Last updated on December 25, 2021
In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I had found a few interesting antique watches during my enforced isolation from the dreaded Coronavirus. Today I am going to take a look at an antique pocket watch I saw online at Atlam Watches. It was listed as a silver fancy case and enamel dial pocket watch c1890. It’s an unusual and very decorative timepiece that is appealing from an aesthetic point of view.
Antique fashion watch?
The first thing that caught my attention with this antique pocket watch was the ornate enamel dial, which is very pretty and, from a modern point of view, feminine in appearance. It has a cylinder movement, which I will discuss later, that is quite dated for a watch from the 1890s. Cylinder movements were a cheaper and less reliable movement than the lever movements that were common from the mid-1800s. The watch is stem wound/pin set. The decorative appearance and inexpensive movement make me think that this timepiece is the equivalent of modern fashion watches.
Cylinder movements first appeared around 1700 and were superseded by the lever movement, which is still in use today. Rather than pallets, the escapement uses a cutaway cylinder on the balance wheel shaft, which the escape teeth engage one by one. It is a frictional rest escapement, with the teeth in constant contact with the cylinder over the entire balance wheel cycle. It was not as accurate as “detached” escapements like the lever, and the high friction forces caused excessive wear and necessitated more frequent cleaning. This type of escapement was used in large numbers in inexpensive French and Swiss pocket watches from the mid-19th to the 20th century.
Because pocket watches with a cylinder escapement were not top-quality watches when they were made, they are difficult to repair and maintain. Although, the watch is working and keeps reasonable time within 15 minutes a day there is no guarantee or warranty with this watch. Although at some point I will probably add a cylinder movement pocket watch to my collection, I can’t see it being a practical or reliable timepiece. As attractive as this piece is, I will refrain from making a purchase and simply admire it online.
As stated, the gilt bridge movement has a cylinder escapement, which is in 95% mint condition. There are no obvious markings on the movement plates apart from the regulator. The movement has 10 jewels, which I assume is typical of that type of cylinder movement. There are no impulse or pallet jewels as you would expect in a decent quality lever movement.
The movement comes in a silver case, which has a hinged gilt inner. The inner cover is signed “Cylindre, 10 Rubis”. The case has an ornate engraving on the back and stepped sides with beading and a gilt finish. The case is in 90% mint condition with only minor wear. The watch measures 45mm wide x 13mm deep. I think it is a very presentable timepiece and my only concern with it is the reliability of the movement and the cost of repair.
The cream coloured enamel dial has a pair of gilt filigree hands and a gilt sub-seconds hand. The dial is decorated with enamel birds and flowers. The dial is in perfect condition and has what is likely to be the original mineral glass lens.
As I have already said, I won’t be buying this watch, simply because of my concerns about its long-term viability. However, it is a really pretty antique pocket watch and would look quite nice as a display piece. Perhaps, as my enforced isolation continues, I might reconsider my position. Until then I will just admire it online.