US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?
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Thread: US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

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  1. #1
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    US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

    Thiel Fearless Shoemaker Pocket Watch - Appeal for photograph

    Recently, I have been exchanging information on the history of Ruhla watches with the Chairman of the Friends Association of the Ruhla Watch Museum in Ruhla, Thuringia, Germany . The Chairman of the Association was the former Head of Research and Development at Ruhla and was one of the two engineers who saved the watch factory after the fall of communism and established Garde Ruhla the modern watch producer today.

    The Friends Association would be particularly interested in finding a photograph of one of the early Thiel Fearless automaton watches which were produced in the 1890s - "The Shoemaker". The example below is "The Blacksmith" and there are several others which can be seen on the Garde Ruhla website here


    Thiel Fealess Blacksmith


    Several different automaton designs were produced for these pocket watches and I was able to track down one type unknown to the Association from an auction house in South Africa. However, the Shoemaker has proved elusive. Early Thiel records are incomplete but what is known is that these watches were very popular in North America and the UK in the 1890s/early1900s. So, I would like to ask UK and North American members to keep their eyes peeled for a Thiel Fearless Shoemaker pocket watch photograph or even an archived advertisement for one! If you find a photo or listing, please send me a pm.

    Thanks,

    Sekondtime
    https://ostalgieruhla.wordpress.com/

  2. #2
    Member davidbuckden's Avatar
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    Re: US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

    Sorry not to be able to help but want to say thank-you for introducing these, which I'd never been aware of previously. Good luck with your information search.

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    Sponsor thoth's Avatar
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    Re: US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

    I can honestly say that I have never seen one of these. I have lived in the US and UK and never seen one. Looking at the watch and the links I gather these are rather low to no jewel watches? Kind of a dollar watch type? If so the survival of them will be low and that would explain the reason they don't pop up very often.

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    Member Border-Reiver's Avatar
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    Re: US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

    Thiel Fearless automates came as Bergmann (miner), Radfahrer (cyclist), Schneider (tailor), Schmied (blacksmith). When looking for the shoemaker, you have to look for 'Schuster', another and older German word for a shoemaker, besides Schuhmacher (which is also the exact 1:1 translation). I guess there was also a scene with 'Buren', possibly an old word for farmers, otherwise the German equivalent for boers (settlers in South Africa whereby Boer means Bauer/farmer).

    Text added: I found out that the Buren model really relates to Boer and the Boer War and shows a boer soldier (leg is moving) kicking another one in front of him.

    This thing about the shoemaker has been around for years already. I hope he will be found one day. Some even believe that a shoemaker model never existed and some prankster made this up.
    Last edited by Border-Reiver; December 7th, 2015 at 19:52.
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    Re: US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

    Quote Originally Posted by thoth View Post
    I can honestly say that I have never seen one of these. I have lived in the US and UK and never seen one. Looking at the watch and the links I gather these are rather low to no jewel watches? Kind of a dollar watch type? If so the survival of them will be low and that would explain the reason they don't pop up very often.
    Absolutely correct what concerns the assumed low survival rate.

    This type of watch was brought to the market in 1892. It was technically very simple and low priced (3 old German Marks, about 2 days salary for a hired hand). The first models needed 120 turns (in words: one hundred and twenty!) to be fully wound up with a power reserve of only 12 to 15 hours. Zero jewels.

    Watchmakers and jewelers did not like these watches, nevertheless and for some years, they were without competition. In the year 1897, already 4000 watches were made every day, mainly for export into the USA (that’s why it makes sense to look around in this market, rather than in Germany or Europe). I guess the dial was made of some kind of cardboard which, in combination with the low price, the simple technique and the reduced durability of the movement, due to the lack of jewels, made it rather a candidate for disposal than for an expensive service- or repair job.

    Whatever, people are now looking since many years for a single specimen of such a watch, the shoemaker-model, and would even be satisfied with just a picture of the dial.
    Last edited by Border-Reiver; December 7th, 2015 at 18:19.
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    Re: US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

    Thank you all for your interest in this subject.

    I too wondered whether the Shoemaker watch ever existed and apparently record keeping at Thiel Brothers was not as good as it was later under communism where UMF Ruhla records were much more detailed. So it cannot be disproved or proved that it did once exist. However, having said that, there is a possibility one may still exist as the example of a formerly unknown variation of the Radfahrer (cyclist) pocket watch I found at a South African auction house proves. That is where any advertising for such watches may help. We have all seen the advertisments for pocket watches by retailers in the 1890s and later and there may be a record of one in an advertisment, you never know!

    The Thiel Fearless was the entry into the watch making world by Thiel Brothers who started by making small metal parts and implements and progressed onto children's toys including a child's watch which is where the watches originate from. They were the German equivalent of Westclox dollar watches and were very popular. Offices were opened by Thiel in both London and New York to supply their wares.

    It is later after the Second World War and communist control that the Ruhla Watch Works produced a truely prolific amount of watches and clocks across a huge variety of formats and exporting to over 80 countries.

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    Re: US/UK Pocket Watch Collectors - Have you seen the Shoemaker?

    Ah yes, the historical legend of Landgraf (Landgrave) Ludwig II of Thüringen (Thuringia)! It can be read in Wikipedia (extract here):

    "During Louis II's reign, the population of Thuringia was frequently bullied and harassed by the nobility. Louis began to intervene against these practises, earning him his nickname "Louis the Iron". According to a legend, which was recorded by Johannes Rothe in 1421, Louis II was travelling anonymously and one night, he found shelter with a blacksmith in Ruhla. The blacksmith told him about his plight and cursed the nobility and finally shouted: Landgrave, take a stance!. These words spurred Louis into action against the robber barons. According to the legend, after the offenders had been arrested, they were harnessed to a plough and forced to plough a field."

    In the German version, Ludwig was allowed to sleep at the back of the smithy but couldn't because the blacksmith worked at night. As he hammered the hot iron, he repeatedly said "Landgrave, become hard, hard as this iron".

    Hartmut Richter

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