The JourneyWhen I first started collecting clocks and watches, I had not heard of Charles DeLong, Fred McIntyre or the McIntyre Watch Co. After a few years of collecting mostly clocks, and a short period operating a clock stall in an antiques mall in Hamilton Ontario we moved back to the United States to live in West Virginia. I met Harley Sheets in Morgantown, West Virginia and Harley convinced me to join the NAWCC in 1971. We attended the Chapter 37 meetings in Pittsburgh and enjoyed the fun of learning and sharing what we discovered with others.
I noticed that there were two major philosophies for collectors. Some collectors shared whatever they knew and freely shared what their collecting interest were but some felt that their knowledge of what was good gave them an edge in their collecting and they were reluctant to share information about their collections and rarely took their better items for show and tell discussions. I decided that sharing was the best approach because it increased the number of people who might recognize the things I also liked and would improve my chances to get a good piece for my collection. The only downside was that I might need to pay a bit more for an item I liked.
When I found out about the McIntyre Watch Co. in the late 1970's it was still quite a while before I knew much more than the name. Eventually, I found out that examples of the watches existed at the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois. I made several pilgrimages to the Time Museum while it was in operation.
I met Bill Keller through my neighbor in Morgantown who was Bill's brother-in-law Bob Core. In the late 1980's Bill and his friend John Lund wrote an article on the McIntyre Watch Co. that was published in the NAWCC Bulletin (June 1989). Bill encouraged me to introduce myself to Donald McIntyre the son of Fred McIntyre who had founded the McIntyre Watch Co.
I delayed approaching Donald McIntyre for several years and in the interim I had a chance to purchase the remaining material and drawings from the company from my friend Don Wing who had inherited the material purchased in the 1940's by his father Henry Wing, Jr.
In the intervening years, I had begun developing a web site to display my collections and to continue sharing whatever I could about the watches I found so fascinating. With the factory material in hand I decided that it was past time that I should approach Donald McIntyre and got in touch with him at his home in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Donald was a delightful person as were the rest of his family and especially his wife Evelyn. They gave me access to all the information they had about the McIntyre Watch Co. and were my guests at a Chapter 8 meeting where I presented the material with their and my pieces displayed in an exhibit on the McIntyre Watch Co. The presentation provided a natural base for a web site on the McIntyre Watch Company that complemented the other collections that were already in place on my web site.
Donald passed away in 2003, shortly before the final sale of the Time Museum collections at Sotheby's New York in 2004. The McIntyre watches from the Time Museum sold for $51,000 for the 16 size, 25 jewel example and $19,000 for the unique 21 jewel 12 size example. Both were well beyond what I could afford to spend. Those two watches and the two examples owned by Donald's son were the only watches I knew for certain existed although there were rumors that as many as five more might exist.
The factory material included several complete ebauches and all the drawings needed to produce more examples in the hands of a master watchmaker. I hesitated to contract for such a task but, other than such an effort, I had pretty much given up on ever owning a McIntyre Watch.
When Donald McIntyre died, I was given a box of loose parts that had once belonged to Fred McIntyre and I assisted in inventorying and evaluating some of the more exotic memorabilia. In that box were the parts for an incomplete open face watch movement that was intended to have the patented winding indicator mechanism featured in the 25 jewel McIntyre Watch. The material had clearly been made by Charles DeLong as an effort to study the design he had in mind. My friend Bill Tapp agreed to finish the project to the level that it could be used to demonstrate the mechanism using his ability to "channel" Charles DeLong and study of the factory drawings, which I furnished. The prototype was my "consolation prize" for not being able to get a McIntyre watch.
The talks I presented to the NAWCC National Meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2009 included a large display of McIntyre and DeLong memorabilia and all of the material I had at that time. That national exposure let nearly everyone know of my interest in the McIntyre Watch Co. Of course, at that time I had presented some of the material at the Ward Francillon Time Symposium in Houston and several regional meetings. The web site can be visited at McIntyre Watch Co.
In May 2012, a coin dealer in Northern California decided to sell some old material they had on hand for many years that included a pocket watch in a display case that would not set, was missing one crystal and had a discolored plastic crystal in the other position. The dial was unmarked but there was a metal plug in the movement engraved "V. E. LaPorte, San Diego, 1927."
The photographs of the watch were not particularly good, but were good enough for some to recognize that the movement had the same plate layout as the 16 size, 25 jewel, McIntyre Watch that had sold for $51,000 at the famous Time Museum auction.
One of those who knew what the watch was approached the seller with a request to end the auction early for a significant premium over the highest bid then displayed ($385) but only a small fraction of what the similar watch had fetched a few years earlier. The auction was terminated and the seller shipped the watch.
When the auction was terminated several of the potential buyers contacted the seller to alert him that the watch had a value in the 5 figures range. The seller decided that they had not been made a legitimate offer and contacted the shipper to return the watch to them without delivering it.
One of those who contacted the seller told them about my McIntyre Watch Co. web site and alerted me to what was happening. When I saw the eBay listing I was amazed and terribly disappointed because it appeared that the watch was gone. The person who told the seller about me also informed me that the watch had not actually been sold and that the seller wanted to talk with me.
When I spoke with the seller, I told him everything I knew or thought I knew about his watch including what I had been able to determine from U.S. Census and City Directory records about how the watch most likely came into existence. I also told them about the earlier $51,000 sale of a related watch.
The seller related that they wanted to sell the watch to me if I could make my best offer for it. I did and eventually the V. E. LaPorte watch built on a McIntyre Watch Co. ebauche by Vance E. LaPorte under the instruction of Charles E. Delong found its way to me.
The watch will, of course, never leave my possession and represents the peak that I never really believed my watch collecting would achieve. I sincerely believe that this miracle occurred because of the philosophical choice I had made many years before that sharing and displaying one's collection is the best course to promote horology and to enjoy this wonderful field of study and collecting.
The LaPorte WatchCharles E. DeLong is considered by many knowledgeable watch collectors to be the greatest American watchmaker when one takes into account innovation, design skills and incredible craftsmanship. His biography was written up by Major Paul Chamberlain in the book, It's About Time. More biographical material and ephemera may be found on the web site referenced earlier.
DeLong suffered from tuberculosis and was forced to move from Springfield Illinois to Arizona in 1920 in the hope that the desert climate would improve his health. In 1925 he moved from Arizona to San Diego California and bought a bungalow court where he went into semi-retirement. It was there that he took Vance LaPorte as an advanced student and instructed him in the techniques and design concepts of fine watches. We do not have any documentation on their relationship. LaPorte was employed by the largest jewelry store in San Diego and he and DeLong lived about 10 blocks apart north of downtown. What we do have is the watch they produced and it tells its own story.
The major features of the LaPorte watch are the same as the McIntyre master watch.
- DeLong Patent Jeweled Winding Indicator
- DeLong Patent Dial Bezel
- DeLong Jeweled Motor Barrel
- McIntyre Patent Regulator
- DeLong's 'Semi-tangential' escapement.
- Unique banking system - On the McIntyre the banking posts are DeLong's patented concentric banking posts. On the LaPorte watch, the banking posts are in the same position, but have large ruby posts set eccentrically in gold screws.
- Gold plug signature - 'MWCo' on the McIntyre and 'V. E. LaPorte San Diego 1927.' None of the other known McIntyre examples have the signature plug.
The McIntyre Master Watch has diamond end stones on the balance while the LaPorte has ruby.
Both watches have DeLong's signature milliskeened finish with the variation that the McIntyre watch has the 4 line pattern seen on many of his watches, while the LaPorte has 10 lines in one of the directions.
The McIntyre has a bright nickel finish, while the LaPorte is gold plated on all the plate surfaces.
Overall, the McIntyre has a slightly higher level of finish as might be expected of the master's work. The finish difference is especially notable on the winding wheels where DeLong used satin and black polish while LaPorte used snailing.
Inside the LaPorte Watch
Winding IndicatorUnder the LaPorte dial we see how beautiful the milliskeened finish is when it is fresh and new. The scraped finish in the wells is reminiscent of a high grade lathe bed and is also beautiful in a less flamboyant way. The milliskeening catches light and shadow so that the pattern continually shifts with the viewing angle and slight changes in lighting.
Looking at the pendant setting mechanism, one can see that provision has been made for either pendant or lever setting.
The elegant winding indicator train shows some of the secrets of its operation. The flush steel cock at the 8:00 position in the picture receives the dial side pivot of the transmission stack and allows the first wheel in the wind indicator train to be driven from either the winding action (counterclockwise) or during running (clockwise). The uncut segment in the second wheel butts against the pinion that is friction mounted in the first wheel. This limits the motion of the winding indicator hand to the scale that appears on the dial of the watch. The main wheel is free to continue turning in either direction as the friction clutch slips.
The lower pivot of the jeweled motor barrel can be seen under the second wheel of the winding indicator train.
The back view of the movement shows the satellite pinion riding on the rim of the ratchet wheel. As the stem is turned to wind the watch, the satellite gear and the engaging gear it carries swing over to engage the top wheel of the winding indicator stack of gears. This gear is the top element in the set that ends with the winding indicator drive gear seen in the under dial picture.
Winding Indicator Details
The gear stack of the indicator includes the top gear that engages the satellite, the heavy center gear, engages the first wheel on the DeLong motor barrel. In order for the stack top wheel to turn, the gear that engages the first wheel has a friction clutch. The entire stack removed from the watch can be seen in the image to the right. The bronze spring that provides the friction clutch is visible in this view. The top and bottom gears are rigidly attached to the shaft. The bottom gear engages the winding train under the dial
If the user of the watch got over enthusiastic about winding, they might possibly damage the pair of gears at the top of the winding indicator train. The pin visible in the hole just to the left of the satellite wheel in this picture of the bottom side of the barrel bridge provides a stop to limit the swing to just engage the gears without excess pressure.
Stem and Crown
The stem is fixed in the watch and ends in an undercut segment with squared sides that capture the mating fixture attached to the crown. On wristwatches, the piece attached to the crown is sometimes a stiff spring. In the LaPorte watch the element is a piece of blued steel.
Dial BezelThe dial attachment system is patented by DeLong and provides for a very simple design with no screws and no dial feet. The dial bezel accepts either a dial with the seconds bit at 3:00 and the winding indicator at 9:00 so that the watch can be housed in an open face case with the pendant at 12:00 or a dial with the seconds bit at 6:00 and the indicator dial at 12:00 which puts the stem at 3:00 for use in a hunting case.
DialIt is most likely that the LaPorte dial started life as one of the Swiss imported McIntyre dials. There is evidence that the name was erased from the front of the dial. The edge view of the movement shows one of the springy dial clips in its notch in the side of the pillar plate. This picture also shows the recess in the dial bezel where the bezel can be lifted off the pillar plate.
The notches around the perimeter of the plate receive the three spring feet of the dial bezel. This feature makes the dial very easy to remove with no screws or pins involved.
RegulatorOne interesting feature of the McIntyre watch is Fred McIntyre's patent regulator. The regulator cannot be seen in the normal sense since it is hidden under the balance cock. This makes the watch appear to be free sprung at first glance.
The adjustment of the regulator is accomplished with a nut that carries the end of the regulator arm. All that is visible is the slot near the bottom of the balance cock. These pictures show the top and bottom view of the balance cock with the regulator.
Semi-Tangential EscapementThe escapement is well executed with a recessed hub escape wheel and DeLong's semi-tangential escapement. The counterpoised pallet was used on both the McIntyre watches as well as on the LaPorte watch. A substantial number of these are in the factory inventory.
Many of DeLong's watches use the abbreviated impulse roller with just an arm holding the impulse jewel. In the LaPorte watch the staff is very well executed with a good finish.