One of the oldest watches in our collection, this antique watch was made in 1799.
At the time this piece was created, watch movements and cases were sold separately. A watchmaker would craft each timepiece by hand, and then wholesale his movements to jewelers, who might either fit the piece in a particular case, or, allow the customer to choose a case and watch separately. This custom has resulted in many watches which bear the name of one person or maker on the movement and a different one on the case or face of the watch.
The Mechanics of the Fusee Movement
The movement of this watch is a fusee, a rare type of movement that runs not just on coiled springs, but also employs a grooved cone wound with a tiny chain, which coils around another post in a pulley system. Inspired by the winches and counter balances of the rigging of sailing ships, this method was used to refine the timekeeping of the movement by regulating the speed at which the mainspring unwinds.
Researching the Manufacturer
This movement is inscribed with the watchmakers name, C Davidson, and home city: London. Research could provide no watchmakers registered in London around this time with the name of Davidson, however, a Charles Davidson, watchmaker was operating at this time near Dundee, Scotland. It can not be proved, but we believe that this watch was made in Scotland, but inscribed with the city of sale - London - instead of the city of manufacture - Dundee. There’s several reasons that this might have been done, but the most likely is simply to fetch a higher price for a piece marked with the cosmopolitan city ‘London’! This watch, like all fusee movements, is a key wind, and keys have been provided.
The Watch Case in Detail
While the movement of the watch has some mystery to it, the case is a little more straightforward. Stamped inside the inner case are four marks. The center is the case-maker’s stamp: BN. A lion above is indicative of Sterling silver, with a purity of 92.5%. To one side, a crowned leopard indicates a London origin for the case. This is a double cased watch, with a hinged glass cover and hinged movement. When we first opened this watch, papers were found tucked inside - these were not the usual watch papers included in the original purchase, but hand cut discs of newsprint that were used to pad the watch in the 1800’s. They appear to be from New Haven, Connecticut, adding another layer to the mysterious history of this antique piece!
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