English Lever pocket watch, R Kaiser, York, 1896.

Last updated on January 8, 2021

This English lever pocket watch has a key-wind, key-set movement, which is ticking away nicely in front of me as I type. It is an open-faced pocket watch in good overall condition. A winding key (size 8) was included with the watch. This is part of my personal collection and the first English lever pocket watch I have owned.

1896 English Lever pocket watch.

To set this watch you need to open the dial cover, insert the key over the hand’s arbor and turn to the correct time. To wind the watch, you need to open the outer case back cover, by depressing the button on the stem, and insert the key into the winding hole and turn. It takes about eight clockwise turns to fully wind and you can feel the tension build as you wind. The covers all fit neatly, the hinges are straight and the covers close nicely with a satisfying click. It does take some practice to open the covers, each cover seems to have a sweet spot, which allows it to pop open easily.

Movement

In addition to the outer case back cover, the movement is protected by an inner hinged cover. There is a small push button that needs to be activated to open the inner cover. It can be quite challenging to open. The movement is stamped ‘Warranted English’ lever and numbered 3126209.  

Warranted English Lever.

In 1887 the British Merchandise Marks Act stopped foreign manufacturers from falsely claiming that their goods were British-made and selling them in Britain and Europe. Although it’s marked as ‘Warranted English’, many English makers were incorporating a proportion of Swiss parts in their products in order to reduce their manufacturing costs, and there were court cases concerning how much Swiss work could be included before a watch could no longer legally be described as ‘English’.

English lever escapement.

The dial is branded ‘R Kaiser, York’. The ‘R’ is slightly damaged, but otherwise, the face is in reasonable condition. As the dial cover needs to be opened to set the time, the dial has some markings from exposure to the elements. The dial is in good condition, but there are a few very minor marks or stains to the surface. These are so minor that they are virtually invisible to the naked eye.

Case

The watch measures 50mm diameter excluding the stem and the loop. The case is silver and there are hallmarks inside both of the case backs for Birmingham 1896 with a maker’s mark for the case maker William Ehrhardt, Time Works, Barr Street, Hockley, Birmingham & Hatton Garden, London. There is also engine turned detail to the case back, along with a vacant cartouche in the centre. The case has light surface marking from use but overall it is in good condition for an 1890s timepiece.

Cartouche.

In the 1881 Census records for York, there is a Richard Kaiser, aged 25, born in 1857 whose occupation is listed as Watchmaker. He operated from 10 Church Street, York. He appears again in the Census records for 1891 and 1901. In the 1911 Census records, there is a Frederick Richard Kaiser, also born in 1857, listed as a watch repairer and shop keeper. These could possibly be the same person. There were other people with the surname of Kaiser that were listed as watch repairers in the late 19th and early 20th century. These could all be the descendants of the original Richard Kaiser.

During this period, the term watchmaker was used fairly freely. In reality, you had watch manufacturers who made the components, watchmakers who assembled the components and retailers who styled themselves as watchmakers. I suspect that, as was normal for the time, that Richard Kaiser purchased the complete watch from the manufacturer William Ehrhardt, a noted manufacturer of ébauche movements. The enamel watch dial would have also been branded by William Ehrhardt. One day when I gain the courage to take this watch apart, I will remove the dial and expect to see the William Ehrhardt hallmark on the movement.

The acrylic crystal is in nice condition with no obvious marks or scratches. The pocket watch has gold hands and a blued steel sub-seconds hand. Overall, it is in very good condition for a watch that is nearly 130 years old.

Timekeeping

In a twenty-four-hour time test, the watch performed really well. It actually ran about two minutes fast, which I’m quite happy with. I’ve always preferred watches, antique and modern, that run slightly fast. After all, I would always rather be early for an appointment, than late. The power reserve from a full-wind is approximately 26 hours.

This is currently, a favourite in my collection. It is presentable and dependable and I’m getting some regular use from this antique pocket watch.

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