Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?
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  1. #1
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    Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    Hi all,

    This is my first post to the forum. I have collected vintage watches for over 20 years. I'm reasonably knowledgeable but I've had the watch in these images for around 10 years and I've never really known anything about it. It has no visible maker's name either to the case or the dial. It has a 9 carat gold, double-hinged case, including a central 'block' also made of gold. When I had it serviced soon after I first bought it, my watch-maker said it had a particularly fine movement.
    The interesting thing about the watch is that it has London hallmarks for 1916 – 1917. That means it is very early indeed for a square watch and indeed, it pre-dates the Cartier 'Tank' watch, which was not introduced until 1918. The styling of the dial with its hand-painted "exploding" numerals seems equally ahead of its time. As you can see, the watch has a serial number inside the case-back.
    Does anyone out there recognise the movement or know who the watch might have been made by?
    David
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  2. #2
    Member James A's Avatar
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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    Hello hello David - David,

    Your watch could have been assembled by a watchmaker hence the lack of branding but it's just a guess.
    Im sure we can find the movement for you. I just a had quick look and found no match but others may find it!
    I have 2 dates for the Cartier tank 1904 and 1911 that would both predate your lovely watch. I'm leaning towards 1904 :)
    Btw welcome to the forums.

    Regards,



    p.s I see Wikipedia have the introduction date for the Tank as 1917!!
    Last edited by James A; October 15th, 2015 at 10:28.

  3. #3
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    Am I missing the office mark?
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages: http://www.abslomrob.com

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  5. #4
    Vint. Forum Co-Moderator Mirius's Avatar
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    Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    It has the London import mark.

    Watches of this period were often unbranded. The trials and tribulations of Rolex to get their name visible on their watches are well documented. Customer loyalty was to jewellers not watchmakers.

    If we don't get a recognition of the movement and they can be difficult for this era then we may need an under dial photo of the movement.
    Last edited by Mirius; October 15th, 2015 at 13:51.
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  6. #5
    Member mkws's Avatar
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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    Let's hope that either the manufacturer's mark will be there, or a patent number. If none, that leaves just the keyless works.

    I' don't know who made the movement, but the watch is beautiful.

    The "exploding" numerals are not ahead of their time- even a bit before the time when your watch was made, they were already in use by Omega and Longines in their "tonneau" watches for the Russian market, and by 1916 Tissot used them too, in their so-called "banana" watch (which owes its name to the curved case)- made for the very same market.
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  7. #6
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    The movement is probably by Election. Here is a similar one, some of the differences being explained by the fact that the eBay one is a savonette movement (small seconds at right angles to the crown - for wrist watches or "hunter" pocket watches with a lid) whereas yours is in principle a lepine movement (small sconds opposite the crown - but they decided to drop it in your watch altogether).

    early Election 15 j. 3 adj. watch movement parts | eBay

    The movement style also reminds me of Marvin. Their Cal. 700 is quite similar - that's the one used nowadays by ChronoSwiss as their "in house" Cal. 111. Since Marvin took over Election ion the 1950s, that's probably where they got that style from.

    Hartmut Richter
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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    Thanks to everyone who has replied so far. I really appreciate the time you have taken. The replies have been most helpful. In particular, I am grateful to Hartmut, as the movement does indeed, look very similar to the Election movement as he suggests. Interesting also to know that those 'art deco' style numerals were in use in Russia around 1916 - 17.

    Briefly, on the matter of the Cartier Tank and its origins, I think it was the Santos that was designed in 1904. The Santos is more or less square so does give a precedent for square watches that pre-dates this one. Cartier's own website gives 1917 for the introduction of the Tank. The system won't allow me to post a link as I am a newbie but if you go to the Cartier website, you will find a slideshow with the history of the early designs.

    Not that I think my watch is by Cartier, by the way. It's more that the Tank is thought of as pioneering a new style, so it is just interesting that this one may well pre-date it.

    Finally, you might like to know that this watch cost me only £10.00. It was in a box of cheap costume jewellery I bought at a local auction. I must have had the good luck to be the only person to spot the watch in the box on the viewing day!

    Thanks again all,

    David
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  9. #8
    Vint. Forum Co-Moderator Mirius's Avatar
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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    I wouldn't put too much emphasis on the Cartier rewriting of watchmaking history. A fair number of watchmaking companies have indulged in some creative marketing over the years.

    Good catch at the auction!


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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    Hi david-david, this is my first post as well. I happen to have inherited a watch recently that looks very much like yours. I'll post the photo's. Mine has a red "12" and a seconds dial. The glass looks different (more curved/domed). Also it has a hallmark stating that the case is 14K (56 is the Russian equivalent). The gold seems to have a slight pink shade to it. Your watch looks to be in a much better shape than mine is.
    I hope to hear if you found out more about your watch! By the way: mine has Election engraved on the movement.

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  11. #10
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: Mystery square watch, 1916 - 17. Anyone know anything about it?

    Welcome to Watchuseek and thanks for the confirmation of the movement. Now you just have to get yours cleaned and serviced.....

    Hartmut Richter

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