches that fitting a jewel could be tricky with not a lot of greater benefit. The idea was to make thinner watches, not necessarily have them last 100 years.
 

Clint Geller

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I doubt that anyone was ever worried about cracking a jewel by lifting a tight canon pinion. The plates are so thin on some watches that fitting a jewel could be tricky with not a lot of greater benefit. The idea was to make thinner watches, not necessarily have them last 100 years.
Howard split plates are notorious for cracked and broken center hole jewels for precisely the reason Jon suggested. I have seen the results of many such accidents myself. However, it is possible that most of these tragedies occurred many years after these watches entered into service, by which time more widespread understanding of their construction had faded.
 

roughbarked

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Howard split plates are notorious for cracked and broken center hole jewels for precisely the reason Jon suggested. I have seen the results of many such accidents myself. However, it is possible that most of these tragedies occurred many years after these watches entered into service, by which time more widespread understanding of their construction had faded.
OK. :) I'm sure you have, if you see a lot of Pocket watch movements with jewelled centre on bottom plate.
I've seen really tight canons on Pocket watches.
I haven't so often seen them on wrist watches.
I've rarely seen a pocket watch with a jewelled centre. It is likely overkill anyway.
 

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I always thought the cracked center jewel on split plate Howards was because the watchmaker forgot it was screwed to the center arbor. :)

The most difficult to understand are the 16J 1857 model AT&Co with a jewel in the center of the pillar plate.

The 1859 model Walthams were the first with full center jeweling, I think and Stratton moved away from that on the Nashua models.
 
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Clint Geller

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I always thought the cracked center jewel on split plate Howards was because the watchmaker forgot it was screwed to the center arbor. :)

The most difficult to understand are the 16J 1857 model AT&Co with a jewel in the center of the pillar plate.

The 1859 model Walthams were the first with full center jeweling, I think and Stratton moved away from that on the Nashua models.
Yes, of course, Tom. That's what I meant by "understanding of their construction." I discussed this issue on another recent thread. My point was that pulling on a cannon pinion can indeed crack center hole jewels, and it is not a stretch (no pun intended) to think that pulling on any overly resistive cannon pinion couild do the same thing in other watches.
 

Clint Geller

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OK. :) I'm sure you have, if you see a lot of Pocket watch movements with jewelled centre on bottom plate.
I've seen really tight canons on Pocket watches.
I haven't so often seen them on wrist watches.
I've rarely seen a pocket watch with a jewelled centre. It is likely overkill anyway.
Most railroad watches have jeweled center wheels, as do half the pocket watches in my own collection. Interestingly, one of my 19 jewel watches does not have a jeweled center wheel, Waltham SN 50,024, a 20 Size keywind.
 

topspin

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Returning to the original question -
There certainly is such a thing as a dumb question (just as there is such a thing as a dumb answer) although this certainly, clearly, wasn't a dumb question.

I would define both a dumb question and a dumb answer as being one which conveys either false information, a false assumption, or the news that the speaker is missing some important piece of knowledge/understanding that they really should have had.
Usually, the dumbest question of all, is the one that somebody should have asked, but didn't.

Can I add "geography" to the list of answers to the original question?
Here in the UK we see a particular balance of watches coming up for sale (in terms of how many of each make, model, grade, size, configuration, jewel count, etc.) Largely determined by what was originally imported here in the first place.
Go to a different part of the world and the balance will be different, hence the market (for any given watch) will be different.
Or you might never see that watch at all, in which case there's no point trying to collect it and no point worrying about it.
 

roughbarked

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Most railroad watches have jeweled center wheels, as do half the pocket watches in my own collection. Interestingly, one of my 19 jewel watches does not have a jeweled center wheel, Waltham SN 50,024, a 20 Size keywind.
I've rarely seen a railroad watch. I've rarely seen a Waltham or Elgin with more than 7 jewels. I really do live out in the sticks.
 
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ben_hutcherson

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I've rarely seen a railroad watch. I've rarely seen a Waltham or Elgin with more than 7 jewels. I really do live out in the sticks.
It's not just RR watches. Virtually all American pocket watches with 17j or more have a jeweled center wheel.

Yes, there are exceptions, particularly on some of the very early highly jeweled(more than 15j) watches, but a jeweled center is the norm.

There also aren't a whole lot of 16j American watches. I do have a 16j Illinois Bunn somewhere back in my collection that's, as I understand it(and I may not have the entirety of the details correct) is part of just a small group of maybe a couple hundred watches with that jeweling.
 

Clint Geller

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It's not just RR watches. Virtually all American pocket watches with 17j or more have a jeweled center wheel.

Yes, there are exceptions, particularly on some of the very early highly jeweled(more than 15j) watches, but a jeweled center is the norm.

There also aren't a whole lot of 16j American watches. I do have a 16j Illinois Bunn somewhere back in my collection that's, as I understand it(and I may not have the entirety of the details correct) is part of just a small group of maybe a couple hundred watches with that jeweling.
Some very early, pre-Civil War Appleton, Tracy & Co. Grade Model 1857's had 16 jewels too, as do the modified Howard & Rice Model 1857's. These watches have center hole jewels in their dial plates. I could be mistaken, but I believe that Am'n Grade Model 1872's have 16 jewels as well, but with the center hole jewels in their top plates.
 
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ben_hutcherson

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Some very early, pre-Civil War Appleton, Tracy & Co. Grade Model 1857's had 16 jewels too, as do the modified Howard & Rice Model 1857's. These watches have center hole jewels in their dial plates. I could be mistaken, but I believe that Am'n Grade Model 1872's have 16 jewels as well, but with the center hole jewels in their top plates.
That is correct on the Am'n grade, at least on nickel ones. I had a fairly early(maybe first run, or at least an early run) gilt one and I seem to remember it being 15j, but don't hold me to that. I can't get to photos of it now, but will look.
 

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Some of the 6s watches were 16j as well.


Rob
 

Clint Geller

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That is correct on the Am'n grade, at least on nickel ones. I had a fairly early(maybe first run, or at least an early run) gilt one and I seem to remember it being 15j, but don't hold me to that. I can't get to photos of it now, but will look.
Interesting. I didn't realize they made Am'n Grade movements in gilt. [Edit: John Wilson informs me that the gilt Am'n grade Model 1872's are all 15 jewel, with flat hairsprings, slow trains and square roller jewels. At least one run, and possibly two, are button set.]
 
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ben_hutcherson

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Interesting. I didn't realize they made Am'n Grade movements in gilt.
It was very early in production. Just the first couple runs IIRC, or maybe the first run.

I'll pull out my old laptop when I get home this evening and upload photos of it. They're on Photobucket, but of course we know how that goes...

Also, the other 16J 72 was the very late production Champion grade. These were the last 200 serial numbers assigned for 72 production, and were gilt damasceen.
 

Clint Geller

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It was very early in production. Just the first couple runs IIRC, or maybe the first run.

I'll pull out my old laptop when I get home this evening and upload photos of it. They're on Photobucket, but of course we know how that goes...

Also, the other 16J 72 was the very late production Champion grade. These were the last 200 serial numbers assigned for 72 production, and were gilt damasceen.
Ben, John Wilson informs me that the gilt Am'n grade Model 1872's are all 15 jewel, with flat hairsprings, slow trains and square roller jewels. At least one run, and possibly two, are button set. Thank you for calling these interesting watches to my attention.
 
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ben_hutcherson

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Ben, John Wilson informs me that the gilt Am'n grade Model 1872's are all 15 jewel, with flat hairsprings, slow trains and square roller jewels. At least one run, and possibly two, are button set. Thank you for calling these interesting watches to my attention.
Clint,

Just pulled a photo of mine and mine looks to have 16j.

Also, mine lacks the "Fogg's Patent" marking under the balance, so I'm not sure about a square roller jewel.

Of course, the winding wheels are wrong, but that's also not super uncommon since I've noticed what(to me) is a bothersome tendency on 72s to put on the flashier lower grade winding wheels(these look like wheels off a Riverside or Am. Watch Co.). I bought this at the Dayton National in in 2014? from a now-deceased collector who I respected a lot but who I always a bit suspect when he had something unusual. With that said, this center jewel looks really well done and like it should be there.

As you can see, it does have a flat spring. I also SEEM to remember that the pillars were screwed but not numbered like on later AM'ns.

This is purely me speculating, but on the 16 and 20 size KWs, I have yet to see any real difference between AT&Co and AM'n grade watches other than changes reflecting that the AM'ns were later production than AT&Cos. I seem to recall that production only overlapped a bit on those grades, so it was always my assumption that the AM'n was more or less a renaming of the AT&Co. Again, purely speculating, but the AM'n was the 3rd 72 in production and was slotted between the American and the Park Road. I wonder if it gained "higher grade" features as the Am. Watch Co. and Riverside came into production.

I honestly can't remember if I sold this or not. Part of me remembers selling it, and part of me remembers thinking I should keep it. I will look, and if I still have it can hopefully study it in more detail.

IMG_3425.jpg
 

KipW

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Ben - "bothersome tendency" or not, the bottom line is the watch only has to please its owner. Some customizing of watches is to be expected, and if it improves the piece, that's fine with me. (Sorta like proper resto-modding a classic car, for today's driving.) Although as with anything else artistic, the beauty is sometimes ONLY in the eye of the beholder. Everyone else thinks it's sacrilege or worse. Which made me think of so-called "employee watches". Tom McIntyre did a presentation on the subject (The Employee's Own Watch) some time ago and it really struck me as a neat outlet for the creative talents of workers.

In the context of this topic, I'd be curious to know if most employee watches were up-jeweled and if so, to what extent and for what reason? It seems logical that folks who built watches for a living would know a little something about effective and proper jeweling...wouldn't they?

(Apologies to Tom for using one of his presentation illustrations as an example, without asking. HOPE it's okay among friends and for informational reasons.)

1883 Employee Watch.jpg
 
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Clint Geller

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Clint,

Just pulled a photo of mine and mine looks to have 16j.

Also, mine lacks the "Fogg's Patent" marking under the balance, so I'm not sure about a square roller jewel.

Of course, the winding wheels are wrong, but that's also not super uncommon since I've noticed what(to me) is a bothersome tendency on 72s to put on the flashier lower grade winding wheels(these look like wheels off a Riverside or Am. Watch Co.). I bought this at the Dayton National in in 2014? from a now-deceased collector who I respected a lot but who I always a bit suspect when he had something unusual. With that said, this center jewel looks really well done and like it should be there.

As you can see, it does have a flat spring. I also SEEM to remember that the pillars were screwed but not numbered like on later AM'ns.

This is purely me speculating, but on the 16 and 20 size KWs, I have yet to see any real difference between AT&Co and AM'n grade watches other than changes reflecting that the AM'ns were later production than AT&Cos. I seem to recall that production only overlapped a bit on those grades, so it was always my assumption that the AM'n was more or less a renaming of the AT&Co. Again, purely speculating, but the AM'n was the 3rd 72 in production and was slotted between the American and the Park Road. I wonder if it gained "higher grade" features as the Am. Watch Co. and Riverside came into production.

I honestly can't remember if I sold this or not. Part of me remembers selling it, and part of me remembers thinking I should keep it. I will look, and if I still have it can hopefully study it in more detail.

View attachment 659417
Hi Ben, I am packing for a vacation, so I can't give your long post the attention it deserves right now. However, I thought the square roller jewel was associated with Woerd's escapement, not a Fogg invention. More later...
 

ben_hutcherson

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Ben - "bothersome tendency" or not, the bottom line is the watch only has to please its owner. Some customizing of watches is to be expected, and if it improves the piece, that's fine with me. (Sorta like proper resto-modding a classic car, for today's driving.) Although as with anything else artistic, the beauty is sometimes ONLY in the eye of the beholder. Everyone else thinks it's sacrilege or worse. Which made me think of so-called "employee watches". Tom McIntyre did a presentation on the subject (The Employee's Own Watch) some time ago and it really struck me as a neat outlet for the creative talents of workers.

In the context of this topic, I'd be curious to know if most employee watches were up-jeweled and if so, to what extent and for what reason? It seems logical that folks who built watches for a living would know a little something about effective and proper jeweling...wouldn't they?

(Apologies to Tom for using one of his presentation illustrations as an example, without asking. HOPE it's okay among friends and for informational reasons.)
Employee watches tend to be fairly obvious when they appear.

I have seen a fair few that broke essentially every norm including jewel count and often with higher grade parts than would be associated with the grade. Some have only mild changes over a standard production watch, such as upjeweling and a fancier damaskeen pattern. They are sort of an entity in and of themselves.

My interest in watches in having them be correct representations of the grade. In this particular example, the winding wheels shown are "flashy", but they are lower grade wheels and also much newer than the movement. Those kind of things bother me as a collector of these sort of watches, and it's not just a matter of someone "customizing the watch." Aside from that, what some see as an improvement I see as an eyesore on this movement, and I think most anyone who knows what it should look like will agree.
 
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ben_hutcherson

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Hi Ben, I am packing for a vacation, so I can't give your long post the attention it deserves right now. However, I thought the square roller jewel was associated with Woerd's escapement, not a Fogg invention. More later...
Dang it, Clint, I'm showing my rustiness after not really being super active in collecting these for a few years.

You are correct, it is Woerd's Patent. With that said, every 72 square roller jewel I've had has carried the "Woerd's Patent" marking on the dial plate in an arc close to the edge under the balance wheel.
 
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Jerry Treiman

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Here is a 16j 1872 model Amn.W.Co. in gilt that has the proper winding wheels. It also does have the square roller jewel.
72 Amn gilt.jpg

Waltham made a lot of higher-grade 16 jewel movements back then. You will see these listed in the handwritten ledger as having 4-1/2 pairs of jewels. Even later on they added the 16th jewel to many of the "Lady Waltham" grade, in 6 size and 0 size.
6W_LadyW.jpg 14190722m.jpg

Going back to the original question, and my take on it, jeweling matters but not necessarily higher jewel counts. I certainly appreciate a finely finished 21 or 23 jewel movement, but if a lower jewel count is less common it may also be more interesting. I prefer my 19j Vanguard to a later 23j version and I have a 17j Waltham bridge model (made for E.Howard) that I find more interesting than the 23j version. On the higher end of the spectrum I was thrilled to get one of those silly Waltham "Ultimatum"s with that useless capped center jewel. It's gotta be there just for the bling factor.
7565208_mobl.jpg
 

topspin

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A quick check of the lookup http://nawccinfo.nawcc.org/LookupSN.php turns up quite a few models & grades with 16J, strangely not including any of the 1872s.

Kudos points to the first person to post in with a picture of one of the 16J model 1891 keywinds...
 

ben_hutcherson

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A quick check of the lookup http://nawccinfo.nawcc.org/LookupSN.php turns up quite a few models & grades with 16J, strangely not including any of the 1872s.
I wouldn't call it "strange".

16j 72s were typically listed in the ledgers as "4 1/2 pairs." Search for that phrase or look at SNs of 16j 72s posted in this thread and you'll see that they return with that result.
 

ben_hutcherson

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Here is a 16j 1872 model Amn.W.Co. in gilt that has the proper winding wheels. It also does have the square roller jewel.
View attachment 659435
Jerry,

Thank you for that great photo. I remember now you having a very nice gilt Am'n, and thank you for sharing it.It's also a treat to see the correct WW on yours.

I do note that, as I mentioned earlier, yours has the Woerd's Patent marking under the balance wheel. The slightly later one I showed lacks this marking.

I do think it's sometimes dangerous to make sweeping "all", "never", etc statements on higher grade and earlier Walthams absent direct observation.
 
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Tom McIntyre

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As has been mentioned the first run of American Grade 1872model are 18 Jewel Those are also listed as 4 1/2 pair because cap jewels are not hole jewels in the early Waltham view. However, the top rated watch at the Centennial Exposition is actually 19 jewels. One other watch from the run that belonged to an employee at Waltham underwent several upgrades during it history as each new idea showed up.

670,044 was given to Len Dionne in the 1950's by a former Waltham engineer while Len was working at Polaroid. Len's son gave me the watch as Len had requested after a few years of settling down after Len passed away.

It was disassembled in a shoe box with some other watches when Len got it. Len believed that the pillar plate center jewel was original and I do also.
 

KipW

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Can someone please tell me if the jeweled barrel on an 18s 23j Hampden Special Railway Model 3 (like the 18s 24j Bunn Special) is one of the "useless" jewels type - or functional?

Also, was there any difference in the Hampden SR, in that regard, from the beginning of production to the end? I ask because the early SR was built before The Hampden barrel patent (US711476) was granted, but 15 years later, might it have been an update to later SR's? Has anyone torn one down and taken pictures or anything?

Appreciate any info on this!
 

thesnark17

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None of the 18 size Hampdens have barrel jewels that function while the watch is running. They are cosmetic only.

I have learned in this thread not to generalize too broadly on the subject of jeweled barrels in Hampdens. I know that the 16 size model 5 has functional jeweling because I own one. It is possible that earlier models do as well; an earlier poster suggested that the model 4 also has functional jeweling.

One assumes that Hampden's earliest 16 size models used cosmetic barrel jeweling - the question is at what point that changed. Based solely on the apparent setup of the jeweling in pictures, it would appear to have changed with the model 5 only. But I would love to see some unique barrel setup that proves me wrong.
 

KipW

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Snark17 - have you had an 18s 23j Hampden apart to verify the jeweling arrangement on those?

Also - here's a picture of a Hammy model 4 Railway - clearly marked as having BOTH a safety pinion and a safety barrel, as well as the patent number (711476) which is fair evidence of functional jeweling.

Safety Barrel-Safety Pinion Marked 1904 Hampden Railway-.jpg
 

thesnark17

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I owned an 18s Special Railway at one point. I did not disassemble the barrel, but I did empirically test for function, as follows: using a Sharpie marker, I put a very small dot on the end of the barrel pivot. I then wound the watch. The dot (barrel pivot) rotated. I then observed the running of the watch. The dot (barrel pivot) did not rotate. Since the jewels can only be functional while the barrel pivot is rotating, I drew the obvious conclusion.
 

KipW

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Another "angle".

Since the title of this thread refers to "jewel wars" and apparently Hampden started it, a couple of questions come to mind.

I seem to recall synthetic jewels were 'invented/perfected" in roughly 1906. I don't know when their use became widespread, but imagine they were so much cheaper they were a great enabler in the jewel wars. (like "gas on a fire"?)

Did the up-jeweling "craze" start before the widespread use of synthetic jewels? Does someone know more precisely when the two events commenced and if older natural jewel watches held to lower jewel counts because of the expense...or what?
 

thesnark17

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The method for creating synthetic corundum was invented by Auguste Verneuil in 1892 and published in 1902. I imagine that it took a few years to perfect a mass production system, but given the demand, I am sure that the market was saturated with synthetic corundum by 1906.

However, the major makers had already built their first watches with jeweled barrels before this:
- Hampden, 23 jewel 16s grade 103 (1891) !!!
- Illinois, 23+ jewel 18s Bunn Special (c. 1895-96)
- Rockford, 23 jewel 18s special (c. 1895-1900)
- Waltham, 23 jewel 18s Vanguard (1896)
- Elgin, 19/23 jewel 12s grade 189/190 (1898)
- Columbus, 23+ jewel 18s King (c. 1899-1900)
- Ball (Waltham), 19/21 jewel 16s Official Standard (c. 1903-04)
- Seth Thomas, 23+ jewel 18s Maiden Lane (c. 1904)
- (Keystone) Howard, 23 jewel 16s Series 0 (c. 1904-05)
- Hamilton, 19 jewel 18s 944 (1905) & 23 jewel 18s 946 (1906)

Note that not all the barrel jewels were functional, as noted earlier in the thread. You can see Hampden's role in the "jewel wars" just from their position on this list. My understanding is that Hampden kicked things off with this advertisement in 1891, but some normal watches from other companies had had a 16th jewel in the 1880s (and of course there are the really high end watches from Waltham &c that don't really count towards the public's perception of jeweling).
 

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The method for creating synthetic corundum was invented by Auguste Verneuil in 1892 and published in 1902. I imagine that it took a few years to perfect a mass production system, but given the demand, I am sure that the market was saturated with synthetic corundum by 1906.

However, the major makers had already built their first watches with jeweled barrels before this:
- Hampden, 23 jewel 16s grade 103 (1891) !!!
- Illinois, 23+ jewel 18s Bunn Special (c. 1895-96)
- Rockford, 23 jewel 18s special (c. 1895-1900)
- Waltham, 23 jewel 18s Vanguard (1896)
- Elgin, 19/23 jewel 12s grade 189/190 (1898)
- Columbus, 23+ jewel 18s King (c. 1899-1900)
- Ball (Waltham), 19/21 jewel 16s Official Standard (c. 1903-04)
- Seth Thomas, 23+ jewel 18s Maiden Lane (c. 1904)
- (Keystone) Howard, 23 jewel 16s Series 0 (c. 1904-05)
- Hamilton, 19 jewel 18s 944 (1905) & 23 jewel 18s 946 (1906)

Note that not all the barrel jewels were functional, as noted earlier in the thread. You can see Hampden's role in the "jewel wars" just from their position on this list. My understanding is that Hampden kicked things off with this advertisement in 1891, but some normal watches from other companies had had a 16th jewel in the 1880s (and of course there are the really high end watches from Waltham &c that don't really count towards the public's perception of jeweling).
As mentioned, Appleton. Tracy & Co. was producing 16 jewel Model 1857's in the 1850's, and some early Model 1857s by the AWCo had them too, though how much these early watches affected public attitudes about watch jeweling in subsequent decades is debatable.

However, I would question the assertion that "the really high end watches from Waltham &c that don't really count towards the public's perception of jeweling [prior to 1890]." How many 19 jewel watches the AWCo actually sold in the 1860's, 1870's, and 1880's may not accurately reflect the impact they likely had on contemporaneous public perceptions of watch quality. These watches figured prominently in the company's sales literature, and grade and jewel count exhibited a rough correspondence all up and down the Waltham product line. The obvious claim Waltham was making was that the best watches had 19 or more jewels, and the more you were willing to spend, the closer you could come to owning a top quality 19 or more jewel watch. As the AWCo was the preeminent American watch manufacturer of the period, I would be astonished if these promotional practices did not affect consumer behavior. They are still affecting collector behavior over a century and a half later!
 
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thesnark17

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What I meant was: there have always been really high jeweled watches, for as long as there have been jewels. If you are willing to spend the money, it can be done.

But what did the public expect out of a typical high end watch (not the best of the best, something relatively affordable)? The typical "railroad watch" is a good proxy for that. In the 1880s, it had 15 jewels. By the mid-1890s, it had 17 jewels. In the early 1900s, it often had 19 or 21 jewels, and by the 1920s, it had 21 or 23 jewels. By the 1940s, all railroad watches had to have 21 jewels or more (unless grandfathered of course).

Doubtless, Waltham's drive to prove that they were up there with European makers had an effect on the public's perception of the quality of their watches, and maybe it made them want watches with more jewels, but it did not (in my opinion) establish in their minds that those extra jewels were necessary for a good watch. Not least because those watches were few in number and very expensive! But also because a 15 jewel railroad type watch existed that was, for all practical purposes, superb already. And you (as a member of the general public) were more likely to know someone carrying a 15 jewel railroad timekeeper than a 19 jewel American grade.

Hampden's advertising certainly tries to leave you with the impression that watches with fewer than 17 jewels are inferior products (rather than that watches with more than 15 jewels are superb examples of the watchmaker's trade). They are throwing shade on their competitors. That is how you change market perception - not merely by selling great watches.

----

I would say the biggest impact of synthetic jewels was not at the top of the market, but at the bottom. Right around the time that they became readily available, the average number of jewels in a low-medium grade American watch jumped from 7 to 15.

If the jewel count was the driver of watch quality in the public's eyes (and it was), then the railroad grade makers were obliged to push their standards very high, in order to maintain a distinction between those watches and "normal" grades!
 

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Clint,

Just pulled a photo of mine and mine looks to have 16j.

Also, mine lacks the "Fogg's Patent" marking under the balance, so I'm not sure about a square roller jewel.

Of course, the winding wheels are wrong, but that's also not super uncommon since I've noticed what(to me) is a bothersome tendency on 72s to put on the flashier lower grade winding wheels(these look like wheels off a Riverside or Am. Watch Co.). I bought this at the Dayton National in in 2014? from a now-deceased collector who I respected a lot but who I always a bit suspect when he had something unusual. With that said, this center jewel looks really well done and like it should be there.

As you can see, it does have a flat spring. I also SEEM to remember that the pillars were screwed but not numbered like on later AM'ns.

This is purely me speculating, but on the 16 and 20 size KWs, I have yet to see any real difference between AT&Co and AM'n grade watches other than changes reflecting that the AM'ns were later production than AT&Cos. I seem to recall that production only overlapped a bit on those grades, so it was always my assumption that the AM'n was more or less a renaming of the AT&Co. Again, purely speculating, but the AM'n was the 3rd 72 in production and was slotted between the American and the Park Road. I wonder if it gained "higher grade" features as the Am. Watch Co. and Riverside came into production.

I honestly can't remember if I sold this or not. Part of me remembers selling it, and part of me remembers thinking I should keep it. I will look, and if I still have it can hopefully study it in more detail.

View attachment 659417
Ben, I wouldn't argue with the legitimacy of that center hole jewel. It looks right to me too. John seems to have been mistaken about all Am'n Grade M72's having 15 jewels. Neither do I have any reason to dispute your contention that the "Am'n" Grade simply replaced the "AT&Co." grade in the KW20 and KW16 production. That said, a whole lot of changes went on from beginning to end in the AWCo Grade production. They went from mostly flat hairsprings and no center jewels at the beginning to mostly Breguet hairsprings, center hole jewels in gold settings, curb pin adjusting screws, gold trains, and some with glass enamel dials, large diameter balance wheels, superfine pitched hairsprings, and even one run of nickel KW16s, before the end.
 
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Clint Geller

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Ben, I wouldn't argue with the legitimacy of that center hole jewel. It looks right to me too. John seems to have been mistaken about all Am'n Grade M72's having 15 jewels. Neither do I have any reason to dispute your contention that the "Am'n" Grade simply replaced the "AT&Co." grade in the KW20 and KW16 production. That said, a whole lot of changes went on from beginning to end in the AWCo Grade production. They went from mostly flat hairsprings and no center jewels at the beginning to mostly Breguet hairsprings, center hole jewels in gold settings, curb pin adjusting screws, gold trains, and some with glass enamel dials, large diameter balance wheels, superfine pitched hairsprings, and even one run of nickel KW16s, before the end.
Ben, The error was mine, not John Wilson's. He told me the gilt Am'n's were 16 jewel, and the Park Roads were 15 jewel. My bad.
 
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ben_hutcherson

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Ben, The error was mine, not John Wilson's. He told me the gilt Am'n's were 16 jewel, and the Park roads were 15 jewel. My bad.
Ahh, okay,, that make sense Clint.

I actually DID look at my tray of 72 movements, and this Am'n was one that I kept along with a whole bunch of Park Roads. I'm pretty sure I have a good sampling of Park Roads-at least I have first and second run exposed click, second run hidden click, and button/nail set and lever set scattered across those. I kept roughly a half dozen Park Roads, and didn't have time to look in detail but suspect I wouldn't have kept duplicant variants.

Also, I THINK, and I should have paid attention to this, that my gilt Am'n was lever set...
 

roughbarked

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The Swiss were prone to use more jewels in places never used before and not since. The funny thing was that such watches wore out in other places where there were no jewels and there should have been.
Considering that the thread title deals with the issues of do extra jewels make a difference and value for collectors.

The function of the jewel is of a real value to the collector. In that their watch lives long enough to be still worth collecting. If they want working watches in their collection. Though many of such jewels are not generally visible.
Visibility of the jewels may matter to some collectors.
 

ben_hutcherson

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The function of the jewel is of a real value to the collector. In that their watch lives long enough to be still worth collecting. If they want working watches in their collection. Though many of such jewels are not generally visible.
Visibility of the jewels may matter to some collectors.
There again, I think a lot of collectors are drawn to the "eye candy" of prominent jewels, especially highly colored ones in gold settings.

The stereotypical example I point to is the barrel bridge jewel on the 24j Bunn Special. It's not purely a cosmetic jewel as it does function during winding, but it doesn't add a ton to the operation of the watch.

What it does add, though, is a huge gold setting with a bright red jewel in it. BTW, functionally the color of ruby or sapphire jewels doesn't matter as color is indicative of how much or which impurities are present, and anything from a colorless sapphire to a blood red ruby works equally well as bearing material. With that said, several companies, most notably Illinois, went through a period of time of marking their better watches as having "Ruby Jewels" and fitting them with nice deep red jewels. In fact, this is a good collecting "trick" with Illinois as there are some very high end grades(like the 187 and 189) which often don't even carry their grade marking but, aside from the high grade finish of parts like the balance wheel and the rest of the train, carry the "Ruby Jewel" marking.

So, again, I'd argue that it's not totally function but the combination of function+cosmetics+the tendency of American makers to use jewel count as one of the markers of quality.
 

Clint Geller

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The Swiss were prone to use more jewels in places never used before and not since. The funny thing was that such watches wore out in other places where there were no jewels and there should have been.
Considering that the thread title deals with the issues of do extra jewels make a difference and value for collectors.

The function of the jewel is of a real value to the collector. In that their watch lives long enough to be still worth collecting. If they want working watches in their collection. Though many of such jewels are not generally visible.
Visibility of the jewels may matter to some collectors.
While it is certainly true that extra jewels reduce wear over time, I have one or two seven jewel watches from the Civil War period that still keep time about as well as they probably did originally. Here is one of them, a humble seven jewel William Ellery Grade Model 1857. Perhaps the fact that the original owner was mortally wounded in action in 1864 and the watch may never have seen regular use since then has something to do with the watch's excellent current functionality.
 

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Clint Geller

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There again, I think a lot of collectors are drawn to the "eye candy" of prominent jewels, especially highly colored ones in gold settings.

... BTW, functionally the color of ruby or sapphire jewels doesn't matter as color is indicative of how much or which impurities are present, and anything from a colorless sapphire to a blood red ruby works equally well as bearing material. ...
For those who may be interested, both rubies and sapphires are crystalline alumina (Al2O3). The red color in rubies is created by the presence of chromium impurities that substitute for aluminum in the alumina structure. Pure crystalline alumina, like the crystal on my modern Ball wristwatch, is colorless sapphire. Cornflower blue sapphire results from the combined presence of titanium and iron substitutional impurities on adjacent lattice sites. When white light is shined on the mineral, valence electrons are transferred from the iron cations to the titanium cations. This process requires the absorption of light quanta in a narrow band of wavelengths corresponding to the color yellow. When the yellow component is subtracted from white light, the complementary color, blue, results.
 
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Old rookie

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Clint, not to get too far off track but how can one tell the difference between a colorless sapphire and a diamond in a watch jewel?
 

Clint Geller

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Clint, not to get too far off track but how can one tell the difference between a colorless sapphire and a diamond in a watch jewel?
First off, diamonds are never pierced. As far as telling endstones apart, diamonds often exihibit obvious facets that scatter the light.
 
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thesnark17

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Shouldn't they always be faceted?
 

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