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Would this be a "broad arrow" mark on this pocket watch movement?

sternerp

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Nov 23, 2010
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I have some interesting English movements, I would like to present one of them now.
It seems interesting to me because I have not seen this "broad arrow" marking on the bridge on early pocket watches. Provided, that this marking was really that! Does anyone know, when this marking was used on military pocket watches?
Another interesting feature to me is, that the main plate is mirror polished! Maybe this wasn't typical either.
This movement seems to me a very high quality, the compensated balance has solid gold screws. I have several English movements with such screws. My other question would be related to this, how widespread was the use of these in the balance?

1659010256835.jpg 1659010256864.jpg 1659010256873.jpg 1659010256853.jpg 1659010256845.jpg 1659010256822.jpg
 

svenedin

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It looks like the mirror polishing was done later as it has partially removed that symbol and the rest of the movement is gilt. It's hard to tell whether it was the Broad Arrow but I think it probably was. I do wonder whether the polishing was a deliberate effort to remove the marking. Maybe the watch had been misappropriated (stolen).....

Here's a typical Broad Arrow, complete with NATO serial number, on a nasty blanket I had to use in military barracks...... I found this in the cupboard in 2020 when I was absolutely freezing cold!:emoji_laughing:

IMG_0453.JPG
 
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gmorse

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Hi sternerp,
It's hard to tell whether it was the Broad Arrow but I think it probably was. I do wonder whether the polishing was a deliberate effort to remove the marking. Maybe the watch had been misappropriated (stolen).....
I think Stephen is probably right, this was originally an MoD 'broad arrow' and the top plate has been polished in an attempt to remove it, with the obvious conclusion that it was indeed stolen, possibly by a serviceman to whom it was issued.

Regards,

Graham
 

novicetimekeeper

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I would expect the arrow to be in the form of a single punch, or three strikes with a punch as per the original axe marks. This seems far too sophisticated.
 

svenedin

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Hi sternerp,


I think Stephen is probably right, this was originally an MoD 'broad arrow' and the top plate has been polished in an attempt to remove it, with the obvious conclusion that it was indeed stolen, possibly by a serviceman to whom it was issued.

Regards,

Graham
Exactly and as I look at that picture I am now convinced it is indeed a Broad Arrow.
 

svenedin

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I would expect the arrow to be in the form of a single punch, or three strikes with a punch as per the original axe marks. This seems far too sophisticated.
I know what you mean but I am thinking it was done with a single stamp as you are and due to the polishing we are seeing dots which are just where the pressure was slightly greater when it was punched or it just was not very well polished out. A lot of the MoD markings are rather crudely done. Presumably the guys in stores weren't exactly experts in finesse.
 

sternerp

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If anyone had polished this plate, then had dismantled the watch completely apart, because the blueing on the screw heads is not worn off. And if I look more closely, the inner half of this plate is also mirror-polished...

1659016460573.jpg 1659016460585.jpg 1659016460597.jpg
 

gmorse

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Hi sternerp,

Whatever the reason for the polishing, it certainly wasn't made like that, it would originally have been frosted before gilding.

Regards,

Graham
 

svenedin

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It has definitely been polished afterwards and not very expertly. You can still see the scratch marks.
 

John Matthews

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The initials on the pillar plate J.H.B are almost certainly those of John Bassnett who is listed in 1880s as John Bassnett & Co Thomas Street, Coventry, watch movement makers. There is an Thomas Bassnett listed in the same directory as a keyless winding maker and in 1896 Edward as a watch movement maker.

The only other movement I am aware of with these initials is an uncased free sprung admiralty centre seconds deck watch from the beginning of the C.20th. That movement carries the broad arrow, both on the dial and on the back plate in the same location as on this movement. The deck watch carries the serial number #433481. Although the deck watch frame is a 3/4 plate and has different keyless work, I believe the two movements were stamped by the same worker. The deck watch is signed by William Matthews, Holyhead Road, Coventry. He is listed as selling deck watches to the Admiralty in Mercer with serial numbers. There are two ranges #1903-#2885 & #37615-#43924. I believe these two movements are part of the second of these series and that series of marks are that of Bassnett, the movement maker. This would put #42486 and the deck watch 1912/13.

I am not entirely convinced that this movement ever had a broad arrow when it was finished. If it had, and it had been polished out, the outline you see would not be as it is. The remaining marks would be a set of more continuous grooves defining the arrow. I believe it is more likely that this movement was supplied by Bassnett to an unknown finisher, possible Matthews, in a batch that it was expected would be purchased by the Admiralty. The mark you see are punch marks defining the outline of the arrow, but this movement was probably sold into the trade possibly after WWI and not to the Admiralty. Hence I believe the arrow was never finished. I suspect that the back plate could have been polished prior to being sold initially by the retailer.

John
 
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svenedin

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The initials on the pillar plate J.H.B are almost certainly those of John Bassnett who is listed in 1880s as John Bassnett & Co Thomas Street, Coventry, watch movement makers. There is an Thomas Bassnett listed in the same directory as a keyless winding maker and in 1896 Edward as a watch movement maker.

The only other movement I am aware of with these initials is an uncased free sprung admiralty centre seconds deck watch from the beginning of the C.20th. That movement carries the broad arrow, both on the dial and on the back plate in the same location as on this movement. The deck watch carries the serial number #433481. Although the deck watch frame is a 3/4 plate and has different keyless work, I believe the two movements were stamped by the same worker. The deck watch is signed by William Matthews, Holyhead Road, Coventry. He is listed as selling deck watches to the Admiralty in Mercer with serial numbers. There are two ranges #1903-#2885 & #37615-#43924. I believe these two movements are part of the second of these series and that series of marks are that of Bassnett, the movement maker. This would put #42486 and the deck watch 1912/13.

I am not entirely convinced that this movement ever had a broad arrow when it was finished. If it had, and it had been polished out, the outline you see would not be as it is. The remaining marks would be a set of more continuous grooves defining the arrow. I believe it is more likely that this movement was supplied by Bassnett to an unknown finisher, possible Matthews, in a batch that it was expected would be purchased by the Admiralty. The mark you see are punch marks defining the outline of the arrow, but this movement was probably sold into the trade possibly after WWI and not to the Admiralty. Hence I believe the arrow was never finished. I suspect that the back plate could have been polished prior to being sold initially.

John
But there is a continuous line at the head of the arrow?
 

John Matthews

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I initially tried to compose this post at 10:40 NAWCC time.

I am thinking it was done with a single stamp as you are and due to the polishing we are seeing dots which are just where the pressure was slightly greater when it was punched or it just was not very well polished out.
The dots are regularly spaced and I believe they are punch marks made from a template.

There is quite a variety of arrow styles. Here are two contrasting examples from my collection.

20211029 005-2.jpg 20180703 007-2.jpg

The first is signed Ehrhardt, the second Poile & Smith. The latter is in a 1911/12 case and the back plate is polished. While the one on the left has almost certainly been stamped and is part of a machine made production run, the same cannot be said with certainty for the second. While that mark could have been stamped, I suspect it wasn't. I am more certain with the Ehrhardt #600000 series of deck watches (produced ~1904 to ~1917) that the arrows were engraved by hand. Each of the arrows on the examples I have captured is unique. In some cases the back plate does not have the arrow but it is always present on the dial, as it is on examples of deck watches that were sold to the Admiralty, as far as I an determine. The arrow on the Matthews deck watch I have captured does not have the appearance of being stamped.

John
 

sternerp

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Nov 23, 2010
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Today i tried to make a better macro photo from this marking. You may be right, in the higher resolution image can see, that the marking does not consist of dots, but the broad arrow was hatched. Only because of the polishing it looks like it is drawn from tiny dots. I searched on internet similar marked watches, and found some.
Here is the examples:
This watch movement i bought earlier at a traditional english auction, together some other very high grade english movements, and there are also some central seconds movement. Maybe one of these was also a deck watch originally?

1659085286304.jpg 1659085286289.jpg 1659085286276.jpg 1659085286266.jpg 1659085286257.jpg
 

svenedin

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Interesting. Nice movements but very sad to think of all the fine watches that had their gold cases scrapped.......

Your macro photo seems to show some of the original gilding around the chaton suggesting that the plate was indeed gilded like the rest of the movement. My original premise that the movement had deliberate attempts to obliterate the Broad Arrow stands. Also it appears to have been an amateur polishing job. A watchmaker would have removed the chatons to polish the plate properly. However, what I take as original gilding may in fact be staining from old oil.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Stephen,
However, what I take as original gilding may in fact be staining from old oil.
There are faint traces around some other pivot holes, and since the plate would certainly have been gilded to start with, some of them may be old oil, but the marks around the setting could be either. The softening of all the edges of the plate indicates that it's been subject to some inexpert polishing.

Regards,

Graham
 
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John Matthews

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Steven - yes, you are correct form the new photograph, it does appear that the arrow had been finished.

It is still possible that this movement was not purchased by the Admiralty. If it had I believe the original dial would have had the arrow - so it is either a replacement or the movement was not purchased by the Admiralty.

John
 

svenedin

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Steven - yes, you are correct form the new photograph, it does appear that the arrow had been finished.

It is still possible that this movement was not purchased by the Admiralty. If it had I believe the original dial would have had the arrow - so it is either a replacement or the movement was not purchased by the Admiralty.

John
Quite likely that whoever wanted to remove the arrow from the plate did not want to advertise an arrow on the dial which is much more obvious than the plate! If the arrow was painted on the dial, rather than fired in, then pretty easy to remove it......
 

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