Friday, 18 December 2015

William Rogers of Liverpool

A very elegant complicated pocket watch by William Rogers of Liverpool is currently on sale in London.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

It is an 18ct yellow gold open-faced quarter repeater with calendar.  The three quarter gilt plate lever movement is numbered 3807.  It features a diamond endstone. There are subsidiary dials for: seconds; day; date; month. The hallmarks are for Chester, 1862.  The case maker's mark is GR, (probably George Roberts of Liverpool).  Diameter is 55 mm. 

It has a very unusual feature in its repeater mechanism – the speed with which the gongs are struck is adjustable by the user by means of a lever on the top plate. 

The watch is of an ambitious specification given that Rogers would have been just eighteen or nineteen at the time of its manufacture. 

Extant examples of watches by Rogers are hard to find – I have identified only three so far.  As to clocks – just one.  But what a one!  Sold by Bonhams in 2008 for £16,800, a very impressive quarter chiming skeleton clock – see

William Rogers was born in 1842 and died in 1898.  Born in Liverpool, he grew up in Manchester, returning to Merseyside as an adult.  He was married to Ellen for over thirty years.  They had seven children – of these two were daughters and both died in childhood.  None of the sons seems to have followed William into the watchmaking trade. 

The family lived in the West Derby/Kensington area of Liverpool - in 1871 they were in Emlyn Street and by 1881 had moved to Boaler Street, (see photograph below):

(For an excellent selection of photographs of old Liverpool, please see: - source of all location photographs in this post).

By 1891, they had moved again, this time to no. 29 Kensington; the photograph, below is of no. 27, (in 1955):

Rogers had business premises at 19 Castle Street, Liverpool.  Other nineteenth century watchmakers based in Castle Street/South Castle Street included: Joseph Sewill, Owen Owens, John Moncas, John R Cameron, Henry Daniel, Simpson Samuell, Moses Chapman, Lewis Woolf, Richard Hornby.
The other two Rogers watches I have found are: 

#11312 - 18ct gold open face lever, hallmarked London 1881.  Jewelled gilt three quarter plate movement with bi-metal split compensation balance.  Subsidiary seconds dial.  Case also numbered 11312 with maker's mark JM, (possibly Joseph Moore).  Diameter 50 mm.  Movement signed William Rogers, 19 Castle Street, Liverpool.  Sold for £1,140 inc. premium, May 2010. 

#21026 - 18 ct gold half hunter table roller lever, hallmarked Chester 1874.  Gilt three quarter plate keyless movement with going barrel.  Compensation balance with freesprung blue steel overcoil hairspring. English table roller lever escapement, screwed in jewelling, escape and lever pivots with endstones.  Plain case with maker’s mark RO, (possibly Richard Oliver).  Diameter 56 mm. 

If you have details or a photograph of a William Rogers watch do please post a comment.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Of Orbits and Tangents

Tangents are a hazard – actually a great source of pleasure – for anyone researching the history of horology. 

Looking in detail into the Ellicott dynasty, I was especially struck by the beauty of the dial of John Jnr’s Equation of Time watch, circa 1747:
© Trustees of the British Museum

Equation of Time ? WHAT is that; I thought I knew, but the dial confused me, so I looked it up:

Two factors cause the true length of a day on Earth to vary: 

·         The path of Earth’s orbit around the Sun is elliptical

·         Earth’s axis is slanted  

As a result, it is sometimes more, and sometimes less, than 24 hours between successive noons.  Surprisingly, it is only exactly 24 hours four times a year: 15 April; 14 June; 1 September; 24 December. 

In considering this, the following terms are used: 

·         Mean Time – time measured by a man-made device and expressed consistently – i.e. a day is always 24 hours long

·         Solar Time – a solar day is the variable length of time between noon on day-one and noon on day-two

·         Sidereal Time – the same principle as solar time, but the measurement is made relative to the position of a specific star on two successive days 

A Solar Time day can be as much as approximately 14 minutes more or less than 24 hours Mean Time. 

The ‘Equation of Time’ on any given day is the value – i.e. number of minutes, plus or minus – to apply to the Mean Time in order to ‘read’ Solar Time. 

A practical benefit – admittedly more relevant in the eighteenth century – is that an Equation of Time clock or watch can be set by reference to a sun dial. 

Because the variances – and the four ’24 hour’ day dates – are the same every year, a mechanical complication can be added to a clock or watch to provide an indication of the Equation of Time.  The indicating hand is driven by a once-a-year revolving cam. 

To me a complication like this is just something to be enjoyed for its technical and aesthetic attributes, although some people seem to be overly concerned with what practical use it might have.  In the eighteenth century, as watches with this feature began to appear, ownership would surely have been a serious status indicator. 

Equally, the capability to make such a watch would have been a powerful achievement to boast, raising the maker’s reputation and ability to command higher prices for his products.  It’s not surprising therefore that John Ellicott Jnr was keen to have his name on Equation of Time watches.  Whilst his father had begun the firm and made it one of high standing, John Jnr greatly enhanced its reputation and profitability through innovation.  For instance, he introduced cylinder escapement watches to the Ellicott catalogue and ensured that it also included repeaters and chronographs.  Alongside his flair for commerciality, John Jnr was also innovative in developing temperature compensation solutions. 

But . . . the question has to be asked: did Ellicott actually have the in-house capability to make an Equation of Time watch? 


Antiquarian Horology published two extensive surveys of the Ellicott firm:  by R.K. Foulkes, September 1960 and by David Thompson, June/September 1997.  In the latter a list of ‘known’ watches is appended.  At its heading it includes an abbreviation reference of ‘eq’ for an ‘equation watch’.  Interestingly, the list – of no less than 199 watches - does not feature a single one of the ‘eq’ type. 

David Thompson writes that three Ellicott Equation of Time watches are extant.  Further: 

Each of the three watches has a high quality movement with cylinder escapement and all are furnished with bolt and shutter maintaining power.  It is possible they represent the earliest examples of a watch with any form of maintaining power. 

The question of authorship of these watches was the subject of an article by Anthony Turner and Andrew Crisford in Antiquarian Horology in 1977.  The characteristics in the design and construction of the movements leave little doubt that they are the work of Thomas Mudge. 

The Turner/Crisford article relates the story of an Equation of Time watch signed by Ellicott and supplied to Ferdinand VI of Spain which became in need of repair.  When it emerged that the Ellicott firm itself could not undertake this, the King’s clockmaker, Irishman, Michael Smith, identified Thomas Mudge as the actual maker. 

My view of this is that whilst Mudge was the more technically accomplished, Ellicott was the more successful marketeer, able to penetrate niche markets and capture high profile clients.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Dodgy Turpin? - Surely Not

In 2014 Daniel Alexander QC heard an appeal concerning a dispute involving trade marks.  Two companies operating in the food wholesaling sector had been at loggerheads over the use of very similar corporate I.D. logos.  The fact that one of the companies was run by the uncle of the other’s owner only seemed to make the conflict all the more bitter.  In denying the appeal, Mr Alexander cited a ‘common ancestor’ precedent, ‘the most well-known example of this being the 1861 case of Dent v Turpin.  Edward Dent had two clock shops in London and had bequeathed one each to his two stepsons.  Both traded legitimately as ‘Dent’, and it is clear that neither could have brought an action to stop the other.  Either or both was entitled to bring an action to stop a third party, Mr Turpin, from using the Dent name.  The Times on 24 April 1861 reported:

The defendants, Henry and George Turpin, were watchmakers at 62 Banner-street, St. Luke’s, Middlesex, and had been in the habit of placing the words “Dent, London,” upon watches manufactured by them.  These watches were sold by Turpin Brothers to the other defendants, who carried on business as general export merchants, and had exported several of the watches to the Cape of Good Hope. 

The Dent name was a byword for quality and integrity and embraced a watchmaking dynasty which excelled throughout the nineteenth century.  For the first 54 years, the main business, founded by Edward, was managed by himself and members of his family.  Subsequently trading under various ownerships – and until the 1920s as two enterprises: ‘E. Dent’ and ‘M.F. Dent’ - the business has maintained a continuous commercial presence through to the present day.  A comprehensive summary of the company’s history is set out at  

Notice of the injunction, (in this instance on behalf of the M.F. ‘branch’ of the business), was published in The Times, for example on 19 July 1861:
DENT’s CHRONOMETERS, Watches, and Clocks – Caution – Her Majesty’s High Court of Chancery, on the 11th of July, 1861, granted a perpetual INJUNCTION, restraining Henry William Turpin, George Hathaway Turpin and Adolphe Mosenthal respectively, from manufacturing any watches marked with the name of “Dent,” and from selling or exporting, or causing to be sold or exported for sale, any watches made and marked with the name of “Dent” by them or by their order or direction.  Manufacturers and others are hereby cautioned against using the name or trade mark of “Dent.”
TUCKER and NEW, 25 Clement’s-lane, city, Solicitors for M.F. Dent, 33 and 34 Cockspur-street, Charing-cross, London.

With the Dent v Turpin action in mind, let’s consider why the Dent name would be one the defendants thought worth ‘borrowing’ in order to enhance the value of their products.  Dent began working as an apprentice to his cousin, Richard Rippon.  The early years of his career were especially important in establishing his credentials in the top quality sector of the Trade – he worked for two of the best: Vulliamy & Son and Barraud & Son, and with both he was a specialist in complications and chronometer movements.  This built a reputation good enough to induce the highly regarded John Arnold to take Dent into partnership.  Thus, from 1830, as half of Arnold & Dent, Edward was associated with the very best quality chronometers being made in England – and, therefore, the world.  The key elements of Dent’s prestige standing in the early Victorian era are summarised in the table below:
The Turpin business was begun by Benjamin around 1817 at 62 Banner Street, which runs parallel with and just south of Old Street in the St Luke’s area of London.  Benjamin was born circa 1791, within a year or two of Edward Dent.  Although Benjamin’s country of origin is unknown, it is notable that his sons sought Naturalisation in 1854, in the process of which their Jewish faith was recorded. 
Benjamin’s output does not seem to have been noteworthy and I have been unable to find any extant examples.  He died in 1842, and his widow, Susannah, carried on the business to 1849.  His sons, George (1826-76) and Henry (1827-85) then took over, trading as Turpin Bros.  The Business was listed at Banner Street through to the 1880s, for example in the category, ‘Watch Manufacturers to the Trade’, in Collinson’s Directory of 1861.  Britten’s notes that they exported full plate watches, including a model called ‘Railway Timekeeper’, to America.  This ‘type’ is generic – it was applied to relatively cheap/simple timepieces, often of Swiss/Austrian origin.  Bearing in mind the Dent injunction, it’s fair to say that Turpin Bros could be seen as again indulging in a spot of deception because, as with most of these ‘Railway Timekeepers,’ there was an implied superior standard of accuracy, (associated with the idea that the railways then were very well and punctually operated), which the movement was not in fact good enough to deliver. 
This is a gold hunter – date unknown – by Turpin Brothers:
And this open face lever, #13029, dates from 1874:
Neither, I’m afraid bears comparison with a Dent watch!  No wonder the Dent companies were keen to ensure that their name didn’t appear on such mediocre timepieces.

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Watch Derby

Time and again in the coverage of horology in Victorian newspapers, the demise of the English trade stemming from the Swiss ‘invasions’ was a matter of lamentation.  For example, in The Times, 16 December 1886, a meeting at the Board of Trade the previous day was reported as an initiative to stop imported timepieces being passed off as being ‘English’.  A deputation of English makers, led by Captain Penton, MP for Finsbury and Vice President of The London Watchmakers Association, asked for measures ‘to prevent the sale in England of foreign made watches bearing the English hall-mark and to prohibit the putting of foreign movements into English hall-marked cases’: 

SIR ALBERT ROLLIT, M.P., put the case of the deputation before his lordship.  He said there was great depression in the English watch trade, and the causes were not far to seek.  The result of a conference, presided over by Captain Penton, at Clerkenwell was that the English watchmaker was confident of his own work, and he did not in the slightest degree fear competition.  This was no question of free trade, fair trade, or protection, but simply one of protection against injustice and fraud.  The Committee of the House of Commons in 1879 on Hall-marking had already found the facts upon which the deputation wished the Government to legislate.  That report stated:- “The chief complaint against the operation of the existing law comes from the manufacturers of watches and watch cases.  They have established by evidence that within the last few years a practice has sprung up, and is rapidly increasing, under which foreign-made watch cases are sent to this country to be marked with the British hall-mark, and afterwards fitted with foreign movements, and are then not infrequently sold and dealt in as British-made watches.”  To show the increase of the deceit practised upon the British public, when that report was issued it was estimated at only 10 per cent., and now it was 29 per cent.; and no less than 37,000 watches were hall-marked last year which were fitted with foreign works, and which ultimately ran the risk, according to the report of the Select Committee of 1879, of being sold and dealt with fraudulently as English-made goods.  They asked, not that any one should be prevented from buying foreign watches with all their faults, but that they should be protected against having them passed off as English-made goods.  The very principle upon which the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill was established was to keep up the trade reputation of the country and to protect English workmen from injustice.

The oft-repeated received wisdom which held that Swiss and American quality was inferior to that achieved by the home producers emerged in this report in the passage where the Deputation had asked, ‘not that anyone should be prevented from buying foreign watches with all their faults but that they should be protected against having them passed off as English-made goods. 

This reliance on the notion that the English watch was technically superior was misplaced, and, as time went by, the reputation for Swiss quality grew as did the sales volumes.  This is readily illustrated by the next article, from The Times, 7 June 1881.  Here it was seen that on objective measurement the products of Switzerland were marginally superior to those of England, albeit the Americans had some ground to make up.  The evaluations are described as a sort of ‘Watch Derby’ with the best watch invariably coming in first, ‘which is not always the case with the best horse’: 

ENGLISH AND SWISS WATCHES. – Our Geneva Correspondent write:- “The comments made on my letter on the Swiss watch trade (which you printed on April 13th, as well in your columns as elsewhere, have attracted some attention in Switzerland and been the means of eliciting further details concerning the principles on which the horological prizes in the Melbourne Exhibition were awarded.  In reference to a remark of one of your correspondents, that the judgements of exhibition juries are by no means infallible, it is pointed out that, though there may well be differences of opinion as to the relative excellence of finish and outside appearance of several watches, good going is a matter of fact; and that watches sent for competition to Melbourne were tested in the observatory and their respective time-keeping qualities ascertained beyond a possibility of doubt.  The highest number of points, as I have already mentioned (500 out of a possible 500) was obtained by a Swiss watch; next comes an English watch by Kilpatrick, of London (495 points).  To them succeed the following:- A Swiss watch, 490 points; English, (Bukney), 485; Swiss 480; a German watch, 470; Swiss, 465; English (Bukney), 460; Swiss, 455; English, 450; Swiss, 445; English, 440; German, 435; American (Waltham), 430; English, 425; American (Waltham), 420; English, 415; German, 410; English, 405; English, 400.  No Swiss watch entered for competition gained less than 445 marks, no English watch fewer than 400.  The greatest number obtained by an American watch was 430, and four American watches were sent to the observatory which, because they gained fewer than 400 marks, were not classed.  It will thus be seen that, albeit Swiss watches showed a decided superiority, their English competitors ran them very close, while American watches were almost out of the running.  If the system of official testing which obtains in Geneva were established in England it could hardly fail to have a beneficial effect on British watch-making.  Geneva horologists can send their watches to the observatory here to be thoroughly tested, and the results of the annual competition are awaited with eager interest.  It is a sort of watch Derby, with the difference that the best watch invariably comes in first, which is not always the case with the best horse.  A few days ago M. Plantamour, the eminent astronomer, head of the observatory here, in a lecture to the industrial class of the Society of Arts, gave some details concerning the watch competition of 1880 which possess a special interest, inasmuch as he has introduced several new tests that took effect for the first time last year.  The principal modification is that, whereas the watches sent in for competition used only to be placed in the refrigerator and stove 24 hours respectively, and errors of compensation are compared as well with the extremes of temperature in these two receptacles (about 5 deg. To 30 deg. Centigrade) as with the temperature of the room (from 15 deg. To 17 deg.)  The successful watches, which it is hardly necessary to say are chronometer watches, are divided into two classes – ‘satisfactory’ and ‘very satisfactory’.  No watch can rank as ‘very satisfactory’ unless it reaches this standard; its diurnal variation for 40 days must be no more than three-quarters of a second; its maximum variation between one position and another must not exceed 2½ seconds nor more than one-fifth of a second, on the average, for each degree of temperature.  Of the 333 watches sent in for competition 117 answered to these conditions.  It is considered a very remarkable result that 78 watches exceeded the minimum of excellence laid down by the observatory.  Their mean performances being for the first test (diurnal variation), 0.474; for the second (position test), 1.538; for the third (variation of temperature), 0.127 of a second.  It would seem hardly possible that horological art can be brought to greater perfection than these figures denote.  But M. Plantamour, not content with claiming a number of watches as ‘very satisfactory’, even on the very stringent conditions he has laid down, grades them by a system of points of which zero corresponds with the minimum of excellence insisted upon for the award if ‘very satisfactory,’ while 300 represents absolute perfection, a point, it is scarcely necessary to say, unattainable even by Swiss watchmakers.  Nevertheless, some of them fall not very far short even of this lofty standard – one won 192, another 191, and a third 189 points.  Fifteen watches were awarded more than 150, and 28 more than 140 points, and these may, perhaps, be regarded as the finest specimens of horological skill which either Switzerland or any other country has yet produced.  While on the subject of time I would mention, for the benefit of travellers in Switzerland that Geneva has three times.  Having its own observatory it insists on having its own standard of time, and, while all the rest of Switzerland follows ‘the hour of Berne,’ the clocks in this canton are set by local time.  Hence, as the Swiss and French railways, which have their termini here, work by Berne and Paris time respectively, three different times are in vogue in Geneva, a condition of things rather bewildering for the uninformed traveller and not without occasional inconvenience for residents."

Sunday, 6 December 2015

What the Papers Said, Miscellany 1

A numbers game:
When researching the history of a watch or the life/work of a watchmaker, I am always hopeful that movement numbers are apparent – and now the difficult aspect – and accurate!  Very often they are not.  Incremental sequences of numbers frequently come into doubt when trying to verify against the supposed date of manufacture based on case hallmarkings, (which themselves are not always clear and may be on a later re-case).  Sometimes the numbers themselves are just too ‘big’ to be believable given the size of the maker’s business/the length of time for which it was operational.  Then there is the little matter of deliberate alteration.  As an example of this, here is an account of the activities of Andrew Springhalter, as reported in The Times, 7 April 1865: 

  Police-sergeant Evans 22G, an active plain-clothes officer, said that a few days since he saw the prisoner coming down Spencer-street, Clerkenwell, and, suspecting that all was not correct, he followed him and saw him go into a pawnbroker’s shop.  He went in and asked the prisoner what he had got there, and he said, “Nothing,” and the pawnbroker at that moment said he was making out a duplicate for a watch that the prisoner had offered in pawn.  He then took the prisoner into custody, and on going to the prisoner’s residence he found a number of duplicates relating to watches and other jewelry, and on a bench a number of watch cases quite new, and some plates of watches.  All the numbers of the watches were altered by the addition of a number, the alteration of some of some of the original numbers, and the names on some of the plates had been changed, and in some cases names had been added.  A large number of the watches had been stolen from a jeweller’s at Dudley.
  Mr. Hamilton, of Southampton-street, Pentonville, said,- I am an engraver, and do a large business for watchmakers.  I altered the figures on the seven watches produced at the direction of the prisoner.  Some of the watches have had figures added, and others have been altered.  The numbers on the silver watches 13684 have been altered to 136846, 49086 to 490861, 15237 to 452571, 15385 to 145383, 15978 to 459781 and 15962 to 459641.  On one the name of “Neal, Wandsworth,” has been added, and on the others the following names have been added, “Alfred Gold, Islington;” “S. Morris, Notting-hill, London;” “John Jones, 338, Strand;” and “Henshaw, High Holborn.”  Some of the names belong to legitimate makers, and the others are mere fancy names.  The prisoner has not before engaged me in similar work.
  Cross-examined by Mr. Pater. – I did not think that it was unusual when I was asked to alter these numbers.  I do not know that it is usual to put a good name in bad watches so that they may sell better.  I have been an engraver for 20 years.  I have often put names on watches where there have not been any before.  I received all the watches together, and altered them the same day.  I altered them the day previous to the police sergeant calling for them.  I have known the prisoner as a working jeweller for the past six months, and I have always found him an honest, respectable man.
Whilst high-end wristwatches seem to hold their value quite well nowadays, many expensive motor cars certainly do not.  But there’s nothing new under sun.  From The Times, 9 December 1826, an eye watering 41% depreciation rate on a watch for which you’d be paying a fortune in 2015:

A BARGAIN. – GOLD REPEATER, by an eminent London maker, the real property of a Gentleman. – A GOLD REPEATER, strikes the hours, quarters, and half quarters, has a rich chased double bottomed gold case, gold dial, the movement duplex, with seconds, and jewelled in 5 holes, ruby cylinder, cost 85 guineas, to be SOLD for 50 guineas, nearly new.  Apply to Mr. Jarman, dealer in articles of curiosity, 30, St.James-street.

Thomas Wagstaffe:
There is a substantial entry in Baillie for Wagstaffe: London (Carey St. and Gracechurch St.)  1756-93.  Livery Merchant Taylors Co.  Watches M.M.A. and Den. Coll.  cyl. watches Ilbert coll. l.c. clock Virginia M. and br. Clock 

Looking at the quality of this example of his products, it’s not surprising that he had ‘visitors’, as related in The Public Advertiser in March 1758:
Thomas Wagstaffe, London, No. 6526. Circa 1760
 Silver quarter repeating pair-cased pocket watch
Courtesy of Lacote des 

  A Gold Watch, STOLEN on Tuesday Night or early Yesterday Morning, the 15th instant, out of the Shop of Thomas Wagstaffe, Watch-maker at the Ship and Crown in Gracechurch-street, the following Watches, viz.
  A Gold Watch, Name Tho. Wagstaffe, London, No.969: a Gold Cylinder Watch, Name Fohn Frymelksham (John Fry, Melksham); a Silver Repeater, Name David Le Sturgeon; a Silver Repeater, Name Tho. Wagstaffe, London, No.1343; a Silver Horizontal with the Cylinder broke, No. 335 or 353, Name Tho. Wagstaffe, London; a Silver capped and jewelled Watch, Name Tho. Wagstaff, No. 1560; a Silver jewelled Watch, Name ditto No.1651; Ditto ditto, No. 1590; a plain Silver Watch, Name ditto, Number forgot; two ditto, Name ditto, No. 1714 and 1715; two ditto, Name ditto, No. 2 and 1692; one ditto Engine turned Case, Name ditto; two ditto, Name Tho. Wagstaffe, London, No. 1682 or 3, Number of the other forgot; one ditto, ditto, Name forgot; one ditto, Metal, green Shagreen, No. 16!8; one ditto, Name Tho. Wagstaffe, London, No. forgot; two ditto in Boxes without Cases; four ditto, Name James Cole, Norwich, No. forgot; one ditto, Name John Gilks, Shipston, No. 1760; one ditto, Name Charles Reynolds, London, No. 1681; one ditto, Name ditto, No. 1722; three ditto, Name Walbank, No.187, 188, 189; one ditto, Tompion, Gold Box, in a Tortoiseshell Case; four Silver ditto, Name Reynolds, No. forgot; one ditto, Name Finch, No. 1753; one Silver Chain, sundry Seals, Stone Buttons.
  Whoever will give such Information to John Fielding, Esq; so that any Part of the Goods may be had again, and the Offender brought to Justice, shall receive twenty Guineas Reward on Conviction.
As can be seen from the subsequent notice, Wagstaffe’s loss is put at £250 – about £40,000 in current value:
Whitehall, March 21, 1758
   House of Thomas Wagstaffe, Watchmaker, in GracechurchjWhereas it has been humbly represented to the King, that in the Night of the 14th and 15th instant, the Shop and Compting House of Thomas Wagstaffe, Watchmaker, in Gracechurch-street, London, were broke open and robbed of Watches and other Goods to the Value of £250 his Majesty, in order for the apprehending and brining to Justice the Person or Persons who committed the said Robbery, is pleased to promise his most gracious Pardon to any one who was concerned therein, who shall discover his or her Accomplice therein, so that he, she, or they may be apprehended and convicted thereof.
  And as a farther Encouragement, I the said Thomas Wagstaffe do hereby promise to pay a Reward of Twenty Guineas, to any Person making such Discovery as aforesaid, to be paid upon the Conviction of any one or more of the said Robbers.
Fifth columnist:
In the recent update – A Man of Contradictions - concerning Sir John Bennett, mention was made of the crucial watchmaking issue of the nineteenth century – the massive growth in the volume of watches imported from Switzerland at the expense of the English watchmaking industry.
Whilst far too many complacent English makers ignored the situation, unwilling to change their working practice, at least one enterprising man was ready to capitalise:

HENRY CAPT’S GENEVA WATCHES. Henry Capt is the only Watch Manufacturer of Geneva having a branch retail house in London, Specialist of Repeaters, Chronographs, and other high-class Watches.  Workmen from Geneva fro repairs,- London Branch, 151, Regent-street.  
This was his advertisement in The Times, 4 June 1879. 

He certainly was not complacent.  Having established a market advantage, he continued to seek innovation, including, for instance, being the pioneer Swiss maker to submit his products to The King’s Observatory for validation as a ‘chronometer’.

A little extra care is needed when considering ‘Henry Capt’ watches/history.  There are many references to the very high quality products of the early nineteenth century.  These included all sorts of complication, including musical features and they were often beautifully decorative.  By the time of the advertisement shown above, Capt’s products were much more mainstream, though still noted as being of good quality.  By that time the firm was directed by the original Henry’s nephew, also ‘Henry’.  Things are also complicated by variations in the spelling of the first name, Henry/Henri, and by the succession of partnerships.  I have created this basic summary to provide, I hope, better clarity: 

·         Founder, Henry Daniel, born 1773, Chenit, Switzerland.  (Baillie spells him ‘Henri’)

·         Henry marries Henriette Piguet and is in partnership with her family’s firm (no children from the marriage)

·         Working partnership with Piguet (Isaac) 1802-11

·         Worked alone until 1830

·         1830-79 in partnership with Aubert & Son; (various Aubert firm iterations, 1820-67, listed in Britten’s, Baillie and Loomes and with premises at 252 Regent Street, but these do not record ‘Aubert & Capt’)

·         Trading as Aubert & Capt until 1879

·         Henry Daniel dies in 1841

·         Henry Samuel takes over

·         Company purchased in 1880 by Gallopin and named, ‘H.Capt Horologer, Maison Gallopin Successeurs’

·         I believe that this Henry Capt ‘dynasty’ is unrelated to the Nicole & Capt partnership
For more on Capt have a look at -

The Richard Websters – Persistence Pays Off

Four generations of watchmakers carried the Christian name and the business: 

1        Richard I c1760 (Britten’s 1779 (became free))-1807

2        Richard II c1785 (Britten’s 1800) - 1849

3        Richard III c1820 (Britten’s 1834-82) - 1882

4        Richard Godfrey c1840 - 1904 (end of succession)

5        Webster Co/R Webster Ltd to 1914 

There were ups and downs, from multiple bankruptcies to award-winning in the Royal Observatory trials: persistence certainly paid off for ‘Richard Webster’. 

Richard I
Son of the eminent watchmaker, William Webster, who became Master of the Clockmakers Company in 1755.  Richard I was admitted to the Company in 1779.  His premises were at 26 Exchange Alley.  The business failed, partly because of gambling debts, in 1802. 

Richard II
Son of Richard I.  Took over the business in 1802. He retained the premises at 26 Exchange Alley until 1813, then at 43 Cornhill until 1836.  At 3 Birchin Lane 1840-43, and 74 Cornhill from 1839.  Maker to the Admiralty and noted for chronometers of excellence which won prizes in the 1830s in the Royal Observatory trials.
 Watch paper (pre-1836)
(© Trustees of the British Museum)
Webster suffered bankruptcies in October 1829, November 1836 and February 1849.  Below is one of several relevant notices which appeared in The London Gazette, (18 May 1886): 

This is to give notice, that the Court acting in the prosecution of a Fiat in Bankruptcy, awarded and issued forth on the 20th day of February, 1849, against Richard Webster and Richard Webster the younger, of No. 74, Cornhill, in the city of London, Chronometer Makers and Watch and Clock Manufacturers, will sit on the 24th day of June, 1886, at eleven o’clock in the forenoon precisely, at Bankruptcy-buildings, 84, Lincoln’s –inn-fields, in the county of Middlesex, in order to make a Dividend of the joint estate and effects of the said Bankrupts, when and where the creditors who have not already proved their debts are to come prepared to prove the same, or they will be excluded the benefit of the said Dividend; and all claims not then proved will be disallowed. 

(That is one sentence, and ‘Bankruptcy-buildings' is surely from the pen of Spike Milligan!).

In February 2016 I discovered that Richard (II) was in partnership with William Hunter prior to the 1836 bankruptcy.  A notice in The Times, 26 May 1837, advised that business would continue at the 43 Cornhill premises under the name W. H. Hunter & Co.

An example of his work is included in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers:
#404 Richard Webster, England, c1820.  Movement only.  Enamel dial signed ‘Webster 3384.’  Subsidiary seconds dial.  Gold spade hands.  Bi-metallic compensation curb.  Plain brass balance.  Signed ‘Rd Webster. Change Alley London no 3384’.  This must be the Richard Webster who took over from his father, Richard, in 1802, at the age of 17.  See Antiquarian Horology, September 1955, p109.  Diameter 46mm.  Presented by A. & J. Smith, Dublin, 1934 

As described by Bonhams, this is also by Richard II:
Courtesy of Bonhams

An early 19th century 18ct gold quarter repeating open face pocket watch
London hallmark for 1808.  Gilt full plate cylinder movement with flat gilt 3-arm balance and diamond end stone, round pillars, two polished hammers striking on a bell held in the back of the case, enamel dial with black Roman numerals and outer five minute divisions, gilt spade hands, subsidiary seconds at 6, pierced and engraved inner case sides, held within polished round hinged outer, push repeat via the stem, strike-silent button in the band, dial signed and numbered 3369, movement signed and numbered 3370.  55mm.
One of his chronometers as described below by Christies is shown at:

No. 458. Circa 1850.  The silvered dial signed Richard Webster, Cornhill, No. 458, Roman hour numerals, outer minute chapter with Arabic five-minute intermarkers 60-5-10 etc, subsidiary seconds and up-and-down dials, blued steel hands, Earnshaw escapement, main frame assembly carrying remainder of the train and escapement, cut bimetallic balance with segmental heat compensation weights, blued steel helical balance spring, spring foot detent with jewelled locking stone, brass bowl and gimbal (possibly later), three-tier plain mahogany box, the middle section inset with bone disc (unsigned), external brass drop handles.  105mm. dial diam., box 178mm.sq.

Richard III
Son of Richard II.  Finished his apprenticeship to his father in 1844.  He ran an additional business in Paris.  He occupied premises at the newly-developed 5 Queen Victoria Street from 1872.  In the 1881 Census he is recorded as at 57 Marquess Road, Islington, widowed and living with his three daughters and two sons, (and two servants).  He died in 1882.  Here, below, is a mid-nineteenth century Webster advertisement typical of the kind he took in The Times: 

WEBSTER – WATCHES, Chronometers, and Clocks, by R. WEBSTER, chronometer maker to the Lords of the Admiralty, the East India Company, &c., at as low a price as is consistent with maintaining that character for superiority of workmanship which has distinguished his house for a century and a half.  The prizes given by Government for the best performing chronometers were awarded to R. Webster three years in succession.  Established A.D. 1711 – 74, Cornhill.

Richard Godfrey Webster
Son of Richard III.  He is recorded as a chronometer maker at 5 Queen Victoria Street from 1876.  It seems likely that he allowed non-commercial interests to distract his attention from the business itself.  For example, he was a notably active Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.  Also, he frequently contributed writings under the name ‘Cornhill’ to the journal of the British Horological Institute.  In an attempt to save the ailing company, his wife took over in 1904, ending the long father>son succession.  The business continued until 1914, trading as Webster Co/R. Webster Ltd.