help required... identity crissis

Thread: help required... identity crissis

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  1. #1

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    Question help required... identity crissis

    i have been trying to identify a ladies swiss movement watch with no manufacturers markings. the only info i can give is that the case springs open on a hing to reveal the mechanism and the case is hallmarked 9k birmingham (uk) date 1905 and bears the makers stamps FK.
    there is a serial number in the case 4063.
    also inside the case there are many very small hand written numbers and letters that are only visible with a magnifying glass
    the strap is a gold over silver (expanding ) bracelet strap and has two engraved links one says EXCALIBUR the other says 10 r.g.f.t
    the movement is engraved with the words " SWISS MADE " " FIRST QUALITY " AND "REGD TRADE MARK BIRD IN RING"
    the face is white with gold numerals and bears the words "swiss made" in small letters under the numerals at 6 oclock these letters are only ledgeable with a magnifying glass....

  2. #2
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    I'm afraid we won't be able to help you without a picture of the movement and the dial. Even then we won't necessarily be able to identify your watch precisely.
    However with a photo or two we may be able to guess the approximate decade of manufacture. These types of watches are very difficult to identify even with pictures unfortunately.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  3. #3

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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    thanks for the info i will try to post picture later today, the watch originaly belonged to my wifes great grandmother or maybe even her great great grandmother we are not sure as the case has the family initials engraved on the underside and both ladies bore the same initials - either way the hallmark date of 1905 would be about right - it could even be 1903 as the marking is not clear and is either an O - 1903 or a Q - 1905.
    thanks john

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  5. #4

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    Picture Re: help required... identity crissis

    having trouble uploading pics will put more on a.s.a.p hope theese help - john
    Attached Images Attached Images






  6. #5
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    Well looking at the dial and movement photos it certainly would make sense that your watch dates to the early 20th century. The dial was made prior to 1920 for sure and the movement looks similar to some Gruens I've seen that were made around 1900.
    I'd guess it's a 15 jewel movement which was a nice ladies watch back then.
    There were hundreds of small Swiss "cottage firms" that were making watch movements and finished watches in the early 20th century, so I don't think we'll be able to date your watch or identify it more accurately than the case data already has. Thanks for posting the pics.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  7. #6
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    Hi -

    After seeing the photos I'd largely agree with Ray. Not sure that the dial would necessarily be before 1920 - the railroad track around the dial and the san serif font points me towards the late 1930s more, but that's my opinion - and the movement does look to be a fairly nice 15 jewel movement. The lettering on the movement, however, doesn't lead me to believe that this was an originally sourced watch, but more likely a watch made for retail sellers to put their own name on, what we nowadays call "OEM".

    What Ray says about the Swiss industry then is absolutely correct: it could be from a small firm that made whatever customers ordered; it could be from a larger firm that sold batches of these without the company's name attached to them for either further finishing or sale as is by jewelers; in any case it looks to be in quite good shape, relatively speaking.


    Ah, the case: definitely pre-war (WW2), as this type of case does a poor job in sealing the watch from the elements, and the cases we have today are pretty much a post-war development (the Rolex Oyster case was pretty much the first such, and it took a long time for others to copy it successfully).

    Looking once again at the movement, it looks more to be earlier than later. The reason? The way the watch is built. Think of it this way: before quartz watches showed up, people had to have their watches serviced. When designing a watch movement, there are numerous compromises to be made between making a watch accurate and making a watch easy to service. One of these decisions is whether I use something like a 3/4 plate construction or whether I use a seperate bridge for the escapement wheel. This you can see in the lower right hand side of the first picture of the movement: you have three red jewels for the escapement wheel, the second and the minute wheels, sort of in a row (actually a curve). A watch with a 3/4 plate puts these three jewels in a single plate that covers about 3/4 of the back of the watch, which makes it easier to get the tolerances and play within the movement to behave, since you adjust all three with the installation of the plate together.

    In this movement, the minute wheel and the second wheel are mounted together, but the escapement jewel is mounted in a seperate bridge. This is designed to make it much easier to re-assemble the watch after cleaning it (disassembly isn't the problem: reassembly is!), which is what people used to do on a regular basis.

    It's not so much that the watchmaker who did the repair would repair such a watch for less money, but rather he got too keep more of the money for such a repair. Separating the bridges out like this makes reassembly a snap; working with a 3/4 plate or some similiar assembly is much more difficult, since the escapement wheel is the one of the three most likely to be not sitting quite correctly in its seat, meaning that you need three hands (or rather three sets of tweezers!) to get it back together easily. In the watchmaking course I took, 3 out of 5 couldn't get all three into place at all, and it took me close to 30 minutes to get all three sitting correctly so that I could mount the upper plate and have all three wheels working correctly.

    Now, that said, having the escapement wheel mounted differently from the other two means that there will be variance in mounting for the wheels attached to seperate bridges and plates; this means that there is another variable that may disturb the perfect working of the movement. That's the reason for using a single plate: you remove a point of possible variance, and that is a good thing for better accuracy. That's why, for instance, you seen 3/4 plate movements from companies like Länge & Söhne: there is a horological usefulness for them.

    So, I'm guessing at a mid-range movement. If the jewels are properly placed, it's a 15-jewl movement, which also belongs in the middle-range area. That means the watch was aimed at a consumer segment that wanted to have a significantly better performing and better lasting watch than low end (which used pin-lever and other inexpensive movements that were cheaper to replace than repair), but the lack of ID on the movement itself and on the face point to a no-name brand made for jewelers wanting, basically, to sell their own brand of watch (even if there was no brand name on it!).

    In any case, it's a solid watch, one which must have significant emotional significance for you. We always recommend a visit to a good watchmaker to ensure that your watch retains its functionality over time (a good cleaning and lubrication works wonders!) and it's comforting to know that if you properly take care of a watch, you can pass it on to future generations, which in this case means your children or grandchildren may have a very nice heirloom.

    But be aware that the case won't keep the watch free from negative effects of the environment, especially dust. This isn't a watch to be worn on construction sites, etc: the lack of sealing makes it vulnerable. But to a normal office-style work environment it's fine. But keep it far, far, far away from water...

    And if the above sounded like geek-talk and is only partially understandable, that's my fault. Hope this helped you understand your watch a tad more and that you'll be taking tender care of it to keep its sentimental value...

    JohnF
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  8. #7
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    Not to get into too much of a debate on the dial with my esteemed colleague, but it looks like an enamel one to me (which generally means prior to 1920). The "railroad track" motif was most common in the 1930s but I have examples in my own collection that feature it and predate that era (1893 Elgin and 1907 Illinois.)
    Certainly I defer to his watchmaking expertise in regard to bridge vs 3/4 plate construction.
    Last edited by Ray MacDonald; January 10th, 2007 at 15:21.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  9. #8
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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    Hi -

    If it's enameled, your right: there were very few enamaled dials after the mid 1920s in this price range.

    You're also right on the railroad tracks: I've been looking at too many women's Gruens lately (I got thirty women's movement's off eBay a while ago and many still have their faces...). But on a woman's watch that is fairly unusual, I think. Also the san-serif font, but that may just be me...



    And I wouldn't dare debate my esteemed colleague on watches from this era: I may have a few, but they've all fallen into my hands more or less by accident, and Ray knows more about that period than I do.

    johnF
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  10. #9

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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    i would like to thank both ray and john for their detailed and clearly explained response to my request, to share your knowledge in this way is a great help for those who have no idea or experience in your field.

    could either of you suggest a reputeable way of getting such an item valued for insurance purposes as we have looked at various sources including watch sites and ebay and have not seen anything like this one so far, would a normal jeweller be able to help or an antique dealer.. my thoughts would be that unless they carry a knowledge such as your of early watches they may either under value or give on over inflated and inacurate price,
    thanks once again john

  11. #10
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: help required... identity crissis

    Hi -

    There's a sticky note at the top of this forum about valuing watches from Ray; it's a very good assessment of the difficulties involved.

    On the one hand, what you have is an heirloom and would be virtually impossible to replace, meaning normally that you'd put a very high subjective value on it. On the other hand, it's an old watch, and may not be in the best of shape, and an "objective" assessment may be of only a few dollars.

    You're correct in the difficulties with a jeweller or antique dealer. What you may be able to find is a watchmaker specializing in vintage watches, who will know more about this than any of us (or at least should!!).

    I'd try searching on eBay using differing search patterns until you start to find similiar watches, searching on closed auctions, i.e. completed transactions. That's the only way to determine a market price. Be sure to search world-wide, though, as that may give you more hits.

    Best of luck!

    JohnF
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