The majesty of the Chinese- Market Watch – Ian White

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by Dr. Jon, Apr 20, 2020.

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  1. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    Thanks for doing this.

    I suggest that you re-post a copy of you review to the Horological books section of this board.
     
  2. Bryan Eyring

    Bryan Eyring Registered User

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    I'll post photos of an exquisite enamel duplex I just acquired, in English hallmarked case.

    I'd be curious to know the history of the case manufacturers for these duplexes.
     
  3. zacandy

    zacandy Registered User
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    @ Bryan yes please please do post some pictures.

    My understanding is that if the watchmaker was English then they would normally sign the dial as usual for an English piece. They would also then use an English case maker (or a Swiss one working in London possibly).

    As I expect you know these case makers marks are identifiable thanks to the great work of Priestley in his NAWCC book.

    There are watch dial enamellers listed in the 19th century post office London directories so presumably they would be commissioned to do the amazing painting work and likewise the watchmaker would find Artisans to attach the half pearls if relevant. See example attached.

    The Swiss makers tended not to sign their pieces at all as was the Chinese preference. Some of the largest makers did have case makers marks eg PM for Piguet & Meylan

    Andrew
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Bryan Eyring

    Bryan Eyring Registered User

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  5. Bryan Eyring

    Bryan Eyring Registered User

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    hallmarks

    P1019034.JPG P1019036.JPG
     
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  6. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Bryan,

    The only decipherable marks are the London Assay office, (the leopard's head without a crown, so post 1822), the sterling silver lion passant and the date letter which appears to be for 1876/7. I can't see any case maker/sponsor mark, which raises the question of where the case was actually made.

    These movements are characteristic of the Swiss canton of Fleurier, but the London makers William Ilbery and his son, working 1780-1851, made fine and elaborately decorated and enamelled watches for the Chinese market and also had a presence in Fleurier. This watch is a little late for the Ilberys but it probably originated from Fleurier, at least as an ébauche. The Chinese apparently disliked any visible signatures on their watches, so many are unsigned. They also objected to 'crawling' seconds hands, so the 'crab claw' duplex, which allowed the hand to apparently beat whole seconds, was favoured.

    Unfortunately I don't have a copy of Dr. White's book, which I expect would shed a lot more light on the origins of this watch.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  7. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    From David Thompson's Watches in The Ashmolean ...

    William Ilbury Ashmolean Collection page 62001.jpg

    John
     
  8. Bryan Eyring

    Bryan Eyring Registered User

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    You are correct, those are the only 3 hallmarks.

    The million dollar question is how they could have hallmarked the case after the enamel work was completed.

    This would suggest that the case was either;

    a) entirely made in the UK
    b) case and enamel from other country, hallmarked in the country of origin
    c) case from other country, hallmarked in UK, enamel work completed in UK
     
  9. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    Yes, I'd forgotten I had David's small book on the Ashmolean. Bryan's watch has the same locking pin arrangement on the cuvette.

    If the case was assayed and marked in the UK, the question is, why wasn't there a maker's mark included? The hallmark legislation was quite clear that this was required, so given that any punches in the case had to be made before any enamelling was done, are these valid English marks, and if not, where was the case marked? The form of the case is quite similar to the Ashmolean example, and the engraving does look like Swiss work, but that doesn't explain the partial English hallmarks.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  10. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Bryan - can you provide a photograph of hallmarks viewed looking 'square on' to avoid the distortion?

    John
     
  11. Bryan Eyring

    Bryan Eyring Registered User

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    Do you really believe that someone would have gone through the time and effort put invalid hallmarks on both rear lid and cuvette?

    The front of the pendent may be hallmarked too - too worn to tell now tho.
     
  12. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

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    sorry Graham,
    but most were signed as Bovet in Latin characters and ideograms, only a few were unsigned

    the case with visible screws was not "much" Swiss.
    regards enrico
     
  13. Bryan Eyring

    Bryan Eyring Registered User

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    Very intriguing in that the gold & enamel watch sets from the front - don't believe I've seen this arrangement before.
     
  14. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Enrico,

    I was mostly thinking about signatures on the dials.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  15. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Bryan,

    It's not impossible, but until we're able to see clearer pictures of the hallmarks, the question remains open; let's hope there are at least traces of a maker's mark, otherwise the hallmarks remain incomplete and since there's nowhere else in this case that a more complete set could be lurking, the explanation must lie elsewhere. It isn't unusual for some of the component parts of English cases to have partial hallmarks, but there's always a full set somewhere for the whole piece to be legitimate.

    The date of the Ilbery in the Ashmolean is given as around 1810, which sits in the middle of the firm's active period, (1780-1851). I don't think there's any suggestion that this is by that firm.

    One thing that's noticeable about the movement is that some of the jewelling, especially the diamond endstone on the balance cock, looks like English work, so the Swiss ébauche may have been finished in London.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  16. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

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    in Chapuis' book "La Montre chinoise" he says that this caliber was due to two English watchmakers William Anthony, (London 1764 1844) and William Ilbèry who was a pupil of W. Anthony and then introduced by Bovet to Switzerland. he also claims that the enamels of Ilbèry's watch cases were made in Geneva or London
    regards enrico
     
  17. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

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    on the movement signature of Ilbèry London and on the case Bovet London
    regards enrico

    IMG_2817.jpg
     
  18. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Enrico,

    Thanks for digging that out, I knew that Anthony was an earlier player in this market, but not that Ilbery was linked to him. There's no record of Ilbery being formally apprenticed to Anthony, (or indeed any other apprentices to Anthony), but that isn't unusual; George Graham wasn't apprenticed to Tompion! The relationship between the Fleurier operations and those in London, (and Canton), seem rather close.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  19. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    It a real pity to read how many people have not bought this wonderful book, it stands head and shoulders above anything else on the Chinese market, Those who do have the book could tell you quite a lot more about John Ilbery, James Ilbery, and William Ilbery. There is a biography of all three in the book. A small quote "William was the leading partner, succeeding his father John. and worked with his brother James who was the firm´s representative in Canton, William ran the watch business in London." and much more. Especially their contacts in Switzerland.

    36-2.JPG 36-3.JPG Ian White went to a huge expense and trouble to give us such a marvellous book, he deserves a reader.

    Allan.
     
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  20. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    On the Hallmarks.

    The Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem Mass has a collection of Chinese made silver articles complete with fake English hallmarks. Is it possible that these same markers added them to imported watches.
     
  21. Bryan Eyring

    Bryan Eyring Registered User

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    Here are better photos of the hallmarks. The ones on the cuvette are definitely a better strike.

    IMG_2783.JPG IMG_2782.JPG
     
  22. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    If these marks are genuine, it would be London 1796-strange though there is no case-makers mark.

    Allan
     
  23. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for the better pictures, which confirm that there are no maker's marks. It's also clear that the leopard has no crown, which, if genuine, places the date after 1822 when the London leopard mark lost his crown, so the 'A' should stand for 1876/7.

    Another very minor point of interest is that when there are two sets of marks in a case, as here, they tend to be grouped in a similar way if they're both by the same maker; in this instance the groupings are quite different.

    The mystery continues . . .

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  24. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    If the above synopsis is correct, it then proves the hallmarks are faux, I would think all agree that the watch was made long before 1876/77.

    Allan
     
  25. zacandy

    zacandy Registered User
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    @ Lovely watch Bryan

    Flinque case

    Particularly I like the red enamel on guilloche which I believe is called Flinque.

    There is one last small independent maker who can still do this apparently – now a subsidiary of Ulysee Nardin it says. More here

    http://www.donzecadranssa.ch/flinque

    A Quick Guide to Enamel Dials used in Watchmaking

    Hallmarks

    @ Bryan Could the watch have all been made in Switzerland but then assembled in London? Or disassembled then assayed and put back together again. The stamps were slight for fear of breaking the enamel? Clearly I am not a watchmaker but with all the case / movement apart would it then be possible to stamp the case before final assembly in London.

    The rewards for selling these watches were so great.

    Just my view but there would be no point in faking hallmarks for the Chinese as they did not care for them and certainly did not understand them.

    Maybe an older watch came through London in 1876 and an officious London sea captain fleeced the Swiss negociant trader whose pockets and bags were stuffed with watches. He demanded he go to the Assay office to have them stamped. Maybe there was a small reward if they policed the goods on board or fines if they were known to be transporting "counterfeit" goods.

    Normally you explained there would be also be a casemakers mark for an English piece but this was the wild west of 19th century business.

    Ilbery

    Ian White in his book page 340 says of the watches made by John Ilbery - Father and Sons - “ the early watches show an Anglo Swiss company composition, but the later ones were totally of Swiss manufacture.”

    As Enrico has identified and from sight of these of the Ilbery/ Bovet watches to my inexperienced eye I would guess this was by that maker. There are not many movement photos in the book from which it is easier to spot the similarities. The style of the bow also looks similar.

    From a total of 45 there are 7 unsigned Chinese watches (excluding automata ,musical items and clocks) accepted by Ian White in the Loup collection in the book.

    Perhaps Ilbery commissioned it in Switzerland but the firm died I believe with the death of the sons in 1839 and 1852. It sat in a drawer until someone thought again to try to sell it? Maybe he failed hence why it did not make it to China.

    Just some thoughts.
     
  26. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi zacandy,

    It's easy enough to take the movement out of the case, but I very much doubt whether it would be possible to punch the hallmarks without at least a high risk of damaging the enamel. If the strikes were so light as to avoid that risk, I don't think they'd even be visible now. They have every appearance of normal marks which have been rubbed over time, and to make those marks would have required a firm single blow of the hammer for each one. Engine-turned cases were usually sent for assay before even the engine work was done, for the very good reason that punching the hallmarks afterwards would have marred the decoration.

    This isn't a problem now, because the assay offices can use laser engraving to make the hallmarks if the traditional punches would be inappropriate.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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