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J. G. Hall

by: Hanson, Jon; on: July 23rd, 2007

J.(Jonas) G. Hall is probably one of the least recognized important American horologists who spent over a half century at the bench watchmaking and inventing important horological implements.

Born in Calais, Vermont he entered into his apprenticeship in Montpelier with Samuel Abbott; three years later he moved to Boston were he became familiar with marine timepieces and remained there until 1848 at which time he returned to Montpelier, Vt. In 1851 he opened his own shop and continued as a watchmaker. From the period, 1848-1858 Hall built and modified watches, a marine chronometer, and various patented tools for the watch trade. Some American Watch Co. products carry his private label.

In 1862 he returned to Boston working for the American Watch Co. where he designed the first ladies watch (10s KW) for Waltham. A year later he returned to Montpelier, but then (again on the run) he worked for Edward Howard (1864-65), then Tremont Watch Co. and ultimately for the Melrose Watch Co.

In 1871 he moved to Roxbury, Vt. with buildings owned and began inventing and producing great watch tools, the most important which was his famous staking set tool. Hall's staking set had a worldwide reputation and he continued manufacturing it until 1891 when he passed away.

Bowman Watch Co.

by: Hanson, Jon; on: July 15th, 2007

In 1879 Ezra F. Bowman, a successful retail jeweler, ordered some watchmaking machinery to start making watches above his jewelry store. Less than one year later he engaged the services of the former Lancaster Watch Co. superintendent to make a model watch. With only five workmen Bowman made some additional small tooling to make his watch. By 1882 he and his crew finished just short of 50 movements which were all high grade three quarter plate, free sprung, nickel, 16 size, hunting case models that were all beautifully damascened and finished. All parts except for the dials and balances were made in his shop in Lancaster on King Street. These quality movements proved expensive to make and Bowman, deciding to continue in his expanding wholesale jewelry business, sold out to J. P. Stevens of Atlanta. Georgia. Numbers 1 through 49 have been recorded by me of known examples. These are very rare watches and seldom seen or sold in public venues. Probably the best and earliest example known is serial number 3. Serial number 1 (once owned by yours truly) is quite incomplete and was donated to a museum.

J P Stevens

by: Hanson, Jon; on: July 15th, 2007

In 1882 the Bowman machinery and watchmaking tooling was sold to J. P. Stevens of Atlanta, Georgia who previously had been buying near completed movements from (basically) Hampden to place his patented spiral shaped regulators. In 1884 Stevens organized his company and captured several watch folks with previous experience, inc. William Todd, C. L. Hoyt, C. H. Bagley and T. W. Thompson. At first about ten movements per day were produced and things went well until the chief backer J. C. Freeman, died; followed by many lawsuits, the Stevens brother sold out to the Freeman heirs who formed the D. N. Freeman & Company which failed in 1887.

J. P. Stevens watches number approximately 169 examples, similar to Bowmans, these are three quarter plate nickel, 15J, HC, lever set movements with the patented Stevens regulator, with various signatures and (a few) conversion dials. More common than Bowman watches, these are highly sought for their regulators, though this same regulator was used on other American company products. Proof in the original is in the serial number, the size and the plate layout. Several great ones are cased in original JPS 18K hunting cases.

S. D. French & Co.

by: Hanson, Jon; on: July 23rd, 2007

Very little is known about this maker from Wabash, Indiana. This company reported existed circa 1870 amd its gilt Key Wind movements resemble cheap, poorly made Howard series III 18s movements, although the cut-outs are different. Roy Ehrhard reported many years ago that possibly 25 were made; just two examples are known, both in the WGC. The only public sale record is the Atwood, Tme Museum example, serial number 19.

Nashua Watch Co.

by: Hanson, Jon; on: July 15th, 2007

Nashua Watch Co. was begun in 1859 with many watch and machine experts of the time, inc. N.P. Stratton, C.S. Mosley, B.D. Bingham, J.H. Gerry, Chas Van der Woerd, etc. joining forces to begin making the finest watches in America. Magnificent 20S 19J and 15J movements were begun but not all 1000 were either made or finished and the company was swallowed up and sold for $23,000 to the American Watch Co. Remaining unfinished movements were later engraved American Watch Co. in Waltham and which became the company's premier grade of movement and the finest watches made in America, now as part of the famous Nashua department at Waltham.

All signed Nashua examples are rare--the 19J of which is extremely rare. Watches engraved and finished at Waltham have the original Nashua numbers under the dial. All Nashuas are 20s key wind and set from the back and are gilt. These are highly important and wonderful watches of great historical significance.

Luther Goddard, 1809-1825

by: Hanson, Jon; on: July 15th, 2007

Luther Goddard was the most visible early American watch maker, 1809-1825 in Grafton, Mass. He was a cousin of the great Aaron Willard and apprentised to him from 1778-1783. Goddard's first watches reportedly were made in 1812; prior to this date (1784-1807) he repaired clocks in Shrewsbury, Mass. Later his sons continued the business and imported watches from England and sold them with the Goddard name. True Goddard American made watches have low (500ish) serial numbers, some with beautiful eagle COCKS!

The United States Watch Co.

by: Hanson, Jon; on: June 3rd, 2007

Many years ago (in the early 1960s) I acquired my very first Marion watch, a low numbered Edwin Rollo, from old timer George "Patina" Kelsch who was a long time watch collector but more importantly an excellent watch hunter and condition freak (but this is another story).

Anyway, the unusual "butterfly" cutout in the back plate (as usual) caught my eye as it does to most young collectors owning one for the first time. Some time afterwards I began collecting various serial numbers of early American Watch Companies, and then I was fortunate to meet the great F. H. Macmillan from Morristown, New Jersey. "Mac," as he was called by his buddies, was a research scientist, held several Ph.Ds. and worked for Warner Lambert, the chemical company, for many years. He collected clocks and watches and also was a great hunter for rare and unusual horological objects as he lived in the right area at the right time (adjacent to NYC) to hunt on Canal Street, NY, attend the major Eastern horological events and various auctions. Mac, being the researcher type that he was, always dove into history and research of clocks and watches and usually came up with new finds and varieties of collectibles that interested him. Some years earlier he began collecting data on Marion watches, as well as starting a serial number reconstruction list of the companies watches (this was prior to 1960). I became one of his chief suppliers of serial numbers and during this period I learned much about this company and its products.

Mac knew just about everybody throughout the country and therefore had the opportunity to view, as well as document, just about every important Marion collection in existence so these became the basis for his original serial number reconstruction list and my basic format. Mac was a tough and aggressive, highly intelligent and serious researcher and I became his student and eventually took over his work on the subject as he developed other interests up to the time of his unfortunate death. Sometime before this in the middle 1970s a small group of newbies to US Marion watches got a brainstorm to do a large joint effort in the form of a supplement for the NAWCC, led by a few older, established collectors and researchers such as William Muir who formed a joint committee to gather information and the rush was on. Mac and I were approached but we declined. This group was extremely upset and attempted to extort us for our research however, we had much more information than they but more importantly, I was seriously collecting these watches so why would I compete against myself? Mac strongly supported our independence and told them so rather bluntly. In any event the NAWCC book on Marion was published in 1980, along with its many errors and padding. Great efforts to picture many items was fairly successful and the history of Marion makes a great story, but the productions, grades, variations and the rarity discussions are quite inaccurate. This book originally sold for $35. when it was released in 1980 and it has been continually discounted by the NAWCC since that date for reasons I do not understand to a bottom price of around $13-15.00! (This was a disservice to the association as well as book collectors, a very bad business decision, and has harmed the series immensely. Possibly the decision making on the quantity published was poorly thought out and a gross error made by the inexperienced Gene Fuller?) Heck, the BEAUTIFUL dust jacket is worth the discounted price alone as a coffee table book. And, true to form, after the rush by inexperienced, neophyte collectors and insincere researchers, the series ONCE A HOT BED OF ACTIVITY throughout the country, completely died a fast death as most of these series do after a RUSH to PUBLISH. What happened? 3-4 serious collectors passed away, some went broke, others changed hobbies and the activity ceased while others thought the work had been completed-NOT! Activity again proved to be an exercise rather than a lasting hobby of serious collectors. Some folks simply love to see their name in print and this has historically been a problem within the NAWCC. Other information was lacking and various specimens had not been recorded or seen by the "herd." However, a few collectors stuck with the hobby and this particular company and Roy Ehrhardt (some years later) approached me to publish my serial number reconstruction list for another of his well known pocket watch publications. So, I decided to put together my research of many years, correcting the many collector errors of names, grades, jewels, winding and setting info and all the other things inexperienced collectors and dealers make. Roy published my list in 1993 as his Encyclopedia Volume 3 and serious collectors flocked to it, the few that were left. Roy's lack of promotion caused this work to be one of the best kept secrets in horology. I highly recommend collectors to buy the NAWCC picture and history book, entitled, "Marion, A History of the United States Watch Company" by William Muir and Bernard Kraus (ESP at the giveaway price) AND my serial number reference book to all people interested in this company or horology in general. Also, I would like to hear from any new collectors or those that happen on to any Marion watches, as my research continues on for the benefit of the horological community and I plan on providing updates as warranted. Some interesting new discoveries and Private Labels have popped up in the last 10 years, so it pays to educate oneself and hunt these watches for fun or profit!

Why Marion watches? United States Marion watches present a multitude of collecting opportunities for the watch collector. Although for the most part they are not considered really high grade watches like American Watch Company products, this series offers a fun exercise for a company with many variables. In addition to being a great and well documented story, along with the various cast of characters involved with the company, there are many interesting aspects in forming a collection of these watches, including the various sizes of watches produced (18, 16, 14, 10), the quantity of various and some time colorful grade names, vast differential in jewel counts (7-19), the wide range of quality of some of the grades, types (open face and hunting styles), plate configurations and variations, winding and setting mechanisms, exotic regulators (Elson's), mixed metals of the back and pillar plates, unusual damaskeening for the period, the occasionally beautiful and sexy engravings on the movements and/or balance cocks, beautiful colored and/or fancy dials, exotic dial subject matter, dials and movements with railroad significance, watches associated with famous newspapers, exposition related pieces, gold and enameled cases, USWCo monogrammed cases, historical hallmarks cases (Giles, Wales & CO), the name changes to Marion Watch Company, to The Royal Gold Watch Co., the Empire City Watch Company link, and the liquidation of unfinished movements to the Howard Brothers of Fredonia, NY which were sold as Independent Watch Company products. All of this makes for a great specialized collection.

Please contact me if you have an interest in these watches (or for that matter any other American watches that you care to discuss) as I research and collect pocket watches full time. I am always pleased to speak to new collectors as well as older, seasoned collectors in the field of horology interested in research, new discoveries, collecting philosophies, or anything else horological. Thank you and I shall look forward to your communication.

Charles Fasoldt

by: Hanson, Jon; on: June 21st, 2007

Fasoldt was a German emigrant, originally born in Dresden, Saxony and migrated to the United States at approximately 30 years of age. Apparantently Charles had machine and watch making skills prior to migrating to the U.S. with his family, settling in Rome, N.Y. and setting up shop in the early 1850s, possibly as early as 1851 where he remained for 10 years. At this time he advertised watch, clock, chronometer making, jewelry repair, and mfg of small medical and other instruments.

After moving to Albany in 1860/1 he perfected his watches with its well known double wheel escapement and in 1870 began making his regulators and tower clocks. Ten years later he produced microscopes and his little known but famous ruling machine which I believe now is in the Smithsonian Inst. Family members succeeded him in varous watch sales, repairs and instument makers.

Best known in this country for his large and distinctive watch movements of which estimated production exceeds slightly over 300, including ladies, 18 and 20s gilt or nickel movements, KW and SW, mostly with his patented double wheel escapement, distinctive micro regulator, and (if all original) large and handsome 18-20K gold hunting cases of Albamy makers and others. While many of his movements are easily catagorized, he also made unusual and unique examples, inc. but not limited to button set, hidden key cased watches, 2 train, off center dials, multi dials, plus a few unique excapements which I shall identify and photograph eventually in my book on early American. watches.

His regulators are highly prized and of the finest quality and his tower clocks are of great importance to historians and collectors. His clock movements are even more beautiful than his watch movements.

Collecting Fasoldt products virtually is a collection within itself and one that requires many years of patience, hunting and study.

Don J. Mozart

by: Hanson, Jon; on: June 1st, 2007

Mozart watches present one of the rarest and most unusual ever made. Invented by Don J. Mozart, born in 1820 in Italy, he immmigrated to the United States at 3 years of age, and with his parents settled in at Boston, Mass. His father was a watchmaker and young Don was mysteriously kidnapped to sea at a very early age but eventually found his way back to the US.

In 1859 he held a patent for a clock but his true love was watches. He invented a 3 wheel watch which was a cross between a lever and a chronometer. His idea was trashed while in Providence, R.I. and those involved began the New York watch Company in a new location in Springfield, Mass circa 1866. Meanwhile Mozart moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan and incorporated the Mozart Watch Company in 1867. Historians report that 10 watches were originally assembled and cased by Mozart and Ernest Sandoz and 20 later finished and cased also. About 1870 Mozart soon was back at his jewelry store attempting other watch innovations but was committed to the county mental hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was deemed incurable from his breakdown and was committed to the state hospital where he died in 1877.

All are 18s Key Wind and set from the back, 3/4 plate and originally cased in GF Ladd cases of the period. Very few of these watches are known and are totally of a unique American design. Thanks to Don Mozart for creating these fantastic watches.

Howard Switching

by: Hanson, Jon; on: June 1st, 2007

There is a small army of newer collectors that have recently hovered around and surrounded by a few particular "self proclaimed experts", buying all sorts of recased, redialed and reworked watches and trash. These are (many times) the remnants of watches switched for ego and profit by those with money problems or a lack of conscience. It is called the "trickle down theory" or the "greater fool theory!" Lately, many of those in the know refer to it as the "pyramid scheme"--meaning that there are various levels of collectors with the worst watches/movements sinking down to the collector with the least amount of knowledge and money. After a while the ones that stay with Howards need a source to "off" their dups, mistakes and junk to a lower level and "the experts" help to facilitate this.

Howards have a certain fascination because of the well known name and the usual phony publicity, but learning about original watches requires many things: 1. a history of the watches, who had them and who bought and dispersed them 2. familiarity and experience owning and handling the goods 3. research works, inc. old lists of past collectors 4. detection when observing the watches 5. knowing what to look for in movement reworks, cases that don't match the period, dials that have been added and switched. 6. it also helps to know the pedigree of the watch--I especially like to buy "virgins", i.e., those that have resided in old estates or items from original owners. 7. and now the partial factory records (see the chapter 149 MB). There are many other tell tale ways to determined what is what, but one of the first ways to check is consider the source of the watch!

Upping the Ante, Parts 1 and 2

by: Hanson, Jon; on: June 3rd, 2007

Lately there have been renewed discussions about the real prices of pocket watches. Everyone is well aware of the relatively "good times" some middle and upper-class Americans are experiencing with nice disposable incomes available for hobby and other spending. Low inflation (try to explain that one to serious American watch collectors) and interest rates, the urge to own and borrow, the spare time of the "over 60 group," fortunate speculation, and the absurd high cost of other collectibles in comparison has put great pressure American pocket watch prices. Other factors adding to the mix of absurdity have been T. V. sales, poorly catalogued collections sold via the auction block, e.g., J. and H. auctions (to name one), antique auctions where watches and clocks are added to "spice up" offerings to the general unsuspecting public, and now ebay auctions on the World Wide Web.

While people might argue that auctions might be a safe haven for buying (for example, Joe Blow bought the lot at a high price, BUT some other boob was just 2, 3, or 5 percent below him), the constant threat of "shills," naive mail buyers, idiot investors, uneducated collectors, or so-called collectors relying on someone else's advice should raise either a red flag or extreme caution. But, there is another "fly in the soup!"

For some time now, especially in good times when people seem to have more money than brains and when inflation (in this case the collectable, pocket watch industry) makes a hero out of everyone, there is a new dreaded enemy of the serious, true collector. It is individuals that "tout" goods or items of select interest that have either: 1) no money; 2) lack economic skills, common sense, and good judgment ; 3) little or no real experience in the field; 4) total lack the necessary skills to give correct advice; 5) lack fundamentals to make a good decision; or 6) pump up items unnecessarily (without participating with their own dollars) in spite, of ego, or ignorance resulting in NEEDLESSLY "upping the ante"!

There have been some spirited private discussions during the last 2 weeks about auctionitis and two members requested that I revisit this interesting subject, so here it is, again--the continued, part II of "upping the ante":

So, "upping the ante" results in 1) false promises 2) no safe harbor 3) how do I sell it, and to whom? 4) where do I go with it now? 5) what did I get myself into? The best example I can state is that there are 5 people bidding on an esoteric $2500. item (this actually happened and involved several 149ers and others): one person believes it to be worth 2000.; another, 2500; a third, 3500; however, the fourth is told that its value is $6000. (without prior records of price history) by "Mr. Tout without clout"; fifth person wants it for his collection; Fourth and fifth people fight to 5400. Collector number five wins, BUT bidder number four dies in a plane crash one week later and bidder number three suffers a bad fate from bad health one year later to the day. Result? Unless, "Mr. Tout without clout" wins the lottery or a new "Mr. Right" arrives on the scene the watch instantly becomes a liquid $2600. item? So, "upping the ante" really is the "greater fool theory." Do you want to become the next greater fool? Who's next? In good times, the line forms to the right!

Names withheld to protect the innocent, bidders withheld to protect the stupid, and the buyer withheld to protect the naive.


1-11 of 11 Records.