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Blog: Mystery movement 2: Kurth

Date: 7 December 2016

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2018 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.

The section reproduced here is from my page about Movement Identification.

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact Me page.

Mystery Movement 2: Kurth.

This calibre had me baffled. Although apparently identical movements have been seen stamped with "Vacheron" I am now sure that this calibre was made by Kurth Frères of Grenchen (French: Granges), who also made watches under the brands Grana and Certina.

The movement shown in the first three images is from a Borgel wristwatch with London Assay Office import hallmarks for 1915 to 1916.

Mystery movement
Upper side of plate. Click image to enlarge
Mystery movement
Bottom plate. Click image to enlarge
Mystery movement
View from above. Click image to enlarge
Mystery movement
Image courtesy of and © Frank Yuk Fung Ho. Click image to enlarge
Mystery movement
Image courtesy of and © Click image to enlarge

The quality is the normal high standard of movement for a Borgel wristwatch, which were always fitted with good quality jewelled Swiss lever escapement ébauches with at least 15 jewels. The Borgel case was expensive so it was only used with top quality movements.

The cut bimetallic temperature compensation balance is fitted with gold mass screws that can be moved to adjust the compensation, the balance spring has a Breguet overcoil. The train is jewelled to the third wheel for a total of fifteen jewels.

The components are nicely finished and the plates and bridges are frosted and gilded, a traditional English finish that was designed to appeal to British buyers.

This is a good quality Swiss jewelled lever movement, capable of good timekeeping even by today's standards. However, it has no exceptional features; e.g. there is no micro adjuster for the regulator, no end stones for the escape wheel bearings, and the screw heads are polished but not blued, so although it is very good, it is not the highest quality.

There are no identifying marks on the top plate or the bottom plate under the dial. However, when I took the movement apart for cleaning I found the tiny "KF" trademark on the top side of the bottom plate as shown ringed in red in one of the images. It is placed where it is normally underneath the barrel bridge and completely invisible until the movement is dismantled.

The first KF that springs to mind is Kurth Frères of Grenchen who also made watches under the brands Grana and Certina. There was also a company called Kocher & Froideveaux and another called Kummer Freres, but I have not been able to tie the trademark definitively to any of them.

The other two pictures of what appear to be the same movement but with "Vacheron" on the barrel bridges are ones that I found on the internet, thanks to their respective owners as noted. These are a complete mystery to me. The Vacheron mark is quite crudely done in both cases, they are also completely different and in different places. These don't look like a mark that the Vacheron factory would make, but on the other hand they do both appear to be underneath the gilding, which suggests they were put on when the movements were being made. It is difficult to envisage a forger taking the movements apart, making the marks, and then having the plates re-gilded

Mystery movement
Vacheron mark registered in England in 1881

I posted a picture of my watch on the Vacheron Constantin "The Hour Lounge" forum in 2010 but no one there thought that it was a Vacheron ébauche.

So I went through my least favourite reference, the book of 13 ligne Swiss movements by Vermeij & van Rijn. I don't entirely trust that book because it is largely a cut-and-paste of material found on the internet (including some of my material without permission) but there is an identical looking movement in there identified as Kurth Frères. The identification was made from the keyless works, which are different to the parts of my movement illustrated here. My movement has a serial number 551421 and the one in the book has a higher number 842201. The changes to the keyless work could easily be a development or refinement. The identification by Vermeij & van Rijn of this calibre as a Kurth Frères and the coincidence of the KF mark on the bottom plate, which they did not look at, convinces me that this is in fact a Kurth Frères calibre.

If you know why the second and third movements have Vacheron on their barrel bridges, please get in touch with me via my Contact Me page.

Owen Gilchrist pointed out to me that the oval logo with the four stars is shown in the "Watch Trademark Index of European Origin" by Karl Kochmann. It is recorded as being registered in England by Philippe-Auguste Weiss, the director of Vacheron Constantin, in December 1881, which ties the mark to the company. It appears that the British arm of the company also bought and imported movements from Kurth Frères, some of which were stamped with the English registered Vacheron trademark.

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact Me page. Back to the top of the page.

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2018 all rights reserved. This page updated June 2018. W3CMVS.