Last updated on June 5, 2021
An antique pocket watch by Thomas Russell & Son has long been on my wish list. In particular, I was hoping to find a hunter cased watch with the famous “Tempus Fugit” and “Time O Day” branding that is synonymous with Thomas Russell &Son. Ideally, the movement would also have 15 jewels. I have found a few recently, but with 7 or 10 jewel movements, which doesn’t quite meet the quality required. Since I have spent quite a lot of time searching unsuccessfully I thought I would write this post about a watch which nearly met my standards.
Thomas Russell & Son
The original Thomas Russell was born (1780) in Cumbria. He worked as a journeyman watchmaker before setting up independently in Lancaster in 1811. Thomas was the founding father of what was to become a watchmaking dynasty. Thomas continued as a watchmaker in this location until his death in 1830. The business was taken over by his son Thomas, who moved the business to Liverpool in about 1848 and launched his range of ‘Time ‘O Day’ watches.
Around 1860 the business was taken over by his two sons Thomas Robert Russell and Alfred Holgate Russell. The partnership between the brothers officially ended in 1870 and Alfred continued with the company name, Thos. Russell & Son. At this point, he introduced the famous Russell Hunter watches with their trademark “Tempus Fugit” on the dial. Alfred was granted a Royal Warrant as makers to Queen Victoria and the Duke of Edinburgh. He continued to benefit from this Warrant even after it ceased upon Victoria’s death in 1901. In 1881 the company started importing watches from Switzerland.
This particular watch has a Swiss stem-winding 15-jewel movement, which is working within two minutes of accuracy over 24 hours. At this level of accuracy, it makes it a reliable and practical watch. Also, a power reserve of over 24 hours is very good for an antique watch. The movement is signed “Time O Day”, 15 jewels and Swiss made. The movement is protected by a hinged inner dust cover.
The case measures 50.4mm diameter excluding the winding stem and the loop. The case was made by the Dennison Watch Case Company and it is the Star model, gold plated which was originally “guaranteed to wear 10 years”. The inner cover is stamped with the Dennison branding and is also stamped “Time O Day”. The case is in an excellent condition for its age with just light surface marking from daily use.
The winding crown pushes in to open the front cover and expose the dial. Inside there is a glass crystal which is in good condition. The white enamel dial is signed Thomas Russell & Sons, Tempus Fugit, Liverpool. It also includes the logo with the winged wheel. This logo can sometimes also be found stamped on the movement. Overall, the dial is in nice condition with Roman numeral hour markers and a sub-seconds dial.
This particular watch ticked most of the boxes. It’s a good quality Swiss movement. It included both the Russell brands I was interested in and overall, it was in very good condition. This would have been a very presentable and useable watch for my collection. Additionally, I am particularly fond of hunter cased watches and I am keen to add more to my collection. The only reason I didn’t buy this watch, was that it was listed as the 1920s, so although it is close, it is not a genuine antique. It could be argued that I am being pedantic, but I define an antique as something that is genuinely 100 years old. In this case, I would have to wait another decade before I could be certain it was an antique. Someone else obviously didn’t have this problem, because it was sold soon after I saw it.