Monday, March 25, 2013

Grandpa's silver pocket watch

I would like to know the age of pocket watch which I inherited form my grandfather. K.R.

Dear K R,

For the exact dating of a pocket watch it is required that the timepiece is submitted for a physical examination. The easiest way to date a timepiece is by comparing the serial numbers on the mechanism and the case with manufacturers production data. In your case, we can estimate the manufacturing year based on style of the case and winding system.

Lets' start with the later.

Your pocket watch is a stem-wound, pin-set model. It is wound by turning the winding crown on the top. To set the time, one would have to push down the pin located to the left. The pin itself is protected with pin guards. This winding system in pocket watches was popular from mid to late 1800s and replaced in early 1900s with a more convenient stem-wound, stem-set system which later became the norm for wrist watches.

Now let's move to the watch case.

The heavily ornate case with relief scene is most likely made of coin silver. This alloy of 80% silver and 20% copper was a good choice for pocket watch cases. Look for the stamp 0.800. The give away mark is the slight reddish discoloration which comes form copper.

While we don't know much about the mechanism, judging by the heavy and rich relief, it is fair to assume that your watch is of 'better than average quality' and most likely made by a reputable maker.

Thanks to well detailed symbolism, the women depicted can be unmistakably identified.

Note the crescent moon on her diadem: she is a goddess. Depicted holding a bow and quiver with arrows, she also wears a short tunic and it is portrayed as young and beautiful: without any doubt, she is Diana, the Greek goddess of hunting.

In the background, there is a lovely detail of a cupid holding the hunting dog.

This lovely 'hunting' scene is typical of the late neoclassical period.

Pocket watches are remarkable 'objects': they tell the time, they are witnesses of their time and they refer to myths which tell their own stories.

Greek and Roman gods, muses and heroes have been a favourite bronze clock subjects during the period from 1700-1830s and they remain popular right through end of neoclassical period in pocket watches. Knowledge of the mythological background of depicted theme was an important factor in choosing a certain timepiece. War, love, faith, sacrifice and victory were one of the most interest to both artists and public.

Based on the case features of your pocket watch I would estimate the production date to be somewhere around 1880-1890.

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