19th Century

Napoleon-Bonaparte-at-the-Bridge-of-Arcoleuk-flag-official-coloursEnglish and French watchmakers adopted the same style for high quality watches, mostly influenced by Abraham – Louis Breguet’s success. The watches were big (ca. 50mm) in size and many of them had guilloched silver dials. The full plate movements retained their respective designs, being single footed in England and double footed in France. The more important workshops used less verge escapements, using cylinder, lever and duplex mechanisms. Some manufacturers continued to use verge escapements for people wanting a robust watch. The full plate construction made place for the use of single bridge movements of the Lépine type or the very popular 3/4 plate type. The Napoleonic Wars put some pressure of the British economy, forcing some very successful firms such as Ellicott, Grant and Dutton to decrease their production. Some of the most important English watchmakers of the period were: Benjamin Vulliamy and his son Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy, John – Roger Arnold, Charles Frodsham, Joseph and Henry Jump and Edward John Dent. Also because the aforementioned economical issues at some point many of these watchmakers were associates, producing basically the same type of high quality watches.

Swiss imported raw movements were specific pieces used for repeating, tourbillon, calendar or chronograph movements. Beginning from about 1825 the raw movements or ‘movements made in the grey’ for ‘simple’ watches made in Lancashire or Coventry were more an more used also by watchmakers in London (1). As a parallel development, the watchmaking in Liverpool and surroundings flourished producing some high quality pieces such as those made by Robert Roskell. Other watchmakers specialized in export pieces for the growing market in the United States.

By 1860 the full plate types were abandoned except for low quality pieces and deck watches.

Friedrich Heinrich Gerhard Ahrens, No. 2, Hannover, 1800




Gilt brass, full plate movement (diameter: 43mm) with going-fusee of individual design, maintaining pawl spring mounted the dial side of the pillar-plate, with French/Swiss style balance-bridge with jewelled coquerette (French style as well), and spiral (Chelsea bun) compensation-curb mounted on the index. Cylinder (deadbeat) escapement with 15-tooth brass escape. Brass balance. spiral balance-spring. One-piece signed ‘Ahrens Hannover’ enamelled copper dial with subsidiary seconds at 6, blued-steel hands. Scratch numbered 2 on the brass edge and in the counter-enamel of the dial.(1)

A very rare movement, being one of the earliest with temperature compensation in Germany. (1)

Though of German manufacture and roughly of continental aesthetics, this movement is categorized among the English work, because of the compensation curb being the main feature and of English origin.

This movement, retaining a spiral shaped temperature compensation curb (used first by Thomas Mudge in the 1750’s, (1)) is clearly copied from the English work of Benjamin Vulliamy from whom he might have purchased the mentioned compensation curb. Vulliamy, who had bought the stock of the late Larcum Kendall in 1790, including the tool to fabricate spiral shaped compensation curbs, made watch movements witch resembled K2 and K3. It is unknown whether these movements were tributes to Kendall, as the performance of K2 and K3 were not as good compared to K1, despite the important ships they were assigned to as board chronometers.

512px-Coat_of_arms_of_HannoverAs Hannover was politically and economically very tightly connected to the British Empire at that time, it is not surprising, that the accounts of the Kendall watches reached Ahrens. The manufacture of this movement differs quite a lot from those of Vulliamy, especially the French style balance bridge witch might have been been made by a worker trained in France or Switzerland. David Penney still confirms the bridge being original to the movement. It is not known, at least by David Penney, who was the first in Germany to make and fit compensation-curbs, but this movement shows all the signs of not being English, Swiss or French made, and the design and working of the curb on the index also makes him believe this is the work of Ahrens. Such curbs can be found, apart in the work of Vulliamy also in London work by Taylor others later in the 18th century. (1)

Friedrich Heinrich Gerhard Ahrens  31.10.1750 – 1.12.1822

Not much is known about this watchmaker. He was watchmaker to the hanoverian court. Only few other pieces are recorded by him, one similar to the present was sold at auction (Crott, Auction 75, November 2007, Lot. 131), now part of the International Watch Museum in La Chaux – de – Fonds. Another piece is one of the earliest 1/60 of a second chronographs, now in a public collection in Germany. A written statement of a portable thermometer made between 1790 and 1800 is recorded as being made by Ahrens, in the style of the ones invented by Jaques – Frédéric Houriet and commercialised by Urban Jürgensen.

Richard Jolly, London, No. 27, 1808

Jolly 1


Gilt brass, full plate, pocket chronometer movement, engraved cock and slide plate. detached lever escapement, brass escape. Earnshaw compensation balance with two wedged weights cut from wide brass ring. Flat, blued spiral balance-spring. Original unsigned enamel copper dial, counter enamel marked in red ‘MOM’. Original blued steel hands, lacking seconds hand. Originally in a 18k gold case hallmarked for London 1808 unfortunately scrapped by a former owner.

Richard Jolly has worked at the Arnold factory ‘Martins’ at Chigwell along with Thomas Prest and John Glover. He is recorded as apprentice of John Roger Arnold from the 2.11.1802 on. It might be surprising that he preferred the system developed by Thomas Earnshaw, a great concurrence of Arnold. On the other side, even chronometers by John Roger Arnold’s have movements with Earnshaw elements. Finally the Earnshaw system proved to be easier to construct and to service. This is the only movement signed by Richard Jolly known to us.

Robert Pennington Sr.    1752 – 1813

Born in Kendal, he worked in London starting from 1777. Recruited by Thomas Mudge Jr. to make timekeepers on his fathers design (1). From 1794 to 1799 he, Richard Pendleton and others made 27 marine chronometers to Thomas Mudges Sr’s design. Pennington also drew the plates for the publication ‘A Description with Plates’, published 1799 by Mudge Jr. He worked also for other makers such as, Barraud and Barwise, but made also chronometers and verge watches in his own right which he signed ‘Pennington London’ (1).

Pennington was active during the late ‘heroic’ period of chronometer development (1). He improved upon the balance construction, by including a cross bar less subject to magnetism than Earnshaw’s and he replaced the weights for compensation with screws. Pennington used fractional numbering for his own watches which might be understood similarly as John Arnold’s system. His son, Robert Pennington Jr. (1780 – 1854) continued the work of his father, signing ‘Robert Pennington London’.

Robert Pennington Sr. and Jr., London, No. 810, 1818

Pennington 1

Pennington 2

Silver pair cased (54 mm diameter, hallmarked London 1818),  full plate fusee movement, engraved cock, un-engraved ‘half cap’, diamond end stone. Backplate engraved ‘Pennington London No. 810’. Verge escapement. Steel balance with upright banking, steel spiral balance-spring. Enamel dial, fitted direct to the pillar-plate without a brass-edge allowing for a slimmer movement, gold arrow head hands. (1)

Robert Pennington Sr., known to have worked for Thomas Mudge, also made his own chronometers and verge watches for clients wanting a more robust watch (horse riding). This watch dated after Robert Pennington Sr.’s death, but signed in his style, might have been started by Pennington Sr. before his death and finished by his son afterwards. This is the only complete original verge watch by Pennington known to David Penney. (1)

Although not a chronometer its listed in: Stewart A. D., A Note on the serial numbers of Pennington chronometers, academia.edu

Robert Pennington Jr., London, No. 981, 1830


Three-quarter plate ‘all brass’ fusee movement (37mm diameter) with gilt brass balance and brass index and stud, of the type associated with the Barraud firm. Single-roller detached lever escapement. Plain balance with spiral balance-spring. Enameled copper dial. (1)

Matthew Dutton (Sr.), Thomas Dutton (Junior) and Matthew Dutton (Jr.)

After William Dutton’s death in 1794, his elder son Matthew Dutton took over the business, signing the pieces ‘Matt(w) Dutton’. He was apprenticed to Thomas Mudge during the period when latter was working on his marine chronometers ‘Green and Blue’. He became master of the ‘Clockmaker’s company in 1800 and continued the numbering of Thomas Mudge and followed production traditions such as movement layout, scratching of production numbers on parts and best quality engraving. His younger brother Thomas Dutton worked as independent watchmaker signing his pieces either ‘Thomas Dutton’ or ‘Dutton Jun(io)r’. Another contemporary watchmaker named Benjamin Dutton was not of the same family. (1)

The Dutton business was then entering the third generation with Matthew Dutton (Jr.), who signed his output as ‘Matt(w) Dutton’, like his father. He adhered to the newly introduced Lancashire type of raw movements. Matthew was the last watchmaker in the line since Thomas Tompion. (1)

Thomas Dutton (Junior), London, No. 2332, 1800/1850



Fullplate fusee movement (33 mm diameter) dating from around 1800, upgraded for its owner around 50 years later, with new plain cock, new barrel, a going fusee and a new escapement, balance and balance-spring. Bosley regulator. Now with single-roller detached lever escapement, uncut bimetallic balance and spiral balance-spring with gallows stud, with index scale engraved on the back plate. Signed ‘Dutton Jun(io)r London 2332’ on back plate. (1)

Younger son of William Dutton. One of the very few known movements by this maker. (1)

Matthew Dutton (Sr.), London, No. 1617, 1810




Gilt brass, full plate fusee movement (45 mm diameter) with square baluster pillars and finely engraved balance cock. Diamond end stone. Signed back plate ‘Matt(he)w Dutton London 1617’. Graham-type cylinder (deadbeat) escapement with original banking (in top shell of steel cylinder, as in banking of duplex systems), brass escape with 16 teeth. Enamelled copper dial. Signed ‘Matt(he)w Dutton London’ gilt brass cap, embossed with letter ‘B’. (1)

Elder son of William Dutton. The layout and construction of this movement respects almost all traditions of manufacture of George Graham and perfectioned  by Thomas Mudge. Matthew, the son of Matthew will later use Lancashire style raw movements (see below). One of very few known movements by this maker. (1)

Matthew Dutton (Jr.), London, No. 1013, 1823



Gilt brass, full plate fusee movement (47 mm diameter, Lancashire type) with square baluster pillars and thin finely engraved balance cock. Diamond end stone. Gold balance. Signed back plate ‘Matt(he)w Dutton London 1013’. Jewelled (sapphire) cylinder escapement, polished steel cylinder escape with 16 teeth. Enamelled one piece copper dial with seconds subdial. Unsigned gilt brass cap. (1)

Son of Matthew Dutton (see above) and grand son of William Dutton. One of the very few known movements by this maker. (1)

John Roger Arnold, No. 45, London, 1820




Full plate going fusee movement (46.5mm diameter) with Prest keyless mechanism, barrel bridge engraved with scale featuring specific screw holding the the steel bearing supporting one end of the main contrate of the winding wheel. Jeweled (sapphire) cylinder escapement, flat steel balance wheel, spiral balance spring. J R Arnold’s special shaped compensation curb. Enameled copper dial signed ‘Arnold’ and numbered ‘No.45’, subsidiary seconds at 6 (1).

Prest’s keyless mechanism


Taken and modified from: A. Mercer, John Arnold & Son Chronometer Makers, 1762 – 1843, The Antiquarian Horological Society, London, 1972, Plate 192

Thomas Prest, foreman for the Arnold firm since 1784, took the patent out for this first commercially successful keyless system (patent 4501, 20th October 1820). Later the system was taken over by Charles Frodsham. (1)

Ex. Henry C. Wing (USA), bought by him in 1935 (Malcolm Gardner’s 2nd catalogue) (1)

Featured in a list of Paul Chamberlain (Item C24, 1939) (1)

Not listed in Staeger nor Mercer (1)

Joseph Anthony Berrollas No. 285, for Richard Willson No. 9381, London, 1830


Berollas _2

Full plate fusee movement (44mm diameter), front plate stamped ‘B P’ Berrollas Patent) in cameo with number 285, plain cock, diamond end stone. Steel balance and spiral balance spring. The back engraved ‘Rich(ard) Wilson LONDON 9381’, which might have been the retailer or the first owner of the watch. (1)

The fusée is equipped with a pulley and chain underneath the dial, the chain protruding through the stem. With this chain the watch could be wound. This is one of many trials to wind watches without the need of a separately carried watch key. The first to develop a working keyless movement was John Arnold in 1766 (see above). Berrollas credited his invention as being applicable to watches having a fusée, other keyless systems only working for watches having going barrels (true except for the experimental piece by John Arnold, which he might not have known). (1)

Ex private collection William (Bill) Phillipson (UK)

Ex private collection Albert Odmark (USA)

Joseph Anthony Berrollas

Berrollas winding systemNot much is known about his personal life. He was holder of four patents. Starting from 31.10.1808 he patented a repeating mechanism actuated by a screw pendant (Patent No. 3174), mostly used by Robert Roskell, Liverpool. 1810 he patented an alarm mechanism (Patent No. 3342), calling it ‘The Warning Watch’ sold to C.E. Viner, Robert Roskell. 1827 he patented a ‘detached alarm’ system, (Patent No. 5489), where the watch is placed on a separate device. The same year he patented his keyless winding system (Patent No. 5586) by pulley mounted on the fusée underneath the dial, activated by a chain through the stem. (1)

Albert Odmark (1914 – 2005)

Born in Connecticut, Albert Odmark achieved a Masters in electrical engineering at Yale and worked for Boeing in Seattle, heading a team developing a sophisticated radar system. In the 1960s, he became one of the first Americans to join the Antiquarian Horological Society in London. He and his wife maintained life-long friendships with those involved in an era of discovery and intellectual development in the world of horology. Highly respected in horology circles and a friend of the late Rita Shenton. His wast collection was sold at Christie’s; Sale: 6992: The Albert Odmark Collection of Important Clocks and Watches, 11.3.2005

Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy  25. 1. 1780  –  8 . 1. 1854

benjamin_lewis_vulliamy_cSon of Benjamin commenced early to make a special study of horology. Entering the family business by 1801, he erected clocks for several important buildings, including the victualling yard, Plymouth, Windsor Castle, churches at Norwood, Leytonstone, and Stratford, St. Mary’s Church, and the University Press at Oxford, and the cathedral at Calcutta. The clock at the post office, St. Martin’s – le – Grand, was one made by Vulliamy for the Earl of Lonsdale. Vulliamy was a man of considerable ingenuity, and introduced several peculiarities and improvements into his clocks. He signed his works with ‘B L Vulliamy’ or just ‘Vulliamy’.

Vulliamy was elected associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers  on 13 March 1838, was auditor for the year 1842, and obtained in 1846 a premium of books for a paper on railway clocks. He was made free of the Clockmaker’s Company on 4.12.1809, admitted to the livery in January 1810, and five times filled the office of master. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society on 14.1.1831, and retained his connection with the society till his death.

He was a man of refined taste in art, and possessed no small knowledge of architecture, paintings, and engravings. His library was extensive and well chosen, especially in that portion which related to his profession, and he possessed a valuable collection of ancient watches. He enriched the libraries of the Clockmakers’ Company and of the Institution of Civil Engineers. To the company he also gave numerous models and specimens of clocks and watches, and to the institution he presented in 1847 the works of a clock made by Thomas Tompion about 1670 for Charles II, by whom it was given to Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland. On 1.3.1850 he exhibited to the Royal Archaeological Institute six carvings in ivory by Fiamminge. He died on 8. 1. 1854, leaving two sons, Benjamin Lewis (1817 – 1886) and George John. On his death the family had the distinction of having held the Royal Patronage for 112 years continuously, during which time they served five monarchs.

Fra(nçoi)s Risdon (Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy), London, Nr. 708, 1810

Fras Risdon 1810

Gilt brass, verge fusee movement (45.5mm diameter). Baluster pillars, steel balance and spiral balance spring. Named barrel bar. 1723 stamped on several parts of the frame. (1)

One of about seven movements known which bear this signature (1). For discussion about the use of alternate signatures please see above.

Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy, London, Nr. 2475, 1825

Vulliamy conversion 1

Vulliamy conversion 2

Gilt brass movement (44mm diameter) originally from about 1790, later converted by the Vulliamy firm from cylinder or duplex to Massey Type – 1 detached lever escapement. Balance brake acting on 3rd wheel, fusee with maintenance. Movement refinished and re – engraved ‘Vulliamy PALL MALL London No. 2475’. Steel balance and spiral balance spring. Enamelled copper dial dating from around 1825. (1)

As this movement has been modified, it has a number code instead of the usual Vulliamy letter code. Such conversions and refurbishments of older movements were quite usual for clients wanting to update earlier movements either concerning the mechanical, the aesthetic aspects or both (as done in this movement) instead of buying a new watch (1). Also Abraham – Louis Breguet is known to have made such conversions of movements originally made by Ferdinand Berthoud.

Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy, London, Code: nrzm, 1830

B_L_VUlliamy 1830

Gilt brass cylinder movement (37mm diameter), steel ‘Breguet’ type escape (trapezoid pallets), Graham-type banking. Gold balance, lacking balance spring. Baluster pillars. Signed ‘Vulliamy’. Original, unsigned, guilloched silver dial of ‘English-Breguet-Style’. (1)

Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy, London, Code: mrim, 1833

B_L_Vulliamy 1840

Multi cocked, Lépine-type (caliber II), gilt brass cylinder movement (38mm diameter), steel escape, gold balance. Cap jewels on balance and escape. Steel spiral balance spring. Signed ‘Vulliamy LONDON’. (1)

It is unusual to encounter a continental Lépine movement of this type used by an English workshop. There is a big probability that the use and the construction of this movement has been greatly influenced by Sylvain Mairet (1805 – 1890) a Swiss who in 1831 went to London and worked for B. – L. Vulliamy and for the firm of Hunt & Roskell before returning to Le Locle in 1834. He then adopted the style of Jacques – Frédéric Houriet for his own production.

Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy, London, Nr. 6060, 1850

B_L_Vulliamy 1845

Multi cocked, late Lépine-type, gilt brass duplex movement (40mm diameter), compensation balance, Steel spiral balance spring. Adrien Philippe’s patent stem setting keyless work. Original stem and crown. Original enamelled dial with asymmetrical sunk seconds between 4 and 5. Signed ‘Vulliamy Pall Mall’. (1)

The sunken disk is separately built, enamelled and then inserted into a hole made into the dial. This ‘English’ way of having a sunken subdial is more complex and delicate to manufacture then the ‘French’ protocol of just grinding the sunken part into the dial, as Breguet had it made. (1)

Published in: Clocks Magazine, June 1984

Ex private collection Vaudrey Mercer (UK)

This type of movement with the unusual keyless setting with wolf’s tooth winding after a patent by Adrien Philippe was exclusively distributed by Patek & Co. at that time. Vulliamy probably had heard from the gold medal earned for this invention at the 1844 World fair in Paris and introduced the system in England. Vulliamy must have ordered it directly from Patek, that might explain the high production number, unusual for the Vulliamy firm. If coming from Patek the production number could be from them, and this would date the movement to around 1850. (1)

David Penney believes that this movement is the earliest known keyless English movement of this type (1).

Jean Adrien Philippe  1815 – 5. 1. 1894

Adrien PhilippeBorn in La Bazoche Goüet (Eure-et-Loir), he was a French horologist and cofounder of Patek Philippe & Co. of Geneva.

In 1842 Adrien Philippe invented a mechanism for watches which allowed them to be wound and set by means of a crown rather than a key. At the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 (World’s Fair) Adrien Philippe first met Antoine Norbert de Patek and a year later became head watchmaker at Patek & Co. in Geneva under an agreement that entitled him to one-third of all company profits.

Adrien Philippe proved to be very capable at his craft and a product innovator whose value to the firm was such that by 1851 he was made a full partner and the firm began operating as Patek Philippe & Co. In 1863 he published a book in Geneva and Paris on the workings of pocket watches titled ‘Les montres sans clef’.

Antoine PatekHis partner Antoine Norbert de Patek died in 1877 and in 1891 the 76-year-old Adrien Philippe handed over the day-to-day management of the business to his son Joseph Emile Philippe and Francois Antoine Conty.

Jean Adrien Philippe died in 1894 and was buried in St-Georges Cemetery in Geneva.

The company Patek Phillipe exists to this date and is still located in Geneva. A part of their famed watch manufacture, they also have a very nice watch museum where one can admire historic pieces of their production.

Adrien Philippe’s Keyless Winding and Setting System:

Until the mid-19th century, pocket watches were wound and set with a key fitted into holes either in the case or dial. Through these holes, dirt could penetrate the movements or the keys were lost. For nearly 250 years, watchmakers had not found a practical solution to these problems.

The first known keyless movement (wound by pressing the stem) is by John Arnold and dates from 1766 (see short description above). During the early 19th century John Roger Arnold (Prest keyless winding system, from about 1810) and others already mounted keyless movements but in the early 1840s, Adrien Philippe introduced special features no other watchmaker could offer, thus stimulating the newly created firm’s business. His invention was initially greeted with skepticism by fellow watchmakers. The breakthrough finally came at the Paris Exhibition of 1844 in form of a gold medal for his very slim stem-wound watches displayed and, perhaps even more importantly, making the acquaintance of Antoine Norbert de Patek who immediately recognised Adrien Philippe’s visionary system as much more than just another technical gimmick. Patek already had several years of experience with the sale of stem-wound watches, produced by Patek & Czapek with Louis Audemars’ system since 1839.

Adrien Philippe’s invention of the modern winding and setting stem and crown (pull out to set, push in to wind), French patent No. 1317 of 1845, was more than a clever mechanism. It changed the nature of watches and allowed the evolution from the keyless watch to today’s waterproof wristwatch.

Philippe continued the development and perfection of crown and stem winding and setting for almost 20 years. By the time he filed his final patent on the matter in France in 1861 (as the only official patent office was in Paris at that time), the first had already expired and his idea was in current use.

Adrien Philippe had wished that his invention would be “applicable to all types of watches” and indeed, his system is used to this day in timepieces that he would probably never have imagined: self-winding and ultra-thin wristwatches, quartz watches and diver’s watches.

The Industrial Revolution  1760 – 1840


The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the factory system. Textiles were the dominant industry of the Industrial Revolution in terms of employment, value of output and capital invested; the textile industry was also the first to use modern production methods.

The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists say that the major impact of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living for the general population began to increase consistently for the first time in history, although others have said that it did not begin to meaningfully improve until the late 19th and 20th centuries. At approximately the same time the Industrial Revolution was occurring, Britain was undergoing an agricultural revolution, which also helped to improve living standards.

The Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom and most of the important technological innovations were British. Mechanized textile production spread to continental Europe in the early 19th century, with important centers in France. A major iron making center developed in Belgium. Since then industrialisation has spread throughout the world. The precise start and end of the Industrial Revolution is still debated among historians, as is the pace of economic and social changes. GDP per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy, while the Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth in capitalist economies. Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants.

The First Industrial Revolution evolved into the Second Industrial Revolution in the transition years between 1840 and 1870, when technological and economic progress continued with the increasing adoption of steam transport (steam-powered railways, boats and ships), the large-scale manufacture of machine tools and the increasing use of machinery in steam-powered factories.

Pierre – Frédéric Ingold  (6.7.1787 – 10.10.1878)

Ingold.Pierre_Frédéric_blackThe first real attempt to change watch manufacture was the arrival of Pierre-Frédéric Ingold from Switzerland in circa 1840. Trained by Breguet from 1817 to 1823, he had the idea of using machinery, basically an adapted lathe requiring some skill by its operator, to manufacture movement plates. He had already failed to convince both the Swiss and the French of his system and so it was to prove the same in London. He set up a workshop at 75 Dean Street, complete with equipment, and set about forming the ‘British Watch and Clockmaking Company ‘for which there were three prospectuses in 1842 and three patents, including one in December 1843 for the plate machine and a wheel press with an important four-pillar guide system for the punch and die. The company was to be established by an Act of Parliament, but failed on the second reading of the Bill on the 31st of March 1843. Ingold argued that the usual division of labour was wasteful and that the application of his machinery would revitalise the industry, whereas the opposition, mainly those traditionalists, argued that Ingold was somewhat of a speculator and nothing concrete had as yet been established and that the machines set-up by him didn’t have the capacity to produce as he asserted and needed far more skilled use than this method should require. 

watch-engravingThere are, though, a very few watch movements and watches known to have been made using his methods so the machinery must’ve been up and running in Dean Street and it is known that one found its way, in 1863, to the workshops of Gillet & Bland in Croydon. Ingold left England and moved to America where machine manufacturing was about to take off with the methods used by, amongst other, Aaron Dennison. But the seed had been sown and it was to Dennison himself having moved to England, Ehrhardt and others to take forward the machine-making of watches, over-coming a number of fears, for instance the fusee was replaced by a dummy fusee which allowed the continuation of anti-clockwise winding, but may well have been too late as the country was now seeing large imports of the mass-produced watches of America and Switzerland.

Taken and modfied from: horologist.co.uk

Pierre – Frédéric Ingold (British Watch and Clockmaking Co.) No. 88 for Thomas BLOOMFIELD, No 1850, London, 1843





Gilt brass, slim 2/3 plate pillar-less caliber, (44mm diameter) front plate stating BW&CCo number 88 under the dial. Single-roller detached lever escapement. Steel balance, spiral balance-spring. Backplate engraved ‘Thomas Bloomfield London No. 1850’. Enamel dial with sunk seconds at 6. (1)

This movement shows the distinctive and unique style of the few machine made pieces by the ‘British Watch and Clockmaking Company’ between 1843 and 1845. Pierre-Frédéric Ingold’s attempts to establish a new way of making watches is now well known, and led directly to the advent of ‘machine-made’ watchmaking in London by Nicole & Capt (the earliest), followed by Lange in Dresden and what became the Waltham Watch Company in America. Such was the impact of this new way of making watches, dispensing with the established trades of rough movement (ebauche) manufacture and its subsequent finishing by other specialists, that the world of watchmaking was to change forever. (1)

This movement has been produced in two sizes, this being the larger. Less than twenty examples in total are known to have survived, most of which are movements only. (1)

One smaller example (movement No. 1362) belonging to the Gerd Ahrens collection sold in 2007 for over £4000. (1)

As an important reference on the subject please refer to the article on Ingold and his impact by David Penney published as part of the 2002 NAWCC Special Order Supplement No 5, entitled Boston: Cradle of Industrial Watchmaking.

William Parkinson and William James Frodsham

frodsham portraitIn 1801 William Frodsham, the elder, set up his grandson, William James (father of Charles Frodsham, see below), in business and in partnership with William Parkinson and thus was born Parkinson & Frodsham, one of the best known names in chronometer making. William Frodsham (the son) died before his father in the 1805 and John Frodsham, his son, took his father’s place in the partnership. Parkinson & Frodsham commenced business at 4 Change Alley, Cornhill where they remained until 1890.

William Parkinson died in 1842 and the business was continued by William James Frodsham who handed it over to his two sons, George and William, in 1847, the year that those sons were admitted to the Clockmakers’ Company. The business prospered over the years and they were as highly thought of during the time they were active as they are today. They exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1867, the Le Havre Exhibition in 1868, Calcutta in 1883 and again at Paris in 1889 and so as can be seen they were internationally renowned.

In addition to their address in 4 Change Alley, Cornhill, Parkinson & Frodsham opened a branch in Liverpool in 1828 firstly at 54 Castle Street and then 38 Castle Street in 1828.

This business continued until 1858 when Henry Frodsham died. Thereafter, his wife continued the business in partnership with Robert Keen and in 1869 it was changed to Frodsham & Keen, the name which it kept until 1935 when it closed.

Parkinson & Frodsham, London,  No. 2401, 1845





Gilt brass, slim 2/3 plate pillar-less caliber, (42mm diameter). Single-roller detached lever escapement showing distinct Swiss or French influence. Polished steel club-tooth escape and large exposed ruby pallets, roller with oval shaped jewelled pin. Compensation balance, spiral balance-spring. Perfect signed ‘Parkinson & Frodsham London’ enamelled copper dial with sunk seconds at 6. (1)

This movement shows many aesthetic and mechanical parallels to the pieces made by the ‘British Watch & Clockmaking Company’. The unusual lever escapement most probably has been made by an expatriated Swiss or French watchmaker (1). Sylvain Mairet who spent several years in London working for many well known watchmakers such as Benjamin Vulliamy and the Dent firm could be considered the most probable (1).

Charles Frodsham    15.04.1810 – 1871

Charles_FrodshamBorn as third son of William James Frodsham, one of the founders of the firm Parkinson & Frodsham (see above). He was apprenticed to his father on 14.7.1824, for seven years. As apprentice, in 1830/1 he submitted two chronometers for the ‘Premium Trials’, his No. 2 won the second price. At 23 he became fellow of the Royal Astronomical society. From 1831 to 1834 his address was ‘Change Alley’, the same as ‘Parkinson & Frodsham’. In 1843, after the death of John – Roger Arnold , Frodsham was able to buy Arnold’s firm at 84 Strand, almost next door to E.J Dent who was at No. 82. The manufacture was founded by John Arnold, a contemporary and friend of A. – L. Breguet and later led by his son John Roger Arnold. John Roger was pupil of his father and later apprentice of A. – L. Breguet in Paris. The business was called ‘Arnold and Frodsham’ an the output was signed ‘Arnold Frodsham until 1858, when it became ‘Charles Frodsham’.

In 1850 he introduced a new series of calibers. All watches made in Frodsham’s workshop after 1850 are marked with AD.Fmsz on the dial and the backplate. This movement is dated 1849 because of the lacking mark.

Frodsham’s demonstration double-escapement skeleton clock, numbered 883, manufactured for the Great Exhibition of 1851, is believed to be unique.

Charles Frodsham, London, No. 7328, 1849


Gilt brass, back wound movement of typical English manufacture. Featuring bi-metallic  compensation balance. Maintenance on the fusee, like in many good English movements. Single foot balance cock lacking its jewelling. Single roller detached lever escapement featuring a brass club-tooth escape wheel. Enamelled copper dial with signatures ‘Arnold Chas Frodsham No. 7328’, subsidiary seconds dial at 6 o’clock. The subsidiary second dial is a separately inserted enameled copper disc, which is a sign of English high quality movements. Blued steel hands.

Adolphe Nicole & Henry Capt for E. J. Dent, No, 14449, London, 1849




Slim pillarless three-quarter plate keyless movement (33.5mm diameter), with the earliest form of keyless winding and hand-setting as originally designed and patented by Adolphe Nicole, with their serial number stamped at the foot of the cock ‘4362’. Duplex escapement retaining the ruby jewel. Compensation balance, spiral balance-spring. Signed ”E J Dent London’ copper enameled dial with sunk seconds at 6. (1)

Please note that the earliest type has the intermediate wheel which is permanently attached to the setting wheel. (1)

The Nicole & Capt keyless work, 1844

Adolphe Nicole & Jules Capt, manufacturers of the first successful keyless watches that could be wound and set without opening the case, suppliers to Messrs Dent only at this period, and later to many other top retailers. Adolphe Nicole, Patent No. 10,348 of October 1844, includes the first commercially successful keyless work for both going-barrel and fusee watches. (1) This keyless system is the most recognisable and yet even this seemingly simple design, shows differences and development worthy of attention. The mechanism is mounted on the upper plate of the watch and can be clearly seen when opening the watch back. The earliest type, as shown in the 1844 patent, has the large winding wheel operating the hand setting wheel in the centre of the plate by an intermediate wheel which is permanently attached to the setting wheel. It has one drawback that, when fully wound, the hands can only be set by turning them backwards. Later watches, almost certainly dating from 1855 when a provisional patent was taken out in the name of Adolphe’s nephew David L. A. Nicole, has the intermediate wheel attached to the winding wheel which overcame the problem. (Taken and modified from David Penney’s AntiqueWatchStore.com)

Adolphe Nicole & Henry Capt for Robert A. Phillips, No. 2157, London, 1865





Pillar-less three-quarter plate going-barrel movement (hunter set, 40mm diameter)), with Nicole’s Patent keyless work retaining the steel bevel wheel bridge, Cap jewels on balance, lever and escape, the split-seconds work under the dial. Single-roller detached lever escapement, balance-spring with overcoil. Signed ‘Phillips 23 Cockspur St. London’ enameled copper dial with seconds at 9. Dial numbered ‘No 2157’. (1)

Please note that the intermediate wheel is no longer attached to the setting wheel as in earlier versions, but to the winding wheel (see above). (1)

Pierre Frederick Gougy Patent Chronograph system, 1839

Adolphe Nicole, Patent No 10,348 of October 1844, includes the ‘heart shaped cam’ controller for true, start/stop/return to zero chronographs. This movement, however, is a rare example of Pierre Frederick Gougy’s earlier Patent No. 8308 of December 1839, in which two separate seconds hands are connected by a spiral hairspring, the outer end of which is connected to a steel disc (lacking in this movement) with ratchet teeth at its edge. Pushing on a pin in the band allows a sprung lever to stop the disc and thus one of the hands, and the time can be noted. Releasing the push allows the hand to catch up with the standard seconds hand with which it then continues to revolve as one. (1)

Adolphe Nicole & Henry Capt for Viner, No. 2/588, London 1870




viner_3Plate-less three-quarter plate keyless (hunter set) going-barrel movement (44.5mm diameter). Cap jewels on balance, lever and escape, the chronograph work mounted under the dial and the frame stamped with Nicole’s numbers 6004 and 6118. Single-roller detached lever escapement, roller with triangular jewel. Compensation balance, blued-steel balance-spring with overcoil. Signed ‘Viner London’ enameled copper dial of ‘regulator’ layout, as often used by Nicole on their chronographs at this period. Dial numbered ‘2/588’. (1)

Please note that the intermediate wheel is no longer attached to the setting wheel as in earlier versions, but to the winding wheel (see above). (1)

Adolphe Nicole’s chronograph patent, 1844 and 1862

Adolphe Nicole, Patent No 10,348 of October 1844 mentioned before, includes, amongst other important features, the first commercially successful keyless work for both going-barrel and fusee watches, as well as the heart-shaped cam for zeroing chronograph hands. Adolphe Nicole, Patent No 1461 of May 1862, includes the castle wheel (column wheel), and it is from this time, not before, that Nicole & Capt’s English chronographs start to be made. Swiss made chronographs, copying the work of Nicole, do not start to appear until the 1880’s. (1)

John Sanders, No. 3, Sheffield, 1862




Hollow-back (no brass-edge), three-quarter plate, going-barrel movement (42mm diameter) with engraved escape, lever and balance cocks, the keyless winding and hand setting mechanism mounted under the dial. Unusual form of straight line detached lever escapement. Gold balance with poising screws, spiral balance-spring. (1)

John Sanders; winding, setting and stop patent, 1860


Courtesy of David Penney, AntiqueWatchStore.com

John Sanders ‘watch maker’ 15 West Bar, Sheffield, Patent 450, February 1860, includes keyless winding, keyless hand setting and a stop mechanism operated through the bow, which this movement may have once had – the patent drawing is fairly clear. Sanders was an exhibitor at the London 1862 International Exhibition, showing clocks, keyless watches and a regulator. This watch, numbered 3, may well have been part of those shown. (1)



french_flagMost watches of French manufacture used hanging barrel Lépine movements of different types. The atélier of Breguet continued to produce high quality watches. After the death of Abraham – Louis Breguet in 1823, his son Antoine –  Louis managed to keep the high quality standarts of their products. While the English style went back to the use of enameled dials, the French stayed with the guiloched silver dials. Not much improved mechanically during the 19th century. The general tendency was to increase the precision and to decrease the production costs. One main development was the change of configuration of the Lépine hanging barrel system, towards multiple bridge systems and enhancing the jewelling on the pivots. The major development of the century was the introduction of more automatized production of ébauches, especially in Switzerland and in France. Towards the end of the 19th century  metal dials got out of fashion and the enameled brass versions got reintroduced.

Napoléon Bonaparte   15.8.1769 – 5.5.1821

Napoleon_-_2Napoleon was born on the island of Corsica to a relatively modest family of noble Italian ancestry. With 15 years he attended a military school on mainland France, where he was a brilliant student especially in mathematics. Socially he was quite alone and had little friends, moreover he was mocked because of his corsican accent.

From 1789, Napoleon supported the Revolution and tried to spread its ideals to Corsica, but he was banished from the island in 1793. In 1795, he saved the French government from collapse by firing on the Parisian mobs with cannons (against an order given to him to end the revolt with no causalties), an event known as the ’13 Vendémiaire’ during which over 200 died. The Directory then appointed him as General of the Army of Italy at age 26. Napoleon changed the custom to wear the ‘bicorne’ hat normally oriented from front to back by putting it sideways, contributing to his recognisable style until present. After marrying Joséphine de Beauharnais in March 1796, he started the Italian military campaign and scored a series of decisive victories that made him famous throughout Europe. In 1798 he was sent for a military expedition to Egypt, conquering the Ottoman province with a critical victory at the Battle of the Pyramids and facilitating the rise of modern Egyptology. As Napoléon was growing in fame the Directory wanted him far from France, hence the call for Egypt. The victory against the Ottomans was spoiled by the defeat at sea in the Battle of Abukir, against the British fleet of Admiral Nelson.

The Directory collapsed when Napoleon and his supporters engineered a coup in November 1799. He was installed as First Consul of the Consulate and progressively extended his personal control over France. A victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo in 1800 cemented his political power. The Consulate witnessed a number of achievements for Napoleon, such as the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic church and the treaty of Amiens in 1802.


Napoleon’s imperial Coat of Arms

In 1804, the Senate declared him the Emperor of the French, setting the stage for the french Empire. Intractable differences with the British meant by 1805 the French were facing a Third Coalition. Napoleon shattered this coalition with decisive victories in the Ulm Campaign and a historic triumph at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Peace of Pressburg culminated in the elimination of the millennial Holy Roman Empire. In October 1805, however, a combined Franco-Spanish fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Trafalgar, allowing Britain to impose a naval blockade of the French coasts. In retaliation, Napoleon established the Continental System in 1806 to cut off European trade with Britain and the Fourth Coalition took up arms against him. The French initially focused their attack on the Prussians, crushing the latter at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt  in October 1806. After knocking out Prussia, Napoleon turned his attention towards the Russians and eventually annihilated them in June 1807 at the Battle of Friedland. Friedland forced the Russians to accept the Treaty of Tilsit  in July 1807, often regarded as the high watermark of the French Empire.

Napoleon tried to compel Portugal to follow the Continental System by sending an army into Iberia. In 1808, he declared his brother Joseph Bonaparte the King of Spain, which precipitated the outbreak of the Peninsular War, widely noted for its brutal guerrilla warfare. In 1809 the Austrians launched another attack against the French. Napoleon defeated them at the Battle of Wagram, dissolving the Fifth Coalition formed against France. After the Treaty of Schönbrunn in the fall of 1809, he divorced Josephine and married Austrian princess Marie Louise in 1810. By 1811, Napoleon ruled over 70 million people across an empire that had near-total domination in Europe, which had not witnessed this level of political consolidation since the days of the Roman Empire. He maintained his strategic status through a series of alliances and family appointments to royal households. Napoleon launched a new aristocracy in France while allowing for the return of nobles who had been forced into exile by the Revolution.


Escalating tensions over the existence of a Polish State and the Continental System led to renewed enmity with Russia. To enforce his blockade, Napoleon launched an Invasion of Russia in 1812 that ended in catastrophic failure for the French. In early 1813, Prussia and Russia joined forces to fight against France, with the Austrians also joining this Sixth Coalition later in the year. In October 1813, a large Allied army defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. The next year, the Allies launched an invasion of France and captured Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April 1814. He was exiled to the island of Elba. The Bourbons were restored to power (Louis XVIII) and the French lost most territories they had conquered since the Revolution. However, Napoleon escaped from Elba in February 1815 and returned to lead the French government, only to find himself at war against another coalition. This new coalition decisively defeated him at the Battle of Waterloo in June. He attempted to flee to the United States, but the British blocked his escape route. He surrendered to British custody and spent the last six years of his life in confinement on the remote island of Saint Helena.

His death in 1821, at the age of 51, was received by shock and grief throughout Europe and the New World. In 1840, roughly one million people lined the streets of Paris to witness his remains turning to France, where they still reside at Les Invalides.


Picture credit AFP (Agence France Presse)

There are many collectors of memorabilia belonging or related to Napoleon. The easiest to find memorabilia would be letters signed by Napoleon. Rarely personal pieces from the Emperor are sold at auction.

All watches and clocks belonging to Napoleon are in public collections, most of them are now kept at the Louvre. His Breguet No. 178 mantel clock is at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. One of the existing 19 bicorne hats worn by Napoleon sold at auction (Osenat Auctioneers, Fontainebleau, 15.11.2014) for 2.4 million $. The hat and other important pieces belonging to Napoleon were sold on behalf of the Prince’s Palace collection in Monaco.


Abraham – Louis Breguet, Paris, No.726, 1802



Gilt brass ‘répétition à ponts’ movement, back wound quarter repeating à toc, ruby cylinder escapement, three armed plain balance with round rim for later examples, spiral steel spring with regulator, compensation curb and early parachute. Later silver guilloched dial made by Tavernier engraved with ‘Breguet et Fils’ signature (signature introduced 1806). Dial is fixed by one screw. Round blued steel ‘Breguet’ hands. Later silver case.

This watch was most probably constructed having an enamelled copper dial, which got exchanged in the Breguet workshops for a custom made guilloched silver one, either because it broke or to adapt the watch for the new fashion of the early 19th century in France. It has a fully developed repeating work with rocking snail all-or-nothing mechanism, single hammer à toc. Additionally the watch features a simple date work, excentrically located at two o’clock.

Ex private collection A. Chapiro (F)

Published in:  Chapiro A., Taschenuhren aus vier Jahrhunderten, Callwey, Munich, 1995, P: 244, 245, Fig.: 511

Breguet’s repeating mechanism:

There are two different types of repeating movements used by Breguet before 1806. The first type is the conventional full plate system featuring a repeating work wound by chain and pulley as perfectioned by Julien Le Roy with two hammers à toc as seen in watches Nos. 203 and 234. This type is used by Breguet before 1787 and until 1800, as well as by most contemporary watchmakers.


Left: Breguet No. 406, sold 1798, quarter repeating à toc. Earliest type of Breguet’s second repeating train version. Picture and info taken from: Cortrie Spezial Auktionen GmbH, Auction 123, 5.11.2016, lot 4240. Right: Breguet No. 726, quarter repeating à toc. later version of the second type of Breguet’s repeating train.


Left: Back view of Breguet No. 406. Earliest type of Breguet’s second version for the disposition of the bridges. Picture and info taken from: Cortrie Spezial Auktionen GmbH, Auction 123, 5.11.2016, lot 4240. Right: Back view of Breguet No. 726. Later version of the second type for the disposition of the bridges. Please note also the evolution of the parachute system in No. 726, as compared to No. 406.

In the second types seen in No. 406 above and as a slightly later version in No. 726, the barrel is held by a separate bridge, like in the end version of the souscription watches. This repeating work has been developed by Breguet by modifying Stodgen’s system who took it from Julien Le Roy. It’s integrated in the ‘nouveau calibre’ (1790 – 1815), Lépine’s repeating calibre (1797 – 1805) and the ‘répétition à ponts’ (1800 – 1830). Most repeating watches of the second type have a ‘parachute’. All versions have one hammer, the earliest versions like the ones above, strike directly onto the case (à toc).

Later examples strike on one gong by interaction with a small steel spring. Most other watchmakers used two hammers on two gongs, Breguet adopted latter style for later watches of minor quality. Pre 1795 models lack the parachute and the fusee, they’re wound from the dial and they retain Stodgen’s system with pulley and chain.

Abraham – Louis Breguet, Paris, 1805


Brass calibre for half quarter repeating movement (39.1mm diameter). Engraved wheel, pinion hole and bridge positions. Robin escapement, subsidiary seconds between 3 and 4. The movement of 39.2mm diameter, the watch would have been of 44mm diameter, and made around 1805, 3rd series.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 209, Pic. 208 a -c, No. 2187, 3rd series

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis Breguet, No. 1038,  Paris, 1805



Gilt brass balance bridge for a big Lepine caliber movement. Recessed bridge foot for easy removal. underside stamped with the initials ‘H.F.’ The ‘A,R’ indexes engraved on the balance bridge table. Watch number ‘1038’ hand scratched onto the balance bridge foot. Manufactured to get English style jeweling for the balance staff.

Several watches by Breguet are known which have Lépine calibers. Some of those were manufactured during Breguet’s exile in Switzerland. Suppliers of such movements were Lépine (Paris, Ferney), Japy and Decombaz. Some later watches with more modern bridge layout exist, featuring older fashioned curved balance bridges as this one (No. 4170, sold 1825).

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis Breguet & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1805 – 1825


Brass and steel reverse wheel for a ‘perpetuelle’ watch (13.3mm, diameter; 10.3mm tall). Made by Charles Oudin père who was responsible for the winding train of perpetuelle movements at that time. It was also him, who made the winding system for the famed No. 160 so called ‘Marie -Antoinette’. This reverse wheel impresses with very small steel clicks and corresponding springs.

This piece must have been made either as preparation for a perpetuelle movement or as replacement for one. There were three different types of perpetuelle movements of different sizes made in the Breguet workshops. The first type was the smallest version (44mm diameter), produced roughly until 1800. The second version (55mm diameter) with more refined details and improved (jewelled) winding train from about 1805 until 1825. No. 160 is also part of this group, even if the manufacture started earlier. The third group of perpetuelles is extremely thin and was build until the 1860ies. The piece shown here belongs to the second group, as for its construction details: too large to be of the first group and too tall to be of the third one.

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis Breguet & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1810


Brass three dimensional prototype dial (43.5mm diameter) for regulator movement. Subdial for seconds or date on left, middle hole for minute pinion, right subdial for hour pinion. Project was abandoned because of difficulties concerning the stability of the dial due to the deep recesses. Traces of red seal wax for attaching the metal dial to the support of the turning machine.

Ref.: Breguet E., Minder N., Abraham-Louis Breguet. L’horlogerie à la conquête du monde, Musée national suisse, le Musée du Louvre et Somogy Editions d’Art, Paris, 2011, P. 124, No. 2603, 3rd series, 1810

Ref: Nos. 2461, 2520, 2522, 2544, 2603

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis Breguet & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1812


Pewter calibre (44mm diameter) for a quarter or half-quarter repeating movement on one gong. Inverted bridges for balance wheel and barrel. Engraved wheel, pinion hole, bridge positions and proportion lines. The design includes an unusually big main spring barrel.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 230, Pic. 250, 254; Nos. 2822, 2835 (this movement experienced changes to the calibre: balance bridge not parallel, additional moon phase, additional sector for regulator).

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, Nos. 2520, 2522, 2574, 1810 – 1813

Breguet 2574 Calibre template

Breguet 2475_Overlay

Brass disc caliber 1:1 template (diameter 70mm) bilaterally engraved for the manufacture of six-minutes tourbillon movements. The engraving showing the size of the wheels, barrel and fusee with with individual numbers for the teeth. The center of the wheel templates finely pierced. Also the shape, position and dimensions of the back plate are shown with the position of the round pillars indicated as small double circles. One side numbered ‘2574’ which is the production number of one of the three existing six – minutes tourbillons (see below). Only three, six minutes tourbillon were made by Breguet. This is the only caliber template known to us, which bears the production number of a specific watch.

Such caliber templates were handed over to the main worker of a specific type of watch movement. Nos. 2520 and 2522 seem to have been made following the template quite precisely. As can be seen when looking at watch No. 2574, some details differ from the template such as the recesses for the movement attachment, the overall shape of the back plate and the blocking mechanism for the mainspring barrel. The lower picture shows the virtual overlay of the dial (left) and the movement (right) of watch No. 2574 onto the caliber template. The virtual overlay shows the placement of the different wheels and pinions and the mentioned differences in manufacture between the template and the final product. According to George Daniels, Breguet encouraged his workers to apply their own ideas to the movements as long as the overall quality and looks remained Breguet conform.

Breguet 2574

Breguet No. 2574, gilt half-plate movement with reverse fusee, gilt tourbillon carriage with Peto cross detent chronometer escapement, with cycloidal impulse faces and pointed locking tips to the escape wheel teeth, compensation balance with recessed rims, with adjustable gold screws, blued steel spiral spring with terminal curve, with 21600 vibrations period. Back plate signed ‘Breguet et Fils, No. 2574’, the silver case with silver cuvette engraved ‘Regulateur a tourbillon’ with later presentation inscription ‘To Colin Lamont Jr. Esq. from Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane Bart. In testimony of his sincere esteem and regard, Greenock, 16th July 1856’. Picture and text taken and modified after: Sotheby’s, Fine Watches from the Atwood collection, NY, 11.12.1986, Lot. 141

Many caliber templates (marked FH (Frédéric Houriet) and caliber number) are known from the workshop of Jacques – Frédéric Houriet, which now are conserved at the Watch Museum Château des Monts in Le Locle (Switzerland). Houriet also perfectionned, together with Breguet, the idea of John Arnold to compensate for the disturbing influence of earth’s gravity on a watch movement which finally led to the development of the tourbillon system. Houriet’s workshop made many tourbillon movements for Breguet following Breguet’s instructions. 9 pieces were delivered to Paris 1809. These were Nos. 2566 – 2572 and 2728 – 2729. The caliber template used for latter watches was FH 64, used form 1806 to 1818.

Caliber template:  Ex Cayette & Cheval, 11.6.1983, Lot. 202

Ex private collection Jean – Claude Sabrier (F)

Watch:  Sold to Sir Thomas Brisbane in 1816

Ex private collection Seth Atwood, Time Museum, Rockford, Illinois (USA)

Ex Sotheby’s New York, 11.12.1986, Lot. 141

Ex Antiquorum 2001

Sir Thomas Brisbane  23.7.1773  –  27.01.1860

(c) The Royal Society of Edinburgh; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Royal Society of Edinburgh; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Brisbane was born at Brisbane House in Noddsdale, near Largs in Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of Sir Thomas Brisbane and Dame Eleanora Brisbane. He was educated in astronomy and mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. He joined the British Army the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot in 1789 and had a distinguished career in Flanders, the West Indies, Spain and North America. He served under the Duke of Wellington, and in 1813 he was promoted to Major-General. He saw much action during the Peninsular War, including leading a brigade in the 3rd Division that broke through at the Battle of Vitoria. He continued as a brigade commander in the War of 1812, where in 1814 he led a brigade at the Battle of Plattsburgh, which Brisbane claimed they could have won if they had been allowed to launch a full infantry attack. During the battle, he used the Charles C. Platt Homestead as his headquarters. For his services in the Peninsula, Brisbane received the Army Gold Cross with one clasp for the battles of Vitoria, the Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthez, and Toulouse; and the silver war medal with one clasp for the Nive.

In 1821, on the recommendation of Wellington, Brisbane was appointed Governor of New South Wales, a post he held until 1825.

Brisbane left Sydney in December 1825 and returned to Scotland. In 1826 he added the name of Makdougall before Brisbane, and settled down to the life of a country gentleman and took interest in science, his estate, and his regiment. He was elected president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1832) in succession to Sir Walter Scott, and in 1836 he was created a baronet. In the same year he was offered the command of the troops stationed in Canada and two years later the chief command in India, but declined both. He continued his astronomical researches, and did valuable work.

He was the first patron of science in Australia, and as such was eulogised by Sir John Herschel when he presented Brisbane with the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828. Oxford and Cambridge Universities gave him the honorary degree of DCL, and he was elected a fellow of the Royal Societies of both London and Edinburgh. He was created KCB in 1814 and GCB in 1837.

Brisbane was a keen astronomer throughout his career. He had an observatory built at his ancestral home in 1808. From this observatory he was able to contribute to the advances in navigation which took place over the next hundred years. He took all his instruments and two astronomical assistants, Carl Ludwig Christian Rümker and James Dunlop to New South Wales with him, first properly equipped Australian observatory at Parramatta. While waiting for Macquarie to complete his final arrangements, interested himself in making astronomical observations. In 1822 he established an observatory at Parramatta west of Sydney. In 1828 he won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. He published The Brisbane Catalogue of 7,385 stars of the Southern Hemisphere in 1835. The Observatory was used until 1855.

When Brisbane returned to Scotland he continued his studies and built a further observatory on his wife’s estate, Makerstoun, near Kelso in the Borders. He was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and received their Keith Prize in 1848. He was elected president in 1833 after the death of Sir Walter Scott, and in the following year acted as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He founded a gold medal for the encouragement of scientific research to be awarded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Brisbane died much respected and honoured in 1860 in Largs. His four children predeceased him. The Australian city of Brisbane and many other geographical and astronomical sites are named after him.

Breguet’s tourbillon:


Left to right: Drawing submitted by Breguet to obtain the patent. 26.6.1801, confirmation of the minister of internal affairs, confirming the patent. Modern tourbillon. Pictures: timezone.com, Breguet.com, wikipedia.com

A tourbillon (French: ‘whirlwind’) is an addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement. Developed around 1795 and patented by Abraham – Louis Breguet on 26.6.1801. Most probably it was John Arnold who had the idea of such a system and shared it with his friend Abraham – Louis Breguet, who finalised the development most probably together with Jacques – Frédéric Houriet. After two experimental models (the watch n° 169 gifted to the son of London-based horologer John Arnold in 1808, and watch N° 282 completed in 1800 and sold much later by Breguet’s son), the first Tourbillon would not be commercialised until 1805. The following year, the invention was presented to the public at the National Exhibition of Industrial Products that was held in Paris on the Esplanade des Invalides in September and October 1806.

A tourbillon aims to counter the effects of gravity by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage, to negate the effect of gravity when the timepiece (thus the escapement) is stuck in a certain position. The biggest obstacle for a watchmaker regulating a watch, even today, is getting a similar result from the escapement no matter the position it is kept in. This has been made infinitely easier with accurate timing machines which give instantaneous timing results, whereas in Breguet’s time all that watchmakers had was another watch to regulate from. So, results were not very exact and it could take weeks to get them. Effects of gravity on an escapement can have quite significant effects with slight variations of position. Even if a pocket watch was kept most of the time in a breast pocket, the exact position could still vary over 45°. A tourbillon quite neatly compensates for this problem. The watchmaker now only needs to regulate for 3 different positions, instead of 6 as before. Those are two horizontal positions, dial up and down, and four vertical positions, crown at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.

The tourbillon is considered to be one of the most challenging of watch mechanisms to make (although technically not a complication itself) and is valued for its engineering and design principles. The first production tourbillon mechanism was produced by Breguet for Napoleon in one of his carriage clocks.

Abraham – Louis Breguet & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1810 – 1815






Silver cased, gilt brass quarter repeating movement on gong with one steel hammer, converted (around 1910) from ruby cylinder to English lever escapement (50mm overall diameter). Later compensation balance. Jump hour system. Later (English) guillloched silver dial with two subdials (seconds and date), secured with one screw. Pull and twist activation of the repeating system. Later bimetallic compensation balance, balance spring and balance bridge. Balance bridge marked with a coventry four – arrow mid – point mark. Balance bridge well distinguishable as English by the gilding color and the index F – S instead of A – R used by Breguet and other continental workshops.

This is the only watch by Breguet known to us which shows extensive modifications by another watchmaker. Moreover it is interesting to see, that the modification was done by an English workshop. Most probably the ruby shell of the escapement broke and the repairing watchmaker suggested a conversion to the more reliable lever system, which was very common at that time in England. Doing so, all parts connected to the former escapement type were updated and replaced including the bridges and the jeweling (English type with chatons and secured by two screws each). The space needed for the conversion was freed by cutting a fitting hole into the movement plate.

The repeating train corresponds to the layout invented by Breguet and shown in piece No. 729 above. The version shown here is the updated version repeating with one hammer on one gong instead of ‘à toc’ and some of the pieces of the repeating train show more elaborate manufacture. A later update will add another hammer and another gong. Latter system will be used in a simplified form by other watchmakers.

The case is a later replacement too. The original case might have been of gold and was thus scrapped. The new case shows the sponsor marks A G R for imported pieces, used by the English company ‘Robert Pringle & Co’ starting from 1907.


Taken and modified from: Chapiro A., Jean – Antoine Lépine: Horloger 1720 – 1814, Les Editions de l’Amateur, Paris, 1988, P. 100, Fig. 7-22/23

A very similar watch is known signed by Lépine, who used almost the same movement, provided by Breguet. Other as the movement of the watch presented here, the Lépine version is quarter repeating ‘à toc’ and has a slightly different disposition of the bridges, making the Lépine watch slightly earlier. This watch is signed ‘Lépine H(orlo)ger de l’impératrice’ and is thought to have belonged to Empress Josephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Latter watch was sold at auction (Crott & Schmelzer, Aix – la – Chapelle, 10.11.1984, Lot. 103)

Abraham – Louis & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, un-numbered, 1815 – 1820






Gilt brass, back wound, ruby cylinder (now missing) movement, ‘montre simple, nouveau calibre; deuxièmme classe’ type. Brass balance, flat, blued steel balance spring (both detached). Parachute of the latest type, earlier long temperature compensation curb, with blued steel part. Bridges aligned parallel to each other with the third wheel bridge inverted compared to the usual design. Unsigned and un-numbered plate. Bridges feature small semicircular indentations for easier removal. Lacking dial, which would have been of guilloched silver and attached with one screw at six to the purpose made steel bridge. Original, late type, flat ‘Breguet’ hands.

This movement represents the final design of Breguets simple movements, which overall constitute the rarest versions made by the workshop, as most watches were equipped with repeating works for use in the dark or with other complications. Breguet developed this design from the ‘souscription’ watches to retain a most clean and symmetrical construction. The movement is not signed as sometimes seen in later work (after 1794), it would have been signed ‘Breguet et fils’ on the dial and the cuvette, both now missing. Some watches of this type are sublimed by the addition of second hand work, date, jumping hour system or more elaborated balance spring adjustments.

The dating is made with respect to several construction details. The earliest versions of this movement have a small, narrow bridge holding the fourth wheel, the other wheels are on the dial side. Later versions, as this one, show a split bridge which holds the apparent third and fourth wheels. The parachute is a later type, after 1800. Also the regulator hand is of later construction after 1810. The semicircular indentations of the bridges already appeared for some early ‘perpetuelles’, around 1795, were then completely omitted and sporadically re-entroduced around 1815. The attachment screws for retaining the un-hinged movement inside the case are also a good indicator: early ones (around 1795) are slim, getting broader towards 1805. Latter still have rounded edges and at some point also blued steel versions appear for higher quality work. Later, from 1815 until about 1820, these screws get a sharp and pointy back end which will be replaced by a completely flat end starting from about 1820. Of course these screws are often replaced and the design is not linear in evolution with overlapping use of different types as usual for the Breguet workshop. Also the bridge for the dial attachment is constructed out of steel, instead of gilt brass, as seen only in later pieces, starting from about 1815.

Abraham – Louis Breguet & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1815


Abandoned brass calibre for a ‘Garde temps’. Only the pivot holes are pierced, no further engravings. Earnshaw chronometer spring detent escapement, double going barrels (wound separately), regulator dial.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 260, Pic. 302 a,b; No. 3787, 3rd series, 1820; P. 271, Pic. 330, No. 4283, 3rd series, 1815 (slightly bigger)

Abraham – Louis Breguet & Louis – Antoine Breguet, No. 2749, Paris, 1815





Brass and steel ‘ebauche’ or unfinished movement of an 8 day box -or marine chronometer (65mm diameter). Double barrel with central uncut and inverted fusee. Drilled holes for pinions and bridge mountings, but all bridges and wheel work absent. Oversized, uncut winding square and barrel pinions. Backplate secured by screws, one of which with lacking screw head. Top plate engraved with production number ‘2749’. It would have had an Earnshaw spring detent escapement.

Abraham – Louis Breguet has been appointed ‘Horloger de la Marine’ in 1815, after the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte, who refused this honor to Breguet. Before that year Breguet does not seem to have worked much on marine chronometers. From 1808 to 1815 Breguet experimented with several escapement types. Only three marine chronometers by him made before 1815 are known. Of these three, No.106, seems to have many parallels to the piece shown here. The principle of using two barrels with a central fusee was abandoned for a double going barrel variant or a single barrel with fusee variant. The production of latter pieces started towards 1814 with the production  of a new escapement of Breguet’s design. By 1818 the production of marine chronometers for the French marine department increased, but compared with the English manufacturers not many pieces were made.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 157, Pic. 103 a,b; No. 106, 3rd series, 1805

Ref.: Chayette H., Sabrier J.-C., Turner A., Breguet chez Chayette, Roger Turner Books, 2010, P. 155, Lot. 127 (drawing by Breguet)

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis Breguet & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1820


Brass movement calibre for a pocket chronometer (45mm diameter), bilaterally engraved (left: front, right: rear) wheel positions and pierced pinion holes, engraved bridge positions, no indication of teeth number. Later ‘garde temps’ style with two barrels wound by a common square. Parachute suspension for the balance pivots, Earnshaw spring detent escapement. The dial would have been silvered and of regulator type, with an excentric minute hand, a quite big second work at 12 and a smaller hour work at 6. Also the dial prototype is engraved overlapping the front part: winding indication top left, equation of time top right, seconds at 6.

No watch with this exact movement is known, but it seems to be a development close to piece No. 3787, sold 1823. Latter watch is slightly bigger, but retaines all features and proportions shown in the calibre.

Ref.: G. Daniels, ‘The Elsom II’, 1974

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1820 – 1824



Partial, destroyed brass movement ebauche for a ‘montre simple’ with equation of time (55.8mm diameter). Lever escapement and compensation balance. Wold also have featured a moon phase and a concentric annual calendar.

Ref.: Breguet E., Minder N., Abraham-Louis Breguet. L’horlogerie à la conquête du monde, Musée national suisse, le Musée du Louvre et Somogy Editions d’Art, Paris, 2011, P. 240, 241, No. 3862

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 261, Pic. 304 a – d, No. 3863

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1825



Brass dial (48mm diameter) prototype for a movement with subsidiary dials for date of the month (top left), seconds (top right) and moon phase (at 6). Aperture for day of the week planned to be at 12 (detail picture: spot for day of the week window is hand marked as ‘guichet’), but was put inside the seconds subdial in definitive version. Also, the subdials were put further apart in the production version.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974; P. 286, Pic. 360, No. 4850

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Abraham – Louis & Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1825


Fragmentary, unfinished and destroyed backplate for a small sized movement for a Fatton inking chronograph. Lever escapement, two armed compensation balance. Subsidiary dials for hours and minutes on 9 position and seconds with inking chronograph hand at 3 position.

Ref.: Breguet E., Minder N., Abraham-Louis Breguet. L’horlogerie à la conquête du monde, Musée national suisse, le Musée du Louvre et Somogy Editions d’Art, Paris, 2011, P. 33, 34, No. 4001

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 263, Pic. 311 a,b, No. 4001

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1827




Brass prototype dials (37.6mm diameter) for movements with eccentric minutes and hours. Slightly different ‘Breguet’ signatures at 6. Very lightly engraved helping lines for the signature engraving are visible. Definitive versions feature a date aperture at 6, the signature moved to 6 position inside the dial markings. Usually used seconds subdial at 3 is not yet included in this dial study.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 292, Pic. 373, No. 3668, 3rd series, transferred to No. 200, 4th series; P. 287, Pic. 364 a,b, No. 4905 for style, but dial is larger

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Louis – Antoine Breguet, Paris, 1830


Unfinished brass ebauche (45.7mm diameter) for a ‘Montre Simple’ with eccentric seconds subdial at 8 position. Drilled holes for mounting of the bridges and pivots. Ruby cylinder escapement.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 292, Pic. 371 a,b, No. 5084, 3rd series, 1833

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Louis – Clement – François Breguet (22.12.1804 – 27.10.1883)

louis_breguetHe took over the business together with a family associate after the retirement of his father Louis – Antoine Breguet in 1833. The firm was renamed ‘Breguet Neveu & Cie’. By 1833 they re-introduced a small series of ‘sympathique’ pieces (see below), which were intended to be of as simple construction as possible.

Between 1835 and 1840 he standardized the company product line of watches, then making 350 watches per year, and diversified into scientific instruments, electrical devices, recording instruments, an electric thermometer, telegraph instruments and electrically synchronized clocks. In 1870 he transferred the leadership of the company to Edward Brown. Breguet then focused entirely on the telegraph and the nascent field of telecommunications. Louis – Clement was the grandfather of Louis Charles Breguet, aviation pioneer (co-founder of Air France) and aircraft manufacturer.

Louis – Antoine Breguet & Louis – Clement – François Breguet, Paris, 1835




Brass and steel experimental ‘ebauche’ of a ‘sympathique’ watch movement (49.6mm diameter). Going barrel with bridge and oversized and uncut winding square. Two bridges fixed by one screw each on dial side. Recesses for wheel work and holes for pinions and fixation of other bridges present. Unusual straight spring engaging with a steel pin in barrel work. It would have had a ruby cylinder escapement and a ‘à tact’ system.

Invented by Abraham – Louis Breguet in 1795, the ‘sympathique’ system was intended to merge a parent clock with a dependent companion watch. The goal was to have the clock adjusting the time, regulate and wind the watch when attached to the clock. To combine all adjustments revealed to be impossible, so several combination of interactions between a ‘sympathique’ parent clock and its corresponding watch exist.

The first versions set the watch and regulated it, the second versions set the watch and wound it. Latter system, setting and winding the watch partially each hour, was invented by Louis Rabi, an excellent workman of Breguet, towards 1812. Later, more complex pieces, set and wind the watch once a day. Due to the high cost of these pieces, most were sold to European Royalty and 12 pieces are known to still exist.

The experimental piece shown here was used to find a simple way for the parent clock to wind the watch, but this feature was ultimately abandoned. The watches ‘montres à tact’ which were produced (Exemple No. 4818) were set by a simple setting lever activated by a pin in the parent clock and were not wound by it.

Ref.: Daniels G., The Art of Breguet, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974, P. 284, Pic. 358 a – d, or series of ‘simple’ sympathique watches

Ex. George Brown, thence by decent

Charles Oudin (père)   29.6.1743 – 12.7.1803

He was born in Auzeville (near Clermont). He started his career as watchmaker in Sedan, remaining at the same address in this city for the rest of his life and even being its major in 1794. The same year, during the reign of terror, he was imprisoned for three months. He worked also for Breguet, in which books he’s mentioned as ‘Oudin père’. It is not known whether he opened his own workshop.

Joseph – Jacques Oudin  1773 – 1842

Son of Charles Oudin père. Little is known about the start of Joseph Oudin’s watchmaker career, but he was employed by Breguet as his father before him. Joseph is mentioned for the first time in Breguet’s books in 1796, where he worked on a ‘montre souscription’. He was not very appreciated by Boulanger, who was the workshop director during Breguet’s exile in Switzerland. This tension among the workshop workers is palpable in a complaint letter from Boulanger to Breguet in early 1794. After his military service in 1795 Joseph reintegrated Breguet’s workshop where he stayed until opening his own workshop in the early 1800, being mentioned for the last time in Breguet’s books in 1801, working on a eight day, quarter repeating watch. He’s known to have lived at Rue Vivienne No. 11 by 1804. Financial difficulties and maybe personal problems lead to the divorce from his wife the 31.10.1810. By 1810 Joseph Oudin is recorded to have been in Rue Feydeau No. 25 until 1812. Around 1818 he left France for New Orleans (USA).

His production, resembling a lot to the one of his old master, is of very high quality, but very few pieces are known today. The pieces known are all different, which suggests that each piece is unique. He signed his work ‘Joseph Oudin’,  ‘Jh Oudin, Rue Vivienne No. 11’ or Oudin, Elève de Breguet, Rue Vivienne No. 11’, as our movement. After 1810 he signed with ‘ Rue Faydeau’, his last known watch is signed like that and bears ‘No. 271’. Most probably not much more watches than 271 were built. The small production and also the fact that each watch is different, could be explained by the fact that he worked alone (en chambre), with no workmen.

Charles Oudin  1768 – 5.3.1840

The best known of the Oudin dynasty was born in Clermont. Charles is the nephew of Charles Oudin père. With 18 years he moved to Paris and became an apprentice of Abraham – Louis Breguet in which work books he’s mentioned as ‘Oudin Sedan’. Breguet recognised the talent of Oudin and he became the best apprentice of the Breguet workshop. During Breguet’s exile in Switzerland in 1794, Oudin was asked to supervise the workshop, but he refused as he preferred to work on watches instead. Oudin participated in the development of the ‘perpetuelle’ watches and the ‘souscription’ watches. 1797 Oudin was allowed for the first time to use the signature ‘Oudin Elève de Breguet’. 1798 he invented the equation of time complication for ‘souscription’ movements.

After 14 years in Breguet’s workshop, Oudin decided to open his own manufacture in 1801. After having married a daughter of Bazile Le Roy he settled the Gallerie de Pierre, Palais Royal N. 65. Oudin was one of the very few apprentices of Breguet allowed to continue to sign as ‘Elève de Breguet’. His watches were very much in style and quality of his former master. He gained fame very quickly and built watches for important clients such as: Empress Josephine, Empress Eugenie, Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, King and Queen of Spain, King of Portugal, Napoleon III, Kings of Italy and Greece, Pope Pius VII, the Count of Chambord.

Starting from 1830 the firm made also marine chronometers and joined Breguet as ‘Horloger de la Marine’. 1836 the workshop passed to his two sons Jean Charles Oudin and Joseph Oudin, operating from ‘Palais Royal No. 52’.

Joseph – Jacques Oudin, Paris, No. 146, 1802

Oudin 1_2


oudin 3

Gilt brass, front wound, movement of ‘souscription’ type (54.5mm diameter). The movement resembles very much the first intermediate version of Breguet’s subscription movements. It would have had a three armed balance maybe with temperature compensation and, most probably, double virgule escapement or ruby cylinder escapement which are now lacking.

Plate engraved ‘Oudin E(lè)ve de Breguet, No. 146, RUE VIVIENNE N. 11 PARIS’. The enamelled copper dial is lacking, as is the single straight blued steel hand.


Picture taken and modified from watchwiki.com. Picture credit: Pieces of Time, London

This example is a rare survivor of the production by Joseph Oudin. As one of very few apprentices of Breguet he was allowed to use one of Breguets movement designs (first intermediate version). A very similar souscription watch was made by Charles Oudin, Joseph’s cousin. Latter movement is signed ‘Charles Oudin, Palais Royal No. 65’, bearing a rare double virgule escapement. The only almost identical souscription movement made by Breguet’s workshop known to us, would be the one shown in the picture. Unfortunately we don’t have access to the production number or other information about it.

Few other ‘souscription’ type movements exist, made by other workshops, some have even been made in Austria and Germany. Souscription type watches or movements from other workshops than Breguet’s are rarer than the originals. For a selection on different types of contemporary ‘souscription’ pieces from different workshops, once part of the private collection of Jean – Claude Sabrier, please refer to: Chayette & Cheval, Sale 148, 6.5.2015, P.: 88 – 95. Below you can find one example of this collection with more detailed description.

Ex private collection Jean – Claude Sabrier (F)

Anonymous (probably Le Roy or Lépine), Paris, 1810


souscription fake_1

souscription fake_2

Gilt brass, front wound, steel cylinder movement of ‘souscription’ style (53.5mm diameter). Three armed balance with no temperature compensation, no parachute. Steel cylinder escapement, escape not visible underneath the dial. Plate un-engraved. Big central spring barrel held by a fancy shaped single bridge. Balance bridge and 4th wheel bridge with curved foot along the spring barrel. Balance bridge end shaped like Lépine’s versions.

The qualitatively very high standard finishing puts this movement among the output of important watchmakers in Paris. Clearly not of Breguet manufacture, it retains a very precise manufacture of the pieces the overall disposition of the bridges and the big diameter. This movement was made to take advantage of the considerable success of Breguet’s ‘souscription’ watches. It has been tried not to use the straight bridge foots used by Breguet, most probably to avoid patent usurpation problems.

Only the Oudin-familiy got the right to use Breguet’s design for making their own ‘souscription’ pieces. Contemporary watches imitating Breguet’s ‘souscription’ pieces are by far rarer than the originals they try to copy.

Ex private collection Jean – Claude Sabrier (F)


sodipodi_flags_swiss_flag_4 _3-1969px copyThe watch trade was dependent of raw material, especially raw movements called ‘ébauches’. These raw pieces for continental watches were mostly fabricated in the French part of Switzerland were protestant French watchmakers settled during the prosecution of protestants in France. The hot-spots of watchmaking are today the same as they were back then: Le Locle, Bienne, La Chaux-de-Fonds, La Vallée de Joux and Geneva. The now Swiss watchmakers perfectioned the manufacture and countered the huge demand for raw material by optimising the production by introducing machine operated mass production towards the end of the 19th century. As they also had the skills and the knowledge they slowly took over the production of complete watches. Therefore, starting from mid 19th century the watch production in Switzerland litterally exploded crushing the production in France. The Swiss managed to produce a high amount of average quality watches, sometimes usurpating the names of very famous French or English watchmakers. A custom already adopted during the 17th – and 18th centuries. Most Swiss watches of the period have no signature at all.

Slowly the Swiss gained a very good reputation from their excellent precision to cost ratio. At the beginning of the 20th century all parties involved in the two World Wars ordered precision time pieces and watches for their soldiers in Switzerland. They got replaced by cheaper ‘home made’ watches, which still retained Swiss movements. Still today mechanical Swiss watches are regarded as the best and most reputed. Many names known from the 18th -and 19th century still exist or reappeared. Breguet for instance is still in business taking much care of the enormous heritage left by the founder of the brand back in 1775. Since 1983 also the quartz watch trade, once firmly in Japanese hands, is highly dominated by the Swiss brand ‘Swatch’.

If you would like to know more about the history of ‘Swatch’ please follow this link: Swatch Prototypes

Unknown Manufacturer, Switzerland, 1800


Gilt brass, verge fusee, quarter repeating movement. The repeating is on gongs, now missing. Three armed brass balance with steel balance spring. Custom made steel cock with spiral form acting as shock protection for the balance staff, covered by a steel cockerel.

This type of shock protection is an ingenious and simpler variation of Breguet’s ‘parachute’ (invented 1790). The repeating on gongs was invented by Breguet in 1783.

Georges – Frédéric Roskopf    15.05.1813 – 14.04.1889

roskopf_g_f_4_edited-1Born in Niederweiler (Germany) Georges – Frédéric moves soon to La Chaux-de-Fonds to learn French. He makes an apprenticeship at Mairet & Sandoz, where he sells iron and watch parts. Getting more and more interested in watchmaking. 1833 he leaves Mairet & Sandoz to get watchmaker. He starts making good quality watches and increases his network getting a great watchmaker but staying a poor salesman. So finally he sells his company in 1850. 1856 he reopens a company with his son and an associate, but somehow he does not find satisfaction in his work. The idea and the challenge to produce a watch ‘affordable for all wallets’. It will take 10 years to realize ‘the proletarian’ watch, the definitive type will be attended in March 1866. The sale of these watches starts slowly towards August 1867. In 1868 he enters the american market, as the sales increase rapidly. The best and most important client of Roskopf is Breguet, who buys 100 to 200 pieces during 1867 to 1870. In a report for the committee of mechanical arts of Paris the 24th of January 1868, Louis Breguet, the grandson of Abraham -Louis Breguet, writes that affordable watches are not new, but that the quality of the Roskopf watches is remarkable for the price and highly affordable.

Georges – Frédéric Roskopf, La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1868

Roskopf_adjBrass, 3/4 plate movement, detached lever escapement with small steel escape wheel. Three arm brass balance, jewelling only on balance, escape wheel and lever pivots. White enamelled copper dial with roman numerals, brass hands. Keyless winding through the stem. Time is set by manipulating backside of the minute hand. White metal (maillechort) case stamped on the back with ‘ROSKOPF PATENT’ logo and the date of the deposit of the patent no. 75.463 for ‘Improvement in changeable escapement for watches’ in the USA, ’10 MARCH 1868′.

This is the second version of the watch called ‘the proletarian‘, as it has been conceived in 1867 to be a very affordable watch at a price of 20 CHF (Swiss Francs). As Breguet did with his ‘souscription’ more than a century earlier, Roskopf wanted to produce the best possible quality for the smallest price possible. Roskopf did not invent this type of watch, there were many even cheaper watches available at that time, but they were all of very low quality.


american-flag-backgroundEnglish watchmakers (mostly London and Liverpool) exported more and more watches to the United States of America, where local watch workshops took over the business pretty fast.

The American Indian wars spread over several centuries were accentuated around 1811 when the territories west of the Mississippi started to become more attractive for settlers. At first, relations between American Immigrants and Native Americans were generally peaceful. The Pike’s Peak gold rush of 1859 introduced a substantial white population into the Front Range of the Rockies supported by a trading lifeline that crossed the central Great Plains. Building of the transcontinental railways following the Civil War further destabilized the situation, placing white settlers into direct competition for the land and resources of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain West. Besides the building of railways, also the finding of petroleum in the area of Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859 started several branches of industry in the USA, which saw many people accumulating huge wealth.

The American watch industry grew very fast and followed the development of industrialisation. The major production places were, Philadelphia, Boston and New York. At first the ébauches were imported from England and Switzerland, with the finishing made in the United States. Later the watch industry emancipated itself from suppliers in Europe to become a very prolific trade in its own right.

Later during the century the machine made American watches were even exported to Europe.

American Civil War    1861 – 1865:

shakeThe American Civil War, also known as the War between the States, was a civil war fought between the United States (the ‘Union’ or the ‘North’) and several. Southern ‘slave states’ that declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the “Confederacy” or the “South”). The war had its origin in the issue of slavery , especially the extension of slavery into the western territories. Foreign powers did not intervene. After four years of bloody combat that left over 600,000 soldiers dead and destroyed much of the South’s infrastructure, the Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, and the difficult reconstruction process of restoring national unity and guaranteeing rights to the freed slaves began.

Unknown Manufacturer, USA, ca.1863

civil war_1

Fragment of an American made pocket watch (59.1mm) found on the battleground of Gettysburg before 1960. The watch was buried, so all metal surfaces have oxidized. The dial, the crystal, the pendant and bow are lost, the case can not be opened without damaging the watch, hence the manufacturer stays unknown. The back surface is smooth, the front surface shows indentations which might correspond to damages made by farming tools.

Joseph Andrews, Liverpool for American market, No. 9001, ca. 1865 / 1876


Gilt brass, high quality cylinder movement (dial plate 46.5mm, 3mm between plates) with engraved single footed cock, round decorated pillars, and fully jewelled. Not working. Cream colored, enameled copper dial with the enameled seal of the United States of America showing the flying eagle holding the flag, two cornucopiae, three arrows and with the latin inscription ‘E Pluribus Unum’ (Out of many, one). This motto which ornates the seal of the United States of America has been adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782. The watch carrying this movement has most probably been commissioned by an important American personality from an English manufacturer to commemorate the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Alternatively it might have been commitioned to commemorate the centenary of the independence of the United States of America in 1876.

Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia    10.05 – 10.09.1876:

Exhibition-CatalogueThe importance of the commemoration was underlined by the organisation of the ‘Centennial Exposition’ in Philadelphia from the 10th of May to the 10th of September 1876. This was the first official ‘World’s Fair’ in the United States. The exposition attracted almost 10 million visitors. Some of the revolutionary exhibits included among others: Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the Remington Typographic Machine (typewriter), the right arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty and Heinz Ketchup.