Vintage American watches question on finishing
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Thread: Vintage American watches question on finishing

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  1. #1
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    Vintage American watches question on finishing

    There are many styles of finishing in the watch world. Did the old US companies use anything different than todays? Any idea what it was called if they did? Thanks!!

  2. #2
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    Re: Vintage American watches question on finishing

    Do you mean the watches or the movements? In the old days, Swiss movements were characteristically gold plated but American ones had a silver finish and ornamental "damasceened" patterns.

    Hartmut Richter

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    Re: Vintage American watches question on finishing

    Hartmut is spot on. The Americans really raised Damaskeening into a high art form. It is mostly what sets them apart (plus the copious and interesting patent regulators).

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    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage American watches question on finishing

    Many American watches were made with a traditional English gilt finish. The earliest ones were "pebbled" and fire gilded, although it's my understanding that in later years electroplating was used.

    Gilding was universal on American watches from end to end in the market up through the 1860s, when nickel damaskeening started appearing on, at first, the very highest grades and then working its way down to the lower grades. By the end of American watch production was, nickel was almost universal.

    Some of my favorite American watches are the ones that are damaskeeened on a gilt finish.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

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    Re: Vintage American watches question on finishing

    American watches of this era show some of the finest finishing ever done... as good as any and better than most done today.
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

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    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage American watches question on finishing

    Gilt damaskeen as mentioned above



    And a few other generally well finished(even if not necessarily elaborately damaskeened) American watches







    And, a nicely finished American gilt movement(although the case this one came in is really a lot nicer than the movement :) )

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    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
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    Re: Vintage American watches question on finishing

    The "history" of watch esthetics is rather interesting in it's own right; over the centuries, you can see trends of watch movements and cases becomeing more and less elaborate throughout different periods of time. For the American watch movements, I think the biggest impact was the competitive environment created by the mass-production of watches. The original watches from Waltham and Elgin were factory cased, but thanks to size standardization, they quickly gave up those businesses and focused on just the movements. These movements were typically sold (and thus displayed) separately from the cases, allowing the discrening public to select which movement and which case depending on their needs. The elaborate damasking (along with the increasingly extensive verbiage) was, at it's simplest roots, pure advertising used to differentiate the products.
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    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Vintage American watches question on finishing

    Quote Originally Posted by AbslomRob View Post
    The original watches from Waltham and Elgin were factory cased, but thanks to size standardization, they quickly gave up those businesses and focused on just the movements. These movements were typically sold (and thus displayed) separately from the cases, allowing the discrening public to select which movement and which case depending on their needs. The elaborate damasking (along with the increasingly extensive verbiage) was, at it's simplest roots, pure advertising used to differentiate the products.
    While this is generally true, I think its worth mentioning that the Waltham maintained their own casing operations up through the 1890s, and the most elaborately damaskeened Walthams(esp. the '72 Americans) were almost always sold cased in American Watch Co. 14K or 18K gold cases.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
    Member, NAWCC Chapter 149. Vice President and Secretary NAWCC Chapter 140. Member, NAWCC Convention Committee.
    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

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