It was a busy Saturday this weekend but was worth it. We had a flea market we were set up at which supplied me no source of watches but I did snag a nice WWII rifle. The flea market though was not my main event for the day....a local auction house had the estate of a watch/clock collector. SO at about 9:05 my father in law and I took off from the market to go see if there was anything worth while.
Plenty of cars and people but there was more than enough to go around. There were 4 tables set up with cases full of watches. Estimate was over 100 pocket watches. There was about 50+ clocks but that in my father in laws domain. Tons of machinist tools and even a big CNC machine. Apparently he paid over $45,000 for that machine. Everything including the house and workshop were up for auction.
I eyed up a few watches I felt were worth trying for. Just an Idea of what was there I found 6 Hamilton 992's, 3 BW Raymond, 3 Waltham Vanguards, a Veritas, Illinois Sangamo 21 ruby jewel marked HC, a worm gear, 3 cylinder, 2 Fusee, 3 early Bulova, 2 Ball (one 17j and one 19j) and countless common other american pocket watches. The one that caught my attention was one of the Bulova that was extremely thin. It was not a Phantom in a plat case though.
The focus of my attention though was the Appleton Watch Co pocket watch. I had heard of them and I had seen 1 at my watchmaker but never seen one "in the wild". Person after person inspected it and it traveled around from table to table. At one point I lost track of it and there was a flurry of auction staff asking around for it. It finally reappeared in a different box on a different table. The importance of its location is that this was a auction of choice out of the tray they pull. If you don't know what tray the watch you want is in you may miss it or bid too high for a watch that is not even there.
I looked it over finally and found that the balance was good, the watch complete, original case, but it needed a service. I put it back where I found it and then went to killing time until they started. Luckily it was in tray 2 they brought out. Bidding started at $25 and you could tell bidders started dropping off at around $200. I had called my watchmaker before the auction started so I had an idea of where I wanted to stop. The bidding ended up between me and only one other person. But I was surprised that the hammer fell at less then half of what I was willing to go to.
I went up and claimed the watch from the box. I can only explain why bidding dropped off so fast was because there were many that may not have know the watch was in that tray. The person I was bidding against must have been the one who put it there. And why he stopped was explained to me by my father in law. There was another "watchmaker" there that had told him that he had worked on that watch before and all the winding and setting were worn so badly the watch was almost a parts watch.
This did not fit with what I could feel and see with this particular watch. If he had serviced it why were the balance pivots gummed with old oil? Why was the setting just right and the winding felt perfect? The reason this "watchmaker" is an important part of the event is that he was there with the person I was bidding against for the watch. Most likely he told him the same story and that limited what he was willing to go to.
The reason I use the term "watchmaker" like I do is because this person has been known to dunk movements in gasoline as his "cleaning" method. He has ruined many watches that my father in law had to then fix for people. He has also been known to take watches to my father in law to fix and then told people that he had fixed it instead. In other words a "watchmaker" instead of a watchmaker.
So besides the Appleton I picked up a nice Longines HC with the Gold Medal Paris markings, a grade 542 Elgin Deluxe, Longines 1878 Gold Medal Paris HC, a box with some wristwatches..etc
But still the Appleton was the prize of the day and I was tempted to stay but I needed to head back and finish the flea market and pack up. Now if anyone has any information on the Appleton Watch Co and its watches I am all ears. This is other than the usual paragraph that I seem to find everywhere.
What I know so far.....
Appleton Watch Co was created when OE Bell bought the machinery from the dead Cheshire Watch co and moved it to Appleton WI in 1901. First watches shipped in Feb 1902 and the production ended mid 1903. The watch is an 18s 7j in an original Appleton watch case and the movement is made with the stem and bow attached. The serial number 93248 is meaningless as the serials did not match production. Total production of the company is estimated between 2k and 3k.
Being that most of the movements appear to be 7j and not very high quality I believe most would have fallen victim to wear and use beyond economical repair over the years. The watch would have been just above dollar watch quality and would not have been very expensive to purchase to begin with. A lack of parts and the cost of repair and service beyond the initial cost of the watch more then likely made the owners junk them. Actual surviving population is unknown.
Ashland had one for sale in Dec 2005 S# 93106 (Arabic Numeral)
NAWCC Member Posted Jan 2009 S#91878 (Roman Numeral)
Liveauctioneers Sold Nov 2009 S#93752 (Mov Only 11-15j Damaged)
Art Institute Chicago Paul M Chamberlain Collection S#93237
Jones-Horan Nov 2009 S#93106 (Sold again 4 years after Ashland - Condition report indicates non original bow and hands and needing repair)
Jones-Horan Date Unknown Lot 147 S#93015 (Replacement case)
IHC185 Member Nov 2003 S#90487 (Top plate only)
Sotheby's Oct 2004 (Time Museum Auction - Mentioned as part of a lot, no serials, desc or pics)
So of 8 I found online we have....
2 duplicate (needing service)
1 With a replacement case
2 Potential good running and original
1 Known running and original
And without further chatter...the Appleton....