My Heresy

Gasp devil, a non-V&C is new to the cabinet...

My Heresy
My Heresy

All is not necessarily as it seems with this piece...


11/07/2013 - 05:55
11/07/2013 - 17:26
11/07/2013 - 18:07
JB
11/07/2013 - 18:27
11/07/2013 - 19:15
11/08/2013 - 15:44
11/08/2013 - 18:40
KBS
11/09/2013 - 16:22
11/09/2013 - 18:46
KBS
11/10/2013 - 15:10
11/10/2013 - 19:32
JB
11/09/2013 - 20:31
JB
11/10/2013 - 23:53
11/11/2013 - 00:23
11/10/2013 - 01:26
Tick-Talk, are you knowledgeble about vintage
11/07/2013 - 07:54
PW's? I have three and i would love to find out what they really are.
Ah Frodsham, stunning piece, the balance seems quite
11/07/2013 - 08:20
interesting. Please tell us more!
Ok, Dean, I am ready to learn more...
11/07/2013 - 15:37
...can't wait for you to share some more about this new acquisition.  smiley Best, Robert
Re: My Heresy
11/07/2013 - 17:26
I know that name, I know it's good,, I'm eager to know why :)
circa 1869
11/07/2013 - 18:07
I never really had it in mind to seek out an English-style watch but this one was quite special - too much to resist blush.  Firstly, in celebration of our theme for the past few months, it is a minute repeater with two hammers striking two circular gongs which are just visible in this close-up.  The massively heavy English hunter case has a London date mark for 1869, which agrees with the Chas. Frodsham serial number. Charles Frodsham is one of those celebrated English watch makers from the golden age of chronometry, along with Arnold, Dent, Earnshaw, etc.  In fact, Frodsham purchased John Arnold's business in 1840 and, for a brief period, their watches were labelled "Arnold & Frodsham".  Frodsham operated from 1810 until his death in 1871 but the name continues to this day as a maker of clocks. Commencing in 1851, Frodsham marked their most important movements with the cryptogram "AD Fmsz", which appears on this piece.  Letters from their name were matched with numbers to give the date of "1850", in celebration of the year that Frodsham developed their now ubiquitous 3/4 plate movement.  But....their complicated timepieces were most often sourced from top Swiss makers Nicole Neilsen and Louis-Benjamin Audemars; names which cause the hairs to rise on the back of the necks of vintage enthusiasts! Louis-Benjamin Audemars of Le Brassus is one of those long-dead makers that continues to garner the respect of collectors and historians for his prolific and significant contributions to horology.  In fact, he has been mentioned as second only to Breguet in this regard.  Research who provided Patek with their first stem-winding movements, and who displayed the world's most complicated watch at the Paris Exposition of 1878 for additional details of this maker's achievements.   In addition to the science of watchmaking, LB Audemars is renowned today for their quality of craftsmanship which had no peer.  Entirely handmade in their own shops, the cost of each piece was exceedingly high for a time when mechanization  was on the rise (thanks in no small part to our dear Monsieur Georges-Auguste Leschot) and prices were on the decline: two forces which eventually led to the company's demise in 1885. And indeed....wait for it....this is an LB Audemars movement heart.   Thankfully, the Frodsham number appears in the registers of LB Audemars; made available by Hartmut Zantke in his substantial book "Louis-Benjamin Audemars His Life and Work", and the recent "notice historique" translated from the 1922 original by descendant Paul Audemars and self-published under the title "The Story of Louis Audemars & Cie".  Mr. Audemars, as custodian of the surviving records for LB Audemars, has kindly provided a certificate and extract of the ledgers for the watch. Made to order, the construction is entirely English in concept.  Curses to the large mainplate for obstructing views of the mechanicals, but what can be seen is marvelous: 4/5 plate movement with key winding and setting, frosted gilt finish, blued screws, jewelled and screwed chatons, a lateral lever escapement acting on a pointed-tooth escape wheel which shares its bridge with the cut, compensated bi-metallic balance wheel with faceted diamond endstone, blued Breguet hairspring, and index regulator on a wonderfully chased cock yes. The repeater functions very well, just muted by a typical-for-the-period massively heavy English case.  One Frodsham collector I consulted remarked that he'd never seen a similar protective bezel around the movement, with cutout for the balance.  While adding greatly to it's protection, this does work against the resonance of the gongs.  Its almost as if the owner was seeking additional discretion, perhaps in the halls of power or cloisters of influence wink. Audemars ledgers show the piece was returned to Le Brassus from London in 1880 for repairs to the repeater mechanism and fitment of a new dial.  This situation reveals the hazards of handmade watches; when no two ebauches were ever the same, repairs became very time consuming as any new parts had to be individually made and tediously trial-and-error fitted to ensure correct operation.  One just has to recall the frequent laments of Francois Constantin about the backlog of repairs creating customer dissatisfaction to appreciate these challenges.  LOL, its a situation that vintage collectors today still confront. One mystery remains regarding the crest engraved on the cover of this watch... I would appreciate any assistance those of you with heraldic interests can offer!  To my eye, the initials appear to be a mirror image pair of "JB" - perhaps to signify father and son?
Re: circa 1869
11/07/2013 - 18:27
The balance adjustment plate and part of the underplate are decorated with acanthus leaves which is a very commen motif in English design embellishment, frequently found on their furniture. It's too bad the movement is covered. It would be very interesting to see the design. I will have a look at my own Audemars references to see if I can come up with any more info. As far as the engraving on the cover...it proves that the watch really belongs to me! surprise JB
LOL, Joseph
11/07/2013 - 19:15
I knew you wouldn't resist devil.  Thanks for the info re acanthus leaves; the English were very particular about their preferred designs which, in part, is the reason why they lost preeminence in watchmaking.  FWIW, the balance cock is entirely engraved - its stepped design makes it look like two pieces.
Interesting reading about this wonderful piece. Your own research
11/07/2013 - 18:33
Into these things is outstanding,
"The Relative Merits of English and Swiss Watches"
11/09/2013 - 19:58
Hot tip: Google Books is an amazing resource for ancient horology.  This article in the October 1865 issue of the British Horological Journal was probably written about the time my LB Audemars ebauche was beginning to take shape from strips of raw metal. In the best tradition, both sides are presented for consideration of the reader.  The Swiss "horizontal" escapement so derided is what we'd call a cylinder escapement.  It WAS crap!  Indeed, the simple fact was that, at this time, the English watch was a superior timekeeper...but hubris had set in and horological science wasn't going to pause while the British admired their achievements.  When reading, please remeber these are Victorian times, so classist and racist assumptions abound! Notice the shots taken at English merchants who offer Swiss watches in preference: "their efforts is your extinction".  Maybe the writer had Frodsham in mind when he opined, "The sale of foreign watches was greatly increased by thousands being sold to un-suspecting purchasers as English watches, the foreign maker receiving his orders to make them as much like the English watch in appearance as possible." Also most amusing are the criticisms of Swiss coooperation in sharing techniques and technology; "It is contrary to human nature" snorts this Adam Smith capitalist; "an affectation of liberality". Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we know how the game played out.  LOL, further debates within this august journal as late as 1880 were still defending the English preference for the fusee over mainspring (the Swiss "going barrel" referenced herein).
Thans a lot Dean
11/08/2013 - 15:44
Very interestgin story, an Audemars with some make up, sold as a Frodsham...  And an amazing minute repeater, I didn't see it at first !
the English escapement
11/08/2013 - 18:40
these photos are borrowed from the internet but illustrate the same English-style side or lateral lever escapement acting on a pointed-tooth escape wheel, with the balance and escape wheels sharing a common bridge. Contrast this with the Swiss style of escapement acting on a club-footed escape wheel, with balance and escape wheels secured on seperate bridges.  Circa1869, while V&C had adopted the LePine finger bridge style of movement, they were also using a side lever escapement. IMHO, the development of the club-footed escape wheel was one of those advances which catapulted Swiss horology ahead.  With Leschot's calculations for the precise draw angle of the pallet stones acting on this escape wheel, it became more reliable than the English design.  Once the now-familiar inline anchor lever was adopted, there was no looking back for Swiss horology. But (there is always a "but") the side lever still has its adherents, as in VC's caliber 2755!
Congratulations Dean.
11/09/2013 - 16:22
It's a wonderful piece of machinery you have bought. May it chime happy times for you and your family. Your writing  is as always very informative and well documented. It is a treat as a reader to have you here at THL.  I have a catalogue from the auction house Crott (I know we don't like Crott  these days and I have personally had a bad exprience with them) but the catalogue of "The Ahrens Collection" is the best watch catalogue I have ever seen concerning detailed photos of movements from an amazing collection of pocket watches. There are some Parkinson & Frodsham watches represented and a minute repeater from Louis Audemars A Brassus and a Louis Audemars, Le Brassus/ Charles Oudin Cie precision pocket watch with patented cam-type regulation system. Would you like me to take some pictures of those for your personal database?   Best wishes Kent.
Oh yes, please do!
11/09/2013 - 18:46
In return, here is the 1878 Exhibition brochure for LB Audemars famous "La Royale"
Thanks for showing that ad.
11/10/2013 - 15:10
Love it. The complications on this watch cannot be praised enough, however concerning the case design this is a strong runner up for one of the most ugly crowns and pendants I have ever seen on a watch. It is totally out of balance with the rest of the watch. Cheers Kent
La Royale
11/10/2013 - 19:32
Well, a showpiece has to have some eccentricity to attract attention indecision.  The watch known as La Royale took five years to construct, from 1873 to 1878; an order from the Duchesse de Bauffremont with her agreement to display at the Paris Exposition. The list of features for La Royale is indeed amazing...considering also that it was entirely handmade: - grande sonnerie to the quarter-hour - minute repeater - two independent 1/5sec chronographs with seperate going barrels, arranged on a single axis rattrapante - thermometer - second time zone - perpetual calendar including leap years and moon phases - third going barrel for main hands - LB Audemars designed crown system for winding all three springs and setting hands - central jumping seconds hand - chronometer escapement with compensation balance and helical hairspring The piece so impressed at the Exposition that, aside from a gold medal, the French government awarded LB Audemars the Legion d'Honneur! The build sheet provides a fascinating study: The Duchess was enthusiastic about new baubles, but not so much about paying for them!  She was once sued by a Vienna jeweller for the tremendous sum of 65,000 francs for goods made to order.  She lost, then appealed (applying a bit of legal trickery in demanding a deposit from the claimant), but lost again with the additional burden of costs. Zantke covers La Royale from pg. 326-331.  Here are some auction photos:
Here is the link to the auction
11/09/2013 - 20:31
http://www.uhren-muser.de/en/index.html? It's a huge sale with over 600 items. But there are quite a few pocket watches from a wide number of manufacturers. It's worth a look just to see the variety. Despite the negative comments about H. Crott, I have generally found them to have a much higher class of pocket watches than any other auction house. You can peruse their catalogues and you will likely come to the same conclusion. Major and minor brands are all there and some are quite magnificent. But be prepared for several hours of "window shopping" I confess that I have never dealt with them since they have never had online bidding until recently. JB
other famous families of the Vallee de Joux
11/09/2013 - 00:52
During their early days as etablisseurs, V&C would purchase components and movements "en blanc" (before gilding) from the watchmaking farmers of the Vallee de Joux, and their main towns of Le Brassus and Le Sentier.  VC's return to Le Brassus with their own manufacturing facilities now completes the circle enlightened. Some of the Vallee de Joux farm families would eventually move past this anonymity and onto the stage as Manufactures.  These are the pioneering names from the Golden Age of 1850-80 who literally hand-built the reputation of Swiss horology: Aubert Audemars Borel Calame Capt Favre Golay Jeanrenaud Lecoultre Matthey Meylan Nicole Piguet Reymond Rochat
Nice map, Dean
11/10/2013 - 23:53
But one must not forgot the other valleys and regions which contributed mightily to the development of watches; Le Locle and         val de Travers specialized in chronometers and special purpose tools, and La Brevine and Fleurier. Geneva which could not compete with the low prices coming out of the Jura,relegated itself to the high end jewellery and ornament watches. And of course there is Bensançon in France, just across the border in France. JB
Absolutely, Joseph
11/11/2013 - 00:23
Although the focus of this thread has been the Vallee de Joux, there were other watchmaking regions of great merit.  The canton of Neuchatel, which includes Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds, was consdered by many to exert the most powerful influence on Swiss watchmaking.  I hope my posts documenting our tour of the Jura this past spring communicated some of the area's wonderful history smiley. This as distinguished from the center of watch commerce, which undoubtedly belonged to Geneva. Joseph, perhaps you could do us a great service and share a brief history of watchmaking in Besancon?  Or another from your list, as you wish yes. And speaking of "special purpose tools", stay tuned for a post on a very interesting vintage tool I recently acquired...
Good work Mr Holmes
11/10/2013 - 01:26
Thanks Dean Great research Where did you find this treasure?
Congrats Dean! Heresy can, at times, be good for the soul!
11/12/2013 - 17:13
Great find and as always, research.  I'd love to hear it chime.  BR, Dan
Sure thing, Dan
11/12/2013 - 23:02
Gotta love its deep chime. I recall the brand was revived some
11/12/2013 - 23:11
years ago and was to bring out a wrist watch with an interesting escapement but I don't think the project went through
Frodsham today
11/13/2013 - 17:52
Thanks for the info Alex.  The watch project was news to me but I see from searching the 'net they announced back in 2008 that a watch movement was in development with a "new" escapement but then it went dark.  With a claimed six years in development, that must have been a tremendous financial hit!  The potential seems exciting; an oil-free independent double wheel escapement invented by George Daniels yes.  There was even a prototype: OTOH, they continue to hold a Royal Warrant as providers of clocks and made a fusee carriage clock for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, on order from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (founded 1631).
Daniels independent double wheel escapement
11/14/2013 - 04:27
Alex, you made me really curious about this design enlightened.  The escapement was intended to combine the best features of the Swiss lever (self-starting) and English chronometer aka detent (greater efficiency, less friction) escapements.  Briefly, two independent going trains drive two mirror-image escape wheels turning in opposite directions.  A central impulse wheel with two pallets resides above, and alternately receives an impulse from each wheel.  The timing of the impulses are moderated by the balance assembly through a Y-shaped lever located between the escape wheels, which alternately blocks the arc of the impluse wheel and locks the non-impulse escape wheel. Daniels himself characterized this as a "tic tic" rather than "tic toc" type of escapement and now I understand why; each wheel transmits one impulse to the lever per oscillation, a "tic" only, rather than the back and forth impulses transmitted by the Swiss lever, the "tic toc".  That provided the superior efficiency he sought, while the design of impulse pallet sweeping the tooth forward produced almost no friction and therefore required no lubrication.  Success, Daniels was able to achieve an accuracy of 0.28 sec/day surprise!! Daniels integrated this idea first in his Space Traveller watch, which was an absolute marvel of horological creativity heart.  He considered it one of his two favorite timepieces.  This is the Sothebys auction picture of the movement itself:
I hadn't seen the prototype, quite interesting but unfortunately I
11/14/2013 - 10:40
think the market is not ready or no longer ready for this type of timepiece