What do I have?

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by PAB1969, May 6, 2020.

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  1. PAB1969

    PAB1969 Registered User

    May 6, 2020
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    Hello. New member here. I need help in identifying this antique pocket watch. I am a novice and any information I received was from extensive google searches. I believe I have a Hamilton snap back case and possibly M.J. Tobias movement. I have many questions.

    1. Is the Hamilton case silver? I could not find any markings.
    2. Is the Hamilton case a salesman sample? It has a glass, open face back.
    3. Is this an actual M.J. Tobias movement? The engraved scenic landscape along with the beautiful accents around the Roman numerals has me leaning in this direction.
    4. Is the movement face gold? Once again, no markings found.
    5. What is this worth? It does not work but the movement hands can be manipulated by center dial in the rear.

    Thank you in advance, Philip.
    505904-4b7ba25e9a5325f9036a3877c4f07d8e.jpg 505905-936a5eade54872d25dccb6c2a061594f.jpg 505906-341b327cf3fd9d1d9f10738edef00222.jpg 505909-86172057b7a7bcb651c274bc7c5b9a31.jpg
     
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  2. Jim Haney

    Jim Haney Registered User
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    Phillip,
    Welcome to the NAWCC forums.
    The case is indeed a Hamilton salesman case. It is mostly nickel and has no metal value, just a great way to show off a watch without having to open it up. Someone will add the info about your watch.
     
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  3. PAB1969

    PAB1969 Registered User

    May 6, 2020
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    Thank you Jim.
     
  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Philip, and a warm welcome from me as well,

    Jim has confirmed that the case is by Hamilton, which means that the movement has been re-cased at some point.

    The movement is clearly Swiss, and although your pictures are too small to see much detail, it appears to have a side lever escapement and possibly 11 or 13 jewels. It probably dates from the last quarter of the 19th century, and is a basic pattern that was exported from Switzerland in large numbers. I'm curious as to why you attribute it to MJ Tobias; this name was used extensively by Swiss makers who wished to mislead customers into believing that it was by MI Tobias, a very well-known and respected Liverpool firm of watchmakers, whose products looked nothing like this. These decorative gold dials were indeed used on some Tobias watches, (and also on watches by many other Liverpool makers), and although the watches were produced in Liverpool, it's thought that many of the dials were imported from Switzerland. Your dial is probably gold, although probably quite thin and of unknown purity.

    The watch is decorative and would be a pleasant watch to carry, but if as you say it won't run, service and repair costs could exceed its monetary value.

    The original case would probably have had an inner back with some engraving describing the watch, including claims about patents, numbers of jewels, and a name of the 'maker', none of which were necessarily true!

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  5. PAB1969

    PAB1969 Registered User

    May 6, 2020
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    Hello Graham. Thank you and Jim for the welcome and for the information. I only speculated at Tobias because of similar dial patterns and designs when I searched on google. I am a watch novice and not familiar with many of the terms, so please don't take any questions I have as sarcasm. Without having the case, how can I determine what brand or maker of the movement I have? Would more pictures help you in determining that? There is a picture of a scenic village with a river on the dial. I would love to know if that is an actual place. It appears to have used a key, which I don't have, to wind it because the top winding knob is not connected to the movement . Should i get the dial tested for gold? I am stumped with this movement. Why would a Hamilton salesman sample show a Swiss watch? Thanks again, Philip.
     
  6. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Philip,

    The way the Swiss watch trade worked in the 19th century, in a sort of distributed cottage industry arrangement, means that the (many) makers of your movement will remain anonymous I'm afraid. Small workshops produced specific parts, often during the winter months when they couldn't carry out much farming, and these were assembled, cased and marketed by yet more individuals. The concepts of 'models', 'brands' or factories didn't really apply to this low-end part of the business. More pictures won't tell us anything new, it's a typical anonymous Swiss movement.

    The watch is in a Hamilton case because someone simply had it to hand and it fitted; the original case, possibly gold or silver, may well have been scrapped for its precious metal value.

    The scene on the dial is probably pure imaginary, they mostly are, and if you're inclined to test it for gold, please make sure it's done by a non-destructive method such as XRF, not acid. These dials are very often low-carat gold anyway, and very thin, but this may constitute the major part of any value in the watch.

    The movement is certainly wound with a key, and you can buy sets of these keys quite cheaply on the big auction site, but as I mentioned before, you shouldn't wind it much before it's been cleaned, and you might find that there are other problems with it anyway; mainsprings break, pivots break, other parts wear out, etc. The problems arise when replacement parts are needed, because although they all look very similar, nothing was made to a standard and interchangeable.

    I'll revise my estimate of its date back a little towards the middle of the 19th century.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  7. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Philip - I think Graham has revised his dating based upon the style of the bridges and cocks that support the watch train. Although the dating is not absolutely precise it provides a useful guide.

    If you wish to learn more this post provides a useful summary.

    John
     
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  8. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Philip,

    John is quite right, I was thinking of that post from seven years ago. It's worth emphasising though, that in this context the name Lépine is purely generic, referring to the French 18th century watchmaker who originated this style of movement, and shouldn't be taken as any indication of who actually made your watch.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  9. PAB1969

    PAB1969 Registered User

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    Thank you John for the link and thank you again graham. philip
     
  10. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    I suggest that the movement dates to 1840 or 1850 based on the movement plate layout. It is in the general category of a Lepine or Geneva bar movement. Teh styles on these change often enough that they can be dated to a decade a or so. It is well made movement and its dial is probably gold. These are being made again and cost north of $1000 but old ones don't have much value. A lot of very skilled hand work went into these.

    As others wrote key are readily available but the cheap keys wear out very quickly so they are probably a good choice unless you get the watch serviced.
     
  11. PAB1969

    PAB1969 Registered User

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    Thank you for the information Dr. Jon. Do you recommend that I purchase a key to determine if the movement would work after winding? Or if I decide to sell this piece, should I list it as not working? Philip
     
  12. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    If you are planning to sell it, a key along with it helps whether it works or not.

    Buying a key requires that you know what size key you need. There are about a dozen sizes. Unequal wear often results in needing two keys, one to wind and one to set it.

    You can side step by buying a set which is also fairly inexpensive all sizes and most will last a month or so of daily winding.

    If you gently shake the watch you can see whether the balance wheel responds. If it does not it still may work with some careful prodding but you do have to know how to do this without inflicting further damage.

    If you have a four jaw pin vise, you can wind it some with that.

    Determining its running order is more involved. If it starts up you need to verify that it runs dial up and dial down and pendant up, If not it is still not considered running.

    If it does not run at all after some winding, it may be due to congealed oil . I have gotten a lot of watch to run nicely by coaxing them into motion to move the crud around. I would not wear them of put them in use in that condition but it does establish that there is nothing seriously wrong with the watch.

    My view is that working or not there is not a lot of monetary value in this item and you can easily spend more than you will recover.

    For someone experienced this is a lot simpler and faster than it reads.
     
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  13. PAB1969

    PAB1969 Registered User

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    Once again, thank you Dr. Jon for the expert advice. If I decide to sell it, I believe I will sell it as is. Philip
     

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