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The Life and Work of America's First Watch Manufacturer Presented at Museum of Time

-Aidan Hickey (PA) 8/17/17

English-style fusee with verge escapement and full plate with American patriotic symbolism. Courtesy of National Watch & Clock Museum.

My internship at the National Watch and Clock Museum is winding down, but thankfully I had the opportunity to attend a TimeTalk before I leave. TimeTalks are free informative hour-long sessions that cover a variety of horological topics offered by the National Watch and Clock Museum every other month. Presented by Museum Director, Noel Poirier, the topic of the last TimeTalk featured the Hamilton Watch Co. donation of watchmaking machine blueprints. This month’s topic, again presented by Poirier, featured Luther Goddard, who is thought to be the first American watchmaker to produce timepieces.

Poirier presenting a portrait of Luther Goddard. Keith Lehman.

In 1809 Luther Goddard opened his clock shop with his sons and called it Goddard and Sons. Between roughly 1809 and 1817 Goddard and his shop can be accredited with making 530 pocket watches. Much of Goddard’s success as a watchmaker came because of the trading tensions between the British and the United States after the Revolutionary War, which resulted in an embargo act. This embargo act was signed in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to economically harm Great Britain and France. Jefferson supported this act in an effort to revert to a less aggressive method that would earn the U.S. trading system respect and neutrality from the nations that harassed and stole from its ships. Now when people needed to buy or repair watches, instead of looking overseas, they could look to Goddard and Sons, who were more expensive but also legal. Later in his horological career, Goddard became a pastor and offered watch repairing during his tenure of caring for his parishioners.

American motif decoration on  balance cock. Courtesy of National Watch & Clock Museum.

Goddard is considered very different and mysterious because he is thought to be the original American watchmaker and he carved an eagle emblem into some of his pocket watches. He may have made some pocket watches for influential figures in the Revolutionary War. As hopefully more Goddard pocket watches are found, speculation can be backed by more evidence. In pocket watch No. 462 you can see a popular design he used: the eagle and snake flanked by two flags. In the next picture you see an imprint of a sword in a hand, implying this pocket watch was made for a soldier. In the following picture you see the mysterious eagle emblem that was engraved into the watch. Are there more of these eagle emblem Goddard pieces out there? What do they mean exactly? Who could they have been made for?

Saber and wave engraving that was most likely for a client with a naval background.  Courtesy of National Watch & Clock Museum.

Before I started this internship, I was not interested in horology or watch collecting. But the one thing I did have was an interest and appreciation for history, so my horology appreciation grew over time. Working in marketing for a museum allowed me to hone my craft while learning unique and minute details about history, such as the Goddard watch company.

Poirier gives a hands-on session of two Luther Goddard watches and a silver spoon created by Goddard's son Daniel. Keith Lehman.

Museum Reveals a Rare Discovery, Exactly 100 Years after It Was Patented

-Adam R. Harris, NAWCC Guest Wristwatch Curator 8/16/17

Just when you think there can be no more surprises, an outstanding piece of horology pops up.

 

In 2012, after three months of cataloging and photographing 1,400 wristwatches—trust me that is a lot of pictures—during my first stint as Gallet Guest Curator of Wristwatches, I was finished with adding three photos to each description.

 

Working with Curator Carter Harris (now Curator Emeritus), we decided to spot-check the drawers and cabinets to see if I might spot anything; after about 20 minutes I peered into a small plastic box and saw something so rare that I immediately knew what it was. Clue 1: this timepiece had its 100th anniversary in 2012.

 

Wow! Could I be correct? I opened the plastic box to find that I was correct! Here was a fantastically rare piece, but why did it not print out from the database for my cataloging?

 

I entered its assignment number into the database and lo and behold, it was there without pictures but why didn’t it show up in my printout? The answer is so absurd that it borders on outrageous. This masterpiece of horology was entered only under “chronometer” with not even the manufacturer’s name or famous model name. Clue 2: This timepiece is actually marked “chronometre,” the Swiss spelling, and NOT “chronometer.”

 

So there it was—a Friday evening—and I found this outstanding example of the finest examples of movement engineering in the last 100 years. Clue 3: If you think Gruen made a true Curvex in 1935, this is 23 years earlier, and FAR more curved!

 

And if you consider Gruen’s largest Curvex The Majesty at a cool 52 mm, this watch was 55 mm!

 

So if you have not yet guessed, here it is:

 

Movado Polyplan Chronometre:

 

  • Unique Tri-Plane construction patented 1912 (USA patent no: 765807)
  • Produced from 1912 to 1930, this chronometre example
    is from around 1925.
  • Movement is 40 mm long; if cased, it is 50–55 mm (Gruen Curvex is 52 mm)
  • 15 jewels, adjusted.

 

How many were made? Who knows, but probably between 1,500 and 5,000; this is S/N 401244, so it is pretty low. The three planes are so angled that the winder is moved to the top where the mainspring is located, and some of the gears had to be beveled to mesh across two very angled planes. I dread to think of any watchmaker in the 1900s having to repair this watch. Hence, its rarity.

First the dial: no it does not look like much, but it’s 50 mm long and for a “chronometer” it’s awesome. Note the crown at 12 o’ clock.

Look at the curve here; movement 50 mm long; winder at top.

Now the movement—15J—but see how tiny those jewels are surely the smallest ever used and how they fitted them in.

Look closely at the bottom right-hand corner: a tiny lever to advance and retard as the balance wheel is UNDER the backplate.

Here are some pictures from my files of what a complete watch looked like. This is 10 years before art deco!

The Case: look at that curvature. Eat your heart out, Gruen!

Here is the movement side on. See the three planes some 45 degrees, hence beveled gears.

Finally, the patent schematics.

Acknowledgments:

 

NAWCC. “Images are the property of the National Watch & Clock Museum, Library & Archives and may not be reproduced without permission.”

Bruce Shawkey, NAWCC Bulletin May/June 2012.

Pictures 100 years of wristwatches

Unique Partnerships

-Gillian Radel (PA) 8/14/17

Partnerships happen every day for practical and creative reasons. Hublot, known throughout the world for its partnerships, has teamed up with sports stars, such as Usain Bolt and Ferrari and its racing team, to create iconic timepieces. Now, by putting a new twist on the Classic Fusion, Hublot has new limited collections from its partnerships with Italia Independent and Arturo Fuente.

Hublot and Italia Independent released two previous collections based on the Big Bang Unico model but decided to go in a new direction with the Classic Fusion. This time, Italia Independent founder Lapo Elkann and Hublot chose to work with Rubinacci, the Italian textile masters, to create something very different in the world of watches: a fabric dial. It’s called the Classic Fusion Chronograph Italia Independent. Both worked closely with Rubinacci to select the fabrics for the dial and the straps, giving the watches a uniform look. These watches have the classic, elegant look of other Hublots, but the houndstooth and plaid fabrics give them a distinctive look. Six different pieces are available to choose from, all with the HUB1143 self-winding chronograph movement. The cases are made from materials that range from ceramic to King Gold to titanium, pairing best with the fabric that was chosen for the dial and band. These timepieces are not only functional but also have become a part of fashion. Prices range from $15,100 to $35,100.

 Arturo Fuente is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its most prized creation, the Fuente Fuente Opus X cigar, which cigar connoisseurs all over the world recognize for its quality and flavor. It was only natural that Hublot commemorate it by creating the Hublot Classic Fusion 45 mm Fuente 20th Anniversary Special Edition. Three models—a limited production of 20 watches each—are available, all with Hublot’s caliber automatic movement HUB1112 with a 42-hour power reserve. The first model has a 45 mm case in satin-finished black ceramic with its bezel cut from the same material. The blue dial is adorned with red gold-plated hands and the famous X, doubled for the occasion, to show the number 20 in Roman numerals. The second version has livery in brushed titanium. Its case and bezel are embossed with engravings showing tobacco leaf motifs intertwined with the letter X. The third version is in King Gold, a red gold material, and it has the same engravings and features as the titanium model. All three versions are delivered to the customer in a functioning humidor designed by Hublot.

Once again Hublot has created timepieces that are fashionable and functional. With the fabric dials and humidor cases, Hublot has shown the world that pushing the boundaries and creativity produce a watch that excels in quality.

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