Blog: Déposé No. 9846: Watches with handlesCopyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved.
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This blog entry is part of my page about the first modern wristwatches.
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Déposé No. 9846: Watches with handles
Which was the first company to actually make wristwatches with wire loops to take a leather strap? I doubt that we shall ever know, but there was just a little more to the matter than simply soldering a couple of wire loops to the side of an existing watch case. In 1903 the Anglo-Swiss company Dimier Brothers applied some thought to the matter and produced a design of curved wire lugs that gave the best fit between the case and a one piece strap, and they then registered this design in an attempt to monopolize the nascent wristwatch market. This is the earliest documented evidence I have seen of watches with this design of curved wire lugs and one piece leather strap; the first purposely designed men's wristwatch, which during the Great War became known as the "trench" or "officers" watch.
Dimier Frères & Cie had offices in la Chaux-de-Fonds and London. As Dimier Brothers & Co., from 1868 were an important watch importing company in London, You can read more about the London company of Dimier Brothers on my Sponsors Marks page at Dimier Brothers & Co. .
DÉPOSÉ No. 9846 stamp in wristwatch case back
Swiss Modèle Déposé (Registered Design) No. 9846, July 1903
Evidence for the involvement of the Dimier Brothers company in the early development of the wristwatch is the legend "Déposé No. 9846" (sometimes "DEPOSE 9846", or even DÉPOSÉ 9846) which is often seen on the back of early wristwatches as shown here, sometimes with the Swiss Federal Cross symbol, sometimes without. Déposé is shorthand for Modèle Déposé, which is Swiss/French for "Registered Design".
The author's or designer's legal copyright exists for designs whether they are registered or not, but it can be difficult to prove without evidence of the date the design was created; hence, an entry in a register is a useful official record. NB: a "Registered Design" is not the same as a "Patent", which is something quite different.
The picture to the right here shows the official Swiss register entry for Modèle Déposé No. 9846. It is dated 29 July 1903. As you can see, the description is very short compared to that of a patent: it simply says "Montre à bracelet-courroie" or "Wristwatch belt" and shows a picture of the design. That's it; that is the full entry.
The exact translation of Montre à bracelet-courroie is important. A "montre" is a watch, "à"" means with, "bracelet" is a bracelet and a "courroie" is a belt. The addition of courroie or belt is clearly intended to distinguish this design from a "montre bracelet", a watch on a metal bracelet which ladies had been wearing for hundreds of years. So the specific design features being registered were the use of a leather wrist strap like a belt, and by implication the "anses", handles or wire lugs, that attach the watch case to the leather strap. This is the earliest documented evidence I have seen of wristwatches with fixed wire lugs.
British Registered Design 405488, February 1903
An interesting feature of the strap design is the flared centre section. This approximately covers the same area as the watch case. Since there is no description its purpose can only be guessed at. It could have been to prevent any part of the watch case from touching the wrist for some reason, perhaps concerns about allergies, or about perspiration tarnishing silver watch cases. Or, which I think more likely, it would not have been possible to register a design that was just a straight leather strap, because that would be too simple and obvious, so this more elaborate design was conceived just so that it could be registered. Once a registered design number had been secured, that fact could be used in advertising and to gain a hold over wristwatch manufacturers.
There is a second number in the picture of the Swiss Registered Design. This is No 405488, underneath the main block of text with the registration number 9846. I discovered that this is the number of a British Registered Design, a design that was formally registered by the British Board of Trade for the purposes of copyright protection, in much the same way as the Swiss/French Modèle Déposé discussed above. The picture here shows the entry in the register. This is the full entry, there is no text description. The watch shown mounted on the strap in the picture is crossed out to show that it is not part of the registered design.
This design was registered by the British Board of Trade in February 1903, six months before the Swiss register entry for Modèle Déposé No. 9846 in July 1903.
RD 499803 buckle design
Watch straps with the same flared centre shape as the British and Swiss Registered Designs are sometimes seen with the British Registered Design number "No. 405488" stamped onto the leather strap, and with another British Registered Design number, "No. 499803", stamped on the buckle. Buckles stamped with this number are an unusual design with two centre bars instead of the more usual single bar.
British Registered Design 499803, April 1907
Underside showing how the strap fits
The British Board of Trade records show that this unusual design of buckle was first registered in April 1907, but they don't show who the registrant was. However, the juxtaposition of the numbers 405488 on the leather strap and 499803 on the buckle, and then the number 405488 on the Swiss register entry for Modèle Déposé No. 9846, indicates that they were all the products of Dimier Brothers.
The Registered Design No. 499803 buckle is an unusual design with two centre bars and it fits onto the strap without being stitched into it. The Registered Design No. 405488 / No. 9846 shows a strap with a circular section the same size as the watch case in the centre, and there are only two ways such a strap could be fitted to a watch with fixed wire lugs, either the buckle would have to stitched to the strap after the strap had been fitted to the watch, or the buckle would have to be designed to fit to the strap without stitching, which is exactly what the Registered Design No. 499803 buckle does. The photograph here shows how it fits to the strap.
Why there was a four year gap between registering the design of the lugs and strap to registering the design of the buckle is a bit of a mystery. These straps and buckles do turn up occasionally, but I suspect that it was linked with the announcement shown below. My feeling is that when Dimier Brothers first registered the design of the watch strap in 1903 there were very few men's wristwatches being produced and so the documents lay on the shelf. But in 1907 the market for men's wristwatches with wire lugs was starting to accelerate and they realised that they could gain some control over it by reinterpreting what exactly it was that they had registered. The announcement shown in the next figure was published in La Fédération Horlogère Suisse in October 1907. It translates as
La Fédération Horlogère Suisse, October 1907
La Fédération Horlogère Suisse, October 1907
To avoid trouble and misunderstandings, we inform Gentlemen makers of watch cases of gold, silver and metal, and Gentlemen watch manufacturers of Switzerland, the curved handles for wristwatches are our registered design No. 9846 dated July 29, 1903.
We will pursue anyone who manufacture watches with these handles, without having previously made arrangements for a royalty to be paid to us, and that does not send his watch cases to our factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds to have our registered mark stamped in the case back.
Dimier Frères & Cie.
Curved lugs or "handles"
This announcement gives more details than appear to be recorded with the registered design. It is clear that the wire lugs ("anses" or handles) are designed to be curved (recourbées) or bent downwards, so that the lugs can be soldered to the middle part of the case and not interfere with the hinged opening back whilst making the path of the strap around the back of the watch case follow a natural curve as shown in the picture here. It's not rocket science, but someone had to think about it.
Judging from the very large number of early wristwatches that are stamped in their case backs with the legend "Déposé No. 9846", the claim that Dimier Brothers originated the design and the threat of action against anyone who didn't pay them royalties for making wristwatches with fixed wire must have been taken seriously by Swiss watch manufacturers at the time.
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Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved. This page updated January 2016. W3CMVS.