Blog: William EhrhardtCopyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved.
I make additions and corrections to this web site frequently, but because they are buried somewhere on one of the pages the changes are not very noticeable, so I decided to create this blog section to highlight new material. Here below you will find part of one of the pages that I have either changed or added to significantly.
This blog entry is part of my page about British Hallmarks
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Hallmarks - click image to enlarge
Movement - click image to enlarge
Thanks to Ken in the USA for the pictures.
William Ehrhardt, Birmingham 1909/10 Hallmarks
British made case
These hallmarks are in the British made cases of watches made by the company of William Ehrhardt Ltd. of Birmingham, England.
Reading from the top and then left to right the hallmarks are:
- The lion passant or walking lion with raised right forepaw, the mark for sterling silver.
- An anchor: the town mark of the Birmingham Assay Office.
- The date letter in the picture of the full case back is a capital "k" in a rectangular shield with curly base: the date letter of the Birmingham hallmarking year 1909 to 1910. The date letter in the cropped picture is in the face "Black letter small" and is the "o" of 1888 to 1889. Note that the Birmingham Assay Office used unique shield shapes like this one for date letters on watch cases in the nineteenth century that are not shown in any published table I am aware of.
- In the picture of the full case back the sponsor's mark is "W.E" in an oval shield, the registered mark of William Ehrhardt. This mark was first entered in February 1907. The cropped picture shows the earliest mark entered by Ehrhardt at the Birmingham Assay Office, the intials "W.E" punched incuse in November 1867. Several other forms of marks were entered by Ehrhardt over the years between these two marks.
William Ehrhardt first entered a sponsor's mark at the Birmingham Assay Office on 14 November 1867. The specific punch used on the watch case shown here was registered on 20 February 1907 by William Ehrhardt Ltd.
William Ehrhardt watch manufacturer
William Ehrhardt (1831-1897) was born in Germany and served an apprenticeship in watchmaking there. He came to England in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition. He worked for a time with Upjohn & Bright watchmakers in London
In 1856 Ehrhardt set up a company in Birmingham to make watches by machinery. This was before John Wycherley set up his factory in 1866 in Prescot, Lancashire, and before Aaron Dennison formed the Anglo-American Watch Company in 1871 in Birmingham, so Ehrhardt was one of the pioneers of watchmaking by machinery in England. The first attempt to establish in England a factory where watches were made largely by machinery rather than hand craft work had been made by Pierre Frédéric Ingold in 1842-43, but this had been resisted and ultimately defeated by conservative English watchmakers. Ingold and his supporters attempted to set up a company called the "British Watch and Clockmaking Company" but this ultimately failed with heavy financial losses to some of its backers. This caused British watchmakers to shy away from making watches by machinery, although ironically when Dennison was successful in America, the memory of Ingold was revived by some in an attempt to show that England had been first in the field. Ehrhardt was not in England at the time of Ingold's doomed venture, and perhaps would not have been swayed by it anyway. He might have heard of Dennison's attempts in America to mass produce watches, which had begun in 1849 and, although there was no established watchmaking community in America to oppose the idea, initially the venture encountered technical and severe financial difficulties.
Ehrhardt chose Birmingham because it was away from the traditional centres of English watch manufacturing where watches were made by hand using craft skills and factory methods would be opposed, as Ingold had been. Ehrhardt wanted machine operators for his factory, not traditional watchmakers.
From 1856 to 1863 Ehrhardt operated from addresses in Paradise Street and Augusta Street in Birmingham. In 1864 he moved to Great Hampton Street, and an advert with this address in 1872 says that he has ... constructed machinery to make his patent keyless movement on the interchangeable system. In 1874 he built a new factory, Time Works, in Barr Street to increase production. It is thought that by this time Ehrhardt had produced 200,000 watches.
Ehrhardt was granted a patent, No. 6406 dated 1894, for improvements in the hand setting mechanism of keyless watches.
When William Ehrhardt died in 1897 his sons William and Gustav Victor carried on the business. In the obituary notice it was said that 500 watches were made per week with 400 personnel. Production peaked around 1900 when 250 persons were employed, including many girls who attended the machines, and 600 to 700 watches were made per week. The lower number of employees but greater number of watches made per week imply that Ehrhardt's sons had increased the productivity of the workforce by increased use of specialised machinery.
From around 1920 the company used the name "British Watch Company Ltd." on some of its watches, most likely hoping to gain patriotic support in the face of growing imports, a sign of the pressure on the few remaining English watch manufacturers.
The company survived until some time after 1924 so was one of the very last English watch manufacturers. By 1926 the Barr Street address was being used in adverts promoting Gustav Victor as a watch cleaner and repairer, but with no mention of watch manufacture.
The company used the two trademarks shown here. The winged arrow was registered on on 4 February 1878 and sometimes varies from the exact shape shown here. The tree was registered on 4 August 1911 and was used on watches that carry the British Watch Company name.
Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved. This page updated January 2016. W3CMVS.