No display case back on vintage hand winders?
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Thread: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

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  1. #1
    Member kayeng's Avatar
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    No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    New to watches. I've noticed that vintage manual mechanical watches don't have exhibition case back. All of them. Am I wrong?
    when did watch makers start the trend?

  2. #2
    Member DrFidget's Avatar
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    To quote another user who answered a similar question about pocket watches in another thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben_hutcherson View Post
    For the majority of the years of American dominance of the watch industry, most watches were made in standard sizes and sold as movements only(with dial and hands) and cased by the retailer at the time of sale to suit the customer's taste and budget.

    As such, it was standard practice to ship movements from the factory in glass-backed shipping tins that allowed both the dial and the movement to be viewed.

    Nearly as common were so-called salesman's sample cases, which were fully functional cases(with a stem, crown, and bow) with glass front and back covers to allow easy viewing of the movement. Normally, the movement would be removed from these at the time of sale and placed in a regular case. These are commonly also called glassbacks, although they would be exhibition backs to use modern terminology.

    There are pocket watch cases that have what is commonly called an "exhibition back", although these have a very specific form. Basically, they are standard fully-functional hunting cases or hinged back and bezel open face cases. The standard case of this format will have two back covers, a heavy outer cover for protection and a light gauge inner cover(called the cuvette) that snaps tightly directly over the movement and provides a dust seal. The exhibition case replaces the cuvette with a glass crystal set into a bezel, much as is done for the dial side of a hunting case.

    So, I think that any of these might meet your criteria. These all date to at least the 1880s.
    As for wristwatches, I haven't seen a definitive answer, but there seems to be a consensus that watchmakers only started adding display backs in the early 2000's. I would think this might have been due to a renewed interest in mechanical watches among a new, younger clientele driven by the emergence of watch forums like WUS and Timezone.
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  3. #3
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    No, more like the early 1990s - if not even the 1980s. My Oris Radius from 1995 (and probably made a few years earlier) certainly has one.....

    Hartmut Richter
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  5. #4
    Member pithy's Avatar
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    Quote Originally Posted by kayeng View Post
    . . . . I've noticed that vintage manual mechanical watches don't have exhibition case back. All of them. Am I wrong? . . . .
    Quote Originally Posted by DrFidget View Post
    . . . .As for wristwatches, I haven't seen a definitive answer, but there seems to be a consensus that watchmakers only started adding display backs in the early 2000's. . . . .
    Quote Originally Posted by Hartmut Richter View Post
    No, more like the early 1990s - if not even the 1980s. . . . .
    11n4B8

    I've seen this attributed to 1965.

    Thousands were sold.

    Most of the skeletons sold in the '60's, '70's and '80's had crystals on the front and back.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Courtesy of ULF.

  6. #5
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    A lot of the watches from the 1950's and 1960's were top loaders in which the case was a one piece case that you accessed the movement by popping off the crystal and removing the stem to get the movement out. This was to better increase water resistance and also to make a thinner case.


    The other thing was there was no real demand, one movement looked just like any other movement to most folks. Unless it was a custom hand engraved movement then there was no reason to spend the research and development money to create a glass case back that did not leak or easily break.


    Though it took a few decades after the 1960's to have display backs, the seeds were sown in the early 1960's with Bulova. Bulova came out with their Accutron line and in order to entice customers to buy the watches, Bulova offered their dealer network a Accutron that had no dial and had the indices on the crystal in order to show off this new tuning fork tech. this demo watch had unexpectedly excited possible customers so much that these customers were buying the demo watch. Bulova took note and offered this no dial watch as a actual model called the Spaceview.


    The Accutron 214 movement was unlike any movement that came before and it was an attractive and mystifying movement (smooth second hand and it hummed!) Not to mention that it had no crown only a hidden set handle on the case back.



    Later I think the display case was both a way to show off a mechanical movement in the era of quartz and for Seiko a way to cut down on fakes and allow a person to quickly see if the watch was authentic
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  7. #6
    Member Grégoire's Avatar
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrFidget View Post
    ...there seems to be a consensus that watchmakers only started adding display backs in the early 2000's.
    Here's my wife's Borel Cocktail watch from the mid 1960s.

    I'm no expert but I think that might be a display back.

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  8. #7
    Member Wandering Ben's Avatar
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grégoire View Post
    Here's my wife's Borel Cocktail watch from the mid 1960s.

    I'm no expert but I think that might be a display back.

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    It looks like older display backs like this has the entire case back being glass as opposed to current ones where there is a wide rim of steel around the glass, blocking the peripheral portion of the movement from view
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  9. #8
    Zenith Forum Co-moderator
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    All correct. When I said "early 1990s - or even 1980s", I meant the general run-of-the-mill mechanical watch that would not have had a display back in earlier decades - for precisely the reasons mentioned before: one mechanical movement loked more or less like any other, often with only industrial finissage, and people didn'tgreatly care. Special watches (skeleton watches, special movement types like the Accutron, "cocktail" watches) often or almost always did have display backs, even in the 1950s or 60s.

    On reason why they became so popular during the post-quartz "revival" years is probably that people who went out of their way to buy mechanical watches also started to take great interest in just how the thing worked. So they wanted to see the insides at all times to be able to fathom it. Plus see the what they couldn't see in a quartz watch: the balance spinning round, the rotor winding up the watch.....

    Hartmut Richter
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  10. #9
    Member pithy's Avatar
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    Competition:
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    Courtesy of ULF.

  11. #10
    Member DrFidget's Avatar
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    Re: No display case back on vintage hand winders?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hartmut Richter View Post
    All correct. When I said "early 1990s - or even 1980s", I meant the general run-of-the-mill mechanical watch that would not have had a display back in earlier decades - for precisely the reasons mentioned before: one mechanical movement loked more or less like any other, often with only industrial finissage, and people didn'tgreatly care. Special watches (skeleton watches, special movement types like the Accutron, "cocktail" watches) often or almost always did have display backs, even in the 1950s or 60s.

    On reason why they became so popular during the post-quartz "revival" years is probably that people who went out of their way to buy mechanical watches also started to take great interest in just how the thing worked. So they wanted to see the insides at all times to be able to fathom it. Plus see the what they couldn't see in a quartz watch: the balance spinning round, the rotor winding up the watch.....

    Hartmut Richter

    Thanks for this. In my earlier post I was quite a bit lazy with the "early 2000's consensus" claim. This thread from 2012 had a few mentions about Chronoswiss being among the earliest brands with standard display backs, and there was one mention of an early 2000's JLC, so thanks for your correction and extra info.

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