Joseph Fahys started out opening a shop in New York City in 1857. He next moved to Carlstadt, NJ, involved with the case company Foutenbach & Sons, which was re-named under Joseph Fahys. In 1882, operations were moved to Sag Harbor, NY, lasting there until the Great Depression.
Joseph Fahys & Co.: A Brief HistoryThe book History of the American Watch Case,, has the following to say about Joseph Fahys & Co. (which includes additional Notes in Brown by Michael Harrold): Joseph Fahys came to the United States in 1848 and opened a shop in New York City in 1857. In 1861 he built another factory in Carlstadt, NJ and ran it under the name of Foutenbach & Sons (Or, the Fortenback case company in Carlstadt was organized and built entirely by the Fortenbach family, although Fahys may have been their distributor) until 1878 when it was re-named under Joseph Fahys. In 1882, operations moved to Sag Harbor, NY, which is a former whaling port on Long Island (and where Fahys' wife was from).
By the end of the 1890s, Fahys had expanded its factory at the cost of $10,000 (a considerable amount of money at the time). Regardless of the factory being out on Long Island, Fahys' (and Brooklyn's - see below) main offices were in located in their own building in New York City.
Fahys seemed to have only made gold-filled, silver and Oresilver (nickel) cases from the late 1880's up to 1910 (the subject needs to be researched beyond that year). However, starting in the mid-1890s, Joseph Fahys & Co. is listed (in ads) as the General Agent for the Brooklyn Watch Case Co., a manufacturer of solid gold cases, of which, Fahys was one of the original directors upon its inception in 1873. It is difficult to tell how actively involved he was, or was not, with the company. Fahys brought the Brooklyn Watch Case Co. to Sag Harbor in the late 1890s. At sometime leading up to the turn of the century, ownership of Brooklyn passed to Fahys. The company went out of business during the Great Depression. Interestingly, according to the article "Fahys of Sag Harbor, New York, Part 1," in 1937 the Bulova Watch Co. leased part of the Fahys Sag Harbor factory building. Bulova made watch cases there until the plant was closed in 1980.
Many Fahys cases are stamped "No. 1" in addition to other identifying markings. However, documentation has yet to appear that indicates just what "No. 1" specifically means when stamped on the inside of a Fahys case. Michael Harrold had once reported on the message board that Fahys registered the "No. 1" in 1878 as part of a larger and more elaborate trade mark, just prior to purchasing the Fortanback case business. At that time the trademark was used on coin silver cases. It seems that the No.1 mark was continued across a whole range of cases, so it may never have indicated a particular grade of goods.
Fahys' ads of the mid-1880s promoted their "Dust Proof" cases. The company secured such rights under the Fitch patent as needed, from Robbins & Appleton, to be able to offer both hunting and open-face screw cases. In an ad, Fahys stated "Fahys Monarch Screw Case - water won't hurt it." thus going out on quite a limb. This claim didn't seem to have been repeated and one wonders how quick and how big the customer response was.
Magnetically Shielded Cases
In the late 1880s, when the risk of watches becoming magnetized was a major consideration, Fahys came out with a line of magnetically shielded cases. These utilized the Giles Anti-Magnetic Shield.
Fahys gave names to the shapes of some of its case styles. One such was The Raleigh. Another style was The Cambridge, while yet two more were The Boston and The Olympia.
Fahys was a full line supplier and as such, the company also produced bracelet watches. However, its not clear if by this time the company was just furnishing the cases (and bands) or if it was also bundling these with movements and marketing complete watches.
Some of Fahys' case engraving designs may be seen in the following ads, as well as those linked to in the Case Grade Table, below:
April, 1893 ad - Monarch Locomotive design.
February 3, 1897 ad - Monarch 20-year cases, 6 designs.
February 3, 1897 ad - Montauk 15-year cases, 6 designs.
March 3, 1897 ad - The wheelman's watch - for bicyclists.
April 7, 1897 ad - Montauk cases, 7 designs.
May 5, 1897 ad - Montauk 15-year screw cases, 5 designs.
June 30, 1897 ad - Hunting cases, 9-designs.
July 21, 1897 ad - 14 F K 25-year gold-filled cases, 10 designs.
November 3, 1897 ad - Montauk 15-year screw cases, 6 designs.
March 23, 1898 ad - Montauk, 8 designs.
March 23, 1898 ad - 14 F K, 10 designs.
April 27, 1898 ad - Montauk 20-year cases, 10 designs.
July 27, 1898 ad - Ships of the Spanish - American War.
August 10, 1898 ad - 14 F K, Gadroon border 9 designs.
October 12, 1898 ad - 14 F K, 3 designs.
October 19, 1898 ad - 14 F K, 12-Size, 6 designs.
November 9, 1898 ad, Pg 46 - 14 F K, 16-Size, 6 designs.
November 9, 1898 ad, Pg 47 - 14 F K, 16-Size, 6 more designs.
Fahys' case designs may also be seen on pages 327 - 354 (although not on all of the pages) of the 1897 Lapp & Flershem Twenty-first Annual Illustrated Catalogue.
Case Grade Table
Case Grade Case Material Warranted To Wear Permanently (stamped in cap) 14K Gold-Filled, no time limit on warranty, or Permanent, introduced about February 1901, by 1904: stamped "Fahys" w/ Caduceus trade mark in back. Warranted 14 F K (stamped in cap) 14K Gold-Filled, guaranteed for 25 years, introduced in July 1897, by 1904: stamped "Fahys" w/ Caduceus trade mark in back. Bristol 14K Gold-Filled, guaranteed for 25 years. The Bristol grade was formerly a Brooklyn Watch Case Co. (which was controlled by Fahys) grade which was moved to Fahys in about 1907, possibly to maintain the Brooklyn line of cases as solid gold only. Monarch Gold-Filled, guaranteed for 21-Years Past 1887, 20-Years After February 1897. Conqueror 12K Gold-Filled, guaranteed for 21 years Montauk (stamped in cap) Gold-Filled, guaranteed for 15-years up to about March 1898, 20-years thereafter, by 1904: stamped "Fahys" w/ Caduceus trade mark in back. America (Flag in circle - example posted by Bill Manders) Rolled Gold Plate, guaranteed for 5 years Atlas Coin Silver (example posted by Omexa) Monarch Coin Silver Coin No. 1 Coin silver case (example posted by Jerry Bryant) Senior Coin silver open-face pair case (may be more of a style than a grade) Junior 2 oz Coin silver or Silverore open-face pair case (may be more of a style than a grade) Silver with Gold Inlay Made in the late 1880s Oresilver or Ore Silver Composition (nickel) case Silverore Composition (nickel) case
See the Case Material Encyclopedia article for an explanation of the terms.
The following books and back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library, using the Lending Library Form.
History of the American Watch Case, Warren H. Niebling, Whitmore Publishing, Philadelphia, PA, 1971.
A number of Fahys' trade marks (but not all) may be seen on pages xvii and 116 of the book Trade Marks Of The Jewelry And Kindred Trades, Second Edition, Jewelers' Circular Publishing Co., NY, 1904 (found online by Askbart).
Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.
"Fahys of Sag Harbor, New York, Part 1," John H. Wilterding, Jr., NAWCC Bulletin, No. 332 (June 2001), pp. 316-24.
"Early Industrial Watchcases, Part II" John H. Wilterding Jr. and Mike Harrold, NAWCC Bulletin No. 355, October 2005, pp. 147-164.
"A Pictorial View of American Watchcase Factories," Andrew H. Dervan, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin No. 396, March/April 2012, pp. 181-182.
Fahys silver cases are listed on pages 18 & 19 of the 1886 H. Muhr's Sons catalog.
Categories: Category Watch case makers