Watch Case Cover

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Ralph Porter, Feb 10, 2006.

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  1. Ralph Porter

    Ralph Porter Registered User

    Nov 8, 2002
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    Hi Folks,
    I've found what seems to be a watch case cover. the two halves are metal, joined at the bottom with a spring hinge, and painted black on the outside. It is lined with fabric and has an opening at the top for the winding stem.

    I'd like to know the history of these, who used them, when, etc. and would appreciate any information you may have.
    Thanks,
    Ralph
     
  2. Ralph Porter

    Ralph Porter Registered User

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    Hi Folks,
    I've found what seems to be a watch case cover. the two halves are metal, joined at the bottom with a spring hinge, and painted black on the outside. It is lined with fabric and has an opening at the top for the winding stem.

    I'd like to know the history of these, who used them, when, etc. and would appreciate any information you may have.
    Thanks,
    Ralph
     
  3. Ralph Porter

    Ralph Porter Registered User

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    P.S.
    The cover closes snugly on a common 16 size heavy nickel case. Ralph
     
  4. Tom Huber

    Tom Huber Registered User
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    Dec 9, 2000
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    Ralph, These were made by a company called Ajax, and are believed to have been made in the late 1800's into the first part of the 20th century. The material is Bakelite, not metal. I have seen them in 18S, 16S and 12S. I have ones in both OF and HC. All the ones I have seen are black. THey are not particularly rare or scarce. Mostly they turn up at antique shops or flea markets. The vendors don't know what they are, and they can be bought very cheaply.

    As you thought, these were used to protect the outside of a watchcase when worn in a pocket. To my knowledge, no one particular profession used them. I would believe that any work that involved dirt and grime might have called for one of these. I do know of one instance in my family where a railroad man used one to protect his OF goldfilled watch. His cover was the OF type.

    Hope this helps.

    Tom
     
  5. Ralph Porter

    Ralph Porter Registered User

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    Hi Tom,
    I appreciate the info! I've examined this one more closely and it is actually metal. The paint is worn to a silver color at the hinge and around the opening for the stem. With the hinge directly across from this opening I assume this case is for OF, and the hinge would be at 90 degrees for a HC.
    Thanks again,
    Ralph
     
  6. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Aug 26, 2000
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    Ralph & Tom:

    The Ajax watch protectors, which - considering its metalic base - this certainly sounds like, were marketed to shield watches from magnetic fields. This is discussed in the NAWCC Bulletin, October, 2003. I think that a reprint of an Ajax ad is pictured.
     
  7. Ralph Porter

    Ralph Porter Registered User

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    Thanks Kent, we have a number of power generation plants here in Tennessee and employees probably spent time around magnetic fields. I'll ask some of the old timers and try to find a copy of that article.
    Thanks again,
    Ralph
     
  8. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Ralph:

    I finally located an 1891 Ad for the Ajax protector (although this ad says "Insulators, they were more commonly promoted as protectors.

    Interestingly, the watch shown in the ad appears to be a Longines. This was not exactly a common watch in North America in 1891.
     
  9. Tom Huber

    Tom Huber Registered User
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    Ralph and Kent, OMG. I went back and looked more closely at mine, and to my surprise, they are black painted steel. I've had some of mine for over 30 years and had just assumed they were bakelite. Mine don't have any wear on the black paint, but if you look very closely on the edge where the case parts come together, you can see the silver.

    Guess I'm never too old to learn. :)

    Tom
     
  10. Ralph Porter

    Ralph Porter Registered User

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    Kent, I appreciate you taking the time to find the ad,it tells the whole story. Thanks, Ralph
     
  11. terry hall

    terry hall Registered User
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    http://web.InfoAve.Net/~ehall/ajax1.jpg


    http://web.InfoAve.Net/~ehall/ajax2.jpg

    http://web.InfoAve.Net/~ehall/ajax3.jpg

    http://web.InfoAve.Net/~ehall/ajax4.jpg

    http://web.InfoAve.Net/~ehall/ajaxsign.jpg
     
  12. Dave Chaplain

    Dave Chaplain Registered User
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    I belive Longines had a substantial marketing and sales effort in the USA by the 1890's, evidenced by them sending George Aggasiz, the Longines President's son-in-law and also owner of the company by the same name that had earlier been sold to Longines. The Aggasiz brand was kept alive by Longines.

    Geo. Aggasiz was sent to run Longines import & sales office in New York in the late 1870's / 1880's. Aggasiz convinced them to make American standard size movements, and to mark and build them in the fashion the Americans had adopted. I've a couple of 3/4 plate movements from Longines, one signed Geo Aggasiz, from the 1880's timeframe. I've got better references and research data around here somewhere - but if memory serves me, Longines was a competitive force to be reconed with in the USA in the late 19th century.
     
  13. Ralph Porter

    Ralph Porter Registered User

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    Terry, what great pictures, thanks for sharing!!
    Dave, I wasn't aware of Longines'place since I've focused on American watches. That's what I love about this message board, always an education! Thanks All, Ralph
     
  14. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Dave & Ralph:

    Yes, Longines actively marketed watches in North America during the 1890s. However, in comparison to American watch production at that time, their numbers were relatively small. Thus, I believe it "... was not exactly a common watch ...", and I was surprised to their name on the dial in the Ajax ad.
     
  15. RON in PA

    RON in PA Registered User
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    Re: Bakelite, this was the first successful plastic and I believe that it dates to the first or second decade of the 20th century.
     
  16. Dave Chaplain

    Dave Chaplain Registered User
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    I don't know Ken - Amy Glasmeier's "Manufactring Time" states that the ratio of Swiss imports to the USA to the production at Waltham in 1872 was nearly 5 to 1 in favor of the Swiss. This then fell of dramatically over the years 1873-1885. In 1885 the Swiss began to regain market share through 1905, and, according to Glasmeier "There is no doubt that by 1910 Swiss mechanical watches dominated the world watch industry" (which she attributes to research by Knickerbocker, 1974).

    Interestingly enough - she also states elsewhere in her excellent book on horology production capabilities that the introducton of the Railroad standard watch gave the Americans a closed market to sell to, which was good for American manufacturers at first, but also proved a barrier in that these factories competing on price reduced the quality and variety of their products and were resistant to differentiationg their products via style and technology, which the Swiss continued to do. She goes on to explain the faltering of American industry beginning in about 1885 and already decided by 1910 in favor of the Swiss.

    I wonder if that means the railroad watch was perhaps the best, and then the worst thing the American industry did for itself!

    :confused:
     
  17. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Dave:

    Please remember, we're discussing the American market in 1891. Two years earlier, in 1889, the annual output of the American watch industry can be conservatively estimated to be well over a Million Watches Per Year. Although I don't have the amount of Swiss imports at this time (but they were probably published in the Jewelers' Circular) whatever it was would have to be added to the total number of watches made that year. If Swiss imports approximately equalled American production, the number of new watches that year would have been about 2,000,000.

    Again, if Swiss imports approximately equalled American production, the number of new watches that year would have been about 2,000,000. Longines watches made up only a portion of the Swiss imports. If Longines exported 100,000 watches to the U.S. in 1889 (a number that would be hard to substantiate), it would have been only about 10% of the total Swiss imports (which seems unlikely). Using those numbers, Longines exports to the U.S. that year would only make up 5% of the total available on the market.

    If 2,000,000 Swiss watches were imported and Longines imports made up 200,000 that year, than their share of the total U.S. market would have been only 6.7%, not all that much of an increase in market share. This is why I said it "... was not exactly a common watch ...".

    I somewhat agree with you that the conservative railroad requirements grew to have a chilling effect on the American watch industry. However, I believe that the worst thing the watch industry did to itself was to not modernize after WWI and move heavily into the wristwatch market.
     
  18. Dave Chaplain

    Dave Chaplain Registered User
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    Ken,

    I follow you so far, but I guess we're interpreting the numbers differently. If the more conservative Longines numbers are assumed, then in the 1889 market that consisted of 21 US companies and at least the same number of foreign suppliers, 5% market share would place them well above the average, and perhaps even in the top 4-5 suppliers.

    And if the Waltham / Elgin / Jewelry store cartel was not broken yet, then Longines might have been a prime partnering candidate for a small manufacturer from New Jersey who made after-market accessories for standard size watches.

    I guess I just hold that Longines was a fairly common watch here in the US as evidenced by the large number of them still seen here, and were one of the few European providers that won favor even with the US Military and Government services.

    BTW - my data from memory on Agassiz / Longines was not quite correct. Agassiz started the company, it was later renamed Longines, and George Agassiz - one of the original founders sons - after working as indicated previously for Longines as their agent in the US, split off from them and resurrected the Agassiz brand name under his own new company.

    Dave
     
  19. Kate N

    Kate N Registered User

    Jun 13, 2005
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    Here's a list of Longines Serial Numbers
    from 1870 to 1968, to at least give some total production figures, though no import figuresLongines serial #s.
     
  20. Dave Chaplain

    Dave Chaplain Registered User
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    Thanks for the link to the numbers Kate - I've added them to the spreadsheet I keep for serial number lookups for all the manufacturers I'm interested in. It looks like the Longines production went at about 20K units per year for many years, then doubled to 40-50K per year beginning in 1882, and then tripled to 125-150K per year beginning in 1899.



    It also appears that they were second only to Omega in total jeweled watch production in Europe, unless I've left someone out. Yet I did a quick check on ebay in the antique pocket watch category and found 251 hits for "Hampden watch", 199 hits for "Longines watch", and 104 hits for "Omega watch".

    The more data we uncover the more interesting these sort of topics become for me!
     

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