Friday, 3 June 2016

Ralph Gout - Man or Brand?

The June 2016 issue of Antiquarian Horology includes my article on Ralph Gout.  My study of Gout’s life and work was initially inspired by the acquisition of verge #21915.  I then became interested in Gout as an example of ‘brand marketing’, something that sounds very 21st century, but which was being exploited by English watchmakers two hundred years ago – the original working title for the article was ‘Ralph Gout – Man or Brand?’ 

Existing horological reference sources were muddled on Gout.  My Third Edition Baillie refers only to Ralph, with the dates 1770-1836.  Loomes (First Edition) added David Ralph 1832-57 and Ralph (?II) 1863.  Britten’s included Ralph 1858-67.  Most of the watches I was able to trace – usually signed Ralph Gout, London – appeared to stem from dates after Ralph’s death in 1828.
Ralph was an innovator.  He didn’t just make easily saleable watches for the English market.  He experimented with dual-functionality, took out relevant patents and created beautifully cased timepieces for the Ottoman market.  In so doing he found himself made bankrupt, but he also established a fine reputation for quality in Turkey.  As a result, his name on watches, made after his own lifetime by his son and an associate, guaranteed their marketability in Constantinople and Smyrna.  Thus, a brand was established that was so powerful that even a name of the stature of Frodsham was found to be ‘borrowing’ it illicitly! 

This is the verge, #21915: