Who Made My Watch?
When a watch is acquired, one of the first questions asked is often "I wonder who made it?". This question usually occurs because the watch has no visible makers name, and the answer is not as straightforward as you might think. It is most unlikely that the watch was made by a well-known firm who have simply hidden their name out of sight for some mysterious reason.
Some old-established firms such as Patek Philippe were (and in Patek Philippe's case still are) "manufactures", firms that made most or all of the parts of the watch movement in-house, who established a reputation and put their name clearly on the finished watch. Patek-Philippe's reputation was helped somewhat when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased Patek Philippe watches at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851.
However, "haute horology" (high, or top end, watch manufacturers) were in the minority. Most Swiss watches from the early era were assembled from parts made by a myriad of specialist makers - parts for the movement came from one maker, the dial from another, the hands from another, the case from yet another, and so on.
No one put their name to these watches as manufacturer, and in fact the retailer didn't want a maker's name on the dial, certainly in the UK. In the UK, English made watches enjoyed a high reputation with the public and retailers often felt that having a foreign sounding name on the watch would make it more difficult to sell. So they ordered watches with plain dials and had their own name put on it: Harrods in London, Hamilton and Inches in Edinburgh, and the name of the jeweller in every city and town in between. The customers trusted their local jeweller and so were happy to buy a watch with their name on the dial, and their reputation standing behind it.
So to a large extent, the Swiss watch industry outside Geneva in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century was one giant enterprise, the end product being Swiss watches. Individual companies competed against each other to produce parts of the watch better or cheaper, producing economies of production due to specialisation and division of labour. These individual parts were assembled into complete watches; watches that didn't have a "maker" as such, which is why there is no maker's name on these watches, just "Swiss made".
Hans Wilsdorf was one of the first people to recognise the power of a brand in selling watches and created the Rolex name in 1908, but it wasn't until the mid-1920s that Wilsdorf succeeded in persuading retailers to accept watches with the Rolex name instead of their own on the dial. (ironically Rolex weren't a manufacture, they bought their movements from a firm called Aegler, who they eventually took over - more about this on my Rolex page.) Where Rolex led others followed and watch brands were created or promoted, gradually at first, with a brand still meaning something, that the watch had been at least conceived, assembled and tested by the named company. But as the twentieth century progressed the cult of "Brand", created by advertising agencies, meant that everything had to have a "Name" associated with it, and by the 1970s brands were being created from thin air, simply buying ready made watches from one of the anonymous Swiss, or even far-East, assemblers.
However, often quite a lot about the history of the watch can be discovered from marks on the case and movment, especially if it has a silver or gold case and was imported and sold in the UK, because then by law it had to be assayed and hallmarked, although this law was only consistently applied after June 1907 for reasons explained below. This page is about those marks. For help with identifying an unnamed watch movement, refer to my Movements page.
The page is getting a bit long now so I have put some shortcuts on the left. I have collected a few sponsor's and maker's marks further down on this page and if you know all about hall marks and just want to look up the sponsor's or maker's mark in your watch case, just go straight to Sponsor's and Maker's Marks.
If you have any questions or information to add to what is here, please email details to me at . You shouldn't need to copy the email address, just click on it. I answer all emails I receive, so if you do write to me and don't get an answer in a few days, please check your junk and spam folders. Even better, when you write, add my email address to your contacts and my emails will not be filtered out. I look forward to hearing from you!
UK Hallmarks in Watch Cases
Watch cases made in the UK from silver or gold must by law have been subject to assay to determine the purity of the metal and carry hallmarks showing four things:
- The Sponsor's mark - the registered mark of the person who submitted the article to the Assay Office for testing and marking.
- The Standard Mark - the guaranteed minimum fineness of the metal.
- The Assay Office Mark - showing at which office the article was marked.
- The Date Letter - showing the year the article was marked.
The item of principal interest to the original purchaser was of course the "fineness" of the metal, i.e. how much gold or silver is actually in the material. In the UK this fineness is guaranteed by the Assay Office, which is why there is such a formal process of submitting, testing and marking the metal, but for researchers the marks can tell us more than just the basic fineness. In this page I will look at all four of marks so that you can understand more about the history of your watch.
UK Hallmarks in Imported Watch Cases
The cases of foreign gold and silver watches retailed in the UK should by law have been assayed and hallmarked in exactly the same way as UK made cases, but prior to 1907 the law was misinterpreted by both the customs and assay authorities and only a small number of foreign made watch cases were correctly hallmarked.
Before 1738 there were no specific requirements for hallmarking items that were not made in the UK. An Act of 1738 required that all items of silver or gold that were "exposed for sale" must be hallmarked and by implication this included foreign made wares. An Act of 1842 stated explicitly that all imported silver and gold items must be hallmarked. An Act of 1867 required that a letter "F" be struck alongside the hallmarks to indicate that the that item was not made in the UK. An Act of 1887 required that after 1 January 1888 the marks to be struck by the assay office on foreign made watch cases were to be completely different from the normal UK hallmarks, so that they couldn't be mistaken for UK manufactured watch cases.
However, due to a massive misunderstanding of the law by the UK Board of Customs and the Assay Offices, these legal requirements were not fully implemented until June 1907, and Swiss watches with UK hallmarks (either normal UK hallmarks, with or without the letter "F", or the special import marks introduced in 1887) before that date are rare.
From 1 June 1907 an Act, the "Assay of Imported Watch-Cases (Existing Stocks Exemption) Act 1907" was passed to exempt all watch cases imported into the UK before 1 June 1907 from hallmarking, but requiring that all watches imported after 1 June 1907 be correctly hallmarked. As a result of this there was a sudden and huge increase in workload at the assay offices. This was the reason the major importing agents Arthur George Rendell (AGR) and George Stockwell (GS) registered their sponsor's marks for the first time at the London Assay Office in June 1907, Stockwell on 15 June and Rendell on 25 June. You can read the full sorry tale on my Hallmarks page.
Typical Marks on a Watch Imported after June 1907
Most of the wrist watches that I am interested in were imported after June 1907, so I have marked up on the picture to the left what one typically finds in the back of an imported silver wrist watch case. As I noted above, the hallmarking on pocket watch cases, certainly from the middle part of the nineteenth century, was not as uniform and strictly adhered to as on later watches like this one.
The case maker's trademark (if any) and serial number were applied in the factory in Switzerland. Unfortunately many cases don't have a maker's trademark, just an anonymous serial number. In this case we are lucky and the case has the mark of François Borgel. If the case was made after about 1924 and is made of gold or platinum, then there will be an encrypted mark showing who it was made by. See the section on Swiss hallmarks and Poinçons de Maître below. Unfortunately the Swiss don't consider silver to be a precious metal, so most of the cases we encounter will not be so marked.
Because this case was imported, below the serial number we find the UK sponsor's mark. The sponsor was the British person or firm registered with the assay office to send items for assay. This was usually an importing agent or importer, not the manufacturer of the item, although some Swiss manufacturers such as Stauffer did have British branches - but these were branches of watch manufacturers, not watch case makers. The sponsor had to register his mark, usually two or three initials in a surrounding shape, with the assay office concerned before he could submit items for assay. In this case the UK importer and sponsor was AGR - Arthur George Rendell.
Don't confuse the sponsor's mark of an importer like Rendell, a UK company who imported watches, with that of the actual maker of the case, in this case in Switzerland. For the purpose of the Assay Office, the sponsor has to be someone in the UK who submitted items for assay - they don't care whether this is the person or firm who made the item, or a third party, they just have to be in the UK and have registered their sponsor's mark at the assay office. On a UK made case there will only the sponsor's mark, which is also the makers mark. On a Swiss made case there may well be the maker's mark, which as a Swiss company would not be recognised by the UK assay office, and the UK sponsor's mark, which would be registered with the assay office. Sometimes there is no Swiss maker's mark, but there must always be the UK sponsor's mark.
Below the sponsor's mark we find a group of three marks: the guaranteed minimum purity or fineness of the metal, in this case 0.925 or 92.5% pure silver, the standard for Sterling silver, the Assay Office mark, in this case the London office stamp, (upside down, as is often the case) and the year date letter, here "c" for 1918/1919.
To send an item to the Assay Office to be assayed, a person must be registered with the particular Assay Office. The reason for this is pretty obvious - the Office needs to know who to charge for their services and who to return the items to. To facilitate this, the Assay Office requires that each registered person have a registered mark, called the "Sponsor's mark", which is unique to them. This usually consists of the persons initials set in a "shield", a surrounding shape. If a person has the same initials as someone already registered, the shield of their mark will be made different, so that the two marks can be distinguished.
The sponsor's mark is not necessarily the mark of the person who made the item. In fact, for Swiss watches it usually isn't. If the watch case was made in Switzerland, an agent in the UK had to be responsible for sending the items for assay, and it is their mark that was registered.
Year Date Letters
The date letters used by the London Assay Office to indicate the hallmarking year (confusingly not the same as the calendar year) ran in sequences of 20, starting at the letter "a" and running up to "u", omitting the letter "j". Other offices used the full cycle from "a" to "z".
Why was "j" left out? Well, the letter "j" was only invented in the 16th century, and didn't make its way into common English usage until the 17th century. The Goldsmith's Guild weren't going to change their ways for a new fangled thing like that. Even the hallmarking act of 1973, which did away with the London cycle ending in "u" and allowed the date letters to run up to " z", didn't introduce the letter "j" into London hallmarks - still a bit too modern I guess.
The year denoted by the date letter can be confusing because until the 1973 act, the hallmarking year did not run from 1 January. This mark was introduced in 1478 and was at first called the "assayer's mark", because it was intended to be a record of who was responsible for the assay of an item if questions later arose. For this reason it was changed each year when the new wardens were elected. Jackson's Silver & Gold Marks says that prior to the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the London hallmarking year commenced on May 19th, the Feast Day of Saint Dunstan, patron saint of English gold and silversmiths. From 1660 to 1973 the London hallmarking year officially commenced on 29th May, but the actual date when the new letter was first struck could be later by days, and sometimes even weeks, depending on when the new punches were actually delivered. The date letter change is nearly half way through the calendar year! So an item marked with an "a", which the table in Bradbury indicates is the date letter for 1916, could have been marked at any time from May 29th 1916 to 28th May, or possibly even some time in June, 1917.
The Glasgow hallmarking year ran from 1st July to 30th June, neatly bisecting the the year. The Glasgow office closed in 1964. The Birmingham office also changed its date letter with the annual election of the wardens on 1st July.
The shield shape (the outline around the letter) can sometimes be a bit confusing if you look in one of the reference books for a date letter in a gold case. Bradbury and other books show the shield shape for silver date letters, which often have serifs (points) along the bottom or top edges. The shields used for the date letter on gold items have plainer square or oblong shields and are hardly, if ever, shown in the reference books.
Assay Office Marks on Imported Items
Each Assay Office has its own "town"" mark to show at which office an item was assayed. Amongst the most familiar of these are the leopard's head for London, the Anchor for Birmingham, the upright sword between three wheatsheafs (garbs) for Chester, etc. However, from 1888 new town marks were defined for each office that were to be used on foreign watch cases, i.e. those not made in the UK. As I explain on my Assay and Hallmarking page, the use of these marks was extremely limited until 1907, but after 1907 all imported watch cases have these special import marks. Beore 1907 these marks were used as part of a single compound punched mark with the wtown mark, standard mark and date letter all inside a single cross (for silver) or octagonal (for gold) shield, as described on my Assay and Hallmarking page These marks are extremely rare. However, from 1907 the import marks were struck on their own in the usual fashion, separate from the standard and date letters, and they were:
Sign of constellation Leo.
Acorn and two leaves.
Sign of constellation Libra.
St. Andrew's cross.
Opposed block letters F prone.
Boujet (an heraldic water bucket).
Edinburgh import mark for 1929/30
The Edinburgh hallmark doesn't seem to come up very often, at least not in the watches I collect, but here is a picture of an Edinburgh import mark just in case you do come across one and wonder what it is. The Edinburgh Assay Office stamp for imported items is the "x" in the middle. The "y" at the end is the date letter for the hallmarking year 1929/30. The Edinburgh Assay Office mark for native items is a bit complicated, but usually features a three towered castle somewhere.
The table below shows examples the office marks for imported items for the three offices most commonly encountered, and some date letters which should also give you a stab at a date, but to be quite honest, some of the Glasgow office's letter forms are so outrageous that you need to look in one of the standard references to have a chance of reading them. If you want some help, don't hesitate to email me, but do try to send me a clear picture or sketch of the mark you need help with.
A Note of Caution about Uing These Date Letters
There are not enough letters in the alphabet to cover the 600 years plus that date letters have been struck, so they have to be used repeatedly with difference between the styles of letter in different cycles. The letters I have listed above cover the dates of the watches I am most interested in. However, if you have bought, found or inherited a watch it may well not fall into this date range, so don't just read the London letter "s" and assume that your watch is dated 1913/1914, it might well be 1933/1934 when the letter s was used again, this time in Gothic rather than plain. If you have any doubts, do just drop me an email, ideally with a picture of the watch, the movement and the hallmarks.
Gold purity marks show the carats and decimal equivalent, as shown here for 9 carat gold (yes, it's a 9 not a 6). The decimal equivalent of the purity is found by dividing the carats by 24, so for 9 carat the decimal equivalent is 9/24 = 0.375, which is 37.5% gold. From 1854 the gold standards allowed were 22 carats (.916), 18 (.75), 15 (.625), 12 (.5)) and 9 (.375). The Dublin Assay Office only was authorised to also mark 20 carat (.833) gold. In 1932 the standards of 15 and 12 were replaced by a single standard of 14 carats, the others standards remaining the same.
There may also be additional marks from the country of origin such as a bear rampant (standing on his back legs), and 0.935 (a Swiss standard for silver purity) which you can see in the case back of my grandfather's Rolex on my Rolex page. A Swiss law which came in to force in 1880 required that items made from precious metals should be tested and have Swiss hallmarks, and these are seen on items imported between 1880 and 1907. Most imported gold and silver watches after 1907 have only the British hallmarks. It appears that once the law requiring imported watches to have UK hallmarks was enforced, the Swiss makers stopped submitting them for Swiss hallmarking. There was no sense in paying to have items hallmarked twice.
The assay process is in itself quite interesting, but a bit of a sidetrack if you are just looking for details of your watch case date and importer, so I have put it in a separate section on my Hallmarks page. Click on the link if you want to read details of the Assay process.
Watch Case Repairs
If you have a watch case that needs repairing, get in touch with my good friend Adam Phillips. Adam is a goldsmith with over 30 years experience in the making and repair of all types of watch case, from antique pocket watches to modern wrist watches. He was originally based in Clerkenwell, the historic centre of watchmaking in London but now his workshop is in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. Adam can undertake all types of watch case work, e.g. new watch backs clip, screw, or hinged, bezels in any material and shape, hard gold plating, gilding, rhodium plating, chrome and nickel plating, He can also copy parts by lost wax casting.
Contact Adam via his web site: www.watchcaseworks.co.uk - this link will open in a new tab.
Watch Case Makers of England
by Philip Priestley
Watch Case Makers of England 1720-1920
If you are interested in watch cases and their makers, an invaluable reference is Philip Priestley's Book "Watch Case Makers of England 1720-1920." This book is only available from the author in Europe for £15 plus p&p. In America a friend of the author in North Carolina has some copies. This book contains the results of painstaking research into the case makers of London, Liverpool, Prescot, Chester, Coventry, Birminghman and other provincial towns, and has extensive appendices of hallmarks to enable you to identify the case maker, standard and year that your watch was assayed.
This book doesn't just cover watch case makers of England as its title suggests, but also includes the sponsor's marks of many watch importers and agents. At £15 it is an absolute bargain, and every serious collector of watches of the period covered should have a copy of it. You can contact Philip Priestley by email at . Philip has also written a book on watch case makers covering the earlier period of 1631 - 1720, and has new book on the watch case maker Dennison.
Silver Makers Marks Website
If you can't find your silver makers / sponsors mark on this page and you don't have Philip Priestley's Book, then a very useful web site with a large collection of silver marks is SilverMakersMarks.co.uk. If you do find your mark there, please let me know.
Swiss Hallmarks and Collective Responsibility Marks
Swiss Official hallmarks for watch cases from 1880 to 1933
Hallmarking in Switzerland originated in Geneva in the 15th century, and gradually was undertaken at local level by the individual Swiss cantons. The Swiss Precious Metals Control Act of 23 December 1880 introduced a uniform system of hallmarking for watch cases to be used throughout Switzerland. These hallmarks marks are seen on the vast majority of Swiss watches with silver or gold cases imported to the UK between 1880 and 1907. From 1 June 1907 these Swiss marks are very rarely seen and UK import hallmarks appear instead. The small "x" in each mark is replaced by the identifier of the assay office where the item was tested and marked; "G" for Geneva, "C" for La Chaux-de-Fonds, etc.
Between 1880 and 1933 the Swiss hallmarks on silver cases are a either a bear rampant or a grouse. The bear mark indicates that the metal is silver above 0.875 (87.5%) silver content, and the grouse that the metal is above 0.800 (80%) silver content. Note that the bear and grouse symbols indicate the minimum, not the actual, purity of the metal. Neither of these levels of purity meets the UK minimum standard of Sterling (925 or 92.5% silver content) for silver, so items with these levels of silver content in the metal could not be hallmarked in the UK.
The actual silver purity is also given by the Swiss hallmarks in numbers, such as the mark commonly seen alongside the bear on Swiss watches sold in the UK of 0.935 for 93.5% silver content. The 0.935 or 93.5% purity is a higher level of purity than the UK Sterling silver standard, so it is possible to see both the Swiss 935 and the UK hallmark 925 stamped in the same case. It is evident that the Swiss manufacturer of the case has used silver of higher purity than required by Swiss standards in order to meet the UK standard. There is no conflict between the 925 and 935, because the Sterling 925 is the guaranteed minimum purity, not the actual purity, which in this case is higher.
In 1933 the use of the Swiss hallmarks was widened to all precious metal articles. The hallmark for the higher grade of silver changed from a rampant bear to a duck, which showed an increased minimum purity of 0.925 or 92.5% silver, the same as the UK Sterling standard. The grouse continued to signify a purity of 0.800 or 80% silver.
From 1880 to 1933 there were two Swiss standards for gold, 18 carat signified by the female head of Helvetia, and 14 carat signified by a squirrel. These standards continued after 1933 with the same marks, but the sign of the morgenstern (which literally means "morning star" but was actually the name of a rather evil looking medieval spiked club or mace) was added for 9 carat gold - but only for watch cases.
A single standard for platinum of 95% was introduced in 1914, signified by the head of a chamois goat. In 1933 the symbol was changed to an ibex goat. Goodness knows why; perhaps Swiss people find it easier to identify an ibex than a chamois: they both look like goats to me . . .
Swiss Maker's Marks: Poinçon de Maître
In the 1920s a system of Poinçon de Maître (literally "Punch of the Master" but usually translated in this context as Collective Responsibility Mark) was introduced for Swiss watch case makers, to provide traceability back to the actual maker of the watch case. This required all precious metal (gold, platinum or palladium, but not silver unfortunately) watch cases made or imported into Switzerland carry a mark to identify the case maker. These are analogous to the UK Sponsor's Mark discussed above.
In 1934 a new Collective Responsibility act was passed which required these marks to be registered at the Swiss Central Office for Precious Metals Control in Berne. The marks shown below were registered by the Fédération Suisse des Associations de Fabricants de Boîtes de Montres (Swiss Federation of Associations of Watch Cases Producers, or F.B. for short). The Federation changed its name in 1966 to called Union Suisse des Fabricants de Boites de Montre (USFB) (Swiss Union of Watch Cases Manufacturers). Later this was changed to the Union Suisse pour l'Habillage de la Montre (USH) (Swiss Union for Watch Casing). In 2006 it took the name USH-APIC, Union Suisse pour l'Habillage de la Montre et Association Patronale Suisse des Industries Microtechniques (Swiss Union for Watch Casing and Employers' Association of Industries Microtechnologies) and is now known as apiah (Association patronale des industries de l'Arc-horloger). It is based in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
These marks are shown in the table below. They are extremely small and only used on gold, platinum or palladium cases, and they seem to be very little known. But if you do find one in your watch case, then it is a simple matter to consult the tables and see who was the maker. I will publish the list of marks and makers here when I get time; in the meantime, if you find one of these marks you are welcome to email me and I will look up details for you.
|No. 1||Hammer head |
or hammer without handle
|For gold and platinum watch cases made |
in Switzerland outside Geneva.
|No. 2||Hammer with handle||Usage not recorded.|
|No. 3||Marquee||For gold and silver watch cases made in Switzerland.|
|No. 4||Crossbow||For gold and silver watch cases made in Switzerland.|
|No. 5||Key of Geneva||For gold and platinum watch cases of thickness |
0.3mm made in Geneva.
|No. 6||Shield||For gold and platinum watch cases of thickness |
0.15mm made in Geneva.
When stamped into a watch case, the XXX shown in the marks are replaced with a number that indicates the maker of the case.
La Fédération Horlegère Suisse, 5 May 1926
As I noted above, these Collective Responsibility Marks were in use prior to 1934, from sometime in the mid-1920s. I don't know exactly when this system was introduced, and it seems that the current Swiss authorities don't know either. However, the extract from La Fédération Horlegère Suisse from May 1926 shown here describes how the Poinçon de Maître are registered at the Bureau of Control of the canton where the manufacturer operates, and that the Bureau of Control are responsible for the guarantee marks that are struck on the work. This clearly shows that the system of Collective Responsibility Marks for watch cases was in use by May 1926.
The Hammer with Handle mark is in particular rather interesting because there are only two numbers listed in the 1934 list, 115 and 160. This seems to imply that there must have been a large number of companies with this mark at one time, but that they had all gone out of business before 1934. For instance I have a Stauffer & Co. watch with the Hammer with Handle mark shown to the right: As you can see it has a number 180 on the hammer head, but there is no record in the 1934 list of a company using this symbol with the number 180. I have asked USH-APIC and the Swiss Central Office for Precious Metal Control about this, but they have no records prior to 1934. If the numbers were issued consecutively starting with 1, like for the other marks, there may have been up to 180 companies, and possibly more, using the hammer with handle mark registered with the Cantonal Authorities outside Geneva in the mid 1920s when the system was introduced. It seems unlikely that such a large number of companies would have gone out of business in 10 years and therefore I suspect that something else happened, but I don't know what.
So it is possible to find these Collective Responsibility marks in watch cases that are earlier than 1934, and if the registrant is in the 1934 list, all well and good, but there are gaps in the 1934 list where earlier registrants had gone out of business before the list was compiled.
Watches with British Sponsor's Marks but No UK Hallmarks
Sometimes watches are seen with with British sponsor's marks, but no import marks. The reason for this is that in 1915, with the first World War (WW1) starting to impose a strain on the economy, the British Government imposed an ad valorem duty of 33.?% on imported luxuries including clocks and watches to conserve foreign currency reserves as part of the war effort. This meant that any watches imported into Britain, even if only for checking before subsequent export abroad, would be subject to this high rate of tax. Prior to this, many watches were imported to Britain before being re-exported to the Empire. Britain had large overseas territories at the time, which were a big market.
To avoid paying the tax on watches not destined for the British home market, many companies, including Rolex, George Stockwell, Rotherham and Sons, Rendells, and Baume & Co., either set up Swiss offices, or made arrangements to export watches direct from Switzerland to the British Empire, bypassing Britain and avoiding the high import duty.
Before 1886 many German cities had their own hallmark for silver. From 1886 a single mark of a crescent or half moon and crown (halbmond und krone) was used by all German states. An old German quantification of silver purity was based on sixteenth parts called "lots", e.g. 14 lots was 14 parts out of 16 pure silver, equal to 0.875 or 87.5% silver. A minimum standard purity for silver of 800 parts per thousand (80% or .800) was established in 1884.
These marks appear to have been stamped on imported items as well as German made items, so the crescent moon and crown can be seen alongside Swiss hallmarks such as the grouse.
A note to eBayers etc.
I don't mind if you want to copy bits of my information for your advert or listing. I am sure you will get a better price for your watch if you provide extra detail about it, so go ahead, please feel free. It would be nice to be acknowledged if you do - you can't put a link to my web site into your listing because eBay doesn't allow external links, but you could put something like "Thanks to David Boettcher for the information on the case marks. Google his name together with with ‘vintage watches’ to find out more." Thanks!
Sponsor's and Maker's Marks
AB: Arthur Baume, and B&Co. Baume & Company
AB is is the sponsor's mark of Arthur Baume Managing Director of Baume & Co., 21 Hatton Garden, the London branch of Baume, a Swiss watch manufacturer based in the village of Les Bois, in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Arthur Baume was a prominent figure in Europe. A member of the Royal Geographical Society, he also became president of the British Horological Institute. He was made a knight, and later an officer, of the Legion of Honor, and was twice decorated by French President Poincarré. The King of Belgium made him a Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold II.
As well as their own watches, Baume & Company were the importer of Longines watches to the UK and all of the British Commonwealth. Otherwise unmarked Longines watches from the early 20th century often bear the mark "B & Co." for Baume & Co. next to the movement calibre number under the balance wheel. There is more on my page about Longines.
The picture left is an interesting Longines Borgel case which bears both the AB and B&Co marks, as well as the FB for François Borgel. The AB mark was the sponsors mark registered at the Assay office for assay purposes, not the B&Co mark.
AGR: Arthur George Rendell
The AGR initials, with pellets (dots) in between as this "A·G·R", are the sponsor's mark of Arthur George Rendell. Rendell's company of 40/42 Clerkenwell Road, London are recorded as importers of Swiss watches.
Rendell's sponsors mark was first registered with the London Assay Office on 25 June 1907, following the 1907 Act "Assay of Imported Watch-Cases (Existing Stocks Exemption)" which came into force on 1 June 1907. Rendell was also registered with the Glasgow Assay Office. I don't have a date for this but my records show numbers of watches with the A·G·R sponsor's mark being hallmarked in Glasgow from 1917, so this probably to have a second way of getting watches hallmarked as demand expanded during the War.
The large image to the left is quite interesting because it shows the A·G·R mark in a 9 carat (.375 purity) gold Borgel case with the Edinburgh import mark for 1925. This image courtesy of Cary Hurt, Alabama.
ALD: Aaron Dennison
Aaron Lufkin Dennison (1812-1895) had pioneered mass production watch making in the USA, but ran into financial difficulties in a turbulent financial period in 1857. In 1862 he moved to England and set up the Dennison Watch Case Co. of Birmingham. Watch cases were usually stamped "Dennison Watch Case Co" but Dennison also used the case maker mark "ALD" for Aaron Lufkin Dennison.
The picture to the left shows a case marked with both ALD and Dennison Watch Case Co. It also has the anchor mark which the Birmingham Assay Office used on native, i.e. not imported, items, the lion passant (walking) used on native items to indicate the purity of the silver as Sterling (92.5%), and the letter "q" for the Birmingham hallmarking year 1915 to 1916.
C&C: Carley & Clemence
Carley & Clemence were watch and clock makers, and importers of Swiss watches, with a history going back to 1843. In 2010 Christie's sold an 18 carat gold hunter case minute repeating keyless lever watch signed Carley & Clemence Ltd., 30 Ely Place, London, Makers to the Admiralty, No. 51'484, with London hallmarks and the date letter for 1906. The watch has an off-white enamel dial in the typical manner of Frederick Willis, renowned for high quality dials, and case by Fred Thoms, renowned for exceptional cases, both suppliers to the best English watchmakers. In 1915 the death of Mr Joseph Auguste Clemence, chairman of Carley & Clemence (Limited), watch and clock makers of Ely Place Holborn, and a member of the Court of the Clockmakers' Company, was announced in The Times at age 71. In 1962 Carley & Clemence was part of Time Products, a group of Hatton Garden companies including also Elco Clocks and Watches, Baume & Co, and Hatton Jewellery and Watch Company. Companies in the group were sole importers and distributors in the UK for Longines, Vacheron et Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Movado, Universal, Certina and Helvetia. In 1964 they advertised Certina wristwatches by Certina Kurth Frères S.A. from Carley & Clemence Ltd, Theba House, 49 Hatton Garden, London EC1.
The picture of the Carley & Clemence Limited mark, C&CLD, was provided to me by Ewen Taylor and is in the case back of a hermetic watch owned by him, the 9 carat gold case made by the Geneva company of François Borgel and hallmarked London 1925/26
CN: Charles Nicolet
Charles Nicholet was a partner of Stauffer & Co., the London branch of the Swiss firm of Stauffer, Son & Co. of La Chaux-de-Fonds. His sponsor's mark was first recorded with the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, London, in 1877 at 12 Old Jewry Chambers. He then registered a sponsor's mark "C.N" in a rectangular lozenge with cut corners 10 Oct 1881 and the same 10 Oct 1885. On 23 Feb 1887, the firm moved to 13 Charterhouse Street, London, and on 26 Mar 1896 reverted back to "CN" within a wide-hexagonal lozenge. On 4 Nov 1904 he went back to the original "CN" sponsor's mark, but on 3 Apr 1905 and 17 Oct 1907 changed yet again to a further format of "CN" in rectangular lozenge with cut corners .
Charles Nicholet was also registered with the Chester Goldsmiths Company, 13 Dec 1906, and used his 13 Charterhouse Street, London, address. In this instance he used "CN" within a rectangular lozenge, albeit corners may appear rounded.
You can read more about Stauffer and Nicolet on my history page by clicking this link: Stauffer Son & Co.
CG: Charles Guinard
Charles William Guinard is recorded by Priestley as a watch case importer. His sponsor's mark was first recorded at the London Assay Office on 21 January 1907 when his address was 52 Myddleton Square, Clerkenwell, London. On 28 September 1909 he is recorded as having moved to 6 Thavies Inn, Holborn Circus.
FB: François Borgel
François Borgel of Geneva registered his "marque de fabrique", or makers mark (trademark), in Geneva in March 1887. He patented his famous watch case design on 28 October 1891 with the Swiss "Brevet" or Patent number 4001, and in the UK on 24th November 1891 under Patent number 20,422. The Borgel case was an early attempt to make wrist watches resistant to dust and moisture. It has a one piece case with no back opening, where the movement and bezel are mounted on a threaded ring which screws into the case from the front.
Manufacture of Borgel cases continued after the death of François Borgel in 1912, initially under the direction of his daughter Louisa Borgel, later Louisa Beauverd-Borgel. The firm was taken over in 1924 by Taubert & Fils. Taubert & Fils, later Taubert Frères, was one of the finest Geneva-based case makers and specialized in water-resistant cases. They worked with many firms, including Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. For further details please refer to my Borgel page.
GS: George Stockwell
George Stockwell's company Stockwell & Co. were known as as importers of silver (e.g. dressing table sets, watches, Georg Jensen silver, etc.) and Assay Agents at 16/18 Finsbury Street, London.
George Stockwell's sponsor's mark was first registered with the London Assay Office on 15 June 1907, following the 1907 Act "Assay of Imported Watch-Cases (Existing Stocks Exemption)" which came into force on 1 June 1907. Stockwell also registered with the Birmingham Assay Office on 8 November 1917, and with the Glasgow Assay Office, although the date of registration in Glasgow is not recorded.
The following information was very kindly provided to me by Eleni Bide from the Library of the Goldsmiths' Company: John Culme's " The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths, Jewellers & Allied Traders 1838-1914" (Woodbridge, Antique Collector's Club, 1987, 2v) illustrates the mark of George Stockwell, described as an "importer of foreign watches". Culme also provides some details of Stockwell's firm, Stockwell & Co Ltd, who were listed in Birmingham in 1912 as "agents to Messageries Nationales Express and Messageries Anglo-Suisse, continental, foreign and general shipping agents, special tariff for small consignments abroad."
George Stockwell did not manufacture watches or cases, and would have imported from, or been agent for, a number of different Swiss manufacturers.
The picture to the left shows Stockwell's sponsors mark on a watch with a London import mark (the inverted Omega on a crossed oval cartouche, the oval signifying silver as opposed to a rectangular cartouche for gold) a .925 mark showing the purity as 92.5% silver, or " Sterling", and 1915 "u" date stamp. The picture to the right shows Stockwell's mark on a watch with a Birmingham import mark (the triangle in an oval cartouche, with again the oval cartouche signifying silver) and a 1918 "t"date stamp.
You can see that the block sticking up at the top of the GS cartouche varies considerably in width, from the narrow one on the London mark to the much wider one on the Birmingham mark. The difference between the London and Birmingham marks is of no significance in the light of the number of punches used by Stockwell's firm.
JF: Jean Finger
In January 1921 Jean Finger, a watch case maker of Longeau, Berne, Switzerland was granted Swiss patent number CH 89276 for a "Montre à remontoire avec boitier protecteur" literally a watch with a protective box.
Finger's patent overcame the problem of sealing the winding stem by the simple expedient of placing a conventional round watch inside a larger case. The larger case had no opening at the back or hole for a winding stem, just an open front through which the watch was placed into the case. A screw bezel and crystal closed this front opening, forming a hermetic seal and totally protecting the watch within. Once the bezel was unscrewed, the smaller watch case came out on a hinge to allow the hands to be set and the movement wound.
Some hermetic watch cases bear the words "Double Boitier Brevet 89276" (Double Case Patent 89276), a reference to the Jean Finger patent, and some bear the initials JF, these were actually made by Jean Finger's watch case company, Jean Finger, Fabrique de boîes de montres.
JR: John Rotherham
The mark JR in diamond shield is the sponsors mark of John Rotherham, of Rotherham & Sons (see below). This mark was registered at the Birmingham Assay Office, together with the same initials in a rectangular shield, on 15 July 1886, by John Rotherham, Watch & Case makers, trading as Rotherham & Sons, of 4 Spon Street, Coventry.
JW: John Weir
This intaglio (incised) JW mark appears to be the sponsor's mark of John Weir of J. Weir Ltd, Jewellers & Silversmiths of Buchanan Street, Glasgow.
The picture of the mark, from a watch hallmarked 1917/1918, courtesy of Marc.
LW: Louis Weill
Louis Weill was first registered 24 November 1879 3 Holborn Circus, London. 24 June 1896 moved to 111 Hatton Gardens, London. Registered L.W 23 Jan 1907 and LW 19 Jan 1914
R&S: Rotherham & Sons Ltd
The firm of Rotherham & Sons, based at various numbers of Spon Street, Coventry, Warwickshire, UK, could trace its origins back to 1747 to a firm started by Samuel Vale. Richard Kevitt Rotherham joined the firm as an apprentice, and was listed as a partner in Vale and Rotherham in 1790. The firm was listed as Rotherham & Sons from 1850. They made entire watches: movements and cases. In 1858 Charles Dickens visited the factory and was presented with a gold watch to mark the occasion. By the 1880s Rotherhams were operating on a very large scale by British standards, with over 500 employees active in the production of both movements and cases.
Rotherhams imported watches as well as making them. The two images to the left show Rotherham and Sons assay office registered R&S marks, the top one in a rectangular cartouche with cut corners alongside London Assay Office import marks, the lower one in a diamond or rhomboid shaped cartouche. Although based in Coventry, some time before 1890 the company also opened offices at 1 Holborn Circus, London, and their watches were also signed Rotherhams, London. This was later to become their head office.
Priestly lists the rectangular mark as being registered at Birmingham in 1841 and in London between 1907 and 1919, and the second diamond shape mark as being registered in Birmingham between 1912 and 1917. The Birmingham assay office would be the nearest office to mark watches made in Coventry, whereas the London assay office would be a more natural choice for watches imported from Switzerland, which would come in through the port of London, and a large proportion would then be retailed in London after assaying.
Around the turn of the century Rotherhams started to diversify out of watch making into making parts for the Coventry bicycle and motor industry. During the first World War (WW1) they went entirely over to war work, and it is not clear whether they returned to watch making after the war. They certainly carried on making clocks, but there is some evidence that they imported watches from Switzerland. Rotherham's Coventry machinery and designs were probably only for pocket watches, and the sudden change in fashion during the war to the wrist watch wrong footed them. There was little point in trying to develop their own design of wrist watch after the war, because they would find it difficult to compete with the established Swiss factories.
I have seen some Swiss-made watch movements marked R&S. Cutmore in "Watches 1850-1980" states that British Industry Fair reports show that in 1920 and 1921 they showed at trade exhibitions cases for movements made in their own factory in Switzerland. Cutmore suggests that this could possibly be the Rode Watch Company of La Chaux de Fonds, whose watches they marketed, but I have seen no evidence to back up this suggestion. In 1932 they became agents for Buren, and later Ulysee Nardin. In 1973 the company was incorporated into Cornercroft Engineering.
The following information was very kindly provided to me by Eleni Bide from the Library of the Goldsmiths' Company: Culme also provides some useful details pertaining to the mark sent with your last email. He illustrates several very similar marks which could be a match to the one on your watch case. All were registered to Rotherham & Sons Ltd, gold and silver watch case makers and importers (John Culme, The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths, Jewellers & Allied Traders 1838-1914, Woodbridge, Antique Collector's Club, 1987, 2v., v.1, page 260-261, nos.12598, 12657-12668). In the second volume of his work Culme describes the firm of Rotherham and Sons in some detail, including their role as a watchmaker and importer, and the colourful lives of some members of the Rotherham family (ibid, v. 2, page 394).
SA: The Swiss Agency or Selling Agency
You have to be cautious if you see the mark SA in a case back, because in Switzerland SA usually stands for Société Anonyme, the equivalent of a British public limited company or plc., and so it appears in the full formal name of just about every Swiss watch company that you care to mention, from Abra Montres SA to Zurich Manufacture D'Horlogerie SA. However, if the SA is stamped into the case back like the marks shown here, it is a UK registered sponsor's mark.
The situation is rendered even more confusing because there are two separate SA sponsor's marks registered.
The London registered sponsor's mark SA in a diamond shield is for a company called "Selling Agency" noted by Priestly as being first registered on 20th September 1907 as gold and silver watch importers at 46 Cannon St. London, owned by Dimier Brothers.
Thanks to Kate Buckrell for the image of this SA sponsor's mark.
There is no entry in Priestly for an SA mark registered in Birmingham, because he only goes up to 1920. The following information was provided by the Birmingham Assay Office. "The mark 'SA' was registered at the Birmingham Assay Office by The Swiss Agency, Geo & Jean Bouverat, in 1924, they were registered as Watch Manufacturer in Frederick Street, Birmingham."
Note that the letters S and A are in two separate shields, which distinguishes this mark from the London SA.
SD: Sylvain Dreyfuss - Rotary
This "SD" mark with a tab at the top of the shield was registered to Sylvain Dreyfuss of Moise, George & Sylvain Dreyfus trading as M Dreyfus, watch manufacturers, Moorfield, London EC2.
Fabriques de Montres Rotary was established at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland by Moise Dreyfuss in 1895. By the 1920s family members Georges and Sylvain Dreyfuss began importing Rotary watches to Britain, which was to become the company's most successful market. Rotary is still owned by the Dreyfuss family through Dreyfuss Group Holdings and with Robert Dreyfuss, the great grandson of Moise Dreyfuss, its chairman, is now the oldest family-owned and run Swiss watchmaker.
According to the Rotary web site, the trademark of a winged wheel shown to the right was instroduced in 1925. In "Clock and Watch Trademark Index of European Origin" Kochmann gives a registration date for this trademark of 15 October 1926. The modern version shown below has evolved from the original, but is still noticeably the same thing - once you know what the original was, of course.
SFC: Schwob Frères & Co, La Chaux-de-Fonds
Schwob Frères & Co. registered its name in 1881 for watch movements and cases. The company also owned the Tavannes Watch Company of Tavannes. Tavannes was founded in 1891 by Henri Sandoz, but from 1892 on, Tavannes and Schwob Frères shared brand names and trademarks. Between them, the two firms registered a huge number of brand names and trademarks, one of the best known of which is the Cyma brand.
A Cyma watch in an interesting case to a design patented by Schwob Frères & Co. and manufactured by Borgel can be seen on my Borgel page by clicking on this link SFC Cyma. This will open in another window or tab, and may take a few moments to load depending on the speed of your connection.
VWCo. Vertex Watch Co.
Vertex is one of 12 companies that made WWW ( Watch: Wrist, Waterproof ) specification watches for the British military in the WW2 era.
The sponsor's mark and the case makers mark are often seen together. For instance, below left is a picture of a case with the AGR sponsor's mark, and also the FB mark for the case maker François Borgel, and below right is a case with the GS sponsor's mark and the FB mark.
If you like what you see, or have any comments, requests or suggestions,then please feel free to email me at . You shouldn't need to copy the email address, just click on it. I answer all emails I receive, so if you do write to me and don't get an answer in a few days, please check your junk and spam folders. Even better, when you write, add my email address to your contacts and my emails will not be filtered out.
Regards - David
If you know different; or have any questions, suggestions, or comments, then please drop me a line at You shouldn't need to copy the email address, just click on it. I answer all emails I receive, so if you do write to me and don't get an answer in a few days, please check your junk and spam folders. Even better, when you write, add my email address to your contacts and my emails will not be filtered out.