Exhibition back: who was the first?
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  1. #1
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    Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Does anyone have any ideas as to which company was the first to use a display back in serial watch production? Or perhaps the first to introduce the piece?
    --- Chaad

    "All your girlfriends care about the watch you wear and they're talkin' about it." (Adult Education, Hall & Oates)

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    Member Bronte's Avatar
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    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.)

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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    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.
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    Serious collector of American pocket watches-Waltham(and the predecessor companies) is my specialty.

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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    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?

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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 don't see the word "wristwatch" anywhere in the opening post

    Despite what some here may thing...horological history didn't begin 50 years ago. Most "modern" watch designs have a precedent.

    And, just what exactly do you mean by a "real" watch?
    Last edited by Ben_hutcherson; February 10th, 2012 at 07:08.
    Member National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben_hutcherson View Post
    I don't see the word "wristwatch" anywhere in the opening post

    Despite what some here may thing...horological history didn't begin 50 years ago. Most "modern" watch designs have a precedent.

    And, just what exactly do you mean by a "real" watch?
    I think they're asking, "Who first realized consumers of mechanical wristwatches want an exhibition back and deliberately made it part of a model design?"

    Or, "Did people not appreciate the awesomeness of mechanical watches until after the Quartz Revolution?"

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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Ben,

    Thank you for the interesting reply about pocket watches. I have several, but none with a glass back, although I have seen it. I'd assumed, however, it was a later addition, because it was a screw-on glass on a standard case rather than a snap on under a hunter case as you describe. Do you know was it ever the custom to sell pocket watches to the public witha glass back? I've seen the movement presentation tin you talked about for sales to watch companies, but what about visible movements as a sales pitch to the end user of a pocket watch?

    I had in my original post been thinking about glass backs on wristwatches, although I realize I wasn't clear on that. I'm still curious to learn about that, because it does seem to be a recent feature, and as Colin notes, it would be interesting to know if it was the foundering of the mechanical watch industry in the '70s that precipitated the feature, did it emerge after the resurgence, or even did it exist at the dawn of the wristwatch? Obviously, decoration of movements had been going on pre-wristwatch, so a reason to proudly display a movement was there, bit what was the impetus to take it public?

    Whatever the case may be-- pardon the pun!-- I'm also curious to know who was the insightful watchmaker that began to use a glass back as a marketing element (i.e. point of distinction) on their regular wristwatch production?

    Finally, just as an aside, I happen to believe that movement decoration reached its zenith in pocket watches. Maybe it is the size of the canvas and the scrolling often found, but to my eye, pocket watches movements are the most beautiful I've seen, but that's really another thread topic!
    --- Chaad

    "All your girlfriends care about the watch you wear and they're talkin' about it." (Adult Education, Hall & Oates)

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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Hi,

    I beleive Chronoswiss is one of the first "modern" manufacturers to have an exhibition back as standard.

    And to answer Bronte's question, A lot of the "decoration" is actaully for functional purposes. For example, in higher-end brands, a lot of the edges of bridges are anglaged to make the part run smoother and to prevent rought edges from chipping away at other parts. However, you will not actually be able to see this "decoration" from an exhibit caseback. The finishing that you see on the "outside" accounts for actually very little of the total "finshing" work in terms of time and money. (I suppose this ties in a bit with the other post about the difference between higher end watches and lower end ones.)

    Have a look at Walt Odet's "The Horologium" at timezone.com. very informative.

    Cheers,
    Bruce

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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.)
    There is certainly something valuable about high-end finishing, even if it is not to be seen. For example, even on high-end movements that DO have exhibition backs, top tier manufacturers will often finish the entire movement, not just the part that you can see through the case back. I think that watches have a bit of an emotional or even esoteric dimension; whereby the IDEA of what goes into a watch is often as important as what you can see and touch. For example, the fact that a movement was developed and manufactured in-house carries higher value to most enthusiasts- but why? Because people like the idea of thought, skill, and craftsmanship going into their watch. In the same way, I would prefer a Lange Datograph with a solid case-back to any Valjoux 7750 with a display back. You know what I mean? Sure I'd rather see the movement of the Datograph, but I still know it is there even if the back is solid and that is valuable to me. Just some thoughts.

    As to the question at hand, I really have no idea who was the first.

  11. #10
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    Re: Exhibition back: who was the first?

    Quote Originally Posted by fasthandssam View Post
    There is certainly something valuable about high-end finishing, even if it is not to be seen. For example, even on high-end movements that DO have exhibition backs, top tier manufacturers will often finish the entire movement, not just the part that you can see through the case back. I think that watches have a bit of an emotional or even esoteric dimension; whereby the IDEA of what goes into a watch is often as important as what you can see and touch. For example, the fact that a movement was developed and manufactured in-house carries higher value to most enthusiasts- but why? Because people like the idea of thought, skill, and craftsmanship going into their watch. In the same way, I would prefer a Lange Datograph with a solid case-back to any Valjoux 7750 with a display back. You know what I mean? Sure I'd rather see the movement of the Datograph, but I still know it is there even if the back is solid and that is valuable to me. Just some thoughts.

    As to the question at hand, I really have no idea who was the first.
    Yes I know exactly what you mean, and I agree. Well put. Bruce185, good information. Thanks.

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