Two Of my favorite Watches I will never wear

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by DeweyC, Feb 15, 2020.

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  1. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    These hand-engraved scenes are works of art produced by a single hand. Those who have spent time in rural Europe (especially France or Northern Switzerland) will recognize the architecture. Down to the diagonal stripes on the siding.

    The 18s is particularly well preserved and has a definite holograph effect. The cases are gold filled and we know for a fact that gold filled cases were hand engraved at the factory (Fahys advert) as late as 1905.

    I put two of my favorite movements in them. But wearing them would be like using a Picasso as a hood ornament. To me, they speak of human excellence.

    Interestingly, I do not have a single case of an American scene with such detail. this may reflect familiarity with the content.
    IMG_0183.JPG IMG_0184.JPG IMG_0185.JPG IMG_0186.JPG IMG_0187.JPG

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  2. Tim Fitzgerald

    Tim Fitzgerald Registered User
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    Very Beautiful Dewey
     
  3. Jim Haney

    Jim Haney Registered User
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    Dewey.
    Great watches and cases. The Hamilton is in a 10K Gold Filled and the Hampden is a 14K GF.

    I would disagree that the cases are Hand engraved, at least the engine turning on the Hamilton.

    The scene you describe may well be Hand done but the engine turning etc, looks machine done to me.

    Nothing to argue about, just a difference of opinion. We don't know the dates they were made and that does have some to do with it.
     
  4. John Cote

    John Cote Director
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    It's not a huge deal but I agree with Jim. The only parts of either of these cases which might have been hand engraved were the landscape scenes in the middles of the cases. There may also have been some details in the flowered parts of the machine engraving. Everything else was done in the stamping or by a machine.
     
  5. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    Thank you Jim and John for adding clarity.

    If you look at Neibling's book he provides a photo tour of Phil. Watch Case in 1904. Not a pantograph to be seen. The engraving room is all filled with workers at traditional jeweler benches. He does also show the engine turning dept and the new and old machines.

    I did not mean to imply the entire case was hand engraved, only the main attractions which are the scenes.

    Is there a database of case numbers to date these cases?
     
  6. John Cote

    John Cote Director
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    Dewey,

    This has been a topic of discussion for a long time...what was hand done and what was machine done on these cases. It varies from case to case and maker to maker. You obviously have a discerning eye. The best thing is to look at the case with a jeweler's loupe. I think it is pretty easy to tell which lines are made with a hand graver and which are done by a machine...and which may have some of both. I love this whole thing with cases. I love finding great examples. Like my old man used to say..."They aren't making them anymore."
     
  7. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    John,

    I just want to make the case (yes, said it) so that interesting things do not get blindly passed over or scrapped. Especially gold filled. I am not a dealer and my interest is in preserving how human beings reach for excellence.

    Truth be told, all the cases I have were acquired with a less than full understanding of what they represented.
     
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  8. terry hall

    terry hall Registered User
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    They are wonderful and beautiful be them stamped, hand engraved, or a combination of both....

    I'll mention "again" the display at the NAWCC Museum showing the dies, and other tooling for case making.
    I really do believe you'll gain insight as to the processes in use....... you have that kind of mind.....
     
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  9. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    Terry,

    I do not think that hand engraving and machine decoration were discrete events. I am certain they overlapped. But in the interest of making my case, the Fahy's 1905 advert and then the photos on Niebling's books. Plus Bill Eicholz' personal communication.

    I will also point out that a patent search and a review of my copy of United States Clock and Watch Patents 1790-1890 (Eckhardt, 1960) do not show copying pantographs until the 1900s (patent search). As of 1890 (Eckhardt), there were patents for embossing and engine turning, but none for engraving or pantographs that I could find.

    Remember the Boley sliding vernier gauge was high technology and that Brown had not yet invented his micrometer. And skilled labor from Europe was very cheap.

    I agree that after about 1910 there is plenty of documentation of the use of production pantographs for engraving. The 1905 Fahy's advert exclaiming their cases were hand engraved may suggest that production engraving may have started around then. But the 1904 Phil. Watch Co. photo tour shows no sign of it there at that point in time. And since it was a promotional leaflet, I would think they would have touted the pantograph if they were using it.

    And I do disagree that machine copied ornamentation means the same thing as a scene engraved by a single hand from a vision in their head. But that is my set of values.

    When do you propose hand engraving was curtailed at the case makers?
     
  10. Jerry Treiman

    Jerry Treiman Registered User
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    I think Dewey's Hampden scenic engraving is especially nice. I have long been a fan of scenic engravings, especially those that appear to be hand done, such as this one on a Waltham from around 1912 --
    ColAmax_carved.jpg
    The case is not signed, but I suspect it was a Dubois product.

    I had also been impressed with this 8-size Brooklyn Watch Case Co. case (first picture) until I saw a nearly identical 18-size case (second picture), suggesting to me that both were pantograph products --
    6sBWCCo.jpg
    18sBWCCo.jpg
     
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  11. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    #11 DeweyC, Feb 16, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2020
    Jerry,

    Beautiful cases!

    However, I would not rush to judgment on your two similar scene cases. They may well be, and in my judgment, probably were, hand engraved. Maybe by the same hand.

    An engraver does not start with a blank piece and start cutting willy nilly. They draw a pattern. And we know from Nieblng there were stock patterns. These patterns were assigned to the engraver by the engraving dept foreman. It is quite likely (and rational) that specific patterns would be assigned to specific engravers based on skill and for production efficiency.

    We also know from Niebling's interview with Mr. Layman that engravers were paid based on a time estimate to complete the work. They were not paid like a machine operator such as a pantograph or engine lathe operator. Further, Mr. Layman made the distinction between "simple" and "complex" engraving and indicates a skill differentiation within the workroom. I would class monograms and inscriptions as "Simple" and scenics as "complicated". But that is without the benefit of a source document.

    Mr. Layman stated that at the time he was employed at Keystone (WWI era) Keystone had 75 engravers in that department.

    Having said that. Mr. Layman describes the"Keystone Outlining Machine" used during WWI for, once again, "simple" engraving. Mr. Layman also describes the use of the engine lathe for Barleycorn.

    Given the rarity of this book, I have included jpgs of the relevant pages from which readers can draw their own conclusion directly from the text.

    Obviously, each case would need to be examined by a hand engraver who would know the details to look for. But I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that complicated scenes such as those presented above were done by pantograph much before 1910 (the first patent I could find for a production pantograph).

    The state of machine technology, the lack of patents, the documented Fahys advertisements, the 1904 Phil. Watch Case factory photo tours, and Mr. Layman's WWI Keystone account simply do not support such a conclusion.

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  12. Joseph Short

    Joseph Short Registered User
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    I agree that we need to preserve these beautiful pieces, even if they are not hand done, or made entirely of a precious metals. Some artist or craftsman someplace did design them. Maybe not by any known or revered creator, but they are still beautiful works of art, and should be preserved.
    As long as something brings joy, it should be treasured and preserved.
     

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