Friday, September 20, 2019

The best watch in the world (for money)

James McLeod was a qualified jeweller and optometrist who established his business in Bundaberg, Queensland in 1889. At one point in time, he was a Secretary of Optometrist Association which speaks volume about his professional and business reputation. However, MacLeod was also a proper watchmaker who appreciated quality and workmanship. He was passionate about importing English and Swiss pocket watches of railway quality. It was of little surprise that MacLeod was a major supplier to Queensland Government Railways supplying in excess of 500 Moeris pocket watches.

Here are two advertisements from 1911:   

Honest Watches.

There is no Present so Popular either for a Lady or Gentleman as a GOOD WATCH. I CARRY A VERY LARGE STOCK.

Being a Practical Watchmaker, I do not Stock Watches which I know cannot possibly give satisfaction. The duty on English watches is 20 per cent on Swiss and American 30 per cent. That means you cannot get a watch which will keep time under a fair price.

This cut shows my Ladies’ Watch, which I supply in silver for 85/, 42/, and 50/. In gold they cost £3/3/, £4/4/, £5/5/, up to £12/13/. All Good. All Guaranteed.

GENTS’ WATCHES. – Railway Levers, £1/1/; Do. Silver levers, £3/10/, £3/10/, £4/10/. Gents’ Gold from £4/10/ to £25.

NOTE.---My Railway Levers are used on all the Government Lines, £1/1/, post free.

Supplied ONLY by J. MACLEOD,


Phone 116.
The other day we have unearthed an original Macleod Railway Lever pocket watch. While it was not an official numbered Queensland Government Rail timepiece, it was signed ‘ D P White, 22 May 1918 Gayndah‘ as well as Gootchie, 15 May 2019. Gootchie is nowadays described as a ‘locality’ with a population of 96, fifty kilometres south east of Gayndah. However, as you Queenslanders know, Gayndah is the oldest town in Queensland – and was a major railway destination. It is quite possible that DP White was a railway man himself, and most definitely in a need of an accurate timekeeper.                 

The watch itself is an early 1900's Moeris Cal. 19 movement, stem wound and pin set, 50mm nickel case and porcelain dial.

It is interesting that Macleod refers to Railway lever in his later advertisements as “Burnett lever”. Burnett river flows generally south past Eidsvold and Mundubbera before heading east, adjacent to the townships of Gayndah and Wallaville before entering the city of Bundaberg – which is general direction of railway line.

James McLeod's optometry, jewellery and watch business thrived for the next 40 years. Upon his retirement, the shop was taken over by his apprentices, who to this day serve the good people of the Bundaberg region. 

Was the Moeris 'railway lever' the best watch in the world? Of course not, but it was surely better than many 'railway' watches sold by other jewellers. A timepiece designed to run for 20 or so years, it survived to this day - a testimony to McLeod's conviction that Moeris is worthwhile investment. 

Overhaul of the Gayndah Railway Lever pocket watch was assigned to Bobby, our young apprentice. He spent the whole day working on it and this is his final verdict: 

When first starting on a watch like this it’s hard to foresee what the outcome will be. A 100 year old watch that isn’t ticking is an indication that any number of things could be wrong with it, or maybe it just needs a good clean and oil. You have to be mindful that it’s been through years of abuse and the end result may just be the same as when you started. It gets to a point in the repair where you have invested so much time into the watch that it becomes a personal vendetta to get the watch to tick no matter how much time you spend adjusting. Even though there were many challenges, we took a once desolate watch and gave back its heartbeat. 100 years old and only losing a minute after 24 hours, that’s a win in my book. 
Gayndah Railway Station

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