Wednesday, August 14, 2019


In 1884 Alfred Hirst established "Hirst Brothers" in Oldham, Great Britain.  His bold goal was to produce watches, jewellery and optical goods of every kind. The business proved so successful that by 1894 they had to move to bigger premises.  In 1898 the company was registered as a limited company and in 1904 they acquired a second business in Manchester, and in 1907 a third business in Birmingham.

In 1912 Alfred achieved one of his greatest ambitions - the introduction of the Limit brand on his range of watches. Early Limit watches originally contained a movement from the Swiss Waldenburg Factory. These movements were shipped to the Oldham headquarters where they were assembled into Dennison cases. Business flourished with new sales offices opening in London and Glasgow. However, with the outbreak of WWI, Hirst Brothers transitioned to the manufacture of optical instruments.

War only added to the success of Hirst Brothers, and after WWI they expanded with the construction of a 5 storey, 7 acre clock factory in Saddleworth, near Oldham.  Alfred was inspired by modern American factories and the Hirst factory construction featured huge windows which allowed for as much daylight as possible during work hours.

Alfred's forward thinking and boldness knew no limits and the Limit Factory grounds featured tennis courts as well as a cricket field for the well-being of its employees!  In the early 1920's, cricket was central to its employees and they had a very successful team.  The company had flourished to more than 500 employees with a vast product range including timepieces, clocks, jewellery, tools and materials, and optical goods. They also had an excellent repair department specialising in the repair of clocks and watches. 

Limit created dials in their own trade name as well as dials for the wholesale market with the retailers name/location and sometimes "Limit" on the dial.  Models were designated Limit, Limit No. 2 and Limit No. 2N.

They were acquired by Time Products (UK) Limited of London in 1963 and in 1984 the 100 anniversary of Aldred's first premises were celebrated.  In 2012 Limit launched its Centenary Collection of watches and in 2016 its bold new logo which displayed the 1912 year of establishment and a chevron icon.

Limit has been supplying watches to the UK since 1912 and one such group was the London and North Eastern Railway, in particular LNER signalmen.  The first signalmen were originally called Railway Policemen (which led to the nickname "Bobby") who used flags to communicate with one other as well as train drivers,  While signalmen originally had hourglasses for the purpose of measuring time intervals between stations, eventually they were supplied with pocket watches.  Every train movement was logged by hand in a Train Register Book. Communications between signalmen and adjacent signal boxes were also logged. 

The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) was the second largest of the Big Four rail companies created by the Railways Act 1921 in Britain.  In partnership with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), the LNER was co-owner of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway - the UK's biggest joint railway.  In 1933 the LNER acquired the remaining operations of the Metropolitan Railway Company.  The M&GNJR was incorporated into the LNER in 1936.

Following the election of the Labour Government in 1945, the railways were nationalised on 1 January 1948. Through the creation of the Scottish Region of British Railways, all Scotland's railways were brought under a unified system of management for the first time. The LNER operated from 1923 to 1948 from which point the railway companies of Great Britain formed British Railways.  
I recently acquired a 1930's Limit No.2 Railway Relief Signalman pocket watch from the London North East Railway (L.N.E.R.79).  Both the dial and movement are signed "Limit No 2".  The font used on the dial is stunning.

The white enamel dial is in mint condition with extra fine blue steel spade hands.

The 50mm nickel case is with screw lock case back and screw lock bezel, featuring the original, heavy crystal.   The case back is inscribed "LNER 79 RELIEF", indicating the pocket watch was used by a Relief Signal-Man.

The 15 jewel movement is also in mint condition featuring a silvered three quarter plate and regulator with blue steel screws and gold plated wheels.  The movement is signed "Limit No 2, Swiss made, 15 jewels". This watch movement is a very early Record calibre - calibre 534. 

This Limit No. 2 is not for sale.

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