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Wright Bros 'Flyer' "The Sun" stopwatch from the National Air and Space Museum - Breitling designed?

Oldendays

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For some time - starting during the COVID lockdown period up until initiating this thread I have returned repeatedly to spend chunks of time on one of my pet projects, trying to solve a little mystery about determining who was the designer of a stopwatch made by Gallet in the 19th century that happened to play a part in a famous milestone in aviation history.

My conclusions to this project is that the designer of this particular stopwatch is a previously unidentified very early Leon Breitling, at the start - or close to the start of his career which eventually progressed to the manufacture of Breitling chronographs recognised worldwide.

Any comments are welcome. I am far from an expert and there are others who may own similar vintage stopwatches who by taking photos or offering insights may be able to add (or take away) clarity to the following research....

To begin...In 1903 there were two virtually identical stopwatches used by the Wright brothers to time the first powered airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. These two stopwatches may well have been made within a year or two of this great historical moment but I think they were designed much earlier and then also manufactured by Gallet at least 13 years earlier.

The stopwatch that was used aboard the Wright Brothers 'Flyer' is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC while the other one is located at Gallet HQ in Switzerland.

Link to the Wright Bros stopwatch at the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian:

Link to the Wright Bros stopwatch held by Gallet HQ, Switzerland:


Gallet identifies these two stopwatches as made by the company. They are described on the FB page on October 30, 2021 as "stopwatches manufactured for Louis Goering by Gallet with Excelsior Park movements"

On the Mikrolisk trade mark index website you can identify a "Solid Electric Plated" variation of the trademark symbol "The Sun" image that is on the inside of the watch case cover as granted to Louis Goering in 1901 who was an importer of Swiss watches into the USA

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Mikrolisk Trade Mark index %22The Sun%22.jpg


What is interesting on this attachment is that a previous Solid Nickel Variation of "The Sun" trademark was made in 1883 by an importer Louis Strasburger & Co, which was taken over by the widow of Louis Goering in 1903 (twenty years later)

Around 1890, importer Max Eppenstein (founder of the Illinois Watch Case Company) produced a catalogue which included an advertisement for a Horse Timer "The Sun" for $11.50

Nickel Horse Timer 1890.jpg



So, regardless of whether the stopwatch case was made of "Electric Plated" nickel or "Solid Nickel", the stopwatch design that was used to time the Wright Bros 'Flyer" in 1903 appears to date back to at least 1890.

In July 1891 in The Breeder and Sportsman magazine, a Horse Timer called "The Racer" was advertised:

The Racer - 1891.jpg


The following photos show the actual face and the internal mechanism of 'The Racer' Horse Timer which shows that the movement is identical to the Wright Bros "The Sun" stopwatch.

The Racer - Gallet.JPG


The Racer - Gallet Case.jpg


The Wright Bros "The Sun" Flyer stopwatch has a serial number 155813

This "The Racer" Horse Timer has a serial number 152***


The following Horse Timer also has an identical movement (and a glass dust cover) and has a serial number 156***

Horse Timer.JPG


Horse Timer Movement.jpg


Another Horse Timer (which doesn't work and doesn't have a glass dust cover) is shown below.
It also has an identical movement to the Wright 'Flyer' stopwatch.
The serial number on this Horse Timer is 153***

Horse Timer (Non Working).jpg


Horse Timer Movement (Non Working).jpg


Now this is where it gets intriguing....

The following Horse Timer is one called "Jerome Park"

Jerome Park was a horse racing track located in Brooklyn New York that was owned and named after "The King of Wall St" Leonard W Jerome (1817-1891) who was Winston Churchill's grandfather. The Jerome Park racetrack was in operation from 1866 to 1894.

Jerome Park Horse Timer.JPG


Jerome Park movement.JPG


"Jerome Park"is listed under Gallet's stable of pocket watches and on their Gallet World website they have dated a Jerome Park chronograph for the U.S. Navy to 1914 and attribute the movements to Excelsior Park and Minerva.

This Jerome Park Horse Timer movement (which also has a glass dust cover) is a movement patented by Ferdinand Bourquin in 1891.
Ferdinand Bourquin went on to be the founder of the Leonidas Watch Factory before his death in 1905

The serial number of this Jerome Park stopwatch is 151*** and on the movement it has the words "PAT. APLD. FOR" which suggests that the date for the manufacture of this particular stopwatch or Horse Timer is in 1891

Below is the Swiss patent No. 3071 granted on 30th January 1891 to Ferdinand Bourquin
And the US patent No. 458348 granted on 25th August 1891 to Ferdinand Bourquin

Ferdinand Bourquin Swiss patent 3071.JPG


Ferdinand Bourquin US patent.JPG


This Jerome Park Horse Timer whilst having some similarities to the 4 stopwatch movements mentioned previously, is actually quite different in a number of aspects.

Whilst all five serial numbers are fairly close together - indicating that Gallet was the manufacturer of all five stopwatches, and it is clear that it was Ferdinand Bourquin who designed the "Jerome Park" stopwatch, it still begs the question on whether Ferdinand Bourquin was also the designer of the three previously mentioned Horse Timers that share the identical movement to the Wright Bros "Flyer" stopwatch

None of the stopwatches at this point have trademarks identifying the designers. This is likely because Gallet, being the manufacturer, was probably sourcing the movements from individuals who had not yet built up their businesses into independent companies.

At this point we should view the following advertisement published by leon Breitling in 1894 when he moved from St Imier to Chaux de Fonds...

Leon Breitling ad 1894.JPG


As you can see, in his 1894 advertisement Leon Breitling has a Horse Timer stopwatch as a display model on the right. The numbers on the minute dial count up to 10 in a clockwise direction.

The following pocket watch movement has the minute dial counting up to 10 in an anti-clockwise direction. Under the plate there is a Leon Breitling trademark (seen on the Mikrolisk trade mark index as granted in 1892) and on the plate it has the Swiss trademark #3823 for his patent (granted in July 1891)

Breitling Horse Timer with patent #3823.JPG


Breitling Horse Timer with Movement Patent # 3823.JPG


Whilst I can't tell if the above Horse Timer/stopwatch was manufactured specifically in 1892 through to 1898, the following 1898 advertisement has two images that were trademarks granted to Leon Breitling on 13th May, 1896.

Breitling French advertisement 1898.jpg


The footnote in this 1898 advertisement above is translated below:

Translation of French Breitling ad 1898.JPG


The Mikrolisk trade mark index lists these two images as granted to Leon Breitling in 1896 - however his advertisement in 1898 states he had been using the images since 1890 which was before the patent #3823 was granted to him in July 1891. Therefore Breitling must have been using a movement that was possibly of different configuration to the patent #3823 that was granted to him at a later date.

Mikrolisk Breitling Trademark images 1896.jpg


Does this mean that in 1890 Bourquin beat Breitling in a race to have their original patents for Horse Timers approved?

Did Breitling have an earlier patent rejected because it was found to be too similar to the Bourquin design?

Did Breitling have to redesign his Horse Timer in 1891 in order to continue deriving an income from supplying movements to Gallet? Breitling's Swiss patent #3823 was granted six months after Bourquin's Swiss patent #3071

We do know that Gallet in the 19th century was a customer of Breitling's Horse Timers and stopwatches and were beneficiaries of his expertise - Another line of Gallet's stable of pocket watches was the "Trotter" - also a Horse Timer. On their Gallet World website Gallet states their stopwatch "Trotter" was registered pre-1897 but instead of an Excelsior Park movement Gallet used the Breitling Swiss patent #3823 (see photos below).

Gallet & Co Trotter pre-1897.JPG


Gallet & Co Trotter pre-1897 movement.jpg


Gallet & Co Trotter pre-1897 movement close upJPG.JPG
 
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Oldendays

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Continuing on the discussion from the previous post I want to put forward another compelling reason why I believe the Wright Bros 'The Sun'' stopwatch is most likely of an 1890's (or earlier) Leon Breitling design.

To do that we need to revisit the Mikrolisk trade mark index to view the Louis Goering connection stated by Gallet:

Mikrolisk Trade Mark index %22The Sun%22.jpg


As you can see, at the top of the list the widow of Louis Goering was granted a trademark in July of 1903 for a variation of "THE SUN" image in capital letters.

By this time Leon Breitling had now established a company called the "Montbrillant Watch Manufactory" for which he was granted a Montbrillant trademark image in 1899.

The following two images are the face and movement of a "THE SUN" stopwatch with the Montbrillant name using the swiss patent # 3823 granted to Breitling in 1891. This means this stopwatch was manufactured at a date later than 1903.

Breitling %22THE SUN%22 Patent #3823 a.jpg


Breitling %22THE SUN%22 Patent #3823 b.jpg


"THE SUN" stopwatches are stopwatches that Breitling has been connected with for many years.
After the death of Leon Breitling in 1914, his son Gaston Breitling took over the Montbrillant company.

The following 3 images are of a Montbrillant Watch Manufactory (Breitling) stopwatch using a later Breitling Movement (Swiss patent # 104599 granted to Gaston Breitling in 1924).

Breitling %22THE SUN%22 patent # 104599 a.JPG


Breitling %22THE SUN%22 patent # 104599 b.jpg


Breitling %22THE SUN%22 patent # 104599 c.jpg


Breitling's patent #104599 from 1924 is shown here:

Breitling Swiss Patent #104599.jpg
 

MrRoundel

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Wow, that's some extensive research you did on these timers. I'll have to come back again to try to absorb a lot of it, as there's so much offered here. Many thanks. Cheers.
 

Oldendays

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So, I have a third and final thread for this detective story on the author of the Wright Bros Flyer "The Sun" stopwatch or Horse Timer...

You would think I've made a pretty good case for Leon Breitling being the designer of this stopwatch - Right?

Wrong!

Eventually as the twentieth century approached, both Bourquin (Leonidas) and Breitling (Montbrillant) as well as Jeanneret (Excelsior Park) with his Swiss patent # 3364 and Alfred Lugrin (Lemania) took their basic horse timers and stop watches to new level of complication with the introduction of their chronographs.

Alongside these developments came two "The Sun" chronographs written in cursive writing on the faceplate (as shown by the Horse Timer advertised back in 1890 by importer Max Eppenstein as well as on the Wright Bros stopwatches).

The first two photos show a rattrapante "The Sun" chronograph that was dated to 1901. On the movement plate is "THE SUN" engraved in capital block letters (as shown by the Mikrolisk trade mark index granted to the widow of Louis Goering in 1903). The watch case is not by Gallet - it is by the Crescent Watch Case Co (Planet) so by this time Swiss movements were being imported into the USA and being fitted with American made cases.

Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann Chronograph 1 face.jpg


Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann Chronograph 1 Movement.jpg


The next two photos show another rattrapante chronograph with the same "The Sun" cursive font on the faceplate as well as "THE SUN" in capital letters engraved on the movement plate. This apparently has been dated to 1920.

Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann Chronograph 2 face.jpg


Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann Chronograph 2 Movement.jpg


It is pretty clear that the same designer is responsibly for both chronographs - Although there are some characteristics that do resemble some Breitling chronographs, both chronographs shown here are not by Breitling. The first chronograph is a match for the following Swiss patent #7411 granted in October 1893 to Emile Reymond-Rod and Henri Aeschlimann from St Imier.

Up until now Reymond-Rod and Aeschlimann were probably best known for producing the chronographs made under the "Recorder" name (imported by A.Wittnauer & Co).

Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann Patent 7411.jpg


As you can see in Figure 3 of the drawings for patent #7411 the tadpole-like feature (above the gears) is similar to the one shown on the Wright Bros stopwatch (and that of the Ferdinand Bourquin "Jerome Park" Horse Timer from 1891). However the fact both patent #7411 and the Wright Bros "The Sun" share a common similar feature in their movements and also in their name leads me to think the Wright Bros "Flyer" is not a Breitling, not a Bourquin but of Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann design that had been in use since at least 1890 to 1891.

So, mystery solved....hope you enjoyed the journey!

If you have a Horse Timer or stopwatch that can either confirm or challenge this conclusion then please add a photo of it to the thread as there must be at least 10 thousand of these stopwatches/timers that were in circulation during the 1890s.

It also raises the question - did Brietling leave St Imier in 1892 to set up his factory in Chaux de fonds because of a falling out with others over using his 1890 horse image such that he threatened legal consequences in 1898 if people used his now registered images?
(I have now attributed the movement of two above mentioned horse timers (with the horse image) to Redmond-Rod & Aeschlimann).

In summary:

Possibly from 1883 but definitely from 1890 Gallet manufactured HorseTimers/Stopwatches with serial numbers within the range of 150,000 to 160,000 using Swiss designers Emile Reymond-Rod & Henri Aeschlimann, Ferdinand Bourquin, and the Jeanneret Bros of Excelsior Park.

They were imported by Louis Strasburger and Co, Max Eppenstein & Co (The Sun), Jules Racine & Co (Jerome Park), Albert Didisheim, (The Racer), Louis Goering and subsequently by his widow (The Sun).

Gallet also manufactured Leon Breitling designed Horse Timers in the last decade of the 1800s.
Louis Goering and/or his widow imported Breitling timers/stopwatches.

Wilbur and Orville Wright used stopwatches designed by Reymond-Rod & Aeschliman to time the world's first powered airplane flight in 1903.
 
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SFoskett

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I applaud your work, especially in comparing the mechanics of various timers to the Wright timer in question. Although I don't have much to add about your investigation I thought I would chime in a little about watchmaking in Saint-Imier since I have done quite a lot of research on this topic!

First off, it is important to know that the name "Excelsior Park" came much later than any of the watches in question. The factory most associated with that name (Usine du Parc) wasn't used for watch production by the Jeanneret family until 1885 at the earliest, was not specifically the home for the predecessor of Excelsior Park (Alb. Jeanneret & Frères) until 1889, and did not use the Excelsior name until the 1890s. It appears that the name "Excelsior Park" dates from the early 1910s, by which time the firm was managed by Henri Jeanneret-Brehm alone. It seems unlikely that this movement would have been produced by the Jeanneret brothers, let alone the company that would become Excelsior Park, if it was made before 1890.

That being said, the Jeanneret family was widely producing watches and movements in Saint-Imier since the 1870s under the father of Albert (Moeris), Henri, and Constant (Leonidas), Jules-Frédéric Jeanneret. He purchased Usine du Parc with his brother in law Fritz Thalmann (a very successful wholesaler of watches and movements) and likely very involved in the operations of other makers in town. So I am not at all surprised to see similar movements from Jeanneret, Reymond-Rod and Aeschlimann, Bourquin, and Breitling since all shared the same suppliers and component makers.

You might like to see that Reymont-Rod and Aschlimann later used the same factory building as Ferdinand Bourquin after the latter moved to his "Beau Site" (Leonidas) factory in 1907. He also made similar horse timers there.

I do not know why Léon Breitling moved to La Chaux-de-Fonds, but I suspect that Saint-Imier was just a little too small for his ambitions. His Montbrillant factory was a landmark and he certainly made the most of its imposing towers and look, despite the fact that he wasn't the owner or sole tenant...

In summary, I concur that it is much more likely that a simple timer like this was made by someone like Reymond-Rod and Aeschlimann or Ferdinand Bourquin than Breitling or the company that became Excelsior Park. Both of those really didn't hit their stride until the mid 1890s, probably too late to have made this watch.
 

Oldendays

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Thank you Stephen,

I had already come across your numerous articles and enjoyed your insight into the background and formation of these various watch manufacturers particularly concerning those making timers and chronographs.

Whilst I couldn't tell when exactly Excelsior Park timers first came into production, the Gallet World website has a timeline for their company history and the following comment is made for Jules Jeanneret and his sons for 1882:

Gallet Company timeline for Jeanneret 1882.jpg


Gallet also mention that in their stable of brands that they have National Park timers/stopwatches which they say began in 1891

"National Park (reg. 13 Jan 1891, Excelsior Park stopwatches & horse timers)"

Although I don't think this particular stopwatch dates to as early as 1891 (more likely closer to 1900) you can see in the 2 photos below that National Park are using the Jeanneret movement (patent # 3364 granted in 1891) which is the same movement used by "Excelsior Park" even though the "Excelsior Park" label may not have been made until much later - as you say - Confusing eh?

National Park Jeanneret face.jpg


National Park Jeanneret Movement.jpg


In any case, as you mentioned "it is much more likely that a simple timer like this was made by someone like Reymond-Rod and Aeschlimann or Ferdinand Bourquin than Breitling or the company that became Excelsior Park" since there is no noticeable features on patent #3364 that might indicate that Jeanneret (father or sons/brothers) might be the designer of the Wright Bros "The Sun" timer/stopwatch)

I'm pushed for time at the moment but in another post down the track I'll post photos of yet another horse timer made in 1883 by Girard Perregaux & Cie who could also be a potential designer if Reymond-Rod and Aeschlimann are proven not to be the designers of the the "Wright Bros" "The Sun" stopwatch.
 

Oldendays

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I am adding the following Horse Timer to the parade not because I suspect the designer is also the one responsible for the Wright Bros "The Sun" stopwatch but rather because I can conclusively prove that prototypes of this stopwatch were made in 1883.

The following photos will also show that because of its features, this particular timer is likely the foundation model on which the various designers of subsequent Horse Timers (previously mentioned) used to build their own characteristic features into similar movements.

Bear in mind also that the Wright Bros stopwatch was manufactured by Gallet. This stopwatch/timer was manufactured by the already well-established Girard Perregaux & Cie company who were known for their complex movement "Tourbillon with three gold bridges" patented in the USA in 1884, (and awarded a gold medal in 1889 at the Universal Exposition of Paris).

First, the Mikrolisk Trade Mark Index shows this image as granted to Girard Perregaux & Cie in 1883:

Girard-Perregaux & Cie Trademark Mikrolisk .jpg


Next, the following three photos show their Horse Timer titled "Sport"

Girard-Perregaux Timer 1883 b.jpg


Girard-Perregaux Timer 1883 a.jpg


Girard-Perregaux Timer 1883 c.jpg


As you can see, when comparing the Wright Bros "The Sun" stopwatch movement (proven to be in use at least from 1891 to 1902) with this earlier model by Girard-Perregaux (manufactured in 1883), they both share common features such as the triple gear linkage (barrel, winding wheel and intermediary wheel), a variation of a housing over these gears, and a similar positioning of the balance bridge structure.

Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann  movement approx 1902.jpg


Reymond-Rod and Aeschlimann's previously mentioned chronograph (patented in 1893) likely developed from a more simplified movement but the Swiss Patent Office did not start granting patents with numbers until 1888 so Reymond-Rod & Aeschlimann may well have constructed a Horse Timer movement between 1883 to 1891 that has not been documented by the Swiss Patent Office or that at least has not been unearthed from the US patent archives.

Hopefully down the track someone may uncover some dusty archive information or reveal a Horse Timer that has been stored away that has a patent number or some other piece of information on it that they can add to this thread.
 
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SFoskett

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I haven't done much research into Gallet (it's on my list!) but the 1882 date to begin working with Jeanneret to supply movements makes sense. Especially JULES Jeanneret (the father) who had recently split with his partner Fallet (perhaps that very year) and was looking to establish a new client base. The movement definitely looks like something from the 1880s not something that the Jeanneret sons would have produced at Le Parc after the turn of the century.

Given the extremely close relationship of the various Jeanneret family factories in Saint-Imier and the fact that the various components were independently manufactured, finished, and assembled, there is no definitive answer to "who" produced any movement from this period. The Jeanneret "workshop" was actually still the family home at this point, with most work handled elsewhere by others.

Given this, I agree that we can add Jules Jeanneret to the list of possible movement manufacturers. But I'm not convinced it could be Jeanneret Frères (his sons and predecessor to Jeanneret-Brehm/Excelsior Park) since they did not yet exist and this movement doesn't resemble their work. Gallet certainly did work with the sons' firm and the story of Gallet inspiring the company's name does sound credible. But that was a decade after this watch.
 

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