Things to look for in a fusee

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by haneyk, Jun 27, 2007.

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  1. haneyk

    haneyk Registered User

    Apr 15, 2007
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    I would really like to get a pocket watch made in the 18th century, so since I'm not rich I guess I will have to get an English fusee watch made in the later part of that century. What are the things to look for to make sure that it is in original condition and works properly. I assume that it would probably be very expensive to get one into working condition if it had problems? How much would one expect to pay for such a watch, on the low end?
     
  2. Jerry Matthews

    Jerry Matthews Registered User

    Sep 20, 2005
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    Hello -

    I am lucky enough to have a few of these late 18th-early 19th century English verge fusees, and get a lot of pleasure out of them. The oldest dates to 1776 (an important date for you guys, I think) and keeps time to within 2--3 minutes a day. The others gain or lose up to half an hour a day, but the important thing to me is that they all run to the full length of the fusee chain.

    There are some on the U.K ebay site now, and that will give you a good idea of prices. If priced in UK pounds, the pound is worth about 2 dollars now.

    These are the things I would look for:

    1. Maker's name inscribed on the movement. There are unsigned ones around which are perfectly good watches, but of less interest from a collector's point of view.

    2. Hallmarked silver case in reasonably good condition. Obviously, a 200 + year old case will have a few dings and marks. If a pair case (inner and outer case) make sure the hallmarks match.

    3. Dial and hands in good condition, hands a matching pair. If the dial and hands are beat up you can be sure the movement will be the same.

    4. The watch should run to the full length of the chain---that is, it should run for about 24 hours or more without stopping if it is lying face up. You can't expect an old timepiece like this to run if you are carrying it around, sometimes they don't run very well upright, like on a watch stand. Don't expect accurate time-keeping.

    5. I am not an expert on watch mechanics, but I do look for obvious faults in the movement----detached fusee chain, bent balance staff, etc. Generally I have found that if the movement looks clean and bright it is a reasonably good bet that it has been well-cared for. But there is always the danger that someone, in its 200 + year life will have done a bodge repair job. A risk you take.

    I don't know what the situation is about repairs for a verge fusee in the States. There are people who can do routine maintenance over here, but if parts are needed they have to be custom made which is expensive.

    Let me know if you can think of anything else to ask. Good luck.

    Jerry
     
  3. Timebroker

    Timebroker Guest

    Hello,

    I actually see quite a few of 18th century watches on the internet but not on the normal sites like Ebay. Look for the smaller websites and in other languages too.

    I travel around for watches and occasionally come across these kind of watches but many are without case or in bad shape so probably not what you are looking for. You might be able to put together a same era case and movement/dial.

    Unfortunately like Matthews points out, without being signed they are of less interest to the serious collector if you might want to sell it in the future.

    Just keep looking, they are still out there for reasonable prices if you are lucky.
     
  4. haneyk

    haneyk Registered User

    Apr 15, 2007
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    Thanks for the tips guys! Timebroker, maybe you would be willing to share some of those smaller web sites? Given my monolinguality, I would need the English ones... ;-)
     
  5. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Dec 14, 2001
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    If you are starting out you are probably better off buying from a reputable dealer. They may mix and match and marry but it will look OK and run and they will stand behind it. You will pay more for an item but in the long run it will cost you less to get a running watch.

    The other's have assumed you want a verge fusee but you shoudl also consider a fusee lever or a duplex lever.

    If you do a search with the terms "antique watch" and fusee you should get some on line dealers. Most I know are English. You might also check the BHI site (British Horological Institute) and it has dealer listings. Here is a link
    http://www.bhi.co.uk/other.htm Its an old list so a lot of the links don;t work and you will have to check out the likely ones carefully.

     
  6. Jerry Matthews

    Jerry Matthews Registered User

    Sep 20, 2005
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    Others assumed verge because haneyk specified an 18th century watch. He is highly unlikely to find a lever made before 1800 and if he did it would be at a price few people could afford.
     
  7. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

    Sep 11, 2005
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    Jerry, I have a question about this comment. I have an old mid-18C English verge fusée that runs the full chain but won't run properly unless lying face-up.

    Being a fussy sort I am hoping to get it eventually fully working as pocketwatch - i.e. that it would run properly when carried around. My question would be - is the reason for it only running properly face-up due to a worn balance staff or contrate wheel pivot?

    Jon, I presume you would also include a cylinder fusée as an alternative.


    Michael
     
  8. Jerry Matthews

    Jerry Matthews Registered User

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    Michael,

    First, a disclaimer. Like I said in point 5 of my first response above, I am not an expert in watch mechanics.

    The best answer I can give you is that these 200 plus year old watches will have a lot of parts so worn that they will only run if stationary and face up. The guy who looks after my old verges says he can rebuild any part (at a cost!) but sooner or later there wouldn't be much of the original movement left. So I'm content to let them lie. I wind them in rotation which means each one is wound up and allowed to run down about once a month. If they are showing time to within half an hour in 24, I am happy.

    Jerry
     
  9. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

    Sep 11, 2005
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    Jerry, thanks for your advice and reminder about your disclaimer. I was only looking for general comments and not exact technical recommendations. Each individual movement must be carefully examined, cleaned and tested to determine the cause of any problem.

    I was merely drawing on what I know about platform escapements; that problems with their not running in a given position can often be due to a wore pivot. I have examined my PW while it is running and it actually seems to show very little signs of wear. I suppose the problem may also be due to dirt.

    In any case, I have a cheap non-working $40 clunker I can try to get going. Perhaps I will learn something there.


    Michael
     
  10. Smudgy

    Smudgy Registered User
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    The problem with the watch not running in any but the DU position suggests a problem with the upper balance pivot or jewel (if present). It may be a dirty hole or bent pivot, but it might also easily be a broken or cracked jewel. In any case running it in that condition will almost surely damage the watch. I suggest not running the watch until the problem is diagnosed.
     
  11. Jerry Matthews

    Jerry Matthews Registered User

    Sep 20, 2005
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    Michael,

    I have found it is only the verges that are sensitive to movement and position. I have some 1820-1830s English levers and 1860s Walthams that run extremely well in any position and when carried around. Robust, accurate timekeepers!

    Good luck with the $40 clunker.

    Jerry
     
  12. Ansomnia

    Ansomnia Registered User

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    Many thanks for your thoughtful comments and opinions. I have an interest to learn more about the verge escapement because I have some clocks which use that escapement and they also use short pendulums which I find more appealing. Obviously, I don't depend on them for timekeeping. :)

    I agree with Smudgy about the possible upper pivot problem and his warning about not running it is very prudent. If the upper pivot is damaged the lower pivot will not be running in a true position and that probably won't help the damaged upper pivot either.

    Cylinder and lever escapements would certainly keep much better time but I have my hands full dealing with their bigger cousins used in carriage clocks and I am not sure I have the dexterity to work with even smaller mechanisms at the moment. Older movements that were designed and built with a lot more slack tend to be more forgiving for novices like myself.


    Michael
     
  13. Doc Mark

    Doc Mark Registered User

    Mar 24, 2004
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    Greetings, All,

    My main focus in Horology is in the 18th century fusee pocketwatches. I am not a true Horologist, but rather a Living History Reenactor. Portraying a Chirurgian (surgeon) from 1757, I wanted to have a pocket watch that would date to that time period, for authenticity sake. That started me down the road to collecting 18th century verge fusees!! I've had a ball doing that, and now have a small, but very satisfying collection of them. The earliest of my fusees dates to 1690, and it runs like a top!! It has seen very little use, over it's years, and I was lucky to find it at the Del Mar Regional show, a few years ago. I also have watches from various other times, including 1730, 1750, 1774, 1780, and 1790, as well as others. All of my fusees work, though some work much better than others. I carry and use one each time I attend important events, like those held at Colonial Williamsburg, VA, Forts Ticonderoga and Niagara, NY, and other places, and my chosen watches work just fine, even carried loosely in a waistcoat pocket, where they get bounced around quite a bit. My main point in writing all this is to let you know that the verge fusee, if in good condition, does seem to be able to work well in such conditions, and I've never had one break under those circumstances. Now, accidentally letting one bounce off of the pavement might be a different story....!! :?|:eek::mysad:

    Good luck in your search, and be patient, a nice 18th century verge fusee will come along. Best advice I can offer is to read, read, read, and do lots of study before you buy. That way, you may be able to avoid the pitfalls that buying such a watch can sometimes present to you. Also, join the NAWCC and attend Regional shows in your area. You will meet lots of fine folks that can help you in our search, and possibly help to educate you, too. I've had wonderful luck in finding great watches, for pretty good prices, as such shows. You will, too! Take care, and God Bless!

    Every Good Wish,
    Doc Mark
     

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