I wanted to share a letter and the reply, that was just published in the NAWCC Bulletin Sept/October.
Hats of to Bruce Shawkey response.
I want to correct, what I believe to be an incorrect statement in Bruce Shawkey’s article on Glycine on pages 368-371 in the July/August 2014 W & C Bulletin.
He writes “The company’s first ‘break-through’ men’s watch was actually a self-winding model designed to compete against Rolex’s recently perfected ‘Perpetual’ automatic movement.” Glycine filed its patent in October 1930 and it was granted August 31, 1931. Rolex did not file an automatic patent “perpetual” until January 1932, which was subsequently granted in March 1933. Glycine was already shipping its “automatic” movement in 1931, while Rolex never shipped automatic pieces until the fourth quarter 1933 or first quarter of 1934—some three years after Glycine (see accompanying figure).
The reason Glycine developed this important horological piece is interesting. The Glycine watch follows the principle, termed “bumper movement,” which was originally developed by John Harwood in 1923-1924. The new unique feature of the Glycine movement was that the automatic part of the movement and the actual movement could be completely and easily separated from each other with ease and without affecting the working of the movement. This separation was intended to make repair simpler.
Remember in 1930 watch repairers had never seen an “automatic” movement, and sadly, the only drawback with Harwood’s design was the complete automatic part had to be dismantled before one could service the watch mechanism.
In the Glycine design the automatic winding mechanism (swinging weight, reduction drive) is attached into a steel ring, which could be easily fitted and removed as one piece from the main movement. In Glycine’s design, unlike the Harwood design, the automatic winding mechanism could be quickly detached and leave the main movement still functioning. That is the reason behind this design; it had nothing to do with Rolex.
Finally, thanks to Emre Kiris, who was mentioned in the article, the Museum has one of these horologically important movements on permanent display in the Wristwatch Exhibit.
Adam Harris (Spain)
Bruce Shawkey responds:
Thanks for bringing this to our readers' attention and correcting my error. The story of the self-winding wristwatch has long been told and retold incorrectly, in no small part because of Rolex’s domination in the self-winding watch market and ad campaigns which, up until about 1956, inferred that it had “invented” the self-winding wristwatch. Only recently, with wide and easy access to patent searches and the efforts of passionate collectors like Mr. Kiris, we have learned the more complete and accurate story.
I should have fact-checked my story more carefully, and for that I apologize. I have corrected the error in my original manuscript to avoid propagating the error elsewhere.
Monica Elbert, NAWCC editor • p: 717.684.8261x206 • [email protected]
NAWCC seeks to encourage and stimulate interest in the art and science of timekeeping.
Find out what we’re all about • Calendar of Events • Help Us Grow • Join Us!
Watch us at watchnews
p: 717.684.8261 • f: 717.684.0878 • www.nawcc.org
NAWCC, Inc. • 514 Poplar St. • Columbia PA 17512-2130