Last updated on June 5, 2021
For the last couple of months, I have been looking to add a Borgel trench watch to my collection. However, I have not seen any for sale from my normal sources. That said, I have seen a number of watches which have caught my eye. I enjoy researching antique watches as much as I enjoy wearing them. This particular watch, a Fattorini & Sons silver open-faced pocket watch, came to my attention following a recent post I had written on watchmakers. In that post, I discussed a number of definitions of a watchmaker and how they changed over time. This watch is the perfect example of the retailer marketing themselves as the watchmaker, without actually contributing to the manufacture of the watch at all.
Fattorini & Sons
The business was founded by Antonio Fattorini (1797-1860), an Italian immigrant, who was listed as jeweller & hardware dealer in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1829. Fattorini had migrated to England after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. In 1831, he moved north and set up a store in Harrogate trading in jewellery and bric-a-brac. In 1846, he moved again to Bradford, occupying a building at 28 Kirkgate. The business traded under the name of Fattorini & Sons. At some point, they added watches to their product line. Over time, the Fattorini family expanded the business to include branches in Skipton, Bradford and Harrogate. These three branches went on to run independently of each other. Ultimately, each business was inherited by the sons concerned. Fattorini’s is perhaps most famous for designing the FA Cup trophy, first won in 1911 by Bradford City and still in use today.
The original Fattorini & Sons store in Bradford closed in 2012. However, the business is still running, but focusing on product lines other than watches, such as trophies and badges. Although, the print on the watch dial says “Watch & Chronometer Manufacturers”, Fattorini & Sons were purely retailers. They would have purchased this watch directly from a watch manufacturer as a private label piece. My research suggests that Fattorini & Sons used the English manufacturer H Williamson Ltd for many of their watches. They also sold watches with Swiss and American movements. They are the perfect example of a well-known retailer marketing themselves as watchmakers, when in fact, they were simply selling the timepieces.
This particular antique pocket watch has a key-winding and key-set movement. A winding key is included. The watch is running within two to three minutes of accuracy over 24 hours. The movement is numbered 681849. However, there are no visible markings to indicate the manufacturer. The movement has an inner fitted cover. The movement is also engraved with the words “Reversing Pinion”. This was an invention designed to prevent damage to the movement in the event of a mainspring breakage. It was also known as a safety pinion. A patent application for the reversing pinion was lodged by the Lancashire Watch Company in 1895. Therefore it is possible, that this particular watch was manufactured by the Lancashire Watch Company as a private label for Fattorini & Sons.
The watch is slightly larger than normal for a pocket watch. It measures 55mm in diameter excluding the stem and the loop. The case is silver with the maker’s mark for the Dennison Watch Case Company. There are hallmarks inside both case backs for Birmingham, 1908. The Dennison Watch Case Company was a prolific English case manufacturer based in Birmingham. Overall, the case is in nice condition with just some light rubbing to the engine turned detail.
The watch crystal is in pristine condition, with no scratches visible to the naked eye. The white enamel dial is signed “Watch and Chronometer Manufacturers. Fattorini & Sons Bradford”. The text is clear and undamaged. This suggests that the branding was baked into the enamel during the manufacturing process. Some dials are produced blank, leaving the retailer to paint the brand on the enamel. However, the paint tends to flake and wear over time. This leaves a watch of this age with a patchy text on the dial. Overall, the dial is in nice condition, with no obvious damage or markings. The watch has its original hands and a blued steel sub-seconds hand.
I enjoyed researching the history of the Fattorini & Sons business. However, to consider this antique pocket watch for my collection, I would need to know a little bit more about who actually made the movement. That said, it is a very presentable and reliable antique, which will make someone a happy owner.