Trying to identify late 1880s English (?) movement

tacmorris

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Hi everyone, I'm trying to track down some information on a pocket watch that was recently passed down to me. It originally belonged to my great, great grandfather and the engravings on the case date it as 1889.

While it is branded as W Drummond & Co I have been able to figure out they were a prominent jeweller in Melbourne and London at that time, not the makers of the watch and movement itself. The watch was recently serviced by an antique watch specialist so I popped in to have a chat and get some more background on it.

We dated the case (lines up with the 1889 engraving) and had a good look at the movement which looks to be English with 20 jewels, right angle lever and a going barrel (which a few people have commented on being a bit unusual). There aren't any manafacturer markings on the movement though (just the jeweller's branding) so thats what I am trying to figure out now. Is anyone able to recognise the movement or point me in the right direction?

Any other tips or guidence on the watch would be much appreciated as well. Thanks in advance for your help! 306808.jpg 306809.jpg 306810.jpg 306811.jpg
 

MartyR

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Welcome to the board, Tacmorris :)

The barrel is certainly unusual, as is the word "English" inscribed on the movement. I wonder if this might be a Swiss made movement, in the English style, made specially for the retailer.

The case does look English, and if it is solid gold it will have British hallmarks on all the case covers ... of which the most evident will be the front cover, but there would also be complete marks on the inside of the back cover. Please post photos of both covers so that we can see these marks.

The back cover carries the monogram of the original owner (perhaps CIW) but more importantly also a heraldic emblem. I will research that for you tomorrow to see if I can suggest a name for you.
 

tacmorris

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Thanks a lot Martin, great to be here! I've been collecting wrist watches for a number of years now but this is my first pocket watch so an entry into an exciting new world.

The case is solid gold and has the British hallmarks on it. We looked them up in a hallmark book and they matched up with 1889 date. I'll take some photos of them as well though and post in here for further confirmation.

Regarding original ownership of the watch I think I actually know a bit about this. The two engravings on the back cover belong to my great, great grandfather and great, great grandmother. The heraldic emblem is for Sir William Clarke and the monogram is for Janet Lady Clarke (initials JMC). I'm assuming that Janet gave the watch to William and not the other way around... While the Clarke family lived in Australia they had a strong connection with England and funnily enough Janet Lady Clarke is the person who burned the bail that became The Ashes of test cricket. So definitely a lot of family history behind the watch, hence my particular interest in trying to track down as much information as I can!
 

Omexa

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Hi tacmorris, It is indeed a lovely Pocket Watch. The Clarke family were pretty famous in Melbourne, I was born not far away in Mena House East Melbourne, a Catholic Hospital not far from Cliveden Mansions (Demolished in?) I used as a child run up the front stairs until the Doorman chased me out. At one stage in my teens I lived in Shipley House South Yarra owned by the family of Casey, Richard Gavin Gardiner, Baron Casey of Berwick, Victoria. From the top of the House you could see Cliveden Mansions. Regards Ray 306822.jpg 306823.jpg y http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/clarke-janet-marion-3224 http://marvmelb.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/cliveden-melbournes-largest-house.html
 

LloydB

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I'd venture that this timepiece is likely to have
been your GG Grandmother's commemorative
gift to her husband, dated, as it is, exactly one
week after his Masonic inauguration.

The following partial quote is from:
https://archive.org/stream/cu31924030291375/cu31924030291375_djvu.txt

"The proceedings in connection with
the inauguration of
the United Grand Lodge
of Free and Accepted Masons of Victoria were
continued on Thursday, March 2ist, 1889, in the
Melbourne Town-Hall, when Sir William Clarke was
installed as the first Grand Master by Lord Carrington..."

The references to your GG Grandfather make an
interesting read.
 

MartyR

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Regarding original ownership of the watch I think I actually know a bit about this. The two engravings on the back cover belong to my great, great grandfather and great, great grandmother. The heraldic emblem is for Sir William Clarke and the monogram is for Janet Lady Clarke (initials JMC). I'm assuming that Janet gave the watch to William and not the other way around...
I have stared at length at the monogram, and I am now convinced that this is WIC and not JMC; I assume that your great great grandfather was Sir Wliiam John Clarke, and the letter "I" was often used in place of "J" - because in Latin there is no letter J and forename like John and James were derived from the Latin Ioannes and Iacobus.

I have found the watch's armorial crest in Burke's General Armory; the crest is "An arm embowed in armor ppr holding in the gauntlet an arrow or, headed and feathered ar". "ppr" is short for proper meaning the normal color of the object - in this case armor, so a metallic silver color; "or" means yellow and "ar" short for argent means silver. This was granted to Clarke of County Somerset and London, but Burke's gives no further information. You can almost certainly get more detailed information from the Court of Heralds (also known as the College of Arms) in London, and I believe they charge a small fee for researching crests and coats of arms. Since William John Clarke was a 1st Baronet, which means that his baronetcy and arms would have been granted in the late 19th century, it is almost certain that the Court of Heralds will be able to provide all details of the grant. It may be that the date on the watch was when the grant of his baronetcy was given. If you are descended from Sir William along the male line, you may even be entitled yourself to adopt the arms :D

Let us see the hallmarks, and we can tell you more about the watch. Now that we know the Australian connection, I am less convinced that the movement of the watch is Swiss ....
 

gmorse

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Hi tacmorris,

MartyR said:
... I am less convinced that the movement of the watch is Swiss ....
Although this does at first sight appear to be Swiss, with its hanging barrel and Geneva stop-work, movements of this type, as well as Lepine-type calibres, were being made in the Lancashire workshops in the latter part of the 19th century, and many were finished by Nicole Nielsen, (one of the best but least-known of the London makers of the period), and retailed by firms such as Charles Frodsham and Edward Dent. I wonder if it's an example of "Bridgeman's new calliper", but I can't find a good image of this to compare it. Richard Bridgeman, (Bridgman?) worked for Nicole Nielsen and also for James McCabe. Incidentally, this is technically a 1/2 plate movement, and clearly of fine quality.

Regards,

Graham
 

tonywatch

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Mar 20, 2009
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Hi tacmorris,
Your watch was made by Nicole Nielsen & Co. Ltd.
Here is the description from Mercer "The Frodshams".
"Floating or Hanging Barrel
This [calliper] had been design for Frodsham by Richard Bridgeman (who died in 1904). The barrel for this movement is as high as the upper surface of the top plate. it is secured to the bottom plate only, and has no upper support, hence its name. The object of high barrel being to improve the timekeeping by employing a high mainspring which could then be thinner, and therefore less likely to break. (Plate 80, page 413)
A series of these 1/2 plates watches was made between 1890 and 1892. They all have the 84 Strand address and were given a separate serial number, higher than for the ordinary watches being manufactured at he time. The numbers commence at 010012 and continue to 010209 for this special series, whilst the normal series number for1891 is around 08231. Catalogue of this period describe these watches as 'New calibre watches' ."

I can had to this info that this type of watch was - between 1890 and 1892 - made exclusively for Charles Frodsham. But by 1893 Charles Frodsham had financial problems and the company was taken over the 27th July 1893 by a group of investors -Emil Nielsen included- ( Charles Frodsham & Co. Ltd., Minutes Book at the Guildhall Library, MS 19,904).
It is my opinion that at this time NN stop manufacturing this calliper, but had stock left over. I have seen this type of watch sold by other retailers.

W Drummond & Co…… is on my list of retailers selling NN watches.
I will not be
surprised if the case maker mark is "EN" for Emil Nielsen.
The information given is correct on the bases of current research.
The research on Nicole & Capt, Nicole Nielsen & Co. and their successors is on going.
Hopefully this will help.
 
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Lychnobius

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I feel there can be very little doubt that there is high-quality English work in this movement, even if some of the components were sourced from Switzerland. (This is entirely possible and, I believe, perfectly compatible with Graham's and Tony's suggestions.) The brass escape-wheel with its pointed teeth, the fine lettering on the back-plate and the decoration on the cock are all thoroughly British features.

Stem-winding was still fairly unusual in both British and Swiss practice at this period. Altogether a treasurable piece, especially in view of its impressive provenance.

Oliver Mundy.
 

tacmorris

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I am amazed at how quickly everyone has been able to help figure this out!

Gmorse, tonywatch & Lychnobius I think you guys are right on the money. Special hat tip to Tonywatch in particular as I have have just looked at the stamps inside the case and there is indeed a mark of "EN". Amazing!

It's evening time here in Aus so I'll wait until I have some good light in the morning and then will take some further pictures of the case markings.

Thanks also to MartyR, Omexa and LloydB for the history on Sir William Clarke. MartyR, I believe the monogram is in fact a combination of both of our estimates and is "WJC" for William John Clarke. The bottom of the J is slightly extended further down to the left than to the right, hence thinking it is a J rather than an I. Would definitely make the most sense for it to be his initials rather than Janet Lady Clarke (as an aside, here is as example of her monogram which while similar clearly contains an M instead of the W: http://www.theashesbail.com.au/home/about)

Thanks again everyone for your help, really impressive how quickly everyone was able to provide such great information.

Tim
 

gmorse

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Hi tonywatch, and welcome to the forum,

Thanks for posting this extract from Mercer and confirming the maker of this watch as NN. A fine watch and as Oliver says, the provenance is a bonus.

Regards,

Graham
 

tonywatch

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Mar 20, 2009
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For anybody interested have a look at
https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18414/lot/61/
The site give more detail on Richard Bridgeman.
As a matter of general interest in "The Horological Journal June 1889" there is an article describing the visit by the students of The British Horological Institute to Nicole Nielsen & Co. Ltd. 14, Soho Square, London.
The article confirm long held suspicion that NN where doing everything in house: dial and top plates, wheels, pinions, movement in the grey and, of course, cases, springing and finishing, with the exception of the watch dial. (Not mentioned in the article and as it is known an very specialised branch of the watch trade).

Another interesting point: Nicole Nielsen & Co Ltd. styled themselves as "Wholesale Watch Manufacturer", so supplier to the retailing trade, and if a client asked for item they did not manufacture it was brought in.
I have recently seen (in auction catalogues) 3 clock watches, signed respectively: Dent, Charles Frodsham and Nicole Nielsen all attributed to NN due to the case maker mark. In fact the clock watches were made by Louis Elisée Piguet, Brassus, Vallée de Joux.
Matter of attribution: who did what and when, with the help or contribution of another company can get very complicated and fractious. With no paper trail, ledgers and documentations all sort of assumption are made and taken as fact.

Anyway a very nice watch, quite rare, made more interesting by having a provenance and history.

All the best.
 
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Bryan Eyring

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I am amazed at how quickly everyone has been able to help figure this out!

Gmorse, tonywatch & Lychnobius I think you guys are right on the money. Special hat tip to Tonywatch in particular as I have have just looked at the stamps inside the case and there is indeed a mark of "EN". Amazing!

It's evening time here in Aus so I'll wait until I have some good light in the morning and then will take some further pictures of the case markings.

Thanks also to MartyR, Omexa and LloydB for the history on Sir William Clarke. MartyR, I believe the monogram is in fact a combination of both of our estimates and is "WJC" for William John Clarke. The bottom of the J is slightly extended further down to the left than to the right, hence thinking it is a J rather than an I. Would definitely make the most sense for it to be his initials rather than Janet Lady Clarke (as an aside, here is as example of her monogram which while similar clearly contains an M instead of the W: http://www.theashesbail.com.au/home/about)

Thanks again everyone for your help, really impressive how quickly everyone was able to provide such great information.

Tim
Looks like you came to the right place Tim! :)
 

MartyR

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May I add my welcome to Graham's, Tony :)

Are you researching Nicole Nielsen yourself?
 

LloydB

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Based on Tony's posting #9, the watch
under discussion must have been made
after 1889, but likely before 1893.

The date engraved on the case back,
28th March, 1889, was an election day
in Victoria. Does this timepiece reflect
some political result, important to the
owner, on that date?
 

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