Chasing the history of your watch
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Thread: Chasing the history of your watch

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  1. #1
    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Chasing the history of your watch

    Collecting watches under technical aspects, the admiration for a certain brand or whatever is one side of the fascination. But there is also a history of the watch itself beyond the manufacturer of the watch, the movement or the case. Besides a jewelers name on the dial, you occasionally find information about the watchmaker or jeweler who sold the watch and you want to know more about that. I am not only referring to names you find in the box or in the papers, but on an inlay you often find in the old verge watches.

    The nut I am presently trying to crack is about a verge watch made between the year 1750 and 1758. The watchmaker (London, England) can easily be identified, and so all information about the case.

    What concerns the seller (jeweler) of the watch, I have an inlay with name, city, street and number. An easy one to get? Well, not so, if the watch was sold over 250 years ago.

    So who is John Watt, in 7 Duke Street, in the small town called Huntly, near Aberdeen, up in the Scottish Highlands? What happened to his business?

    Thanks to Google maps, you can spot the city on your computer screen and the Internet gives you business directories etc. but that didn't give any clear lead.

    Nowadays, you don't have to go to Huntly yourself to see who occupies 7 Duke Street, because there is Google Street View (now I know what it is good for). But to my disappointment, there is no jeweler anymore in no. 7, which is now occupied by an optician. As the city is not too large, I was checking the neighborhood, also with Google Street View, and discovered a jeweler by the name Watt in another location a bit higher up in Duke Street and a hardware store Peter Watt and Sons, just opposite no. 7. As these very old houses in the city center all have about the size of a phone booth, that is all very close together. The house no. 7 in Duke street was built in the 18th century, according to the city's register.

    The chances should be good that they could be relatives of the John Wood I am searching for, if there would not be the look into the telephone book, showing too many of people with the family name Watt in Huntly.

    I guess I have to go there myself (besides trying by e-mail to the jeweler in Duke Street), dig in Church registers or whatever, but the biggest fun has been spoiled. Just imagine you walk into a still existing Watt jeweler store in Huntly, 7 Duke Street, and tell the guy that a watch has been purchased here in 1750. You complain that there seems to be something wrong with it. When you hang it straight up, it is 1 minute fast and when you lay it flat on the table, it looses 1 minute. You know for sure, that your ancestor had explicitly insisted on a diamond center stone to avoid such deficiencies...
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    Last edited by Border-Reiver; July 29th, 2015 at 12:38.
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  2. #2
    Member mkws's Avatar
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    Re: Chasing the history of your watch

    Well, of course you can go there and try to find out who of these Watts in Huntly is a descendant of John Watt the watchmaker, but keep in mind that chances are that nobody is, or a hundred people are, or one is- but doesn't know a damn thing about his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.
    For example, approximately 10 people with my surname live in a 10-mile radius from me, but not a single person out of them is related to me, not to the best of my knowledge at least. Or maybe they are, but it's pretty much impossible to check. Also, what I have found out, is that my great-grandfather had four brothers, each of them had between 2 and 5 kids, who founded families of their own- and since they haven't kept in touch since then, nobody knows where are all these people now. In the graveyard of the hometown of my grandmother, there are more than 40 gravestones with the maiden name of my grandmother, but only 5 out of 40 are known to have been relatives.
    And that's only for my family up to the 1920s-1930s. Complicated, isn't it?
    You're looking at research going some 180 years prior to that- good luck with the church records, because they seem like the only chance. Assuming that every single Watt was born in Huntly, lived in Huntly, and died in Huntly.
    Sorry about the pessimistic scenario, but I simply know how difficult such research is.
    I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it.
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  3. #3
    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Re: Chasing the history of your watch

    Quote Originally Posted by mkws View Post
    Well, of course you can go there and try to find out who of these Watts in Huntly is a descendant of John Watt the watchmaker, but keep in mind that chances are that nobody is, or a hundred people are, or one is- but doesn't know a damn thing about his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.
    For example, approximately 10 people with my surname live in a 10-mile radius from me, but not a single person out of them is related to me, not to the best of my knowledge at least. Or maybe they are, but it's pretty much impossible to check. Also, what I have found out, is that my great-grandfather had four brothers, each of them had between 2 and 5 kids, who founded families of their own- and since they haven't kept in touch since then, nobody knows where are all these people now. In the graveyard of the hometown of my grandmother, there are more than 40 gravestones with the maiden name of my grandmother, but only 5 out of 40 are known to have been relatives.
    And that's only for my family up to the 1920s-1930s. Complicated, isn't it?
    You're looking at research going some 180 years prior to that- good luck with the church records, because they seem like the only chance. Assuming that every single Watt was born in Huntly, lived in Huntly, and died in Huntly.
    Sorry about the pessimistic scenario, but I simply know how difficult such research is.
    Well, you must just live with disappointments and difficulties. When I did my last research, I had to acknowledge that there are today selling smart phones on holy grounds, in a former store of a watchmaker/jeweler who is even mentioned in the 'Watch and Clockmakers of the World', but better than what I had recently seen, where a Kebab-House had taken over...

    William Dann, 7 Week Street, Maidstone, Kent, sold this watch around the year 1797 to a member of the famous Carter family, who ruled the political scene down in Portsmouth. The buyer had its name put on the dial and I think I know which Carter from Portsmouth it was. If I would know someone rich and blood related to this Mr. Carter (again too many Carters around there), I could hold it up to his nose, asking for a nice price...

    What concerns the traces to William Dann and his store in Maidstone, they have vanished I guess.
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    Last edited by Border-Reiver; July 29th, 2015 at 15:03.
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  5. #4
    Member mkws's Avatar
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    Re: Chasing the history of your watch

    Well, the kebab house might as well be the 10th business which opened there after the watchmaker has gone out of business...
    Smartphones sold on "holy ground"? I see a certain irony here- aren't smartphones what people nowadays pull out of the pocket to check the time?
    Anyway, it requires a lot of patience to research the history of a watch to an extent that you research it to. KUDOS to you, and best of luck with the Watt watch
    Border-Reiver and busmatt like this.
    I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it.
    Edgar Allan Poe

    If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
    George Orwell

    (...)but that's what mankind is like: they only prize what they no longer possess.
    Erich Maria Remarque

    For any inquiries regarding vintage Doxa watches, please read the highlighted text in my vintage Doxa thread. Sorry, but I will not respond to PMs on the matter.

  6. #5
    Member SilkeN's Avatar
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    Re: Chasing the history of your watch

    I personally always love the storys you can find about the owner and the surrounding of a watch. Unfortunately the way over the seller is usually not possible. I was really wonding about Adam notes out of the breguet books as he wrote about his watches. My only watch I know a few about the owner is a youngtimer of 1885 with an inscripotion of the owner of a smal town near by.
    In your case its a smal town and you know the aera. I guess a person who can afford this watch during this aera might be mentioned within the town archives with further informations than bith and dead. Edward Carter isn't so very commun I hope. May be you can find a "Carter mansion" or simular within this region.

    Kind regards Silke
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    That's what I think about today:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlUGeY7MWVo

  7. #6
    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Re: Chasing the history of your watch

    Quote Originally Posted by SilkeN View Post
    I personally always love the storys you can find about the owner and the surrounding of a watch. Unfortunately the way over the seller is usually not possible. I was really wonding about Adam notes out of the breguet books as he wrote about his watches. My only watch I know a few about the owner is a youngtimer of 1885 with an inscripotion of the owner of a smal town near by.
    In your case its a smal town and you know the aera. I guess a person who can afford this watch during this aera might be mentioned within the town archives with further informations than bith and dead. Edward Carter isn't so very commun I hope. May be you can find a "Carter mansion" or simular within this region.

    Kind regards Silke
    Carters around Portsmouth are ten a penny, but I most likely have identified THE Mr. Carter, who was able to afford such a watch. There is another possibility, as he named his son also Edward. He was around 40 at the time the watch had been sold and his son was 12. But I am searching for the needle in the haystack when it comes to relatives of Edward Carter or the seller of the watch, William Dann. But I have the watchmaker and casemaker, which are normally quite easy to find on British verge watches.

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