Last updated on May 8, 2021
I am still looking for that elusive antique hunter pocket watch. Today’s post is about a very near miss, an antique pocket watch that meets some of my criteria, but not all. It’s a presentable piece, with some international history and was produced by a noted English watchmaker. It is also a genuine antique timepiece, dating back to 1909.
Rotherhams silver full hunter pocket watch
This is the Rotherhams silver full hunter pocket watch. The watch has a stem-wind, pin-set movement, signed Rotherhams, London. It is reportedly working nicely and keeping good time to within five minutes over 24 hours. The movement is protected by an inner hinged dust cover which has been beautifully engraved. It reads, ‘Presented to Mr H B Naylor, by Church Office bearers and members of the Young Men’s Bible Class, St Pauls Wanganui‘. That makes this is an English made antique watch which was exported to New Zealand and is now back in its country of origin.
There was not much written about the movement. It is clearly signed, Rotherhams, London. There are no other visible markings. The balance wheel is visible as is the regulator, everything else is hidden beneath the bridge plates.
The case is silver and there are hallmarks inside the three covers for Birmingham 1909 with a maker’s mark of JR for John Rotherham of Rotherham & Sons. The case has some fairly gentle unevenness to the front and back, and the engine turned detail has worn from years of use. I don’t have an issue with the unevenness or the worn engine detail. It shows that the watch was probably a valued gift and was worn and used daily for decades. Besides, although I do wear my antique pocket watches, I am never going to use the watch often enough to cause further damage.
There is an indentation by the clasp on the front cover which means that when you push the winding crown to open the cover, it also needs to be opened with the aid of your finger. It has also caused a slight gap around the edge of the cover. This is a shame, ideally, you want your hunter case to open without manual intervention.
Crystal and dial
Inside the case is a mineral glass crystal which is in good condition, with no obvious damage. The dial is in lovely condition with pin-set blued steel hands, a subsidiary seconds dial and an outer minute track. Bluing steel is a process that tempers the steel and creates a coating that helps to prevent the steel from corrosion. First, 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 dial is signed with the name of the original retailer, John Forbes, Wanganui, listed as a watchmaker and jeweller. This was typical of the time. The watch would have been made by Rotheram’s in Coventry (the head office was in London), exported to New Zealand, where the retailer would have branded the dial.
There are a number of things I really like about this antique pocket watch. Firstly, it is made by a noted watchmaker, Rotherams. They have a history dating back to the mid-19th century. This is one watchmaker I definitely want to have in my collection one day. Secondly, it’s a hunter pocket watch and I still can’t get my hands on the right one. Third, I like the patina, it tells a story and this particular watch is well travelled.
This watch was available at the time of writing and my watch fund was fairly healthy. So why didn’t I take a chance on this particular timepiece? There are three things that stood in my way. The damaged hunter lid was probably the showstopper for me, my antique pocket watches have to be practical. If every time I want to check the time, I need to give the lid some assistance, it is not going to work for me. The timekeeping was probably also a little worse than my other antique pieces. Five minutes a day isn’t bad, but I know from personal experience that I can get antique watches running to less than two minutes a day. Lastly, the personalised engraving is not ideal, I always feel that a personalised piece should remain a family heirloom, not a collector’s item.
This is still a good quality antique pocket watch and I am sure it will find a new owner in the very future. In the meantime, I will continue my search for that elusive hunter pocket watch.