Last updated on January 8, 2021
Anyone who has read my recent posts would know that I have been looking for an antique hunter cased pocket watch. I have been looking for several weeks without luck. There were plenty of hunter pocket watches from the 1920s and 30s, but these didn’t qualify as genuine antiques. Finally, I managed to find this Criterion full hunter pocket watch, which could be confidently dated to around 1910.
The watch was listed as being early 20th century, which wasn’t enough to guarantee that the watch was a genuine antique. It was possible that a makers mark beneath the dial might reveal the age, but really all I had to work on were the markings on the Dennison case.
Inside the gold-coloured case back is the Dennison Star symbol, the company name and a serial number, 155611. The Star symbol indicated that the outside of the case was a layer of 9 carat rolled gold, guaranteed to wear for 10 years. The inside of the Star case, which naturally was subject to less wear, was electroplated with gold plate to reduce costs.
The company name is marked as ‘Dennison Case Co Ltd’. This is the first clue as to the age of the case and subsequently the pocket watch. The Dennison watch case company was founded in the 1870s. In 1905 it became a limited company. This dates the case to 1905 at the earliest. The only other mark that could be used to further date the case was the serial number.
Dennison serial numbers
There is no online register of Dennison serial numbers. In fact, there is no common agreement in online circles about the sequencing of serial numbers for Dennison cases. It could be that the serial numbers were allocated randomly. However, I am going to make the assumption that the serial numbers incremented over time. I looked at a fair number of antique watches that were dated from the movement and had Dennison Star cases. In nearly every instance, the older the watch, the lower the serial number.
The serial on my Dennison Star case is 155611. I found a reference to a watch made by the Lancashire Watch Co of Prescot, the movement wasn’t dated, but the Dennison Star case had the serial number 256244. The Lancashire Watch Company went out of business in 1910. This, therefore, dates my case somewhere between 1905 and 1910.
The watch has a Swiss 15-jewel stem-wind, stem-set movement, which is ticking along nicely as I type. The movement is signed Criterion, which is a brand name registered by various watchmakers. However, this one has been determined to be from Achille Hirsch of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Achille Hirsch registered the Criterion name in 1897. The movement is protected by an inner hinged cover which has a small “ding” and a little scratching. The inner dust cover contains the wording for the 10-year guarantee of the Star case. The movement is also marked two adjustments, which means it has been adjusted to the horizontal positions.
The watch measures 50mm diameter excluding the winding stem and the loop. The case has three very minor “dings” to the back and some fine scratching. However, overall, it is in good condition for its age and remains a very presentable watch.
The winding crown pushes in to open the front lid. There is a slight stutter when it opens, but it is barely noticeable and totally reasonable for a watch of its age. Its good practice to remember to depress the crown when closing the lid to preserve the life of the spring. Inside there is an acrylic crystal which is in good condition. The enamel dial looks clean and sharp to the naked eye, although with a jeweller’s loupe, you can see a short faint hairline between 4 and 5.
The dial has blued steel hands, a subsidiary second’s dial and an outer minute track. Bluing steel is a process that tempers the steel and creates an oxidised coating that helps to prevent the hands from rusting. Initially, the steel hands are cleaned and polished. Next, the hands are heated, over a bed of brass filings, to a high temperature. The layer of brass filings is used to maintain a stable temperature exchange. The steel changes colour from gold to brown and then purple before it settles to blue.
The watch passed a 24-hour time test with flying colours within a minute’s accuracy over the period when compared to the time on my PC. Its been a long wait to find my first antique hunter case watch, but I am very pleased with my purchase. It’s presentable, practical and accurate. I can’t wait for my first opportunity to wear this antique pocket watch. Now I need to decide what to look for next.