Last updated on October 29, 2022
Sometimes I come across an antique watch that captures my attention, but it is not really something that I am considering buying. It is a case of me enjoying the research around the antique watch rather than looking at adding it to my collection. This is such an occasion. I came across this silver GWC half hunter trench watch at one of my preferred suppliers. I spent the best part of half a day researching the piece, so I thought it would be a waste of my time if I didn’t create a post.
The watch has a Swiss made hand-winding movement which is keeping good time. The movement has been identified as being manufactured by the General Watch Company (GWC). It is a fairly basic movement with only 7 jewels. GWC was founded by Louis Brandt around 1800 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The focus of GWC was to produce basic quality cylinder movements aimed at the lower end of the market.
General Watch Company
Louis Brandt died in 1879 and his sons took over the business. As well as GWC the brothers also began producing watches under the brand Louis Brandt & Fils (Sons). In 1894, Louis Brandt & Fils produced a revolutionary new movement, the 19 ligne calibre. The brothers branded the movement ‘Omega’ and officially adopted the brand name Omega in 1903. GWC continued to operate separately. In 1911, the Omega company withdrew from GWC, which continued on under the control of Edouard Boillat. At this point, GWC started to produce better-quality lever movements, such as the one in this watch. They improved to such a degree that, at one point, they supplied movements to Rolex for one of their sub-brands, Marconi.
This trench watch measures 35mm in diameter excluding the fixed wire lugs and the winding crown. The case is silver and there are British hallmarks inside the case back dating it to 1915 with a sponsor’s mark for George Stockwell and a London import mark. Stockwell’s acted as assay agents, they did not manufacture watches or watch cases. Instead, they facilitated the import into Britain of foreign gold and silver items. By law, these had to be assayed and hallmarked in a UK assay office before being released for retail.
Déposé No 9846
Interestingly, there is also a mark for Déposé No 9846. A Déposé No is a registered design. In this instance, the Déposé No was registered by Dimier Freres et Cie. in 1903. Déposé No 9846 relates to the registration of a design for a watch case with fixed wire lugs and a leather strap. Dimier Freres et Cie were not watchmakers. They were well-known importers and sellers of Swiss watches, with offices in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland and London. There is no evidence that they did anything more than fit a Swiss made movement to a locally sourced case.
In this instance, the London office of Dimier Freres et Cie imported a GWC movement and a silver Déposé No 9846 watch case. The case was assayed by Stockwell’s in London in 1915. The watch was then cased and made available for retail sale.
Case and dial
Overall, the case is in good condition for a watch of this age. There is a slight indentation to the screw-on case back, and the odd small mark, this can simply be considered patina. The half-hunter front cover has a small lens surrounded by enamel-filled numbers. There is a small button between the bottom two lugs which pushes in to open the front cover. Inside, there is a glass crystal which is in good condition.
The enamel dial is clean and free of hairline cracks. Overall, it is in good condition. However, originally the cathedral hands and the numerals would have been filled with luminous radium paint, which allowed the time to be read in the dark. Over the years, the paint detail has been removed because of the radium content. The hour hand has the typical half-hunter double spade shape that allows the time to be read when the cover is closed.
It is an interesting timepiece with links to GWC, Omega and Rolex. Fortunately for me, the watch had already sold before I began my research, so I never had to make a decision to buy. As interesting as this GWC half-hunter trench watch is, it is not something I would normally consider buying. However, I sincerely hope the current owner is enjoying their antique watch.