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  1. #11
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Likestheshiny View Post
    That's neat information, but it doesn't answer the question "Who was the first to put a display back on a standard-production wristwatch?" which I think is the more interesting question. When did this become a thing that real watches do?
    I doubt that the question of who or maybe which company was the first can be reliably answered. There were several companies that offered glass windows on their pocket watch backs. I am not sure why knowing the first is all that important. That it is a feature enjoyed by owners of many different watches over the past 130 plus years seems more interesting to me.
    Last edited by John MS; February 10th, 2012 at 19:52.

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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Are the terms finishing and decoration synonymous? I think of finishing as more comprehensive than, but including, decoration, which I think is purely the decorative part of the finishing process. Is that a generally accepted distinction?
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    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Aside from Ben's answer - which in my view is the definitive one - I really don't remember exhibition casebacks as a general rule on wristwatches until the 21st century. Maybe a few exceptions were around in the 1990s.

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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray MacDonald View Post
    Aside from Ben's answer - which in my view is the definitive one - I really don't remember exhibition casebacks as a general rule on wristwatches until the 21st century. Maybe a few exceptions were around in the 1990s.
    Not to pick a fight, but I'm curious in which sense you think Ben's reply was definitive? To my reading, there was nothing definitive about it all all, no dates, no producers, no answer to my questions...interesting and insightful, yes, but I don't think definitive is applicable, unless I misunderstood the content of his post.
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    My first watch with a Crystal caseback is JLC from 2001.

    I do not think that crystal casebacks were very interesting for the manufacturers. They tried to make as slim watches as possible, and a crystal caseback is allways much thicker than a solid one.

  7. #16
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Definitive in the sense that the first display backs appeared on pocket watches. You want some names? Elgin, Waltham. He gave a date of 1880s which is general but probably close enough. I doubt you are going to see any of these glass display backs before the advent of stem winding.
    Last edited by Ray MacDonald; February 10th, 2012 at 22:39.

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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Do clear celluloid (ie plasticy) covers over movements in hinged cases count?

    Bulova, for one, had these on wrist watches in the 1920s to help keep the dust out of the movement. It's not exactly the same sine the clear cover was then covered with a metal back (but many could be opened with just a fingernail).

    According to this, Bulova patent'd the concept in the late 1920s
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    Over the years I've collected all sorts of movements and "project" watches ... mainly inexpensive vintage pieces.

    These days I've widened my gaze to include modern pieces (including quartz with analog or analog + digital displays) but with those I'm generally looking for models in solid steel cases.

  9. #18
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bronte View Post
    Interesting question. I also wonder, do I like exhibition casebacks? It begs the question: what's the point of high-end finishing on a movement that's not to be seen? (I don't think the answer is that there is none, I'd just like to see it articulated.)
    I definitely enjoy being able to see a nice movement through a display back, but I also think there's something really romantic (in the philosophical sense) about a intricately finished and decorated movement hidden inside a solid case. It's about the pride of craftsmanship, beauty and perfection for its own sake rather than for the admiration of others.

    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.
    That was really interesting. Thanks for the information.
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  10. #19
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray MacDonald View Post
    Definitive in the sense that the first display backs appeared on pocket watches. You want some names? Elgin, Waltham. He gave a date of 1880s which is general but probably close enough. I doubt you are going to see any of these glass display backs before the advent of stem winding.
    In fairness, the pocket watch examples he cites, the "display cuvette," if you will, were under a solid case cover, so not really the same thing as an exhibition back in the modern sense, which is literally the back of the watch case.

    Granted, the pocket watch usage environment was different from a modern wristwatch's, but the fact remains those are different things, and while, as I said, his reply was interesting and insightful, it didn't meet any of my criteria for a satisfying answer to my questions, and was certainly not definitive.

    To be sure, I'm glad for his post, though. I have several American pocket watches from the first quarter of the 20th century, but none of that description, so his post opened up a new line of inquiry for me, namely why, if viewing the movement of a pocket watch was valued, did the practice of a glass back not carry over to wristwatches as they became popular?
    --- Chaad

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  11. #20
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    He mentioned a display back in the sense of a double case with a dust cover. but there were lots of open face cases that had a single glass display back. Most of the ones I've seen like that were in the 1900-1920 timeframe but there may have been some earlier examples. You didn't specifically mention wristwatches in your original post so I think he did provide a useful answer.
    As far as being valued, display cases had a specific purpose to sell or display the movement and they aren't particularly rare or valuable. The display back as we know it right now is a consequence of the preoccupation with mechanical movements today. That preoccupation didn't really exist before their rediscovery after the quartz revolution. Back when mechanical was all you had, nobody cared to look at it as long as it worked.
    The display case gave the customer a chance to handle a watch and look at the movement that would later be cased for him at the jeweler. Once the watches started to be cased at the factory there wasn't much need for a display back.
    Last edited by Ray MacDonald; February 11th, 2012 at 00:45.

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