Antique Hedy’s Patent automaton pocket watch, 1903

Last updated on April 15, 2021

After my last acquisition, I decided to look for something different. Preferably either an antique Omega pocket watch or a Borgel cased trench watch. I have not found either yet. However, I stumbled across an interesting watch on The Vintage Wrist Watch Company website, Hedy’s Patent automaton pocket watch. The watch had been reserved and was subsequently sold, so it was not a watch I seriously considered. As interesting as the automaton complication was, it’s not really the type of watch I am looking for, because in my opinion simple and stylish is best.

Hedy’s Patent automaton watch. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company

Movement

The watch has a stem-winding, pin-set movement by Reconvilier. The movement is working within two to three minutes of accuracy per day. The company was founded in 1853 in the Swiss Jura village of Reconvilier and was later to become Société Horlogère Reconvilier. The movement is signed Hedy’s Patent, a brand name registered by Arnold Augsburger.

Hedy’s Patent movement. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company

The patent number engraved on the watch movement N ° 25299 corresponds to the Swiss patent obtained on February 21, 1903, by Arnold Augsburger. This was for an automaton watch representing a choice of the trades of blacksmith, carpenter or cooper (barrel maker).

Case

The watch case measures 53mm in diameter excluding the winding stem and the loop. The case is made from gunmetal. It is an alloy formed of copper, tin and zinc. Originally, it was mainly used, as the name suggests, for making guns. It is highly resistant to corrosion from steam and saltwater. It also has a dark appearance and lacks the shine and glamour of silver or gold. I imagine watches with gunmetal cases were used by workmen or the military where the corrosion resistance was more important than appearance. I find it a strange choice of case material on a watch with such a novel complication. Perhaps, the gunmetal is synonymous with blacksmiths. Overall, the case is in good condition with the typical dark gunmetal patina. It also has some handsome rose gold embellishments on the bow and crown.

Hedy’s Patent case. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company

Automaton

The dial is signed Hedy’s Patent and it has the brevet (patent) number arched above the centre. There is hand-painted detail around the perimeter of the dial and the arch which contains a blacksmith swinging his mallet with the beat of the lever escapement. There are a few hairline cracks to the dial. However, they are faint and difficult to see with the naked eye. The dial also has some age-related fading. The original mineral crystal has been replaced by an acrylic lens, which is in good condition.

A video of the automaton in action can be seen on The Vintage Wrist Watch Company Facebook page. The blacksmith swings his hammer in time with the beat of the escapement. I found a few other examples of this particular watch online. Remarkably, there is very little information about Reconvilier or Augsburger, which is odd considering such an intriguing complication. It is certainly a watch I enjoyed looking at and learning about. However, I’m not sure it is one that would have fit in my collection.

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